This post first appeared on USA Today Happy Ever After Blog on August 11th. Click here to see the original post.
Raine, the mouthwatering hero of LG O’Connor’s Caught Up in Raine, stops in to share another mouthwatering recipe from heroine Jillian’s kitchen. The next installment of the Caught Up in Raine collection, Caught Up in Rachel, arrived on Aug. 30th.
Raine: How’s it going? Thanks for stopping by. I’ve got something special for you this month: Raine’s Roost is on the road. Yup, you heard that right. Coming to you from one of the most amazing places on the planet — the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, Calif. This month is farm-to-table all the way.
Jillian had a business trip out this way, so we decided to visit one of Jillian’s good friends and her husband and make a little vacation out of it. With this month’s recipe, you’ll get an added benefit — some extra pictures of my foodie tour through town and where we stayed. Thanks in advance for the indulgence and letting me share. As always, I want to voice my appreciation for taking this month’s ride with the Roost, and if you’ve missed any of my prior monthly recipe posts, you can cruise through them all here.
If you read last month’s post, then you’ll remember that Brigitte and Richard visited Jillian and I down in Spring Lake, and that Richard is a wine merchant. Having been a bartender on and off for the three years before I’d met Jillian, my choices used to gravitate between mixed drinks and beer. Since then, I’ve grown an appreciation for wine, especially after a few lessons from Richard in wine tasting. Anyway, when Jillian mentioned a writer’s conference in San Francisco and suggested a few days to visit friends in Healdsburg, I jumped at the chance. Turns out her friend Anneke’s husband, Jack, likes to cook as much as I do … and the man has his own outdoor pizza oven. Like, how sick good is that?
First of all, if you’ve never been to the town of Healdsburg, run, don’t walk. Our hosts were throwing a dinner party Saturday night, so of course I offered to prepare one of my favorites: watermelon and yellow tomato salad with mint and lime/honey vinaigrette. It’s easy and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. So, our first stop that morning was the farmer’s market. Holy crap! If we had one this great in New Jersey, I’d freaking live there. I got teary-eyed just looking at all the produce.
After loading up like a pack mule with our haul, I made a stop by the car to unload, and we all headed to brunch at Shed. After my rhapsody with the farmer’s market, I didn’t think it could get much better. Wrong. Effing hell. I felt like I died and went to foodie heaven. Just walking in the door practically got me as excited as seeing Jillian naked. Sorry if that’s TMI, but for someone like me who loves food, you need to understand what I’m talkin’ about. Just saying. It’s a combo café, restaurant, food store. Some pics for you:
My lunch — Spanish white anchovies with Meyer lemon Aioli and radish. Unbelievable.
We stopped at the Plaza Gourmet kitchen store before leaving town to go back up the mountain. I bought so much stuff I had to get it shipped home. So, again, if you read last month’s post, you know that Jillian’s on a quest to build a collection of my kitchen’s mascot. But I had to laugh with appreciation when I saw this cookbook. One picture from Jillian, and one from me:
Guess whose is whose? LOL.
Another thing before I dive in. This recipe morphed on the spot the moment I cut open the watermelon and saw that it was … yellow. And it had seeds. Yeah. Not what I expected. This is meant to be a red watermelon recipe, but what the hell. It turned out to be sweet and delicious, and didn’t stop anyone from devouring it. And, if I’m allowed to say so, it was effing fantastic. OK, enough digression, time to get down to business …
Yellow watermelon & tomato salad with lime & honey vinaigrette
1 small-medium watermelon
6-8 small-medium heirloom tomatoes (if you have red watermelon, they should be yellow tomatoes, but I picked up a variety which saved my ass from an entire palette of yellow on the plate)
Ricotta Salada cheese (this is a very firm white cheese)
1 Tablespoon of honey
1 pinch of cheyenne pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Cut watermelon in thin slices and arrange on a plate
Cut washed tomatoes in small wedges, and place on top of watermelon
Shave the ricotta salada cheese over the watermelon & tomatoes
In a small bowl, add the juice of one lime, honey, olive oil, and cheyenne pepper. Whisk together until smooth and consistent.
Drizzle over watermelon and tomatoes
Garnish with mint leaves (we got these fresh from Jack’s garden)
Makes enough for eight.
The plate was clean by the time dessert was served. Enjoy!
We had dinner on the patio overlooking the pool and the mountains.
Jack made a ton of pizzas in the oven, served with the watermelon salad, a carrot salad and a simple green salad — all compliments of his garden or our trip to the farmer’s market. The nights get cool here, so we eventually went inside for tea and coffee.
After everyone left, we ended the night in the hot tub. Now that’s what I call “living your best life.” Jillian agrees.
What’s your favorite summer recipe? Drop me a line @Raine’s_Roost if you want to share … maybe I’ll try it out for one of my upcoming posts. Also, in case you’re interested, you can get the last installment in my story with Jillian, Caught Up in Rachel. It comes out Aug. 30.
Stay cool, and enjoy the rest of your summer. Peace.