Saturday, November 17, 2007

Breaking Bread

Recently, we had a very nice visit from some friends. Their family is kind of a mirror image of ours - 3 kids, each set within a few months of age, oldest child autistic, semi-rural lifestyle. Its always a pleasure to spend time with them, and since it was at our house, I made lunch. Prior to having kids I was a pretty avid home cook. As with so many things, this changed a bit when the responsibilities of parenting took hold. I'd gladly make that exchange again 100 times, but that doesn't mean I can't long for the 'easier' times (funny how they only seem easy in retrospect. Aaaah, such is life.)
So I made the usual; sandwiches, salad, side dish.
The sandwiches featured smoky, thin-sliced Black Forest Ham piled on slices of crusty french bread. I added freshly grated Gruyere cheese with some freshly chopped tarragon for some flavor complexity and then spread on some Dijon mustard. I then coated the bread slices with butter - on the outside, of course - and toasted the sandwiches in a grill-pan till the cheese was all melty and the tarragon flavor had been released.
In the meantime, I sauteed a skilletful of cauliflower florets in olive oil until they took on a golden color and nutty aroma (I love cauliflower). I removed the cauliflower from the pan and added a whole chopped onion and more oil (I've never been noted for low-fat cooking). Once the onion was sweating, a BIG pinch of Spanish saffron went in, followed by some chicken stock. At this point I added a can of stewed Roma tomatoes, some toasted pine nuts, and a heap of chopped Italian parsley. And, of course, the sauteed florets. After simmering for a bit to reduce the liquid, I coated the whole thing with some homemade fresh garlic breadcrumbs (made earlier in the day by toasting some of the crusty french bread I used for the sandwiches, along with oil, parsley and minced garlic in the food processor) and put the whole pan right in the oven at about 400 degrees. The result of all this is a rich, deep bronze panful of spiced, roasted cauliflower with a coating of crusty garlic breadcrumbs. Heaven.
Moving on to the salad. A bed of field greens such as baby spinach and frisee. One peeled and chopped Bosc pear (I like Bosc pears because they are dry and crispy like apples - perfect for salad). A big handful of toasted walnuts (toasted side-by-side with the pine nuts earlier in the day). And some crumbled, rich, strong blue cheese. I'd have used Stilton, but the market didn't have any. Finish it with a Balsamic Vinaigrette - a really light, bright one - and that makes one heck of a lunch.
But wait! A really good meal always requires a wild card. Sometimes it is a special announcement someone makes while eating. Sometimes it is a big storm during the meal, or a hallmark being celebrated. An old friend makes any meal special. Even the perfect song (like, for example, anything off 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' album). In this case, our guests had brought a bottle of wine. This was a Zinfandel that comes from the vineyard they had been married on. Awesome sentimental value, superb wine, the wild card was complete, and the meal was a success. Gotta love that.

Tomorrow we have some other friends coming over. This time, they are spending the night so we can all get up and go to 'A Day Out With Thomas' in the morning. Their little boy likes Thomas the Tank Engine as much as ours does, and we will get to see the 'real' Thomas engine and ride in the train. I'll make an authentic Spanish Paella (yes, saffron seems to be the spice of choice for me these days) with chicken and sausage, artichokes, sweet peppers, green beans, arborio rice, and a sofrito of grated onion, garlic, and tomato. And perhaps a Spanish Rioja to add some depth to the meal. I just love food and friends.


Ms. Clark said...

Wowee! The menu sounds fantastic. Did the kids the same foods as the grownups?

My ASD kid was always difficult to take to someone's home for a meal. They'd serve something great, and I'd have to make excuses that my kid wouldn't be eating that. (great embarassment for me, but there was no making the kid eat certain foods.) The typical kid did a pretty good job of eating what was offered, but there was the problem that I had to ask the NT kid to do something I wasn't going to ask the ASD kid to do.

Sharon said...

Mmm lovely!
I too love the combination of good food and good friends.

Niksmom said...

Steve, thanks for your sweet comment on my latest video post. :-) Yes, that little laugh is infectious! I imagine your boys'laughter is much the same,too.

I feel the same as you that, despite the vast expanses of cyberspace which separate us, we've managed to create a sense of community the likes of which is sadly missing in most of today's society. So glad you stopped by for a visit. :-)

Your food sounds divine! I love being able to cook for company (though we don't get much anymore). I'll have to try these sandwiches sometime soon. YUM!

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

We almost went to the A Day Out With Thomas. Can't wait to hear how that is.

Another Voice said...

Sounds like a really great time. I have to try the sandwiches.

Club 166 said...

OK, so I just got home and grabbed some Taco Bell on the way.

Why do I feel a burning desire to catch the next plane out to your house for dinner?


Steve D said...

Ms. Clark -
Unfortunately, my son has the same narrow food tastes that yours did. There is a very strong sensory element, and most food selicit an immediate and powerful gag/vomit response from him. As a result, it was PB&J for the kids!

Niksmom -
You are very welcome.

Marla -
This will be our thrid year going. The 'dad' of the family who visited last weekend that I just wrote about put it most succinctly in decribing 'A Day Out with Thomas' when he said, "It's like crack for our kids." All jokes aside, it is a fun but overwhelming experience for the whole family :)

Joe -
Fortunately, I am not a food snob at all. There's a place for Taco Bell in my world too.