Friday, August 22, 2008

a family affair

I recently spent eight days with family. Three days of preparation with my father, my mother and her husband, three days with thirty five extended family members and two days of cleanup with my father, my mother and her husband.

I am still recovering.

I love my family, I am annoyed by them and I am also left with an uneasy feeling that I've done something wrong, or at the very least, have disappointed someone.

They can push my buttons because they installed them.

I have found that the best thing for me to do on these occasions is to stay in the kitchen and cook. I enjoy it, I'm good at it and it gives me the feeling, real or imagined, that I'm being useful.

Here are some of the things I prepared for the occasion:
(everything was either chilled or room temperature)

Carrot ginger soup
Lemon chicken
Potato salad
Watermelon salad with Kalamata olives, Feta, red onions and mint
Beet, fennel and grapefruit salad
Onion tart
Grilled asparagus with Gorgonzola butter
Baccala salad
Blue cheese stuffed grilled figs wrapped in bacon
Arugula and mint salad with oil cured black olives, red onions, oranges and Ricotta Salata
Sauteed cauliflower with capers, Red peppers and golden raisins
Spinach and cheese Strata
Green chili and chorizo Strata
Plates of various cheeses, crackers and spreads
A platter of smoked salmon (with pumpernickel triangles, cream cheese, red onions and capers, of course)
A platter of heirloom tomatoes dressed with basil, olive oil and coarse sea salt
A hazelnut torte
and two flourless chocolate cakes

I also made Ginger and Peppermint ice creams. (two separate flavors)

People seemed to enjoy the food and that pleased me.

I've been asked to post the recipe for the Baccala salad so here it is:



1 1/2 lb choice-grade skinless boneless salt cod, rinsed well
1 1/2 qt water
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup small pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1/4 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped drained bottled roasted red peppers
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil


Put cod in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Soak cod, chilled, changing water 3 times a day, up to 3 days (see note, below). Drain and chill until ready to use.

Drain cod and transfer to a 5- to 6-quart pot with 1 1/2 quarts water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from heat. (Cod will just flake; do not boil or it will become tough.) Gently transfer cod with a slotted spoon to a platter to cool slightly.

Shred cod and stir together with celery, garlic, olives, roasted peppers, parsley, and basil.

Stir together lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, and oil, then pour over salad, tossing to coat well. Season with pepper and chill, covered, at least 1 1/2 hours for flavors to develop.

• Salt cod differs in it's degree of saltiness. A less salty variety may need only 1 day of soaking, while another could require up to 3. To test it, simply taste a small piece after 1 day; you want it to be pleasantly salty but not overwhelmingly so.

• Salad can be chilled up to 2 days.


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