It is starting to warm up here. I had the AC unit in the living room window removed for some restoration of the old double hung panes, and haven’t put it back yet. It isn’t too hot to go without it, but I only mention this because it caused me to make a pot roast the morning of a dinner party. I highly recommend this, in part to keep your house cool in the afternoon, but mostly because you get to smell the pot roast all day long. Especially if it is Italian pot roast made with lots of red wine and porcini mushrooms.

I love a good dinner party, with guests that arrive at dusk on bikes with bells ringing through the screen door, toting bottles of Pinot Noir. And husband’s who do all the vacuuming beforehand while I get to cook my favorite special foods. Here was our luxe menu:

Pesto Brie Canapes

Curly Endive Salad (with warm bacon dressing)

Sauteed Maroon Carrots with Fresh Dill

Stracotto with Porcini Mushrooms (pot roast)

Spring Forward Strawberry Tart

Pesto Brie Canapes

Curly Endive (Chicory) Salad with Bacon Dressing

Maroon Carrots about to be cooked


Cooked onions, garlic, red wine, broth, porcini mushrooms about to made into a very rich sauce

Strawberry Tart

We made the Stracotto with a grass-fed rump roast instead of chuck, so it was much leaner, but still came out fork tender. Follow the link above– the recipe is so simple, and so much more flavorful than a typical American pot roast. I carved the meat after it rested, and puree the sauce. Then I put it in the fridge until about 30 minutes before dinner. I reheated it all together on very low heat on the stove, with the fresh rosemary.

Meanwhile I melted some butter and sautéed some beautiful Texas maroon carrots. I love how these carrots are sort of giant ugly dusty purple carrots with big hairy roots–

until you peel and slice them and they turn into works of art. Add the chopped fresh dill at the end with salt and pepper.

Here is a recipe for an hors d’oeuvre I learned to make by the hundreds during my stint as a catering cook. The technique we used is different from the recipe it is sourced from. Every time I have made this people come asking for the recipe, and offer to help assist making them as fast as possible. Sometimes the demand for these little appetizers has jeopardized the cooking of the main course. Can you see why?

careful– the canapes burn easily

You can make the pesto in advance, but you have to broil or toast them in a toaster oven as you serve them. This is not a traditional pesto, but a chunky pine nut and sun-dried tomato spread that will stay in place on top of the brie.

sundried tomato pesto

The sharp tang of the garlic, herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes contrasts with the creamy buttery brie and crunch of the baguette, and sends your taste buds reeling with excitement. Highly addictive.

Pesto Brie Canapes

adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 cup pine nuts, chopped roughly

8 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

2 small garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

1/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup minced flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1 pound ripe brie, at room temperature

1 good crusty baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/4 inch slices

It is best to chop everything by hand and then combine everything (except the brie and bread). I have done this recipe by combining it all in a food processor (only mincing the garlic by hand) and pulsing. It works, but it will be more fine of a mixture, and not as rustic. Once you have made the pesto, set it aside. Cream the brie and its rind in a bowl, either with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. You want to break up the bits of rind and blend it until it is very soft and easy to spread. Smear each piece of bread with brie, and then top it with a rounded teaspoon of the pesto– packing it down to stabilize it with the back of the spoon. Broil for 2 minutes until golden brown.