Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Dinner Of Salads

I apologize in advance for the sloppy photography of this post which is probably the saddest example to date. The food was delicious however even though you have to take my word for it given the poor visual aesthetic. I cooked last night for three very important women in my life that make up a solid portion of my kinship network; Melissa, Emma, and Dorothy. You could say it was a dinner of salads because that is basically all I served accompanied by a wedge of cheese and bread. The meal was rustic to say the least, made with ingredients cultivated by my mother on her farm upstate. I know farm to table dining is really hot right now and it should be because it is the best way to make your food shine. The first of the three dishes I made was a basic green salad with Dijon vinaigrette that showcased my mom’s exceptional micro greens. There were all sorts of baby lettuces, shoots, and herbs thrown in making a fantastic salad because the organic farm produce makes a world of difference.

Sorry to bring the pessimistic self-critical angle back into play but this kale salad was way tastier than the photo conveys. Believe it or not those ominous dark green shreds are thinly sliced pieces of kale, my attempt at Emma’s favorite salad. She loves Italian food and I tried to make her a special treat which we order all the time around the corner at Gennaro. The salad consists of kale, reconstituted dried fruit, and a generous grating of nutty cheese whether pecorino, parmesan, or ricotta salata. For my attempt I braised thin strips of kale and tossed it with raisins, parmesan, and quality olive oil. The real mystery differentiating the delicate, barely cooked yet tender strips of heavily goodness in Gennaro’s salad lies in the cooking of the greens themselves. I have tried baking, parboiling, sautéing, and braising the kale to no avail leaving it rubbery or waterlogged. My only conclusion is that hey do some sort of black magic in the kitchen back there.

The third dish I served to some of my favorite women was my preferred and most photogenic plate of the evening. I love lentils and have been eating them since childhood, which granted is a weird thing for a kid to be into. They are full of protein, cheap, tasty, and flexible enough to be cooked in a variety of ways. My father often makes a warm lentil salad in the summer time which was the inspiration for this dish. He uses French lentils and stews them with onions, garlic, bay leaves, homemade stock, and a ham hock to infuse them with bacony flavor. My father uniformly dresses his lentil salad with strong mustard vinaigrette so I decided to go a different route. You could say I Italianified the dish with the roasted red peppers, basil, and olive oil. The sweetness of the roasted peppers paired nicely with the almost dirt-like earthiness of the lentils and the shredded basil added a fresh top note. I always enjoy cooking for people I love and last night’s dinner was a real treat indeed, allowing me to spend time with people that rarely get the chance to eat, drink, and chat with one another. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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