April 15, 2008
Some memorable meals
So things have been backing up over here and I've got a lot to blog about.
First, it is clear from all the green in my photos that Spring is in full swing. I am LOVing the beautiful artichokes, asparagus and spinach at the market. And, the first signs of Spring are in my garden too --with the seeds in the ground for peas, radishes, romano and yellow beans, lettuces... and the first little sprouts of arugula are shooting up already. So, while we're not in the clear yet (there was frost on the car just this morning), it does seem to be almost here.
One night, our dinner consisted of just huge globe artichokes dipped in butter and lemon juice, and roasted asparagus with olive oil and salt. Simple and to the point.
On the next night, we needed some protein so I had bought a boneless sirloin steak on a whim (it looked so good) and I cooked an easy recipe for Steak and Olives I had seen somewhere for inspiration. But really, no recipe necessary; just use brined olives, green or black, lots of garlic and chili peppers cooked in olive oil, and then pour that over the sliced pan-fried steak over a bed of baby arugula with lemon. I loved the tangy olives with the bite in the garlic-chili oil which complemeted the flavors of the meat perfectly.
And, for dinner last night I invited my friend and co-worker Betsy and her husband over for dinner. Was I nervous cooking for someone who cooks for a living? Yes. Should I have been? Yes. Well, not really. Betsy is the most unassumingly excellent cook I know. She can do literally everything in the kitchen from pastry to savory to breads and soups, French, Italian, everything. She's also cooked in a number of great places from Austin to New York and Chicago. I am lucky to work with this lady.
So what to do? I kept my Spring theme and settled on an appetizer of crostini with two different spreads (sorry no photo of the finished product, and they were so cute too!) One was a chick pea and garlic puree, and the other was a fresh pea and mint spread. Both turned out great. We sipped Prosecco and nibbled on those in the kitchen while I finished the rest of the meal.
These are the chick peas I had soaked overnight; then simmered with celery, carrot, garlic, potato and parsley until tender, then mashed, seasoned with dried chili flakes, generous amount of salt and lemon, olive oil.
Then, our first course was a soup that was the epitome of Spring. I found it in the River Cafe Italian Two Easy cookbook that Claudia inspired me to buy recently. It had potatoes and pancetta, asparagus and spinach, pureed and garnished with fried asparagus tips and drizzled with olive oil (again, I did not have my wits about me to take photos of the final dish). But it looked like this as it progressed...
The main course was a roasted chicken (an old standby) with lots of crisp flavor and creamy polenta. Simple and honest. Homey even.
And for dessert, because I know better than anybody that Betsy has a sweet tooth: a delicious blueberry-lemon-olive oil cake (from Jamie O's Italy) served up with a healthy portion of lemon cream (homemade lemon curd and whipped cream). I love anything with lemon cream on the side, but this was a cake that complemented the simple, rustic quality of the meal without too much excess. And it was delicious for breakfast too!
One thing I've learned is that it never helps to get nervous to cook for people. Sure, there is always lots of pouring over cookbooks, planning menus and all that, but in the end if I am organized and my intentions are good (that I just want to give to friends) I always end up making a memorable meal AND enjoying myslef while I'm at it. Just don't expect me to do the dishes.