I am so very disappointed that my photos from tonight’s dinner didn’t turn out. Janet, among others, has been on me for months to improve my use of our DSLR, and tonight’s photos illustrate her point – I have a great deal to learn and, perhaps more importantly, remember.
Since I have no usable photos, I’ll have to ask you to close your eyes and imagine the scene. Nine friends around a mid-century teak table with not one but two leaves added. Serving dishes crowding every inch of the table not covered in mismatched linens, silverware, dinner plates, or half-empty Tom Collinses. A pizza-like flatbread with slow roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, green onion, and shaved Parmiagiano-Reggiano. A second flatbread with sauteed leeks, gorgonzola, and more shaved Parmiagiano. Two grain salads: quinoa with green beans, and wheat berries with corn and green onion in a delicate dressing. Pesto potato salad with green beans and toasted pine nuts. Potato-quinoa croquettes with romesco dipping sauce. A frittata with a bunch of veg. Eggplant caviar with toasted pita (and secret roasted tomatoes added for extra oomph).
Chairs pushed back from the table. Bottles of Sah’tea and Shane’s stout passed around for sampling. Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and a discussion of Mad Men. Speculation about whether the inhalation of quick-setting concrete might result in sore lungs. Stories about stuffed animals and grade school lunches. A lot of laughter, and perhaps an Elton John song.
Let’s do this again, and soon.
First, I am officially throwing in the towel on no-knead bread. If the last attempt was a mess, the loaf I made tonight was an all-out disaster. The dough stuck to the mixing bowl. It stuck to the floured silpat mat and did its best to ooze off all sides of the mat, resulting in me propping up the edges with various kitchen implements. It glued itself to the sides of the pot in which it rose and baked, and it had to be HACKED AND PRIED out with a couple of knives. I find kneading to be therapeutic, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I find not kneading so exasperating?
The rest of dinner, however, was a resounding success. We tried this recipe from Jamie at Home last winter and loved it, despite the cherry tomatoes being wildly out of season. This time around, we have a rogue cherry tomato plant that is remarkably out-yielding nearly everything else in the garden, so we had several cups of fresh and free Sweet 100s to toss in with half a dozen pork sausages. While you’re meant to use larger and fatter sausages in the bake, we’ve had great success with the wee breakfast links. Tonight’s were no exception – the sausages were bursting with flavor, as were the tiny cherry tomatoes. Everything was swimming in a delicious broth which we happily sopped up with hunks of bread. This recipe is so simple but so rewarding – I’m looking forward to eating leftovers over pasta or polenta this week.
Sweet Cherry Tomato & Sausage Bake from Jamie at Home
So last night I was reminded of one thing I really, really hate about the Midwest: the late summer/early fall allergies. Last night’s allergy attack was the worst I can recall having since high school, when there were mornings where I woke up and had to stumble blindly to the bathroom for a warm washcloth in order to unstick my stuck-shut eyes. Last night’s plague took the form of sneezing instead of itchy eyes, and resulted in me waking about every 30 minutes to sneeze and blow my nose and change positions. It was warmish, but I slept with the heating pad on because it was comforting.
You can imagine, then, that I wasn’t particularly with it today at work. I packed a lunch, and supplemented it with leftover vanilla ice cream from yesterday’s party. And then a little bit of chocolate ice cream in my coffee mug later. I was supposed to go to happy hour with a bunch of library people, but I couldn’t face (har) the pollen and sinus pressure, so I came home, had leftover snacks and some mint chocolate chip ice cream, and tried to breathe deeply. Thank goodness for antihistamines, you guys.
Wow, guys, you’re totally blowing me away with your enthusiasm and also your impressive reading lists!
Shane and I are off to San Francisco for our honeymoon on Wednesday, so look for the sign up round up post towards the end of the week, and for reviews from both of us of our first books when we get home! For the record, I’ve started with The Winter Queen, while Shane is reading Kitchen Confidential on his new and fancy-pants Kindle.
I’ll be honest with you: it is difficult to remain disciplined in your healthy eating when you encounter something like this:
That’s a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, made for us by my boss, and served with chocolate and also vanilla ice cream at a small party in our honor. I tried to be virtuous. I really did. I cut myself a “one-nut piece” and spooned out some vanilla ice cream. And then a little more of each. And then maybe I ate one of those curly chocolate bells – just the bell, not the cake underneath it. And then we went to Dominick’s with a few people. And then we had a snack dinner.
We were both starving after work, so while Shane was hassled by a door-to-door salesperson about our choice in internet providers, I popped a BBQ chicken pizza from Trader Joe’s into the freezer and boiled a couple of ears of corn from the market. I don’t recall when I first learned that you could have a sauce other than a basic marinara on a pizza. It was probably after college, around the time that I returned to meat-eating, that I discovered the wonder of BBQ chicken pizza.
When you think about it, what’s not to like? Instead of the sweet-savoriness of marinara, you get the tangy-sweetness of the barbecue sauce. Sure, it won’t work with all the typical pizza toppings – but that’s not the point, is it? I suppose if you don’t go for sweet things on your pizza – ripe tomatoes, pineapple, Canadian bacon, caramelized onion – the idea of putting a richly sweet sauce under a layer of mozzarella or smoky gouda might sound gross. But me? I love it. I also love pesto pizza, pizza with alfredo, pizza with black bean sauce, and crispy pizza crusts dipped in ranch dressing. And to think that I used to not even like the marinara! How things have changed.
I brought home another five pounds of tomatoes from the garden on Sunday. The Romas were set aside for roasting and for last night’s goulash, but the rest went into a small but fantastic batch of pasta sauce:
They simmered and sweat away in our big stock pot until the juice rendered out, then I ran them through the food mill to remove the skins and seeds. A few more minutes in the pot with a handful of herbs from the front bed, and I knew that I wasn’t going to be freezing this batch of sauce.
It was too good to wait. I stirred a ladleful into my macaroni Sunday night, and it was fantastic. Shane’s went out to dinner with a friend, so tonight I had a simple dinner of linguine, a bit of goat cheese, and a generous amount of the beautiful sauce. There’s half a cup left, and I’m tempted to just sop it up with the rest of the no-knead bread.