This weekend was kind of a test of my notion that if you buy good ingredients and are a bit careful, you can’t really go wrong. Well, nothing went terribly wrong, but for the most part it wasn’t great . . .
Friday night we went to David and Anthea’s house (friends of ours, and, it turns out, neighbor’s of Anne’s). They live in kind of a funky seventies brick ranch with a great older open plan kitchen. They made us a simple dinner of pesto and penne and salad and we drank a lot of wine and the two ten year old girls did a marathon Simpsons viewing and the eighteen month old boy ran around with the laundry basket on his head. The meal was great and reminded me how good food tastes when someone cooks for you with friendship.
Saturday was the usual weekend ritual of pancakes and fresh juice (Naomi would have my head if we diverged) and Kosmos for lunch (that doesn’t happen every weekend, but it does a lot). Then there was dinner. This was where things began to break down. The menu sounds good. A grilled whole striped bass, braised potatoes and onions (based on a recipe from Amanda Hessler’s The Cook and the Gardener) and Shana’s pea shoots lightly saute-ed with a little soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. But it was really kind of snowy to be grilling and the fish proved challenging and stuck a bit to the grill and ended up largely underdone and underdone fish makes me a bit green around the (no puns intended) gills because of a bad whole fish incident in China years ago. And I didn’t want to go the whole nine yards on the potato recipe and cut them into fans with just enough flesh intact to hold the potato together, so I just sliced it and popped it into the casserole. As a result, I cooked it too long (the 45 minutes the whole-ish potatoes would have taken were too many minutes for slices) and it was kind of mushy. I didn’t strip the pea leaves off the stems, so the leaves were a bit slimy and the stems a bit tough, and neither were satisfying. It wasn’t a terrible meal. It was just, well, mediocre. Reminded me I’m very human in the kitchen. The dark chocolate and the port salvaged from the G3 dinner party were good. So was two hours of the last season of the Sopranos that we are at last catching up with.
Sunday morning I ate toast. Good toast though, from that no-knead bread everyone is making.
Sunday lunch, we decided to use up left-overs. Into a frying pan went the potatoes from the night before, the Brussels spouts with bacon and shallots left over from the Valentine’s Day dinner, and some bits of bone-in grass-fed beef filet, also from the V-Day dinner. It was supposed to be sort of a high end continental hash. But it was all kind of mushy and overly cabbage-y. John said he liked it. I said it was food.
In search of redemption, we worked harder on dinner. John made a pizza that we topped with a “fire and smoke” combination that featured chipotle peppers diced in with tomato puree, some roasted poblanos and sweet red peppers, and a mix of white cheddar and smoked gouda cheese. I was a little skeptical of the mexi-pizza idea but it was actually really tasty. I made an orange cake that I had seen at Chocolate and Zucchini and then again on Kitchen Chick. It turned out really well – simple, not too sweet, sort of lacy, and with a sugary, almost caramel-like rim (from buttering and sugaring the pan). We sprinkled it with raspberries. I felt better about our culinary life after that. Except that Nick swooped in and stole all the leftover raspberries.
I am totally stoked to hear about Matsuchan and want to make the family go there next weekend.