Will Cook for Art—Beth’s Ultimate Dinner

My friend Beth is an artist. I am a cook and food writer. I can’t afford art. At her last open studio event, I was admiring this piece portraying East Oakland. She suggested I cook her an “ultimate dinner” in trade for the piece. I gladly accepted.

The deed went down a few weeks ago and it was a blast. I love cooking for people who love to eat unabashedly and are happy to entrust the menu to me.

I’d been wanting to cook from Jessica Theroux’s lovely new book Cooking with Italian Grandmothers And since Beth has one Italian grandmother on her mother’s side, I thought she’d appreciate it.

I built the whole thing around the semolina gnocchi. I’m a sucker for savory, cheesy carbs and the photo drew me right in. I wanted something stewy and wintery to go with so I made the stewed pork with juniper berries and porcini mushrooms from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials. Since an ultimate dinner needs multiple courses, we had a simple garlic soup with a poached egg that Haven gave me the recipe for. Couldn’t be easier. Just sauté tons and tons of sliced garlic in olive oil, add some good homemade chicken broth (it’s got to be homemade in a simple soup like this) Poach the eggs right in the broth and serve with croutons fried in olive oil. For dessert I made the panna cotta from Cooking with Italian Grandmothers.

Here’s the entire menu:

Albacore tuna canapés with olives

Garlic soup with poached egg

Stewed pork with juniper berries and porcinis

Semolina gnocchi

Sautéed kale

Fennel and blood orange salad

Panna cotta with plum sauce and blood oranges

stirring the semolina batter

semolina cooked

semolina molded

Semolina gnocchi ready to serve

Garlic soup with egg and fried croutons

Stewed pork

Softened sheet gelatin ready to go into panna cotta

Cooling the panna cotta in an ice bath

Panna cotta ready to serve

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  1. Nimmi
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could eat unabashedly. Unfortunately doing so for many years rendered my knees and arches almost worthless and now I must restrain… That being said, I would gladly frame and give to you any of my photos for another delicious SE Asian inspired meal. Especially that yellow potato curry!

  2. Posted February 28, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Umm, I can’t draw, but I have lots of fresh eggs to trade!

  3. sharon miro
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Vanessa, I have made that pork stew for years–a winter staple at my house, and a guaranteed hit! Years ago, bought a ceramic pig serving dish just for it. Glad to see that someone else likes it too!

    • Posted March 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Sharon, don’t know how I never made that pork before. I’ve been cooking from that book for years. It’s incredible. Do you serve it with polenta? I was tempted but had to try that gnocchi.

  4. Judy Lee
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi Vanessa! My name is Judy Lee and I am a Casting Associate for a new docu-series called “Untitled Eating for Free Project”. I found your DIY blog site while looking for avid barterers and it looks fantastic as does all the photographs of your delicious food! Would you be interested in speaking with me? We’d love to reach those in your audience who love finding free food in creative ways. Groups such as yours have been extremely helpful in the past. It’s a great chance to show the community that the big players do care. We are casting nationwide and would LOVE to get in contact with people and see their different techniques on eating for free. Below is our written verbiage about our casting call. Please let us know what you think!


    Judy Lee
    Casting Associate
    Eating for Free Project

    All-new Docu-Reality Series Seeking
    People who eat for FREE!

    Do you get a thrill out of spending little to no money on food?
    Do you dedicate your life to scoring meals in clever ways?

    Have you perfected the art of dumpster diving, coupon clipping to an obsessive degree, or bartering your way to a full stomach?

    Do you crash events, meetings and open houses
    just for the free feast?

    This all-new series for a major cable network will explore the lives of people who have mastered the art of eating for free. We will follow individuals who dedicate their lives to acquiring food in crafty ways and revel in the thrill of their success.

    If you are a resourceful renegade who has forged a way of living that enables you to eat practically for free, whatever your reason/strategy may be,
    We want to meet you!

    To be considered, please send us your name and contact info, along with a brief bio explaining your specific situation and approach to eating for free. Make sure to include a recent photo of yourself and send email to: castingcookie@gmail.com

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] butter over grits, and sautéed green beans with shallots and toasted walnuts, and for dessert: panna cotta with Ellen’s canned, honeyed [...]

  2. [...] green beans with shallots and toasted walnuts, and for dessert: panna cotta with Ellen’s canned, honeyed [...]

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