Saturday, June 16, 2007

3 quick/easy recipes for a summer dinner party

We just had a late birthday party in honor of the lovely Carol, where several friends told me how great the food was. Since I prepared three of the dishes, I thought I'd tell you about them. Then, if your friends are as nice as mine are, they will also tell you how wonderful your cooking is.

Vegetable stew

... or ratatouille. This is vaguely based on a recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook, but modified to suit what I had on hand (including what I remembered to think about at the farmer's market this morning). I prepared it on the stove top right after lunch, then stuck it in the fridge to serve cold (or cool) at suppertime.

  1. Slice thinly:
    • 1 medium onion
  2. Mince:
    • 2 cloves garlic
    or use the equivalent from prepared minced garlic (the lazy gourmet's friend)
  3. Saute garlic and onions on medium-low heat with
    • some olive oil.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the other vegetables:
    • 1 bell pepper -- julienne
    • 3-4 Japanese eggplant (the long kind) or 1-2 medium egg-shaped ones -- diced
    • enough zucchini, crooked-neck, or other squash to be about 150% of the volume of the eggplant: sliced 1cm thick
    • tomatoes: 2 medium or large, sliced
    Throw each into the pot as you finish cutting it, stirring after each vegetable
  5. Add:
    • a little black pepper
    • salt -- maybe 1-2 tsp
    • about ½ tsp each marjoram, oregano, basil
    • optional: up to ½ cup red wine
    • VERY optional: a bay leaf (also known as "a waste of time" but some people like them). Actually, forget I mentioned it.
  6. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes on LOW heat.
  7. Transfer to a casserole and refrigerate.

Indirect-heat salmon

This is simplicity itself. Light about 40-50 briquets as usual. When they're covered with ash, move them to either side of your Weber 22" kettle barbecue, leaving a space in the middle -- the "indirect heat" method. Consult your owner's manual for illustrations.

Take a piece of aluminum foil large enough to accommodate your salmon fillet -- in our case this was nearly half a salmon -- and fold the foil up at the edges so as not to lose the juices (oil, mostly) off the edge. Place the salmon, skin-side down (if it has skin) into this foil boat, and put the works in that center section of the grill. Replace the cover on your kettle barbecue. You want it hot but not too hot. After 15 minutes or so, start checking the salmon to see if it's done (or overdone). No need to turn it. Remove it when done and squeeze the juice of ½ lemon over it.

'Soy vey' salmon

This is cooked over direct heat. Basically, after the above indirect-heat fillet is done, you transfer it to the oven (cover with foil if it has to wait a long time), then move all your briquets into a layer (not a pile) to directly heat this next piece of salmon.

What you do is marinate a salmon filet in some bottled "teriyaki" sauce. Of course if you're industrious you can make your own sauce, but this is the easy way. The ideal dish/container is one made for this purpose by the Tupperware folks, but it's hardly essential. I soaked my filet for about a ½ hour.

When your salmon and the coals are ready, put the salmon into a "basket" like this one from (we got one of these "broiler basket" things from Crate and Barrel). You might want to do this outdoors, because of the dripping sauce.

Place this basket with the fish, skin-side down if your filet has skin, and cover the grill (as much as you can). Wait no more than 5 minutes to check it and probably turn it over. Check 5 minutes after turning.

That's all folks

These recipes are pretty simple and will give you time to relax before the party, instead of looking for dozens of ingredients.

And remember, people come to the party to see you because of who you are, not because you've used very complicated recipes; these recipes here are "good enough" which means they're good enough. So enjoy the party, thank God for every good blessing, and don't stress out.

Luke 10:38-42

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