Excess and Economy

 watermelon salad 2

Monday:                              Marinated Watermelon Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Chicken Chemuin and burrata with grilled cherry tomatoes

Tuesday:                              Chicken Chemuin with Parsley Sauce, Grilled Cherry Tomatoes with Basil and Buratta, App of Asaparagus and wasabi mayonnaise.

Merguez app

Merguez Sausage and Crudites

Wednesday:                      Herbed Omelet with Kale Scumble and Merquez Sausage

Kitchen-sink pasta

Thursday:                            Merguez Sausage and Crudités, Kitchen Sink Pasta (Mastacioli with Tuna, Sautéed Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Onions, Chicken Broth, Basil,                        Fresh oregano, salt and pepper.

Crispy Salmon

Friday:                                  Crispy Roast Salmon with celery and garbanzo salad

Baked Prosciutto

Saturday:                             Dinner with good friends and neighbors John and Janice Hart:  Grape Salsa with toasted dinner rolls and feta cream, app of baked prosciutto, hot pickle and parmigiana reggiano, Leftover chicken salad, Leftover salmon salad, Grilled Asparagus

Sunday Steak dinner

Sunday:                                Grilled Porterhouse with Creamed Corn and Summer Salad with Melon and Fennel

After seeing Jacques Pépin scrape the last bit of albumen out of an egg shell, set aside carrot and celery tops for stock, and whizz up old bits of various cheeses in a processor with a clove of garlic and a dash of wine to create fromage fort and avoid waste, I find myself reviewing the refrigerator and the pantry from time to time to make sure that we use up the food we have bought before it goes bad.  So last meatless Monday became a watermelon salad, and the Chicken on Tuesday was accompanied by the asparagus that we hadn’t used up on Sunday, and the appetizer on Thursday used leftover merguez (actually better cold than hot) and the pasta was made with vegetables, beans and canned tuna we had on hand, and the fruit salad on Sunday . . . . . well, you get the idea.

The headline of this posting is, I think, a good motto to cook by.  Don’t waste anything, but indulge yourself, occasionally.  We kept channeling our inner Pépin, using odds and ends and leftovers all week to economize.  The apotheosis of this mash-up approach was the kitchen-sink pasta we cooked on Thursday, after a fine day at the ballpark and a solid win for the Bucs.  But we are most proud of the fruit salad we concocted on Sunday.  Beez had had a bridal shower for the beautiful Kathleen Slavish on Saturday, and we were left with enough cut-up melon to stock a lunch counter for vegan supermodels.  What to do?

We found a recipe for summer salad with Nectarines and Fennel.  Adding nectarines to the vat-o-melon we possessed made no sense – kind of like rowing people out to the Titanic to join the cruise, after the ship had hit the iceberg.  So we sliced some fennel, chopped up some parsley in lieu of the basil the recipe called for, and came as close as we could to the dressing which called for crème fraîche, which ingredient, Giant Eagle in its indefatigable project to limit our access to food, does not carry.

I am strongly tempted to include more than 2 keepers and an extra in this week’s blog, because the watermelon salad was superb – exactly suited to this ‘summer of Mumbai’ we are suffering through in Pittsburgh, and the kitchen-sink pasta was brilliant, and the salmon with the celery salad was a great Friday night reward for having survived another week.  But (a) I don’t have the time or the strength to write up that many recipes,* and (b) you are busy: no doubt hungry, but busy.

*Writing a recipe is difficult.  It is true that I am often modifying a recipe created by a professional.  But even then, I add home-cook timing, prepping and organizational notes, potential substitutes for ingredients you may not be able to find, and the modifications that most of these recipes require to work in a home kitchen.  If you don’t appreciate that, what is wrong with you?  (The question is rhetorical – for you to answer in the depth of your soul, not to blather on about in an ecdysiastic confessional indulgence.)

When, you may be asking yourself, are we going to hear about the “Excess.”  Let me introduce you to Curtis Stone, an Aussie who owns two restaurants in Los Angeles and who was the featured “Slow Food Fast” chef in the WSJ’s week-end edition for the past two weeks.  (I have never met an Australian I didn’t like.  Of course, I have never met Curtis Stone, but I imagine him as hearty and straightforward as the Australians I have met.  I tend to think of Australians as Texans with funny accents.)  The recipe for the fruit salad was Curtis’s and the real point of all the paragraphs above, was to lure you (especially those of you who did not roll your eyes at the term ‘vegan’) to enjoy Curtis Stone’s triumph – a perfectly grilled Porterhouse steak served with creamed corn on the side.  If you liked the term ‘vegan,’ you will have shied at “creamed corn.”  Calm down – have a glass of Perrier or coconut water and listen up.  This is not your grandmother’s creamed corn.  To begin with, it does not come out of a can.  Nor is it filled with cream.  You use just enough cream to complement the natural creaminess of the corn.  It is as close to corn on the cob as you can get with corn that is off the cob.  And it is something you can make in about 7 minutes.  What are you waiting for?

Porterhouse sliced

Grilled Porterhouse with Creamed Corn

(Adapted from Curtis Stone’s recipe in the WSJ of August 6-7, 2016)

Note:  This recipe is for 4 people.  It calls for a 3 lb. Porterhouse, but I could find only 1.25 lb. steaks, so I grilled 2 of them.  The creamed corn recipe comes first because you can make it ahead and reheat it.  Stone, a professional, cooks the creamed corn while the fire is starting or after the steak starts resting.  But you, with all of your wonderful traits, are not a professional.  And you have no one to prepare the corn for you.  So you (and I) should make the creamed corn first.

Time: (about 40 minutes, if you make the creamed corn first – I’m allowing 15 minutes for your charcoal to be ready for cooking).

Creamed Corn

       Supplies:

Kernels from 5 ears of corn

2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream (and 1 or 2 more for reheating)Prep:

Shuck the corn and cut off the kernels.  (If you draw your knife sideways, down the cob, the kernels will fall onto your cutting board.  If you shave straight down the cob, the kernels will fly all over the floor, squirt under the stove and refrigerator and general elude capture.)

      Cook:

Heat the butter and oil in a pan over medium-high.  Once hot, stir in the corn and sauté until tender – about 4 minutes.

Put about half the corn into a food processor or blender and purée it while leaving some texture.

Return the purée to the pan, stir in the cream, season with salt and cook about 1 minute (or longer) until the cream is evenly distributed and the sauce reduces.  Cover and set aside

Grilled Porterhouse

Supplies:

1 2-3 lb. Porterhouse, at least 1 ½ inches thick (we used 2 steaks that were not quite 1.5 lbs. each and were maybe 1 ¼ inches thick)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (you really should grind from whole peppercorns to get the best flavor for this steak – the meat is going to cost you about $19 per pound, so why not?)
10 whole scallions, outer layer removed  (Stone trims the root end – I don’t.  I think the root, which becomes crunchy when grilled, is delicious)
Olive oil for drizzling on the steak and oiling the grates of the grill

Prep:

Season the steak generously with salt and pepper.

Heat the grill.  If you’re using charcoal (please use charcoal), gather the coals to one side to create a high-heat zone.  If you’re using a gas grill, you can figure it out.

Cook:

Drizzle the steak and scallions with olive oil and oil the grates of the grill.

Grill the steak over high heat until well seared – about 3 minutes per side

Move the steak to a medium heat zone and cook for another 2-3 minutes per side.

Set steaks aside to rest (under a loose cover of foil) for 10-15 minutes.

Grill scallions turning with tongs, until well charred (about 3 minutes).

Serve:

Reheat the creamed corn(add some more cream if it seems dry)

Slice the steak:  Remove the two pieces of meat – the strip on the long side of the bone and the fillet on other side – and slice into serving pieces.  For a nice effect, put the pieces, splayed slightly to display the pink, back into position near the bone.  Garnish with scallions. And serve with the creamed corn and lemon wedges for the steak.

EXTRA                        Summer Salad with Nectarines and Fennel

(Adapted from Curtis Stone’s recipe in the WSJ for August 13-14, 2016)

Serves 4

Timing:

How fast can you clean and slice fennel and stone fruit?  I’d give yourself 20
minutes to put this together  – you need to let the herb dressing sit for at least
10 minutes.

      Supplies:

1 head fennel, halved and thinly sliced into crescents
2 ripe nectarines (or substitute what you have – we had a lot of sliced melon left over from the shower Beez hosted so we used them)
½ shallot, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
1 lemon
3 Tablespoons roughly chopped dill (we used parsley)
2 Tablespoons roughly chopped basil (we used parsley)
1 ½ cloves of garlic
½ Cup olive oil
½ Cup crème fraîche (we used Mascarpone, watered down to achieve a near-drizzling – call it glopping – consistency)
2 heads of butter lettuce, leaves separated (we used one head of Boston lettuce)

Prep:

Make the two dressings first (parsley, garlic, olive oil / crème fraîche, salt and lemon juice)

Assemble:

For the herb dressing:  In a mortar or a small bowl, smash the herbs, the minced garlic and a pinch of salt unto a rough paste.  Add half the oil and stir to combine.  Let the sauce sit until the flavors meld – 10 minutes or more.

For the crème fraîche  dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk the crème fraîche with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon and the rest of the olive oil, until you achieve a drizzly consistency.  Add splashes of water, if the dressing is too thick.  (If you use Mascarpone, you will need to whisk vigorously and use a fair amount of water and you will never have a real drizzle – but it will work and it will taste fine.)

Just before serving, drain he shallots and toss the shallots and the lettuce leaves in a bowl with the nectarines (or melons or other fruit) and fennel.  Then season with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon.  Drizzle the herb dressing over the salad in a zig-zag pattern and d0 the same with the crème fraîche dressing and serve immediately.

Pscho Chef cooking through the pain

Psycho chef working through the pain

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