Saturday, August 16, 2008
If You Can't Stand the Heat...
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Seattleites are known for complaining about the weather. Most of the year we gripe about how rainy and dark it is. When it's sunny, we complain about how it's not going to be sunny tomorrow or how it wasn't sunny yesterday. And when it's hot, boy do we bitch about it being hot. As my neighbor Jeff (originally from Minnesota) says, "You people are only happy when it's 75 degrees with a slight breeze." Yep.
So, it's really hot today and it was really hot yesterday. I have basically been chained to my oven and stove so I have been complaining more than usual. In the last 36 hours, I have cranked out a considerable amount of food and my oven has been on virtually non-stop. When planning the menu for tonight's "Market Fresh Dinner", I knew I wanted really summery fresh food - as much purchased from the Phinney Ridge Farmer's Market as possible. The soup and salad would be cold, the appetizers and main course would be room temperature, the dessert would be cold. Great, right? The problem is that everything still needs to be cooked before it can cool down to the temperature just right for eating. Hence, the sauna that is my kitchen.
But here we are, over an hour before people arrive and I am basically done except for some last minutes assembly. On the menu...
A Trio of Crostini: Green Pea with Mint, Tomato Jam, White Bean
Cold Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup with Mint
Beet Salad with Arugula and Ricotta Salata
Farro Salad with Zucchini and Pine Nuts
Raspberry Sour Cream Tart
I am excited about the Eggplant Torta. It's a recipe that I've never tried before and although this is a terrible photo (I'm getting a new camera soon!), here is what it looks like...
The basic premise is that you are kind of making a lasagne but without noodles and in a cake pan. So not really like a lasagne at all actually. But similar flavors! You make a tomato sauce and layer it into the pan with eggplant, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella. Then you pour some egg into the pan and hope that it sets up a little like custard. I haven't cut into it yet and fingers are crossed. Even if it turns out to be a mess, I know it will taste good.
The recipe I'm going to share is for the cold soup. I'm a big fan of cold soups - especially on really hot days, and this one is very refined. Simple, beautiful, complex flavors. I made some big changes in the method of this recipe but not in the ingredients. They wanted me to use my broiler and I simply could not turn on my broiler today, so I used my grill and stovetop. The recipe also doesn't tell you to peel either the peppers or tomatoes (or seed the tomatoes for that matter), but unless you have a food mill (I don't - one piece of kitchen equipment I actually don't own), you are going to have a great tasting soup full of vegetable skins and seeds. Below is the recipe with the changes I made.
UPDATE: It is now the next morning. I just couldn't get back to writing with the flurry of activity that is an 8 person dinner party. It was a wonderful success. The guests were all thrilled with the food and really enjoyed each other's company. I had two wonderful helpers (moms from our old preschool class) who made serving the meal a pleasure. Thank you Rebecca and Shaynee! The Eggplant Torta was good (even for someone who doesn't love eggplant) but really ugly. It was very wet so I would make some changes next time, like straining the tomato sauce, but I would make it again.
As they were leaving, I asked them which recipes they most wanted me to post. They mentioned the Goat Cheese and Pistachio Stuffed Dates (something I served while they were enjoying a glass of wine outside), and the Rasberry Sour Cream Tart. So, three recipes today! So I don't have to type out all three, I will direct you here for the Raspberry Tart. In the instructions, it says you can make the crust and fill it with the sour cream filling up to one day ahead. I did that and felt that the crust got soggy. Next time, I would bake the crust one day ahead, cover it with foil and leave it out at room temp. I would also make the filling and put it in a covered bowl in the fridge. Then I would assemble the tart the day of the party. On to the other recipes.
Chilled Roasted Tomato Red Pepper Soup with Mint
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
2 lbs. red peppers, quartered and seeded
2 lbs. tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 small onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 cup water
4 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. finely chopped mint, or to taste
Preheat gas grill to high. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes and bell peppers with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Grill on high heat until the skins of the veggetable start to blacken and the vegetables themselves get tender. Allow to cool, then peel the skins off the peppers (don't worry if you can't get all the peel off) and slip the skins off the tomatoes. Place both in a bowl and add all the juice squeezed out of the tomato skins.
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the onions. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and coriander and continue to cook until the onions are slightly brown, stirring often. Remove from the heat.
Puree the vegetables in batches until smooth in the blender. Add a little water to get the blender going if necessary. Stir in all other ingredients except mint. Chill soup until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days ahead. If you make it ahead, you may need to add additional water to thin when ready to serve. Garnish soup bowls with mint.
Goat Cheese and Pistachio Stuffed Dates
Adapted from The New Classics by Martha Stewart
You can make the goat cheese filling one day ahead and refrigerate it. These hors d'oeuvres can be assembled several hours before serving. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to three hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.
4 oz. soft goat cheese
3 tbsp. shelled salted pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
8 plump, soft dried dates (preferably Medjool), pitted and halved lengthwise
1. Stir together the goat cheese, the pistachios, and the chives in a small bowl until smooth. Season with pepper.
2. Arrange dates, cut side up, on a platter. Using a small spoon and your fingers, fill each date with a small mound of the filling. Garnish, if you like, with additional chopped pistachios and chives.