Saturday, April 21, 2012

An Early Summer Dinner

My first free-time instinct is to make a salad and then my second instinct is to document it! Maybe gluten-free blogging can make a summer comeback.

I know Campari is making a summer comeback...

...and you can tell summer is on its way because all the produce is just sweeter. The fennel smelled amazing as I tried to figure out how to cut it into slivers. Irregular is beautiful, too!

No, that's not raw beef—it's anchovies! I had a sudden craving for this particular salad at the amazing Brooklyn restaurant Bocca Lupo—anchovy, carrot, fennel and golden raisin. My variation omitted raisin and added capers and oranges. And endive. Recipe below!

For our main course we had French lentils (well, green lentils in a French style) with buttered mushrooms and a soft-boiled egg (served in a small glass for crack-your-own efficiency)

I took mine into the light for a better shot—and to grab the salt & pepper from the kitchen.

I remembered to take one shot of the last remaining bite of carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting. Served with an iced glass of plum wine.


It's nice to have a small group so if I drag the table into the living room we can all sit. We even had a little coffee with dessert. Overall, it was a very sophisticated evening.


Campari - Orange
Mix Campari with fresh-squeezed orange juice and soda water (or champagne!) and serve over ice.

Fennel Orange Salad with Anchovy Dressing

For the salad:
1 head of sliced fennel
2- 3 large carrots, shaved (use the carrot peeler to create long, linguini-like strands)
3-4 large oranges, sectioned
2 small endives (I just put the whole leaves on the plate so you could use them as a scoop, if you wanted)
Handful of chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons of capers

For the dressing:
This was wildly experimental so the amounts are very flexible. 
2 small jars of anchovies in oil (or one tin)
Olive oil - 1/4 cup or less, to cover the salad
Heavy splash red wine vinegar
The juice of 1 lemon
Splash of orange juice
Splash of champagne
Splash of Campari
(I mean -- they were right there!)
Splash fish sauce (use sparingly and taste as you go)
Splash soy sauce
Splash of vinegar from the jar of capers
(This is quickly devolving into a witch's brew)
A few heavy shakes of garlic powder (better would be diced shallots - but whatever)
salt and pepper to taste.

This could easily benefit from white wine instead of champagne; grapefruit instead of oranges; sautéed shallots in place of garlic powder, rice wine vinegar instead of red wine vinegar--GO WILD. The most important ingredient, to emphasize the anchovy, is the fish sauce. The end result was something quite light and summery, rather than pungent.

French Lentils with Buttered Mushrooms & Soft-Boiled Egg

Rinse 2 cups green lentils in cold water. Simmer them in a large pot for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté half a chopped onion in olive oil in a large pan.
As the onion browns, add about 20 or so chopped white mushrooms.
Add 1/4 stick of butter to the mushrooms and stir.
When the lentils are done, strain and add them to the pan.
To this mixture, add:
heavy pour of balsamic vinegar
fistful of oregano
minimal sprinkle of brown sugar
simmer for 20 more minutes, adding oil if needed.
While they are simmering, fill a pot with water—I used the lentil pot again - no need to clean it.
Add eggs, 1 per person.

Bring pot to a boil and let boil for 2-3 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs (a true hard-boiled egg is more like 7 minutes, but 2-3 will get you a cooked egg with a little yolk drip. This is the recommended course of action.) If you're truly savvy, you should poach the eggs. I wanted all the eggs done at the same time so I just soft-boiled.

When the eggs are done, and before your lentils dry up, peel and serve the egg atop the lentils - with salt and pepper. I made my guests crack their own eggs. Warning: rinse eggs in cold water before serving to guests or guests will squeal with pain.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I used a mix for the carrot cake. Cream cheese frosting is approximately
equal parts:
Powdered Sugar and
Cream Cheese
with a splash of vanilla extract & lemon juice.

If you're like me and thought you had powdered sugar in your cupboard but did not, you can make powdered sugar in your coffee grinder by putting regular sugar in it with a little corn starch.

Warning: clean your coffee grinder first (unless you want coffee-flavored frosting) by grinding a handful of rice first. That soaks up any coffee bean remnant. Blow the rice dust out of the grinder, carefully, over the sink.

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