Schools Out...Still Cooking!!!

Enjoying the feast!!

From my previous blog’s you may know that I really enjoy preparing dinner for my friends. Whether it’s Halloween, a movie night, celebrating Julia Child’s birthday or just because I love the idea of sitting down with my friends to a home cooked meal. This time however, I decided to switch things up a little. Not only would my friends come over and enjoy the dinner but they would come and cook it as well, and I’m talking completely from scratch. I decided to have an end of the year/ JeremyCooks dinner (since the one year anniversary of JC.com is coming up). The meal was inspired by summer, full of fresh flavors and the vibrant color. The menu was as follows:

Cherry heirloom tomato focaccia,
Watermelon, feta, and mint salad,
Spring Risotto
French vanilla ice cream sandwiches

    I sent a text inviting my 12 closest friends and I also asked who would be willing to cook with me (out of those who I’ve never cooked with before). The first 2 to respond were my friends Harris Fishman and Laura Costa. Harris is a bit of a foodie himself and Laura is a vegetarian. On the day before, I had to make the ice cream since it takes 24 hours to chill before you churn it. I made French vanilla cream, which is different from regular vanilla ice cream because it is made like custard with eggs and a vanilla bean (but I used vanilla extract). My first attempt at the ice cream failed since my eggs curdled (or in other words turned into lumps). I drove back to the grocery store and remade the custard, succeeding on the second try.

 French Vanilla Cream ready to become Ice Cream

Churning the Ice Cream

I also made the focaccia the morning of the dinner just to save time. Unfortunately, I ran out of parchment paper and decided to put wax paper under one of the loaves of bread when it was baking and the two fused together, I was not going to serve wax paper focaccia. I had to make a second loaf later on.

 Focaccia with roasted cherry tomatoes

When Harris and Laura arrived at my house at 12:00 we immediately took off to Whole Foods Market since the dinner had to be completed by 5:30. Once in Whole Foods we first shopped for our produce, we got watermelon, leeks, fennel, asparagus, and lemons. Then we split up and looked for chocolate chips, yeast, aborio rice and other ingredients.

 Harris, Laura, Matt (he shot the video) and Jeremy at Whole Foods

Shopping for Cheese

Success!!! Jeremy and Harris find the Arborio Rice

Back at the house we started making the chocolate cookies for the ice cream sandwiches. After Harris “exploded” cocoa powder all over the sink, he toasted coconut to roll our sandwiches in. Laura took control of creaming and beating, it seems as if Laura enjoys baking. In the meantime I started to remake the second loaf of focaccia, which required at least 2 hours to proof (rise and double in size)!

Harris cutting out the cookies for the Ice Cream Sandwiches

Laura's turn with a little help from Jeremy

Next we prepared the mise en place (getting all the ingredients ready) for our Spring Risotto we weren’t going to cook it just yet as it was a last minute dish. It consisted of chopped leeks and fennel, chives, lemon juice and zest, blanched asparagus, peas, white wine and Parmesan. I showed Laura and Harris how to cut and chop the produce, and if I taught them anything I hope knife skills would be one they remember.

Prepping the Risotto

Next up, preparing the salad. Believe it or not it was my first time cutting open a watermelon. For some reason I thought it would be a lot harder but to my surprise it was quite easy (I blame TV for making it look difficult). Both friends scooped out balls of watermelon, then they shredded some mint and tossed in some feta cheese. I happened to have some balsamic reduction on hand so I kept it on the side for everyone to try.

Laura trying to stay ahead of the mess!!!

It was the final hour before our friends would start arriving. We began to sauté the leeks and fennel in butter and olive oil, slowly walking Harris and Laura through each step. Now risotto requires frequent stirring because you must be careful not to let the rice stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Risotto also requires a lot of boiling stock (we used vegetable stock) so the rice can absorb the liquid and cook. As the hour went on the risotto doubled in size almost overflowing out of my Dutch Oven (did I mention I had to quadruple the recipe). Soon risotto was everywhere and all we could do was laugh!

Harris stirring the Risotto

Laura, Jeremy and Harris with the completed Risotto

The guests began to arrive and we finished just in time. Laura and Harris presented each dish and what it consisted of. Everyone seemed to enjoy their dish and they even added the balsamic reduction not only to their salad but to his or her bread as well. Not everyone was a fan of the peas in the risotto (go figure) so they decided to push them out of the way and create pea sculptures it was really funny. We all cleaned up and listened to Harris and Matt play the ukulele. Afterwards, we had dessert and everyone ate slowly, savoring each bite, until there was nothing left. In the end it was an awesome time and everyone enjoyed each other’s company.

The Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches went fast.

Now its your turn to have a an end of the year dinner and cook with your friends as well. Invite as many people you would like and create your own menu (it doesn’t have to be fancy). I’ll even help you pick out some recipes if you want, just contact me through the contact page with any questions you may have. Have a rockin’ summer everyone and Keep on Cooking!!! 

It was a good fight but the mess won!!


  1. love the pics of shopping, chopping and stove hopping!

    see you soon!



  2. Hi Jeremy!!
    What a great adventure! I am so impressed. Risotto is a favorite. I hope I get to see you while you are in NC.