Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 12, 2011

We met at Tonya's house and all were in attendance except for Janet. Also, we were joined by guests Lauren and her mom, Lisa.

The menu:

Appetizer - Tomato Tart, Angie
Salad - Watermelon Salad, Lauren
Side - Couscous Salad, Mary
Bread - Assorted, Carol
Main Dish - Spinach and Chicken Phyllo Cups, Tonya
Dessert - Lemon Cake and Cookie Cups, Carol

Tonya set a beautiful table with jars of homemade jams and jellies at each setting. I left with a jar of the famous mayhaw jelly. Yum!

I made the tomato tart using fresh tomatoes from my garden. The only change to the recipe was I placed fresh basil leaves, also from my garden, under the tomatoes. I think it would be tasty, as well as pretty, to put some fresh basil on the top too, after baking. The recipe was very easy and I served it at room temperature.

Lauren, a friend of Tonya's, made a delicious, refreshing watermelon salad. It was wonderful and very summery. Hopefully, Lauren will become the newest member of the Gourmet Gals! And Lisa is welcome any time too!

Watermelon Salad

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1/2 cup feta
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 pressed garlic cloves
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup olive oil

Mix together salad. Mix dressing and add as desired to each serving.

Mary made couscous salad and it was amazing! I have never tasted such a flavorful couscous before. The dates were the secret ingredient. I could also see using golden raisins or even dried cranberries.

Couscous Feta Salad

Chicken broth (use amount indicated on couscous package)
2 boxes of couscous with pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Add honey to cut the sharpness of the vinegar.
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 (4 ounce) container crumbled feta cheese (used fat free feta)
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (shortcut is to use the couscous with pine nuts in it)
Dried dates. Adds a bit of sweetness and nice texture. I used about 1 heaping cup.


Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Remove from the heat, and stir in the couscous. Cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Scrape the couscous into a mixing bowl, fluff with a fork, and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Once the couscous is cold, make the dressing by whisking together the salt, black pepper, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard in a small bowl (add some honey to cut the vinegar a bit). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk until the oil has thickened the dressing. Fold the cucumber, feta cheese, green onions, parsley, and pine nuts (if needed) into the couscous. Pour the dressing over top, and stir until evenly moistened. Chill 30 minutes before serving.

For our main dish Tonya picked a Rachel Ray recipe for chicken and spinach in phyllo cups. The dish was put together quickly and tasted great. The phyllo cups make the presentation very fancy and would be great for a dinner party. If you had made the cups in mini muffin tins you could serve it as an appetizer.

Carol made two desserts. YUM. The cookie from the cookie fruit baskets was so crisp and sweet and the perfect way to enjoy ice cream and ripe berries.

Cookie Fruit Baskets

Yields 12 servings


1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup ground pecans

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Vanilla Ice Cream (or and fresh berries


In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in brown sugar and corn syrup; cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in flour. Fold in pecans and vanilla.

Drop by tablespoons 3 inches apart onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool for 30-60 seconds; peel cookies off paper. Immediately drape over inverted custard cups; cool completely. Scoop ice cream into baskets; top with berries.

The second dessert, lemon cake with berry compote, berry paper and buttermilk thyme sherbet was light and refreshing.

Lemon Cake with Berry Compote, Berry Paper and Buttermilk Thyme Sherbet

Serves 8

Lemon Cake:

6 eggs, separated

1 3/4 cups sugar, divided

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

In bowl, whip egg whites and half of the sugar to stiff peaks for meringue. In separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Gently fold into mixture.

Spritz 8 4-ounce ramekins with cooking spray and fill each to 2/3 full with mixture. Place ramekins in 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Add water about 1/3 way up to create a water bath. Bake at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven.

(Carol did state that her batter made many more than 8. Twelve or 14, I think.)

Huckleberry Compote:

16 ounces Sauvignon Blanc

3/4 cups sugar

2 cups huckleberries (Carol used blackberries)

zest of 2 lemons

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1 in fresh ginger, peeled and grated with microplane

Combine ingredients in large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until liquid reduces and thickens to sauce. Set aside to cool.

Huckleberry Coulis:

Puree half of the huckleberry compote. Strain through cheesecloth. Set aside.

Huckleberry Paper:

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Spread huckleberry coulis thinly on nonstick cookie sheet liner such as Silpate and dry in oven 45-60 minutes, testing frequently. Remove from oven and quickly pull off large pieces, forming them by hand into free-form cup shape with point at bottom. Set aside as garnish. (This is similar to fruit roll-ups.)

For Thyme Simple Syrup:

4 cups granulated sugar

1 quart water

1/2 bunch thyme

zest of 2 lemons

Combine ingredient in large saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Cool and strain through fine-mesh strainer.

Buttermilk Thyme Sherbet:

1 quart organic buttermilk

1 cup thyme simple syrup

pinch salt

Mix, then prepare in ice cream maker

To Serve:

Place lemon cake in center of each plate and dot plate with huckleberry compote, a few thyme leaves and bits of ginger. With large soup spoon, form sherbet into egg shape and place on top of cake. Garnish with molded huckleberry paper.

Below are pictures of future baby Vivian's nursery. It is decorated in lavenders, white and black. Very beautiful and chic! Except for the scary "peek-a-boo" bear!

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