Friday, August 21, 2009

Fish story

Winnie returned from northern Ontario last night, calling for fresh corn, a request I am always happy to grant. I had already bought swordfish from the general store in Dublin first thing in the morning (they only have fish once a week but it is prime when it arrives -- I often make special plans to go up there on fish day) and I had leftover roasted potatoes from Sunday.

We had potato salad, fresh corn, and grilled swordfish. I slather olive oil on my swordfish (and also on tuna) about an hour before I plan to grill it -- it seems to help keep it from drying out. Normally I choose steaks (fish or other) to be all the same thickness, but I realized last night that in fact having variable thicknesses makes it easier to grant everyone's desires vis a vis doneness. Goody likes her fish cooked quite done and everyone else wants it a little underdone. Voila' all fish were ready to eat at the same time.

I dressed the potatoes with two tablespoons of dijon mustard, two tablespoons of olive oil, three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a little mayonnaise all shaken up together. If you are dressing leftover potatoes it helps to reheat them before you dress them -- they absorb the dressing better.

All in all, an easy, pleasant weeknight meal. Tonight I we're having a dinner party and I think I'll make blueberry cobbler.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot night

It's the hottest it's been this summer, tonight, and thankfully the corn is in. Locket, Goody, CB, Miss Bee, and I had fresh corn, steamed; Asian slaw; and grilled salmon tonight. We drank up all the white wine last night so we had iced tea. I've been making a gallon every day for the last few weeks -- and every day I need to make a new gallon.

The slaw is one of my current favorite side dishes: shred cabbage and maybe some red onion and some cucumber if you have it. Make a dressing with rice vinegar, a little soy sauce (tonight's was a little salty), umeboshi plum paste, toasted sesame oil, one clove of garlic, and a tablespoon of pickled ginger. Whizz it all up in the blender and pour over vegetables. It's best made an hour or so ahead and allowed to marinate at room temp.

We ate late, because I had a planning board work session. We spent the meeting talking about how to encourage affordable housing and infill development. Pretty much the same meeting we had in January. The good news is that we're still trying to do the right thing.

Oh, my gosh, it is hot. I may take a leaf from CB and Miss Bee and go over to the pond and sneak in for a late night swim. See you tomorrow.

Formal family dinner

CB and his girlfriend, Miss Bee, are visiting from Santa Fe this week and we had the additional good luck to have her parents and sister spend a couple of nights with us over the weekend. We only had one sit-down meal together so I was determined to make it a good one.

I roasted some of Tim the farmer's new banana fingerling potatoes with a little olive oil and salt; roasted green beans also Tim's) dressed with tamari, minced garlic and rice vinegar; bunny mix (little new lettuces from Tim) with blue cheese and craisins; grilled chicken; and chocolate cake with my new old favorite frosting.

The festival cake of my childhood was red velvet cake, and it always came with a wonderful, rich, creamy, not-too-sweet frosting which I was never able to replicate. It had the consistency of butter and confectioner's sugar frosting, but was nothing like as disgustingly sweet. I have a new-fangled recipe for red velvet cake (from the NY Times and excellent) that calls for a frosting made with cream cheese and marscapone and whipping cream which is just as fabulous as it sounds but it is not the frosting of my childhood. Earlier this summer I googled red velvet cake on a whim and there it was: cooked frosting. I tried it and it was the frosting I remembered and it is not only delicious but really easy. Here it is: Cook 1 cup milk (whole milk, it's frosting for god's sake) with 1/3 c. white flour until it is very thick. Set aside to cool. Meantime, beat 1 cup butter with 1 cup granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the cooled (that's important) milk/ flour mixture and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Add a big pinch of salt if you used unsalted butter. Chill until ready to frost your chilled cake.

I put this on my standard chocolate cake and it was really good. Even better if you refrigerate the frosted cake for 6 or 8 hours before serving. Bring it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to serve it.

It was interesting to meet Miss Bee's parents; they were just as congenial and pleasant and cheerful as I had expected. When I mentioned at Salon, my Friday women's group, that I had invited the Bs for the weekend and that Miss Bee was not sure she wanted that much togetherness (or at least that's what Mr. Bee, her father emailed to me) to a woman the group declared that they would never have allowed their parents to visit their boyfriends' parents and many declared they would have prevented that degree of coziness even after they were married.

I have to admit the idea of my parents overlapping with my in-laws makes me feel a little crazed, even now that both my parents are passing judgment on me only from on high. I adore my mother-in-law and always have, since long before she was my MIL, so there was the jealousy problem, and additionally there just wasn't much overlap between the two couples. My mother and my MIL could have talked about teaching school, since they both did, but I don't think there was anything my FIL and my father could have talked about. It was a constant struggle for me to figure out how to balance those relationships and stay fair and honorable and cause the least amount of trauma, and I don't think I was very good at it.

Who knows how long CB and Miss Bee will be partners (although it's been close to two years and the family pattern on both sides is pick 'em young and stick with 'em) but for the duration the two families had a fine time together.

Oh, about the rest of dinner -- really fresh beans only need to roast for about 30 minutes and they cook down to nothing. I cooked 5 pounds for 11 of us and there're only about two servings left. The new potatoes should be started covered -- I use a 11 x 13 pan covered with tin foil -- for about 25 minutes and then uncover them until they are done. Last night I wasn't so clever about starting things in the right order so I just took the beans out when they were done and served them at room temp (which was about 92 degrees) and let the potatoes finish cooking.

For the chicken I cooked two 5 pound free-range birds that I had the butcher spatchcock -- my butcher does it for me or you can do it yourself with a sharp knife. It just means removing the backbone and flattening the bird. Google it if you're confused. I once sent CB to the local market to get a spatchcocked bird and when he asked for it to be done the butcher looked up at him and said "You must be Ivy Vann's son. She's the only person who ever asks for that." Why I don't know, because it makes the birds easy to cook and easy to carve.

I brine my birds for at least an hour and as long as overnight before I cook them. If I'm grilling them (yes, the fire lit for me -- I think DH wasn't holding his mouth right the other night. Or maybe he just dried out the charcoal so it would light yesterday) I precook them in the microwave for 8 or 10 minutes first. It ensures they will cook evenly and relatively quickly and seems to reduce flare-ups, too.

We drank 3 bottles of Salmon Run Riesling with this meal -- some of which went to Kirs beforehand -- and it was pretty tasty all around.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday: EZ Dad Dinner #4

This isn't actually Ivy, it's the DH. Today I said to the Light Of My Life and Desire Of My Days (LOML for short) that if I made the dinner I didn't see why I shouldn't post to the blog, and she said she didn't either, so here I am.

Last night's dinner was the dad special, i.e. hamburgers made indoors on the stove instead of outdoors on the grill because the newspaper wouldn't light, which tells you something about the weather we've been having. The hamburger was from Roy's, the buns from the Kernel Bakery and both were good. They were shared by me and the Light and our horsey daughter, the Lockmeister having pledged every evening of her life (two weeks of it anyway) to running the light board at Andy's for their performace of Phantom of the Opera. I'm not exactly sure what she had for dinner--she seems to live on starlight and dew. And protein bars.

Oh, we had salad too, just so there was something green on the table. The mom special: baby lettuce mix, craisins, blue cheese crumble, balsamic vinegar, olive oil. I might have made those french fries if the Light were sharing her recipie but she's not.

For dessert we had Bread Pudding Chez Hélène topped with Crème Angalise--or maybe it was just vanilla custard. Either way it was... okay. Normally Bread Pudding Chez Hélène is what Hera feeds Zeus when she wants to get him in a good mood. It uses a can of evaporated milk, lots of vanilla, and halfway through the cooking you stir it up so all the carmelized bits from around the edge get mixed all through and its all unctuous and caramelized and wonderful.

But I think if you're using frozen bread (I was) you need more liquid... and if you're using unsalted butter (I was) you have to add a bit of salt even if the recipe doesn't call for it. Ah, well. They say that the original meaning of "sin" is to miss the mark; forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.