|A PERFECT FINISH: PEACH CRUMBLE|
For a while now I have reserved my Sundays for lazy and leisurely behavior. I'm fairly happy to have a 'nothing' day in my week because most days are fairly busy for me. So, every Sunday, I try to do as little as humanly possible, if possible. That includes: no formal workout; no work (if I can afford to abstain); no events and as little cooking as possible. Needless to say, life frequently spoils my grand plans for Sundays. This weekend, however, was a near flawless success with one major hitch in the plan -- my boyfriend and I made an elaborate meal on Sunday night. It was delicious and was executed perfectly -- if perfectly entails: his second degree burn; my being too hot to eat the meal for twenty minutes after it was prepared; a mysterious water stain on my roommate's fancy dining room table; and feeling so full that neither of us could eat the following morning. Perfection.
It all began with a beautiful pipe dream. A picnic.The meal was meant to involve potato salad, a park, roasted peppers stuffed with avocado cream and/or a vegetable terrine, and a green salad (we are vegetarians). Little did we know that this simple and delightful plan would foster a series of small catastrophes and misunderstandings.
The picnic was set for this past weekend, no day or time was ever discussed beforehand. So come Friday we began to text-plan it in better detail..."I'd like this...oooh that sounds great!". It was really coming together. Then the fateful impeding question-- "what time are we doing this?" Let me preface this by saying that I am unabashedly a NIGHT person. I will almost invariably do everything at night rather than by day if I can -- this includes eating big breakfasts, taking large walks, sightseeing...and most definitely applies to preparing large meals. I will always opt for a dinner over a lunch or brunch and as a result rarely schedule the latter if I can avoid it. The trouble began when we quickly realized we had envisioned very different meals. I thought we were cooking in the afternoon and eating in the evening. He thought we would have a late lunch picnic in the sunshine. I won't get into it, but a text battle quickly ensued.
Text messaging is a remarkable thing, little issues are blown outrageously out of proportion and tone is often misread. We eventually resolved our woes in person by going through the series of offending messages and misunderstood suggestions, agreeing never to negotiate in that medium again.
In the end there was no picnic. We left the remnants of our plan to Sunday, which wasn't much of a nice day to eat outside, so we made an indoor meal. This required revamping our entire menu so as not to make a future picnic seem redundant -- that and my boyfriend preached, "potato salad just doesn't belong indoors". So, after a nice brunch out, we began to contemplate what we might want to eat in several hours. We dreamed up an odd vegetarian take on involtini. Involtini usually involves thin slices of meat rolled around a filling (often a cheese filling) served on top of a sauce or broth. I have had excellent eggplant versions at Italian restaurants, usually stuffed with a nice soft cheese like ricotta, on top of a tomato sauce. My boyfriend doesn't eat a lot of cheese, certainly not a dish stuffed with it, so we used a little goat's cheese sparingly, incorporating it into a butternut squash and sweet potato puree that I insisted we add a little black peppercorn-pecorino cheese (sheep's milk similar to Parmesan) to for a more rich flavor. We were also too lazy to wrap the filling with the sliced vegetables (we used zucchini), and instead made it free-form by resting the zucchini slices on top of the puree and a tomato sauce I threw together on the side. To round out the meal we made a wild rice medley that ended up filling us up too much for comfort.
|DINNER: MY BOYFRIEND'S PREFERRED PLATING|
If I ever remake this dish I think I will make it Indian style instead of Italian, substituting yogurt for the cheese in the sauce and puree, and cardamom, ginger, garlic, cumin and mustard for the Italian seasonings we used in this rendition. I will probably leave out the sweet potato all together from the squash puree (it was all I could taste), and will mix in wilted spinach and peas to the tomato sauce. I will serve it all with raita and possibly some kind of chutney, and use basmati rice instead of wild.
All that aside, I was quite pleased that the first meal we cooked together turned out as interesting, colorful and delicious as this one. Its mildly remarkable, seeing as we both had somewhat embarrassing accidents and awkward moments throughout the night. I would say these started out when he tried to transfer the squash puree to the plates, grazing the bottom of the bowl (the bowl that was boiling hot on the bottom from gently simmering on the stove for forty minutes) with his hand. The mishap resulted in a small second degree burn.
Shortly after we got him an ice pack, I insisted he sit down at the table, while I plated all the food by myself in the kitchen. I brought his plate to the table, but as I went back for mine I suddenly realized that I was absolutely boiling.
My face and body were totally flush. I am very sensitive to heat most of the time and had been cooking over a hot stove in my already too hot apartment for hours, raising my body temperature to new heights I hadn't experienced since the 45 degree summer trip I took in the South of Spain four years ago. I excused myself to splash some cold water on my face in the washroom. This quickly steamed away. After a semi-sink shower (drizzling icy water down my back and arms), I realized the best option for me was to head to my small fire escape for some fresh air. I came in and out every few minutes, trying to bear the heat, but couldn't handle it. So, I spent about twenty minutes on that balcony while he ate alone at the table. I finally got the courage to eat my steaming plate of food, and returned to do so while he watched me, occasionally making jokes that sent wild rice spewing from my mouth. Perfect.
|DINNER: MY PREFERRED PLATING, WILD RICE ON THE SIDE|
The rice did a number on both our stomachs. I could barely eat mine, too full from the squash and potato mash. So he finished mine off for me. He had eaten too much bread while I was on the balcony, so by the time we stood up to clear, neither of us was moving with ease. We cleaned the entire table and kitchen of dishes while my peach crumble heated up in the oven. He went back to the table to remove the place setting that was already there when I set the table for us.
A huge placemat-shaped water mark was left behind on the table.
"How did that happen?!" I asked.
"My ice pack was leaking a little, but I never expected this!"
We tried to wipe it away but it was there to stay, it seemed. I carefully placed another mat in its place, mumbling, "it might have been there already, my roommate has these mats right here every day, perhaps that's why?".
In disbelief I requested that we take a short walk to walk off the meal, where I asked a series of "how is that even possible?" type questions, and he simply replied, "if I did it, I did it. I will simply have to pay for the repair". This really worried me because my roommate has a nice eye for furniture-- older seventies wooden pieces mainly -- and I was really worried that repairing it could be quite costly. We decided to wait and see if it would be an issue.
We returned to the apartment, somewhat disenchanted. It was nearly midnight, we hadn't touched our desserts, there was a large stain on someone else's property, I was still too hot, we were uncomfortably full (and somehow growing fuller by the minute) and his burn had blistered. I went to the table to check the stain, perhaps it wasn't as bad as we had thought.
"It's gone!", I almost shouted.
Totally vanished as if it had never occurred. I nearly jumped for joy (I am not a jumper).
After we breathed a significant sigh of relief, we returned to the kitchen with revised appetites, ready for more.
|PEACH CRUMBLE, HOT OUT OF THE OVEN|
our magnificent midnight meal:
-1 LARGE ORGANIC BUTTERNUT SQUASH, SEEDED
-3 BABY RED ONIONS
-1 HEAD OF ORGANIC GARLIC, PEELED
-1 LARGE ORGANIC SWEET POTATO
-EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
-1/4 LEMON, JUICE OF
-FRESH BLACK PEPPER
-1/2 PACKAGE SOFT GOAT'S CHEESE
-50G PECORINO CHEESE (WITH BLACK PEPPER IF AVAILABLE), GRATED
-1 TBSP ORGANIC BUTTER
We roasted the squash in a 350 degree oven, seeded and split open, its skin and flesh rubbed with salt, pepper and olive oil. We roasted the sweet potato in its skin. Both were roasted until tender. We packed up the garlic and onions in their own aluminum foil pouches, drizzled with a little oil and salt and roasted them in the same oven while the squash cooked.
When everything was ready (fairly tender) we scooped out the mushy interiors of both the potato and the squash halves and mashed them together in a mixing bowl. We seasoned the mash with the remaining ingredients, including the garlic and onions, in a pot on the stove over low heat. I opted to thin the mixture with a it of water because I thought it was to thick at first. We kept it on low heat wile we made the rest of the meal.
-1 CUP WILD RICE MEDLEY, THOROUGHLY RINSED IN A SIEVE,WE USED LUNDBERG ORGANIC
-2 CUPS WATER
-1 TBSP OLIVE OIL
-1 TSP SEA SALT
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the rinsed rice. Bring to a boil. Add the oil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover with tight fitting lid. Simmer until ready, each rice will have its own time frame.
We seasoned the rice after it was cooked with olive oil, more salt, roasted garlic, black pepper, lemon juice and fresh basil finely minced.
-4 ORGANIC GREEN ZUCCHINI
-EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
We thinly sliced the zucchini lengthwise, placed it in baking pans drizzled with oil and the spices and roasted it at 350 until flexible and slightly browned. We kept it in the oven until ready to serve on a lower temperature.
-4 ORGANIC TOMATOES
-2 CLOVES ORGANIC GARLIC, CHOPPED
-2 LARGE LEAVES FRESH BASIL, MINCED
-1/2 RED ONION, CHOPPED
-1/4 CUP WHITE WINE
-1/4 LEMON, JUICE OF
-SOFT GOAT'S CHEESE, 2 TBSP
-50G PECORINO, GRATED
In a frying pan over medium high heat, saute the onions in the oil and a pinch of salt. After a minute, add the garlic and continue to saute until all are translucent. Add the tomatoes, season with pepper to your taste and saute until they bleed out and their liquid simmers to half its volume. Add the lemon and wine. Let simmer for a few minutes. Adjust seasonings to your taste. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TASTE YOUR FOOD AS YOU PREPARE IT!
Lower the heat to medium low. Add the cheese and stir to incorporate into a rose sauce. Stir in the basil.
YOU CAN ARRANGE THIS MEAL ANY WAY THAT YOU LIKE. ALL OF THE DISHES MAKE NICE SIDE DISHES ON THEIR OWN AND CAN BE INCORPORATED INTO OTHER MEALS EASILY. WE ATE THEM BY PILING THE MASH IN THE CENTER OF LARGE PLATES, TOPPING IT WITH THE ZUCCHINI SLICES, WITH THE TOMATO SAUCE POURED AROUND THE MOUND OF SQUASH. MY BOYFRIEND HAD HIS RICE WITH THE MAIN MEAL, I ATE MINE IN A BOWL ON THE SIDE.
WE SERVED IT ALL WITH A SMALL ARUGULA, AVOCADO AND CUCUMBER SALAD WITH A MUSTARD-MAPLE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE I MADE AT THE LAST MINUTE.
A FINE FINISH TO A TUMULTUOUS MEAL:
|A LITTLE RED POT OF PEACH CRUMBLE|
CRUMBLE TOPPING-4 tablespoons organic butter
-1/2 cup organic rolled oats
-1/2 cup pastry flour
-1 pinch fine sea salt
-1 dash black pepper
-2 teaspoons ground cinammon
-1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
-1/2 lemon, zest of
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl to desired crumbly consistency. Top prepared filling. Bake.
-5 LARGE ORGANIC PEACHES, PITTED AND SLICED
-1 1/2 TBSP ORGANIC MAPLE SYRUP
-1/3 ORGANIC LEMON, JUICE OF
-1/3 CUP ORGANIC DARK BROWN SUGAR
-3 TBSP ORGANIC BUTTER
-2 TBSP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
-3 TSP GROUND CINAMMON
-1 TSP ORGANIC VANILLA EXTRACT
-PINCH SEA SALT
-A FEW TURNS OF A FRESH BLACK PEPPER MILL
PREPARE CRUMBLE TOPPING IN A MIXING BOWL. COVER, REFRIGERATE UNTIL READY TO BAKE.
PREHEAT OVEN TO 370 DEGREES.
IN A SMALL CAKE TIN, COMBINE PEACHES AND REMAINING INGREDIENTS. COVER WITH CRUMBLE TOPPING. BAKE UNTIL GOLDEN AND BUBBLY, ABOUT 30 MINUTES.
SERVE IN SMALL DISHES IMMEDIATELY WITH SMALL SCOOPS OF GOOD QUALITY VANILLA ICE CREAM ON TOP.