A Birthday Menu
As every caring husband would do, I wanted to get the perfect Birthday gift to my dear wife, cooking the perfect meal, make her day, etc., and as every procrastinator husband does, I realized half day into it that I did NOT have a plan!
Luckily I went grocery shopping a day before so I had the ingredients but I had to improvise and this is the menu I came up with, preparing the whole dinner in little less than 3 hours.
So I was thinking slightly Italian given the fact that she likes Mediterranean simplicity, taste and colors.
For some reason I resonate with this young British chef from London, a chap called Jamie Oliver (of course you know him from the Food Network). Not sure why. Maybe the drums, maybe Europe, or his Vespa, but mainly the simplicity that the guy brings back into cooking so little cooks like us can prepare five star restaurant-worthy dishes minus the snobbery ingredient that goes in it. Love it.
So I had this fresh sweet corn recipe he does on the grill where he soaks the whole corn with its leaves in water then grilles it (pressure cooked in my case for the sake of speed), bathes the cob in butter then rolls it in a mixture of grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano in my case, with the D.O.C seal on it) and diced chillies. Heavenly. Not necessarily “Italian” per se, but a nice flavorful appetizer nevertheless.
Fresh corn right off the field, would bring this recipe to a “Corn Supreme”.
Then – Ah! – of course the lovely Bruschetta, a bloomin’ wicked Central Italian appetizer, dating to at least the 15th century.
In this case I used my own sourdough bread, with big crumb slices, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, into the broiler for about 5-10 minutes until lightly brown, rubbed with garlic, and loaded with a slice of fresh mozzarella (preferably buffalo), a slice of tomato, topped with prosciutto crudo and a basil leaf. I didn’t have that at hand so I use a leaf of marjoram – that’s the closest I could do for basil.
Drizzled with more olive oil, and garnished with oil-cured kalamata olives this can be seriously addicting.
She mentioned artichoke pasta – I just got 5 globe artichokes and Barilla Campanelle pasta so that would make sense! I also added kalamata olives to it.
Although it turned out delicious, I confess that I still have trouble peeling an artichoke. I watched and read numerous demonstrations but I still get some pieces of the purple-colored choke. if anyone has some tips to share I’d be glad to listen!
And finally we get to the basics. Gave my first shot to a Minimalist Truly Short Strawberry Shortcake recipe I found in the New York Times Dining & Wine page. Great recipe, but one main thing I would do from that recipe is:
CUT THE SUGAR AMOUNT IN HALF!
If not even more. I am continuously puzzled at the amount of sugar some recipes call for.
But regardless of that it turned out nice and light, considering that I didn’t add whipped cream (she doesn’t like that), and forgot the biscuits in the oven a little more than needed resulting in a more darker golden brown than called for.
And as if this wasn’t enough, I decided to pull off some refreshing Lemon-Mint Granita to end the night (aka slushy, the earliest known ice cream) . Found the recipe over at Smitten’s Kitchen, sounded simple, and I digg the way Deb there served it – in frozen lemon shells!
Great way to end the day – made her happy.