Sunday, October 10, 2010

Steamed greens, Israeli couscous, tomatoes, and jumbo prawns

We regularly buy prawns from Mike and Yvette Hudson, and usually the prawns come without their heads but otherwise intact and weight about 1/28 lb. Last week, however, Hudson's supplier couldn't fill the order with the large prawns, and so included jumbos at the large rate. So we were treated to some very tasty, very large prawns: one pound consisted of only 14 prawns. "Shrimp" these are not.

We peeled and deveined the prawns as we usually do and boiled them in enough water to cover for a few minutes, so that the flesh turned pink throughout. Then we tossed the cooked prawns with chopped up heirloom tomatoes (a dark red one and a bright yellow one), some lemon juice and salt, and lots of diced garlic.

Meanwhile, we washed one bunch each of kale and green chard. We removed the stems from the greens, and ripped the greens into pieces. Working in batches, we steamed the greens until they were very bright green. We drained off some of the garlic lemon dressing from the prawns and used in to dress the greens.

Finally, we chopped an onion and sauteed it in some olive oil, and then added one cup Israeli couscous and 1.5 cups salted water. We cooked the couscous for five minutes, and then drained off the extant water in a sieve.

We plated the dinner in the kitchen: greens, then couscous, then tomatoes and prawns. We served the dinner with a pinot gris from Concannon; it's reasonably good, and right now Safeway is charging the same for Concannon as for Firefly Ridge, our standard nice wine (and a Safeway-owned brand).

Grilled dinner: corn, tuna, and summer squash

Salad with beets, potatoes, eggs, shrimp, celery, carrots, and heirloom tomatoes

Picnic near Coit Tower: grilled sea bass with potato salad and dill pickles

Mayonnaise, it turns out, is as easy as anything. We followed the recipe from Julia Child and Company (1978): "Using the metal blade (I never use the plastic one for anything), process [1 whole] egg, [2 egg] yolkds, [1 teaspoon Dijon] mustard, and ½ teaspoon salt for 30 seconds. Then add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar and process half a minute more. Finally, in a very thin stream, pour in [2 cups olive and/or peanut] oil. When all has gone in, remove cover, check consistency, and taste for seasoning."

So make your own mayonnaise. Also halve a pound of fingerling potatoes and boil them in salted water until cooked but still al dente. Dice a stick or two of celery and about a third of a large red onion. Combine the potatoes, celery, and red onion with some mayonnaise, and maybe some salt and some sherry vinegar. Transfer to a large tuperware container.

Check two half-pound pieces of seabass for scales, and then coat them in a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise. Heat up the grill and cook the bass evenly on all sides, adding some fresh tarragon near the end of the cooking. Let the fish cool slightly and then move to a tuperware.

Finally, prepare a final salad (not pictured) with heirloom tomatoes, garden basil, and a little salt, olive oil, and just a touch of balsamic vinegar.

Pack a cooler with the dishes, and add also a jar of homemade dill pickles (use a recent batch that still has some bite). Find a beautiful picnic spot, and enjoy an early dinner with a nice bottle of red wine.

In particular, find a spot just below Coit Tower by cutting off the trail up a little early. Start dinner around 3:30pm and eat for an hour, and then discover that you don't have time to climb the tower. Instead, head down to Pier 33 for the ferry to Alcatraz Island. Watch Hamlet on Alcatraz, arguably the best Shakespeare production you've seen (and you've seen shows at Ashland — it helps that Hamlet is such a good script). Encourage all your friends to go too, although it looks like they might have sold out.

Tomato, basil, and mozzarella pizza

Heirloom tomatoes from Riverdog, basil and basil flowers from the garden, fresh mozzarella from Belfiore.

Chicken soup with rice

Whenever you cook a chicken, you should save all the extra inner parts in a bag in the freezer. You should save also the scraps of celery and onion and so on that you don't want to eat directly (wash all veggies before placing in the freezer).

On soup day, combine in a large pot the carcass from your cooked chicken (take apart your leftovers, saving any good meat), the giblets and veggie scraps from the freezer, a coarsely chopped onion, one or two halved carrots, a stalk or two of celery, and some black pepper corn and a bay leaf. Cover with water and bring to a simmer for about an hour.

When the stock is well-flavored, strain out and discard all the solid stuff. Saute a mirepoix of onion, celery, and carrot in just a little olive oil and add to the stock. Add also one cup of white rice (and some extra water if necessary) and bring to a boil. Cook the rice for ten minutes, and then add cooked meat cut from your leftovers. (The only part you don't want for any step of the soup is the fatty skin: the skin itself toughens a bit in boiling, and soup should not have much fat in it.) Cook another ten minutes. Then adjust the salt and serve.

Rigatoni with heirloom tomatoes and garden basil

Riverdog has been giving us beautiful heirloom tomatoes in all different colors, ranging from wine to lemon. And our garden has produced a bouquet of basil with light greens but also eggplant-purples. Toss tomatoes, basil, minced garlic, and olive oil with al dente rigatoni, and serve with a grated parmesan or romano.

Lunch salad with watermelon agua fresca

Cut the flesh of half a yellow watermelon into pieces, and place in a blender. Pulsing, being careful not to cut up the seeds, macerate the melon, and then pass it through a sieve. Combine the watermelon juice with plenty of lime juice (this is vital), a little sugar, and some water, to taste.

Mash a shallot and some salt to a paste in the mortar and pestle; add some lemon juice and olive oil. Slice a bulb of fennel, and toss with the dressing. Divide the fennel between two shallow bowls. Pick two or three small ripe tomatoes from the vine, and add the halved tomatoes to the bowls. Divide in two and add also one carrot, sliced; one stalk celery, cut up; and an eight once tub of cooked salad shrimp.

Later, smile when B makes you a cappuccino with a heart drawn on the top.

Chicken Provençal

When B and I read Sassy Radish's recipe for Chicken Provençal, we knew we had to try it. So we bought a four-and-a-half-pound bird from Highland Hills Farm (who don't seem to maintain a web presence, but do produce organic free-range chicken, beef, goat, lamb, and boar). Riverdog, from whom we get our veggies, also produces chicken, which we haven't tried (they don't bring them to the Thursday market); we'd like to, because we think that Riverdog's pork sausage is even better than the (very good) sausage from Highland Hills.

Begin by combining vegetables — lemon (very thinly sliced), tomatoes (in pieces), onions, whole garlic cloves, prepared olives, herbs — and a little salt in a 9x13 glass pan. Let the veggies cook and render their juices in the oven while you disassemble a chicken. Once the veggies have cooked down, snuggle the chicken parts amidst the vegetables. Cook the chicken another twenty to forty minutes, until the top is browned and an instant-read thermometer measures the interior temperature of the chicken to be at least 175°F.

Serves many. Save everything for a chicken soup later.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Grilled prawn and halloumi salad

Peel and devein prawns. Collect cherry tomatoes from garden. Cut halloumi into squares. Separate the layers of a small red onion (not pictured) and cut into squares.

Put prawns, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and onions on skewers, and grill the ingredients until cooked (prawns should be pink throughout; cheese should be barely charred; tomatoes should be starting to burst; onions should be softening).

Wash and rip lettuce. Add a sliced Armenian cucumber, maybe some fresh oregano and mint, and the roasted ingredients. Toss everything with a lemon-olive-oil-garlic dressing. Serve with chardonnay or your favorite rose.

Lemon souffle omelet with huckleberry jam

Separate four eggs. Beat the whites, with a little cream of tartar, to stiff peaks. Into the yolks, whisk a little lemon juice and a little lemon extract, and then fold in the whites.

Preheat the broiler. Melt some butter over medium-low heat in a cast iron pan, and pour in the egg mixture. Cook on the stove-top until the bottoms just start to set, and then move the souffle into the oven under the broiler. Bake until the top is browned and the omelet has started to separate from the sides of the pan.

After separating the souffle omelet onto two plates, top each with some homemade huckleberry preserves. Serve with cappuccino.