lundi 18 juin 2007

Sunscreen sprays are great - this time, I'm only burned a wee bit on my bum.

Is there a summer day more perfect than a couple of hours lying out at the beach - and by happenstance, catching some sort of surfing competition - followed by fried seafood? Maybe if lobster rolls were also involved, but fried clam strips are not a bad thing either.

Incidentally, I do a very good impression of a stoned surfer. It's one of my many talents.

Oh, and then to follow that all up with a dinner party! It's during the summer when I really wish I had some sort of patio or deck, so I could grill all the time. Because I would, and it would be fun. But, in lieu of that, and given the fact that one of my friends at this dinner was a vegetarian, I opted for a lighter beginning-of-summer meal, with tons of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I served a simple canapé of little toasts spread with my strawberry basil pesto, topped with radishes fresh from the farmers' market and sprinkled with sea salt along with prosecco juleps. I love regular ol' mint juleps (shockingly, the bartender last night did NOT know how to make a mint julep from scratch. I was appalled. There are such things as mint julep mixes? Egads! And yes, I went drinking on a Sunday night), but most people find them too strong. This drink was a great compromise. The appetizer was an adaptation of a recipe from Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte, which in turn was inspired by a tapas restaurant in Barcelona.

Then it was time for ricotta gnocchi with mushrooms, sweet corn, and sage brown butter. I have to say that while making this, I wasn't too sure that it was going to come out - after all, my gnocchi didn't look anything like the picture. But Sunday Suppers at Lucques hasn't let me down yet, and somehow it all turned out spectacularly well, and I might have to make this dish all of the time now. I could also just eat the buttered corn for days on end. I'm far too lazy to type the long recipe out, but if you have it... instead of using toasted regular breadcrumbs, I instead showered the pasta with panko breadcrumbs, which was far easier and added a nice texture to the dish. It was served with a zucchini carpaccio salad - the squash again purchased from the farmers' market.

And then, for dessert - a sugary-sweet pavlova, served with strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar for a bit of a tart kick and whipped cream, along with some choco-mocca liqueur. I've read a few reports of pavlovas, and it's really easy to let the dish get too sweet. I think that the balsamic vinegar, as well as the fact that the whipped cream wasn't sweetened (just flavored a touch with some vanilla extract) was important in keep the dessert from being a dentist's nightmare.

That I pulled this all off in just under three hours amazes me (note to self: going to the beach before a dinner party isn't always the best of ideas), but it all worked out in the end. And if I could get a buttered corn IV implanted in my arm, I'd be SO happy.

Prosecco juleps
Recipe from the LA Times
Serves 1, multiply to make more

4 mint leaves (or 2 shiso leaves)
1 tablespoon simple syrup
6 ounces chilled Prosecco
dash bourbon (I'd use more, perhaps a tablespoon, but I like bourbon)

In a cocktail shaker,
combine the mint leaves and simple syrup. Press on the leaves with a muddler to break the shiso into very small pieces (flecks, not large pieces). Slowly pour the Prosecco into the shaker, letting the bubbles subside. Strain into a flute glass (you will have small flecks of mint in the flute glass).

Or, you can do the muddling in a mortar and pestle, then just spoon a tablespoon of the mint + simple syrup combination into your flute glass, pouring the champagne straight atop. Guess which way I did things?

Top with bourbon.


Canned tuna with beans, roasted red peppers
Adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte
Serves 4

Even though all the ingredients come from cans, this dish is surprisingly fresh tasting - perhaps because it's so simple. The original recipe calls for a creamy red pepper spread, but I had already used every single last bowl in my kitchen and really balked at taking out the blender as well. So, instead, I sliced up the roasted red peppers and left them as is. Also, I couldn't find marinated white beans, so I dressed my own. Easy peasy.

12 ounces tuna preserved in olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
2 red bell peppers, roasted, deskinned, deseeded, and sliced
1 can white beans
truffle oil
red wine vinegar
parsley, chopped

Begin with all ingredients at room temperature.

Drain the tuna from the oil and place it in a bowl. Sprinkle over the paprika and stir gently to mix.

Drain the white beans, and rinse them a couple of times to make sure you've gotten rid of all the excess starch. Place the beans in a bowl, and drizzle with truffle olive oil and red wine vinegar. Be sparing - you don't need them soaking in the oil and vinegar. Toss to combine.

Arrange the tuna, white beans, and roasted red peppers on the plate. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the beans. Et voila!