December 9 – 15, 2019
Monday: The Cornerstone with Beez and Hilda
Tuesday: Roasted Radicchio and Roquefort
Wednesday: Pasta Pomarola with Meatballs
Thursday: Drinks at The Mansions on Fifth
Friday: Baked Salmon, Dilled Potatoes and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers
Saturday: Christmas Dinner Dance – PFC
Sunday: Roasted Chicken with Savory Bread Pudding and Salad
As you can see from the roster above, we did not do a lot of cooking last week, but we had ourselves a mighty fine time.
It began on Monday at dinner with Hilda. She had just driven in from Northeastern PA, where she and Tim were celebrating their grandson Tripp’s third birthday. After the slog home, Tim opted to rest, but Hilda, who is made of sterner stuff, drove down to meet Beez and me at The Cornerstone. I forget what we ate, but we had some laughs, and Beez and Hilda went to St. Scho’s for an Advent something-or-other, while I drove home to Rusty and my books.
At The Mansions on Fifth, Tim, the other Tim, my brother John and I had drinks with Ambrose, to cheer him up after a family loss. As it turned out, Ambrose knew half the people in the bar [very difficult to maintain you’ve never been to a bar before when everyone knows you or when the bartender asks, “the regular, Mr. Murray?] and cheered us up. Spectacular evening – no food.
On Saturday, to complete our festive week, we attended the Christmas Dinner Dance at the PFC as guests of Hilda and Tim. Good food, great bar(s), good band and Beez dancing – what more could anyone ask?
We did have some fine food at home, as well. But you already know about the Pasta Pomarola, and the Charred Romaine seems a little severe for the days heading into Christmas. You could do the salmon as one of your seven fishes on Christmas Eve – and please be our guest and do so. But, this being a particularly busy time of year for all of us, I’m going to give you a quick (and quickly written-out) recipe for a quick pickle, which you will thank me for. This pickle, with baked salmon and steamed, dilled potatoes, is spectacular. But it’s also good to eat on its own as part of an antipasto plate, or on a turkey or ham sandwich, or as a side for the BLT brunches I sincerely hope you are all treating yourselves to, as a result of our September 15th post. (Click on the menu tab “Keepers” and scroll down to ‘The Holy BLT’)
Before the pickle, however, here’s a bit of advice – well, really, since it’s coming from a man with less gravitas than Deimos* let’s call it a suggestion: During the holiday season – chill! If you’re cooking for others, remember that most of your guests will enjoy just being with you and eating and drinking pretty much anything, and most of all, not having to cook for themselves. In a different (religious) context, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque suggested: “. . . . doing each of your actions with the same tranquility as if you had but that alone to do.” That’s pretty much the spirit. Note: This means that you cannot have 5 hors d’oeuvres,** a big footprint entrée (turkey, prime rib, ham, etc.) and 175 side dishes, along with 4 desserts. Take it easy on yourself and on the stomachs of your guests. Substitute some hugs, forgiveness and living-and-letting-live for some of that food and enjoy the season. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.
*the smallest of Mars’s moons, about 7 miles in diameter.
**When I first began cooking for family and friends, I was mad for an array of appetizers, always including a piled platter of cheeses and cured meats. But I have evolved (not politically – sorry Paul and Jimmy). I prefer to have people hungry for the main course, and perhaps a little tippled as well, in case there’s a glitch. So, this year, we’ll have a few oysters and some spiced nuts, but nothing else to go with cocktails and greetings, and then we’ll plunge right into the real food.
A Quick Cucumber Pickle
(adapted from Milk Street Magazine, Jan-Feb, 2020)
Timing: 15 minutes
Ingredients: Makes 2 Cups of Pickles
½ cup white vinegar (we used balsamic, but regular white is fine)
¼ cup white sugar (do not skimp or you will have very sour and unpleasant pickles)
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced on the diagonal.
Note: you could slice into half-moons as well, the half-moons being a bit easier to handle once they are pickled.
Make the Pickle:
In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup water, the vinegar, sugar, salt and dill.
Now stir in the cucumber, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.
Drain and serve.
Use leftover pickle for anything you like, including tuna salad, as below.