Thursday, July 21, 2011

A friend came for dinner last night, and I was finally able to use some of our homegrown zucchini--flavorful babies the size of my little finger as well as the blossoms. If you've ever grown your own food, then you know how exciting that is.

I was also testing some new recipes, which made for a slow, fun evening with most of the action taking place in the kitchen (and at the table). I like it when I have company while I cook as much as while we eat. I was so focused on putting dinner on the table, that I forgot to shoot a picture until I had already begun eating. Fortunately, I realized my mistake early on, so I was able to get a fairly representative shot. {As always, you can click on the image to enlarge it.}

In the back is quinoa, which I first cooked in a mixture of vegetable broth and carrot juice. When it was done, I heated a little EVOO and sautéed a generous amount of finely sliced scallions, just until barely wilted. I folded in the quinoa and warmed it through. Then I took it off the heat and stirred in a bit of Udo's DHA Oil.

To the right, partly eaten, is a portobello mushroom, which I brushed with EVOO and chopped fresh oregano (from our garden), seasoned with Celtic salt and freshly ground black pepper (Balinese shade grown), and then grilled. The secret is to grill the stem side first, then flip and grill the top. This way, rich juices will gather in the cap that serve as a delicious sauce--if you remove them from the grill carefully, so as to avoid spilling the precious little puddle that forms. I made a second sauce by blending soaked cashews and roasted, peeled Poblano chiles to a cream consistency. A little lime juice and salt perked it up nicely.

For the zucchini, I cut the smallest ones in half lengthwise, quartered the larger ones, and cut one fairly huge one (small by American standards) into similar size sticks. There was a little of the inner flesh left over, so I diced it finely and sautéed it with some finely diced white onion in a small amount of EVOO until soft. Then I added a red pepper, peeled and diced, and cooked the mixture a few minutes longer before adding the zucchini. As soon as the zucchini began to soften, I added salt, pepper, just a pinch of smoked paprika, about four threads of Kashmiri saffron, and several zucchini blossoms, coarsely chopped. A few minutes later, everything was done, and as I removed it from the heat, I decided to add a couple of drops of white truffle oil. I think this was the star of the plate--although my guest's first comment was that the mushroom "off the charts!"

On the side, I served a garden salad--literally. My wife harvested a bunch of very small, buttery red Swiss chard leaves and baby romaine microgreen lettuce. I sliced the chard about a half-inch wide, combined it with the romaine greens, and added finely diced celery and white onion. The dressing was a very simple vinaigrette made with a summer peach white balsamic, a tiny dab of Dijon mustard, Celtic salt, freshly ground mixed peppercorns (black, white, pink and green), and walnut oil. After tossing the salad briefly, I added an avocado, cut into elegant arcs, and tossed again, very gently.

With all the doors open to the evening breeze, a Bach oboe concerto weaving sweetly into the ambient light and air, we ate quite happily. Some bright Spanish red wine certainly helped.

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