Sicilian Inspired


Having been to cooking classes presented by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and loving her cookbooks (there are many more than these 2), how could I resist being high bidder on a dinner for six at her home in Camden, Maine?

What a treat it turned out to be with Nancy making us feel like we were old friends.  The evening began in the yard with prosecco and appetizers.  While everything was quite tasty, her cheese biscuits had the hubby begging for the recipe which she is kind enough to let me share with you.  If I remember correctly, it is one she inherited from an old friend.

Inside, the real work was taking place and surprise, the Sicilian inspired dinner was being prepared not by Nancy but by her daughter Sara who owns two Manhattan restaurants, Porchetta and Porsena.  Soon to open is Porsena Sinistra, a wine bar that will serve goodies like the ones we enjoyed in the garden.  

 Sara has also coauthored a beautiful cookbook, Olives and Oranges.  I would say this is quite a busy gal!

Now, back to the dinner which was served on a long table covered with a cheery blue flower patterned cloth and set with simple white dishes with a blue border.  The overall effect was warm and friendly just like the women responsible for the dinner.

First course was for me a new taste treat, cantalope gazpacho topped with crostini spread with cantalope butter.  It was absolutely delicious on a summer night.

The gazpacho was followed by pasta with a mushroom sauce….sensational!

The main course was swordfish cooked with onions, tomatoes and herbs in parchment paper.  It was so moist it practically melted in your mouth.  Accompanying the fish were a simple green salad, roasted potatoes and steamed wax and green beans.  There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation during dinner as we were all moaning our pleasure.

To finish the meal, we were served a blueberry tart made from those wonderful wild Maine blueberries that I have written about several times.  What was especially good about this one was the crust which Nancy said was made with oatmeal and patted into the pan rather than rolled.  That is a recipe I must remember to request from her.

 Oh, and let’s not forget the wine, a white and red from Sicily which we were happy to find at our favorite local wine shop and a perfect accompaniment for this Sicilian menu.

Totally satiated with good food and company, this was a night to remember.

Now for the cheese biscuits.

Peg Shea’s Cheese Biscuits
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt if needed
Cream together butter and cheese with a wooden spoon or hands. Add flour and mix well with fingertips. Add cayenne. Form mixture into a log 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrape in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Can be frozen.) Cut into 1/4 inch slices and bake on cookie sheet 5 to 10 minutes at 350.

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28 thoughts on “Sicilian Inspired

  1. Oh, goodness me….I’ll bet you guys had to ROLL out of that house after dinner!!! There’s nothing like good food to get your mind right! 🙂 I am setting the table this week for a dinner a lady won in an auction earlier this year. While the food is going to be good, I’m sure, I wonder if it could possibly be THAT good with the cantaloupe gazpacho and cheese biscuits? No way!!! So glad you could kick back and enjoy it all!!!

  2. What a great treat. OMG, the food looks spectacular. Thanks for sharing the biscuits with us. Must try them with the cayenne!! You know, stunning tablecloth + simply dishes = a great table.. thanks so much for sharing with us.. xo marlis

  3. What a fun night with food & friends and a treat to attend one of her dinners! Cantalope gazpacho sounds delicious and those cheese biscuits are similar to a recipe my MIL makes~ you can’t eat just one 🙂

    • You’re right about not being able to eat just one. That’s why the hubby begged for the recipe. Me, I was more interested in the pie crust!

  4. While all the young cousins were playing outside when I was 3 and 4 years old I stayed in the kitchen with grandma.(mother’s side Sicilian, father’s Romans and Spaniards). It paid off. Also have modified with speedy bachelor tech.

  5. The simple peasant dishes. Peas with elbow mac, slight touch of onion, slightly soupy with mac boil water, olive oil. Lentil soup with beef broth as base, some carrot sliced and spinach. Minestrone never has same ingredients as it is leftover vegetables from the week with different chopped up leftover macaroni. The base is part water and the liquid from crushed tomatoes. I like spinach and artichoke dip in place of tomato sauce sometimes for spaghetti, hot or cold. I avoid onion as usually just garlic. Chef Emeril Lagassi uses onion and garlic but Chef Mario uses one or the other and I agree with him because the flavors contradict and onion seems more overpowering to me. When using ricotta I add Parmesan and parsley to give it a little more bite. Bread fried in olive oil like toast.

  6. I have these two cookbooks in my selection and will have to pull them out and slowly page through them again. The biscuit recipe looks delicious and simple – I’ve bookmarked it and will have to try it out! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love the fact that Nancy is still making these biscuits! I cut the recipe out pf the NY Times in 1985 when she first wrote about them. They became a holiday staple in our family, and the framed recipe (complete with story about her Maine friend who made them every day to accompany her 5:30 vodka martini) hangs in my kitchen. Lucky you winning the dinner!!

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