dinner

Pickled Shrimp

By Lisa

It’s no secret to readers here that I’ve been in a bit of a cooking slump.  But as the weather changes, and my event schedule slows down a little, and the end of the school year approaching, things are getting a little jolt of renewed energy. I am still not over the loss of Gourmet, but I read the recent issue of Food and Wine with interest for the first time in months and months. And in it, I found this recipe for pickled shrimp, which called to me for some reason. I had a good bag of shrimp from Pietro, and all the ingredients, and took a deep breath, and made the new dish later that week.

However.

I forgot the part about it needing to chill for 8-10 hours, so I pulled together the Sundried Tomato Gnocchi, and we ate these shrimp the following night, as we watched Harry Potter, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  So, while I had to make 2 things one night, I had nothing to do the following night, which was Friday, and who doesn’t want a no-cook dinner on Friday night? Also, once the shrimp are cleaned and peeled, this comes together in minutes. It’s really fast.

So, for lots of reasons, including how they taste, these are one of the best new things I’ve made in a long time.  Ella liked them, Finn liked them less (a little too much heat) and they made the kitchen smell really delicious, tart and pickle-y. A lot like summer. I used a premade spinach dip, which sounds strange, but it cuts the heat, so I’d make sure to buy a good one or make the one in the recipe.  If there are any leftover, I’m sure they’d be great on Day 2. Or for a picnic. Or an appetizer.  However you use them, you won’t be sorry.


The recipe is here: Pickled Shrimp with Creamy Spinach Dip.

Salad “Nicoise” for Kids

by Lisa

This dinner began with a piece of albacore, which we eat with some regularity.  We can buy it fresh at our farmers market and it’s a favorite with everyone.  I’m not sure what sent me down the composed salad path, but it might have had something to do with the week of composed salads we ate after Easter and something to do with the fact that I’m tired of the Korean style tuna we’ve been eating–delicious as it is. And it definitely had something to do with the fact that Finn doesn’t often like his foods all mixed up. So if I can separate ingredients without trouble, sometimes I do. For this salad, I made this easy dressing with what I had on hand.  I didn’t have a lot of traditional Nicoise ingredients (potatoes, olives) but I had other things: a tender Boston bibb lettuce and some baby Romaine, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, white beans, artichokes.  I did a quick pan sear of the tuna, roasted the baby artichokes, steamed the green beans. I topped the tuna with the dressing and set out the other ingredients out on the counter with the dressing.

Here’s the very best part: kids get to choose what goes on their plates.  I dressed each ingredient individually in the glass bowl, which is the traditional way to prepare a Nicoise in any case, and then set it on their plates.  Caroline & I are together on this: when you can give kids choice and control, that’s always a good thing. This was Finn’s custom plate: tuna, white beans, green beans, lettuce. He came back for seconds.  I think we also had some fresh bread.

The second best part: everything can stay at room temperature so it was ready to go for my husband and I later that evening. In one of those great moments when what makes the kids happy makes the grown up happy, we had a win/win kind of night. And: you can endlessly adapt this: substitute canned tuna or salmon, fresh snap peas or carrots….whatever you have on hand.

Eating Out

By Lisa

I didn’t really want to do anything for Mother’s Day, which I feel pretty ambivalent about. Aside from an exciting, early morning soccer game for Ella, I had no plans, and I wanted to keep it that way. I thought a nap might be in order.  Later, I just didn’t feel like cooking dinner.  I didn’t feel like takeout. Nor did I feel like having my husband cook dinner and make a mess in the kitchen–even a little mess.   To his credit, Kory took it upon himself to make a reservation at a local restaurant that we hadn’t been to for a meal. I’d had drinks and snacks there with some friends but had never seen the menu. I was a little skeptical, but too tired to make a big deal. So we dressed up and went out to an early dinner.

My first impression: not so positive. It’s one of those places with the kind of faux Tuscan decor that’s just sort of cheesy and nondescript: murals of villas and sunflower fields, faux arches, earthy colors.  The menu was less than inspired and sort of expensive. They served mostly standard Italian American fare,and the kids menu looked like this:

So, we weren’t expecting much.

The restaurant was very quiet. There were white linen tablecloths, pretty little candles, nice flatware and glassware on the table. But  they brought the kids a big box of crayons and some paper which happily entertained them while we ordered and waited.

I had a really good glass of Prosecco, which makes almost anything better than okay, and when the server brought the Casear salad, to our great surprise, both kids dug in. Finn shared with me, Ella shared with her dad, and was even persuaded to eat several of the anchovies.

It was incredibly calm–at our table, but also in the restaurant more generally. There were several elderly couples around us, but across the way was  a family with two teenagers, dressed casually in hoodies and jeans, tucking into filet mignon, having what seemed to be a really pleasant time.

When they brought the pasta, you could tell right away it was impeccably fresh. Ella’s pesto was bright green, as if it had just been mixed. Finn’s marinara was bursting with flavor, and my bolognese was perfect.   The portions were just the right size. So in spite of the fact that the kinds menu looked like the worst kind of generic pandering to kids, they got to choose their pasta shape and the sauce, and both were beautifully prepared–simple, fresh, delicious–and served in elegant bowls. The kids loved it. I loved it.

At some point, a family with a baby and a 5 year old in complete butterfly face paint and a lovely party dress sat  next to us. They had a conversation with the grandparents on their other side. The little girl listened intently to some story Kory was telling Ella and Finn, then joined the conversation at our table.  By this time, the restaurant was packed with a really diverse group of people, and maybe it was the second glass of prosecco that got to me, but I prefer to think that there was something magical at hand. The general quality of the food, the welcoming atmosphere, the young and old, moms, dads, kids of all ages, grandparents, the mix of elegance with a deep family-friendly attitude. Yes, it was pricey, but I can’t help but think that helps to maintain a certain mood of dignity and respect.

And things went so swimmingly, we even let the sit next to each other and tuck into a pretty great ice cream sundae. At home, this would easily have devolved into disaster.  But they knew better.

Not every family dinner can be so lovely and calm, but when things go as well as they did on this night, I remember the basic tenants we’ve been working on since Ella was a year old: be open to new experiences; teach your children appropriate restaurant behavior; a little bit of fancy dress does wonders to calm the beast and raise expectations; go to dinner when your children are hungry, even if this means a 5 PM reservation.

Salmon “ceviche” Tacos

By Lisa

I have been cooking a little more these days, and spring is making it easier: new food, fresher produce, etc.   Last weekend I picked up a bag of salmon backs, which are my favorite cut of salmon for their economy, flavor and ease of preparation. And then I found some Mexcian limes, which to my mind make any meal worth eating.  And I came up with these tacos. Citrus marinated salmon, topped with chopped green onion, cilantro, and cumin cream sauce.  We ran out of tortillas, so my husband and I ate them with middle eastern flat bread, which might have been better. They’re totally delicious and were a huge hit with the kids, who added guacamole. They’ll add guacamole to anything. & really, why not?

These are easy enough to get on the table tonight, just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Salmon “ceviche” tacos

serves 4

  • 3/4 lb salmon (1 1/2 lb if you use backs, since there is a lot of bone)
  • juice of 1 orange, 2 limes, 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stalk chopped fresh green garlic, including greens (or 1 clove garlic or 1 stalk green onion)
  • soft taco shells
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • Mexican lime for garnish (if none are available, use regular limes)
  • cumin cream sauce, see below

Cumin cream sauce

Mix equal parts plain, greek style yogurt with mayonnaise, the juice of one lime, and 1 tsp cumin, a pinch of salt.

  1. Marinate salmon in ziplock bag in refrigerator with citrus, salt, and chopped garlic. for at least 1/2 hour or longer.
  2. Grill or broil until cooked through.
  3. Shred salmon into flakes.
  4. Serve on tacos with cilantro, cream sauce, and limes  for garnish.

Nigella’s Lemon Linguine

by Caroline

daffodils, since I forgot to take a picture of the dinner

I don’t know when I began needing so much lemon in Easter dinner, but this year it worked its way into almost every dish I made for my family, parents, and brothers on Easter day: lemon fettucine, lemon roasted asparagus, and a lemon cheesecake for dessert; only the peas (grown by my dad) and bread were lemon free. And yes, I acknowledge that following cream sauce with cheesecake might feel over the top, but it’s better, perhaps, or lighter, than the Easter my sister and I unthinkingly served the all-cream-and-carb meal of strata and trifle. But it’s Easter, the joyous end of a long fast, so a family should feast.

Here, in her own inimitable voice, is Nigella Lawson’s fabulous lemon linguine:

* 2 pounds linguine
* 2 egg yolks
* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 1 lemon, zested, and juice of 1/2, plus more juice, as needed
* Salt
* freshly milled black pepper
* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
* 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves

Directions

Fill just about the biggest pot you have with water and bring to a boil. When friends are coming for lunch, get the water heated to boiling point before they arrive, otherwise you end up nervously hanging around waiting for a watched pot to boil while your supposedly quick lunch gets later and later. Bring the water to the boil, cover and turn off burner.

I tend to leave the addition of salt until the water comes to a boil a second time. But whichever way you do it, add quite a bit of salt. When the bubbling’s encouragingly fierce, put in the pasta. I often put the lid on for a moment or so just to let the pasta get back to the boil, but don’t turn your back on it, and give it a good stir with a pasta fork or whatever to avoid even the suspicion of stickiness, once you’ve removed the lid.

Then get on with the sauce, making sure you’ve set your timer for about a minute or so less than the time specified on the package of pasta.

In a bowl, add the yolks, cream, Parmesan, zest of the whole lemon and juice of half of it, the salt and good grind of pepper, and beat with a fork. You don’t want it fluffy, just combined. Taste. If you want it more lemony, then of course add more juice.

When the timer goes off, taste to judge how near the pasta is to being ready. I recommend that you hover by the stove so you don’t miss that point. Don’t be too hasty, though. Everyone is so keen to cook their pasta properly al dente that sometimes the pasta is actually not cooked enough. You want absolutely no chalkiness here. And linguine (or at least I find it so) tend not to run over into soggy overcookedness quite as quickly as other long pasta. This makes sense, of course, as the strands of “little tongues” are dense than the flat ribbon shapes.

Anyway, as soon as the pasta looks ready, remove a cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta, and then, off the heat, toss it back in the pot or put it in an efficiently preheated bowl, throw in the butter, and stir and swirl about to make sure the butter’s melted and the pasta covered by it all over. Each strand will be only mutely gleaming, as there’s not much butter and quite a bit of pasta. If you want to add more, then do; good butter is the best flavoring, best texture, best mood enhancer there is.

When you’re satisfied the pasta’s covered with its soft slip of butter, then stir in the egg mixture and turn the pasta well in it, adding some of the cooking liquid if it looks a bit dry (only 2 tablespoons or so – you don’t want a wet mess – and only after you think the sauce is incorporated). Sprinkle over the parsley and serve now, now, now.