Monday, August 26, 2013

A Darling End of Summer Dinner

For the past six weeks, Mr. Darling and I have done what most young couples AND their respective parents dread the most: we moved back home.  - I should quickly state that this "dread" merely stems from the common notion that a married couple with children and man's best friend in tow should be established in their own home.

Nevertheless, we set up camp within the walls of my childhood home and I have to say that there is no doubt in my mind that my parents are well on their way to Sainthood. They have been gracious and loving hosts to our family as Mr. Darling completed his OB/GYN rotation over these past several weeks at my hometown Hospital. By opening up their home to us, my parents allowed our family to remain whole instead of enduring another separation. In return, Lola and Pop (their grandparents titles) opened themselves up all over again to every manner of early childhood trials and tribulations in addition to the daily joys of being with their grandchildren. My dad often remarked that this time around was much more enjoyable, because as grandparents, at the end of the day, after they had indulged the children's every whim, they could hand them back to their parents. As a grandparent, it's all about pleasure. I noticed that even with the most tedious of chores, my parents found delight in sharing each moment with my babies.

There was one evening when my mother was folding a mountain of laundry. I was in the process of ordering my daughter's  school uniforms and our little darling, feeling the boredom that comes from being five years old with idle hands, asked my mother if she could help her fold it all. It must be said that my mother has particular ways of doing things and I could already see the hesitation in her eyes before she, once again, indulged her granddaughter's wish. Sure enough, my little darling passed Lola's folding test with flying colors and when my mother asked her how she learned to fold so well, she looked straight into Lola's eyes, and with dramatic sincerity, said, "I just fold with my heart". My mother laughed so hard that tears streamed down her face. I thought she was going to need oxygen because she could barely catch her breath.   

I think perhaps one of the nicest parts about being home with my parents for six weeks, was that they too were once a young couple, overcoming the many obstacles that medical school brings. They could empathize with the complexity of our day to day life, especially after having lived it with us for several weeks.  They encouraged us every day that we were going to make it through, knowing how grueling this time can be and countlessly told us of their admiration for us as parents in the midst of our chaotic life. I can speak for Mr. Darling when I say that having them behind us, cheering all the way, has gotten us through some pretty stressful times this summer. 

As our time with them draws to an end, with the help of my brother, my mother and I decided to throw an end of summer dinner in celebration of not only our time spent together, but also the end of tripping over tiny shoes, jelly smeared finger prints all over my mother's custom made cabinets, and the occasional 4 am wake up call from the littlest darling. Our menu selections were chosen to highlight the very best of our basic summer fare favorites. Featured in this post are our recipes and photographs of our delicious dishes, tablescape and entertaining pieces.

Oysters with A Darling Mignonette
Nanny Gerties Turnip Salad
Crabmeat Gratin
Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Fruit Salsa Over Tomato Puree
Steamed Broccoli With Toasted Walnuts
Fresh Fruit With a Berry Liqueur Glaze
Apricot Tarte

Vintage Limoges Oyster Plates From The Darling Collection
China: Limoges Clay, Bernadaud - Louvre Pattern
Vintage Glassbake Gratin Dishes From The Darling Collection
Spode Platter:  Mrs. Darling's College China
Italian Glass Serving Bowl and Pitcher: Massimo Lunardon - Bergdorf Goodman
Vintage Glassware: An heirloom from Mrs. Darling's Maternal Grandmother
Silver Place Settings: An heirloom from Mrs. Darling's Maternal Grandmother
Table Linens: Loretta Caponi, Florence, Italy (
Petite Vases/Place Card Holders: Flowers On Chestnut, Nantucket MA 

Yield: 1/2 Cup
Approximate Time: 15 minutes

2-3 very firm tomatoes, diced
1/2 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, diced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Rind of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
2 drops of agave
1 splash of tequila

*Combine all ingredients and allow to macerate for an hour.
*Taste and correct seasoning before serving.

Yield: 4-6 Servings
Approximate Time: 30 minutes

1-2 large Turnips
1 medium Vidalia Onion, thinly sliced
1 medium Watermelon Radish or 2-3 small regular Radishes, thinly sliced
 1 firm Tomato, seeded and diced (Optional)
1 tablespoon Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

*Peel turnip and grate by hand or in a food processor
*Soak the first three ingredients in separate bowls of cold water. Refrigerate until you are ready to use them. This method ensures the crispiness of the vegetables.
*Just before serving, add the tomato (if desired), parsley, salt and pepper and drizzle the olive oil. 
*Taste and correct seasoning if needed
*Serve immediately  

Yield: 4-6 Servings
Approximate Time: 60 minutes

3 cups Lump or Backfin Crabmeat
1/2 medium red onion diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
2 tablespoons parsley, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Panko
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon lemon thyme
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice  
5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees
*Saute the onions and garlic in 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, until softened
*Add the diced tomato. Cook for 1 minute
*Season with salt and pepper to taste
*Add lemon thyme and lemon juice
*Cool the mixture slightly
*While mixture is cooling, mix the Panko, parsley and 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*Very lightly, mix the onion - tomato mixture with the crabmeat. You want to avoid compacting the mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning
*Spoon in to desired dish and sprinkle the top with the Panko mixture
*Bake for 6-7 minutes - until golden

Yield: 6 Servings
Approximate Time: 1 1/2 hours

 Six 7 ounce Chilean Sea Bass Fillets 
3 Kumato tomatoes, diced
1 firm mango, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1tablespoon chopped scallions
1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot diced
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Tomato Puree
*Saute garlic and shallots in 1 -2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
*Add diced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
*Simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes
*Pour into food processor or blender and puree
*Using a fine strainer, strain the mixture into a bowl by pressing on the solids
*Discard the solids and set the bowl of strained mixture aside

Fruit Salsa
*Mix Kumato tomatoes, mango, red onion and scallions in a bowl
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Set mixture aside

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass
*Lightly drizzle the fish fillets with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
*Heat a griddled cast iron pan on stovetop under medium heat
*Once the pan is very hot, sear fish on each side according to desired doneness

*Pour 1/4 cup of tomato puree in the middle of your desired dinner plate
*Top with salsa
*Gently place fish over salsa and serve

Yield: 6 Servings
Approximate Time: 30 minutes

2 large heads of broccoli, cut into segments
4 cloves of garlic, sliced or crushed
1/4 cup walnut oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shelled walnuts

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees
*Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 - 10 minutes, or until golden
*While the walnuts are still hot, drizzle with a tablespoon of the walnut oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
*Set aside
*Fill a medium sized pot up to 1/3 of the way with water and bring to a boil
*Use a steamer insert filled with the separated heads of broccoli and place it over the boiling water
*Allow broccoli to steam over the pot until it changes to a bright green color (5-7 min), broccoli should still have a bite to it.
*Meanwhile, warm 2-3 tablespoons of walnut old and saute garlic until golden and set aside
*When broccoli is ready, transfer it into a large bowl. Season it with salt and pepper and add sautéed garlic.
*Drizzle with the remaining walnut oil and toss gently with the toasted walnuts
*Transfer to a serving bowl and serve

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Fresh Figs
1 jar cherry preserve
Rind of 1 lemon
1 cup of simple syrup (1 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water, simmer until dissolved. Cool before using)
1-2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (*optional)

Berry Liqueur Glaze
*Mix preserve, simple syrup and lemon rind in a sauce pot
*Boil until thickened, skimming impurities or scum that rises to the surface. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly
*Add raspberry liqueur one tablespoon at a time (taste before you add the second tablespoon, if it suits your taste, stop at one tablespoon)

*Cut each fruit according to your personal preference
*Layer fruit in a bowl of your choice
*Drizzle berry glaze 30 minutes before serving. This allows for the fruit to macerate in its own juices.

*Note: If liqueur is not used and glaze thickens too much when cooled, use a squeeze of orange or lemon juice with simple syrup to liquefy.

One 9 inch Tarte
Approximate Time: 1 1/2 hours

2 pounds ripe but firm Apricots, pitted and cut into quarters

1 1/14 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water

*Combine yolk and water and set aside
*Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
*Cut in the butter until it is the size of peas
*Add yolk and water mixture until it comes together
*Gather into a ball and wrap in plastic
*Allow to rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (Before using, allow to come back to room temperature)
*Roll out dough into a 10 inch round and drape over a buttered tart pan
*Press dough against the bottom and sides of the pan
*Cut top and chill while you prepare the filling

1 egg and 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter

*Beat egg, yolk, sugar and almond extract in a kitchen mixer
*Add flour, baking powder and melted butter
*Mix until well blended

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees
*Spread filling on the bottom of the tart pan. It will be thin.
*Arrange the apricots over the filling, cut side up, covering the entire bottom
*Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and allow to cool
*Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving

I've come to find that when entertaining for a larger group, a simple menu is best, but when you have a small group of six or less, one has more flexibility to play with a more complex menu and accompany the dishes with more meaningful serveware. This dinner's serveware has a lot of meaning to me as it was collected from the time I was fifteen years old to present day at twenty-eight. My mother started my Hope Chest for me when I was fifteen and through out the years we have each added to its contents. Our Darling End of Summer Dinner was the very first time we used the Loretta Caponi table linens that I had purchased at the age of twenty in the beautiful city of Florence when I visited with my art history class while studying abroad in London.

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed creating it with my mother. It was an incredible experience to entertain with her, even though it was just for our little family. There was so much love and laughter (a few disagreements of course) and even though the plates have been cleared and the linens laundered, we will forever share the memories of not only cooking in the same kitchen, but the six weeks where we got to intertwine our lives ... both of us mothers ... both of us friends. We hope that you will try one, two or all of these recipes!

With love,
Mrs. Darling

My favorite oyster plates - my mother and I share them. We found them together while antiquing last summer.

Izzy Darling's very first oyster! It was not well received, but the most important thing was that it TRIED it! 

Loretta Caponi Table Linens

Our latest summer find - Vintage Glassbake gratin dishes! They are displayed on the Spode china that I chose for my first college apartment. One of the best things about going home is finding items from your past! 

How much fun is this pitcher? We named the crab Cecil!

Hello Cecil!

These glass vases/place card holders were an amazing find from Flowers on Chestnut, a fabulous Nantucket florist and gift shop. They have everything you need when creating a unique, yet quiet tablescape with flowers. 

Our table before the guests of honor were seated

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