Last night, I cooked dinner at home for the first time in what seemed like forever. Sure, Mike and I eat here regularly, but it had been some time since I'd made any kind of effort. Blessed with a sunny day off, and only laundry on the 'must do today' list (everything else got shuffled off to a mythical day off in the future), I had time to visit the market, the butcher, the italian grocery, the cheese shop, and prepare a nice dinner to enjoy at home.
This is what we had:
*A salad of Patchwork Gardens Asian greens with strawberries and an aged balsamic-maple-curry dressing. In years past, Patchwork's Asian salad mix (mizuna, tatsoi, mustard greens, etc) have been really spicy, so I wanted a sweet dressing to tone it down, plus strawberries and aged, syrupy balsamic vinegar love each other. As it turns out, the greens I got were pretty mild, so on the whole, the salad was pretty sweet, and very refreshing.
The dressing is the easiest: combine 3 parts e.v.o.o., 1 part aged balsamic vinegar (this stuff is way more mellow, and less brassy than regular balsamic. It's thicker, too. And it's very costly, so I try to save it for drizzling on salads, meats and fruit. I use the cheaper stuff for any kind of preparation that involves the application of heat, like making sauces and grilling vegetables), salt, pepper, a sprig or two's worth of fresh thyme, a glug of maple syrup, and enough curry powder to add some heat and depth of flavour, but not so much that the flavour of cuurry is immediately identifiable. I like the mystery. This is one of my go-to vinaigrettes, and a good one for intensely-flavoured greens.
*A pan-roasted, double-cut veal rib chop, with teeny-weeny roasted new potatoes, yellow beans, heirloom carrots and a pomegranate sauce. Pretty simple, straightforward food, but really satisfying.
The meat was a real find- it was what I had woken up craving, and randomly found at the butcher (where I had never seen it before). A really thick veal chop is an incredible treat- it stays moist and tender, even if you cook it too long. It is pretty lean and has a really fine grain.
The sauce was not a winner. Last weekend, one of my co-workers made a truly remarkable pomegranate sauce for duck breasts, and after quizzing her on her preparation, I tried to recreate it at home. The magic just wasn't there. As we sat down to eat, I realized where I had gone wrong- I think the trick is to cook all the sauce ingredients into an initial simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water, heated to dissolve the sugar), so that the shallots, garlic, orange zest and pomegranate seeds get candied together. I sweated the shallots and garlic in butter, added the pomegranate, cooked it for a bit, then tried to sweeten it at the end. The flavours got muddied, and the fruit lost its jewel-like brilliance. No matter. Mike thought it was tasty, I left my share aside.
*Finally, strawberry-sour cream-amaretto ice cream for dessert. I had wanted to make popsicles, but could not find popsicle molds downtown (and I truly had no interest in improvising, when making ice cream is such an appealing alternative). This is the easiest sort of ice cream- a bit time-consuming (it requires several hour-long rest periods), but no fussing around with custard. Plus, with only 3/4 cup of sugar in the whole batch, and made with both heavy cream AND sour cream, the strawberry flavour is very clear, and not at all too sweet. Which justifies it as a breakfast food, as far as I can tell!