Fine Food of Cherished Memories

“Would you like fries with that order?” is a question you’ll never hear at Connie Lindberg’s dinner table. This presumes a comfortable awareness of the many layered charms of the family dinner. Preparation of the dishes links the generations in a shared effort at the table, while best of manners, candid conversation and gentle laughter serve as the backdrop as platters and dishes make their way around the table. Memories are made of this.

“There’s a food tradition going on here!” Connie exclaims as she raves about the Swedish pancakes her husband, Carl, prepares, the raspberry torte her son, Sam, bakes, and the German specialties her daughter, Lindsay, cooks. Sunday family dinners are an especially sacred occasion for the Lindberg family. “It’s something I’ve always insisted on,” Connie emphasizes. This is a family tradition that she traces back to her own childhood. Her mother and grandmother loved to cook, which certainly fueled her passion for cooking. Her grandmother, born in Hamburg, Germany, introduced her to Julia Child, whom Connie personally cooked for on several occasions. “Julia was most straightforward, always gracious and very generous of spirit,” Connie enthuses.

After receiving her Masters degree in architecture at UC Berkeley, Connie found cooking a more comfortable habit. “It’s an immediately satisfying outlet,” she says. “Cooking is creating something and sharing it – welcoming people into your world.” She moved to Montecito where, as a young mother, she served as president of the Parents Council for All Saints by-the-Sea Preschool. In charge of the official auction, Connie donated several small dinner parties. “I received a request to increase the number of guests at these dinners, and this launched my cooking career!” she explains. Later on, Connie became business partners with Liz Bradley, a friend from Crane School, and they soon launched a frozen food line, Olive Street Table. Their specialty, a handmade, all natural crisp product, is currently available at Montecito Village Grocery, Montecito Natural Foods, Here’s the Scoop, Lazy Acres and Gelson’s, and they’re in negotiations to carry their products in Costco’s Northern California stores.

“It was a huge adventure – like pushing a boulder up a hill,” Connie says of her frozen food line. The crisps (don’t you dare call them pizzas!), comprised of a hand-rolled pâte brisée and organic ingredients with vibrant herbs of Provence, cheeses and seasonal vegetables, are excellent dinner party fare – “not artificially fancy, rustic, exactly the way I’ve cooked all my life,” Connie says.

Connie suggests serving the fragrant crisps with a hearty Mediterranean dish, chicken with sweet onions and prosciutto, paired with a favorite Chardonnay or Côtes du Rhône. This dish makes a true contribution to a fine dinner. Laughter, conversation, and the discussed life and times of your family and friends, joined with lovingly prepared food, make for great occasions.

Connie can be contacted via her website, www.olivestreettable.com.

Chicken with Sweet Onions & Prosciutto

Serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 pounds sweet onions, quartered and thinly sliced

4 ounces shredded prosciutto

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 bay leaf

3 chicken breasts, cut half crosswise

3 chicken legs, thigh and drumstick separated

Sea salt, ground pepper

1/2 teaspoons dried French thyme

Flour

2 tablespoons cognac

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir in onions, prosciutto, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 1-1½ hours. Uncover and remove from heat.

After onions have been simmering about an hour, season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in batches in remaining olive oil, heated until almost smoking. Brown breasts about 5 minutes per side and legs and thighs about 10 minutes per side. When the onions are cooked down and golden, arrange browned chicken on top of them.

Pour off fat from skillet and, over medium heat, pour in cognac and wine and carefully flame them. Add ½ cup water and tomatoes and reduce to a rich glaze, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream, season with salt and pepper and pour over the chicken.

Cover the chicken and onion dish and simmer until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Place chicken on serving platter and tent with foil. Reduce sauce to 2 cups and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

– This article was written with special thanks to Peter Phillips.

(If you know a cook who deserves attention, please e-mail your suggestions to news@montecitojournal.net)