Are you familiar with the Montecito Country Kitchen cooking classes? Pascale Beale-Groom has been teaching people in Santa Barbara
to embrace the alchemy and art of cooking for years. In 2004, Pascale (and then teaching partner, Ann Marie Powers) published "Spring: A Menu for All
Seasons", the first in a series of seasonal cookbooks delighting the senses with a delightful blend of impressive gourmet menus and user-friendly cooking class.
"(Pascale) champions the use of the
freshest possible, organic ingredients."
This summer, Pascale gave me the next book in the series, predictably focused on summer, to read and review. "Summer: A Menu for All Seasons" continues
the adventure! Both cookbooks reflect Pascale's sensibility and the deep influence of her two homes, Provence and Santa Barbara. In the tradition of both
places, we are encouraged to "enjoy pleasing yourself and those for whom you are cooking. They will taste the enthusiasm in the food."
I felt the authors' enthusiasm as I read each of these books from cover to cover. Although I had never prepared "gourmet" before in my life,
reading "Spring" and "Summer" enticed me to give it all a try. So I embarked on my maiden voyage much to the eventual delight of my husband and friends!
Santa Fe artist, Steven Boone
, and local chiropractor, Monika McCoy
were invited for dinner. Not knowing if my guests were vegetarian or not, I decided to
prepare the zucchini mouse with salsa di pomodoro as the entre with the mache (lamb's lettuce) salad. Steven had just returned from painting in Italy and France
for months and Monika had recently returned from Prague, Switzerland, and Berlin. The evening definitely had an essence of other times and other places....an
essence that imbues Pascale's cooking style where friends linger to savor food and conviviality. Steven commented that the dinner and setting reminded him of his
recent painting "Poppies and Olives" (reprinted here for your enjoyment
I was emboldened by the culinary success of this dinner and decided to try Pascale's "clafoutis" recipe as a dessert several nights later for my friend
Laurence Hauben, Food Editor of Food and Home Magazine and orchardist Jeff Reiger. Laurence gave me a thumbs up on the dessert, assuring me that substituting
plums for the apricots called for in the recipe was completely OK.
I highly recommend these two cookbooks as a way to both stimulate your imagination and enhance your culinary skills. And, like anticipation for the seasons
themselves, I eagerly await the arrival of "Fall" and "Winter" to complete my set!
"...summer is a time to live life a little slower...a time to savor the flavors or the season..."
-- Pascale Beale-Groom