Hooray for The Red, White and Blue

As a child growing up, we didn’t have the television as a distraction during dinner. For the longest time, the dining room table was in the kitchen, and the television (an old black and white contraption with rabbit ears and three channels to choose from) was in the living room.

Continue reading “Hooray for The Red, White and Blue”

Refreshing Compressed Watermelon,Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad

BistroA little while back, I shared my desire to dine out in a gourmet restaurant while wearing my pajamas. If you are ever in Elk Grove, California you can experience the next best thing. Right on “main” street you will find the lovely little Boulevard Bistro hidden inside a 100-year-old bungalow. Seating for 30 – not 30 tables, but a total seating capacity for 30 people at a time. That’s it. The place has been there for nearly 10 years, is a 5-star rated restaurant, and is listed as one of the top 100 restaurants in the country. Yeah, surprise! In the heart of a cow town, who would have thought?

While the exterior is simple, the decor inside is elegant – black tie elegant – yet the patrons arrive in khaki shorts and saddles. The staff is well-trained, slipping in and out and around your table without notice, replacing flatware as it is used, clearing plates and pouring yet another glass of wine in a fresh glass. The chef Bret Bohlmann is a native of Elk Grove and a graduate of the San Francisco Culinary Academy. Together with his wife, they create some of the most awe-inspiring dishes combining Chef Bohlmann’s Old World French techniques and his passion for wild game.

We began our adventure with Pan-Seared Foie Gras – so tender, so wonderful so perfect. The Filet Mignons were so tender, you could almost eat them with a fork. The reduction sauce was to-die-for delicious. Deserts were a work of art that you could eat. Oh my. And the salad – so cool, so refreshing!

Naturally, I had to try to recreate as much of this awesome experience as possible. The salad is my own interpretation of the salad I had at the Boulevard Bistro. While this salad is close, it’s still a work in progress. Baby steps. That’s how I’ve learned – in baby steps.

Compressed Watermelon and Tomato Salad
1 small seedless watermelon
16 small tomatoes, assorted colors
3 oz Goat Cheese, crumbled
4 Basil Leaves, cut into narrow strips
1/4 Cup Fruit Balsamic Vinegar (see note)
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Note: Any fruit balsamic vinegar will work. Experiment with Cherry, Raspberry, Blackberry or other flavors to see what pleases you. 

Cut one end off the watermelon. (You want to begin working with a watermelon that has a flat; even end). Discard end slice or nibble on it while you work.

Cut round disk from remaining watermelon about 1 inch thick. Remove rind. Using a small shot glass, cut 8 circles from watermelon.

Place circles into a vacuum seal bag. Seal according to manufacturer’s directions.

Cut second round disk from watermelon.  Again, cut 8 small circles from watermelon disk and seal in a vacuum seal bag.

Place vacuum sealed bags into the freezer for at least 3 hours. (Note: if bag is not gently compressing watermelon, place a pie tin on top of bag. Place a bag of frozen vegetables on pie tin to compress watermelon).

Once compressed; remove from freezer and let thaw. Keep chilled in refrigerator. You want the melon crisp-cold but not frozen.

When ready to serve, slice small tomatoes (grape size) in half. Stack fresh basil and roll tightly, creating a cigar-shape. Cut basil width-wise to shred into very narrow strips.

Place four watermelon circles on the center of four well-chilled salad plates.

Place tomato halves around watermelon in a pretty arrangement.

Sprinkle each plate with a little goat cheese. Scatter basil around plate..

Drizzle each salad with a little balsamic vinegar. Season with fresh pepper and a pinch of salt. Serve and enjoy.

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