Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dinner With Shelly

I just didn't want to do anything too elaborate -- after all it was just a holiday weekend dinner with a close friend . . . and I had plans during the day. First off a springtime version of our house favorite appetizer: rosemary crackers, fresh ricotta, prosciutto, and cherries (we usually do fresh figs but have to wait a bit for those to be in season) sprinkled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, coarse salt and fresh chopped mint. Good but not great -- I think I will try it with the dark red deeper flavored cherries next time, or maybe roasted apricots.
A home variation of a Chez Panisse favorite. Marinated rounds of goat cheese (I left them to soak in olive oil sprinkled with fresh thyme and rosemary), rolled in fresh bread toasted crumbs and baked for 6 minutes at 400º until the cheese was just warm and soft. I placed the warm cheese on a bed fo lettuce fresh from our garden dressed with red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar (1 TB each) and walnut oil (1/4 cup).
Whole grilled shrimp. I rolled the shell on shrimp in butter melted with chopped shallot, basil and parsley and tossed them whole on the hot grill until they were just a bit browned and cooked through.
This one is staying on the make-ahead salad list. Blanched asparagus covered by a cucumber salad with wilted green onions (you soak them in the water from cooking the asparagus for 30 minutes) chervil, mint, tarragon, and chives dressed in a light red wine vinegar vinaigrette flavored with dijon mustard. Easy, beautiful, and summer fresh tasting.
For dessert an old standard. I call it California upside down cake. Really it's fridge fruit cake -- whatever is left in the fruit bowl at the end of the week -- today it was white peaches, nectarines, and apricots. I was wishing I had a handful of slivered almonds to sprinkle in with the fruit. First I melt a stick of butter in an oven proof pan and add in 3/4 cup of brown sugar and leave over medium low heat until it just starts to bubble. Then I arrange the sliced fruit on top and cover with a light cake batter, an adaptation of another Chez Panisse recipe.
For the batter. Cream 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar with 4 TBs of butter. Add in two egg yolks 1 at a time. Mix together 1 3/4 cup (less 1 TB) cake flour (or 1 1/2 cup regular flour), 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp of either nutmeg of cinnamon, to your taste, and a pinch of salt in a separate bowl. Alternate mixing in the flour mixture in 3 additions with 1/2 cup of milk mixed with 1 tsp vanilla extract. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites to firm peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the already mixed batter and spread the lightened batter over the fruit and sugar in the baking pan. Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes (check after an hour) at 350º.
It's really good for breakfast too.

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