Two down, one to go! Woo hooooo, we are party central again this weekend! Friday night we were invited to dinner by a family at Nathan’s new school. So fun – cool people, lovely home, great kids, and delicious wine and food. Salmon, fresh herbs and vegetables, a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil, all wrapped up in foil and passed over the grill. We opened up the individual packets to find perfectly moist and fragrant fish, with lovely juices that flowed handily over to the pile of rice waiting patiently on the other side of the plate. Yum. I baked and brought a Cherry Tart with Almond Crust, with fresh cherries as well as fresh peaches and blueberries. Good stuff.
Then yesterday, another pool-and-wine party with Debbie and Stu The Wine Genius (Rudy and Ana are in the Hamptons, poor souls, ha). Sooooo fun, a gorgeous, hot day, perfect for floating and sipping. And eating! Stu and Debbie brought two Turley wines, in honor of our Napa trip (and stay at Larry Turley’s home), both delicious. In the pool we drank the white, a 2003 The White Coat, a rich blend, quite golden and delicious. With dinner we drank a 2004 Lodi Zinfandel, from the Dogtown Vineyard (not the one we overlooked), fantastic. Tasted just like Napa, sigh.
After a quick shower, it was time to get some food on! I started by grilling bread for a quick appetizer, served alongside hard salami, roasted peppers, and olive tapenade from the deli. For a first course I made a red cabbage salad – red cabbage sauteed until wilted and then tossed with crispy bacon and a warm shallot dressing and topped with a warm, breaded goat-cheese medallion. Crunchy, creamy, salty, gorgeous – all the good stuff (recipe in comments, below). And for dinner I grilled a couple racks of lamb chops, cut into two-chop pieces before smearing them with a mixture of minced garlic, mint, oregano, rosemary, and tarragon (the herbs on my deck) bound with a bit of olive oil. Alongside I grilled Potatoes on the Grill, or more accurately, La Finca Veggies and Potatoes on the Grill, because I threw in carrots, fennel, green pepper, and onion, all from my veggie share this week. For dessert I had baked a Lemon Picnic Cake (lemon cake soaked in lemon icing, yum; recipe in comments, below), withwhipped cream and raspberry sauce. Uff, we were stuffed as we chatted in the dark, watching the pool lights shimmer eerily off the trees, while Nathan took a pre-bedtime dip.
So! Now it’s Sun-day, and time for a Baseball Moms and Players Swimming Party! Another hot sunny day, perfect for grillin’ some ‘dogs, eating lots of salty chips and appetizers, drinking ice cold beer, munching on cookies and bars, and chatting the afternoon/evening away while the boys raise hell in the pool. Yeah, baby!
Lemon Picnic Cake
1 box Pillsbury yellow cake mix
1/3 c. oil
2 lemons, rinds grated and divided, and juice divided – 2 Tbsp. for glaze, below, remainder combined with water to make 1 c. of liquid for cake
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from above)
rind of one lemon, grated (from above)
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
½ tsp. coconut extract
freshly whipped and sweetened cream
fresh raspberries, mashed with a bit of sugar and stirred into a thick sauce
I prepared this in a 10x15 glass pan, so the cake would be about 1-inch thick, like bars. It could be baked in any cake pan, however; follow package directions for temperature and timing on the back of the box based on the pan that you use. Preheat oven to specified temp and spray pan with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a mixer combine cake mix, eggs, the grated rind of one lemon (reserve the other for the glaze), oil, the lemon juice (minus the 2 Tbsp. needed for the glaze) water mixture (1 total cup of liquid), and coconut extract. Mix on low to combine ingredients, then on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake according to pan type. When cake is just done (pulled away from the sides of the pan, springy in the center), remove and let cool while you prepare the glaze.
For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Spread over the still-warm cake. Cool and serve with whipped cream and raspberries.
Sauteed Red Cabbage Salad with Pancetta and Broiled Goat Cheese
From The Cuisine of California by Diane Rossen Worthington
½ lb. pancetta (or bacon)
6 oz. goat cheese
½ c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. French bread crumbs
1 small red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 large shallots, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium skillet, cook pancetta over medium-low heat until crisp and lightly browned. Remove and place on paper towels to drain. Crumble into small pieces and reserve. Slice goat cheese into four equal portions. Place on a broiler pan and brush each piece with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Sprinkle with bread crumbs so that they adhere to the cheese. Refrigerate for one hour. Remove and discard all but 1 Tbsp. of the pancetta drippings and add 3 Tbsp. olive oil to skillet. Add cabbage and sauté until it begins to wilt. Remove to a bowl. Add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil to pan. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and simmer about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour over cabbage. Add pancetta and more salt and pepper to taste and toss. Divide onto four individual plates. Preheat broiler. Broil goat cheese until it is golden brown. Watch carefully as it burns easily. Set a piece of goat cheese in the center of each plate of cabbage. Serve immediately.