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California Cooking and Southern Style: 100 Great Recipes, Inspired Menus, and Gorgeous Table Settings


California Cooking and Southern Style: 100 Great Recipes, Inspired Menus, and Gorgeous Table Settings

written by Frances Schultz, recipes by Stephanie Valentine

Carolyne Roehm introduced me to Frances Schultz, who sent me a copy of THE BEE COTTAGE STORY: How I Made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness, which is about being about to marry a nice guy but the wrong guy, and having her mother die, and getting a touch of breast cancer, and buying “a little stucco cottage” in East Hampton, and, in the process of fixing it up, finding her way to the woman she had been and wanted to be. The book is very smart --- I should say: wise --- and we talked, and, like that, we were friends.

I met Tom Dittmer, her husband, and, as I have written, “We spent a little time together, smoking cigars and polluting the air with stories that are too good to be true, and at no point did he ever say one word about how he made his money.” It was clear, though, that he had made quite a lot of it, because we were swapping tales on the terrace of his ranch. How he made his money is the subject of the book he was writing but not talking about. TALKIN’ BIG: How an Iowa Farm Boy Beat the Odds to Found and Lead One of the World’s Largest Brokerage Firms is perhaps the best memoir I read in 2018. It’s about a poor boy “who was supposed to be in Sioux City driving the Coke truck on my best day. The fact that I stumbled out and got to do what I do is a miracle.” It’s also about giving money away, and who he gave it to, and why.

Am I compromised as a reviewer because of my friendship with Frances Schultz and Tom Dittmer? Less than you might think. If her new book sucked, I’d tell her I couldn’t write about it, and we’d go on; this is not your basic transactional friendship, users using one another in the world capital of users. That said, feel free to turn away now. Or read on, and, maybe, get it. [To buy CALIFORNIA COOKING AND SOUTHERN STYLE from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

Now, may I tell you about the book?

Most of the year, the Dittmers live at Rancho La Zaca, a chip shot from Santa Barbara. The architect was Hugh Jewell Jacobsen, who built it for James Garner, the actor from “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files. (He would go on to design a house on Martha’s Vineyard for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.) It’s concrete and glass, with insane views, and at 7,000 square feet, it cries out to be shared. A good thing, because the Dittmers entertain. A lot. Not just the swells. And not for social points; many of the recipes are descendants of the South, which is her DNA. Frances writes: “A gathering of friends at table is simple and profound, a sacred space in which we nourish our bodies and our souls…. At age 60-something (and I still can’t get over that), I am probably not going to be secretary-general of the U.N. But I can bring people together at the table. We all can.”

But you want to know about the recipes. Frances writes:

You’re getting the peerless cooking of Chef Stephanie Valentine, recipe author and genius; and the flowers, table settings, and party talk from me, not a genius but an irreverent enthusiast. It’s organized by menu, so you don’t have to fret over what to have with what. Unless you want to, of course. Either way we make it easy, all at your fingertips, with each chapter including a menu, recipes, and a few what’s and wherefore’s that I’ve learned from experience. But mostly it’s about eating and having fun.

Try these?

Makes 5 cups
This is the best cauliflower soup ever in the history of the universe. We also like to pass it as an hors d’oeuvre or stand-up first course in demitasses. Garnish with roasted cauliflower florets and croutons, if desired.

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
1/8 teaspoon cumin seed
1/8 teaspoon coriander seed
1/8 teaspoon anise seed
1 1-inch shard of a cinnamon stick
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper
Roasted cauliflower florets and croutons, if desired, recipe follows

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onion until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. In the last few minutes add the garlic, cumin, coriander, anise, cinnamon and red pepper flakes. Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir in the milk. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cool the soup to room temperature before puréeing in a blender or food processor. For a more velvety texture, strain through a fine mesh strainer. Re-heat gently, and garnish if desired.

Garnish of Roasted Cauliflower Florets and Croutons
Optional but very good.

Heat oven to 425°F.
½ to ¾ cup cauliflower florets, chopped into ½-inch pieces
¾ to 1 cup of 1/4-inch stale bread cubes
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

Toss the chopped cauliflower with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and roast for 8 minutes, until well browned, shaking the pan to prevent burning. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and fry the bread cubes, stirring until crisp. Season the cauliflower and croutons with salt and pepper, and sprinkle on the soup.

Serves 8 to 10
Serve this with rice or warm corn tortillas. The recipe calls for pork, but it can just as deliciously be made with chicken or with any combination of leftover meat. You may also add any vegetables you like, or omit the meat altogether and replace it with potatoes and butternut squash for a vegetarian version. The leftovers make great nachos!

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 poblano peppers
2 pounds tomatillos, husked and washed
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 cup chicken stock or water

For the garnish, prepare ½ to 1 cup of each of the following:
Chopped cilantro
Chopped onion
Chopped avocado
Chopped cabbage
Lime wedges

In a large bowl, stir together the pork, salt, pepper, chili powder, onion, garlic and jalapeno, and let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat a gas grill to high or preheat the oven broiler. Rub the poblanos and the tomatillos with 2 tablespoons of oil and grill or broil, turning, until the poblano skin is blackened and the tomatillos are cooked and charred in spots. Place the poblanos in a bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap to steam while they cool. Place the tomatillos in a separate bowl and cool to room temperature, then transfer with the juices to a blender and puree. Peel, seed and slice the poblanos into ¼-inch thick strips.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the oil and the pork and brown on all sides. Put all of the pork back in the pot and add the tomatillo puree, the poblano strips, jalapeno, stock or water, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1½ to 2 hours or until the pork is fork tender.

Serve with the garnishes on the side.

Serves 6
Our famous Valley neighbor, writer and crooner Shaun Cassidy, said this was the best dessert he ever had. We like the recipe’s simplicity and ease of scaling down for 2 or 4. It is also a good use for day-or-two-old bread.

1 French baguette, cut into ¼-inch slices
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 3 tablespoons for buttering the ramekins
½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1¼ cups whole milk
1 cup half & half
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
4½ tablespoons sugar, plus 4 tablespoons for the ramekins
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, optional
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving, if desired

Butter six 8-ounce ramekins and sprinkle each ramekin lightly with about 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Lightly butter both sides of each baguette slice. Place a single layer of buttered baguette onto the bottom of the ramekins, cutting and trimming as necessary to fit. Sprinkle half of the chocolate over the bread. Add another layer of baguette slices and chopped chocolate, and end with a layer of baguette slices. Whisk together the milk, half & half, whole eggs, yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt. Strain and pour evenly among the ramekins, just covering the bread. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar if using and let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the puddings for 30 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned.

Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Reviewed by Jesse Kornbluth for on November 22, 2019

California Cooking and Southern Style: 100 Great Recipes, Inspired Menus, and Gorgeous Table Settings
written by Frances Schultz, recipes by Stephanie Valentine

  • Publication Date: November 19, 2019
  • Genres: Cookbooks, Food, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 151074049X
  • ISBN-13: 9781510740495