We were in Eastern Washington this week-end close to Leavenworth for a family wedding. It was beautifully sunny and warm. The dry air is such a treat. Meandering back stopping at farm stands this time of year is such a treat too. The cherries just so abundant. Whether they are Eastern Washington cherries or whatever area you are finding them, the season is short but oh so sweet. Try them next to cheese. We found a piece of Beecher’s yesterday on one of our stops and they are divine together. Pit them and toss in your next salad. Mix them with corn for a sweet and tart dish on your next picnic. However you enjoy them, savor the flavor, as they are a sweet marker that Summer is upon us.
Putting together things to have with cocktails or for when guests come for a simple dinner and we want to have a little something out before the meal, is when I like pairing things with cheese. It is a one-two punch of flavor and ease. That is where Manchego with cherries comes into play. If you can get fresh cherries, then by all means do. The Italian Amarena cherries are fab when you want cherries but they are not in season. The lovely woman from Met Market that helped me at my signing last week chopped up these cherries and had them sitting atop a piece of the cheese. For ease, I like them in a bowl on a pretty plate next to the cheese left whole. I like seeing that it is a whole cherry. The mix of the sweet & tart cherry combined with the mellow sweetness of the Manchego makes for a winning combination. So good! The above photo of the Spanish cheese, with the Italian cherries, on the plate from England, with the knife from France just made me laugh after I posted it. A combo of some of my very favorite places….
We are up early and heading into the city today. I wish all of you just the very best Wednesday.
Just can’t seem to get enough kale. Love it. So healthy for you. So filling. What I also love about it is how well it keeps in the fridge. I bought a good sized bunch the day we got back from New York almost 2 weeks ago. Still was going strong when I took it out yesterday to make a little salad to take to the shop. Kale is also so great as it does not wilt easily, making it super transportable for salads for lunch, picnics, whenever. I just put the vinaigrette in the container first on the bottom and put the kale directly on top. When I am ready to serve it, I just shake the whole thing around, and the salad becomes perfectly dressed.
For the vinaigrette, maple syrup helps tremendously to add a bit of sweetness and take away any bitter the kale might have. In a bowl add a big dollop of Dijon mustard. To that add a few good glugs of maple syrup. Then the juice of one lemon. Salt & pepper. Then whisk in extra virgin olive oil until it all incorporates. Finally add Parmesan that has been grated super fine. Combine all for a flavorful vinaigrette.
I most times like to add dried cherries or cranberries to the salad. Yesterday it was cherries. Tear up kale into bite sized pieces, being sure to omit the tough spine. I just tear around the spine and discard them. Once all is mixed together, add another sprinkling of Parm to the top of the salad. I had it alongside Beecher’s mac & cheese, for a hearty, tasty lunch on a rainy day at the shop.
Farro is the oldest cultivated grain in the world. The hearty kernel also makes it a substantial base for a healthy salad. Saturdays are days I quite often make something to bring to the shop for lunch, as it is such a hopping day. We had a butternut squash in the fridge, so I thought I would roast that up, get a little creative, and see what I could come up with. I love salads where you can mix & match, using things that work well together. Here is what I added to the farro to make a filling lunch for a busy day.
Cook farro to the instructions on package. I like it not so crunchy, so I tend to cook it a bit longer than the norm to get a tad softer. Roast cut up butternut squash at 400 degrees with olive oil, salt and pepper until soft and a bit golden. Set aside. Cut up a shallot into small pieces and add to a bowl with 3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. Let that sit and pickle for a bit. The longer the better. At least 30 minutes is best. While the farro is cooking and the shallots are pickling, take a small pan and dry roast a handful of hazelnuts until warm. This helps bring out the natural oils of the nut, really helping bring out the full flavor of the hazelnuts. Set aside. Once the farro is cooked, take off of heat and add half of the shallots and half of the rice wine vinegar they were sitting in. This will infuse into the warm farro and add quite a bit of flavor. Add a few good pinches of salt and pepper at this stage too. Let cool. Once cooled, add the butternut squash pieces, the remaining shallots, the hazelnuts, a handful of dried cherries, and finish with a good amount of crumbled feta. Mix all together. Taste. Season with more salt if you think it needs it. Also add the remaining vinegar that you pickled the shallots in, if you desire more. Done. A quite healthy and visual lunch.
A happy Monday and start of the week to you all!
This time of year I am always looking for quick options for things to make to serve at gatherings at home or bring to a party. Baking a whole small Brie in pastry dough is one of my go-to options during the Holidays. Last year I added fig jam. This year I am really loving adding cherry jam, as well as a handful of dried cherries. The combo is a great sweet/tart with the warm Brie and pastry. I made the above for our friend Peg the other day as part of her birthday present–hence the ‘P’ on top. Swap out whatever cookie cutter image you like. Stars and leaves are my seasonal favorites.
Turn oven to 350 degrees to pre-heat while you assemble this. You will want to use one of the two pastry sheets that come in most puff pastry packages. I like the Pepperidge Farm brand, which is what I typically find at our grocer. Any brand is fine. Follow the instructions on the box for thawing. The sheets are folded into thirds. Unfold and cut one third off, and set aside. Using a full small Brie, cover the entire top of the cheese round in cherry jam. Add to that dried cherries. Moving carefully & quickly, flip it over onto the waiting pastry sheet, so the jammed top is now on the bottom. Take the pastry and fold all of the sides up and over the Brie, encasing the entire concoction. Now flip that entire thing over onto a baking sheet. If it is parchment lined, all the better. Now with that remaining third of a sheet of dough, press out a few decorative images with a cookie cutter or if you are really creative, just use a sharp knife and make something fun. Add those to the top. Almost there. Now take an egg and crack it into a bowl and add a splash of water to make an egg wash. Beat together. Brush the egg mixture over the entire top and sides of the pastry, as this will really help it to brown. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown. Let sit for a bit before serving, so the cheese is not too hot. It really is best warm, but room temp is fine too.
One of the fun aspects of writing this daily blog, is folks recommend other people to me who write blogs that they think I should read or meet. I was not a big blog reader before I started writing mine a little over a year ago, but have really enjoyed perusing more and more. I love a mixture of blogs–design, food, art, lifestyle–and will share with you in the coming months some of my favorites. The above salad combination was from a post by the talented interior designer in San Francisco, Grant K. Gibson. He writes a lovely blog about the things that inspire him at www.grantkgibson.blogspot.com. He also is an exceptional photographer, whose work will be showing up shortly on the walls at Watson Kennedy any day now. More on that once it arrives. Now onto that fab salad.
I have made this salad 3 times, each time doing a little something different. The first time I did it with the baked chèvre as Grant had shown. I also made it for a large dinner party and instead crumbled feta into the salad in place of the goat cheese and it rocked, as well. The feta was just an easier option since it was such a large salad for a big group. We have also had it without any cheese added, and it is sublime. That is what I love about recipes, that you can add or delete and still make something wonderful. This is super easy, and could not be tastier and representative of Summer.
Take the corn off of the cob after you have boiled it and it has cooled. Pit or slice cherries, you just don’t want the pit involved. Make a simple vinaigrette of 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1/4 of a cup of balsamic vinegar, 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of both salt and pepper and whisk all together. Combine the corn and cherries with the arugula and dress with the balsamic vinaigrette. You will be very happy you made this salad. Try any of the cheese options or not. Enjoy!
We are spending most of the week out on the island, and I am getting a start on my book. I find it such a peaceful place to write. I don’t know what it is about writing at times, but it makes me hungry. My breaks mean messing around in the kitchen trying new things. TPS had a full day in the city, so I wanted an easy dinner ready when he arrived back to WestWard, but he was not sure which ferry he would catch. It would be a sort of Italian meal that could be prepared ahead of time, and sit till he arrived. I love those sorts of meals. For dessert, I played with puff pastry sheets that I am so fond of. They make anything made in them seem special. This really was the easiest thing in the world to make, I could not wait to share it with you. I will be making this again for sure. Cherry season is in full swing, so we will have bowls of them around any chance we can.
Slice cherries, using the 2 meatiest pieces from each cherry for this recipe. I liked the uniform-ness of the rounds. Put slices in a bowl and mix with a healthy dose of sugar. This will help draw out the cherry juices, which are great in this tart. Then roll out one sheet of the puff pastry, being sure that it has defrosted but is still cold. On a plate or cutting board, spread another liberal dose of sugar. Place the pastry sheet on that, lightly rubbing the sheet so the sugar adheres. Sprinkle more sugar on the top of the sheet, as well. Place the cherries in the middle of the sugared pastry sheet, and crimp and fold the pastry to create a rustic formed wall, leaving most of the fruit exposed in the center. Brush the pastry with an egg wash. That is it! Put on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until puffy and browned. This really is the simplest thing, but it looks so cool and tastes so darn good. Enjoy!
I woke this morning to find a lovely post written by my new friend that I made on my last trip to New York, Elizabeth Moyer. We met while we were attending the Blogfest on Design. We hit it off immediately–she is kind, uber stylish, and is a lover of life and the moment. She writes the fabulous blog www.prettypinktulips.com where she shares her insights on living, giving and entertaining with style and grace. Elizabeth asked if I would answer a few questions for a post. She composed such a lovely entry, taking photos from the shops and our home. Thank you Elizabeth!
I get a weekly update from our stellar IT guru Jeff, with all the countries folks are reading the daily blog from–England, France, Russia and China to name a few. When I started this in May, I never would have dreamed it would reach so far, so quickly. I thank each and every one of you for reading.
But the best part of all is meeting or chatting over the phone with people who check out the daily post. Yesterday was one of those days. A big shout out to Suzie who brought me a special gift, which I will be putting to good use today, perfectly wrapped with a sprig of rosemary, and to Kristine who I got to chat with on the phone for a quick second as she was ordering up some fab Hugo Guinness pieces she had spotted in a post and on the Watson Kennedy web site. Ladies, you made my day. Merci to you both!
It is a day of rest, as this past week was off the charts busy. At the Market yesterday, I bought a glorious bag of Rainier cherries for us to enjoy on the deck as we watch the boats sail by.
We like to host good sized groups at our beach place during the Summer months, and making a time consuming dessert after a long day of hosting is generally not in the cards. I like to fill bowls with whatever cherries look best at the market that day, and have bowls of the cheese, which is a Spanish sheep’s milk, set alongside. It is easy for guests to pass the bowls, and I like the informality of it, which is the vibe we like to set when entertaining at the beach.
2 tips. Make sure to put a small bowl out for the cherry pits, and don’t use your best white linen napkins. Use whatever napkin you don’t mind having a guest get a bit of cherry juice on.
Cheers to the start of the season!