When our Head Chef Courtney planned our theme for Cooking Club more than a month ago, who would have known that we would still be having temps in the 80s!  The last gasp of summer menu was perfect for last night.

On the menu:

Drinks were provided by Lindsay.  She made a blood orange soda sangria.  It was so light and refreshing!

  • One 750-ml bottle of crisp white wine (she used pinot grigio)
  • One 24 ounce bottle Italian blood orange soda
  • 1.25 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 blood orange, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, washed

Combine the white wine and blood orange soda in a large pitcher.  Stir in the orange juice, orange slices and blueberries and stirred over ice.  Recipe courtesy of Tiffani Thiessen from The Cooking Channel.

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Catherine prepared an appetizer of Greek Mezze Platter with Thyme Roasted Red Peppers from Ina Garten.   Catherine works full time so this was a great make ahead dish to bring.  She marinated the feta cheese and made the pita chips before work, then assembled it when she got home from work.   The marinated herbed feta cheese was out of this world.

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  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • sea salt
  • Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
  • Marinated Herbed Feta
  • olives
  • toasted pita triangles

Heat oven to 500.  Place the peppers on a sheet pan and roast for 30-35 minutes, until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning a couple times during roasting.  Wrap the tray in foil for 30 minutes.  When cool to touch, remove and discard the skin and seeds.  Place the peppers in a shallow dish and add olive oil, lemon juice, thyme and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Wrap and refrigerate overnight.   To plate, sprinkle the peppers with a bit more salt, then arrange them artfully on a platter with the hummus, feta, olives and pita chips.  Click here to get the recipe for the herbed feta.  I could have made a meal on that plate alone!

Tina made our second appetizer:  Batali Bruschetta

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  • 10 ounces multicolored cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 thin slices of pancetta
  • 32 sage leaves
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 8 slices of country bread, cut thick and toasted
  • Flaky sea salt for serving

Preheat the oven to 325.  In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the garlic and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil; season with kosher salt and pepper.  Transfer the tomatoes to one side of the parchment-lined baking sheet and lay the pancetta slices out on the other side.  Bake for 25 minutes, until the pancetta is crisp.  Transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain, then crumble.  Roast the tomatoes for about 10 more minutes, until bursting and lightly caramelized.  Transfer the tomatoes and any rendered fat from the pancetta to a bowl.  Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil over moderately high heat.  Add the sage and fry until bright greed and crisp, about 30-45 seconds.  Drain on paper towels.  Spread the ricotta on the toasts and top with the tomatoes, crumbled pancetta.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with the fried sage leaves.  If you’ve never had fried sage leaves, they are amazeballs!

I was assigned a side dish, and because I wanted to keep it light, decided to make an orzo salad.  Here is a tip I learned: orzo is basically pasta, but to give it a boost of flavor, boil the orzo with chicken broth instead of water.

  • 3 cups dried orzo
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon jarred pesto (thanks Jacky!)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Heat the chicken broth in a large stock pot.  When it’s almost to a boil, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute.  Place in an ice bath to shock and stop the cooking process.  Once the broth comes back to a boil, add in the orzo and cook for 9 minutes.  Drain, but do not rinse.  Put the orzo on a large bowl.  Add in the chopped red peppers.  Chop the asparagus into two inch sections and toss that in the bowl.  To make the dressing:  in a small bowl add the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and pesto and mix well.  Pour over orzo veggie mix, and stir until combined.  Just before serving, add the shaved Parmesan cheese.

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Julie had the second side dish:  The Mothership Tomato Salad from Jamie Oliver

  • 2 1/4 pounds mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good pinch dried oregano
  • Red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped

You can read Jamie’s instructions on how to pick tomatoes and his recommendations on putting the salad together here.  We joked and called this the 100 mile tomato salad because she had to drive to several stores to find heirloom tomatoes – thanks for your effort Julie!

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Donna also had a side dish, and I love that she made blueberry muffins.  It was the perfect accompaniment to all the other dishes that were served.  She and her husband used to go to a now closed restaurant in Wisconsin, and bought the restaurants cookbook just for the blueberry muffin recipe.  This one was moist, with a cinnamon sugar topping for a bit of texture, yet not overly sweet.

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  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup frozen (or fresh) blueberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted cutter
  • 1 cup milk

For the topping:

  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Place paper muffin cups in an ungreased muffin tin.  Sift dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Add blueberries to dry mix and mix until well coated.  In a small bowl, beat eggs well.  Add melted butter and milk.  Quickly stir liquid mixture into dry mix.  Do not overmix, as over blending will cause a tough texture.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 full, and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar topping and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Courtney just moved into a new a new house over the summer, so while she normally hosts and provides the wine and drinks, she was our Head Chef.  How cute is she?!

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Now here’s the thing.  I didn’t think I liked salmon.  Like at all.  But I knew a Nicoise Platter had roasted veggies, so I knew I could pick around the salmon if I had to.

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She based her dish off of Ina Garten’s Roasted Salmon Nicoise Salad – and here is the best part, taking the basic recipe from Ina and making it your own with whatever veggies and sides you want.  Courtney went with fresh radishes, olives, roasted potatoes, hard boiled eggs, fresh figs and green beans.

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Then right before serving, she drizzled the whole dish with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette.  So good!

The table was decorated so cute – Courtney definitely has an eye for design. 

9.20.16 0629.20.16 069My plate:

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I ate every bite of my salmon – it was delicious!  And I never would have guessed that you baked it at 500 degrees.  It was light, flakey, and not fishy tasting at all.   I’ll just add that to the list of most expensive seafood that I like!

And if that wasn’t enough, Mary Beth made an Apple Crisp with homemade caramel sauce.  Guys, this one was insulin worthy!  While I normally don’t like sweet desserts, the tart granny smith apples she used cut the sweetness and I licked my plate clean.   You can find the recipe here for the Apple Crisp.   It was the first time Mary Beth made caramel sauce and has declared it so easy, she’ll never buy store bought again.

Caramel Sauce (makes 2.5 cups)


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 – 3/4 cup evaporated milk


  1. Add butter, brown sugar, water, and salt to medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until the better melts. 
  2. Once the better has melted bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. Add more evaporated milk if you’d like a thinner consistency. 
  3. To store, pour mixture into a mason jar and refrigerate for up to a week. Re-warm it in the microwave for a few seconds before serving

It was such a fun night.  Glad we reconnected after being apart all summer.  I have a new job, two other ladies had children that got married over the summer and another member is anxiously awaiting the adoption of a third child.   It was a night of great food, great friends and lots of laughter.  What more could you want in an evening out?

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Until next time ladies – cheers!