Malibu Way of Life

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    Ladies Who Lunch

    By Jody Stump

    Twenty years ago, a group of young mothers dropped their children at school, gave each other a casual wave and drove off every morning at eight. Six hours later, they lined up outside the walls of Corpus Christi and waited for their children to emerge. Like commuters everywhere, they were cordial but cool as each focused on the business of being Mom.

    One day, three of the women began to talk as they waited. They discovered they shared a passion beyond motherhood-the Fellowship of the Range. Whether a Viking, Thermador or “this old stove,” each woman could weave romantic tales of dishes conjured on her stove. Soon, they began to share recipes, then meals, and finally they committed to a monthly bond. The Gourmet Club was born.

    Today, the club is restricted to 24 women who agree to meet eight months of the year and prepare full-service, sit-down lunches. For each month of the eight gatherings, three women shop, chop, clean and serve five-course meals for the others. Last month, I had the privilege of being a guest.

    When was the last time you prepared dinner for even a dozen-start to finish, flowers to condiments- without phoning for help? I myself ask a housekeeper to help serve and wash up, and even call the florist for centerpieces, but club members eschew assistance for their events. After all, each member has just one day a year to primp and polish. In many ways, they see it as a small thing to give each other just one perfect meal a year, but in the larger measure of their busy lives, how precious to give and receive the tokens of hospitality.

    Our hostess was Linda Hool from Malibu Road. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Linda brought out colorful hand-painted china from Guadalajara, an array of crystal glasses and gleaming silver. Festivities began with sangria, mole appetizers and a mild, melted cheese dip and moved on to a noodle dish wholly new to me: sopa seca de fideo, a sort of vegetable risotto made from thin, dry noodles fried and then simmered with broth and cheese. Our entre was sea bass swimming in a sea of cilantro-cream sauce and the crowning achievement was warm caramel crepes made with goat milk dulce de leche. Impressive.

    We can replicate the meal-the fish and melted cheese are easy enough for family dinners. But the tradition of white-glove service is dying out in our culture ,and most of us rarely take the time to be really gracious hosts in this time-honored manner. Perhaps if we take just one day a year to preserve a bit of the past, our children’s future will be happier for it.

    PESCADO ROBALO-Fish in Green Sauce

    Serves 8

    (Compliments of the May Team: Linda Hool, Pat Collins and Carol Leacock)

    1 whole sea bass or salmon (about 4 1/2 pounds)

    1/4 cup fresh lime juice

    1 tsp. ground cumin

    Salt and pepper

    3 pounds tomatillos or small green tomatoes

    3 – 4 jalapeno peppers (seeded for less heat, if you choose)

    3 onions, chopped

    20 scallions, chopped

    2 cups chopped parsley

    1 cup chopped cilantro

    1/3 cup vegetable oil

    1/2 cup olive oil

    14 cloves garlic, peeled

    2 Tbsp. crema Mexicana*

    2 bunches cilantro

    * Available at Ralph’s and Gelson’s

    1. Cut 1/2 inch slices across both sides of the fish at a 45-degree angle. Place fish in a shallow baking dish. Combine juice, cumin, salt and pepper and pour over the fish. Marinate for an hour.

    2. Puree the next six ingredients in a blender or food processor. Heat the oils in a saucepan and fry the garlic until brown. Discard garlic. Add puree to the pan and simmer until thick-30 minutes. Stir in the crema, cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the fish.

    3. Bake at 400 degrees until the fish flakes-about 45 minutes.

    Serving: Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs. Serve with rice or freshly made flour tortillas.

    BAKED CHEESE APPETIZER

    2 – 3 Queso Panela (Ranchero)

    Dried oregano

    Olive oil

    1. Place the cheese in an ovenproof dish and prick all over with a fork. Sprinkle with oregano and oil. Marinate overnight.

    2. Bake at 325 degrees until brown and bubbly-about 20 minutes.

    Serving: Serve hot with chips or crudits.