Tag Archives: sunday dinner

To market, to market…

Yesterday, my first Saturday in years that I didn’t have to go to work at night, I decided to get up early and meet a few friends and former co-workers at the East Van Farmer’s Market. Ashamedly, my first visit, as many of the farmers there had been supplying me for years, forgoing my need to go down myself on a Saturday. The sun was shining, a beautiful warm September morning, and as I stopped in and took a look around I spotted Gabriel and Katie from Sapo Bravo, said a quick hello and promised to return shortly. After meeting up with my pastry crew, we made the rounds. First stop: Milan; picked up some tomatoes large and small, Walla Walla onions, beans, grapes. Next: Susan from Glorious Organics and the Organic Farm Connection; a bag of assorted coloured carrots. Back to Gabriel; the last of the peaches for the year, some green and purple basil, some plums. Over to Stein Mountain: peppers, mixed colours. By this time, my bags were heavy and after a nice visit with the girls I made my way home, arms bursting with produce.

Once home, a full assessment of the lot: the carrots were delicious and sweet, a shame to cook them; the bag of Sungolds bursting with sugar as well. Sounding like a salad, I thought, with some of the peppers, fantastic! The basil was amazingly fragrant, the perfume filling the kitchen. Definitely for the dressing. Peaches were perfectly ripe, something for dessert, maybe a Tarte Tatin, I figured I’d ponder it for a while.

A trip to the butcher with my 13 year old provided some conversation and planning.
The requests:

Foccacia: (Great, I can put Walla Walla onion and basil on top, and I won’t have to make a starch)

Crumble: using the peaches. Tarte tatin maybe, I suggest, but am convinced the crumble will be less work.

Main Course: let’s see, pork perhaps, the suggestion being mustard and bread crumbs on top.

A look at the counter and a beautiful rack of pork was spied, about 5 pounds. Perfect for the barbecue. Meat in hand, back home we went to peruse the cupboards for some inspiration.

Deciding to barbecue put the bread crumbs out the window, so I looked on my shelf of condiments to see what was there to make a marinade. Raspberry vinegar and hazelnut oil sounded like a good start. I needed some sweetness and spied a bottle of agave syrup a friend had given me. Made from the cactus that is used to make tequila, it has an interesting flavour and is quite sweet. I needed a bit of spice, and saw the tin of Old Bay Seasoning I had brought back from Baltimore. (For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a combination of celery salt, mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, clove, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika). Just a shot to give it a kick. a bit of Dijon was added to the mix, all was whisked together and rubbed into the pork rack, then off to exile in the fridge.

I set about to prepare the foccacia dough, assembled it in the Kitchen Aid and set it aside to proof. I turned to the carrots (who had been fooling around unsupervised) and peppers, peeled and cut them for the salad, and gave the sungolds a rinse. I popped outside and spotted some small ripe cherry tomatoes in the garden and picked them to add to the salad. A few more windfall apples under the tree were gathered and decided upon for a sauce to go with the pork, along with some very ripe Italian Prune plums.

Then for the barbecue: When it comes to cooking over flame, I am decidedly still in the stone age. There is really only one piece of equipment that does a joint of meat over 5 pounds justice, and that is a very well conditioned Weber kettle barbecue. Loaded with real lump charcoal, (about 6 pounds for a pork rack this size), the coals were lit in anticipation. Once white hot, I arranged the coals on either side, providing a trench in the middle for the pork to drip without flaring up and bursting into flame, as well as heating the sides of the kettle, creating an oven environment once the lid was down.

Back into the kitchen, where the pork was removed from the marinade, seasoned well with coarse salt and steak spice and carried out to its new home on the grill. I reserved the marinade, put it in a small bowl with a brush for basting, and returned to attend to the bread. I punched the dough down for the first time, after which I sliced thinly one of the onions, and sauteed it in olive oil until golden, and set it aside to top the foccacia later.

Bread well looked after, I turned my attention to dessert. A pot of water was put on the stove to blanch the peaches, and while it heated I prepared the topping. Butter, brown sugar, flour and almonds were quickly combined to make a crumbly mixture, and then peaches were blanched, pitted, diced, tossed with sugar, spices and a touch of cornstarch to absorb the liquid, and placed in a casserole dish. A scattering of the topping was administered and the oven turned on to preheat. A quick trip outside to baste the pork, by which time the oven was ready, the crumble safely inside, and my efforts turned to shaping the foccacia.

I lightly floured my large cutting board, punched down the dough, and rolled it out into a rectangle the same size as my baking sheet. A quick burst of nonstick spray and a scatter of cornmeal to provide a nice crust, the dough was laid out, tucked into the corners, and lightly covered for its final rise. I chopped some of the basil, set some aside for the bread, and turned the rest into a vinaigrette for the salad with some red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, and garlic.

One more trip outside to check the pork, another baste, and at this point I checked the temperature. It was only registering 120 degrees, so I figured I had 20 minutes or so more before it should come off. Back inside, the crumble was ready, so out it came, and the foccacia was risen nicely. A top dressing of the caramelized onion, including the olive oil it was sauteed in, plus a scatter of basil and coarse salt, and into the oven she went. My final task completed, I grabbed a cold beer and headed outside to keep the pork company on its final lap. Once it reached its correct temperature (140 F before resting, it comes out nice and juicy and just a touch pink) I removed it form the Weber, set it on a rack to rest and relaxed for 15 minutes.

We both made our way back in to the house, took the foccacia out of the oven, and all that was left to do was a toss of the salad with the dressing and to slice the meat and bread. That accomplished, we tucked in for a terrific summer meal, full of flavour, texture, and satisfaction.

I wonder what I’ll do next weekend?

The Striped German

The first of my Sunday Dinner series…

Last night, Milan Djordjevich from Stoney Paradise brought me a gift. Not just any gift to mark my new direction in life, but the tomato to end all tomatoes. Twelve years we have known each other, and there have been many fine specimens to grace my kitchen, but none quite as impressive as this. I opened the paper bag to see what was inside, and there was THE tomato, a 2 1/2 lb Striped German. It sat on the counter for the remainder of service while I contemplated its fate, knowing we were having friends over for dinner tonight, and wanted to see how that one tomato could inspire a meal.

the tomato in question

I woke this morning to see it proudly perched on my kitchen counter at home, and decided that I would hollow it out and use it as a vessel to serve an appetizer, reserving the flesh for something, perhaps the filling. A trip to the market in the morning provided a few complimentary items; peppers, sweet onion, and basil. I had picked up a few chickens in the hope of barbecuing, and figured we had a good start. Once home again, I noticed quite a few windfallen apples on the ground from one of our two trees, and went out to gather them. Not quite perfect, but great for applesauce or something along those lines. The tomato plants provided a few cocktail sized red tomatoes suitable for roasting along with the peppers and onion to add to the filling, and by now, the menu was starting to take shape.

Roasted vegetable relish (served in the Striped German, with fresh baguette)

Roast chicken of some description ( I had given up on the barbecue as it looked pretty gloomy outside)

Something with apples, still under consideration

Half a dozen cocktail tomatoes, halved, one sliced sweet onion, and two peppers, seeded and quartered made their way onto a sheet pan and into the oven with a splash of olive oil and salt. An hour or so at 300 degrees, I figured, and started carving the tomato. The flesh was soft and sweet, so I chopped it lightly, salted it, and placed it in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of chopped basil.

I let it sit while I split the chickens and removed the thigh bones, and put them into a large pyrex pan to marinate. A couple of tablespoons each of honey and grainy mustard whisked together with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a quarter cup olive oil provided a good rub down, topped with a few sprigs from the garden: rosemary, oregano flowers, and thyme, followed by a healthy pinch of coarse salt and about teaspoon of chili powder. Birds comfortably in the fridge, I returned to the tomato flesh, decided to puree it and go from there. The resulting liquid was magic, and it seemed a shame to toss it in with the roasted veg, fresh out of the oven. Maybe just a shooter of cold tomato soup? By the time it was strained, there was only about 10 ounces, not quite enough for the eight of us, so I decided to make some gnocchi, and toss them in the golden elixir.

Back to the roasted vegetables, now cooled to room temperature: a brief chop, a splash of balsamic, a healthy dose of chopped basil, a pinch of salt, and into the shell of the German. Potatoes on, things really were shaping up. The windfallen apples were peeled, into a pot with some brown sugar and cinnamon they went, just a splash of water to keep them from sticking, and onto a low simmer. I figured a bit of fun would be nice for dessert, so settled on making some sweet cinnamon waffles, topping them with the applesauce, vanilla ice cream, and caramel. Popped the waffle batter together quickly and put it in the fridge, brought out the birds to be transferred to a sheet pan to go in the convection oven for an hour or so, and took the potatoes off the stove, strained them and allowed them to cool and dry out for a bit.

stuffed and ready to go

By this time, our guests were arriving, so I sliced the bread to go with the tomato relish, and sat down for a drink and a visit. Only the gnocchi to make yet, so we were in good shape. Once cooled to room temperature, I riced and weighed the potato, gather the prescribed amount of flour (1/3 the weight of the potato), a couple of eggs, and put the dough together while I waited for the water to boil. There was still a couple of tablespoons of chopped basil there, so I tossed it in, and rolled, cut, and shaped the gnocchi, laying them out on a sheet pan. By this time, the water was boiling, so in they went in batches (so as not to crowd the pot), and once they floated to the top they were cooled in cold water, strained, tossed in a touch of oil, and set aside.

The chicken was looking pretty good by this point, so I pulled it from the oven to rest, cleaned some yellow beans, and went back to our guests. the tomato shell was all that remained, and it looked quite juicy once all the roasted vegetable relish had been spooned out of it. As I carried the platter back to the kitchen, it seemed a shame not to make good use of the rest of the German, so I diced it up and threw it into the food processor, and strained the resulting liquid to add to the previous batch from the flesh of the fruit.

Beans went into the steamer, and two large saute pans were brought out for the gnocchi. Once heated to medium-high, I baptized them with a splash of olive oil, and divided the gnocchi among the two. Just a nice browning, then I tossed in the golden tomato puree and just cooked it enough to heat through. Dinner was served!

Following a respectful break for digestion, it was time to move forward on dessert. The waffle iron was heated, plates were laid out and the waffles cooked and quartered. A generous helping of the not too sweet applesauce on the hot waffle, a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and a fair drizzle of caramel sauce over everything put the finishing touches on a great Sunday dinner, the last before school starts and the first in my new-found existence. The kids went back for seconds, thirds even, polishing off the rest of the waffles and applesauce.

What a way to end the summer with good food and good friends, and to think it all started with one tomato, but what a tomato it was! I can’t wait for next week, I’m starting to get hungry again. Actually, there may still be some gnocchi left in the fridge…..