(late july. number 20.)
With Lucas away in France sampling soft cheeses, charcuterie, and exotic seafood platters- I was left to plan this menu, as the dinner date was a mere day after Lucas's return to Portland. The inspiration was memories of, and cookbooks from, England and Italy; the only two places across the Atlantic where I had spent any significant amount of time.
The classic Italian summer gin cocktail, picked because it is supposedly all the rage in London these days. Equal parts Monopolowa Dry Gin, Campari, and Dry Vermouth with an orange slice.
On the table:
Sfilatino (Italian Baguette)
Made the day-of and taken out of the oven just an hour or so before eating. Visiting Eugene old friend Russell is to be credited for producing these beauties!
Smoking hot-seared romanesco, blended with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne- then chilled and served at room temperature.
The last batch of our spring wild-crafting bounty, saved in the freezer for this very night: nettles, arugula, four unique italian cheese, almonds, and walnuts, olive and walnut oil.
Locally grown flageolet beans brought up by Russell from his employer, Hummingbird Wholesale in Eugene. An entire black truffle. Smoked forbidden basil.
Italian Artichoke Leaves
Lightly boiled and served simply with melted butter, decorated with a chive flower.
Roman Fried Courgettes
Inspired by an off-hand anecdote in Nigel Slater's chapter on Courgettes in Tender, and researched in Phaidon's recently published Vegetables From An Italian Garden, and then done, well, our own way–– deep yellow squash in light, crispy, egg-white batter rolled in lemon zest. Piled in a linkin logs pattern, tossed with Oregon porcini and Himalayan pink salts. Delivered to the table, with lemon juice poured on high, eaten fresh & crackling.
Cold Crab Salad
Dungeness Crab from a local vendor, with fresh cool English shelling peas, and lightly pickled seeded cucumber, tossed with lemon juice and lemon thyme. Decorated with nasturtium blossoms from our back yard.
Delicate Summer Beans
Purple (seared) and yellow (lightly blanched) wax beans, cooled and almost-frozen.
Tender Asian eggplants, scored to absorb olive oil, slow baked, then broiled to achieve crisp edges. Rolled in flour, breadcrumbs (made from my French country levain bread, featured in dinner's #17 & 18), egg yolks, parmesan, and crushed filberts, then shallow pan fried– which produced a plump, succulent final entree piece.
Caprese Salad Remix
Multicolored heirloom cherry tomatoes, chopped fresh artichoke hearts, garlic, fresh mozzarella, and torn basil lightly tossed with white wine vinegar, walnut oil, and olive oil.
A nectarine and shaved fennel salad with fennel fronds and mint, tossed with fresh lemon juice a bit of olive oil. On top of the ripe slices, a balsamic reduction and a drizzle of a lemon creme fraîche cream dressing. Emily Tareila, a friend visiting from San Francisco, concocted this lovely dish.
A classic English summer pudding of a classic England-favored semi-obscure berry. Crushed gooseberries treated with lemon and honey, folded into cool fresh whipped cream. Topped with golden raspberries stuffed with redcurrants, and a dollop of fresh gooseberry jelly (made from the juice of the crushed gooseberries).
Some major inspiration for this meal, and probably our next, is due to Nigel Slater's Tender. It is a two volume (one devoted to vegetables, the other to fruits) encyclopedia/history/food prose/photography masterwork/recipe collection mega slam. Slater has unpretentiously and gracefully made his mark on the culinary world be adhering to no particular style or custom, beyond a steadfast commitment to bringing out the best of all qualities (primarily flavor, texture, color) of his ingredients.