Salt and pepper scrod, smear on the yogurt-mayo combo and throw it in the oven. Wait a bit, then add a pound of asparagus (two pounds works too), just so you don’t have a meal that’s white fish on white plate with white sauce. Ten minutes of prep, half an hour while everything cooks – wango-tango and Bob’s your uncle – there’s dinner.
Previous blog posts notwithstanding, we don’t spend every free moment careering about the back roads of rural France and Italy, pausing every few hours for an under-the-olive-tree feast. Truth is, we almost never go on picnics unless we’re on vacation or on a biking trip. Trying to find time when everyone’s schedule meshes during the day is like trying to plot when when three or four different orbiting satellites will pass within shouting distance–not impossible, but requiring more math and determination than any one of us can muster. We’re as overbooked as you are. Which is why when we do manage to find the time, having something special – other than what’s on offer from a gourmet deli – becomes all the more important. Enter Poached Salmon with Chipotle Yogurt.
Three or four summers ago I was standing in water up to my knees on a sandbar known as Horseshoe Shoal in the middle of Barnstable Harbor, that long shark-shaped body of water that swims between the shores of Sandy Neck to the north and the town of Barnstable to the south on Cape Cod. As I watched, a flock of seabirds raced down the channel that passes between the sandbar and Sandy Neck. The birds swooped and cried, strafing a line across the water with their beaks as precise as a squadron of P-51 Mustangs. Then I saw it, a deep slate discoloration below the channel surface, an undulating gray movement that fragmented into hundreds of individual fish as it flashed by me. I wasn’t the only one to take notice. Small boats stopped in the channel, people rising to stand, hands shading eyes. “Blues!” a man cried, waving and pointing. It was August and the bluefish were running. For anglers and eaters on Cape Cod, only striped bass equal the pleasures of bluefish. Stripers taste more delicate, but bluefish fight harder. This week’s dish: Bluefish with Dukkah, Tomatoes and Garlic Yogurt.
I know people who organize their restaurant meals around dessert. Pas moi. The light in my brain, my desire for dessert, flickers in fits and starts, dependent on context and the availability of something inclined to my retrograde tastes. A slice of fruit tart is never amiss at the end of a picnic: if I know that a master of crème caramel, flying in the face of fashion, resides in the house, I can be tempted. As I can be with homemade panna cotta, that exquisitely delicate Italian wobbler. When Sara Cravedi, the pastry chef at Trade, introduced a coconut panna cotta onto the dessert menu, my dessert light began flashing an SOS. Sara’s dessert includes a scoop of avocado ice cream, crumbled peanut brittle and a mango macerated with lime and habanero pepper. It come together in an interplacy of heat, fat, sweetness, delicacy and unctuousness. Jody’s Coconut Panna Cotta with Spicy Mango pares things down to just a pair of flavors–coconut and mango–just in case you don’t have an ice cream machine and pastry kitchen standing in readiness for the next dessert launch. To make it even easier, there’s no need to un-mold this panna cotta–it’s served in its glass, topped with a spoonful of spicy mango. Think of the panna cotta and mango as a couple that wandered off the terrace party to do a little dance by themselves down on the beach.
Jody and I both like simple, unfussy desserts with a couple of dominant flavors that compliment each other. A couple of weeks ago I laid my hands on a quart of wild blueberries, so my original vision for this included a wild blueberry compote. Jody, however, wanted to go with peaches. Since I couldn’t get my hands on any wild blueberries for the day we were scheduled to blog, she won. This is a simple Coconut Yogurt Cake with Roasted Peaches. The crumb is moist, with a rich with coconut flavor. And the peach accompaniment, oh man.
Nobody hates lamb blade chops. People either love them, or they’ve never heard of them. Viewed from a diner’s perspective, lamb blade chops are to loin chops as pork ribs are to pork loin. There’s fat, gristle, a bit of bone, and you need to work a bit more to get the good stuff. The reward is heaps of flavor. If you fall into the never-heard-of-’em group, then this week’s Grilled Lamb Blade Chops with Hot Mint Chutney is your opportunity to step-away from the fancy-dress dinner party of loin chops, leave your champagne flute of civilisation on the veranda, and stride across the lawn through the baffled croquet players as you peel off your tuxedo and enter the forest.