Heart to Table
Many years ago I had a dream that made a lasting impression on me.
In my dream, I was walking in the forest and came upon a group of people who were on a kind of spiritual retreat. They asked me if I would like to join them and prepare their food. The feeling I had in my dream is that this was the absolute perfect place for me to be. In the aftermath of this dream I looked deeply at my work as a chef and started on a very different path than I would have imagined.
To cook for artists and people I admire fulfills this dream, and effects me in the same way the dream did. It is my intention to choose a kind of food and preparation that is right for who is being served, that will enhance their journey and feed not just their body but their soul. The meal must not be too heavy or too strong; it must be delicate and colorful and have contrasting textures and flavors; it must delight and leave them open to something new.
So last night, sitting at my table were three amazing musicians. I wanted them to enjoy a meal together before their practice session for a concert taking place on Saturday night. I decided to prepare fish as the entrée as one of the musicians follows the laws of Kashrut and I wanted to serve French cheeses as one of the musicians is French. I'm in the mood for wild mushrooms in this wet and verdant season, and I imagined a bass of some kind with my preserved lemons and chanterelle mushrooms. This would pair nicely with a potato gratin that my husband makes beautifully, and a vegetable of something healthy and green with garlic and chili flakes. We would start with my winter salad (featured in last week's blog) with some sliced kumquats and red currants that I found at Monterey Market.
I was very pleased with absolutely everything and I believe my friends felt nourished and loved. The music afterward that filled my little house was of the gods.
And as a dramatic and fitting finale, we served Marion Cunningham's persimmon pudding (Recipe here!) and made a great show of flaming it with brandy to finish off the spectacular evening.
Pan-seared sea bass
With preserved lemons and wild mushrooms
6 portions sea bass
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 T olive oil
2 T Chopped fresh thyme and rosemary, combined
¼ cup Preserved lemon rind, julienne
1 lb. chanterelle mushrooms (or combinations of various mushrooms, sliced)
2 T butter
1 T Extra Virgin olive oil
1 shallots, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
¼ cup white wine
Juice of ½ lemon and a splash of wine
Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish
Season the fish with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet or sauté pan and add the olive oil. Sear the fish on both sides until lightly browned. Place in a shallow baking dish with plenty of space between the pieces. Scatter the chopped fresh herbs and preserved lemons on the fish and set aside while you sauté the mushrooms.
Brush chanterelles to remove dirt. Slice. Heat butter and olive oil; add shallots; sauté for 5 minutes; add garlic and cook for I minute. Add mushrooms and sauté until soft. They will release juices, keep cooking until pan is dry; deglaze with wine and reduce again.
Scatter the cooked mushrooms over the fish and splash with a bit of white wine and lemon juice. Bake in 375-degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley.
Gruyere Potatoes Gratin
My husband, Kevin's, contribution!
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish with the softened butter.
Toss the potato slices and chopped onions with salt and pepper, and spread 1/3 of the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle half of the Gruyere cheese over the potatoes, then add another layer of potatoes. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese followed by the remaining potatoes. Mix together the water and wine, and pour into dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.
Bake in preheated oven until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Once tender, remove the foil, and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes to brown the top and thicken the cream.
Enjoy a sampling of these wonderful musicians
Click here to listen to Harry Wittenberg's band. Harry is the bass player who performed with Jennie and Marina for the temple event.
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