Buckets o’ crustaceans

for father’s day we took chris’s mom and pop to a restaurant where the seafood comes in giant galvanized tubs and the wait staff bursts into whooping dance medleys every 20 minutes on the nose– kind of like a tired frat beach party, but dad was happy so all good.

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Fat, in its myriad delicious forms

Supper fare not for the faint of heart– quite literally. the sheer cholesterol depicted below is doubtless capable of outright blowing an artery or four. But, crazy delectable summer meal? You betcha.

New York Strip Steaks with Pan-Seared Mushrooms

Dress steaks with olive oil, salt and pepper. Get grill good and hot, then slap ’em on. Chris uses a standard stab meat thermometer to determine doneness.

Brush clean (not with water) mushrooms and slice. Be sure to use a sautee pan large enough to accommodate all the mushrooms without crowding, otherwise they’ll sweat and stew. Add 2-3 T olive oil to pan and heat, then add mushrooms. Let stand without stirring 4-5 minutes to allow a good sear on the downside, then go through and flip them all to do the same on the reverse.

Grilled Asparagus with Cilantro Lime Aioli

Clean and end-stem asparagus. Dress with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay crosswise on hot grill, turning occasionally to sear slightly– remove from heat while still firm.

In a bowl whip together with a fork the yolks of two eggs and juice of a fresh lime. Continue beating while slowly drizzling in a thin stream 3/4 cup olive oil. Stir in fresh chopped (but not bruised) cilantro leaves and salt to taste.

(for the record, what’s shown plated above does not truthfully represent what got consumed at a single sitting– while it made for dramatic photography, when it came time to eat, I actually cut the big beasts in halvsies)

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cheers

Just up from underground and off a fresh spate of dining entertainment, I’ve been cloudgathering about who I’d ask to dinner, given that fantasy scenario of “anyone alive or dead”– just, you know, in case.

The prime directive, naturally, would be managing the blend of personalities. Necessarily I’d need known folks in the mix, as the prospect of a tableful of strangers raises dread of utterly strained conversation. Probably I’m limited in this regard, “pure” discussion topics being only very slightly engrossing– for me the best sort of talk is at once bright and personal, courteous if spicy and occasionally riotous–a degree of engagement usually context-driven, based on shared experience or relatable reference points– problematic given a stagey scenario of wildly diverse personages. And yet the prospect still somehow appeals.

So how to achieve a lively alchemy? Likely by involving participants adept at both talk and listening, responsive to one another, inclined to engage generously and imaginatively with other folks alike or dissimilar, willing to dip into and out of the spotlight, inviting partners either graceful or awkward to step in and whirl away, no one dominating overmuch. Dynamic balance.

Impolitic as it would be to pick and choose friends publicly (of course you‘re on the guest list), I’ll restrict myself here to idiosyncratic selection of delightful strangers:

  • Neil Gaiman
  • Laurie Anderson
  • Wallace Stevens
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Edward Norton
  • Roald Dahl
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Katherine Hepburn
  • Jane Austen
  • Phillip Pullman
  • Joseph Cornell

Next up: the fictional characters cocktail party list.

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macaroon cake

for a birthday!

Coconut Cake
(makes two 9″ rounds)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brace fresh coconut (I stuck mine in a sturdy measuring cup), position screwdriver on one of the coconut’s “eyes”, and tap with hammer to make a hole; repeat for other eyes. Drain off and discard the liquid. Place coconut in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Butter and dust with flour two cake rounds. Set aside.

Remove coconut from oven and thwap all over with hammer to remove outer shell. Peel away brown skin and grate white meat. Separate one cup fresh coconut for cake batter and spread the rest out on a baking sheet; toast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, watching carefully until just golden brown.

Cream 3/4 cup butter, adding 1 1/2 cups sugar and beating until light and fluffy. Add 3 egg yolks one at a time, then 1 teaspoon almond extract. Sift together 2 1/4 cups cake flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Add in thirds to batter, alternating with 1 cup milk, in thirds. In a separate bowl whip egg white. Lighten batter with a third of egg whites, then fold the rest in gently.

Fill cake pans and bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 min. Remove from oven, cool, remove from pans, cool thoroughly, then frost.

Chocolate Ganache

12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon almond extract

Bring cream just to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Poor over chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes. Mix thoroughly, adding almond extract. Let cool slightly to thicken.

Spoon a generous amount onto first cake layer and spread from middle outward with a long spatula, turning the plate clockwise until layer is evenly covered. Place second layer on top and gently adjust to make as level a top as possible; repeat frosting from center of layer outward. Finish sides with ganache.

Sprinkle top generously with toasted coconut.

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my bookclub does it right

regardless of how much I may or may not get into the book (this time was calvino’s _the baron in the trees_– I find calvino intriguing, playful, and impossible to invest in emotionally), there is without fail a feast for the senses: food, drink, and frequently an array of other nifty stuff to look at.

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drake’s famous tuna sandwich

floyd and I were feeling a little sluggish and in need of some good midday sustenance…

Actually, what’s depicted here is not legitimately a Drake’s famous tuna sandwich at all, and not even the frail but aspiring replica of one, which would be either fixed on perfectly square grocery store white bread and served with a flab of iceberg lettuce or else grilled flat under metal weights with american cheese.

Rather, this is the Sarah’s somewhat sort of partly healthy sandwich made with Drake’s famous tuna salad.

The miracle, really, is in the hard boiled eggs.

Here’s a little bit out of the past–

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
(on Topic Project in response to prompt candy shop)

Drakes was one of those rare and indelible college town landmarks that alumni return to over big football weekends, walk in and order a limeade and a grilled buttery pecan roll, sit in the dim green booths in back or upstairs in the gold-fleck-spangled Martian Room, pick up a little paper bag of chocolate-covered pretzels or blackberry brandy cordials or almond bark on their way out the door to the shivery, leaf-blowing stadium. Drakes had been there forever and was timeless, eternal. Except that now, in the place where it stood so many years, you’ll find a Bruegger’s Bagels.

It’s not even that I really have anything against Bruegger’s per se—I’m fan enough of bagels that, without a Zingerman’s handy for a fix, I’ll settle for the lamest tamest institutionally-produced version of round bread. But because it took the place of Drakes, I’ve got a grudge that’s tough to shake.

Granted, the era of Mr. and Mrs. Tybbals had passed on, just as they had, by the time the bagel place bought that lease. And their grandson was never much worth his salt. Back in my day he was “managing” my fellow Drakettes (blue smocks, thank you very much) and me and just trying to stay clean while his grandmother dozed the day away on Her Counter Stool by the front window. Mr. Tybbals worked nights (he and the wife, it was rumored, hadn’t spoken more than thirty words to each other in as many years), filling up the old cardboard trays of candy in the display case from cartons in the basement, boiling up huge batches of simple syrup, cooking a couple dozen eggs at a go for bulking out Drakes’ specialty tuna salad.

My senior year of college I fleshed out a student budget with the meager hourly wage and nonexistent tips of a Drakes waitress. Living on tuna salad on toasted bagels and limeades. Smoking cigarettes and drinking pot upon little orange and black plastic pot of irish breakfast tea with milk and sugar. Making my way with the Drakes crowd. Using my employee discount to load up on sweets prior to visits up north to see the nieces and nephews—so much candy for so few pennies that I effected the collapse our moms always threatened Halloween bags would bring: candy overload puke. Poor little nieces and nephews. Too much of a good thing.

Drakes was grungy and grim and beloved for all that. And in my heart it shall always remain.

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summer fare

salsa– my favorite standard: onion, tomato, tomatillo, cilantro, lime, olive oil, salt & pepper.

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sun tea, a floral blend: white tea, lavender, chamomile, orange rind, iced with a sprig of thyme–

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and, finally, dinner, with ribeyes grilled by the grillmaster and organic baby greens with shaved aged goat cheese from the glenwood farmers’ market:

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tunisian (sort of) chicken & couscous

dinner experimentation success :) took a tunisian couscous recipe as my starting point and then diverged based on what I had onhand– with wonderfully bright-flavored and pleasing results.

Sarah’s Pseudo-Tunisian Chicken & CousCous

sear, in steps, then combine:

  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 an onion sliced thin
  • 5 green greek olives diced
  • 1 ripe tomato diced
  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 2 T turmeric
  • 1 T cinnamon

serve over above:

  • 2 cups couscous (steaming didn’t work, so I ended up boiling), tossed with:
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 cucumber sliced
  • 8-10 green grapes halved
  • salt to taste
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