14 June 2010

Simple Summer Dinner

This is the story of another pleasant dinner with Lady A. She had no special requests this time around, so I dug back into some old favorites that I hadn't fixed in quite a while. I'll provide more details on the wines in future posts (both were parts of larger sets that I want to keep together), but for this post I wanted to focus on a truly delicious meal.

There was a time in the late 90s when you could find the spinach and strawberry salad everywhere. I don't know which caterer pioneered it but suddenly you would see this combination at every wedding rehearsal dinner, every charity function, and every lunch presentation about these crazy things called "e-mail" and "the interweb". I think people got burned out on it after a few years, but I always liked the flavor combination. Here I've got baby spinach greens, toasted pecans, sliced strawberries, thin red onion slices, shaved Romano cheese, and a homemade vinaigrette containing balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, olive oil, etc. If you put the hot pecans on right before serving and add a little sizzling bacon, the spinach will wilt just slightly. But it's a hot summer, and I kept it cold. Served with an oaky Sonoma Chardonnay.

Next up: rack of lamb. I find this cut of lamb stupidly easy to make but it's always impressive. Just don't overcook it. I actually used a toaster oven and achieved a nearly perfect medium rare. I frenched the ribs first, removing the gristle and fat. I do this only when I care about presentation, and dogs love those little scraps. There's a smear of chimichurri sauce (olive oil, parsley, mint, garlic, white wine vinegar), and finally some glazed rutabagas. I cooked the rutabagas too long--they were tender, but shrank considerably. Still tasty with a last minute dash of sea salt, brown sugar, and butter on the final part of the roasting. Served with a California Petite Sirah.

As longtime readers know, I'm happy to leave dessert to guests, and A. performed admirably in that regard. A little peach pie from the Fresh Market with a savory layer of cream cheese in it, served with the vanilla ice cream from the Häagen-Dazs Five product line. The idea is simple: just five all-natural ingredients. This contains only skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla. Pop the pie in the oven for a while to warm it up, serve it with the ice cream... perfection.

This whole meal is really my favorite kind of dining. Not huge amounts of anything, but a focus more on quality of ingredients, flavors, and balances between those flavors. The salad and dessert were both big hits, while the lamb/chimichurri combination is always a show stopper.


Michael Hughes said...

I hear you on that salad. I just made a version recently but added roasted golden beets. Nice earthy edge was perfect. That lamb rack looks tasty!

Benito said...


I am absurdly fond of golden beets. Something about them and goat cheese together with some fresh lettuce is pure magic.

And yes, the lamb was incredible. The parsley-heavy sauce provides a nice grassy edge to the whole thing.


Samantha Dugan said...

Another beet lover here. Roasted, sliced and dunked in freshly made aioli, I dream of this combination more than I will ever admit.