Saturday night we cooked dinner for a group of new friends who had the high bid on an auction item Gary and I had included in the fundraiser Dallas Uncorked held for The June Jone’s Foundation on August 5th.
One of the things I fell in love with early on when Gary I started dating was his generous heart and the giving of his time he gives to the charitable organizations he loves.
For us to come together, as he says “making people happy with food” for a good cause has been a fulfilling and fun activity and June’s Foundation is one of the best we could give to.
We started our day with the excitement we get when we have the opportunity to cook all day and set out for Tom Spicer’s FM 1410 for mushrooms and arugula. His garden was bursting with color, easily enjoyed while sitting on their newly installed back deck. I love Spicer’s greens…maybe the best lettuces I have had. It is really amazing the difference between fresh greens picked that morning and what you can get in most stores. Arugula is one of my favorite greens, but often it tastes just like iceberg when purchased from your local grocery store. This is peppery good.
A quick stop at Jimmy’s Food Store for Cento chicken stock and on to Central Market. Our menu included arugula in a parmesan basket with vine ripe tomatoes paired with a chilled basil soup and a tomato tart tatan; truffle polenta topped with sautéed Chanterelle mushrooms and a perfectly medium rare beef tenderloin; and Gary’s crème brulee with chocolate shavings paired with my balsamic, mint and basil strawberries. For appetizers I planned to make my somewhat signature brie with mushrooms and truffle, along with a basil pesto topped Beemster Gouda with garlic and basil. Sometimes I make my pesto from scratch, but Central Market’s basil pesto in their prepared foods section is one of the freshest I have found.
Our wine for the evening started with a French Cremant. Made in the traditional champagne preparation (Methode Champenoise) where the sparkle is created through natural second fermentation within the bottle. A Cremant is a great option for those that love a good sparkling wine without the high price tag. Produced in several regions throughout France (Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant de Loire) are basically the sparkling wines from France not made in Champagne. Because they are made in the traditional process there are strict regulations making sure the sparkler is the best it can be, maintaining high French quality; but you can usually find one for about $10-$15 a bottle. Filled with earthy, toasty aromas this matched well with the brie with mushrooms and truffles on fresh, warm baguette.
Our first course wine was a Pinot Gris from King Estate in the southern part of Willamette Valley in Oregon. We just had a wonderful stay in the private guest cottage on the property of King Estate and enjoyed an extensive tasting of their portfolio of wines including their Signature and Domaine Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, Next Oregon Pinot Noir and Next Columbia Valley Red Blend, NxNW Cabernet Sauvignon and their newest line, Acrobat Pinot Gris. The Pinot Gris is probably the wine they are most known for. Maybe because there are a lot of great Pinot Noir makers in Oregon and they have differentiated themselves by doing a white wine great, maybe because they created a patio that wraps around the tasting room that begs for a refreshing glass of aromatic white wine on a hot summer day. Filled with floral and tropical fruit aromas with hints of minerality this was a great pairing with the basil filled first course.
Our entrée included a 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Peju. I had this one in my cellar for a few years and was pleased with the intense blackberry, currant and licorice aromas from this solid Napa Valley Cabernet.
Our plan was to get to our host’s house about 3:30 to prepare dinner for 12 by 6pm. We get home and begin our prep. Me on the basil soup, Gary on the crème brulee. Each take about 30 minutes to prepare, then on to sautéing the mushrooms for my brie appetizer and Gary prepping the beef with fresh rosemary from our garden, chopped garlic, salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil. Beautiful.
Soup and brulee made, we head to our host’s home and begin two and a half hours of intense prep. Strawberries – check; parmesan baskets – check; tomato tart tatan – check; appetizers – check; sautéed mushrooms – check; Guests arrive, bubbles are poured and the night begins. Seamlessly Gary and I continue to create while joining in on stories of favorite wine adventures, best new movies, great music, causes we support, and new opportunities.
Gary begins the truffle polenta. We had found a package of truffle polenta at Scardello’s cheese store a few months ago and thought this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. A delightful accompaniment to the earthy mushrooms and fork tender beef, and luckily not difficult to prepare.
At the end of the meal over coffee and a last pour of wine we discuss goals and successes, along with new adventures and a wonderfully voiced understanding that our pasts make us who we are, and our futures are filled with excitement; always including great food, wine and friendships.
Pesto Vinaigrette for Arugula and Vine-ripe Tomato salad in a Parmesan basket
I either make home made pesto in a batch or buy your favorite store brand. Pesto might be the easiest thing to make. For a recipe click here. Gary makes the parm baskets by coating the bottom of a non-stick pan on high temp and cooking until the cheese has melted together and is golden brown. He then flips them over onto a small bowl to create the bowl shape. Leave on the bowl just long enough for them to harden then remove and flip upright and let cool until ready to fill.
½ cup basil pesto
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon black pepper
Basil pesto should have plenty of olive oil in it for your dressing;
taste prior to seasoning with any extra salt.
Whisk all ingredients together. If you want to add more oil you can, I prefer to thin it out if it is thick with a little more water. Pesto generally has enough salt from the parmesan as well, but season to taste.
4 cloves roasted garlic, smashed
- To roast garlic place wrap 1 whole garlic with the top cut off revealing some of the cloves in aluminum foil and cover with a good dose of olive oil.
Roast in the oven on 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the cloves are squishy and will easily pop out of their skin.
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, only the white part chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons salt + more to season to your taste
1 tablespoon pepper + more to season to your taste
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups packed basil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley
3 cups nonfat, plain Greek Yogurt
In a sauté pan over medium heat sauté the garlic, onion and leek in the olive oil and butter until the onion and leek are translucent. While sautéing add Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. In a sauce pan heat the chicken stock. Once the onions are translucent add to the chicken stock. Bring to a boil then turn the heat off. When the soup has slightly cooled begin pureeing the soup with handfuls of basil and parsley until smooth. Continue until all soup and herbs are pureed and incorporated, pouring each batch into a separate bowl. Use only the basil leaves, no stems. Immediately add the zest and lemon juice to keep the basil’s bright green color. The yogurt will add acidity so don’t add any more lemon juice, but adjust any other seasonings at this point. Put 1 cup of soup back in to the blender and blend with the yogurt to start incorporating it. Then pour into the rest of the soup and stir until nicely combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 3 hours. Serve with a few chopped tomatoes and a basil leaf on top.
Tomato Tart Tatan
There are several ways to make this, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the intense sweet savory flavor this had. A tart tatan is usually a dessert and made with a cake batter, but puff pastry looks beautiful when baking and is a delicate option.
8-10 Roma tomatoes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 packaged puff pastry
Preheat oven to 400. Cut the tomatoes in half. In a medium size square glass baking dish place the tomatoes cut side down. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the sugar and water over high heat and start whisking. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and begins to boil and stop. Leave the sugar over the heat until the sugar starts to caramelize. You can swirl the sugar but do not mix. As soon as the sugar has caramelized remove from heat and add the butter and stir. Once the butter has melted add the vinegar and lemon zest, and stir. Pour immediately over the tomatoes. Roll the puff pastry to fit over the tart. Make an egg wash by whisking the egg with a bit of water and brush the top of the pastry. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. If there are a lot of juices you and pour them off prior to flipping. When ready to serve flip the tart over on a platter and then cut into squares. Garnish with a bit of cracked pepper and fresh basil. Sweet and savory good!
We found a package that serves about 12, roughly 3 cups of raw polenta; any kind of polenta will work if you can’t find truffle – but the truffle is so good….
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 pint half and half or cream
8 cups of chicken stock
3 cups polenta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat melt 4 tablespoons butter and add garlic and sauté until garlic is golden brown. Add chicken stock and cream let cook almost to a boil. When it is almost boiling add polenta and stir, stir, stir until the texture is smooth and creamy. Once creamy fold the parmesan in and stir until combined thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you use full sodium chicken stock you may not need much salt so make sure to taste prior to seasoning. Serve immediately.
Perfect Beef Tenderloin
Fresh Rosemary, chopped
Fresh garlic, chopped
Fresh cracked pepper
Gary seasons the beef about 3 hours in advance, and we do choose a perfect piece of meat with all fat trimmed. He then refrigerates the beef until about an hour before cooking it to bring the beef up to room temperature. We think this helps the meat stay tender when it cooks. When seasoning the beef rub with olive oil then generously spread with a blend of garlic, rosemary, pepper and salt. Wrap in plastic wrap until ready to cook.
Set the oven at 400 degrees and place the beef in a glass pan to cook. Cook until the meat reaches 140 degrees, this is about 20 minutes for about a pound of meat. Ovens vary though (as ours did tonight) so a meat thermometer is the best way to gauge temp. When the beef reaches temp remove from the oven and tent for about 30 minutes with aluminum foil. This will ensure the beef juices don’t run out of the meat when you are ready to cut and the tenderloin will continue cooking slightly up to a perfect medium rare.
Makes enough for 12
12 egg yolks
4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 fresh vanilla bean
Raw or vanilla sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 300. Whisk egg yolks together in a bowl and set aside. In saucepan cook 2 cups cream, sugar and salt together until it reaches 155 degrees and remove from heat. Whisk in 2 additional cups cream to the mixture until combined. Slowly whisk cream mixture in to the egg yolks. Go slow to ensure you don’t scramble the eggs. Whisk in vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean. Pour mixture into twelve 4 oz ramekins and place in a large pan lined with a kitchen towel. Place in an oven preheated to 300 and slowly add enough hot water to reach 3/4 of the way up the ramekin. Bake for about 40 minutes or until custard is set. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 3 hours to chill. When ready to serve dust each custard with vanilla or raw sugar. To create the brulee you can either flame each one with a small blow torch or place under the broiler. If you use the broiler keep a close eye on them, it will only take 30 seconds or so to create the brulee. They should be golden brown on top. Serve with shaved dark chocolate on top and balsamic strawberries.
1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, chopped
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
In a large bowl combine all ingredients except basil and stir until the sugar melts into the vinegar. Make these at least 2 hours in advance of serving and continue to stir every 10 or 20 minutes. The longer they sit the more concentrated they get. Serve with fresh basil for a garnish on top. The basil adds a hint of brightness. Great with the creamy brulee.