Best Friday of the Month

May 14, 2016

Last night was the May gathering of of our Best Friday of the Month Group -- we meet every second Friday for a pot-luck dinner that always results in good food, good wine and great fellowship. This month Casey and Jack are our hosts. On Monday we received this email:

Good-MORNING, Chums. We'll be dining a la Vietnam on Friday--6 pm in our backyard (so bring a wrap). In the spirit of a communist country where some are more equal than others, I'M going to dictate the menu. Choose
from the following and I will send the corresponding recipe to you later today.

The Menu:

Prawn spring rolls--Casey (via Tour Eiffel; I've been warned that rolling those puppies is a job for the pros)
Mini-dumplings--Casey (via Ranch 99; see warning above)

Marinated and grilled chicken with dipping sauce.--Casey
Jasmine rice--Casey
Wok-charred eggplant --Casey

and now for the rest of you, make your claim:

Spicy cashews

Sublime noodles

Stir-fried green beans (I think these will work done ahead and served at  room temp--my cooking facilities at the pool house are limited)-recipe to come

Large green salad with whole herb leaves--more info to come

Fruit skewers--papaya and other exotica welcome if available, but strawberries in the market are lovely right now.

Small butter cookies with currants--recipe to come.

xxx Madame Chairperson

I quickly claimed the salad hoping that my garden would be able to supply the ingredients, then waited for my instructions.  Two days later I received this email:

Hi Kristen:

Salads in Vietnam are similar to French-style mixed green salads although they tend to feature the softer lettuces (I never saw romaine there, for example) but the big difference is that they always include whole herb leaves--especially mint and basil--in generous quantity.  For a dressing: just a simple vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, not too acid.

xx Casey

Whole leaves of herbs?  This sounded like the salad would be way too strong, but I do as I'm told and went around my garden for baby kale, mint, basil, marjoram, chive flowers and nasturtium leaves and flowers.  The rest of the soft lettuces would be purchased at the store: baby spinach, a mix of Asian lettuces, and butter lettuce.  My dressing was simply rice vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Readers, this salad was a hit--I loved it so much, and by the look of the empty salad bowl at the end of the evening, everyone else felt the same.  If you recreate this salad at home, please don't be shy with the whole leaves of herbs.  Springtime is the perfect time for this as the herbs are very tender and mild.  This is going to be our new, every-night salad.  Here's a snippet of another email from Casey:   We learned at a cooking class in VN that they eat a lot of greens as it's pretty much their only source of calcium as they don't eat any dairy. So salad like this is always on an entree plate and at one restaurant the waiter gently scolded us for not wrapping pieces of our omelet around some greens.

Another note: the eggplant and green bean recipes are from the beautiful new "Slanted Door" cookbook--a lovely record of the food served at the wildly popular San Francisco restaurant Slanted Door in the beloved Ferry Building.

At the end of dinner, my tablemates and I cut into the pretty centerpieces of dragon fruit and exotic melons.  Besides being very pretty, they were very light and we all agreed, very delicious too.  Our California weather can only hold out so long, so we ended up in the pool house for coffee and fruit kebabs topped with a chocolate truffle!

Californians love to eat outside whenever possible.  Most spring, summer, and fall parties are held outside.  We know to bring sweaters and wraps, even coats to prolong our time outside--only rain or high winds will bring people in.

Above, one of the many giant ancient live oaks on the property.  The common live oak is an evergreen that is native to Northern California (and other mild climates) and dot our neighborhoods and cover our hills.  In the foreground is one of several blood orange trees they have.  The two blood oranges below were the last of the season and flavored the champagne.  Lovely.

Poolside tables were first lined with Asian newspaper then topped with Chinese paper banners to act as place mats.  Take-away containers held Sublime Noodles and colorfully-wrapped chopsticks and little sauce dishes stood at each setting to hold dipping sauces for the chicken.

The last rays of the sun shimmer on the walls of the pool house.

Buffet was served in the pool house, but we were able to eat outside as the weather was lovely.

The dragon fruit was very mild.

This melon tasted a bit like a crisp honeydew.  It was delicious and worth seeking out.

I loved the clever idea of topping fruit kebabs with chocolate truffles. 
To leave a comment, please click here.

xo, Kristen


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  1. Beautiful photos of a beautiful evening.



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