I want to share an experience I had the other week that I not only will definitely do again, but highly recommend to foodies. But before you try out this idea make sure, when you do girlfriend cooking, you have these key essentials:

1. Lead organizer

2.Lead chef who knows more than you do

3. Enough time

4. Commitment and pride by both to ensure a finished presentation

5. A sense of humor

6. A special hostess cocktail and

7. Playtime to chill out before the guests arrive.

Here’s how the friend cooking plan was hatched.

Over dinner last year, our foodie friends told us about a great LA restaurant that we should take our kids to called, Gjelina. It’s one of their most favorite places and I read up on it in a blog called The Infatuation. 

At first glance, it looked like a place I didn’t want to deal with, but when I saw the recipes…I was tempted.  The blogger describes his experience of waiting over an hour, and then…

“Finally get my seat inside, usually at the cramped counter seating near the bar. Feel annoyed because my chair is wobbly. Get a drink in me to counteract wobbly chair. Then eat food and decide that all events leading up to the food were unequivocally worth it.

Well we never went but I have it on my list.

And then this summer, we got to experience  the amazing recipes of Gjelina at home.

Shoulder season on Martha’s Vineyard is prime time for visiting with friends as calendars are wide open.  We headed over to the same friends, who had recommended the restaurant, and they served us  Gjelina inspired recipes. The meal was beyond fantastic and I immediately went home and bought their amazing cookbook.  I wanted to try out some of the recipes on my own.

Although the pictures are mouth watering and inviting, the recipes are intimidating. I wanted to make the Chicken in the iron skillet but when I saw the word “brining” ….. I picked up the phone to call in a life line of cooking support.

My friend, I’ve now nicknamed her Chef Lisa, not wanting to dampen my enthusiasm yet sensing my hesitation at taking on the recipes solo, agreed to come and co-chef a dinner with me. We hatched a plan to meet at 11 am on a Sunday with guests arriving at 4:30 for an early dinner. We would be cooking a gourmet meal for 10 foodies which in itself felt like a tall task.

Co-chefing turned out to be a really fun way to tackle a complicated recipe while bonding with a friend. Here’s what we did:

A few days before we selected our recipes. Next, Chef Lisa emailed me my grocery list and took on plenty for herself. Frankly she took on the bulk of the prep work. She arrived on Sunday with a box of  jars full of prepared marinades. Seeing her “brews” I knew I was in good hands There was so much to learn..

The summer squash called for tomato confit – what was confit? — Chef Lisa had that already marinated.

The chicken needed to be brined?  It called for a giajillo chile — Chef Lisa had that in a mason jar in liquid.

We had selected Strawberry-Rhubarb Polenta Crisp — but Rhubarb was not in season. Chef Lisa whipped up a blueberry cake and brought that. “It was nothing. It’s just so fun when you follow a recipe and it comes up just like the picture in the cookbook.” Those words come only from the mouths of true passionate unfettered chefs like Lisa.

Butter Lettuce Salad is my forte so I  put together my magic ingredients of pistachios and goat cheese and sunflower sprouts to make a lively mix but then Chef Lisa opened a mason jar of lemon preserve that kicked up the flavor of my simple dressing.

In addition, Lisa insisted I learn how to make tomato confit which she says she keeps on hand. “You’ve got to check out this recipe for Gjelina’s Tomato Confit to see how easy it is, but also how essential it is for flavoring,” she insisted.  Click through to see “how to” and better understand what a confit is

As you can see, Chef Lisa was clearly the lead talent on this team.  She pretty much did most of the cooking but still made me feel like I was a key player (she is a teacher as well). Under her tutelage I was gratefully learning from a pro.

I learned so much that afternoon  and we decided to mark our bonded partnership and  teamwork by sponging on matching arm tattoos before throwing back a shot of Milagro tequila when the guests arrived.


Tattooed and ready to cook

Here was our menu:

Tequila shots for starters

Great wines

Butter Lettuce Salad with lemon preserve dressing

Quinoa salad

Blueberry Cake & ….

The main course: Roasted Half Chicken With Smoky Braised Kale

Searing Airplane wing cuts of brined chicken

Making this recipe was a great learning experience.  Searing in skillets, braising kale, brining chicken…it was all a fantastic immersion into the stages of creating deep intricate flavor.

Grilled Summer Squash, Za’atar & Cherry Tomato Confit is not hard to do so click on this link to learn more….

And here’s the final spread….


Voila! Gjelina on Martha’s Vineyard

Oh and you want to know what the best thing we made that day…another layer of goodness added to an already sweet friendship.


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