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A Late Summer Dinner Party for 8

Guacamole with Crunchier Tortilla Chips
Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata Cheese and Basil
Short Ribs with Potato Puree and Swiss Chard
Pecan Torte with Nectarine Ice Cream

We’re being treated to summer weather here in Vancouver but I am still feeling the familiar transition into Fall. ‘Back to School’ is in the air, leaves are beginning to change colour and sprinkle the sidewalks, and I’m getting ready to put away the barbecue and crank up the oven. This menu features tomatoes and nectarines at their best right now while the aroma of slowly braising short ribs herald the start of a new season. The tortilla chips, salad dressing, short ribs, potatoes and ice cream can be made 1-2 days ahead of time. All recipes, with the exception of the dessert, will serve 6-8 people.

I am a huge fan of the cookbook entitled Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin, both for the seasonal approach she uses and for the outstanding recipes. Having said that, I do try to simplify her recipes whenever possible to make them more manageable in a home kitchen. I also saved time by having Jessica at Quince do the centrepiece for the table.

Guacamole with Crunchier Tortilla Chips
Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata Cheese and Basil
Short Ribs with Potato Puree and Swiss Chard
Pecan Torte with Nectarine Ice Cream

Guacamole with Crunchier Tortilla Chips
1 clove garlic, mashed with a pinch of Kosher salt
3 large ripe avocados, coarsely mashed
juice of 1-2 limes
1/4 c. cilantro, minced

Combine all ingredients, adding salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, placing an avocado pit in the centre of the bowl to reduce browning.

For tortilla chips, cut fresh corn tortillas into quarters and fry in hot oil until golden and crisp. With slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain and salt lightly.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese and Basil (adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin)

1/4 loaf country bread, crust removed
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. fresh oregano
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 T. red wine vinegar
1 c. cherry tomatoes
3 lbs. heirloom tomatoes, assorted colours and shapes
1 t. fleur de sel
2 T. sliced opal basil (purple)
2 t. sliced green basil
1 small container burrata cheese
1/2 c. shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 c. Italian parsley leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Tear the bread into 1″ pieces.  Toss pieces with 2 T. oil,and toast on a baking sheet for 12-15 minutes or until croutons are golden, but still tender inside. Mince oregano, garlic and salt together to make a paste, transfer to a bowl and stir in the vinegars. Whisk in the remaining 6 T. oil and season to taste.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and core heirloom tomatoes, cutting some of them into wedges and slicing some. Arrange tomato slices on individual plates.Sprinkle with fleur de sel and some of the vinaigrette. Scatter with a little basil. Cut the burrata cheese into wedges and tuck them in around the tomatoes. Toss tomato wedges and cherry tomatoes with the sliced shallots, 1/2 t. kosher salt, a pinch of pepper and 3 T. of the vinaigrette. Gently toss in the croutons. Arrange this mixture evenly on plated tomatoes, adding parsley leaves and the rest of the basil to garnish.

I purchased the cheese at Duso’s on Granville Island. For an article on burrata cheese, see The Washington Post.

Short Ribs with Potato Purée and Swiss Chard (adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin)

This dish can be made the day before serving, but then you have to remember to season the ribs 2 days before. After the ribs have baked and are tender, cool and then refrigerate overnight. Before serving, proceed with browning the ribs and reducing and seasoning the stock. Goin’s potato purée is far too rich for our taste, so I have omitted the heavy cream and reduced the butter from her recipe.

6 beef short ribs, 14-16 oz. each (ask for 3 bone centre-cut)
1 T. and 4 whole sprigs thyme
1 T. fresh ground black pepper
3 dozen small pearl onions (can be purchased peeled and frozen)
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. diced onion
1/3 c. diced carrot
1/3 c. diced celery
2 bay leaves
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 c. port
2 1/2 c. red wine
6 cups beef or veal stock (buy blocks of frozen concentrated stock from good butcher)
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
2 bunches Swiss chard, cleaned, centre ribs removed
3 T. olive oil
1 package frozen pearl onions
potato purée (see recipe below)
horseradish cream (see recipe below)

Season ribs with 1 T. thyme and the ground pepper. Use your hands to coat meat well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 325ºF and season the ribs generously with salt. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat, add 3 T. olive oil, then sear the ribs in batches until well browned on all sides. Transfer them to a braising pan. They should lie flat, bones standing up, in one layer.

Turn the heat to medium and add the onion,carrot, celery, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the vegetables begin to caramelize. Add the balsamic vinegar, port and red wine. Turn the heat up to high and reduce liquid by half.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over short ribs, scraping any vegetables that have fallen on the ribs back into the liquid. The stock mixture should almost cover the ribs. Tuck parsley sprigs in and around the meat. Cover tightly with foil and a tight-fitting lid if you have one and braise in the oven for about 3 hours. Check meat for doneness by piercing a short rib with a paring knife. If the meat yields easily to the knife, it is done. Transfer ribs to a baking sheet.

Turn oven up to 400ºF. Place ribs in oven for 10-15 minutes to brown. Strain the broth into a saucepan, skim the fat, and reduce over medium-high heat to reduce slightly and heighten flavour. Taste for seasoning.

Heat a large sauté pan over high high. Tear the Swiss chard into large pieces. Add 3 T. oil to the pan and stir-fry the greens, adding thawed pearl onions and seasoning with salt and pepper, until the greens are tender.

Place the chard and potato purée on a serving plate and arrange the short ribs on top. Spoon braising juices and horseradish cream over the ribs.

Potato Purée
1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes
1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
3/4 c. whole milk
4 T. butter

Place potatoes, whole and unpeeled in a large pot. Add 2 T. salt and fill the pot with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat to low and simmer about 45 minutes, until tender. When potatoes are cooked through, drain them and set them aside to cool for 10 minutes or so. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. When potatoes have cooled, peel them and pass them through a food mill, potato ricer or mash them and put back into the large pot. Slowly add the heated milk and butter, stirring constantly. Season with salt to taste. Potato purée can be placed in a microwavable dish, covered and refrigerated overnight and heated again just before serving.

Horseradish Cream
3/4 c. crème fraiche
1 T. prepared horseradish
salt and pepper

Combine crème fraiche and horseradish in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until an hour before serving.

Pecan Torte with Nectarine Ice Cream
This recipe is adapted from one of my favourite dessert cookbooks, Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere.
8-10 servings

1 1/2 c. toasted pecans
2 T. flour
6 eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1/2 t. cream of tartar
pinch salt
1/2 t. vanilla

Butter and flour an 11″ springform pan. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Finely chop cooled pecans in food processor (or grate in a nut grater) and toss with the flour. Separate eggs and beat the yolks with half of the sugar until they hold a 1-second ribbon. Clean beater and use separate bowl to beat whites with the cream of tartar and salt until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat in the remaining sugar until they hold stiff peaks again. Drizzle the vanilla over the whites and spread the egg yolk mixture over that. Sprinkle one-fourth of the nut mixture over the yolks and partly fold together. Continue until the last of the nuts have been added and fold them in completely. Spread evenly in the prepared pan and bake about 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan.

Nectarine Ice Cream
1 1/2 lbs. ripe nectarines
1/4 c. water
1 2/3 c. whipping cream
7/8 c. sugar
5 egg yolks
vanilla to taste

Wash and pit the nectarines but do not peel them. Cut them in rough slices into a saucepan, add the water, and cook over low heat until tender. Purée through a food mill or in a blender or food processor. Measure out 1 3/4 c. and set aside to cool.

Heat the cream and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Whisk the egg yolks just enough to mix them and pour in some of the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Return to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the spoon. (Be very careful to keep the heat low and do not overcook or the eggs will curdle.) Strain custard into nectarine purée and stir to mix well. Taste and add vanilla to flavour. Chill mixture very well (I do it overnight). Freeze according to instructions with your ice cream maker. Makes a scant quart.

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