“I am probably one of the few people around who saw the real Caesar Cardini making his salad. I was about 9 when my parents took me to Tijuana, just the other side of the border from San Diego.
They were so excited when big jolly Caesar himself came to the table to make the salad, which had already been written up and talked about everywhere. And it was dramatic, I remember most clearly the eggs going in, and how he tossed the leaves so it looked like a wave turning over.” -Julia Child
This double-decker sandwich was inspired by Caesar Cardini’s famous combination of ingredients from almost a century ago. Over the years, many have added chicken breast to the salad to make a more substantial meal. Here, I cook up moist and tasty chicken burgers from freshly ground thigh meat. Garlic toast stands in for the croutons. And a caesar aioli and hard boiled eggs replace the original egg-garlic-cheese dressing. I use two types of anchovies, of which unfortunately, Julia Child would disapprove. She said, “You don’t want herbs and anchovies and things like that – then you have adulterated it.” But fans of anchovies will agree that they add another layer of umami savoriness to the sandwich. Also included are lemon and parmesan cheese, in an effort to capture Mr. Cardini’s authentic flavor combination.
Recently at the local farmers market, a woman walked up and started asking about an exotic fruit called cherimoya. I shared that while it was very expensive (a medium-large one cost almost $8) I thought that it was ultimately worth the price. At about the same cost per pound as a top sirloin steak, it is probably not a fruit you would have on the breakfast table every day – but to add variety, or when guests are in town, cherimoya is a special treat.
This fruit, native to the valleys of Ecuador, Columbia, and Peru, has a mysterious flavor and unique texture. The juicy white sweet flesh tastes a bit like pineapple, though not as tart, with a hint of banana, and maybe papaya. The aroma is heady and tropical. The texture is even more intriguing, less like fruit and more like custard. As I was explaining the cherimoya to her, a pineapple banana crème brûlée came to mind. And that is how this Cherimoya Brûlée was born…
The mandoline seems to be my go-to kitchen tool of choice these days. Thinly sliced vegetables and lemons are drizzled with olive oil and layered with fresh herbs, then baked for 40 minutes. Dry-cured black olives, Parmesan, and basil finish the dish. The result is a light fresh casserole that can be enjoyed warm or at room-temperature, easily wrapped up and whisked off to a picnic or the beach (or both). And would be equally fitting served as part of a fancy buffet dinner.
It’s almost summer and thin is in! Thin vegetables, that is. A mandoline slicer can help turn a fennel bulb and common white mushrooms into a graceful salad or side dish. Pretty paper-thin watercress leaves add a bold peppery flavor. Their deep green color contrasts the pale fennel, mushroom, and cheese. Walnuts bring nutty, earthy flavors and a crunchy texture. Dressed with fruity olive oil and balsamic syrup, the final dish has a synergistic elegance beyond its everyday components.
I simply could not resist those U-10 scallops at the fish market. U-10 (under 10 scallops per pound) are the largest available. These dry pack, wild caught Atlantic sea scallops have a sweet, rich buttery taste. They contain no preservatives or additives and do not ooze liquid during the cooking process, unlike wet scallops that have been soaked in a phosphate solution.
The dilemma was how to showcase the (not inexpensive) scallops, yet keep the dish simple and simultaneously interesting? Lemon and basil naturally pair well with scallops, so that became the sauce. I mingle tomato, nasturtium, and mache for a light salad-y effect. And then add the unexpected farro, an Italian grain with nutty, chewy, earthy flavors and textures. This unique dish has an irresistible appeal of land and sea. Bright blue borage flowers add that contrasting splash of color.
Franciscan Earthenware was a wedding gift to my father and his first wife. My mother “inherited” this china when she married him. We’ve enjoyed her home-cooked meals on these dishes for well over a half century.
We still have most of the pieces, a few are chipped, but overall a fine collection in great condition. This china has proven to be very durable. Back in 2008 Ma graciously lent me several pieces from her collection. As you may have read earlier, I am addicted to dinnerware. Now, with her passing, I am the keeper of the entire collection. And I will cherish it forever.
Franciscan Apple is one of the most popular raised-relief hand-painted patterns from Gladding, McBean & Co., which began production of Franciscan dinnerware in 1934 at their plant in Glendale, California. This pattern first appeared in 1940.
The name Franciscan is an allusion to Franciscan Friars and reflected the simple, informal style of Mexican folk pottery. The Franciscan Apple pattern has become a darling of collectors with its branches, beautiful green leaves and red harvest apples painted on cream-colored porcelain reminiscent of days gone by.
American production of Franciscan Ware ceased in 1984, following the announcement to relocate all Franciscan production to England. Franciscan Apple pattern is still made today under the Wedgwood Group. It is slightly different now and many pieces are larger than the originals, but still charming as ever.
PAVLOVA Blueberry, Lemon Curd with Limoncello, Greek Yogurt
Gidday Mates! This past weekend we celebrated our friend Chip’s birthday, as well as my new BBQ grill with a “Down Under” Party. The idea started with “shrimp on the barbie” and grew from there with Australian wines, beers, and ports, grilled lamb steaks, grilled corn, grilled bread, salads, cheeses, and more. And of course there had to be the quintessential dessert, Australia’s beloved Pavlova. And being us, we had to put booze in the pavlova. Limoncello to be exact. We do love our themed dinner parties.
In this simple but beautiful blueberry limoncello pavlova, the sweet meringue dissolves on the tongue, the lively lemon curd spiked with limoncello adds a surprisingly zippy note which is balanced by the tart yogurt and the heavenly fresh blueberries that pop in the mouth. Could it have been too elegant for our outback party?