Iceberg dead ahead!

There’s an old Kenny Rogers song that has lyrics that go something like “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run”–keep that in mind.

First let me say, it’s hot here today and I am only a fan of hot in Hawaii or Palm Desert, not when I have lots to do around the house/yard. I spent the day washing the windows and screens inside and out as well as doing multiple loads of laundry, some vacuuming and bathing Buster–so I’ve had a full day and I am a little tired.

Jack decided to try an Eric Ripert steak recipe from this month’s Bon Appetit for dinner, which is fantastic because A). He’s doing it and B). I could have a crush on Eric Ripert–he’s adorable, especially in print and from the waist up. I saw him walk once on a cooking show and that was less than impressive but anyway…

What to have with the ER steak? Too hot for potatoes or rice and no time to make the israeli couscous Eric served with his steak, but we have asparagus which is perfect and then I thought a cool, crisp iceberg wedge would be delicious. Problem is, it’s a little like Old Mother Hubbard’s here. Please do not judge me when you read the rest.

I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe, which is a great recipe. My buttermilk had a pull date of 5/26 but it looked and smelled fine and it’s buttermilk–it’s already sour. I had a partial head of iceberg which I almost fed to the chicken this morning but after closer inspection thought it might come in handy. I actually had a stalk of celery freshly purchased yesterday and the radishes, well, I might have dug a few out of the trash (I had just cleaned the veg bin). I did have bacon in the freezer and chives from the garden. Ok, just know I would never do this if you were coming to dinner, but it’s just me and Jack, and he will never read this.

It was all going well (?) until I opened the container of blue cheese–terrible smell, terrible color, could not do it– mind you, a few minutes earlier I pulled radishes out of the trash! So now, the dilemma, get in the hot car and drive to Safeway (Costco is closed) and pay way too much for mediocre blue cheese or bag it and have an iceberg wedge with buttermilk dressing? You guessed it, buttermilk dressing…know when to walk away, know when to run. It’s too hot to go to the store–the salad will still be yummy, especially with the Eric Ripert steak!

Smitten Kitchen Iceberg Wedge Salad

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Bon Appetit!?

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Cinco de Mayo Family Dinner

What do you serve for  Cinco de Mayo when several of your guests are somewhat picky eaters or don’t like to eat with their hands? My family can be quite persnickety when it comes to food and eating.   What could I make that would be fitting for the day, delicious, semi-healthy and  be eaten with a fork?  Mexican Paella for Six from the Rick Bayless Fiesta at Rick’s cookbook!   Chicken, mussels, shrimp, chorizo sausage,  delicious tomato sauce, poblano pepper and tender rice.  I’ve always wanted to do a full blown Paella and someday I will  (mostly I think I just want the pan–sort of like when I was 5 and signed up for ballet–it was all about the shoes).

Before dinner I served homemade  guacamole and chips and  Margaritas.  With dinner I served a romaine salad, some crusty bread, and of course, red wine. Dessert was the previously blogged Rhubarb Ice Cream with Lemon Angel Food Cake.

Prepped ingredients

Prepped ingredients

The Paella was  easy to make and I was able to do a few steps ahead like browning the chicken and prepping the tomatoes and onions.  I used  actual paella rice–the recipe calls for medium grain and the paella rice wasn’t any more expensive and came in a fun cloth bag. Since Sunday was such a warm day, I  did the majority of the cooking outside  on the burner of the gas grill.  Jack’s expertly  seasoned cast iron skillet was the perfect pan to use for this dish as cast iron fries and sautes beautifully and the rice was tender with a bit of a crust on the bottom. The recipe calls for a 12 inch,  which I thought I was using, but  it was actually a 10 inch.  It worked fine until it came time to put the chicken, mussels and shrimp in the pan with the rice for the  finish in the oven.  Everything was crammed in the pan and it took 30 minutes longer at 50 degrees higher heat.

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I can’t find the recipe on-line, but here’s his regular Paella recipe– basically the same just scaled way down.  I used 6 chicken thighs, 1/2 pound of chorizo, 1/2 pound of shrimp, etc.  Make sure you use a large enough pan, or better yet, buy yourself a pretty paella pan, they’re not expensive, just hard to store.

Paella for 6

Paella for 6

If you need a a salad recipe that is super easy and will knock your guests socks off and make them wonder why they ever order salad at a restaurant, it’s this one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Romaine Hearts with Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette

2 heads romaine lettuce

1 garlic clove

Salt and freshly milled pepper

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (use the Maille if you can!)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff makes a difference here, too)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or more to taste

3/4 cup small toasted croutons (if you can’t make your own, the Metropolitan Market’s garlic croutons are yummy)

Slice the bottoms off the lettuce and remove most of the leaves until you get to the hearts.  Wash if needed and put the hearts ins spacious, wide bowl.

Pound the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon sale in a mortar until smooth.  Whisk in the lemon zest and juice, the mustard, then the oil.  Pour the dressing over the leaves and roll them over each other until coated. Sprinkle most of the cheese over the leaves, add the croutons, and toss again until the leaves are coated. Divide the sale among four large plates, add the remaining cheese, and finish with pepper (perhaps if you use a ridiculously large pepper grinder, your guests will think they are at a restaurant?)

Cook someone you love something yummy today and,  cheers!