Thursday, May 24, 2012

Saturday, dinner for three, and a gnome

May 19, 2012
Pasta Caprese
Roasted Garlic Batard
Green Salad
Vella Chardonnay

It was Caryn's first weekend home from college for the summer and I wanted to prepare a vegetarian meal. Normally I cook on Sunday, but on this particular Sunday Diane and I attended a San Francisco Giants game. We go to about a dozen a year, rarely  on Sunday, but the give-away at this game was particularly appealing. Knowing there would be long lines we left an hour earlier than usual to ensure being among the lucky 20,000 to get their very own Brian Wilson (a.k.a. "The Beard") gnome. Our planning paid off and we returned home with two gnomes. Knowing that we would get home too late on Sunday to prepare anything elaborate, I decided to fix dinner on Saturday.  We ended up having burgers on Sunday after the game.

For our Saturday dinner, I chose a summer-time pasta dish that I had made once before, Pasta Caprese. This is a light pasta which does not include a tomato or cream sauce. Rather, the pasta is served with fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The tomatoes, 1½ pounds, were cored,  seeded then marinated for a short time in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, shallot, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. A pound of fresh mozzarella was cut into ½ inch pieces and placed in the freezer for 10 minutes.  I kept moving the cheese from the freezer to the refrigerator to the counter top so it wouldn't get too cold and hard or too warm and soft. Freezing prevents the cheese from melting into a gooey stringy mess when it is added to the hot pasta. One pound of dry penne pasta was cooked then added to the tomatoes along with the chilled mozzarella. The dish was finished with chopped fresh basil and served. It was light and fresh and easy to prepare. It could have been improved by using real tomatoes, fresh and ripe from the garden, rather than what you get at the supermarket, but it is tool early in the year for that.

I had made bread the previous weekend, indeed we still had some. Rather than making more bread I  picked up a loaf from the supermarket bakery. It would not be as good as home made but it provided a chance to try a different kind of bread. It was a basic french bread with embedded slices of roasted garlic. The garlic and bread provided a nice accompaniment to the pasta.

The final course was a fresh green salad. I purchased Earthbound Farm greens: Half Spring Mix and Half Baby Spinach. We have found that while greens from Earthbound Farm cost more than other prepackaged salads they keep much better and are worth the extra cost. To this I added some sliced cucumber and tomato and served dressings on the side so each of us could choose our own favorite. I had Italian, Caryn a raspberry vinaigrette, and Diane chose Ranch.

I don't often prepare fresh, light meals like this but I always enjoy them when I do. Since I generally cook only once a week I'm not willing to give up preparing meat entirely while vegetarian Caryn is home. But she usually does fine with the side dishes and is a good cook herself, so there is no concern about her getting enough to eat. And after all, she does get to keep one of the gnomes.

Pasta Caprese from America's Test Kitchen

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There was a small piece of filet mignon left over from last Sunday's dinner. I cut a slice of whole wheat bread, also left over from the previous Sunday's dinner, sliced the beef thin, and built a sandwich. I garnished it with butter, horseradish, romaine lettuce, and a little ketchup. It was delicious and the beef was very tender.

Because the mashed potatoes were so dry we served them with gravy. We had chicken marsala one night and turkey gravy, from a mix, another day.

How it's done
America's Test Kitchen published an interesting graphic outlining the 12-step, 10-month process they use to develop recipes: Our 12-Step Path to Recipe Perfection.

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