Thursday, April 15, 2021


 Our good friends, Dorita and Rudy Pina joined us for Easter dinner this year. It was so fun to laugh, love, enjoy lively conversation and tasty food. The theme this year was FRENCH! Today I am going to talk about our starters and first course.

My husband, Jerry is on the left. 

Dorita and I began the celebration with a classic French cocktail...
The inspiration for this cocktail originated in Paris around WWI and was named after the 75mm Howitzer field gun, which both French and Americans used. Like the Howitzer it packs a punch. We were both new to the drink and found it slightly tart, refreshing and not at all overpowering. The flavors were mellow and sophisticated. It is often made with gin, but I decided to use vodka as that is our drink of choice. I'm not big on exact measurements when making cocktails, but this is roughly what I came up with (using my eyeballs to measure!). Adjust to your own taste...more simple syrup if you like sweet; more lemon juice if you prefer a more tart drink.

1 1/2 oz. vodka
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Simple Syrup*
3 oz. champagne
Lemon twist

Shake the first 3 ingredients in an ice filled cocktail shaker. Strain into champagne flute and top with champagne and lemon twist.


*Since I had made the candied lemon slices for the Lemon Curd Cheesecake the day before, I used the Lemon simple syrup, which gave this drink a rich, super lemony flavor. Plain simple syrup would work, too. Next time I will blog that special Easter dessert!

Dorita made the puff pastry for these savory Palmiers from scratch. I have never tasted anything quite like them. For the filling she used onion caramelized in red wine and orange juice, toasted walnuts, and orange zest. After the onions were caramelized she blended and then added roughly chopped green olives. She only used 1 stick of butter to make the pastry! It tasted like much more. They literally melted in your mouth! Flakey deliciousness. 

I found this recipe online and liked the idea of swapping out the white wine with champagne for the Beurre Blanc, but the recipe was really overly complicated so I have simplified it. This made an intensely flavorful starter for the 4 of us. I did have a little extra Beurre Blanc, but that is always nice to have on-hand in the fridge. 

Ingredients For the Marinade:
12 shrimps, peeled and deveined
1 cup champagne (I used Prosecco, but any dry sparkling wine would work.)
3 Tbsp. minced shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced chives
1 Tbsp. minced tarragon
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine all ingredients and place in a zip lock bag. Marinate shrimp at room temperature for an hour or more. Every 15 minutes give the bag a shake to ensure that all shrimp is getting the benefit of the marinade. 

Ingredients for the Beurre Blanc:
2 cups champagne or dry sparkling wine
1/3 cup minced shallots
2 Tbsp. champagne or tarragon vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar.)
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

Combine the champagne, shallots, vinegar, and white pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup liquid; about 20 minutes. Set aside. 

Drain shrimp. Pat dry with paper towels. Arrange shrimp on a foil lined, lightly oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Broil shrimp until just opaque in the center; about 2 minutes per side. Arrange 3 shrimps on a plate.

Rewarm sauce base over medium-low heat. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt before adding the next. Do not let the sauce boil or it could separate. 

Season Beurre Blanc with salt and more white pepper if needed. Spoon the warm sauce around the shrimp. Sprinkle with a few more fresh herbs if you like. 

The third hors d'oeuvres was a Smoky Salmon Dip served with crostini's. I wanted to make a classic French black olive tapenade, but could find no cured black olives in the entire town of Nogales. Possibly people are hoarding them, along with the toilet paper and grape-nuts! I have made this appetizer before, but this time added about a cup of chopped smoked salmon, which really enhanced the smokiness!




What an interesting combination of flavors and textures! The soup had that perfect blend of sweet and tart from the red plums and was thick and luscious. The Roquefort Panna Cotta was the complement that brought these flavors together; salty, sublimely silky and smooth. This is a winner! It would make a lovely lunch paired with a mixed green salad, Roquefort cheese, pears and toasted walnuts, possibly with a balsamic dressing. I found this online, too, but don't remember which site. I made the soup 2 days ahead, which really helped with the prep on Easter Sunday.

Ingredients for the soup:
2 lbs. (about 8 red plums), pits removed and diced, skin-on
1 cup white wine (I used Cupcake chardonnay, which is slightly sweet.)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
a couple cranks of freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until boiling. Reduce to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, until plums are soft and falling apart. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before pureeing. You can use either an immersion blender or the regular blender. I wanted it to be extremely smooth so used the standard blender. Chill until very cold.

Ingredients for the Roquefort Panna Cotta:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
3.5 oz. good quality Roquefort cheese
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3 Tbsp. cold water

Lightly oil 4 ramekins and set aside. Pour the cold water in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the water. Set aside while preparing the milk/creams. In a small saucepan, heat the milk/creams and sugar over medium low heat, whisking occasionally until sugar is dissolved and a few bubbles begin to appear. Don't let the milk/creams get too hot or the cheese may curdle when you add it. Reduce heat to low and stir in crumbled Roquefort cheese. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into the water/gelatin bowl and whisk briskly until lumps are dissolved. Pour into cups, cover, chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or until set. 

To serve:
Ladle soup into four small dessert bowls. Dip the panna cottas briefly into a bowl of hot water. Run a knife around the ramekins to loosen the panna cotta and carefully drop in the center of each bowl.

I think any cheese would work well with these savory panna cottas and look forward to experimenting with parmesan, goat cheese, stilton...the possibilities are endless. 

Butter Poached Cod heading to the dining room!


Our bearded iris are in full bloom!


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