Le Pique-Nique 2 – Gravlax with a Beet Cure

 

Beet-cured gravlax-7877-2

 

Finding gravlax in the south of France is a bit disconcerting, like strolling through an open air market and seeing a vendor in full Viking regalia hawking cured fish among his competitors’ stands of sausage, nougat, and sour cherries.  But there it was, gravlax, an appetizer goody that arrived at our table one night to prime the pump before the serious business of the main course–eating duck–began.  Thin slices of cured salmon with a beautiful fringe tinted the color of roses.  Rich, buttery salmon, a hint of beet, of dill and gorgeous color.  None of us could remember the last time we had gravlax, but it had been awhile.  Wouldn’t it be great for picnic?  Gravlax with a Beet Cure packed among the dark bread, cheese and fruit tarts?  Especially with a few cucumbers and some fermented European butter spread on the dark bread before layering on the samon? Of course it would.

Torchio Pasta with Squash Blossoms

Oh, the birds and the bees, you gotta love ‘em, especially if you enjoy eating things like this week’s dish, Torchio Pasta with Squash Blossoms.  After Jody’s rant last week about the tyranny of seasonality, we’re presenting another dish that is, well, seasonal.  But move fast, the season for squash blossoms is here and gone in the blink of an eye and you’ll have to wait another year for the opportunity to enjoy their delicate flavor fried, stuffed or, as we do here, expressed in a light pasta sauce.

Warm Radish Salad with Bacon and Pea Tips

Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.  That’s the way it was with Warm Radish Salad with Bacon and Pea Tips.  Salad is a killer to photograph.  Light glints off the dressed surfaces, producing bits of glare or “hot spots.”  And if the salad is one part greens and another part something else, then while it may taste delicious to toss everything together, that homestyle approach doesn’t make for an alluring photo.  The heavier components tend to weigh down the more delicate ones.  What’s a guy with a camera and a chef for a wife to do?

Make the damn salad and photograph it a second time, that’s what.*  The salad above is composed with a photograph, or dinner guests, in mind–radishes here, salad there, easy on the dressing.  The photo shot from straight down later in the post is the way we’d normally eat the salad in all its messy collapsed glory.  Different stees.

You choose.

Roasted Asparagus with Pistachio-Basil Pesto

We eat A LOT of asparagus. I see it on sale, buy an armful, steam it lightly, then use it to fill out other things–steel-cut oats and an egg, a lunch salad with cannelloni beans, a way to gussy up a croque monsieur so I don’t feel like Lonely Guy eating grilled cheese in an empty house. But Roasted Asparagus with Pistachio Pesto is something else altogether. You set this platter in front of friends who aren’t afraid of getting a little messy when everyone’s standing around in the kitchen with a beer (my preference with asparagus, by the way)* or glass of wine, carrying on while you cook. Serious finger food.

You say pistou, I say pestle

Okay, you were expecting a disquisition on Potted Peppers this week.  I’m sorry, but for technical reasons we’ve had to postpone it.  In the meantime, console yourself with these Mussels with Pistou instead.  We’ll get the Potted Peppers out in a few weeks.  All things come to those who wait. In April I met our …