My mom is marking a birthday milestone this month, and to celebrate we hosted a West-coast birthday celebration for her. She has a group of lifelong friends here from when she lived in Berkeley in the 60’s and 70’s, and whenever she visits from her home in Minneapolis, they try to get together to visit. I always love being included in these get-togethers and listening to what is always an interesting conversation, and often takes the form of an elegant dinner at one home or another.
It was fun to play host this time, and we decided on a weekend lunch al fresco, taking advantage of a pleasantly cool day. We had planned to prepare a feast using as much produce from our garden as possible, but unfortunately, a brutal heat wave occurred while we were out of town the previous two weeks, and much of the garden was scorched. So instead, we used lots of seasonal fruits and veggies, and threw in our own herbs, citrus, blueberries, potatoes and eggs from our chickens. We went with what was supposed to be a light, soup and salad theme, but we got a little carried away. Here’s the menu for a Saturday brunch for 10:
-Chilled sorrel soup and baguette with prosecco
-Quinoa and kale salad
-Glazed carrots over honey-drizzled goat cheese
-Watermelon and blueberry salad with feta, mint and fresh lime
-Farfalle with fresh garden pesto
-Rustic walnut toasts with fig and olive tapenade, ricotta, peas and radishes
-Avocado toasts with tomato and feta
-Danish lagkage with whipped cream and berries
-Lemon and blood orange sorbets
It ended up being a little over-the-top for what was supposed to be a simple lunch, but my mom and Dave and I had such a good time cooking together and enjoying the bounty of early summer produce. Here are some of the recipes we used or made up, along with some photos.
Chilled Sorrel Soup
I planted sorrel last year, with only a vague idea of what I would do with it. It grew impossibly lush and green, and before I realized it, the decision was made for me: my gorgeous stand of sorrel became chicken food one afternoon when our free-range flock discovered that they rather liked sorrel. To my delight, the plant came back this spring, and I guarded it with chicken wire before our birds rediscovered it. This was my first go at a soup, and it was delicious. I used Craig Claiborne’s recipe for the New York Times as a starting point, but changed it so much that I’m writing it out here.
1 lb. Fresh Sorrel
1 lb. potatoes
3 large leeks
8 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. cooking sherry (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
- Clean and dry the sorrel, and remove stems. Stack the leaves, and cut crosswise in 1/4″ ribbons. Set aside.
- Slice the white and light green parts of the leeks, and discard the tops. You should have about 2 cups. Saute leeks in the butter in your soup pot.
- Peel the potatoes and chop into 1″ cubes. Add potatoes and broth to the soup pot and bring to a boil, simmering 10 to 15 minutes.
- Strain the broth by pouring the soup through a colander into a large bowl. Put the solids into a food processor, add 1 cup of the broth and blend until smooth. Return the now-smooth solids to the soup pot and pour in the rest of the liquid, mixing until combined. (Alternately, you could use an immersion blender to puree the soup). Chill the soup.
- Once chilled, add the sorrel ribbons and blend with an immersion blender. Add parmesan cheese, cream salt, pepper and sherry to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Glazed Carrots with Goat Cheese and Honey
I came across this recipe as I was going through back issues of Food and Wine Magazine, and it looked delicious. I was not wrong. These were the best carrots I’ve ever had, and I’m already planning to cook them again as soon as possible. The recipe is a little fussy, but well worth it. Find it here.
Mama’s Quinoa Kale Salad
1 Bunch Kale
1 cup Pecans or almonds, chopped
1 cup Cranberries
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2+ Tbsp. Champagne Vinegar (to taste)
1 Shallot, minced
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. honey
Salt and Pepper
Prepare the kale by removing the woody spine and cutting the kale into bite size pieces. Place in a glass or ceramic bowl and salt generously, then squeeze and scrunch the kale until it is tender. Add salad dressing and nuts and cranberries and chill while preparing the quinoa.
Add 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of boiling water and continue cooking on medium low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, drain any liquid that remains, and place the hot pan back on the burner with the top off to dry the quinoa a bit more.
When the quinoa has cooled, add it to the kale and nuts and cranberries and mix well.
Rustic Walnut Toasts
I have been loving the popularity of “toasts” lately. I lived in Denmark for a year when I was a teenager, and I fell in love with their smørrebrod, or open-faced sandwiches, and this is a similar idea. It’s like a tasty blank canvas for whatever lovely stuff you want to pile on top. Here’s our take:
1 Loaf rustic whole wheat walnut bread
1/4 c. Olive Oil
Olive-Fig Tapenade (I used some that I found at Whole Foods)
Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
Fresh Radishes, Peas and micro-arugula
Preheat oven to 450º
Slice bread and place slices on a cookie sheet. Brush both sides with olive oil
Bake for about 10 minutes, checking to make sure that the bread is toasty but not burnt
Cool toasts and spread with tapenade.
Dollop on the ricotta, and spread over the toasts
Decorate with slivered radishes, coarsely chopped peas and micro ricotta. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Camilla Plum’s Danish Lagkager
I found this recipe on the blog TasteFood, and it reminded me right away of the delicious, light and not-too-sweet layer cakes that I had in Scandinavia. It’s fairly simple, and perfect for a fresh, summer party. You can find the recipe here.
Happy birthday, mom!