A Birthday Dinner at the Tree House

We have the best of both worlds up in the Santa Cruz Mountains: Ten minutes from the ocean, yet surrounded by beautiful, stately redwood trees. My cousin Nikita turned 21 on August 11th, so we had a family birthday dinner at my parent’s place; aptly named “The Tree House.” These are some of the highlights.

Ginger Martinis

  • First, make a ginger syrup: Put 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water, and 1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Strain the mixture, add a little lime (or lemon) juice to taste and then chill.
  • For each drink, use a jigger of gin and the same amount of ginger syrup, and some more lime juice.
  • Shake with ice and pour into glasses. Top off with some ginger beer (or ginger ale).
  • Drop a piece of crystallized ginger into the bottom of each class. Kanpai!

Marinated Shrimp Skewers

olive oil
a few cloves of chopped garlic
a few sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary
a dash or two of Tabasco sauce
a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left intact
special equipment: skewers (if using bamboo skewers, soak in water before grilling)

  • Combine all ingredients (except shrimp) in a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup (adjust ingredients depending on amount of shrimp). Microwave until bubbly, about a minute. Assemble shrimp skewers and pour marinade over them. Grill.

Polenta with Gorgonzola & Mascarpone Cheese

  • Prepare the polenta according to package instructions, stirring until it thickens.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine equal parts Gorgonzola and Mascarpone cheese. Microwave until they’re soft enough to combine.
  • When polenta has thickened, spoon onto plates and top with a dollop of cheese mixture.

Peach, Fresh Mozzarella & Mint Salad

  • On each serving plate put a few slices of fresh Mozzarella, a few mint leaves, and a few slices of peach.
  • Lightly dress with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a sprinkle of cumin.

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