Suzi's Blog

Easter Dinner Ideas [Or Other Spring and Summer Feasts]

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Yes, I know, Easter was last Sunday. But there will be an Easter again, short of a meteor strike. And there are other times during the spring and summer that you may be celebrating. Here is the menu we had on Sunday. The next few days will see a post with each recipe. Suzen and I spent Easter morning shopping and Easter afternoon in the kitchen. It was a perfect holiday, complete with dinner guests and our table set for this feast.

Menu for a Special Sunday Meal

  • Chipotle and Cheddar Biscuits with Honey Butter
  • Red Pepper Hummus with Toasted Home Made Bread
  • Shoulder of Lamb with Salsa Verde
  • Potato Gratin with Cauliflower and Cheese of Your Choice

Oh, no dessert? Our guests bought a fruit tart and we had some chocolate gelato on hand. I did have in mind a very special chocolate cookie that will appear here soon. Truth is, after four hours in the kitchen, Suzen and I were low on gas. Planning on doing this meal or another feast? Then you want to space out the effort, ideally over 2-3 days. Biscuits and hummus the day before, for example. We all want quality for our dinner parties and that quality quite simply takes a bit of time.

To conclude, about that meteor strike. I was not joking. Today is Earth Day and this evening in Seattle at the incredible Museum of Flight three astronauts will present evidence about the possibility of a major meteor strike that could wipe out a city. Remember that meteor over Siberia last year? That explosion is now calibrated at a half a megaton. Tonight, the presentation will show that the chances of a major disaster are 3 to 10 times more likely than previously thought. New sensor information, originally developed to detect man-made nuclear weapons tests, confirms that we have far more collisions with large objects from space. There are lots and lots of uncharted meteors in the 100-meter range out there. Close encounters are common, actual collisions much more likely than previously thought. More and more of a growing planet population is in urban areas that sprawl. Target creep.

If I were you, I would order up my lamb soon.

 

A Tray of Tartines

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Le Pain Quotidien is a chain of lovely restaurants, European inspired and bread-centric. The new cookbook, thrillingly titled Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook, has favorites from the restaurant but also an abundance of the emblematic tartines that are the Le Pain specialty.

In short, a tartine is a good piece of sourdough bread topped with an inviting array, no spectacular array, of flavors.

For dinner with friends, Suzen scoured this book to find a trio of recipes that would create a complete dinner of multiple, contrasting, yet not competing flavor components. Suzen’s favorite was the first one listed here: Hummus and Curried Cauliflower. I loved the Spicy Shrimp and Avocado. But the Pea, Pancetta and Radish Tartine was a great contribution to round out the night.

Suzen made a double portion of each of these recipes, easily enough for 4 for dinner. Add a dry white wine, perhaps some dried fruit on the side, and you have a feast that cannot be topped. [That’s a food pun, you know: topped? Tartine?].

Never mind.

You probably want to find a copy of the cookbook, itself, and take a journey through the entire bevy of recipes here. There are 40 pages of tartines, but also breads, breakfast ideas, soups, salads, things to share, and desserts to treasure. When you see the picture of the Banana Pastis Pie, you will begin to caramelize the bananas on the spot.

Each recipe comes with a matching full page photograph. These are the perfect food-GPS directions for you to follow, if you wish, or simply be inspired, if you feel a tad creative. This book itself is inspired, but also inspiring. You’ll enjoy reading it, cooking from it, and tasting what are sure to be among your best culinary accomplishments.

 

Hummus and Curried Cauliflower Tartine

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the curried cauliflower:

  • ½ cauliflower, washed, dried and broken into very small florets
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 sprig of thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

For the hummus:

  • 1 ⅔ cups canned chickpeas, drained [reserve the  liquid]
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

To serve:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Start by making the curried cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a bowl, toss the cauliflower with spices, thyme leaves and olive oil, mixing well. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly brown on top. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Place all the hummus ingredients into a food processor or use a hand blender to process until smooth. If necessary, use a little of the reserved chickpea liquid to thin the mixture to a smooth puree. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To serve, spread the hummus on the bread and top with the curried cauliflower. Sprinkle the scallion on top and drizzle with the olive oil.

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Tartine

Yield: Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 10 shrimp, cooked and peeled
  • 2 cherry tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon thinly sliced jalapeno pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, green part only
  • ½ clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fine chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sea slat
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 avocado, just ripe, peeled and pit removed
  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 lime, peeled

Preparation:

Cut the shrimp or prawns into half across their length and then their width if they are very large.

Put the shrimp into a bowl with the tomatoes, jalapeno, scallion, garlic and cilantro. Seaton with salt, then add half the lime juice and mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Mash the avocado flesh with a fork together with the remaining lime juice. Spread the avocado on the bread slices, then top with the shrimp mixture.

Using a sharp knife, segment the lime by cutting away the skin and pith. Place the lime slices on top of the shrimp mixture and serve immediately.

Pea, Pancetta and Radish Tartine

Yield: Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the pea hummus:

  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas, or frozen petit pois, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pinches sea salt
  • Black pepper

To serve:

  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 4 very thin slices of raw pancetta [very dry] or fired, if preferred
  • 4 radishes, cut into thin slivers
  • 8 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoon shelled fresh peas or frozen petits pois, defrosted

 Preparation:

For the pea hummus, pout the peas, tahini, olive oil, salt and black pepper into a food processer or use a handheld blender to blend into short burst of 10-15 seconds, until you have a smooth puree.

To serve, spread the pea hummus on the bread, then top with the pancetta, radishes, mint and peas.

Source: Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook by Alain Coumont and Jean-Pierre Gabriel

Photo Information: Canon T2i, 18MM Macro lens, F/2.8, 1/80th second, ISO 500.