Cooking With Sue - California Central Coast Style

Welcome to my cooking blog! I like to cook and I hope it shows. I was lucky to grow up in a restaurant family that thought nothing at all about putting together an easy to make but delicious meal on a regular basis. I remember my mother and grandmother each making five to six pies a day! Then on top of that, they would work at our restaurant making meals with my dad and grandfather for our customers until late evening. Thinking back, I really appreciate and marvel at their endurance and dedication!

What I learned from my parents is cooking is NOT something that you should dread. It’s very straight forward and logical. It can be really fun and relaxing and I hope to make you see that side of it too. Learn a few recipes and a bit about wine and you will enjoy quality dining every night at home for a mere fraction of the cost of dining out!

California Central Coast Style Recipes are my passion. These recipes are easy and elegant, and based upon three principles:

  • Whenever possible use fresh ingredients. preferable locally grown.
  • Use minimal cooking preparation to enhance the featured ingredient. Keep spices and additional ingredients to a minimum -use just enough to bring out flavors of the main ingredient not change it into something else.
  • The presentation of the dish should be simple but elegant.


Early Fall Food Cravings

©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80

2014-09-28 12:14:50 ID=681:0
© 2014 The Romantic Table

Finally we're getting some typical early Fall weather! Foggy and cool in the mornings (which is great for exercising!) and warm afternoons with a nice breeze. This is the kind of weather I adore and feel very frisky! I have more ambition to do constructive things -plus a little more food cravings for warmer comfort-foods. Let me tell you about my latest craving.


Day by Day Getting back into the Kitchen's Swing of Things

©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80

2014-09-03 16:44:57 ID=680:0
© 2014 The Romantic Table

The last few months have been a blur for me! I had two unexpected surgeries thrust upon me, plus organizing and cooking for our family reunion. Now, I'm FINALLY getting back to my normal routine that I love so much-cooking and writing about it. And with the budding of Fall starting, my mind is racing with all the autumn fun-filled food ideas to "play with!"


Fruitcake - A Christmas Baking Tradition

©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80

2014-10-20 14:53:16 ID=679:0
© 2013 The Romantic Table
Well this year I FINALLY bit the bullet and made my mom's prized recipe for Christmas--her fabulous giant Fruitcake! Christmas Fruitcake Supreme My mom died when I was quite young. I had her written recipe notes, but I had never watched how she made it. So I was never really taught this recipe like some of her others - but I SURE DO remember it! But little did I know how many hours in the kitchen it would take to prep and make her much heralded Christmas dessert!


Fall! The Years Most Perfect Palette of Foods and Spices to "Dance With!"

©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80

2013-10-13 21:13:06 ID=678:0
© 2013 The Romantic Table
Fall has to be MY personal favorite time of year! This is when I, after a long hot summer hiatus of avoiding using my favorite heavy-duty-cooking appliances, can FINALLY come in, roll up my sleeves and boogie to my own "cooking rhapsody" in my wonderful favorite place to be --MY Kitchen!


What Your Immune System Needs to Guard Your Body of Winter Ills

©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80

2013-09-24 23:09:13 ID=676:0
© 2013 The Romantic Table

Worried About this Year's Cold and Flu Season? Need to beef yourself up with Good Healthy Vitamins and Minerals?

Have you been to the BEST health-food store in your town yet? It's found just around the corner --your favorite grocery store's well-stocked produce aisle!


Summer to Fall Transition Meals

©2013 The Romantic Table, Shrimp and Red Quinoa Salad  2013-09-16 09:56:11:353

2013-09-16 18:21:43 ID=675:1
© 2013 The Romantic Table

I love this time of year! Just like Goldilocks in her search for just the right bowl of porridge, this time of year is my personal favorite; not too hot; not too cold; but just right! And often coming up with just the right type of meal for these warm days with cool breezes that hint of much cooler days to come is a challenge. I have got some more thoughts on this subject as well some ideas for you to try.


Mac and Cheese-Romantic Table Style

Posted: 2014-10-20

Have you ever had a craving for warm-cheesy multidimensional tasting Macaroni and cheese- and I don't mean Kraft dinner? Well I did the other day -and no, I didn't have a good recipe at hand, so I just started "winging-it!" Now don't get me wrong! I did NOT want to morph it into something that would end up being a pain in the neck to make and clean up after. So I tried to keep my wits about me!

My recipe uses three cheeses: Sharp cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan to give it a multi-flavored and textured taste, as well as a classic Basamella Sauce to guarantee a luscious creaminess.This is one macaroni and cheese recipe that is worth the effort!

For cheese, I primarily used of course a cheddar, but also a domestic Parmesan that is made by Sartori-(It's the closest domestic Parmesan that we've ever found that's most like the imported Parmesan from Italy. Albertsons carries it.)

But to give it a little more "soul" and really make it soar to delight was the addition of a of the Gruyere cheese that I had on hand! Between the three cheeses, I was in ecstasy just looking at the ingredients! Picture gooey, stringy cheese with "an attitude" to really hit the mouth-craving spot! Comfort food at its best!

Because I am one who likes to do things a little differently, I chose to use a penne pasta instead of an elbow. And of course I needed a good roux so I used my basic Balsamella recipe that I learned while at a cooking school in Bologna, Italy. That really helped make it even more delicious.

Trust me! If you like memorable cheesy pastas, this recipe is for you!

For technique pointers on this recipe, please see my Blog: Early Fall Food Cravings ©2018, Mac and Cheese-Romantic Table Style Mac and Cheese-Romantic Table Style
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes


6 ounces uncooked penne pasta ,
5 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese , grated
4 ounce Gruyere cheese , grated
3 ounces Parmesan cheese , grated
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese , grated for top
3 to 4 cups milk
1/4 cup Butter
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons ground Nutmeg ,
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Dry bread crumbs for top
2 Tablespoons Butter , for dotting top

Preparation Directions.

1 Cook pasta as directed on package minus a minute. When cooked, immediately cool-off pasta by running under cold water, then drain and set aside.

2 To make the Basamella sauce, heat the milk in a sauce pan until just boiling.

3 While the milk is heating, in a sauce pan large enough to hold the pasta and comfortably stir the milk, melt the butter over medium heat . Add the flour and with a whisk, stir until the mixture is smooth. As you cook the butter and flour mixture it will begin to foam a bit. Continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to turn a light tan in color.

4 While whisking continuously, carefully add one cup of hot milk to the mixture. It will steam up very fast, so be careful not to burn yourself. Keep whisking until a smooth paste forms. Add another cup of hot milk and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth. Add in the rest of the hot milk, whisking all the time to prevent lumps.

5 While stirring continuously, bring the sauce to a slow boil. Cook for a few minutes more until the sauce thickens.

6 Season the sauce with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Strain if necessary.

7 To the large saucepan with the Basamella sauce, add the Cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses and cook over low heat until the cheeses are melted and the sauce is a little thickened.

8 Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and gently stir to to distribute the sauce evenly.

9 Carefully transfer the cheese-pasta mixture into a bake-safe serving dish. Be sure to scrap out any remaining sauce and even-off the top.

10 Carefully dust the top of the cheese-pasta with first-the remaining grated Parmesan, and then the dry bread crumbs on top of the Parmesan. This will give the mac and cheese a nice crunchy bite for texture.

11 Cut the last two tablespoons of butter into little matchsticks and dot the top of the cheese-pasta to give it a nice golden brown color when baked.

12 Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover the top with a light piece of aluminum foil.

Serving Suggestions.

You can serve this divine "mac and cheese" with a nice salad and a glass of chilled Rhone white wine for a meatless dinner. Or as a side for a robust meat entree' such as barbecued chicken or meatloaf and salad with a robust red such as a Sangiovese.

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Peach or Nectarine Crostata Romantic Table Style

Posted: 2014-09-16

This past summer has been a fantastic season for stone-fruit! It was practically impossible to buy a lousy peach, nectarine, cherry or apricot. And boy! Did we ever let our taste-buds cravings dictate the recipes!

With all the good fruit sitting around, of course the first thing to come to mind was a fruit-filled pie of some kind. As you know, I prefer quick and easy, so we tried a Cherry Crostata, a Peach Crostata, and even a Nectarine Crostata! ( A Crostata is Italian for pie) Boy! Were they ever good-and pretty easy to make.-Delicious as a light breakfast with a protein-filled Greek Yogurt "chaser" or of course for dessert-with-or without a little vanilla ice cream on the side.

* Note- The 'trick' to getting good results is you MUST have the dough really cold prior to forming the crust in the pan.-It's a very delicate dough, so do not rush the chilling process or it will be hard to work with. ©2018, Peach or Nectarine Crostata Romantic Table Style Peach or Nectarine Crostata Romantic Table Style
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour and 10 minutes


For the dough:
2-1/2 cups Cake flour , PLUS extra for dusting
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 to 1/2 Salt
1 Cup very COLD unsalted butter , cut into very small pieces
1/4 cup Ice-water

For the filling
5 to 6 Large peaches or nectarines ,pitted and cut into 15-20 small slices each. (~ 4 HEAPING cups + of fruit)
3/4 Cup Bakers sugar
2-1/3 Tablespoons Instant Tapioca

Preparation Directions.

For the Dough

1 Combine the Flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse quickly several times until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

2 Slowly add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just barely forms a ball without being too sticky or wet.

3 Remove the dough ball from the processor and pat into a disk about 2 inches thick. Wrap it in plastic-wrap and refrigerate it at least 1 hour-or even overnight.

For the filling

4 Combine the sliced fruit, sugar and Instant Tapioca in a large mixing bowl. Stir gently but not too heavy-handed or you'll damage the fruit. Let sit for about 15 minutes to absorb the tapioca.

Getting ready to bake.

5 Preheat the oven to 365 degrees

6 Sprinkle your work-area or counter-top with the extra cake flour.

7 Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 16-inch round of dough that is 1/4 inch thick. If the dough tears, press the edges back together again. Transfer the dough to a 12 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges.

8 Spoon the fruit into the dough, spreading it out in all directions.Be sure to scrap all the juice from the bowl into the pie. Fold the overhanging dough edges over the top of the crostata. -The dough will not totally cover. - That's what makes this pie so tempting! Press the crust into the rim of the tart pan's edge to form a crust.

9 Place the tart pan on a baking sheet or pizza pan and bake for 70 minutes-until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly. If during the baking process, the crust starts to get too brown, cover the top lightly with a thin sheet of aluminum foil.

10 Remove the crostata from the oven and let cool. Then serve with or without ice cream to your guests.-They're sure to give you kudos!

Serving Suggestions.

Serve decadently warm with some vanilla ice cream. Or chilled for a refreshing mouth-watering dessert experience. Also good for a light breakfast with a good cup of coffee!

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Luscious-and FUN Grilled Nectarine Salad

Posted: 2014-09-13

This past summer it has been a fantastic season for stone-fruit! It was practically impossible to buy a lousy peach or nectarine. But what was REALLY fun, was in lieu of tomatoes which were pretty lousy again this year, we'd grill nectarine or peach halves and serve them on a bed of Spring Mix dressed lightly with a little Balsamic Vinaigrette made just for complementing this out-of sight- delicious salad-treat! (The grilling process caramelizes and magnifies the fruits' sweetness.) It made every-night seem special! And we're still grilling them nightly! They're so good, you do not need a dessert!

Even if you get slightly under-ripened fruit, because of the grilling process and the complementing vinaigrette, it still develops a wonderful flavor that you'll savor! ©2018, Luscious-and FUN Grilled Nectarine Salad Luscious-and FUN Grilled Nectarine Salad
Preparation time: 2 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes


2 Whole Nectarines or Peaches Cut in half and the stones removed
1 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil to lightly oil the fruit halves to prevent sticking on the grill.

4 to 6 heaping cups of Spring Mix Greens

For the salad dressing
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 to 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 to 3 Tablespoons Agave sweetener (in the honey aisle)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation Directions.

1 Light your grill outside to get it hot.

2 In the meantime, rinse-off your fruit and cut in halves and remove the stones.

3 Lightly oil both sides of each halve of fruit.

4 To make the dressing,in a glass measuring cup, add the Balsamic vinegar, the olive oil to taste, the agave to taste and a little salt and pepper to taste. Do not over-salt!It will clash with the sweetness of the fruit.

5 In a large salad bowl, add the amount of Spring Mix you'd like to serve.

6 Back at the grill: Cook the "insides" of the fruit halves, first for ~ 4 minutes. The length of grilling each side will depend on the ripeness of the fruit. (The more ripe, the less grilling time.)

7 Then turn the halves over and do a quarter-turn clockwise to get a nice searing pattern. Cook for ~ two minutes. The rotate once again and cook for another 2 minutes.

8 Please remember, if you have very ripe fruit, it could only require ~ 2-4 minutes TOTAL grilling time to achieve the caramelizing flavor.

9 When done grilling, remove from grill and let cool a few minutes.

10 Back at the salad bowl, take your glass measure with the dressing and whisk quickly to redistribute the ingredients and flavors, then slowly pour over the Greens and toss well to distribute evenly. Divide the greens between the plates or bowls, then "crown" each dish with two halves, and then dribble a bit of remaining vinaigrette over the fruit and serve.

Serving Suggestions.

This salad is great as an appetizer or dessert salad. It can be even a main course if served with some Feta Cheese crumbled over the medley and a baguette.

Be sure to serve decent sharp knives to your diners to easily cut the fruit without mangling the greens.

A chilled robust white such as the white Rhone Sea Stone Cellars Silhouette or a Sauvignon Blanc.

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Tradewinds Salad- A delightful mix of ingredients from California

Posted: 2014-05-29

We call this salad Tradewinds because it's a delightful mix of ingredients originally from all over the world! Crumbled Blue cheese from Europe, an Herb-mix of salad greens from Salinas-the "salad bowl" of the nation, Toasted Almonds and Asparagus from here in Central California, and Cranberries from the northern parts of the U.S. East Coast, all with a Light Lemon Vinaigrette with Mexican Blue Agave Sweetener and Basil

What’s not to like? Even friends of ours who usually decline helpings of salad, had seconds—and thirds of this marvelous combination of complementary flavors. This salad is practically guaranteed to carry the dinner hour even if you have only a modest main course offered. And another nice feature of this salad, you can make the dressing and prepare the toppings hours in advance.

It’s now our favorite salad! —-Though we have to make sure we don’t go overboard and have it too often—-then it won’t seem like the special treat it is!

You surely must try this latest sure-fire salad-sensation!

Note* Mexican Blue Agave sweetener is usually found in the same grocery aisle as honey. ©2018, Tradewinds Salad- A delightful mix of ingredients from California Tradewinds Salad- A delightful mix of ingredients from California
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time:


1 lb. Raw Asparagus coarse bottoms trimmed off, then rinsed well
1/3 cup Lemon Juice
2 to 3 Tablespoons Water
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 to 2 Tablespoons Mexican Blue Agave Sweetener
1 to 2 teaspoons Dried Basil leaves
Salt and Black pepper to taste.
Packaged Dried Cranberries and Toasted Nuts
4 oz. Crumbled Blue Cheese

Preparation Directions.

1 For the asparagus, put a large pan filled with hot water and bring to a boil over high heat.

2 Cut stalks into 1-inch lengths. When the water-pot is boiling, add in the cleaned asparagus and bring back to a boil. Boil the asparagus 2-3 minutes-or until tender with still a nice crunch. (Test every 30 seconds.) When tender, drain into a colander and rinse in cold water. Then let drain on paper towels and refrigerate.

3 In the meantime in a 2-cup glass measuring cup using a fork to stir together, add in the lemon juice, the water, the olive oil, the agave, the dried (or fresh if you have it on hand!) basil—while tasting and correcting according to personal tastes. Then correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

4 Finally do your final salad toss, then sprinkle on top of the greens the cooled-or chilled- cut asparagus, crumbled Blue Cheese, the cranberries, the nuts and voila' you’re about ready for “showtime!”

Serving Suggestions.

Serve with a nice bottle of chilled white wine such as Sea Stone Cellars Silhouette or a Sauvignon Blanc.

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Country Style Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup

Posted: 2014-02-09

Our Country Style Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup is just what's needed on a cold chilly day! Made with Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh or frozen spinach, chicken stock and a little butter and cream, this soup is not only healthy and inexpensive- but also easy to make! And Oh! it's so savory and warming for your insides, you'll want to make this often when the weather turns stormy and cold. There's nothing quite like it to put you in a mellow mood.-And if you serve it with some whole wheat cheddar cheese sandwiches- or better yet -paninis, it's down right sensational!!!

This soup will also make an ideal Saint Patrick's Day offering.It is more typical to what the native Irish really serve when they commemorate their favorite saint. And it's such an attractive green soup to dazzle the eyes of your waiting guests! ©2018, Country Style Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup Country Style Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes


3 Tablespoons Unsalted butter
1-1/2 L White onions , peeled and thinly sliced
3-1/2 to 4 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes , peeled and cit into half-inch dice
64 oz. Chicken broth (reduced sodium)
1 cup cream
1 lb. Fresh spinach or Frozen spinach (thawed)
Salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese for topping off soup

Preparation Directions.

1 In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the slivered white onions, separating the strands and stirring to distribute evenly on the stockpot's bottom. Cook until soft but not brown.

2 Add potatoes and chicken stock and chicken broth and stir well. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook about an hour.

3 Lightly puree some of the potatoes and broth with an immersion chopper or food processor, keeping some potatoes chunks for a nice texture.

4 Add the spinach and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until spinach is tender but still bright green.

5 Season with salt and pepper to taste. On the table, have grated Parmesan cheese available for topping off the soup.-- Or better yet serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or paninis.

Serving Suggestions.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or paninis, and a glass of white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc.

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