Saturday, July 18, 2015

Chips and Hummus and...

Friday 17 July
After a frazzling day in traffic, we were happy to arrive in Nashville and be welcomed by the family.  
We had packed a dinner for everyone, so when we arrived, we pulled out our vegan-friendly appetizer of sundried tomato hummus.  We innocently asked if there were chips.  What came out were Doritos: cool ranch flavor (non-vegan) and spicy sweet chili (vegan).  They also contain monosodium glutamate, sodium diacetate, hydrolyzed proteins, and a bunch of other things you would be more likely to find in a chem lab than in a farmers' market.  But they were fatally delicious and addictive. 

By the time we had polished off three small bags of cool ranch and the big bag of sweet chili, we didn't feel much like making, much less having, a normal dinner.  So we continued to snack and chat, eating things like David's leftover pot roast with vegetables, and big slices of watermelon and luscious honeydew. 

Giant Greek Economic Meltdown, I mean Salad

Thursday 16 July

We're heading down to Nashville tomorrow, so thought we'd clean out both the garden and the vegetable drawers in the fridge.  
The former yielded up the last of the summercrisp red lettuce, and the latter a bunch of little cucumbers and red onion.  Adding farmers' market tomatoes, feta cheese, and lots of olives made it sort of a salata choriatiki, without being doctrinaire.  
If the lettuce were eurosthere would still be nothing German inside this salad.

Swordfish Steak with Tomatillo Salsa

Wednesday 15 July
We had lunch at Mazunte while we were out shopping; we still can't believe there's good Mexican food in Cincinnati.
Anywhere but our house, that is - because we continued on the Mexican theme for dinner.

We slapped a couple of swordfish steaks, just oiled and salted, on the grill pan, and served them with Holt's famous tomatillo salsa (which used up just about the last of the bolted cilantro in the garden).

Meatballs and Spaghetti

Tuesday 14 July
Italian food for Bastille Day!  No, we're just continuing to try to clear out the freezer.  These were the 10 meatballs and tupperful of sauce we froze last February for a rainy day.  As it's been raining every day, now was the time, and it's nice to get home to an almost ready-made meal occasionally.  
We nuked the meatballs for a minute so they wouldn't be cold inside, then nestled them into the defrosted sauce, which was percolating in a deep pot.  When the spaghetti was ready, we made a nest out of it on each plate, and carefully placed the surviving meatballs on top; the rest had melted into the sauce, which was even better for them.  
Some salt and grated cheese on top, and we had a classic Italian-American meal.


Monday 13 July

We had lots of fresh vegetables, including eggplant, zephyr squash, and big heirloom tomatoes, from the farmers' market (plus our own garlic from the garden), so we made a big mess of ratatouille. 
Toward the end, we herbed it up with garden oregano and basil leaves.

Celebrating La Fête Nationale a day early, I guess.

Steak with Celeriac and Birthday Hearts

Sunday 12 July
We are trying to make a little space in the freezer, so we pried out a big sirloin steak and threw it on the grill.
On the side, we rasped out a batch of celeriac and cooked it Elizabeth David-style, using garden tarragon and white wine vinegar.
And for dessert, Holt made yet another birthday cake for Barbara, using all her favorite flavors: he baked Alton Brown's recipe for shortcakes, using all butter, and cutting them into hearts.  Then he halved and filled them with his own lemon curd, and topped them with fresh blueberries.
We love these three-day birthday weekends.

Mediterranean Red Snapper with Garden Beans

Saturday 11 July
As part of the continuing celebration of Barbara's birthday, we went to Graeter's in the afternoon to share her free birthday sundae.  She chose our favorite summer peach ice cream, on shortcake with raspberry sauce, which meant that all we wanted for dinner was something light. 

Luckily, we had picked up a little red snapper at Luken's this morning, so we cooked it according to Grace Parisi's method.  Previously we had done Caribbean flavors, so now we tried Mediterranean style.  When it was done, Barbara flensed it out and we each had a filleted side.
As a vegetable, we selected the thinnest and tenderest of Barbara's fresh crop of green (and purple) beans, and simply boiled them up for the perfect light summer meal.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Birthday Dinner at Salazar's

Friday 10 July
We had tickets to see "Morning Star," the new opera about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, to celebrate Barbara's birthday (it's sort of a family thing).  Best to choose a restaurant within walking distance of the venue, so we headed back to our special-occasion and early-opening favorite, Salazar.
It's a tradition to order a bottle of sparkler, and this time it was a nice Cava, which also went very well with our superb and artistic starters.  

They were veal sweetbreads with roasted varicolored carrots, grilled onion jam, pistachio pesto, and coffee cream; and smoky-flavored Spanish octopus escabeche, with duck fat confit potatoes, preserved lemon, olives, and squid-ink aioli dots that looked just like the black olives until you dipped into them.
One main was a clever take on the ideal Jewish lox and bagels: tender rare salmon with an "everything" crust of sesame seeds, with cream cheese dumplings, bagel chips, pickled caperberries and fresno chile shreds, on a slash of dill sauce. 

The other was a nice gamy Kentucky lamb loin on a bed of (surprisingly flavorful, if you remember the old days of Moosewood) wheatberries, served with baby turnips, pickled pepper romesco sauce, and marcona almonds.  You need a red for meat this strong, so we ordered a glass of Temperanillo, Anciano "Reserva" from Valdepenas, and it was perfect.
Of course, there must be dessert, and since they knew it was Barbara's birthday, her Asian pear ricotta tart with almond meringue came with a candle.  Holt's ice cream sandwich, made with fudge cookies, caramel ice cream, pralined pecans and toasted coconut, did not, but it did come with a sharp knife, for splitting.

As for the opera, it had excellent singing and staging, nice if unmemorable music, and a bad-doggerel libretto.  But Salazar shone out, and made the evening.

Rotini with Chicken, Peas, and Cream

Thursday 9 July
Remember Monday's roast chicken?  Picked the tasty bits off whatever was left of the carcass, and used them to make this quick off-the-cuff pasta. 

Its sauce began with yellow bell peppers sautéed in olive oil, to which we added the paltry remainer of the soffritto we made a full week ago, and the last of the sugar-snap peas (in pod or out, depending on condition).  Also stirred in a handful of chopped fresh sage from the garden to wilt a bit.

When all that was tender, we poured in all the cream we had left (about a third of a cup) and the chicken, and finally tossed in the boiled rotini.
Is there such a thing as Italian chicken à la King?  There would have been, had we had any mushrooms.