Quiet on the set


For the past week, a movie crew has been using my house and garden as a set. Here the crew is setting up my kitchen.  The paper in front says “Hot Set” which meant takeout for dinner last night. I’m not allowed to give details about the movie or the actors yet, but  it’s been an interesting experience to have a crew of about 18 people here each day.

They have been as considerate as possible and while they keep telling me it’s a minimalist production, I’ve been impressed watching them haul hundreds of pounds of equipment up and down my five flights of stairs, create grass, hedges and fences, set up a complete wardrobe and makeup shop, and in general construct what they needed on site. They have lunch catered, but one day the ice tea spilled into the lemon bars, so I made some extra peach galettes. I had to bring a dessert to an event that night, so just made two extra. One got sampled before I could get out my camera!

This week, one of the main actors is also a renowned chef. He was mostly in the outdoor shots, and noticed the wealth of squash blossoms. He suggested that I pick and cook them and told me how to make a filling of a mushroom duxelle, something new to me. This is basically mushrooms chopped really fine (you can do this in a food processor) and cooked in butter till the liquid evaporates and you have a sort of mushroom paste. You can add some minced shallots and thyme leaves for flavor. He also told me to flour the outside of the blossom first, then dip into beaten egg, then into panko (those spirally Japanese breadcrumbs). So I invited him to dinner.  Wednesday was their last day of filming here, and yesterday they were filming in Napa. He accepted, pending their shooting schedule, and I busied myself making the squash blossoms, some lightly grilled cherry tomatoes, and grilled salmon with a mango/tomato salsa.

For the blossoms, in addition to the mushroom duxelle (yummy!), I had some halibut roe from the Farmers’ Market. I sauteed the roe with chopped onion from the garden, fresh tumeric, ginger and garlic and a little diced celery. My idea was to see if he could guess what the filling was. It’s a very subtle flavor and a light fluffy texture, almost like beaten egg whites. The roe are much smaller than caviar, and if you chop into the skin that holds them, they smoosh out into a light pasty substance. I wish I’d taken a picture when it was in the skin, as it’s unique, but here it is after cooking it up:

I got everything ready, but then got a call that filming was running very late, and we’d have to reschedule. Luckily, some good friends were available on short notice to come eat with us:

I threw on a few sage flowers to brighten them and the squash blossoms were delicious! If we reschedule, I’ll have to think of what else to make.