September 24, 2004

i can cook but i ain't no chef

Last night we had dinner with our delightful friends S & D, who were very patient with me as I undertook three separate courses for dinner. Everything was yummy (more on that in a minute), but I have learned that even when you are totally prepared, with sauces made ahead and a simple menu, and with a carefully-thought-out action plan, it still takes way too long to cook & plate up 3 whole courses while your guests are kicking around the dinner table waiting. Next time I will just do two: soup and main, rather than breaking up the main into meat+veg, then pasta. And family style at that -- plating is a drag when done at home. Oh well.

Anyway: we started with baguette, crostini crackers & cheeses -- a tomme (inspired by the photos on The Daily Bread, and they right - it's yummy!), a nevat (swoon), a spenwood (from Neal's Yard, a dreamy hardish cheese with a good balance of milkiness and tang) and a caciotta al tartufo, which is a pretty boring semisoft cheese made utterly lovely by little flecks of black truffle. And also homemade dilly carrot pickles.

Then gazpacho andaluz, which was a bit spicier on the tongue than I anticipated. I think there was a bit too much garlic, or the garlic was too strong; it was not as creamy and delicate as what I had in Spain. Lovely, though, and we all liked it just fine. And it makes a nice change from the chunky bright red style so common here in the US (for which the Moosewood Cookbook's recipe is by far the best).

Then seared scallops and steamed green beans with lemon-chive mayonnaise sauce. Trader Joe's frozen scallops are just terrific and very cheap, though I do recommend getting the largest size you can for nicer presentation. Lemon-chive mayonnaise is great stuff -- I'm definitely making it again, to go on fish, chicken, green vegetables, probably pasta too.

And then (sigh) pasta with wild mushrooms & sherry, from the current issue of Saveur (October 2004). I first made this with chanterelles & oyster mushrooms, at littlelee's house, and it was very tasty but seemed to lack oomph. I attributed this to the fact that $7 worth of chanterelles wasn't very many damn mushrooms, and so there wasn't enough to fill out the pasta. This new batch was made with a huge pile of shiitakes, button mushrooms and oyster mushrooms, plus more liquid in the sauce, plus more parmesan cheese, and it STILL didn't have enough flavor. Argh! I suspect I didn't salt the dish enough, and I also suspect that I still had too much pasta for the amount of shrooms. Maybe I overcooked the mushrooms; I don't know. I ate some cold, sprinkled with salt, for lunch, and this seemed a great improvement; the mushroom flavor came through much more when right out of the fridge. What I might do next time (because I love mushrooms & sherry so much, there *will* be a next time despite the frustrations) is cut back the pasta and also add another ingredient, like meat or seafood, or some nuts, or a stronger herb. And I'll salt up those shroomies right next time, too.

Last but never least, cantaloupe sorbet for dessert; three cheers for the ice cream maker!

Posted by foodnerd at September 24, 2004 08:11 PM
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