A Good Time Was Had By All

I mentioned we were having some folks over for dinner and that I was puttering in the kitchen a bit. I have to say the whole menu was a smashing success and I am even more in love with Ina Garten's recipes than I was before. I haven't yet had one taste bad, be incredibly difficult (i.e. not have steps in it that you need, that sort of thing) - in short, she is rapidly becoming my go-to-gal for any kitchen puttering.

The menu:

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

I have to admit, I was nervous about this one. I mean, I like grapefruit and I love avocado...but really, mixing them together seemed a bit...odd. Still, it looked really pretty in my cookbook (yes, I just recipes by the professionally taken food photographs, what of it?) so I figured we could always skip to the next quickly if it was dreadful. But oh. my. word. The vinaigrette is to die for and I honestly can see myself using it on other things - but with the grapefruit and avocado? Sublime. That is the only word. Sublime.

What was really fun is that you get to make supremes of the grapefruit. I always have seen them do this on the various cooking shows (some reality, others instructional) that I find myself watching incessantly - and I've always wanted to try it, but I've always kind of died a little inside looking at how much wasted fruit there seems to be when it's done. Still, I wanted it to be pretty like the picture in my cookbook, so, how hard could it be? Turns out, this is a moderately advanced skill to learn. The key, really, seems to be in not being stingy about lopping off the skin (this is the part that makes my frugal side squirm). I'm sure that with practice you're able to save more of the fruit - but if you don't get every little dot of pith (and then some) off, it's really hard to find the membranes to cut between. Still, they look so pretty once you do get them out that it's worth it. I will say that I switched to a paring knife for the actual sectioning part, because while I'm all about lopping off peel with my big chef knife, I'm not trying to use it delicately while holding the object of my cutting in my hand. That would just be guaranteed to end badly with my super knife skillz.

Next up, Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

This is one I've seen on Barefoot Contessa several times and I always think it sounds heavenly. And it is. The awesome thing is that it doesn't leave that garlic-y lingering taste. You taste it when you eat it, sure, but it doesn't live with you for the rest of your life. Not sure why, but gosh. Yum. And the chicken just melts off the bone by the time the whole thing is done.

The doodle enjoyed helping me peel the garlic (and was able to after the quick pop into boiling water - the skins really do slip right off), but he kept calling it cheese. I got tired of explaining that no, it's not cheese, it's garlic. So I let him take a bite. He ate the whole clove and then kept trying to filch more. He's an odd little duck, but very much his mama's boy, for all that we have no genes in common. He is all over the left overs, I'm going to be lucky to get another piece for myself.

I also served roasted asparagus with this. No recipe for it - just did it the way I always do (coat lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, stick in hot oven until it darkens, pull out and toss once more, lemon optional.)

Finally, Meringues Chantilly

I actually didn't do the stewed berries - I made her raspberry sauce instead and served fresh berries, cause that's how it was in my cookbook (if you look at the recipes, you'll see it's very similar). It was the perfect end - light and just sweet enough. Of course, only a few of my meringues were actually piped into cute little baskets because the doodle was "helping". And he grabbed the piping bag in the middle and meringue went squirting up and all over with the most hilarious noise. After that, I gave up on the piping (which honestly, I was considering doing before that because really, refilling the piping bag is a serious pain and I don't have bags large enough to put the whole batch in at once. Everything was a sticky mess, and that's really only 1/2 the doodles fault.) But the meringue puddles tasted just as good when all was said and done.

I do want to do some experimenting with meringue and Splenda to see if it's even possible because wow - sugar overload. Especially when one has been pretty good about leaving sugar out of one's diet for the past several months. Still, tasty and worth blowing the diet. (Though I am now back on the wagon, 100%)

Everyone seemed to enjoy it. We had the rest of the meringues and berries and sauce tonight with both sides of the family for Father's Day and it was enjoyed yet again.

Best thing of all though? Getting back in the kitchen to play.


Gwynne said...

Sounds delicious! I'm definitely a fan of Ina and her latest book, Back to Basics, is my all time fave. I've tried nearly every recipe in it with no duds yet, and all very easy with just enuf twist to make them special.

I admire your chef prowess in making that dessert! And the grapefruit sections...I gave in to buying already peeled sectioned fruit which is very contrary to my frugal nature! ;-)

beth said...

I want to get Back to Basics - I need to leave a few hints around the house as it would be a stellar anniversary gift. :)

The dessert was really rather easy - I'd say the hardest part of the whole shebang, honestly, was the grapefruit sections.