Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Am A Clam Genius

Okay, it's not nice to brag, but this might be the best clam dinner I have ever made.
While I wandered through the grocery store I spied a package of smoked linguica sausage. Suddenly I was thinking cataplana, the Portuguese dish of pork or sausage and clams -- manilla clams, a house favorite.
I heated some olive oil and browned slices of the sausage in the pan. I removed the sausage and added in a chopped onion and cooked for about 5 minutes. Next I added in 1 tsp of smoked paprika (picante) and 3 cloves of minced garlic. I stirred that for just a bit and added 2 TBs of tomato paste, 1/4 cup of clam juice, 3/4 cup of white wine, a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes, a handful of chopped parsley, 2 bay leaves, a couple slices of chopped prosciutto for some extra porky flavor and about 2 TB of butter. I brought that all up to a boil, poured in almost 3 lbs of tiny Manilla clams, covered the pot and steamed for about 6 minutes until all the clams had opened. I served the clams with slices of bread toasted with shallot butter and parsley to soak up the super delicious, spicy sauce.
Modesty be damned. I can't deny it. I am a clam genius.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Soup In Indian Summer

The other day while flipping channels I stopped to watch one of Martha Stewart's minions (I think it was Lucinda Scala Quinn) stir up a pot of lentil vegetable soup. In spite of LA's record heat, that soup looked so good I decided to whip some up for dinner, with a couple additions of my own.
I sautéed chopped smoked sausage, onions, celery and carrots along with a hefty amount of minced garlic and a teaspoon of salt in olive oil for about 5 minutes. I added a chopped tomato and cooked a bit longer, then a good dollop of tomato paste and stirred the mixture around to cook for another 2 minutes or so. In went 2 cups of lentils, about a teaspoon of thyme, 2 bay leaves, more salt, and a pinch of chile flakes along with about 4 cups of water and close to 11 cups of chicken broth. I brought everything to a boil and simmered the soup for about 20 minutes until the lentils were tender. The last step -- as directed by my TV hostess, was to stir in about 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar (homemade right out of our kitchen cask) for a bit of flavor punch.
To serve, as instructed by the TV, I made a pan of garlic croutons. Cubes of slightly stale bread (about 1 inch square) tossed in a hot pan with olive oil and two whole cloves of garlic until golden brown and crispy. The soup was good, but the croutons gave it a little something extra -- and so easy, all in a skillet -- no tray of cubes to burn in the oven, and ready to go.
Even on a hot night, soup is "a good thing." Garlic croutons are even better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sandwich Night

James came home late from work and wondering if we had something for a "snack" in the house. I went through the usual list . . . pizza, spaghetti, toasties (that's open-faced toasted bread -- usually with cheese -- around here), grilled cheese. "Oooh," James said. So I started on a couple grilled cheese sandwiches. I always try to do something a little different so today I layered prosciutto, butter, arugula, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and a thin spread of Italian mostarda -- a sweet and tangy fruit flavored mustard -- on rustic peasant bread. I heated some butter and olive oil in a skillet, laid the sandwiches in the hot pan and pressed down with a heavy lid, flipped and cooked until each side was golden brown and crispy.
We always love Thursday sandwich night at Campanile, but tonight was grilled cheese night at home.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Slider Snack

I spent today helping my friend Karen throw a birthday party for her four year old son. Our house favorites, sliders and onion rings, were on the menu so of course there was a little slider snack for James when I got home.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Meatballs For Dinner

This week James has been all about ground beef. All he wants are burgers. I had to mix it up a bit so I seasoned some of our Hearst Ranch ground beef with parsley, chopped red onions, dried basil and minced garlic and added in some bread crumbs, an egg, parmesan cheese, and for something different some chopped arugula. I rolled the mixture into smallish balls (about a golf ball) and rolled each meatball lightly in breadcrumbs. Just to make everything a little easier I baked the meatballs at 400º for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile I boiled cauliflower florets until tender, then puréed them in the food processor with butter, salt, olive oil, milk, and a bit of parmesan cheese. For a nice contrast of bitterness -- not to mention color, I sautéed some radicchio with a touch of balsamic vinegar and golden raisins to mellow it's assertive flavor.
Meatballs for dinner in a whole new way.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mish Mash Pasta Bake

There always seem to be the ends of a couple bags of pasta sitting back in the drawer. None of them have enough for a meal alone, so I decided to toss them all into a mish mash baked dish. Mixed pasta shapes (about half cooked in boiling water), brisket pasta sauce I had in the freezer (Mark Peel's recipe I made a few months back), and dollops of seasoned ricotta (salt, pepper, oregano, chili flakes and parmesan) all tossed together and baked at 350º for about 35 minutes.
Dinner. Done.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Soup

I love fall. I love Halloween. I love Thanksgiving. I love overcast days with a chill in the air. I love soup.
Maybe it's rushing the autumn a little, but tonight seemed like a good night for a warming bowl of fragrant soup.
I took two acorn squash I had sitting on the counter, halved them and seeded them and roasted them -- cut side down with a little olive oil and S&P for 30 minutes in a 400º oven. Meanwhile in a soup pot I sauteed one sliced onion, a few stalks of celery and two cloves of garlic in a little butter and olive oil, until the veggies were soft -- about ten minutes. While those cooked I fried 2 slices of bacon in a skillet until crisp, set them aside and added in one bunch of finely shredded Tuscan kale, and cooked it in the bacon fat (with a splash of olive oil) for abut 5 minutes -- until a tiny bit crisped. Back to the stock pot. I added in the flesh from the squash, fresh thyme, fresh sage, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp ginger, and 4 cups of chicken broth. I let the soup simmer for about ten minutes to let the flavors meld and then puréed it in the blender. I added the now smooth soup back to the pot along with the sautéed kale and simmered the whole combination for about 3 minutes or so. I served the soup garnished with the reserved bacon.
I love soup. James loves bacon. Bingo!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Diner Style At Home

James wanted burgers for dinner. I get bored making the same thing over and over again so I try to, at least occasionally, put a slightly different spin on his favorite dinners. And so, in not too far a stretch, burgers became patty melts. I cooked up beef patties and layered them on rosemary bread along with swiss cheese, grilled onions, arugula, mustard, pickles and bacon and popped them back in the same skillet to toast in the fat left from cooking the burgers -- and a little added butter. I used a heavy lid to press them down, flipped and dinner was server golden brown. Big hit. James went back for thirds.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Speedy Spanish Style

I'm always looking for new way to serve clams -- they are one of James' favorite things -- and ways to make fish (healthy and a calorie win but just not one of my favorites) more of a treat. This Spanish style recipe from Anya Von Bremzen's The New Spanish Table seemed just right. I heated some olive oil (about 1/4 cup) in a pan with a cover and laid in two fish filets (halibut instead of Spain's more common hake) that were seasoned and lightly dusted with flour. I browned the fish on all sides and set it aside for just a minute. Next I tossed in about 3/4 cup chopped parsley and almost a TB of minced garlic and stirred them around for a bit, just until fragrant -- not browned. Then I added 1 TB of flour and whisked that to make sure there were no lumps and poured in 1/4 cup of white wine and 1 cup of clam juice. I brought the juices to a simmer and carefully laid the fish filets back in along with about 1 cup of semi thawed frozen peas and 1 pound of Manilla clams. I covered the pot and let everything bubble over medium heat until the clams were all opened and the fish was cooked through, about 6 minutes total.
Dinner in 15 minutes brought to the table with plenty of warm bread for dipping in the delicious sauce -- and only one pot to wash.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Fruit Project

I guess some weeks I get over excited at the farmer's market and buy more fruit than we can possibly eat. I already whipped up an apple pear cake but what to do with the leftover stone fruit.
James is one of those people who, although he has a healthy sweet tooth, can walk by a cake on the counter without hearing it's siren call. He can, eat a bite or one slice a day and not tiptoe back for more. James is naturally skinny.
So, we certainly didn't need another cake around the house. The freezer already held breakfast breads and muffins, so what to do with this bowl of plums?
I decided on a quick batch of plum (actually a mix of plums, pluots, and even a nectarine) jam. Even if I was too lazy to get down the canning pot -- which I was, the jam would keep for a few months in the fridge, and we could always bring a jar to a friend as a hostess gift. Win win, jam it is.
I cut the fruit into wedges and covered them, in a heavy saucepan, with 3/4 cup of sugar (I used a mix of brown and white since I ran out of white and our cupboards for some reason are groaning with brown sugar) for each pound of fruit and let it sit for about an hour. I squeezed in half a lemon and dropped the rind into the pan which I brought to a boil and let simmer for about 35 minutes. Until a drop of the jam on a cold plate (I put a plate in the freezer for 10 minutes) held it's shape.
Presto. Leftover fruit becomes brand new jam.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bread Pudding For Dinner

I always seem to have stale bread -- ends I haven't thrown to the chickens yet, a baguette we forgot to eat. Today there was also a literally giant zucchini I somehow had kept walking by in the garden. Hmm stale bread, giant zucchini, eggs, and 3 lonely italian sausage links in the fridge . . . savory bread pudding for dinner.
I cubes the stale bread (no small task) and put one thinly sliced onion, 2 sliced cloves of garlic and a sprinkle of red pepper to heat in some olive oil in a pan. when the onion was just getting soft I added in bits of sausage (removed from the casing) and after a couple minutes the thinly sliced zucchini. I sauteed until the sausage was cooked through and the zucchini was tender.
I mixed the contents of the skillet with the bread cubes and the ends of several pieces of cheese (thrifty, no?). Today it was feta, mozzarella, and a bit of parmesan. I transferred that all into a baking dish and overtop poured in three cups of milk mixed with 6 eggs and S&P. I let the pan sit in the fridge for about 3 hours so the bread was nicely soaked with the milk mixture before baking for 1 hour at 350º (I let the dish come to room temperature before baking).
It's always the best part of Thanksgiving, so why not have stuffing for dinner? It's a pretty handy way to use up odds and ends too.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Quick Cake For Almost Fall

Every now and then we don't manage to eat all of the fruit from the farmer's market (or I buy too much) and we end up with a bowl of not quite as fresh fruit in the fridge -- sometimes more than the chickens can eat.
Emptying the fruit bowl today I found some bright green organic pears and sweet Gala apples. As luck would have it, unlike our usual SoCal sunny day we we were having the kind of hazy overcast almost fall morning that calls out for sweetly spiced apple cake (with my pears too).
I sautéed the peeled cubed apples and pears in a good quantity of butter (3 TB), cinnamon (2 1/2 tsp), mace (1/4 tsp), ginger (1/4 tsp), sugar (1/2 cup), brown sugar (1/4 cup) and just a hit of Scotch whiskey -- I couldn't seem to find the brandy. I cooked the fruit down until it was soft and sweet but still held it's shape -- about 6 minutes. I left the fruit to cool while I made the batter.
In an electric mixer I blended together 1 cup of vegetable oil, 4 eggs, 1 tsp of vanilla, 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice, 2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. I stirred in 2 3/4 cups of all purpose flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour for a bit of rustic flavor, and 1 TB of baking powder.
I layered a third of the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan, followed by half of the apples -- trying to pour in as little juice as possible. Another third of the batter followed with the rest of the apples and pears and I topped the pan with the remaining batter. The assembled cake baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes in a 350º oven.
When the cake was cooked through I let it cool on a rack for 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a cake platter. A little of the sugar from the fruit sauté seeped out and got a little sticky so the cake didn't come out of the pan quite as cleanly as I'd like, but it's still pretty respectable -- especially hiding under a scoop of ice cream.
Now I just need James to take the first slice.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Black Bean Burgers

It's always a good time for burgers.
Tonight I figured we might do something just a little different. I mashed up some canned black beans with eggs, panko bread crumbs, cilantro, cumin, S&P, garlic, minced red onion, oregano, and red pepper flakes -- formed several large patties and let them sit up in the fridge for 15 minutes to hold their shape. Before serving I laid the burgers in a non-stick pan with a bit of olive oil and heated them through while the outside browned. James had his burger on a toasted bun with a delicate Basque sheep's milk cheese and sliced avocado. On the side -- oven-fried sweet potato fries with just a hint of cayenne pepper and brown sugar.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eggs For Dinner

What to make when it's already 6:30 and haven't had a thought about what to make? Eggs. We always have them (thanks girls), James loves them (especially our super fresh backyard eggs), and they cook up fast.
Instead of the usual bacon and eggs I went for an Italian egg dish, Eggs in Purgatory -- eggs poached in tomato sauce. I stirred up some red onions, garlic, pancetta and olive oil in a pan, added chunks of Italian sausage (not so traditional with this dish but still delicious), and let everything cook until tender. Then I added in a can of tomatoes, oregano, basil, parsley, crushed red chiles, and a pat of butter then let the sauce cook for about 15 minutes. I carefully cracked the eggs into the pan, covered the skillet and let the eggs poach for about 4 minutes. I served the eggs straight from the pan sprinkled with grated cheese and fresh basil. With toast, of course.
Countries where eggs aren't standard breakfast food have lots of interesting eggs for dinner dishes. I'm gonna start looking around to be prepared for our next eggs for dinner night.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just In Time

A few minutes after the pasta cooks, this super simple diner is ready to serve. I sautéed garlic, fennel seed, chiles, and oregano in a good quantity of olive oil, added chopped prosciutto and turned off the heat. When the pasta was drained I added the aromatics along with chopped radicchio, baby arugula, S&P, and chopped burrata cheese. I gave it a few stirs until the cheese was just barely melted and our improvised warm pasta salad was ready to serve.
Colorful and quick.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Any Excuse For Soup

It isn't quite autumn, but still it has been cooler and just the slightest bit overcast. That combined with a fridge full of vegetables seemed like the perfect recipe for soup. I reached in the freezer for my bag of chicken parts (necks, backs, wings -- whatever doesn't fit in my recipe), chopped up a few onions, carrots, and celery stalks and combined it all, covered in water, with peppercorns, parsley, and bay leaves and left the stock to simmer for an hour and a half. I drained the stock and cooked a whole chicken in the broth, simmering for about 45 minutes. I drained the stock again and brought it to a simmer, then I dropped in chopped onions, carrots and celery and left the soup to bubble slightly for about 8 minutes. Next came some sliced baby squash from our garden, and the soup simmered on for another 5 minutes. Next I added some barely thawed frozen peas, leftover corn I cut off the cobs, and the skinned and deboned chicken cut into chunks ad just let the soup simmer until the chicken was warmed through.
I cooked some fine egg noodles in a separate pot and mixed them, the soup, a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley and chives in James' bowl.
Not quite fall, but still a perfect day for a homemade soup supper.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mushroom Burger

There is no way to make it look pretty, but sometimes a guy just needs a burger. I sautéed some mushrooms as a topper and broiled some squash with parmesan cheese.
Dinner by request.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Steak and Gravy

Barely past Labor Day and we are being treated to an overcast day with just the slightest chill in the air. The kind of day that reminds you winter (even if it is just a SoCal winter) is coming. Jack-o-lanterns and Thanksgiving turkeys are just around the corner. The kind of day that calls for a warm, slow cooked dinners and rich gravies -- or I could be rushing it just a bit.
Another of the meat mysteries from the Hearst Ranch shipment was a small cross rib steak. I've seen cross rib roast -- although not often, so I assumed this was a "steak" cut from the larger roast, a bargain cut from between the shoulder and the rib. It was bound to be a bit tough and probably better suited to pot roast than a turn on the grill. So I dusted off an old recipe for smothered pork chops and set out to make steak and gravy for James' dinner.
First I browned the dredged, seasoned meat in a pan slicked with olive oil. I put the meat aside and added into two chopped strips of bacon, two thinly sliced onions, and two smashed garlic cloves. When the onions were soft I added in one cup of wine and one of chicken broth (after the steak was cooked I did reduce the gravy down a bit -- seemed just a little too thin for noodles), nestled the steak in the pan, and left the covered skillet to simmer over very low heat for about 75 minutes.
The result was a thick oniony gravy and tender steak. Perfect for a not quite winter's night.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pizza With A Friend

Our friend Eric's wife is out of town so we invited hi over to share James' pizza dinner. We always like to see Eric and besides it gave me the chance to make two pies -- one, as pictured above, was a fresh tomato, sausage, and mozzarella flavored with plenty of oregano and fresh basil. The Other, while still tasty was not exactly photo ready -- pizza is not exactly the prettiest food -- was mushroom, thyme, prosciutto and Gruyère. That's one of our favorite flavor combinations around here.
Since we had company -- I usually just make pizza, tossed together an arugula and radicchio salad, even though it had a bit more delicious, salty parmesan than is probably diet friendly.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Lunch

The end of summer.
A chance to get together with friends we don't see often enough.
Time to grill.
We're not exactly a hot dog house. We opted instead for a festive lunch on the back porch.
The grill did get busy with thin slices of patty pan squash doused in a piquant feta cheese and basil sauce. Sharing the grill were shrimp and chorizo kebabs. I wrapped peeled shrimp around 1/2" slices of dry chorizo (I took that chance in spite of our Spanish guest -- but she seemed to approve) and threaded three to a bamboo skewer. I made a marinade/ paste of caraway seeds, chili powder, olive oil and garlic and brushed it over the meat just before grilling, a couple minutes on each side. Our friend Paul was kind enough to man the grill, including heating the tortillas, while I got a few things ready inside.
When I was trying to get an idea of what to serve today I was staring at the packages of Hearst Ranch beef in our freezer. They package a bag of chuck and round trims they call fajita strips. I don't think I've ever made fajitas for James and as I was puzzling over what use I could make of these pre-cut slices I saw a recipe for Mexican Beef Stew on the Saveur Magazine website. It is a long cooking dish of meat, tomatoes, onions, plantains, apples, pineapple and plenty of chili. Perfect for wrapping in warm tortillas. From there the theme for lunch took off. I whipped up guacamole and a batch of queso fundido (basically a warm dip of chiles, onions, tomatoes, beer and lots of melted cheese -- Mexican fondue) as appetizers with thick deep fried tortilla chips. I made a tangy radish salsa that gave a little crunch to the warm beef stew. The skewers just came along naturally followed by a fresh salad with garlic cream dressing, skillet cornbread which proved to be perfect match for the nearly sweet beef dish and, of course, corn on the cob. It is Labor Day after all.
For dessert I couldn't decide which fruit to use so I made double tarts from Mark Bittman's reliable free-form tart recipe. Basically a giant cookie with fruit topping, this recipe is so fool-proof there's no reason to ever fear making dessert again. James called the pear tart "French Fry Pie". The plum was a bit prettier but both were plenty tasty with fresh whipped cream and ice cream.
A great way to spend a day off.
Happy Labor Day one and all!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

America's Best Home Cook

No it's not me. Sigh.
But from all reports it's Mark Bittman, cookbook author (he wrote my favorite all-purpose/ new-cook cookbook, How To Cook Everything) and New York Times columnist. That's what I read and I believe it. No matter how unlikely his recipes may seem I follow them. I will choose a recipe from Bittman before many other writers and I am never disappointed.
Tonight I wanted something flavorful, not too heavy (it was a pretty warm day after all), and pretty easy clean up. Surfing around the internet -- I found a simple dish, broiled chicken with a honey fig sauce. We have figs, we have honey (we always have honey), and we even had an open bottle of white wine so off I went.
Following his recipe I put 2 TB of honey and a splash of water in a saucepan and brought it to a boil. I allowed the honey to boil gently for about a minute and added in 1/2 cup white wine, the zest and juice of 1/4 orange, 1/2 cup dried figs, diced, 1/2 tsp of whole coriander, s&P, and a pinch of cayenne and let the sauce simmer/ gently boil for about 15 minutes until the figs were soft.
Meanwhile I pre-heated the broiler and set a rack so the chicken would be about 6 inches from the heat. I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and broiled for 10 minute son a side until it was browned, crispy, and cooked through.
As a side dish I steamed some cauliflower until it was tender (it was orange cauliflower, hence the bright color) and puréed it in the food processor with a bit of bitter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of z'atar -- a middle eastern spice mixture that James loves and truly is magic with cauliflower.
I could have strained the sauce and made the presentations a little less, let's say rustic. But the figs were so flavorful I traded a bit of elegance (as the author says he does) for flavor.
Three cheers for Mark Bittman!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Not Spaghetti and Still Okay

Usually when I make pasta that is any other shape, James gently mentions how he really likes spaghetti best. Not linguine, not capellini, but plain old spaghetti. But, every now and then I am seduced by fanciful shapes at the store and end up with a pantry shelf of lesser favorites.
I decided to start working off that shelf and grabbed a bag of trofie, squiggly little shapes usually served with a hearty pesto that are a specialty of the Italian region of Liguria.
To my surprise all I heard was "this is really good."
And it was so easy. All I did as crisp slices of prosciutto in some olive oil and toss in a few thinly sliced shallots (well, I used baby red onions form our garden), garlic, and crushed red chiles. When the pasta was cooked I put it it back in the pot and added in the prosciutto mixture, a out 3/4 cup of fresh ricotta, about 2 cups of fresh arugula, a good handful of grated parmesan, about 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water and stirred until the ingredients came together into a creamy sauce.
Easy and delicious.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our First Apples

Three years ago we planted a baby apple tree -- Pettingill apples native to Southern California (yes there are some), "discovered" in Long Beach in 1949. We waited and waited and waited and finally this year our baby tree was ready to fruit. Four lonely apples I have been hovering over and watching, waiting for them to ripen.
It seems I got a little too excited, even though they were green and flushed with red as the literature described, they were, as James described " a bit tart". His face puckered up with one bite.
I couldn't let our beautiful apples go to waste. We didn't have quite enough for even a tart. So I took the three we hadn't bitten into and but them in a brown paper bag with a couple of bananas to see if I could force them to ripen. That one, super tart, sample apple I sliced thin and sautéed with butter, brown sugar, and a hint of chili. I layered that quick apple jam with roast pork, fresh arugula, and Gruyère cheese between slices of crusty Italian bread for grilled sandwiches.
Along with the sandwiches, because my diet called or it and we had it in the fridge, a quick broccoli soup. I put fresh broccoli florets into a pot of salted boiling water and chicken stock and allowed them to cook for about 4 minutes until just tender. I puréed the mixture in the blender and served the hot soup (tasted again for seasoning) over a mound of fresh ricotta cheese (cheese for James, yogurt for me).
I suppose it's a long way to go to save an apple, but for my homegrown it might just be worth it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grilled Halibut with Smashed Potates

I'm trying to get back on the diet -- I have been pretty lax lately. And so I plunged head first with the dieter's stand-by -- grilled fish. For me I coated halibut filets with a mixture of chopped parsley, oregano, and basil and grilled them over high heat for about 3-4 minutes a side. For James I took a grilled, herb-coated filet and served it over smashed potatoes (boiled potatoes cooked in a skillet with olive oil, sliced shallots, garlic, crushed red chiles and smashed down into the hot oil to make brown and crispy bits) with a drizzle of brown butter and fried basil leaves.
Diet dinner does double duty.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Joyce For Dinner

We found out late in the afternoon we would be lucky enough to have our neighbor Joyce over for dinner -- she has been out of town working and James and I were both looking forward to a visit.
But, our last minute plans left no time for elaborate recipes or lingering over shopping or even defrosting.
I made quick run for the meat counter and came up with two skirt steaks I rubbed with olive oil, minced garlic, chopped thyme and salt and let sit to marinate at room temperature for about an hour. As a sauce -- Joyce is company after all -- I made a quick blended Chimichurri (parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, crushed red peppers).
We have plenty of vine grown tomatoes and so I started out to make a tomato salad, but since James isn't a fresh tomato eater (sauce fine, salad no) I added in halved heads of baby romaine, thinly sliced red onions from our garden, chopped parsley and chucks of blue cheese and topped the salad with a buttermilk dressing I saw in September's Bon Appetit magazine. Delicious.
Along with fresh corn on the cob I used some of the squash from our garden in this dish, from a recent Food and Wine magazine, of roasted squash with ricotta. I cut the squash into 1/4" dice and popped it in a hot oven, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I sprinkled the cooked vegetables with cumin seed, fennel seed, and crushed red pepper and let them roast until just browned around the edges. With fresh mint leaves on top and creamy ricotta on the side this was a super simple side dish bursting with summer flavor.
I grilled the steaks for about 8 minutes total, let them rest while I brought the sides (well, a couple minutes more -- maybe 6 or 8 minutes total) to the table and dinner was served.
"Dinner was good," James said twice. "I liked that better then some of our fancier dishes."
So much for planning -- last minute dinner might just be the new plan around here.