Saturday, August 17, 2019

What I'm Cooking -- A Summer Dinner Party

We had great friends to dinner a couple of nights ago, and menu planning was the key to success.

H is a man who eats a lot of fancy food at many of New York's most elegant restaurants. But there is a part of him that likes good, relatively simple, home cooking. I have made roast chicken and seven-hour lamb for him in the past, for example, both of which were well received. For this dinner, I had my heart set on Yemenite Style Veal Osso Bucco with Yellow Rice, a wonderful-sounding recipe from Michael Solomonov's excellent Israeli Soul. But I couldn't get the veal osso bucco at any of our local butcher shops sufficiently far in advance to season for two days, then braise a day or, better, two before the meal. And then I realized that I should save that for winter, and decided to go lighter.

I had recently read about a gorgeous thin zucchini tart with mint and pine nuts on one of my favorite blogs, C'est Ma Fournée. (Sorry, but it's in French so a little hard for many to follow her recipes, although they are beautifully illustrated in step-by-step detail.) I determined to make this tart, which is a perfect summer dish. Although Valérie's (the optometrist blogger) is round, I opted for rectangular for reasons that will be apparent. But it was still pretty gorgeous.

Thin zucchini tart from C'est Ma Fournée
A couple of days earlier, I had made turkey burgers with amazing caramelized onions from Samin Nosrat's life-changing Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. She says any extra (and there was a lot), can be mixed with crème fraîche to make "an unbelievable onion dip." And it's true. I served the mixture spread on baguette crostini, to the acclaim of our guests.

Crostini with caramelized onion and crème fraîche spread
Other hors d'oevres were my go-to Bar Nuts from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook, and grilled slices of halloumi (semi-hard, brined Cypriot sheep and goat cheese) with olive oil and za'atar (a Cypriot friend was scandaized at the use of za'atar, but I just think of it as Lebanese-Cypriot fusion.

For dinner, I made crab cakes, served on a simple mâche lettuce mix, on gorgeous leaf plates by Tsujimura Yui, as the starter.

Crab cake served on Tsujimura Yui plate
Then followed black sea bass wrapped in prosciutto and briefly sauteed on each side (when the prosciutto is beautifully browned, the fish is ready), accompanied by the tart and, in deference to our Irish friend M, boiled potatoes lightly smashed and sauteed in butter. Served on a plate by Hoshino Gen. The plate looked a lot better than this photo, but I had no time to get a better one.

Prosciutto-wrapped black bass filet, thin zucchini tart and potatoes
Dessert was my own invention: what I call Bobby Jay's Almost Healthy Caramelized Banana Soufflés, served in this case with some sour cherry compote and syrup that I made during the short season for those delicacies. Sorry, no photo.

A nice summer meal!

Bobby Jay

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