Pique-Nique I – Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory

 

Chicken Rillettes-7761

 

 

Fat.  Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we?  Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory.  Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork.  Or rather, pork and fat.  Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast.  Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit.  Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus.  It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?

Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers

Tomato and Burrata Salad-2

We’re obsessing over peeled tomatoes.  Jody has even made a convert of me, Mr. No-Fuss-No-Muss.  Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers might well have begun Peeled Tomato…  By the end of the summer you’ll either be slipping tomatoes out of their skins quicker than a fast-change artist in a costume shop. . . or you’ll be reading another food blog that doesn’t ask so much of you.  But if you do, you’ll miss the supple sensation that is a tomato without its skin, as well as a remarkable esthetic experience.  I, for one, had no idea how ordinary tomatoes metamorphosed into the Betty Grables of the garden without their skins.   They’re gorgeous.

And nothing makes it worth the effort – trifling as it is – of removing a few tomato skins than pairing the tomatoes with burrata, the really hot cousin of bufala mozzarella.  

Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios

Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios-1

Our summertime preferences for sweets run to the light and refreshing, as versus the dense and sensual.  I want to rise from the table and feel as though I’ve beaten the heat and humidity, not stoked the furnace, which makes Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios the ideal dessert after a meal of grilled lamb and eggplant, or just a treat to dull the edge of a blistering afternoon.

If you’re unfamiliar with granita, think of it as the crunchy version of sorbet.  Granita’s gravelly texture would seem to make it the coarse country cousin of sorbet, yet somehow it manages a rude elegance, like handmade orecchiette, that sorbet can’t quite touch.  Aside from the fact that sorbet often contains egg white, and granita does not, the primary distinction between the two is that sorbet is made in an ice cream machine.  The machine churns as the sorbet mixture freezes, breaking the ice crystals into smaller and smaller pieces, resulting in a dense, even texture.  Granita predates the ice cream machine. The basic method begins with a frozen block of fruit flavored ice, then scraping it apart with a fork.   Surprisingly, this is quite easy.  A subtler approach is to stir up the granita a few times during the process of freezing, then scraping this somewhat looser product after it has frozen completely.  We tried both.  Both work.  The freezer interruptus method results in finer crystals.  Your call.

Bicycle Spring Rolls

Bicycle Spring Rolls-1

There comes a time when every cyclist reaches into a jersey back pocket, extracts a pro-biotic hyper-nutrient choco-green exfoliant chia protein bar and instead of ripping away the wrapping like the savage carbo-craving road shark she is, she freezes.  Tongue, stomach and heart revolt.  A chilly voice in her head announces the rebel demands: We don’t want to eat an energy bar.  Ever.  Again.  Last year, reflecting on the long PanMass Challenge ride she’d just finished, Jody said to me, “I am sick of f_______ energy bars!  I can’t stand it!  Next year I’m going to make my own.”  Fortunately, she reconsidered.  And that’s why you’re being treated to Bicycling Spring Rolls this week.

Chilled Garlic Scape and Buttermilk Soup

There’s nothing like a bowl of cold savory soup in hot weather, and until the day we do a post on jellied madrilene, this Chilled Garlic Scape and Buttermilk Soup will have to stand in.  It’s a wrinkle on vichyssoise, close enough to feel familiar, but with a few turns you might not have expected, like scapes and buttermilk.

Tart, garlicky, cool–you’re going to love it on a sweltering night.

Fireworks for the Fourth of July – Pickled Eggs 3 Ways

Pickled Eggs 3 Ways is the final and most colorful installment in our recent trilogy of egg recipes.  We made two batches of each of these eggs, a week apart, both to test the recipes and so I could photograph the process from pickling juice to finished eggs.  As I write this the first batch of three dozen eggs is nearly gone–in case you’re wondering if kids will eat pickled eggs,  the answer is Yes, they will.  Who can resist wedges of a saffron and purple egg, child or adult? These eggs are tart, but not completely sour (note the sugar in the recipes), which makes them a flexible dining companion.  Of course pickled eggs are the ultimate picnic food–festive, not prone to spoilage, and given to pairing nicely with other preserved items like cheese, smoked fish–and great beer.  They stand out with mixed greens–and when combined with with wasabi mayonnaise make a killer egg salad