Lake Minnetonka Foodies Create Meals Together

A group of amateurs cook like professionals in their Lake Minnetonka homes.

They might be your neighbors, your co-workers or even your friends. For decades, a fluid group of friends and foodies has been meeting in various kitchens around Lake Minnetonka. By day, each of them lives and works as something other than a chef. But for one night every other month, they like to come together to prepare a gourmet, multi-course meal. Only one of the group’s members has actually worked as a professional chef—Laura Trantham spent a summer working as a personal chef at Paisley Park studios—but all of them share a passion for good food and a talent for cooking.Local painter and vice-chair of Shorewood parks commission Bob Edmondson is the unofficial leader of the foodie pack. Edmondson has been gathering with fellow amateur cooks since the late 1970s, although the participants have changed—and continue to change—over the years. Most people join the informal cooking cohort after meeting a current member or hearing about it from a friend of a friend. But no matter who is part of the group, the focus remains on collaboration and creativity.“We are very inventive people,” Edmondson says. The cooks often take standard recipes or menus and create new flavors. “A can of soup is nothing to me,” he says, admitting that he modifies almost any canned item he buys from a grocery store. “I cook with a lot of spices and a lot of heat.”Prior to each session, the friends set a theme and then dole out menus items based on individual strengths. Edmondson is known for his grilling, as he likes to use exotic woods with barbecuing, but he admits that baking is not his strong suit. The group also pairs drinks with each course. “All of us are very astute in wines and cordials,” he says.Recently, the cooks have placed a focus on healthy eating. They’ve made it a priority to buy organic, local produce at farmers markets and they have a greater awareness of gluten and other food allergies. For Edmondson, this boils down to paying attention to both ingredients and the people who will enjoy the food. “We try to be open to ideas. We try to grow in that way, too,” he says. “But we try to make [meals] as tasty as possible.”“Food and drink, in moderation, are one of life’s best gifts,” Edmondson adds.Most of the ingredients used for the following recipes were purchased locally at Lakewinds and the Excelsior Farmers Market.  Lemon Basil Gimlet by Janet Hines Yield: 4 servings   10 ounces of vodka Juice of one lemon or ¼ cup pure lemon juice 4 Tbsp. simple syrup infused with basil (recipe below) Fresh basil or lemon as a garnish Prepare syrup at least 30 minutes in advance. In a small saucepan, heat equal amounts of sugar (½ cup), water (½ cup) and clean, fresh basil leaves (6 to 8) over medium heat, stirring constantly. When sugar dissolves and syrup turns clear, remove from heat. Allow basil leaves to steep in syrup for 20 to 25 minutes as the syrup cools. Once cooled, strain leaves from syrup and discard. Syrup may now be stored or served.Mix in shaker the vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup. Serve in a cocktail or martini glass over ice, with a fresh basil or lemon garnish. Optional: for additional basil flavor, add 3 drops of basil-infused olive oil on top of the cocktail. This will add an interesting look as the drops will float on the surface.  Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette by Laura Trantham Yield: 6 to 8 small salads For salad: 8 cups arugula, either boxed, bagged or from the farmer’s market, long “stems” removed Choose other salad ingredients depending on the rest of the meal, like halved grape tomatoes 1 cubed Haas avocado, or ½ of a red pepper, minced. ¼ cup toasted pine nuts Extra shaved Parmesan Reggiano   For dressing: 6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice 4 garlic cloves minced or may use garlic paste accordingly 1 tsp. dried oregano ½ cup olive oil ½ tsp. dry mustard or 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (either works) 4 Tbsp. Parmesan Reggiano, grated Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste Whisk lemon juice, minced garlic and mustard together. Using a hand blender, gradually add olive oil to emulsify the dressing. Add the grated cheese. Add ¾ tsp. sea salt, and pepper to taste. Let the dressing sit overnight for stronger flavor and come to room temperature before serving. (Note from Laura: This is a double recipe. I like having it on hand to use for multiple salads. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week and works well on sliced heirloom tomatoes, other baby greens or a pasta salad.) Put desired amount of the vinaigrette on the greens and toss just before serving.Place a handful of greens on each salad plate and top with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and a few pieces of shaved Parmesan.  Creamy Cucumber Basil Gazpacho by Barb Vernes Yield: 8 servings 1 avocado, pitted 1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves (about a ½ cup if you lightly pack the cup) 2 cloves garlic, chopped 3 chopped scallions (green and white) 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth Juice of 2 lemons ¼ cup Greek yogurt (plain) Sea salt to taste (about ½ tsp.) White pepper to taste (about 1/8 tsp.) Put all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Depending on the size of the avocado and cucumber, more liquid may need to be added to arrive at approximately 8 servings (1/2 cup each).  Double Tomato Bruschetta by Janet Hines Yield: 6 to 8 servings   6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped and seeded ½ cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil 3 cloves minced garlic ¼ cup olive oil 2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar 1/3 cup fresh basil, stems removed and chopped ¼ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. ground black pepper 1 French baguette Fresh mozzarella cheese (thinly sliced) Shredded Parmesan cheese Directions 1. Preheat the oven to broiler setting. 2. In a large bowl, combine Roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes minimum. It can sit overnight—the longer it marinates, the more the flavors come together. 3. Cut the baguette into ¾-inch slices. On a baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Brush baguette slices with olive oil. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly brown. 4. Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the baguette slices. Top the slices with cubed mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. 5. Broil for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.   Riso di Caruso by Dulce Caruso-Emerson Yield: 8 servings 2 cups brown rice 5 cups chicken stock 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp. white truffle oil 4 tsp. Italian or Mediterranean seasoning blend ¼ tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. pepper Cook in a rice cooker or on the stovetop.While rice is cooking:Spray a large sauté pan with olive oil and place on medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 onion (diced) and 6 cloves of garlic (pressed through a garlic press) for the sauté mixture. Add a dash of salt and pepper and cook until the onion and garlic show some golden brown color (do not burn the garlic as it will get bitter). Next, add 4 tsp. of the Italian or Mediterranean seasoning blend, 4 cups baby portabella mushrooms (sliced and sautéed for a few minutes prior) and 1 cup white wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or your favorite that is also drinkable). Cover and let simmer for a few minutes.Now add 1 cup fennel root (about ½ root, cleaned and chopped/diced) and cook uncovered until the liquid has reduced by ¾ to ½, with about ¼ cup liquid remaining in the pan. Remove from heat.Before blending the sauté mixture with the rice, add 2 tsp. white truffle oil.Lastly, gently stir the sauté mixture and rice together with 3 big handfuls of baby spinach, 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, ½ cup fresh tarragon leaf (chopped) and ½ cup toasted pine nuts. The spinach will wilt, the cheese will melt and everything will come together nicely. Add some fresh ground pepper to taste and a little shredded Parmesan to the top as a garnish. Serve immediately.Note: if chicken stock is not available, it can be replaced with 5 cups water mixed with powdered low sodium chicken broth.    Bob’s Mediterranean Dream Kabobs by Bob Edmondson Yield: 8 servings Main Ingredients: 2 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into 1½-inch cubes 2 red onions, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces 1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces (discard seed pod) 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces (discard seed pod) 2 yellow zucchini, cut into ½-inch wide sections 8 Clementines or small seedless tangerines, peeled and cut in half  Marinade ingredients:¼ cup of soy sauce ¼ cup any red wine Juice from 8 more seedless Clementines or small tangerines 1 Tbsp. of coarsely ground black pepper 3 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, de-stemmed and finely minced 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced   Vegetable/fruit seasoning: 1 tsp. sea salt 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp. sugar 1 tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper 2 tbsp. unused marinade Preparation:1. Soak long wooden kabob skewers in water for 1 hour until ready to use, or use metal ones. 2. Mix all marinade ingredients with pork cubes and place in covered bowl. Let marinate for 2 to 24 hours in the fridge. Put 2 Tbsp. aside for veggies/fruits and discard the meat marinade after use. 3. Mix all veggies/fruit in separate bowl with seasoning. Cover and let sit for 2 hours. Assembly:Place meat and veggies/fruit on wooden or metal kebob skewers. Always start with meat, and then alternate peppers, onions, meat, and so on. Place two Clementine halves on the kebobs as well, and end with meat. Cooking:1. Preheat gas grill to medium, or cook over wood grill with your favorite wood. I love to use grapevine wood. 2. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill skewers for 10 minutes, turning as needed, or until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender.     Grilled Peaches and Raspberry Parfait by Laura Trantham Yield: 6 to 8 servings 4 medium ripe peaches, washed, halved and pitted 2 pints fresh raspberries, washed 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed 1 Tbsp. sugar 3 Tbsp. Chambord (raspberry) 2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier ¼ tsp. cardamom for berries and 1⁄4 tsp. for toasted pecans or almonds ¼ tsp. ground ginger ½ tsp. plus 1 Tbsp. cinnamon sugar mix 1 pint of your favorite vanilla gelato, ice cream or frozen yogurt softened Approximately 8 to 10 crushed/crumbled coconut cookies (if you don’t care for coconut, use a buttery nutty biscotti or pecan cookie) 1 cup toasted sliced almonds or pecans, depending on cookie choice Sprinkle of cinnamon sugar for peaches before grilling Sliced fresh mint for garnish, optional (but adds a bright flavor and added color) After halving and pitting the peaches, sprinkle each cut side with cinnamon sugar. Let rest until moisture is noticed. Sprinkle again with cinnamon sugar. Heat grill to medium high. Clean and oil grill. Place peaches cut side down and grill for 3-4 minutes. (Peaches should be a bit tender but able to hold their shape and have grill marks.) Let peaches rest cut side up on plate to cool. Cover when cool. I prefer them at room temperature on the hot summer nights, but they may be used while still warm.Mash half a pint of raspberries with the back of fork in a glass bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. of sugar, 1⁄4 tsp. of cardamom, ground ginger, 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon sugar and mix. Combine 3 Tbsp. Chambord and 2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier to make a sauce to coat berries and mix in.  Add blueberries and gently fold in remaining raspberries. Put mixture in refrigerator until ready to assemble, up to 2 hours ahead of time.Crush cookies or biscotti with hands and put in a separate bowl or sealed container. They should be bite size.Spray a skillet with non-stick oil and heat to medium. Add the nuts to the pan and sprinkle 1 Tbsp. of cinnamon sugar over nuts with 1⁄4 tsp. cardamom. Mix the nuts in the pan with the sugar and turn the heat to low. Watch carefully and stir the mixture often so it does not burn – this will take a few minutes. The nuts are ready when some of the sugar has caramelized and adhered to the nuts. Let the mixture cool in the pan and break up the nuts that have stuck together. The nuts may be made a day ahead and covered until ready to use. I make the full cup, although you won’t use all for the parfait, because they are great on salads or as just a sweet treat to eat.Assembly: When ready to serve, place the ingredients in this order in the bottom of individual glass serving dishes: 2 Tbsp. of raspberries, crumbled cookies, one peach half, and a small scoop of the softened gelato. Divide the remainder of the berry mixture in each dish and sprinkle with the toasted pecans/almonds. Add the sliced mint leaves as a garnish on top.  Wine Pairings by Steve Cluff, general manager of Team Liquor, Shorewood Gazpacho, bruchetta and salad course: Pine Ridge 2012 Chenin Blanc and Voigner Grilled pork tenderloin kabobs and Riso di Caruso: La Crema 2011 Pinot Noir Grilled Peach and Raspberry Parfait: LaMarca Proseco Sparkling wine from Italy with an optional splash of Chambord and a raspberry to makes it pretty.