Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lunch with the McSherry Women

My cousin Mary emailed me to see if I would be able to rendevous with her mother, my Aunt Millie (who is my Mother's sister) and my other cousins, Suzanne and Regina.  Aunt Millie and Sue were flying out from New Jersey and Regina from Phoenix. Mary lives in Los Angeles and was the driver. We talked about it and decided to meet in Santa Barbara since it was half way for both of us.  My good friend Shar, suggested that she meet me as well and we could stay at her brother and girlfriend's house. Good plan. I had made a reservation at a hotel Steve and I always stayed at and loved but I was having very mixed feelings about the sadness that would overcome me being there without him. Shar agreed that maybe that would not be such a good idea. The house was empty for a few days and they were glad to let her use it.  This solved the problem of where we would go for lunch in Santa Barbara.  We would have lunch at the house and I would cook! There was some construction going on but halted until the couple returned home so we were free to entertain.
Shar met me at the Trader Joe's down the hill and I followed her back up the hill. Whoa! What a beautiful neighborhood. They call it the Santa Barbara Riviera. Great views of the harbor and city of Santa Barbara. We assessed the kitchen and were happy to find one working sink with a garbage disposal as well as the stove and refrigerator. I guess there was a major leak underneath the house undermining it but it was contained to the living room portion so that was boarded up.  No problem the patio-pool area was available for entertaining with a little tidying up.
I had formulated a simple menu before leaving home hoping that we could use the kitchen.  Shopping was another thing. Trader Joe's was our "friend" as well as a well appointed market similar to a Whole Foods and good ole Scolari's.  I bought the produce at the w.a. market,  a few items at Trader Joe's winging it with the Asian noodles by using their Kung Pao noodles in little boxes that I microwaved, without the packaged sauce, and a whole roasted chicken at Scolari's.
Menu came together:         Asian Noodle salad with prawns
                                           Market Chopped Salad
                                           Roasted Chicken with Pesto Mayo
                                           A Cheese and meat platter with
                                              Artichoke brushetta (from Trader Joe's)
                                           Olive bread and seeded baguettes, sliced

The cousins were to bring dessert and beer.  I provided one of my favorite bubblies from Trader Joe's, Crement du Blason's brut de noir.

Shar and I had fun the night before as we picked up take outs from a very popular taqueria, Super Rica Taqueria.  I have been dying to go there for many years but didn't exactly know where it was. Julia Child pretty much put it on the map as it was her favorite place when she was alive and well in Santa Barbara. I can see why! It does take an experienced diner to navigate the huge menu.  No beans and rice platters here. Just small plates of perfectly made street food.  We had a banana leaf wrapped "tamalito" and it was tiny but really good.  I had the special shredded beef tacos and we added the poblano chiles con queso on two hand made tortillas. They had great salsas and we had great wine!

Up and at 'em the next morning to prep the salads and get things set up. Shar's parents decided to go on a little camping trip so she had to meet them and pick up her dog, Macho. I was julienning, chopping and dicing away when lo and behold the red bell pepper I bought from the "well appointed" market was black inside. I phoned Shar to stop and pick up another one but it wasn't to be....she was still in her jammies! Oops. That was okay as I needed a few more things and we were meeting the girls at the Trader Joes anyway. 
There was a resident cat underfoot. We couldn't let him outside so he just roamed around meowing. I fed him, petted him and just let him be.  Pretty soon Shar and Macho arrive and Macho marches into the house unaware of the cat. That cat ran after Macho hissing and tried to claw him. We couldn't believe it! He chased the dog right outside. Now, Macho is a Jack Russell/Queensland, a small dog but really!!!!  So we had to keep them apart.  We decided to lock the cat up in the room that appeared to have everything it would need, water, food, litter box, toys and a bed. He was not happy but soon settled down. Macho was very happy.

We picked up the McSherry girls and led them up the hill. They were so excited to be there and I was excited to see them. Hugs all around. We couldn't remember the last time the five of us were together at the same time.  I think it was when we were young children and they used to come to visit in Rochester.
I finished the last few things I needed to do and put the platters together.  Mary brought beautiful little pastries from one of her local bakeries.  We sat outside and reminisced about Steve and our lives. It was great that they got to know Shar too.

This Asian Noodle Salad is one that I have been making for about 15 years or so.  It seems to be my "go to" dish for Memorial services when I am asked to bring a dish.  When I catered in San Francisco, it was also a staple for buffets or plated lunches. I steamed the prawns and tossed them with the Sesame Soy Ginger sauce while warm. You can add chicken, duck, beef, pork or whatever or just leave the protein out altogether.

Asian Orchid Noodle Salad

Orchid Noodle Vinaigrette:
1/4 c. Toasted Sesame Oil
1/4 c. Peanut Oil ( grapeseed oil is good too)
1/2 c. Soy Sauce ( low sodium)
1/2 c. Balsamic Vinegar
1/3 c. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1/2-1 tsp. Red Pepper flakes
3/4 bu. Green Onions, sliced
1/2 Tbsp. Garlic, chopped
              Combine all ingredients in a pint jar and shake well.  This dressing is a fabulous marinade as well as a dressing for greens and noodles and it keeps forever refrigerated. It is an adaptation from Barbara Tropp's "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking".

Noodle Salad
1/2 # Asian noodles: Fresh Chinese, Udon, Somen whatever you can find but not rice or bean threads
Cook said noodles according to the package, drain and plunge into an ice bath to cool.  Drain and toss with enough dressing to coat them so they don't stick together. It is way better to get the fresh noodles rather than the boxes of Kung Pao from Trader Joe's. They did in a pinch but were not the same quality that I like.

Veges etc.
I suggest  1/2 c. each of whatever veges you choose.
Baby green beans, blanched or larger ones french cut
Asparagus, blanched and cut on the bias
Shreds of carrot, zuchinni, daikon radish
Julienned English cucumbers, red, yellow and or green bell peppers
Toss veges with some of the vinagrette and combine with noodles, saving a few for the top of the salad.

Shredded roasted chicken
Steamed prawns
Grilled Duck ( or one of those wonderful "Tea Ducks" from Chinatown, shredded)
BBQ'd pork or beef, julienned.
I toss the shredded meats into the noodles with a little dressing but usually arrange the prawns around the edges

Scallion brushes
Toasted sesame seeds
black sesame seeds


Chopped Salad
Chopped salad is whatever you want it to be. For this one I chose an organic head of iceberg lettuce, one head of Traviso radicchio, one purple endive, fresh corn that I cut off the cob, 1 carrot,chopped, 1/2 red onion, chopped and then the best part, I totally cheated!  There was a really good salad bar at the ritzo market so I filled a box with dried cranberries, nuts,sunflower seeds, edamame beans and olives. I wasn't home, didn't have access to these from my pantry, didn't want to buy jars and bags of them, so it was a perfect solution. You could get shredded carrots, corn, beans and all sorts of things prepped up. A good way to let your imagination run wild. Just don't muck the salad up with too many ingredients.
I made a simple coleslaw dressing with equal parts ,ie 1/4c each, sugar, vinegar and olive oil plus 1 Tbsp. mayonaise to bind it.  You could sub some orange juice for the vinegar too.

To make a more substantial salad add chicken.
Anyway these quantities fed 6 of us with  a few leftovers.

The desserts were divine with mini Boston Cream Pie, Pumpkin cake, Red Velvet cupcakes, cream puffs and a beauty mini fruit tart.

We were a happy bunch!