I hope to have a garden one day. Like a full blown, almost takes over your life garden. The kind that you have high hopes for and make statements like, "Now I'll never go to the grocery store again," and "I would have made a great pilgrim!"
That's why when Carolyn, who has an amazing garden said she wanted to host a party in her back yard with produce from her garden, I almost backflipped. Carolyn's mom had a degree in botany, and can tell you how to grow pretty much anything. No wonder her garden is so marvelous; she has learned from one of the greats!
We picked a "labor of love" menu (which means we were in over our heads) and Carolyn invited some of our closest friends & family. She got up early in the morning to start the bread making process and I joined in a bit later. We pruned artichoke, picked veggies from the garden, tended to dough, boiled potatoes, made and hand rolled each individual gnocchi, picked out cocktails and paired wine. Needles to say, it took all day. #worthit
Grilled Peach Cocktails
These may have been my favorite item of the night and the flavor of the roasted peaches went perfectly with the artichoke. This was adapted slightly from a cocktail book. Makes 4 cocktails.
3 peaches, halved
8 sprigs fresh thyme
- Heat grill to medium high. Half peaches and remove pits. Grill peaches cut side down until outside begins to caramelize and leaks juice. Turn over and cook for an additional minute. Let rest until cool enough to handle.
- For each cocktail, muddle 1/2 peach & 1 sprig of fresh thyme in cocktail shaker. Stir in 2oz of rum and 1/4oz simple syrup.
- Strain into cup with ice & garnish with fresh sprig of thyme and additional quarter of roasted peach.
Artichoke may take time to cook into submission, but it is well worth it. Top with lemon & dip in melted herbed butter or a garlic aioli. You will need a pastry brush and a steaming basket for this recipe.
- Cut off tip of each artichoke stem and use a vegetable peeler to peel off the outer layer of the skin. Brush exposed stem with lemon juice to keep it from browning.
- Pull off any leaves on the stem, and first layer of leaves around the base. These leaves tend to be very tough.
- Cut 1/4 of the artichoke top off, brushing the exposed top with lemon juice.
- To the remaining leaves around the artichoke, cut the sharp tip of each leaf off, leaving a blunt edge.
- Cut each artichoke in half and brush with lemon juice.
- Remove the furry inside using a sharp knife or spoon, making sure to leave the fleshy heart in tact.
- Bring a large pot fitted with steamer basket to a boil, making sure the water line doesn't come up past the steamer basket.
- When water has come to a boil, place artichoke in steamer basked and steam for 45 minutes to an hour, refilling water as necessary.
- During last 5 minutes of steaming, heat grill to medium heat. When artichokes are done place cut side down onto grill for 5-8 minutes, until leaves are chard and grill marks are achieved.
- Serve immediately with garlic aioli and fresh lemon wedges.
It is important to use the ripest melons you can find. The melons are the hero here, and unripe and un flavorful just won't do.
1/2 honeydew or green melon
1/2 cantaloupe or yellow or orange melon
1c small tomatoes, halved
1/4c feta cheese
1T sherry vinegar
2T live oil
pinch of pepper
- Halve melons and remove seeds. Cut melons into about 1/2" chunks or use a small melon baller.
- Combine melon in large bowl with halved tomatoes and feta cheese.
- Mix with oil, vinegar and pinch of pepper.
- Chill in fridge or serve immediately.
Carrot Top Pesto & Homemade Gnocchi
This recipe comes from a friend of Carolyn's from college, who grew up cooking with his Italian Nonna. This pasta dough is amazing, though it takes a bit of elbow grease to make. All potatoes are different sizes, so the amount of flour you have to add all depends on how much potato you are using. It really comes down to feeling out the dough to know when it is ready to roll and cut.
4 large potatoes
- Boil potatoes until soft, as if you were making mashed potatoes.
- Drain potatoes and mash well in a bowl. Once cooled, drop in one beaten egg.
- Knead the mixture together and add 1/4 cup of flour. Mix well.
- Place dough on counter and repeat this flour adding + kneading process until the dough starts to come together.
- After dough comes together a bit, continue kneading, adding small handfuls of flour as you go until the dough is smooth and doesn't stick to the counter or your hands. If you add too much flour and the dough becomes crumbly, just add a few teaspoons of water or a little beaten egg till it's incorporated back in. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
- When dough is smooth in consistency, roll into ropes roughly the thickness of a finger.
- Use a pizza cutter or bench knife to cut the dough into into 1/2" pieces and then roll off the back of a fork to create texture.
- Spread gnocchi onto cookie sheets in a single layer to prevent them from sticking together.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In batches, drop 30-40 gnocchi into the boiling water for about 3-4 min. They cook quickly so stay vigilant!
- Drain pasta, top with pesto, and serve.