TUCK & TARA

One of our favorite couples, Tucker and Tara, recently got married at the New York City Public Library. It was quite the affair and Andre and I were heartbroken to miss it. Unfortunately, we were unable to attend but were very excited to celebrate the newlyweds with an intimate dinner at our house in Atwater Village. I really wanted to create an extra special evening filled with happiness, love, and most importantly, delicious food. First, I started with the decorations, sprinkling pastel paper confetti along the center of the dining room table, wrapping votive candles in white tissue paper, and making custom place cards for each setting.

A few days before the dinner, I started to think about what kind of food I wanted to serve the newlyweds. I love creating a menu, reading through cookbooks and getting inspiration from the farmers market. The week of the dinner we were still in the thick of the California heat wave so I wanted the meal to still feel like summer. I decided on a refreshing Watermelon, Feta and Mint salad, Spaghetti al’Limone, and, for dessert, Caramelized Plums with Ricotta, Honey, and Mint. The evening was perfect. We got to hear all the details about their magical day, looking at pictures of the beautiful bride and handsome groom, all while filling out bellies with lots of delectable dishes.

WATERMELON, FETA, AND MINT SALAD

4 servings

1 seedless watermelon cut into 1 inch squares
1/3-1/2 cup feta, crumbled
fresh mint, cut into a thin chiffonade (thin strips)
good olive oil
balsamic vinegar or champagne vinegar
fresh Cracked Pepper
Maldon salt (you can use any salt, but I love the flavor and flaky texture of the Maldon)

Keep the watermelon in the fridge until you are ready to prepare the salads and serve. This way it will stay cold and crunchy. Cut the watermelon into 1 inch squares and arrange in the center of each plate. With your hand, sprinkle the crumbled feta sparingly on top of the watermelon chunks. Remember that feta is salty, so keep this in mind as you assemble the salad and always taste as you go. Carefully drizzle olive oil over the watermelon and feta, letting it seep into the chunks. Crack fresh black pepper onto the salad and sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon salt. In a small bowl, pour some of your balsamic or champagne vinegar. Take a spoon and gently drop a little bit of vinegar on top of some of the watermelon chunks. You do not need to use a lot. You just want a hint of the flavor to come out in the salad. Finish with the fresh mint. Taste and adjust pepper and salt if necessary. Serve.

LINGUINI AL’LIMONE

4 servings

1 lb linguini (1 box – I like De Cecco)
3 -4 lemons, zested
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, with some extra to sprinkle on top for serving
1 c. pasta water reserved from the cooking water
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
Fresh basil, chiffonade – around a 1/4 of a cup

Get all of your ingredients ready before you start cooking. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for the pasta. Once the water is boiling, season it with a generous amount of sea salt or kosher salt. This will add flavor to the pasta while it is cooking. Add your pasta. Once the pasta is cooking, start preparing the sauce. In a large sauté pan (one that is large enough to add all the pasta into once it is finished cooking), add the olive oil, cream, and zest and cook on medium heat. Once it has started to come to a boil, add a cup of the pasta water from the cooking pasta pot. Add a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. Once the pasta is al dente, scoop it out of the water and add it to the sauté pan with the sauce. Add the parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and toss until the linguini is coated in the lemon mixture. Taste. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Add half of your basil and stir. If the mixture is too thick, you can add more pasta water to loosen it up. Plate the pasta, and sprinkle the remaining basil and a little parmesan cheese on top. Serve.

CARAMELIZED PLUMS WITH RICOTTA, HONEY, BLACK PEPPER, AND SEA SALT

4 plums cut in half and pitted
unsalted butter
balsamic vinegar
sugar
mint
honey
ricotta (recipe follows)
salt
cracked pepper

This is an easy and delicious way to prepare plums I learned while cooking at Canele, a wonderful restaurant in Atwater Village. In a small sauté pan over medium/high heat, melt around 1 tablespoon of butter. Once melted add the plums, cut side down. You want to caramelize the plums quickly so that they don’t become mushy. Cook until golden in color on the cut side. Once they look like they are almost done, sprinkle a little sugar on top of each plum, gently moving them around so the sugar melts. Add a splash of vinegar and sauté for a few more seconds. Remove and set aside on a plate for dessert.

Take a small scoop of the homemade ricotta (about a tablespoon or so) and place it in a small ramekin. Drizzle with honey, a pinch of salt, and a little cracked pepper. Put one plum (I like to cut the plum in half so it is easy to eat) on top of the ricotta and finish with a little mint. Serve.

HOMEMADE RICOTTA

Makes about 1 1/2 – 2 cups
*Prepare the ricotta earlier in the day so that it has cooled and firmed up by the time you serve it for dessert.

3 cups whole organic milk
1 cup heavy cream (preferably organic)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Cheesecloth or a thin piece of cotton fabric, such as a thin cotton napkin

Heat milk and cream in a large saucepan over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Stir gently 2 or 3 times to mix the lemon juice into the milk and cream. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. You will see the curds start to form. Place several layers of cheesecloth or the cotton napkin over a strainer and place this over a large bowl. Gently pour the mixture over the cloth covered strainer and let the mixture drain for at least 45 minutes or more. You will begin to see the liquid drip into the bowl below the strainer. The longer you let the cheese strain, the firmer your cheese will be. Once you are satisfied with the consistency, scoop the fresh ricotta into a container and store in the refrigerator. The cheese will also firm up over night in the fridge. I wait to salt the cheese so that I can use it for both sweet and savory dishes.

Enjoy!

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