Monday, August 27, 2007

Supremely Seasonal Summer Dinner!

Maybe it's the lazy days of August as summer winds down, but until recently, I admit to not feeling very creative, or motivated, in the kitchen. Relying on a bunch of fallback recipes, while satisfying our tastebuds, hasn't added much luster to the recipe repertoire. But I think the doldrums are coming to an end, and if I had to say why, it must be the onslaught of tomatoes off of our overloaded plants and the exploding colors at our local Montavilla Farmer's Market. If you can't get excited by wandering outside into your garden to pluck still-warm cherry tomatoes off the plant, having their sweet burst of flavor explode in your mouth, or being dazzled by the riot of color that is high pepper season at the market, then perhaps you'd be better make eating your way through the Lean Cuisine section of your supermarket your life's culinary work. For the rest of us, we'll be getting our fill of all that is delicious and fresh.

A bowl of brilliantly colored potato & roasted corn salad

Which brings me to last night's dinner, where for further motivation my sister's family was popping over for dinner. I always feel the need to do more, because besides being an über-talented cook herself, I know my sister will bring a fabulously fresh seasonal dessert for apres dîner. My stuff had better measure up! And after a bit of online research and a brand new cookbook for motivation, I have to say last night's food fest was one of the best start to finish meals I've had in a long time. From the apps of artisan cheeses with flutes of bouncy, fizzy prosecco, on to the first course of rice-stuffed tomatoes (the picture up top) followed by a stunning trout main course (I usually don't give myself that much credit, but this dish was off the f-cking hook!) with a deliciously seasonal potato salad, and finally followed by a perfect peach galette from my sister, it was one satisfying bite after the next. Ah, summer!

The trout and pot salad, looking quite delicious!

Here's the recipes for my contributions. These are all very easy and will knock out your guests, I promise! I have linked above to my sisters peach galette. Bonne chance et appréciez!!


Pomodori a Riso
(Tomatoes stuffed with rice)

from Saveur Magazine

and thanks to my friend Francesca for the inspiration!- BB
serves 4-8

8 firm, ripe medium to large tomatoes

1/2 cup raw arborio or other risotto rice

2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, peeled & minced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Position oven rack in top third of oven, then preheat to 400 degrees. Pull or carefully cut stems off tomato tops, then trim about 3/4" from bottom of each tomato and set ends aside. Working over a medium bowl, use a small spoon to carefully scoop out inner pulp without puncturing the walls of the tomatoes. Reserve scooped out pulp. Arrange scooped out tomatoes open end up in the medium baking dish.

2. Pass tomato pulp through a food mill or pulse in a food processor to a chunky paste, then transfer back into bowl. Add rice, parsley, basil, garlic, and oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well. Spoon filling into prepped tomatoes (there may be a little filling left over) and placed reserved tomato ends loosely on top of each stuffed tomato. Drizzle a little olive oil over tomatoes and bake until rice is swollen and tender and tomatoes are soft and well browned, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

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Potato and Roasted Corn Salad


makes 8 servings.

3 ears fresh corn, unhusked
2 large red bell peppers

2 pounds 1 1/2- to 2-inch-diameter unpeeled red-skinned potatoes, quartered

4 thick bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)

1 cup chopped green onions

3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1.Prepare barbecue (high heat). Grill corn until husks are blackened on all sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Remove husks and silk. Cut kernels from cobs.

2.Cut 1/2 inch from top and bottom of each pepper. Quarter each pepper lengthwise. Trim ribs and seeds from peppers. Flatten pieces, breaking slightly, if necessary. Place peppers on grill, skin side down. Grill without turning until skins are blackened and blistered, about 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Peel peppers; cut into 1/2-inch squares.

3.Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain; let cool 5 minutes in strainer. Transfer to large bowl.

4.Sauté bacon in medium skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels.

5.Whisk oil and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1/4 cup dressing over potatoes; toss to coat. Add corn, bell peppers, bacon, onions, oregano, and 3 tablespoons additional dressing (you can also add the blue cheese at this point. We left it out because the salad was tasting so fresh without it, and it made it a little lighter- BB); toss to coat. Season salad with salt and pepper. Add remaining dressing by tablespoonfuls to moisten, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Pan Fried Trout with Lemon and Pine Nuts

adapted from Starting With Ingredients by Aliza Green

serves 4

1/2 cup Zante currants

1/2 cup brandy

2 tbsp butter at room temperature

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
8 boneless trout filets

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour, for dusting
2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup diced fresh tomato

1.Preheat the oven to 200. Soak the currants in the brandy. Using a fork, mash together the butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest until the liquid is absorbed and the butter is creamy. Set aside.

2.Lay fish flat, skin side down., and season with salt and pepper, then dust lightly with flour, shaking off excess. In a large skillet (preferably cast iron or non-stick), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown four filets on each side about 2-3 minutes, or until done to desired firmness. Remove from skillet and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining four filets, adding more oil if necessary (and it probably will be- BB).

3. reduce heat to low, pour off excess oil. Add pine nuts and brown lightly, shaking often. Add the currants and brandy. Averting your face, flame the liquid. Shake the pan and cook until the flames die down, Add the diced tomato, heat gently, then remove skillet from heat. Stir in the reserve lemon butter, plate two filets per dinner plate, pour sauce over fish and serve immediately.

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