Monday, July 25, 2011

Shall we Dine?

We were out of town every weekend for three months. That put a strain on our social calendar. So much so, that in late May we put dinner with our friend Ophelia and her family into our calendar's for the first weekend we were all available, July 24.

We saw another couple of friends and their parents were visiting but leaving July 25th. What the heck, c'mon over for dinner! We were planning on cooking anyway.

And this is how I moved one step closer to my latest dream. My dream to utilize our recently new dining room table to its fullest capacity. The table has 4 leafs to make the final measurements of the table 4' x 13.5'. We didn't make the 4th leaf this meal, but we had ten people and used three leaves. We had to move furniture to make it fit. I was in heaven!
Our friend and dinner guest, Brad supplied the floral centerpiece.

As usual, Lyle selected a menu from the cookbook called "Sunday Suppers at Luques."

We started sourcing materials Friday evening. First, fresh peas. In the pods. We needed 3 cups. So we bought 6 lbs of peas in the pods to be shelled.
I gotta pea!

And here is the final version, Curried English pea soup with mint and creme fraiche.
I am not a super fan of pea soup. But I must confess, this one was tasty!

Next we had to find lobster for the salad.
We found these three at the fourth store we went to. Lyle says they must have missed the season where their shells are softer because he had to take a hammer to these to bust the meat out.

They were cooked Saturday and cleaned on Sunday. The rest of the ingredients, corn off the cob, bacon, tomatoes, avocado were all prepared on Sunday as well. The lobster was not cheap. Lyle and I jokingly referred to this as the million dollar salad.
Lobster chopped salad with fava beans, cherry tomatoes, avocado, corn and applewood smoked bacon.

Next up was the meat course of skirt steak. Lyle's first response was, I'm not too keen on the skirt steak. Then we read the first line in the cookbook, "skirt steak is dismissed by many..." So I told him we had to trust the book and just cook it.

In this cookbook nothing is ever simple. Underneath the skirt steak is a potato and artichoke hash. Which requests that you buy baby artichokes, clean and quarter them (in other words, spend about an hour removing more than half of what you just bought and realizing that jarred would have been easier when they make less than a fist full of artichokes). The potatoes get roasted, crumbled, then pan fried to crisp them. There is a black olive ailoi in there as well, kindly make the mayonnaise from scratch. Did I mention how amazing it tasted?
Grilled skirt steak with artichoke-potato hash and black olive aioli.

And then comes dessert. On Friday we made ice cream from scratch. The recipe called for a plain vanilla ice cream to go with a chocolate cake (more in a minute) but Lyle had other plans. This is what I love about Lyle cooking, he knows better. He changed the plain vanilla ice cream to a chocolate chip mint ice cream. The amazing part was we finally used the chocolate mint that has been growing in our yard. (It's chocolate, it's mint, it's the same plant. How do they do that?) The ice cream came out a teeny bit icy because we have just a regular ice cream making bowl that goes from the KitchenAid mix master to the freezer, but it still tasted delicious.

Since Lyle's hands were literally full with all the lobster cleaning, I said I would start the cake. I am usually the assistant to the chef in the kitchen. I don't do the heavy cooking. I'm frightened. But as I kept prepping the ingredients for the cake and then combining this, to that, placing that with this... the next thing you know... I made the cake!
Double chocolate bundt cake (from scratch) with chocolate mint vanilla ice cream (also from scratch).

Despite all the warnings from the cookbook that this cake was destined to fall and not look pretty (but still taste good), my cake did NOT fall and I was so pleased with myself. One friend is doing gluten free so I used a gluten free rice flour, perhaps that helped?
A lovely evening of friends and food and the dishwasher is still running the next day. That is what I call a fantastic dinner party.

Oh, and thank you to Ophelia who took all the photos of the finished food. I got so busy I forgot.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My brother, the blogger

Introducing my (much older) brother Gary's travel blog:

He and his family are headed to Italy. Feel free to follow if you'd like.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Steven Hawking

Here in out own little corner of heaven, in the middle of the city, so center of the city it is named "Mid-City West" we have a thriving wildlife population. Raccoons, squirrels, possum, our koi pond, many little song birds and now... the hawks.
Last year we noticed one hawk. When he would fly overhead the entire yard would go eerily silent. This year, he has returned and brought with him a mate.
They are very bold, not very afraid (why should they be?) and like to bathe in the stream leading to the koi pond. I know they see our bird feeder as a tasty buffet. Lyle says it's all just a part of nature but I am no fan of witnessing the circle of life from a front row seat.

A couple of days ago, I was lying in bed reading and there was a flutter of wings as both hawks flew straight for the house, then pulled up short and landed on the sun umbrella on the back deck, leading me to scream, "Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy SHITTTT!" Because I was certain the flimsy screen between me and the outside world would be no match for the talons of these birds and they would soon be creating my own personal version of "The Birds" in my bedroom.

Lucky for me, they prefer smaller prey.
It's a crazy world I live in.