The night before Stacey and her husband left Seattle for the warmth of Arizona, they came over to our place for dinner. Our decision to cook instead of just have drinks and appetizers and then dine out was made that morning. I like giving dinner parties, but because of my crazy work and travel schedule we hadn’t had people over for dinner in months, so I was looking forward to getting back into entertaining mode.
As I sipped my morning tea, I pulled out my stack of cookbooks and started trying to find menu inspiration. I wanted the menu to be quintessential Seattle, to celebrate summer and still give a nod to the coming fall. I had settled on sockeye salmon for the entree and wanted to use a cedar plank and the outdoor grill, but as to the actual preparation, I was at a loss. Likewise, my mind was dancing with images of apple crisp since the apple season is just starting in Washington, but I wanted a twist.
After much page turning and additions of my own, I settled on the following menu:
Beecher’s Flagship Cheese and Original Crackers
Served with 2006 Renegade Sauvignon Blanc
A salad of heirloom tomatoes with balsamic vinegar
Salmon with herb butter sauce and grilled asparagus (a recipe from Shuckers found in the Celebrated Chefs cookbook) and Beecher’s mac n cheese
Served with Murphy-Goode “All In” Claret
Cooking Light’s Navajo Peach and Apple Crisp (a perfect marriage of summer and fall fruits)
Naturally, I had never made either of the recipes, but that’s never stopped me before so why should it now? Shopping list in hand I headed downtown to Pike Place Market.
Salmon, check. Organic peaches, ripe enough to cook today, check (and a shout out to the woman running the farmer’s stand who found them for me). Ginger gold apples (so much more interesting than Granny Smiths), winter thyme, flat leaf parley, asparagus, a ficelle from one of my favorite french boulangeries, Beecher’s Flagship cheese and the crowning touch, Beecher’s mac n’ cheese.
I was able to find everything on my list except tarragon. Seattle is so fortunate to have such an amazing public market. In fact, apart from the wine. balsamic, butter, flour, dried tarragon, brown sugar and ice cream, the entire dinner menu was made from food found at the market.
The meal was a smashing success and was easy giving us plenty of time to spend with our guests.
The salmon and asparagus preparation is one I will be repeating again and again. Incredible what a little herb butter will do! And I have a special fondness for the Celebrated Chefs cookbook because of the charity aspect. Basically, a group of renowned Seattle restaurants got together to participate in a program and put together a cookbook for charity. When you sign up for the program (for free) you receive a gratis copy of the high-quality, glossy, coffee table worthy cookbook. To sign up you register one or more credit cards, pick one of several charities and each time you eat at one of the restaurants that participates in the program, 5% of your bill goes to that charity – no cost to you. I chose Food Lifeline so when we eat, we help other people eat. There are Celebrated Chef programs in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington D.C. (metro area). It’s such an easy way to help others, I encourage anyone who lives or visits those cities to sign up.
Heirloom Tomato Salad
3-4 varieties heirloom tomoatoes (for 4 people, 4-5 tomatoes of varying sizes is enough, I always include green zebras);
Goat Cheese crumbles.
Slice tomatoes and place in a mixing bowl. Lightly toss with balsamic vinegar. Plate. Top with goat cheese crumbles and slivers of fresh basil. A simple stunner.