Kerry and I belong to a couple of wine clubs here in the foothills of California. This past weekend, we went to pick up our quarterly wines and on a spur of the moment decided to stay for lunch. One of our clubs was hosting a food and wine pairing, and it was the best decision we made all week. Chef Julian Vasquez prepared a fabulous four-course lunch that left us saying, “We must go to his restaurant to get more of this great food!”
The first course was a lovely Panzanella Salad with fresh mozzarella followed by a second course of Seared Scallops resting on a bed of Sweet Corn and Bacon Chowder. If no one was around, I seriously would have licked my plate. The third course was Braised Chicken Thighs smothered in a sauce with kale, chickpeas, and smoked hamhock. It was fall-off-the-bone tender and heavenly. Then there was the fourth course dessert prepared by his pastry chef wife, Jenni Brewster, who was on Cupcake Wars. She made a Chocolate Salted Caramel Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwich. It tasted just like it sounds…yummy.
If any of you are in California, Julian Vasquez is the Executive Chef at the Pilothouse on The Delta King. Jenni Brewster is the owner of JennaBabe’s Sweet Bike, a bakery on wheels. Both of them were so gracious when they came by our table to meet us and introduce themselves. Check them out if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
All this great food inspired me to create something with an interesting combination too. It was Sunny’s birthday the following day, and we all planned to go on a picnic, so I wanted a refreshing appetizer. Since the cucumber population in my garden continues to flourish, I made a cold appetizer with cuke slices topped with chicken salad. To give it a more tropical party pizazz, I added sweet coconut flakes and dried cranberries to the chicken. A sprinkle of chopped pistachios added a nice crunch. This would work well on crackers or toast too.
- 1 cup chopped cooked chicken
- 3 T dried cranberries, rough chopped
- 4 T sweet coconut flakes
- 5 T mayo (more or less according to your own taste)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 3 Persian cucumbers
- ¼ cup pistachios, rough chopped
Slice the cucumbers into quarter-inch pieces. Persian cucumbers are small and narrow, and you don’t have to peel them. You can find them at Trader Joe’s. If you use regular cucumbers, the recipe will yield less than 24.
Combine the chicken, cranberries, coconut, mayo, and salt. Put a scoop on top of the cucumber slices and sprinkle with pistachios.