December 24 – 30, 2018
Monday: Christmas Eve Dinner: Smoked Trout Tartines. Warm Bar Nuts, Shrimp Scampi, Green Salad, Christmas Cookies
Tuesday: Christmas: Starters of Salumi/Cheese Platter, Smoked Trout Tartines, Avocado Toast, Warm Bar Nuts Roast Tenderloin of Beef with Horseradish Sauce Salad of Wilted Winter Greens Potato and Fennel Gratin Apple Pie
Wednesday: Left-over Beef, Winter Salad
Thursday: Rocket Soup with Toasted Bread and Salad of Chick Peas,
Tomatoes and Cucumbers with Hot Sauce Vinaigrette
Friday: Miso-Glazed Salmon with Roasted Broccoli
Saturday: Gemelli with Fresh Tomato-Almond Pesto and Croutons / Pittsburgh Italian Restaurant Chopped Salad
Sunday: Ropa Vieja with Jeweled Rice (Braised Flank Steak) and Cole Slaw
Henry VIII at the royal Christmas dinner of 1527 ate three filets of sole, 14 grouse, most of a standing rib of beef, an entire suckling pig, 4 dozen oysters, 27 sparrows, a swan stuffed with liver pudding, an entire Stilton Cheese and half of a plum pudding, gaining over half a stone and requiring, in addition to emetics and a good spell in the royal privy, emergency tailoring as well as emergency hat-making and emergency goldsmithing (for his crown). He rode, the next day, to Oxford where he invariably celebrated the New Year by challenging the undergraduates to a drinking contest. During this peregrination, three of his favorite horses were lamed, and a fourth became useless thereafter, working himself into a frenzy and kicking down his stall any time he sensed the approach of the king.
“Henry VIII, it has to be said, was not exceptional in his love of the
table. The English of Tudor times had a reputation throughout Europe for gluttony.
Indeed, overeating was regarded as the English vice in the same way that lust was
the French one and drunkenness that of the Germans (although looking at the
amount of alcohol consumed in England, I expect the English probably ran a
close second to the Germans).”
― Clarissa Dickson Wright, A History of English Food
The title of this column – above the menus and all the nonsense about Henry VIII -is a quote from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed’s’s great grandfather who, when asked if he would care for another helping at dinner, invariably replied, “No thank you, I have had an elegant sufficiency.” I have always relished this quote while also feeling that, had I sat at the same table with the grand gentleman, my own conversational freedom would have been as restricted as my appetite.
Which appetite was in no way restricted during last week’s holiday feasts. As I sit here in my sweat pants, spilling over my chairbreathing heavily and doing my personal to perpetuate the American epidemic of obesity, I can, nonetheless, cheer myself up by thinking of the marvelous food we cooked and ate last week.
Beez’s great grandfather was, clearly, the antithesis of Henry VIII who was, I am afraid, more like most of us over the holiday season than we’d care to admit.
But I digress again because, the truth is, I’m having trouble choosing among the spectacular offerings we treated ourselves and our family to during the holiday season. In cases like this, I find that narrowing down the choices, one by one, is helpful.
Presumably, you already know how to cook beef tenderloin. If not, I refuse to instruct you for fear that I might leave something out and then you might ruin a lot of expensive beef. Mary Stewart’s recipe for shrimp scampi recipe has already been on the blog. I am strongly tempted to introduce you to the wonders of red miso – a sort of instant umami flavor that works with meat as well as fish and can be used to create a quick soup base. On the other hand, that simple Sicilian pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes is easy to cook and a real crowd pleaser. However, the Ropa Vieja* is just the kind of food you’re going to need to get you through the winter months. But on the other, other hand, you’ve just had a week’s worth of feasting like Henry VIII and, if you’re like us, Tuesday was a day for pork, kraut and potatoes, the kind of food that can turn a lithe maiden into an opera singer in almost no time.
- “Old Clothes” is the literal translation of this Cuban dish which combines a deep, meaty richness with Caribbean spices and a dash of lime juice – a great taste for those of us living in colder climes and dreaming of palm trees. You can find one recipe for this in the latest (January-February, 2019) issue of Milk Street
And now that I remember it, the rocket (arugula) soup was so pretty and the cucumber and black-eyed pea salad we served with it, so savory, that the choice seems obvious – something light, but tasty and substantial enough to fuel you for shoveling the snow, gathering up all the gift wrappings and boxes and breaking them down, puzzling out how to use that new (smart phone, computer, i-pad, home-web interface) that you got for Christmas, and mustering the gumption to ignore, for the 42nd year in a row, those New Year’s resolutions that were such a source of hope and renewal just a few days ago.
So here are two recipes which take little work but look like they came from a restaurant kitchen. If you take the time to swirl the yogurt into the soup, they will look like they were cooked by Thomas Keller.
(adapted from FOOD & WINE – January, 2019)
This soup has a clean taste with Eastern Mediterranean flavors and pairs well with the recipe below for Black-Eyed-Pea and Cucumber Salad with Hot Sauce Vinaigrette. “Rocket” is, of course, what the English, with their penchant for mispronunciation (“roquette” is French for arugula) and eccentric vocabulary, call Arugula.
Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients: Serves 4
7 oz. of Arugula (you don’t need to be exact here)
5 + ounces of spinach leaves (same as above)
1 oz. of cilantro (we used parsley – maybe 3 TBSP)
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped roughly (you’re going to purée everything in a blender before serving)
2 TBSP of light olive oil for cooking (no need for EVOO in this dish – but use good oil)
2 TBSP Extra-virgin olive oil for serving
4 garlic cloves, crushed (we used one)
1 tsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of sea salt
½ tsp of black pepper
½ tsp of grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground allspice
1 medium russet (baking) potato, peeled and chopped into large dice
4 cups of chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you’d rather gain .0001 less weight and don’t care about taste)
Measure out all of the items and chop the onion and crush the garlic.
Heat the light oil over medium in a large saucepan (you’ll have to fit all of the arugula and spinach into it – they’ll wilt fairly quickly, though)
Add the onion and garlic and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, until just tender. Stir in the spices: turmeric salt, pepper, nutmeg and allspice and cook, stirring for about 2 more minutes.
Now add the potato and the stock, bring to a simmer and cook until potato is tender – maybe 10 minutes.
Reserving some arugula for garnish, add the arugula, cilantro (or parsley) and spinach to the pan. Bring back to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
Now, working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender (remove center of lid to allow steam to escape – but cover vent with a kitchen towel) and process until smooth. (You can return it to the pan, cover, and reheat just before serving, as we did – allowing us 20 minutes or so to prepare the rest of the meal.)
Taste and adjust the seasonings and serve, garnishing with a dollop of yogurt, an arugula leaf and some extra-virgin olive oil.
BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD WITH HOT SAUCE DRESSING
(adapted from Carla Hall’s recipe, printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/27/18)
Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients: Serves 4
1 can (15 0z) black-eyed peas drained (Carla recommends rinsing – we think the liquid clinging to the beans adds flavor)
2 garlic cloves, grated (we did not use garlic, though I think a half-clove grated would have been good)
1 TBSP Yellow Mustard (we’re talking French’s)
1 TBSP Hot Sauce (we used Frank’s Red Hot – a full TBSP of Tobasco would have made this too hot for Beez)
1 tsp honey
6 TBSP Vegetable Oil
2 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 mini cucumbers chopped into ½-inch dice (we used 2/3 of an English Cucumber)
½ sweet onion, finely chopped
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved – we used a bit more and quartered the large ones
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
Make the Dressing:
In a large bowl (you’ll be adding the other ingredients), whisk the garlic (if using), vinegar, hot sauce, honey and ¼ tsp each of the salt and pepper. Now add the oil in a slow, steady stream and whisk until smooth and emulsified.
Assemble the Salad:
Into the bowl with the dressing, add the black-eyed peas, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, dill and another ½ tsp salt. Toss until well mixed. Serve or let sit at room temperature for up to an hour or refrigerate for up to 1 day.