from the kitchen: September Summer Menu

As summer here in wine country comes to a close, we hope you will enjoy this last Summer Menu of the season from our Summer Menu series! This menu includes recipes for Sweet Corn Cakes, Pan-Seared Trout with Lemon Butter Sauce & Haricots Verts, and a Lavender Crème Brûlée for dessert. There's no better time than now to get together and celebrate the season one last time, as we bid summer goodbye and move into the beautiful autumn season!

Bite: Sweet Corn Cakes

This dish can be served as a starter, a small bite, or as a side to the entrée. These corn cakes have great flavor with a crisp exterior and are even tastier with marinated cherry tomatoes. The abundance of summer vegetables this time of year allows for a variety of sauces and dips that will enhance the corn cakes!

Serves 6


For the tomatoes:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 tablespoon chopped chives

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

For the corn cakes:

3 cups corn kernels (from 6 medium ears)

2 tablespoons diced red onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 1/2 cups panko

To prepare the tomatoes:

In a bowl mix the tomatoes, chives, olive oil, and vinegar together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside. (The tomatoes can be made 1 day ahead.)

To prepare the corn cakes:

In a food processor, purée 2 cups of corn. In a large bowl, combine the corn purée, the remaining corn kernels, onion, parsley, crème fraîche, eggs, baking powder, brown sugar, smoked paprika, cornmeal, and lime juice. Mix well. Add enough panko until the mixture is moist but not sticky. Form the mixture into 12 cakes and coat the outside of each cake with panko.

Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and fill it with 1/4-inch of canola oil. Heat the oil until bubbly (about 375°F). Pan-fry the corn cakes in batches until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Flip the cakes over and repeat. (Be careful when frying the cakes; the corn kernels may pop when heated.)

To serve:

Place the corn cakes on a large platter and spread a spoonful of the tomatoes over the top of each cake.

Meal: Pan-Seared Trout with Lemon Butter Sauce & Haricots Verts

Trout is a simple fish to prepare and works nicely with a wide variety of flavors. This dish is very similar to the traditional "Trout Meuniere." Meuniere sauce is a variation on brown butter sauce with the additions of parsley and lemon.

Serves 6


1/2 pound haricots verts, stemmed and blanched

For the trout:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

6 trout (10 ounces each), bone out, cleaned (heads left on or off)

1/3 cup blended oil

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons lemon segments, (from about 4 lemons)

3 tablespoons capers, drained

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (see below)

2 heads frisée, washed and green leaves removed

1 cup fresh pickled fine herbs (such as tarragon, parsley, chives, and chervil)

Salt and white pepper to taste

For the Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped Meyer lemon zest

1/2 medium red onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the trout:

Season the flour well with salt and pepper and spread it over a flat dish. Place the trout in the flour and coat thoroughly. Remove the trout from the flour and shake off any excess.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the trout one or two at a time. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side, basting with oil to keep the trout moist. Remove the trout to a platter and place it in a warm oven (200°F) until all of the trout are sautéed.

To prepare the vinaigrette:

Combine lemon juice, zest, onion, and parsley in bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The vinaigrette will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Whisk before using.

To prepare the salad:

Heat the vinaigrette and haricots verts in a medium sautée pan over medium low heat until warm. Remove from the heat, toss with the frisée and herbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

To finish:

Pour off the fat from the trout pan and return the pan to the heat. Melt the butter and cook until it turns hazelnut brown in color without burning. Add the lemon juice and season lightly with salt. Add the lemon segments, capers, and parsley to the pan.

To serve:

Place one trout on each plate and pour the lemon butter over the fish. Divide the salad among the plates and serve.

Dessert: Lavender Crème Brûlée

The lavender used in this recipe is the key to success. Make sure to use culinary lavender and try to get a sense of the intensity. The stronger the scent, the shorter the steep time should be. There is a very delicate line between making a blissful Lavender Crème Brûlée and what tastes like a decadent bath lotion.

Serves 6



2 1/4 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup whole milk

3 to 4 sprigs fresh lavender or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender, plus additional for garnish

8 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar plus about 4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons wildflower honey

To make:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and add the lavender. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Let the lavender steep for about 15 minutes or until the milk has a lavender flavor. (For a stronger flavor, allow the lavender to steep longer.) Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and honey until smooth. Whisk it into the lavender-cream mixture. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and skim off any foam. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins or brûlée dishes. Set the ramekins in a baking pan and add enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until set. (The custards are done when they stop jiggling.) Remove the baking pan from the oven and allow the ramekins to cool in the water bath for 5 minutes. Refrigerate, covered, for at least three hours or overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle the tops of the ramekins with a few teaspoons of sugar and carmelize with a small torch or under a broiler set on high. Garnish each crème brûlée with a lavender blossom.

For more summer recipes & dinner menu inspirations for every season, grab yourself a copy of Sondra Bernstein's Plats du Jour cookbook, here.

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