I’ll Deal with That After Vacation

August 26th, 2013 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef

Do you guys have that list? The I’ll-Deal-With-it-After-Vacation List? Earlier in August while scrambling to get everything organized before we dropped off the face of the earth for a while (real earth, not blog earth) I found myself keeping a mental list of all the things I’d just figure out once I got home. Taken on their own, in the rosy glow of pre-vacation denial, all those tasks seemed so infintisemally minor — a magazine deadline, a bunch of volunteer obligations, afterschool activity scheduling, a 300-page manuscript to read through. (More on that soon.) And yet, like clockwork, the night before re-entry to reality, each one of those items on my list team up — I picture them rubbing their palms together and laughing an evil laugh —  to form one really not-min0r-at-all get-organized list. This usually  happens somewhere around three o’clock in the morning.  That was last night for me, so I’m going to make this post short.

But even as summer vacation winds down, summer itself is still in full throttle. Which is another way of saying, the cooking is still as simple to deal with as ever. So for this week, at least, come dinnertime, I’m pretending we’re still on holiday. This grilled steak with salsa verde was our last meal in South Carolina and was good enough to deserve a reprise. As soon as I get through my list.

Grilled Steak with Salsa Verde
We served this with the most basic sides: Vinaigrette-tossed chopped kale and Chopped tomatoes and avocados with red onion, avocado, a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, s&p, and cilantro. On the screened porch overlooking an egret-speckled lagoon. I can’t promise you it will taste as good if you’re not on vacation.

Salsa Verde

1 scallion, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh parsley or cilantro or mint or a combination of all three
10-12 large capers
generous amount of salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Steak

1 1/2 punds boneless ribeye steaks, heavily salted & peppered

Process all salsa verde ingredients except oil in a mini food processor or blender. Then, slowly add olive oil as you whirl and  the sauce emulsifies. Remove to a small dish.

Grill steaks over medium-hot coals 3 to 4 minutes a side. Remove from grill and and let sit five minutes before slicing on the bias. Serve with salsa verde spooned on top.

Oh sweetie! No scraps tonight, Iris. (It’s steak for crying out loud.) But if you hang out with us for a bit, you might get a piece of kale.

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Vacation Dinner Highlight Reel

August 21st, 2013 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Travel

I can’t promise you this will be a very usable guide to exciting eating. As you know, on vacation, you can toast a pop tart for dinner and it will make you as happy as a four-course meal at Cafe Boulud. (In fact, maybe we’ll try that tonight.) But, as you can imagine, we are getting seriously into our South Carolina vacation dining, doing our best to adhere to the 50 Rules, outlined so dutifully last week so we don’t lose total control. Herewith our top six dinner moments this side of the Mason-Dixon line…

1. Shrimp Cocktail. I once read that if you’re not going to eat shrimp right off the boat in Southeastern US, you might as well always buy it in the freezer aisle — there’s pretty much no such thing as fresh, flavorful shrimp outside of this region. I think that’s why whenever we are down here, we eat shrimp like we’re never going to eat shrimp again. The run-up so far: Shrimp cocktail before dinner as often as possible (chilled with cocktail sauce, natch), grilled shrimp in salads at lunch; shrimp salad rolls for dinner.

2. Oyster Sliders at The Ordinary. We’ve gone out to dinner a few nice places, but so far the winner has been The Ordinary — perhaps a tip-off was the fact that Bon Appetit nominated it for one of the country’s 50 best new restaurants this year. Or perhaps it was the oyster sliders with the crazy coconut action that Abby ordered and which put the rest of our meal to shame. And that’s saying something because the rest of the meal — lobster rolls, pickled shrimp, John Dory schnitzel — was pretty damn tasty.

3. Beet & Carrot Slaw Our CSA pick-up was the day before driving from New York to South Carolina, so what were we going to do, give our neighbor that week’s share? I don’t think so. Not when, among other things, heirloom tomatoes and cylindra beets were in the box. We packed all our produce in a cooler and tended to the bundle like it was a third child. The love and care paid off because on our first night cooking we made some flounder and, not wanting to turn on the oven (Rule 45!), I shredded those beets on a box grater with some carrots, tossed in rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro and mint. (Full disclosure: There was no mint, but there should’ve been.)

4. Phoebe’s Crostini You’re looking at grilled tuna (that Andy had spackled in mayo before throwing on the Weber) a very JV succotash made with butter beans, corn, red peppers, onion, sauteed in a little bacon fat (apologies to real southerners) and Phoebe’s crostini. At camp, Phoebe learned that if you toss chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh peaches, corn kernels, a drizzle of balsamic and some Parm, and put the whole thing on baguette toasts, then very delicious things ensue. “It’s like summer in a bowl,” she announced when she put together the topping. I’ll take it!

4. Roast Carrots with Garam-Masala Yogurt Sauce. OK, so fine, I confess: we turned on the oven once. Or twice. But the cause was a noble one — carrots, cut on the bias, tossed with a little chopped onion, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 425°F for about 30 minutes (keep an eye on them). While they roasted, I whisked together about 3/4 cup plain yogurt with a teaspoon garam masala, lime juice, olive oil, chopped cilantro and mint. I’m not going to go so far to say it was the best thing on the plate — that’s an impossible honor when a grilled burger with special sauce is in the mix — but it was a clear leader in the side dish department this summer.

6. Beach Picnic The homemade pizza with fresh tomatoes was pretty good. So was the asparagus that Andy quickly sauteed in olive oil, salt, and pepper during the 30 minute stretch that the girls were totally, absolutely, relentlessly begging for a beach picnic. You promised! It’s so easy! I’ll help pack everything! Come on it’s vacation! Be fun! What parents know but kids don’t yet is that beach picnics are one of those things that always sound really fun, but are actually kind of a nightmare. Especially if you don’t have any of the right gear (see baking pan cum nonbreakable tray above) and especially if you try to take photos showing how ideal the night is (full moon, clear sky, silky calm ocean, etc), then get sand in your fancy camera making things a thousand times more stressful. So why is this even on my highlight reel? Because after dinner was over, we all jumped in the ocean. And there’s very little that beats a post-dinner sunset swim.

For more real-time dinner highlights, follow us on instagram: andyward15 and dinneralovestory.

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Away We Go

August 19th, 2012 · 18 Comments · Domestic Affairs, Kitchenlightenment, Travel

This picture was taken in Shek O, off the southeastern coast of Hong Kong Island where we’ve been visiting Andy’s brother and family for the past seven days. That’s Phoebe, jumping — after much prodding and negotiation — off the roof of a junk, and plunging into the South China Sea. A good reminder of how big and beautiful this world is, and how full of things to see. We hope you’re doing some of that, too, this summer.

See you in a week or so.

Jenny & Andy

PPS: Ten Things to Hold You Over Until We’re Back

1. Chicken-Apricot Skewers This one for me is all about that drizzling sauce with coconut milk and peanut butter. (From Bon Appetit)

2. Steamed Clams with Shallots and Wine. Serve with crusty bread and a fresh green salad for a 15-minute dinner. And secure the freshest clams you can find.

3. Baby Back Ribs with Mustardy-Potato Salad and Fennel Slaw. A perfect summer menu, best enjoyed wearing flip-flops.

4. Grilled Shrimp Tacos With or without homemade tortillas.

 

5. Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp (above) which we ate for dinner beachside in Koh Samui, watching a sunset, Chang beer in hand, toes wiggling in the sand. I don’t hold out hope I’ll be replicating a night like this again any time soon, but I can at least try to replicate the dish. I think I’ll start here.

6. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa (page 236, Dinner: A Love Story)

7. Lamb Sliders (p. 206, Dinner: A Love Story) with Chick Pea Fries (p. 210) Bon Appetit served the fries as hors d’oeuvres at the DALS book party and they rocked. I’m resolved to serve them in my house with marinara instead of ketchup this year.

8. Cold “Peanut Butter Noodles” (page 261, Dinner: A Love Story) This is such a good one for easy entertaining. Can be made a day in advance — then all you have to do is set out toppings.

9. Summer Ginger-Peach Galette If you’ve chosen Dinner: A Love Story for your next book club selection, or even if you haven’t actually, there’s a reading guide (plus a recipe for this beautiful galette to serve if you are hosting) right here.

10. Tomato Caprese Salad You shouldn’t go a day without this on your table in some form between now and Labor Day.

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Forward March! Andy, My Drill Sergeant of Leisure

May 29th, 2012 · 24 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Travel

We are officially T-1 week for Publication Date of Dinner: A Love Story, and T-3 weeks til school’s out, so I thought I’d share a section from the book that is one of my favorites. It’s about the transformation my husband undergoes when we are on vacation.

When I was growing up, we never took typical family vacations. We never booked a house on the Cape for a week or went to Fort Myers in February; we never sat at the kitchen table with a map of the country circling national parks we wanted to visit like I imagined most families doing. Part of the reason for this was that my mother, once she found her calling as an attorney, turned into a workaholic— today, at seventy-five, as partner in her own law firm, she still works harder than all of her children combined—and, like all workaholics, she derives pleasure from work, thereby rendering the need to get pleasure elsewhere useless. (I’ve always gotten the feeling that she finds vacation from reading ninety-five-page contracts a whole lot more stressful than reading those ninety-five-page contracts.)

Another reason we never went on typical vacations was that my sister, Lynn, was a nationally ranked tennis player who competed in tournaments all over the country. Naturally, we’d all tag along with her on all of these trips no matter where they were—Charlestown, West Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, Indianapolis. They were always during July and August, and the organizers seemed to find some sick pleasure in selecting venues where the average temperature was a hundred degrees in the shade and never ever near a water park with one of those long, twisty mountain slides. But the truth was, I didn’t mind. I was ten, eleven, twelve years old. All I needed was a hotel pool to be happy.

But now that I am not a kid—now that I am a grown-up and I have kids of my own—vacation is a different story altogether. I need the pool, yes, but I also need a whole lot more. Most of the time I need a kitchen. I need a grill. I need to go to a place with lots to do. In fact, from the moment we arrive at wherever we happen to be vacationing, Andy and I are crafting ways to make sure we are squeezing the maximum amount of pleasure out of every moment of our waking hours. We take our vacations seriously. Before we have finished our morning coffee we have a plan for the day, one that usually includes exercise for the grown-ups (we usually tag-team our runs while the kids watch their morning TV), a large chunk of time in or near a pool or beach, some sort of afternoon adventure that involves exploring the local terrain (like a road trip or a hike or a bike ride), and of course, shopping for dinner that we will make in our own kitchen while drinking gin and tonics.

One morning when we were on vacation in South Carolina (where Andy’s parents have a house near the beach), the girls were finishing up watching an episode of The Backyardigans, and Andy looked at the clock.

“It’s ten o’clock in the morning and we still don’t have a plan,” he said.

“It’s only ten in the morning,” I said, taking a sip of my iced coffee that Andy had prepared the night before so it would be ready for us when we woke up.

“Yes, but we have a lot to do today.”

“We do?” I asked. The way he said it made it sound as if we were on deadline for something serious. “Like what?” (more…)

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