Came back from Utah last night and it’s been a day of catching up. Running around. Grocery shopping. Laundry doing. And of course playing with Bill and snuggling with the pups…Wait! Sorry. It’s the other way around! Yep, today feels completely discombobulated.
I have had to jump right into work mode this morning and just cannot wait to cozy up on the couch tonight and look through all the pics I took this past week in Utah during the Plate To Pixel Book Tour Workshop and the three days spent at Evo in Park City. I miss everything about last week already, including the lack of humidity and the mild temperatures.
If you knew the (good) fire burning in my guts right now about everything seen, accomplished, witnessed, made part of, shared with, taught, learned about. Projects set in motion, stories brought to fruition, friendships and connections created. Kuddos to Rachael and Jyl, the founders of Evo for another smashingly well executed conference. I can’t wait to share more of it with you later this week.
Part of all these good all around feelings started right before Utah when I cooked my first recipe out of my friend Matt Armendariz first and freshly released cookbook "On A Stick". I’d only had time to make a couple of recipes from it but took his book with me on the plane and read from first to last page. In the thick of Summer, his book could not have come out at a better time!
The weather sure did not get any milder while I was gone and tonight we got right back into our routine of grilling as much as possible instead of turning the stove or the oven on. We have come to grill everything, even fruits. Stone fruits specifically. Juicy, fragrant, perfectly textured for a little fire action.
I realized a few days before hopping on the plane last week that I had gone slightly overboard with the apricots and plums. To use them up, I served a bunch simply cut up with some fresh whipped cream. A little riff off the idea of peaches and cream. And while this was simple and satisfying, there was a little depth of flavor and texture missing.
This is when I went ahead and grilled a bunch, following Matt’s direction for Grilled Fruit Skewers and served some over vanilla ice cream. I pureed the rest until smooth and made these Apricot & Honey Panna Cotta. They are the perfect blend of smooth and creamy with a touch of refreshing fruity acidity from the apricots at the bottom.
A large handful of velvet apricots and plums found its fate much like a dish gets concocted at times. A pinch of this, a dash of that…I was adapting Matt Armendariz’s recipe for Chinese Five Spice Chicken Skewers from his book "On a Stick" to use with fresh tuna when the velvet apricot I was munching on flew out of my hand and landed on a little bit of five spice sprinkled inadvertently on the counter top. I wondered what the combination of fragrances would be like and fell in love at first bite.
Before I knew it, I was skewering pieces of five spice marinated tuna and velvet apricots and placing them over a hot grill. The resulting dish was the perfect light dinner bite we were craving with such hot weather. Sweet, sour and savory. Hints of anise, lemongrass, cumin, cinnamon bringing fish and fruit together perfectly.
I love how the book incorporates super simple to fancier recipes without being difficult or long in preparation. Recipes such as "Ground Shrimp on Sugarcane" and "S’Mores" are especially tempting to me. Others like the "Spaghetti and Meatballs" or "Cinnamon Rolls" on a stick may seem brilliant or crazy to some folks but they turned out to be quite the conversation piece at our latest neighborhood cookout. Always a plus if you ask me.
However, these are far and few between and if you look closely, you’ll see that Matt took known dishes and reworked them to work on skewers of all kinds. From appetizers to desserts, complete with dips and sauces. Fun. Unpretentious. Entertaining. Beautifully styled by Adam Pearson and photographed by Matt himself. Yes, I consider both of them my friends and mentors and that makes this book that much more fun for me to use.
I am seeing many more dinners and parties in our future incorporating recipes and ideas from Matt’s book. That makes me beam with pride. Matt is the single most positive person I have ever met in my life and I am constantly learning and inspired by him. This book is an clearly an extension of his fun and delicious side…!
Apricots & Honey Panna Cotta:
For the apricots:
For the panna cotta:
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (2 sheets gelatin)
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup full fat buttermilk
Prepare the apricots:
Cut the apricots in half and remove the pit. Brush lightly with olive oil and grill over hot coals until tender (about 3-4 minutes on each side). Let cool and puree until smooth in a food processor. Divide the mixture between 6 glasses.
Prepare the panna cotta:
Place the water in small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Reserve.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat, bring the heavy cream and honey to a simmer. When the cream is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the reserved gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Add the buttermilk and whisk until well blended.
Divide the mixture on top of the apricot puree. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream set properly.
Chinese Five Spice Tuna and Stone Fruit Skewers, adapted from Matt Armendariz’s On A Stick:
12 skewers (bamboo or metal)
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon minced lemongrass
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound fresh tuna, cut into large pieces
3 velvet apricots, quartered
3 plums, quartered
Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Place the tuna pieces and fruit quarters in a shallow dish and add the marinade. Make sure to coat all the pieces well with the marinade. Refrigerate for an hour, turning the tuna pieces halfway through the process.
Meanwhile soak the skewers if using bamboo ones so they don’t burn (I used metal) in water for at least 30 minutes. Heat the grill to medium high.
Remove the tuna and fruit from the refrigerator and thread onto the skewers, alternating pieces as much as possible. Grill, about 3-4 minutes per side for medium tuna or less for rare. Serve with fresh arugula if desired.