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As I mentioned, we were in Napa this past weekend with some friends at their gorgeous home … and I am kicking myself that I am back at home/work. The weather was perfect, if a bit hot, which necessitated lounging in the pool for hours at a time. In addition to the copious amount of both vino and good stories, no surprise there was lots of food. We all enjoy some time in the kitchen, which makes things so fun and easy when meals are a group effort.
Friday night we went a bit Greek, which seemed perfect for a hot summer night.
We stuck to something that worked (the version from a Spring dinner), simply studding bits of herbs, lemon zest, garlic and anchovies around the leg, and then roasting until just medium-rare. A hit every time.
with lots of dips and sides
store-bought, but jazzed up with some lemon juice and olive oil, topped with paprika and toasted pinenuts.
I make mine with greek yogurt and both diced and grated cucumbers – that way you get bits to bite, but it also melds completely with the yogurt. Of course a bit of garlic, lemon and olive oil are needed too.
Red Pepper Aioli
which was added last minute for some heat — whisking of egg yolk, lemon juice and oil (homemade mayo) with some garlic and a potent hot-pepper spread we found in the fridge…any hot sauce would work here depending on the direction you want.
because growing up, lamb meant mint jelly, but this one was a bit more current and definitely more fresh… really a mint pesto if you will.
and to balance it out,
Watermelon Salad, of course
and some Grilled Pita
The feasting didn’t stop Saturday, with a late brunch, afternoon snacks, and another Mediterranean dinner, this one Spanish.
Brunch was fairly simple, just a
this one was loaded with onions, sliced potatoes, sliced summer squash, and fresh corn and topped with goat cheese (which I may have forgotten to add earlier).
which, if you haven’t discovered the key to divine bacon, is buy the good thick-cut kind at the meat counter and then roast it in a hot oven on a sheet pan (or even better, a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan)– stays flat, is the perfect crisp/chewy ratio, and no one has to stand there frying bacon.
Yogurt and Berries
While for weekday breakfasts, I keep the yogurt as is, for brunch, I add a bit of orange juice and zest and a tiny swirl of honey.
After brunch we went for pool time, margaritas, snacks in multiple rounds (first chips, salsa, guac and leftover tzatziki, then cheese and charcuterie), wine and finally a Spanish dinner.–
Jamón y Melón
The traditional version is made over an open flame in a paella pan, but I find this Cook’s Illustrated version to be the perfect adaptation for home. I use this pan (which to me still feels more paella-ish tableside, but I happened to own long before I started making this), and make a few slight changes, including adding Pimentón, or smoked Spanish paprika, which I find to be non-negoitable and homemade chicken stock. As for the meats and seafood, it is pretty adaptable. Sometimes I add clams as well, or spicy turkey sausage instead of chorizo for some guests – you can see here the mussels didn’t make it, as turned out the fridge wasn’t cold enough to keep them alive, and we forgot to keep them on ice.
Now if only I could spend the rest of the summer this way. This whole work thing really gets in the way of things.
February can be a bit of a ‘tweener month. Straddling between braises and the cold (and warm) comforts of winter and the peeks of spring that are just around the corner. To add to the confusion, every once in a while a day or weekend will pop up that feels almost like summer. At least in they happen in California. But I know that sunny days will surprise everyone, even if they aren’t
quite at all summer like.
And while I can easily find rosé and a place outside to enjoy it all, I have a harder time figuring out what to eat. Sunshine like that makes me crave tomatoes and corn, knowing that we still have all the good spring greens first, and my market is still showcasing beets.
In times like this shrimp rolls are perfect. They don’t require seasonal ingredients, but definitely taste of warmer times.
Traditionally, shrimp for this preparation are boiled, but I prefer to roast them. But then again, I almost always prefer roasting to boiling. And since I am not a native New Englander, I don’t have any real allegiance to seafood rolls, and so in addition to switching the native cooking method, I can doctor them up any way I please with zero guilt. I actually keep these pretty traditional, I think, but that is the beauty of it – my final product is a verdict of taste rather than nostalgia.
One thing is for sure though – there is no changing the buttered hot dog bun. Anything else would just be a sandwich.
And we don’t need to wait for warm days for any old sandwich!
Plate check – These were my great-grandmother’s dishes, and I am not sure of the maker or pattern. If anyone knows (GG?), please let me know in the comments! xx
I am pretty sure that the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I may say that about Thanksgiving too, but I really mean it about both. Probably because they both involve crazy amounts of good food. But the 4th has sunshine! And fireworks! And summer cocktails! And oodles of friends. And well…lots of lovelies (which may account to why I am just know getting to post about it).
I must say that my first 4th in San Francisco was quite wonderful. We gathered with a big group of friends and spent the day grazing and toasting under the Golden Gate Bridge with almost enough sunshine to keep me happy.
And I’ve gotta tell you, our friends pulled out all the stops on the food. Everyone brought something(s) and I made sure to sample it all. Farro with corn, avocado and bacon. Panzanella with fresh peas and asparagus. Radish and mint tabbouleh. Out of this world caponata (currently trying to wrangle a copy of this family recipe). Spinach salad with blueberries. Watermelon salad with feta and mint. And burgers and steaks and sausages. And the desserts, whew, flag cake and lemon blueberry cheesecake bars and chocolate fudge cookies with salted caramel ice cream. Hopefully we can get some guest posts on these things because I want them all to reoccur this summer.
But to start if off, I brought gazpacho with roasted shrimp and croutons. A little something to sip on while the coals heated up and the salads were still chilling out.
Gazpacho is a summer favorite for a reason – it is cold, quick and makes use of one of the season’s greatest gifts – the tomato!
And as much as I have always loved the Spanish soup, I didn’t have a go-to receipe on hand. My friend Audra makes a version that is legendary (from her Basque sister-in-law, I believe), but she was already gone for the weekend, and so I couldn’t get much from her. Thankfully, I did get a text that said “lots of onion and garlic, not blended too much, better if it can sit overnight.”
And that, plus (more than) a little help from José Andrés, set me off it the right direction. I am happy to say I now have a go-to gazpacho.
Since I am sure that the picture on the Memorial Day Weekend post has just been haunting you – wondering when the recipe would be up. Refreshing your browser 100 times, thinking it would pop up. Oh, didn’t do that. Well I can pretend, because that is the recipe you are finally getting.
Cross-country (or across the street) moves don’t generally inspire a ton of cooking, so I’ve been out of the kitchen a bit. Well actually that is not true – there was a taco night and smorgasbord of sandwiches on a sailboat – but those where part of a bachelorette party and the camera must’ve been hidden behind the wine bottle(s).
But at least we still have the clambake.
Before we moved, our friends wanted to have us over for dinner – which sounded great to me. An evening in a fun Soho apartment with an amazing wine collection and a chance to make dinner with great friends. While the boys chatted and kept the wine flowing, we ladies made dinner. Which was so easy it should be criminal, especially considering all the ‘WOWs’ it received.
There are a lot of great things about having friends that like to cook, eat, etc. as much as I do. One of them is they often snag reservations to great restaurants that I have been wanting to try. Or better yet, ones that I haven’t heard of.
And when we are all together and able to cook up a storm, eat and drink to our heart’s content without having to leave home. Those days are some of my favorites.
And while not as much fun as a group food & wine fest, I also love the inspiration I get from friends.
They have some great tricks up their sleeves. Someone may have even hidden some mango in a salsa verde which added just a touch of sweetness. Pure genius. And can’t wait to try it myself (and maybe claim it too).
So when any of these friends recommend a recipe, I know that it is something worth trying.
These shrimp don’t have much of a story, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great. In fact, when a certain someone had them, he said “are you going to write about these? You should.” I’ll take that as a good sign.
It really just started because I had some extra chipotles in the fridge, wanting to be used.
So that was easy – this sour cream, lime, chipotle sauce takes about 18 seconds, and is a regular for me. It is great smothered on tequila-lime chicken, or as a base for a little Mexi-pizza, just with chips, you name it…
All good choices, but none of those things were going to work for dinner here. (They required the store.)
But shrimp, that would be perfect. Shrimp are one of those things that I always have in the freezer. Always.
I knew it was too good to be true – the sun didn’t last long at all. Back to cold and rainy. How do people do this regularly? Well, the only good side of all this grey is that warm, hearty food is perfectly acceptable in this weather. Scratch that, it is required.
That being said, I wasn’t in the mood for any of our usual suspects or traditional hearty dishes. I wanted something that was both comforting but a bit light. Does that even make sense? Well, if it does, I think I came up with something that worked wonders!