Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Food: A Recipe

Mrs. Ney's step-by-step guide to The Delicious:

Do you want to serve an excellent meal that ticks every box, but isn't fussypants?  Here's what you do.  Since last week you've been wondering what to do with that ridiculous amount of pickled fennel you made for god-knows-what reason:  that's now the lumpy ingredient in the tzatziki you've been craving ever since Purple Pig was mentioned.  You didn't want Purple Pig, you wanted tzatziki.  And dinner grows from this craving.

Paulina Meats sells a very nice lamb-based gyro sausage.  It's lamb, but it's also sausage.  Which means 8 minutes of virtually mindless cooking time.  Buy one sausage for each person @$2.5/.  You may think it's not enough:  it is.

Whole Foods and Mariano's sell baby greens, locally- and hydroponically- grown.  They're delicious.  Buy one container for every two people @$5/.

You'll need fresh oregano and mint.  $2 at Mariano's or $3 at Whole Foods.  One onion and fresno pepper per person, too.

While you're at either of those two stores, pick up one heirloom tomato for each person @$2.50/.  It's early June, they're still expensive.

And at Whole Foods, find the freshly-baked "Ancient Grains" bread.  Some people are carb-heavy, some are not.  At $5/loaf, you determine how much of this deliciousness you want on the table.

You'll also need hibiscus tea bags ($5), a bottle of pink wine ($6), a bottle of sparkling wine ($8), Lillet rosé ($23), Aperol ($22), lemons, and simple syrup.  Not difficult to find or make.  Suck it up:  the initial investment hurts, but you're about to make the most stunningly delicious sangria anyone has ever had.

As soon as possible, brew the hibiscus tea and simple syrup for Everything's Coming Up Rosé from Saveur.  Chill.

All right.  Turn on the oven full-blast and take the sausages out of the fridge.  Drain the fennel from its pickling liquid (reserving the liquid for soon and future endeavors), and dice.  Add to the dice a few big glops of yogurt, and a handful of mint.  Check for seasoning.  Tzatziki, done.

Thinly slice the onions and fresno peppers.  Chop a slightly-excessive amount of oregano and throw that in, along with the zest of the lemon you're about to juice.  Salt & pepper, then drizzle with pickling liquid.  Toss and set aside.

Put the sangria together:  halve the called-for quantity of simple syrup, and dump everything into a pitcher (ignoring garnishes:  we're going for non-fussy), leaving room for the entire bottle of Cava.  Keep chilled.

Throw the bread in the oven to get extra-crusty.  It's done when you can smell it.  Don't worry if its bottom looks charred:  it's the bitter component of the meal.

Heat up your skillet and a small amount of oil for the sausages.  Add the meat, sear it, turn down the heat, and cover to speed things along.

Slice, salt and pepper your tomatoes.  Rough-chop some parsley, if it's in the house.

Time to plate:  Pile of micro-greens, layer of tomatoes, layer of now-pickly onions.  Drizzle of evoo.  One sausage (slice it pretty if you want, but who really cares).  Parsley over everything.  It's more or less a big salad with a side of meat, and that's all anybody needs.

Carefully add the sparkling wine to the pitcher.  Hopefully it's cold enough so you can skip ice cubes in the glasses.

As you take all the Stuff to the table, do not recoil in horror at the overall expense of this "rustic" meal.  Look at the plate:  it has all the colors!  And in a moment, and over the course of the next two hours, you will discover that each different combination of bites and sips is perfect, balanced bliss.  You can spend more time and money for much, much less.

Of course, you can also spend much less for almost-equal satisfaction.  This is just what happened in this house, on this day, and we unequivocally recommend you have the exact same meal asap, even if it requires you to quick-pickle some fennel last week.  It might be the best meal you'll have all summer, and it was way better than Purple Pig.

That dinner was preceded by this dinner:

Chicken, roasted with lemon, bay leaves and fennel pollen. Roasted yellow beet salad with charred scallions, charred corn, sunflower sprouts and arugula. Baguette. Tomato vinaigrette, courtesy of Ms von Bremzen. Served with a bottle of 2014 Nortico Alvarinho Monção and Melgaço ($13 - Whole Foods) and a bottle of 2013 Luis Pato Vinho Branco Maria Gomes ($10 - Lush).

Tomato vinaigrette, yellow beets and sunflower sprouts took center stage, as per usual, for a "DA-licious!" garden-y meal, with a alvarinho-albariño from the lower end of that world's price spectrum. The lower end usually underwhelms. This one serves admirably, bringing a greatest hits version of what makes alvarinho-albariño good. Gaseous, texture, minerals, seawater, freshness, and snap, while retaining a Portuguese angle. Sits firmly in the 'like' category while never touching 'love,' but if you're at Whole Foods and want an alvarinho-albariño or something minerally-snappy for a veggie-centric meal, this is a top-three choice at that food emporium.

But it doesn't beat Luis Pato. Few things do for distinction, value, and all-around happy-slappy goodness.  

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