I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

October 5, 2009

Good friends, good food & good fun

Oooohhhhhhh Facebook. You are my friend and daily companion. You update me on my best friends trials & tribulations (even though I saw her last night), tell me what my hippie and porn star name is, offer up such life sucking games as farmville & mafia wars, enable me to network online with my wedding and event friends and best of all....reconnect me with old friends and acquaintances such as my culinary/college friends that are scattered all over the US of A.

This last weekend was one of many future "reunions" between myself and my awesome friends/classmates from the Santa Barbara City College Hotel Restaurant & Culinary program. As mentioned in previous posts, it was an interesting college experience likened to getting a 4 year degree in 2 years...super intense, super strict (it was then at least) and a program that will either give you enemies or bond you for life. I am fortunate to get to see a few of the ones I bonded with on a regular basis and others....well, I get my fixes on Facebook and hope for the next time I am in Colorado, North Carolina, Washington that they will be available to do what I got to do this weekend because I miss you all.

One friend who was "lost" to us for 7 or so (Nic!) years found us on Facebook and then she found a weekend off (and she is a chef even!) to come back down to Santa Barbara for a girls weekend. Saturday morning we took off with Mo and headed up to Los Olivos to do a little wine tasting and visit yet another lovely lady happens to live near Brander Winery and suggested a picnic there. A little sippy sippy at Andrew Murray in the adorable town of Los Olivos and then we were off to Christine's house to walk across the street for a picnic and a little more vino at Brander. The picnic was perfect, under the trees, surrounded by grapevines, watching the forklift dump crates of grapes out for the fall harvest. Feasting on cheese, prosciutto, melon, olives & bread while enjoying a lovely dry Rose from Brander and the Tout le Jours Syrah from Andrew Murray. I think we were there for 3 hours and I could have stayed longer just catching up and hanging out.

Down the road just a bit to Roblar Olive Oil for a little olive oil tasting (and buying of course! Mmmmm garlic olive oil) and then back to the Larsons house for a some group pics & a quick zen moment on the tree swing.

First Miss Emily showed us how it was done.....

Then Nicole took her turn....
And my turn to join in the fun!

Too fun not to share!

Sunday was a full and awesome day of friends and food....we started out at the Tyminskis house for a delicious brunch. Mo's egg casserole, fresh fruit, potatoes and mimosas-then Brock got all creative and made us bacon filled croissants. This boy knows the way to my heart, oh yeah!

Mmmmmm.....bacon stuffed croissants. Such a good way to start a morning!

Dinner at our house with the same crew of 6 fabulous peeps + Clover for the cocktail hour + the 3 most adorable munchkins ever....our meal was braised short ribs & polenta (goo-ooo-ood!) with delicious pear & bleu cheese salad with candied pecans. We started out with some tasty cheese & crackers and a grape and olive compote that I found in one of the many random books I read.

After the dishes were done, leftovers put away and Nicole & I were draped on the couch I thought about how lucky I am. To have friends who are not only fun and interesting to be around, love to eat and eat well, will jump in the kitchen and cook or do dishes, share the pleasure of taking care of each others kids while mommy and daddy get a break is not something that everyone can say they have. I am blessed.

My biggest gripe of the whole weekend???? Those of you in other states (and you know who you are!) weren't there with us celebrating and catching up. Glasses were raised and stories were told and I am more hopeful and optimistic now than ever that this will occur more frequently in the future and you will be there the next time.

Grape & Olive Compote

1 bunch of red or black grapes
1 jar of Kalamata olives, pitted, drained & chopped
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 T thyme

Combine all in a saucepan, stir and cook over medium heat for almost an hour....stirring the whole time. If the liquid runs low before the grapes break down and get squishy, add a little water.
Should be thick and a bit syrup-y. Serve with bread rounds & goats or feta cheese to spread on the bread, spoon the compote on top.

Braised Short Ribs & Soft Polenta

This feeds a gazillion people :) Nicole, forgive me if I effed up the proportions, I was browning the ribs!
25 Short Ribs, seasoned with salt & pepper
Brown in olive oil, set aside, reserve juices

2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, medium dice
3 celery stalks, medium dice
3 garlic cloves, fine dice
2 oz prosciutto or pancetta, fine dice
1/2 cup oven or sun dried tomatoes (should not be dried, if so-re-hydrate with water)
Saute all in olive oil in a large stock pot or turkey roaster

4 tomatoes, rough chopped

Add the tomatoes to the pan the ribs (minus some of the oil or fat that has probably accumulated) were sauteed in, scrape up the beefy goodness that sticks to the bottom of the pan :)

Add to the veggies and add 2 cups beef broth or stock & 1 bottle red wine.

Add ribs back in and add about 2 T salt

Cover tightly and cook in the oven or on stove top at 350 or medium until ribs are tender.

Strain off all liquid, separate fat and reduce broth to 1/2. Take all veggies from pan and puree roughly in a food processor (or not if you like it chunky). Add everything back to the ribs, cover & hold.
Make polenta according to the package directions or your taste. Th low fat version is made with water or chicken broth. In culinary school they teach you fat = flavors. So milk, butter, water & cheese are what I saw Nicole dump in to ours and d**n it was good. And THEN she had the freaking balls to tell me to add a pat of butter to the top.....just for the hell of it. So what if I have to be in a bathing suit in 2 days, I had to listen, right?

Serve polenta, ribs, top with Parmesan and enjoy.....if you have leftovers, I think they are even better the next day too. At least they were today. :)

If you are short on time at night, you can also pop the ribs in the crock pot in the morning and do a 6 hour cook too. They are even more tender and when you get home, all you have to do is make the polenta and salad.
Cheers and thank you to my friends that made this a perfect weekend! When are we doing it again?????

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