Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lunch Outdoors, Yes

After the outdoor dinner that didn't happen outdoors, I was slightly trepidatious  about planning two outdoor lunches.   One involved a little voyage "upstate" - according to my NYC friends, I live upstate, but when I go to visit my friends in the northern Catskills it's real upstate - about 1 1/2 hours from Hudson.
It turned out to be a knock-out day, ever so blurred by an ounce or two of haze, enjoyable company, and delicious food.

My friend, Rita always sets pretty tables - this one on her screened-in porch overlooking the rolling lawn and pond - with the best flower (out of her garden) arrangements anywhere.  It's because they're so simple.  They feature the blossom.   And that's how she makes food she too.  It stars the main ingredients.


Rita found a locally-grown cauliflower at a farm stand in Middleburg, which is just that much farther north to have the cold nights that the compact white head needs to  thrive.  She made her interpretation of a frittata recipe out of Yotam Ottolenghi's book, Plenty.   Basically, Rita followed the recipe - she just didn't add as much cheese as it called for.  Could've fooled me - it tasted like it should have.  Super savory.


This is what Yotam says, " Scamorza affumicata  is an Italian cheese that melts fantastically well.  Often labeled 'smoked mozzarella', it is highly effective in adding depth and pungency to vegetarian dishes."    Rita didn't use scamorza - and as I said, I didn't miss it.  However, if it had been added to the frittata it would have elevated the flavor even further.   You might be able to substitute a more readily available smoked cheese.
Serves 4 - 6
1 small cauliflower, cut into medium florets
6 eggs
4 tablespoons crème fraiche  (or sour cream)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
3 tablespoons chopped chives
5 ounces smoked scamorza, grated (including the skin for extra flavor)
2 ounces mature Cheddar, grated
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Simmer the cauliflower in a large pan of boiling salted water for only 4 to 5 minutes, until semi-cooked.  Drain and dry.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Break the eggs into a large bowl.  Add the crème fraiche, mustard and paprika and whisk well, making sure the eggs and crème fraiche are thoroughly blended.  Now stir in the chives and three-quarters of the cheeses, and season well with salt and pepper.
Heat up the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan.  Fry the cauliflower for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.  Pour over the egg mixture and use a fork to spread the cauliflower evenly in the pan.  Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Scatter the remaining cheeses on top, then carefully transfer the pan to the oven.  Cook for 10 - 12 minutes, or until the frittata is set.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes before cutting into wedges.  Eat immediately with a peppery green salad.

Our salad was full of stuff: nascent leaves and shoots from Rita's garden, cucumbers, crumbled blue cheese and walnuts.

Bread from Hudson's Bonfiglio & Bread.  Where else?

Dessert - Alice Water's recipe for baked rhubarb.  Rhubarb from the garden cut into 1 - 2-inch pieces, sugar ,and orange juice and zest baked 'til soft.  Not too long.  Rhubarb cooks quickly.  It was served with homemade kefir - sour milk.

Frankie, Rita's dog decided that she'd just watch Allegra cross the rapids


This fall's apples starting to grow

Then we went for a post prandial stroll through the lower meadow until we reached the usually docile creek which had become raging rapids from the previous stormy days.  My intrepid dog, accustomed to crossing the creek to get to the upper fields, did so - without thinking.  She made it - but thought long and hard about her return trip.   I told her that I couldn't go in to rescue her so she had better figure out a way to get back.  And she did at age 13 years and 3 months.  Brava Allegra.

Next outdoor lunch was planned a few weeks in advance.  Some friends were coming up from the city to attend a wedding on the other side of the river - the left bank.   As their destination was only about 1/2 hour from Hudson I asked them to come for lunch at my house the next day.  They accepted, and I invited some mutual friends who had recently moved to a hamlet near Hudson.

I made the meal easy for myself by buying just about everything at the previous day's farmers' market.   It's amazing how fresh ingredients can speak for themselves and give you the most delicious repast.

.    Grilled sausages from Pigasso Farm served with a sauce that I made by sautéing fresh, spring garlic in olive oil and adding chopped grape tomatoes, fennel seeds, chopped capers, hot peppers and fresh, from my garden, basil.
.    Roasted asparagus - easy peasy - place the spears on a parchment-paper covered baking sheet with sides, toss with olive oil and flaky sea salt and cook at 400 degrees F. until crispy on the outside and soft as asparagus flan on the inside
.   Tossed market salad with radishes, dressed with mustard-shallot vinaigrette
.   Assorted local cheese,  Amazing Real Live Camembert, Adirondack Cheddar, Ewe's blue
.   Bonfiglio & Bread.  Of course.

.   Semolina, coconut & marmalade cake, fresh strawberries and sheep's milk yogurt


Another recipe from my culinary crush, Yotam Ottolenghi.  This one comes from his and Sami Tamimi's  2012 multi-award winning Jerusalem.   He says,"  Semolina cakes soaked in syrup are so numerous all over the Middle East and vary in so many ways it is hard to find a single definition or an accurate enough name to fit.  Some cakes have coconut in them; some have yogurt; some bakers prefer  flavoring them with citrus syrups, others with flower blossoms; some use sugar and others honey.  In any case, the moist light texture and the aromatic flavors are what 's all about.

Makes two 1 pound loaf cakes

3/4 cup sunflower oil (I used canola)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (the juice of 2 oranges)
1 cup orange marmalade (fine-cut or without peel)
4 large free-range eggs
grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup shredded dried coconut
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons semolina
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder

thick Greek yogurt with 1 or 2 drops orange blossom water to serve

Soaking Syrup
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.   Whisk together the oil, orange juice, marmalade, eggs, and orange zest until the marmalade dissolves.   In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients.   Mix until well combined.  The mixture should be runny.
Grease and line two 1-pound loaf pans ( 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 -inches) with waxed paper.  Divide the filling evenly between them.  Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, until a skewer inserted in a cake comes out clean and the tops turn an orangey brown.
Near the end of the baking time, place the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.  As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, start brushing them with the hot syrup using a pastry brush; you'll need to do this in a few goes, allowing the syrup to soak in for a minute or two before you carry on brushing with more syrup.  Make sure you use up all the syrup and it is all absorbed into the cakes.
Once the cakes have cooled down a little, remove them from the pan and leave them to cool completely.   Serve with the Greek yogurt flavored with a drop of orange blossom water.

These cakes will keep well for at least five days if wrapped carefully in parchment paper or aluminum foil.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   This Saturday at the Hudson Famers' Market come meet Rebecca Miller Ffrench and let her sign a copy of her newest book, SWEET HOME, just for you - or a friend who's having a birthday, etc.  Rebecca will be serving samples made from one the recipes in her book.

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