tasty nom nom an exception to the daily meal

29Aug/111

Color and Texture

Hi J -

Sometimes, I am totally distracted by color and texture (and taste, of course!).

Earlier in the week, I saw ripe good looking mango for a very good price at the corner Farm stand, and remembered a blackberry mango salad in MSL August issue. (Mangoes are one of my favorite fruits. When I was little, being near the tropics, I ate them all the time. Conversely, we did not have a lot of strawberries. It is now reverse, good mangoes are difficult to find, and good strawberries are readily available. )  So I picked up some of the mangoes, added to some of the wild blackberries G picked earlier in the week, and improvised an arugula and romaine salad with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and the recipe's sweet and tart syrup (as "dressing").  The syrup calls for simmering water, sugar, honey, rice vinegar, cardamon and Lillet Blanc. Usually, when I encounter specialty ingredients that I don't have, I weight my interest in said ingredient, suitable substitute, likely reuse, etc. (Complicate over-thought much?!)  Since the Internets said there was no substitute, I was intrigue by the description, we picked up a bottle and gave it a go. It was ... an interesting taste.

Purty Colors

I was surprised N didn't mind it. Probably helped by the caramelized onions in the bacon grease. I also pulled out the watermelon rind for everyone to taste.

Almost translucent

I came across pickled watermelon rind recipes when I was researching other pickles. I have never seen them in real life. Instantly fascinated by the transformation of rind to pickle, "I want to try that." So after I scooped out the flesh for the margarita a few weeks ago, I prepped the rind and make two flavors of pickled watermelon rind the next day. Watermelon rind is a fair amount of work. I am not sure I have the right flavor yet. Like you, I also  prefer the Gingery Watermelon Pickles from Linda Ziedrich. If I make it again, I would like to find a heritage watermelon with thicker rind, which would be easier to work with, yield more, in addition to make stripes as N suggested.

Off the menu were squash blossom quesadillas. I have never made blossoms before. I found a seemingly simple non-fried recipe.  (Who wants to stand over hot oil and fry anything in 80° heat?!) It was good. I roasted a pepper over the stove for the first time and managed not to set the house on fire. Yay.

 Queso fresco weeping ... boo

Our main non-event was our standard grilled burgers. Non-eventful, standard burger. G also burnt some bacon on the griddle to go with the burgers. Mmm. After dinner, I requested we played a game that will use the card shuffler you brought us.  We can no longer complain about "Who shuffled?!" when we have a bad hand.

playing in the dark, on purpose

I can feel we are speeding towards the end of Summer, with Labor Day approaching. I am both excited, to be able to cook in the house again, and sad that outdoor grilling may soon end. Here is to dry(ish) fall!

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23Aug/110

Community Dinner

Good evening!

This time around, we had family in town -- two more adults and a kid! You contributed to the meal at the bookends -- drink, appetizer, and dessert. Yum!

After a bit of a problem with the pitcher for the sangria, you adjusted it to taste and we all had a bit to relax... I could use some sangria right now, as a matter of fact.

We started noshing on your gravlax, which was delicious. I am happy to know that it was easier to slice semi-frozen and it tasted as good out of the freezer as fresh cured (oxymoron?)! I am going to make some soon, I swear.

gravlax
gravlax

For dinner, N made pork ribs (for K) and beef brisket (for his brother E). He changed up the brisket preparation and injected it with a mixture of beef broth and butter -- the butter in part because he accidentally trimmed off more of the fat than he meant to! It turned out well, I thought.

The ribs were a usual N special. He used apple wood from your + G's tree to smoke them!

dinner
slaw

I was in charge of the cabbage slaw and N requested that I add jicama. I amazingly managed not to stab myself with the knife while julienning it. That success was tempered with me completely messed up the slaw dressing such that it ended up less punchy than I wanted. I forgot that I normally add both apple cider vinegar and a touch of plain ol' white vinegar to the dressing. That probably would have brightened it up a bit. I may try adding buttermilk next time around but we tend to go for a more vinegary than creamy dressing. I do like using both caraway and fennel seed in the dressing.

dinner
meeeeeeeeeat

I also threw together a super quick salad with a bunch of the vegetables in the house -- corn from the farm share, pear tomatoes, an avocado, lime juice, and tossed with a bit of cotija. It was nothing special.

I also fixed my cornbread by buying fresh baking powder. That was my only change. It rose quite a lot and I liked it much better than the last few times I've made it (though a little sweet; I will cut back the sugar next time). The texture was what I wanted.

Finally for dessert, you brought something specifically targeted to my niece N: strawberry shortcake!

strawberry shortcake
shortcake!

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that N and E broke into the leftovers the following morning for breakfast. Strawberry shortcake for breakfast? Yes, please! They have both requested the biscuit recipe -- I believe you said it was this recipe at epicurious.

uno
losing

We finished the night with a few rounds of Uno and you won! Success!

7Aug/110

Forecast – sunny and warm

Hi J -

When I saw the forecast for Saturday was  going to be sunny and 79°F, I planned a grilled meat and no-cook-inside meal.

I had an English cucumber (I had forgotten what I bought it for, oops) and Someone bought a very large watermelon last week. What to do? add some minty simple syrup, lots of lime juice, 1800 Silver & Tarantula Azul (your tequila choice!), and we have watermelon and cucumber margarita recipe.

Watermelon, cucumber, mint, lime by @edapita -- tasty!Hi pretty mint leaf!

Sad for G, we do not have an endless margarita machine.

Next up was a small starter of  a gazpacho variant, salmorejo recipe. I made it the night before so the flavors have more time to mingle. I added a couple of anchovies to the recipe. It could use more. N's suggestion of more salt was right on. After reading the review, I skipped the toppings. I find the process of making gazpacho fascinating. It is so neat to watch all the ingredients come together in the blender. Serious Eats has a fun article on the science of gazpacho. This is a first for me. I hope you enjoyed it, cause I want to make more gazpacho.

Yep, looking for a salmon color here

I was so happy to see sugar snap peas at the farmers market last week. Yay. I can finally make this sugar snap peas salad recipe. It is very similar to your peas salad. Add some grilled meat and cherry tomato relish recipe. The flank steak was marinated in cilantro, parsley, cumin, Mexican oregano,  lime, garlic, and olive oil overnight. G grilled it to temperature 140°F, about 4 minutes on each side on medium high heat. I goofed and used all the mint for the margarita and forget I needed some for the salad. All in all, everything turned out okay.

colors of summer

Summery meal accomplished. And as if I did not spend enough time in the kitchen putting up the strawberries G brought home in addition to the Saturday meal, I also prep watermelon rind to make two kinds of pickled watermelon rind.

After dinner, N wanted a mindless game. G lobbied for Acquire (surprise!), I lobbied for New World. We settled on Bohnanza, then Guillotine.

One of my favorite cards in the deck

Stuck in a rut on our games? I think so. Or summer making and eating food has taken over. This too shall pass. I see a very simple meal in our future.

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6Aug/111

Requests

Dear E:

Last week you specifically requested chicken for dinner. We were excited because we always like an excuse to make chicken -- plus it made planning dinner easier! We decided on a light dinner of Peruvian-style chicken and cabbage slaw.

plate_DSC_8039
plated

N trimmed the chicken of most of its fat, rubbed the whole chicken down with lime and sliced open the thigh to allow for both the marinade and lime juice to sop over the thigh meat.

The chicken is marinated overnight (2 hour is sufficient; overnight is better) in a sauce of white vinegar, white wine, canola oil, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, black pepper, salt, and lime juice.

While the birds were marinating, N made the two dipping sauces. There are so many variations of these sauces out there -- and I suspect these are not traditional implementations at all, however they approximate very closely what we were served at the pollo a la brasa places in DC. Aji is a type of Caribbean pepper that is normally included in these sauces.

Aji amarillo is a spicy white-yellow sauce based on mayonnaise and hot peppers (typically aji amarillo). N used habaneros instead of ajis amarillos. First boil the habaneros for 5 minutes, then blend them with 1 C of mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp of sugar, 4 garlic cloves, and a tsp of salt.

Aji verde is a green sauce based mainly on cilantro. The last time N made it a little differently. This time he blended 3/4C cilantro, 1/3 C cotija, 1/3 C olive oil, 1/3 C water, 2-3 jalapenos, a clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar, and 1/2 tsp salt.

I threw together a quick cabbage slaw with napa cabbage, red cabbage, cilantro, parsley, thin sliced red onion, and shaved carrot. For the dressing I blended lime juice, mayonnaise, tabasco sauce, salt, cumin seed, and a touch of honey.

slaw_DSC_8035
cabbage slaw

On the 4th of July, N mentioned something about wanting a cherry pie. This week my farm share offered 2 pounds of sour cherries for an additional fee and I decided that I would just do it since sour cherry pie is my very favorite.

I pitted 2 pounds of sour cherries with a chopstick, turning the kitchen into a crime scene looking zone. I think the real benefit of a cherry pitter is the splatter shield!

pitcherry_DSC_8012
pitting cherries

I followed Smitten Kitchen Deb's Sour Cherry Pie with Almond Crumble recipe, including her pie crust, which is similar to my usual sweet pie crust. The biggest difference is that I left much larger chunks of butter in the crust than I normally do. I think this made it a lot more flaky than usual.

I did have a problem after blind baking my crust -- shrinkage and then the filling spilled down between the pie plate and the crust. Dammit!

piealamode_DSC_8046
pie

Tasty pie despite the crust failure!

We finished off the night with a couple of Uno matches-- the low-mental-effort standard at my house. I guess we need another mindless simple game!

uno_DSC_8052
uno

At least we don't argue about Uno rules ... much!

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