A casual gathering on a summer evening is a great opportunity to catch up with friends at the end of the season. There is something intrinsically warm about planning and cooking a meal with people you’re close with. Our dear friends whom we’ll call V & N generously opened their beautiful house and kitchen to cook this dinner together.
V has an innate sense of style in everything she does; her house décor is tasteful, her attire always classy and elegant and she’s a wonderful, thoughtful host of her dinner parties. For our Season’s Bounty dinner V set up the table in a well-designed rustic chic way with one-toned ceramic plates, woven chargers and overlaid table runners (but more on that in the décor section of this menu) softly illuminated by warm candlelight from the table top lanterns packed with river stones. Accented by casual flower arrangement containing sunflowers and various field flowers, the entire set up exuded warm ambiance and amity; we all felt like family.
The menu was comprised of the best produce that summer has to offer. For fun easy hors d’oeuvre, try our golden Mini-Corn Cakes with succulent Shrimp and bright green Italian parsley. The tangy Greek yogurt based garnish adds a touch of freshness and thinly sliced cherry tomatoes add playfulness.
This Italian classic, Fried Zucchini Blossoms were simply deep fried in the vegetable oil, served with some sprinkled coarse sea salt and crushed pink peppercorns. Warm and soft, these little flowers were a hit!
We had the hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen around the center isle while still preparing the main course and scrubbing the mussels together. Everyone was laughing and talking. After having nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, the guys relaxed chatting cars, business and life while sipping a nice French Sancerre.
Pass all the appetizers around the table family-style. It’s all about a handful of impeccably fresh ingredients, prepared simply to let their natural flavors shine through. Shaved-Squash Salad with sweet Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini Blossoms, and Ricotta Cheese, finished with Thyme oil was exceptionally good. Ribbons of green and yellow shaved zucchinis, courgettes and baby pattison, composed a plate full of vibrant colors.
As a main starter, serve this Red Pepper Bisque with Citrusy Crab Salad. The silky refined texture is achieved by straining the soup through the fine-mesh sieve. Part of preparation is sautéing the peppers for a long time to bring out their natural sweetness. The bright flavors and beautifully vibrant saturated color excites the palate with anticipation even on the sultriest of summer days or evenings. Take the time and savor the rich complex flavors with each spoon. Mix in some brandy for smokiness, warmness and enhanced depth. For garnish, scoop some of the avocado into the middle of each bowl topped off with spicy lump crab meat and pour the soup around it. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For the main course we had Roasted Black Bass with flavorful Mussel Panzanella Salad. From scrubbing mussels and making the dressing to toasting the slices of the rustic Italian bread, it was a team effort to prepare this dish.
For meat lovers, Lamb Cutlets with salty grilled Haloumi cheese, Eggplant and Tomato Cucumber Salad. French-trimmed cutlets not only look neat and beautiful but are also easy to hold and nibble. This dish is a staple of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines and has a simple but yet profound flavor profile; the gamy lamb meat and eggplant slices, both charred to perfection on the grill work wonderfully together. Brighten the dish with some parsley for a herbaceous hint and tomato-cucumber salad for acidity. To finish, a splash of spicy extra-virgin olive oil and a delicious aged balsamic vinegar with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I already smell the barbecue smoke………
For the dessert, bring out the Raspberry Mousse Cake table side so that everyone can visually appreciate its colorful pretty layers. The sponge cake base of it is soaked in a delicious Crème Yvette, the all-natural liquor produced in Provence, France. The combination of four different berries: blackberry, black current, strawberry and raspberry really deepen the flavor and create an irresistible permeating aroma which makes every bite just so delectable. Each slice showcases this cake’s beautiful tonal contrast of almost pink, light-as-air mousse, and deep jewel like berry glaze. Let your imagination roam free when decorating its top, I used tart red currents on the stem, blackberries and blueberries to compliment the lightness of the mousse. To enhance the wow factor even more, finish it with some edible gold or silver leaf flakes on top.