Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rainy-Day Grillout at Susan and Mike's

Saturday 12 September    
Tonight our friends Susan and Mike had planned an end-of-summer backyard barbeque, inviting us and their friend Debby to welcome our dear retired head librarian, Jean, back from Florida.  But fate was less than co-operative.  The skies grew grey; it drizzled, then poured.  The temperature plummeted.  To top it off, Jean got sick and couldn't come.  But when we drove up that evening, they had the grill set up, fire blazing, and just moved dinner indoors.
Our part for the potluck was our Garden of Eden pole beans (plus a few purple Carminats), done the old fashioned way: melted a batch of bacon grease in a deep pot, sizzled a whole chopped onion and 2-3 garlic cloves in it, then piled in a couple of pounds of these heavy green beans, sliced into short sections.  Added water to almost cover and salt to taste, and simmered them for two hours until they were meltingly tender.  At last, added pepper and salt, and let them cool down for transport (also, you want to eat them warm, not hot).

While Mike went out and grilled a couple of salmon fillets seasoned with rosemary, Debby produced a variety of vegetables from Fresh Table at Findlay Market: beet and goat cheese, mushrooms and celery in mayonnaise, and some delicious crispy chickpeas with grape tomatoes and olives.  So when the fish was done, we filled our plates to capacity, and then ourselves.
For dessert, Susan had made a batch of her famous lemon bars (she knows how Barbara feels about lemon) and little cups of cheesecake on red velvet crusts.  By that time, the rain had passed, so we could sit outside, watch Mike feed wood to the blaze in the fire-pit, and pet the dogs and chat and sip scotch, as so inclined.
Thanks, Mike and Susan; you took an unpromising day and turned it into a perfect backyard barbeque in the end.

Pulled Pork and Mash

Friday 11 September
At the end of a very long week, and, on Holt's part, an inspiring talk about what it is that philologists (should) do, we decided to kick up our heels and go out to Myrtle's Punch House with Eleni, Valeria, Hamish, Dana, and Colin.  It was fun to hang out with the younger faculty, there are comfy couches to sit on, and Myrtle's always has something new and interesting to drink (this time, Admiral Russell's Punch).
Afterwards, Eleni kindly drove us home, and of course we invited her in for dinner (she happens to be one of our vast readership - hi, Eleni!).  
Luckily we still had a small mountain of pulled pork from Sunday, so all it needed was to be reheated and piled on top of mashed potato and turnip, enriched with goat cheese, butter, and cream.

We lingered, chatting, over dark chocolate and red wine.  It was a wonderful start to the weekend.

Crabby Mushrooms

Thursday 10 September
There was half a can of crab claw meat left over from last Friday's crabcakes.  Then we found giant stuffing-size mushrooms at the Nice People's stand at Findlay Market on Saturday.  Inspiration: stuff them with crab filling.
First we cleaned the 'shrooms, removed the stems, and put a little oil and some fresh lemon thyme inside the caps.  They baked at 350º on convect for ten minutes or so.

In the meantime, sautéed their chopped stems, minced shallot and red bell pepper until tender, then mixed in the crab, some chopped tarragon, and a few Tablespoons of crabby crumbs that had been left over from the crabcake fest on Friday. 
Stuffed the half-baked mushrooms with the crab mixture, and let them continue baking for ten more minutes, until they began to crisp and brown on top.

We served them with chopped red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, seasoned simply with white wine vinegar and salt, for contrast and a bit of bite.

La Poste, Clifton

Wednesday 9 September
Kathleen kindly invited us and Lauren out to dinner with tonight's speaker, Peter Schertz, at our local bistro, La Poste.  We haven't been there for a couple of years, so it was a chance to catch up with what they're doing.
Since it was a humid summer night (what else?), Holt chose us a Verdicchio, Tenuta di Tavignano Villa Torre, which proved to be lightly sweet but charming. 

As starters, we went for a prosciutto-wrapped stilton salad (looking like an overgrown caterpillar on a plate - and it was, after all, full of lettuce leaves), and steamed mussels with aromatics and cherry tomatoes.  We had always liked La Poste's mussels, but though as pretty as ever, these turned out to be oversteamed and  scrawny.
Though the main course of salmon and varied vedge was pretty good, the multicolored Israeli couscous it topped was bland.  Same went for the seared scallops and cherry tomatoes on risotto: the base of the dish was underseasoned and overcooked.

La Poste is too established, not to mention too pricey, to get away with these elementary mistakes.  Not a good sign for the future.