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!

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