Here’s what we cooked last week:
Monday: Caprese Salad, Tuscan white beans with red onion and salame
Tuesday: Pollo Vin Cotta, Green Salad (I’ll tell you about this great dish – Italy’s answer to General Tso’s chicken – sometime this Fall.)
Wednesday: Penne Caprese
Friday: Stewart Family reunion cook-out at our house
Appetizers: Home-made ricotta with crudités on crostini
3 smoked chickens
3 racks of barbecued ribs
Saturday: Dinner at The Hartwood courtesy of John and Linda Stewart
Last weekend we held a Stewart family reunion. The food was good, but far better was the great time with nephews, nieces and grand-nieces we rarely see and brothers and sisters-in-law we don’t see often enough. The Dallas Stewarts – beautiful Mary, hilarious Jeff, beautiful and brilliant Caroline and brilliant and energetic Owen – and the beautiful babies, Eleanor Wren (Pete and Kara) and Claire Ann (Brad and Crystal) were the center of attention and rightfully so. (Note: energetic does not quite capture the whirlwind that Owen Patrick Stewart has become. If he visits your house, make sure that you have plenty to occupy his time – if you can get him on a treadmill, he will power your entire neighborhood.)
We had a lot of good food last week, but the keeper of the week was a restaurant – The Hartwood. This was John and Linda’s idea and treat.
The Hartwood is a pretty place, but our experience over the years had been that the food was mediocre and the service even moreso. A take-out dinner we picked up one night last year signaled a change for the better – good food, good service, but did not prepare us for the spectacular dinner served to 21 Stewarts on Saturday. My peppered flat-iron served on risotto parmigiano was perfectly medium-rare and hot! The scallops, mahi mahi, cottage pie and other entrees were praised by everyone and even a simple appetizer like shrimp was special – instead of the bland boiled shrimp typical of appetizers, this shrimp had been boiled in a seasoned broth and needed no cocktail sauce to shine – and the service was spectacular. I suggest that you get to the Hartwood soon and often. (They have a private room in the back which John and Linda had reserved – great place for a group of 20 or so.)
If I had to pick out another keeper for the week, it would be the baked beans Beez and I worked up to go with the smoked chicken and barbecued ribs. You can make these from scratch by soaking beans overnight and then cooking them for a while with herbs and onions and then adding the key spices and sugars. But we were cooking for 24 (21 showed up) and couldn’t fit that into the schedule, so we started with canned cannellini and added onions and a little garlic cooked down in bacon grease (the bacon got added in later), ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, molasses, sherry vinegar, sage, salt, pepper and cayenne. I couldn’t tell you the proportions, if my life depended on it and, anyway, when you are cooking a large pot (8 cans of cannellini) you’ll need to adjust the seasonings at the end to get the right tang and richness. We had enough left over to serve beans on toast – a British breakfast favorite – on Sunday. This is, of course, a major sin in low-carb America, but you may want to walk on the wild side for this one.
On Saturday, after the restaurant we had dessert at Linda and John’s house. For Linda, Prantl’s baked a burnt-almond torte which was approximately 200 square feet. Linda served the cake with fruit (including delicious and manageable slices of watermelon). Burnt-almond torte also goes well with a dry martini, if you skip the olives. With Brad Stewart in charge of the music and everybody in charge of telling, for the hundredth time, stories of our youthful courage, skill and beauty – it was a superb weekend. I expect to fully recover by Thursday.