Several months back my friend Mr. King, an exceptional photographer, suggested we pair up for a blog post. I would make some delicious food (with the help of his lovely wife, Mrs. King), and he would photograph the dishes. I was thrilled because the truth is that I struggle when it comes to taking photos for the blog. I don’t always know which recipes will turn out nicely enough to warrant a post, so the need for a photo is often a last minute decision that involves me running around the house trying to figure out where I left the camera before the food gets cold. For every decently composed, top-down shot of my Le Creuset full to the brim with some bubbling sauce, there are 25 other ridiculous photos in which the food is unrecognizable or the lens is steamed up with chicken stock.
Needless to say, I was thrilled about Mr. King’s idea and set to work coming up with the perfect menu. The results are, if I do say so myself, pretty spectacular. And the food wasn’t too shabby, either!
My goal was to keep the menu seasonal, local, and simple. Peaches, nectarines, and plums from the Green City Market were the focus, alongside a succulent hunk of pork shoulder from Faith’s Farm, beautiful baby mustard greens from Growing Power, sopressata salami made at Publican Quality Meats, and Prairie Fruits Farm Goat Cheese. The dinner was made complete with a buttermilk ice cream, championed by Mrs. King herself, which provided a perfect balance of richness and tanginess. I’m sure you’ll agree the images are beautiful, and I hope they inspire you to create something wonderful in your own kitchen.
After spending the morning poking and squeezing stone fruit at the farmer’s market we got started on our Pesche al Vino (peaches soaked in red wine), which we would be used to make an Italian sangria-type cocktail. The peaches, which had soaked in the spiced wine mixture all day, would eventually be used to top our buttermilk ice cream for dessert. The peaches add a lovely sweet flavor to the wine, and in turn they took on a bit of the richness of the wine themselves, becoming a lovely blush color by the end of their soak.
Pesche al Vino:
*makes 8-10 small wine glass-sized cocktails*
5 large ripe peaches, peeled
½ C. spiced rum
¼ C. sugar
juice of ½ an orange
1 bottle fruity red wine (we used Pinot Noir)
6 whole cloves
Carefully peel the peaches using a sharp peeler or a paring knife. Slice into wedges and place into a medium glass punch bowl or beverage dispenser. Stir the rum and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rum & sugar mixture, orange juice, the cloves, and the bottle of wine to the peaches and stir gently. Cover and allow to sit for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Italian Sangria Cocktail:
Simply combine half Pesche al Vino and half cold sparkling water in a wine or other cocktail glass. Add ice if desired. Garnish with long strips of orange peel.
Next, I created the perfect summer salad using baby mustard greens, Arctic Glo nectarines (a bright red-skinned, extra-sweet variety), and sopressata salami. I tossed the salad with a simple vinaigrette made with whole grain mustard and sweetened with apricot jam, and then topped it with small rounds of goat cheese rolled pistachio nuts. These flavors were absolutely made for eachother – sweet nectarines, savory salami, bitter greens, and mouth-wateringly tangy goat cheese with the great texture of pistachios.
Summer Nectarine and Sopressata Salad:
½ # of mixed baby greens (a variety is good, but I recommend including a bitter element like mustard greens)
6 small, ripe nectarines, sliced into wedges
24 thin slices of sopressata salami
3 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ C. pistachios, finely chopped
A few hours ahead, mix the goat and cream cheeses together to combine and place in the fridge to chill. Once firm, roll the mixture into 12-18 small balls with your hands, then rolling each ball in the chopped pistachio nuts. Set aside until you’re ready to serve the salad.
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 Tbsp. minced)
5 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
10 Tbsp. sweet almond oil
1 T. whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp. apricot jam
2 generous pinches of salt
Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. Set aside.
When you’re ready to serve the salad, gently toss the greens, nectarines and salami with the vinaigrette. Transfer to a platter or bowl and distribute the goat cheese croquettes all around the salad.
I wanted to keep the main dish simple, and I was able to find a beautiful and very lean center-cut pork shoulder roast from a local farm. It was perfect for grilling with just olive oil, salt, and pepper. I found gorgeous ruby-colored plums at the market, which I used to make a simple plum compote which I flavored with fresh tarragon and maple syrup. Perfect.
Grilled Pork Shoulder with Plum and Tarragon Compote:
Plum, Maple, and Tarragon Compote:
2 pints plums of any variety
1 – 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 – 4 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon
Roughly chop the plums and place into a small saucepan with the lesser quantities of the vinegar and maple syrup. Bring to a low boil and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated (the compote should look like jam or chutney). Taste for seasoning, adding more vinegar and syrup to your liking. You should be able to taste everything – the plum, the balsamic, and the maple flavor. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature for several hours. When you’re ready to serve, lightly chop the tarragon leaves and stir them into the compote.
For the Pork:
One 2 ½ # hunk of pastured pork shoulder (ideally center cut), tied up tightly with butcher’s twine.
Salt, Pepper, and Olive Oil for rubbin’
Pull the pork out of the fridge 30-60 minutes in advance. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If using a charcoal grill, keep your coals to one side so that you have both a hotter and cooler area to work with.
When your grill is ready to go, rub your pork with a little olive oil and sprinkle very generously with salt & pepper. Grill the pork over medium-high heat, giving it good color all over (roughly 4- 5 minutes per side (keeping in mind that a roast has more “sides” than a steak). When the pork has good color all over, transfer to a large square of heavy duty foil and wrap it inside. Reduce your grill’s heat to low and place the roast back on (if using charcoal, place the roast on the cool side of the grill. Remove some of the charcoal if your grill is still very hot).
Continue to cook the pork for another 10-30 minutes, checking the internal temp with a thermometer at 10 minute intervals. When the internal temp is between 140-145 degrees, pull the pork off of the grill, leaving it in the foil packet for 10 minutes to rest. After resting, cut the twine from the pork and cut it into ¼” slices. Serve with the compote.
Last but not least, here is the buttermilk ice cream recipe, adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course. We managed to finish all of the Pesche al Vino with dinner, leaving behind a giant bowl of wine-soaked peaches for serving atop the delicious ice cream.
Buttermilk Ice Cream:
2 C. heavy cream
1 ¼ C. sugar
12 egg yolks
2 C. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla or ½ a vanilla bean, scraped and simmered with the cream
pinch of salt
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the cream and 1 C. of the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, thoroughly whisk the egg yolks with the remaining ¼ C. sugar.
Once the cream is simmering, temper the egg yolks by adding ¼ C. of the hot cream to them while whisking constantly. Do this 2 more times and then return all of the egg mixture to the pan with the cream, again whisking constantly.
Reduce the heat to low and cook while whisking for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thickens slightly so that it coats the back of a spoon. Strain through a mesh sieve into a large bowl and whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, and salt. Chill completely and then freeze using an ice cream maker.