I cannot resist a cooking class called "Fall Entertaining." And so yesterday I found myself at the beautiful Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills.
The wonderful Peggy Dark of The Kitchen for Exploring Foods in Pasadena was teaching the class. For those of us in Los Angeles and Pasadena, she is our very own Barefoot Contessa. Warm and engaging, she cooks delicious, unfussy, comfort food and is one of the most popular and successful caterers in Southern California.
During the class I felt as if I was sitting with Peggy in her cozy office at The Kitchen in Pasadena, just us girls having a gabfest. Along with her fabulous recipes, she entertained us with charming stories about her business, life, travels, and food, which she is passionate about. After all, she's been in the catering business for 30 years. Her book "Fabulous Parties" was published in 2008.
Asian Pear, Persimmon, and Marcona Almond Salad
Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Cumin
Lolipop Lamb Chops with Fresh Mint Relish (recipe can be found in "Fabulous Parties")
Here is the recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Cumin:
- 2 pounds of butternut squash, cut into cubes
- olive oil
- 4 scallions
- 1 fresh red chili
- 4 tablespoons cooked chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 5 ounces vegetable stock
- large pinch of salt
- pomegranate seeds
Toss the squash with the olive oil in an oven dish and roast it in a moderate to hot oven until tender and beginning to caramelize at the edges.
Slice the scallions into long diagonal pieces; slice the chili into thin rounds. Put these in a pan with chickpeas and the cumin. Add two tablespoons of the olive oil and the stock, and a large pinch of salt. Bring this to a boil, simmer for one minute, then pour the contents of the pan over the roasted squash. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Peggy began to talk about our dessert, "Snow Pudding," otherwise know as "Oeufs a la Neige." Most of us were unfamiliar with the dessert. Her assistant walked out with a martini glass filled with creme anglaise, lovely but no showstopper. We had all been wondering about the roasting pan on the table filled with a mysterious, but delicious-looking concoction, brown and toasty on the surface.
This was meringue that had been baked in an unusual way, but according to Peggy it really works. She then scooped out large dollops of the meringue and laid it on top of the creme anglaise, topping it all with a gooseberry.
Is this not a thing of beauty?
Here is the recipe for Oeufs a la Neige
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2/3 cup superfine sugar
- 1 pint fresh red berries of your choice
Preheat the oven 375 degrees. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt, and beat until thick and glossy peaks form. Transfer the mixture to a baking pan. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
- 6 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cups of hot milk
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup pureed raspberries
Over a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks adding the sugar gradually, until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Let cool and fold in the raspberry puree.
Spoon into the martini glasses. Top with a large scoop of meringue and garnish with fresh berries.
This class was a gem. What a great kick-off to the fall entertaining season!