Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Food: Christie asked for a steak dinner, so she got one. Filet mignon, grilled over charcoal, seasoned with a mixture of sea salt, fresh ground pepper (is there any other kind?), and Spike. Filet's a pretty lean cut, so I dosed them with a bit of olive oil, as recommended by Cook's Illustrated, and used their tips on grilling (start over a hot fire to sear the surface, then move to a slightly cooler fire to cook the inside), but it's been a while since I've grilled steak, and these were a bit on the small side, so they ended up well instead of medium. But they were still tender and juicy, so neither of us had any complaints. 70% of the credit goes to Cook's Illustrated, though. Their July issue had two pages on how to choose and grill the perfect filet mignon, and I followed their tips almost to the letter. 20% of the credit goes to Schnuck's for having good meat. And Christie get's 10% just for suggesting it.

You can't have steak without potatoes, so I went to the farmer's market and picked up two quarts of new potatoes and a head of garlic, which I roasted. I chopped and boiled the potatoes, then ran them through the ricer, skins intact. Having the skins in their made them a little tricky to rice, so they were still a little chunky, but that was actually the feel I was going for. I like my potatoes a bit rustic. The roasted garlic and a bit of olive oil smoothed them up, and then I added half a teaspoon of lemon zest for the hell of it. (I had a new Microplane Zester/Grater I wanted to use.) Salt and pepper to taste, of course. If I was doing it again, I'd grab some thyme from the garden, but they turned out pretty good as it was. They weren't spectacular, but they're a side dish, so spectacular would have been, well, too much. My goal was to create the look, feel, and fun of mashed potatoes, but without the weight and warmth that just didn't feel right for a 90 degree day, and I think I did just that.

A friend had dropped off a bit of extra homemade mozzarella, so that meant fresh tomatoes, topped with a little balsamic. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and you've got a great summer appetizer, perfectly suited to a hot afternoon on the back patio, waiting for the fire to be ready for grilling. (A Note on salt and pepper: If it's going to be on the surface, I use a grainy sea salt, and if it needs to be mixed in, I use standard shaker-style salt, because it blends better. The larger grained salt has a nice texture to it, and I swear to god it tastes saltier. More complex, anyway.)

Christie's brother in law had gone for peaches the day before, and had leftovers. Meanwhile, I had one bag of last season's peaches still in the freezer, and I really felt like I needed to get rid of them before I started eating fresh ones. That meant pie. Peach and blackberry pie, specifically. Under the best of circumstances, this is a really juicy pie, but their was a fair amount of water in the frozen peaches, so I increased the amount of cornstarch and quick-cook tapioca to suck up that extra moisture. I've never really taken the time to write down this recipe, so it's always a bit of an improv deal, but lately I've been thinking I ought to write it down for my own use if not for y'all. But I'm still not happy with my pie crust, so you'll have to wait a bit until I get a handle on that. One thing I was happy with as far as the crust goes: I used the prescribed amount of salt, but I used half fine grain and half course grain sea salt, so that there was a certain amount of saltiness in the crust itself, then the occasional little "pop" of salty when you hit one of the larger grains. I don't know that it'd be to everyone's taste, but I thought it was a really nice effect, and I think I'll keep it.

And then there are the leftovers. I had mozzarella, tomatoes and potatoes (both mashed and unprepared) all left over, so Christie and I had fried potatoes (with bacon, the only way to fly) for dinner last night, and I made myself a pizza on Monday with thinly sliced tomatoes and a garlic/olive oil glaze. I suppose potato pancakes are next, but tonight's a happy hour for a friend who's celebrating her divorce, so I expect dinner tonight will be bar food. And there's been pie for dessert just about every night. So while shopping and cooking pretty much consumed my Saturday, it's been worth it, even if you ignore the fun of the moment.

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