Summer Entertaining Cooking Class

Roast Leg of Lamb with Ratatouille Vegetables

Stingray and I took a “Couples Summer Entertaining” cooking class at Culinaerie, back when we were living in Washington.  Despite our food snob status, neither of us had taken an actual cooking class, so this was a real treat (thanks, Mom!). Dressed for date night we marched to the front of the class kitchen (again, food snobs) to ensure optimal viewing and instruction by the school’s co-founder Susan Holt. On the menu was a Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart, Roast Leg of Lamb with Ratatouille Vegetables and a Brulee of Summer Fruits. The menu was straightforward and accessible, but impressive enough that I was eager to add to our repertoire.  I would even argue it could be easily adapted for the winter months by swapping out seasonal vegetables in the ratatouille and replacing the lamb with beef.

The class was extremely well done with plenty of support staff, great instruction and endless wine.  We were obviously the most experienced couple, starring multiple times as the “example table.” Although, I suppose…upon further reflection we spent just as much time sizing up the competition as we did chopping mushrooms.  DC friends–try their classes and steal more delicious recipes for me!

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Exotic Mushroom and Chevre Tart

Mushroom and Chevre Tart


(Serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course)

  •  1 ½ cups exotic mushrooms, such as shiitake, crimini, Portobello, or oyster
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or tarragon
  • 1 package frozen puff pastry dough, slightly defrosted
  • 8 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, very finely minced

Brush the mushrooms free of any dirt and trim rough parts of the stems; cut into ½” slices.  Heat a large sauté pan over high heat, add half the oil, then add half the mushrooms.  Sauté about 3 minutes, with very limited stirring, until mushrooms are golden brown; repeat with remaining oil and mushrooms.  Season cooked mushrooms with salt and pepper and add herbs.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out pastry into a rough circle, about 14” in diameter, and place on large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread goat cheese over surface, stopping two inches short of the edge.  Distribute mushroom mixture evenly over top, then bring extra pastry over mushrooms to form a border.

Combine butter with garlic; using pastry brush, paint or drizzle the garlic butter on top of the mushrooms.  Bake in center of oven for approximately 30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown on top and bottom.  Allow to cool slightly then cut into wedges.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Ratatouille Vegetables

Seared Lamb

Ratatouille Vegetables


(Serves 2)

  •  1 – 1½ pounds boneless lamb leg
  • 1 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), cut in 1” cubes
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, cut in 1” cubes
  • 2 plum tomatoes or 1 heirloom tomato, quartered
  • 1 red pepper, cut in medium dice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Handful of minced fresh basil leaves and/or 2 tablespoons good quality pesto
  • 4 – 5 Calamata or French Nyons olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 ounces Gruyere, grated

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Season lamb leg with salt and pepper, place on a rack over a sheet pan fat side up, and roast for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven.

 Toss together the zucchini, onion, tomatoes, pepper, olive oil, salt, sugar and lemon juice.  Roast in a large sauté pan for 15 – 20 minutes until vegetables start to soften and brown.   Remove from oven and stir in basil and/or pesto and olives.  Top with gruyere and return to oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and serve with thinly sliced lamb.

Brulee of Summer Fruits

Brulee of Summer Fruits


(Serves 2)

  •  ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, sliced peaches
  • 2 tablespoons demerara, turbinado or brown sugar

Beat the cream with a whip until soft peaks form.  Add sugar very slowly and continue beating until sugar is dissolved and the cream forms stiff peaks.

Gently fold in the fruit.  Transfer raspberries to 2 individual shallow oven-proof dishes, such as brulee dishes and sprinkle the demerara sugar over them.  Place dish under the oven broiler on the top rack on high and cook just until some of the sugar caramelizes (this will only take 30 seconds or so).  Alternately, use a blowtorch with cautious abandon.  Serve immediately.

Notice all the fearful eyes around me…

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