Originally, the dinner party plan for this weekend involved the two of us, two of our friends, and four giant bowls of Bouillabaisse. But then, at more or less the last minute, something unexpected came up for our friends, and we found out they wouldn’t be able to make it. I made a few quick calls, but unfortunately everyone was either already busy, or not a fan of fish. And here I was, with a refrigerator full of shrimp, scallops, halibut, mussels and clams.
I consulted with Ben. Did he think it would still count as a dinner party, even if we were the only two ‘guests’? He jumped at the idea. Yes, he thought, it would totally count. I thought so too, and relished the idea of a laid back feast for just the two of us. Fun as it would have been with our friends, it was so nice cooking a special meal for just my husband, and so nice too, having the entire weekend all to ourselves.
We started with a beautiful summer salad. Lush, pale green slices of sweet, ripe honeydew, arranged over a bed of deep jade watercress. Delicately dressed in an aromatic vinaigrette of lime, garlic, jalapeno, ginger and herbs, the melon was speckled with a fine confetti of fresh chopped mint, cilantro and basil. A graceful pair, the bitter greens and sweet honeydew acted as a harmonious background to the sharp, bright hits of the fragrant sauce. I simply loved this salad. It’s a beautiful preparation of honeydew melon, a stunning fruit in and of itself. Simply glorious all on it’s own, this fruit’s natural goodness is magnified by this simple preparation. A wonderful first course for any meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner – this salad is a delicious and gorgeous example of the absolute best of summer’s bounty.
What can I say about the Bouillabaisse, that magnificent fish stew of Provencal France? All I can say is that I will forever be amazed by the beauty of its subtle flavors. Bouillabaisse is a masterpiece, a grand and brilliant mosaic of flavors – saffron, orange, fennel, garlic and tomato. These beautiful aromas swirl together in the rich seafood broth, imbuing the fish and shellfish with their incredible essence. And the seafood itself is just as splendid as the wonderful broth. Fish and seafood of all kinds imaginable. In our bouillabaisse - pure white fillets of halibut, plump scallops of the palest pink, huge and sweet freshwater shrimp, briny littleneck clams and dark, wide-shelled mussels. We were in heaven, slurping the delicious broth, savoring its goodness, while trying to chose what bite to take next. As a classic accompaniment to bouillabaisse, I served toasted French bread spread with rouille, a rich and garlicky sauce of roasted peppers, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. Dunked into the broth, the bread soaked up the incredible flavors, the sauce swirling into the mix, adding is own beautiful charm. What can I say about Bouillabaisse? All I can say is ‘Mmmmmm’.
For dessert, something chilly. Homemade peach and plum popsicles, a whimsical end to grand summer meal. These fun, tasty treats are all too easy to whip up. Just a simple concoction of pureed stone fruits, sugar syrup and a squeeze of lemon. The hardest part is waiting for the popsicles to freeze! But let me tell you, they’re worth the wait. These fruity, icy treats are just about as good as it gets, this time of year. As the sun beats down and the temperature continues to climb, little seems more satisfying than these ice cold pops of fresh, ripe fruit. We’ve been snacking on these guys all weekend. In fact, it’s just about time to make another batch. And I’ve got a bowlful of beautifully ripe pluots here, just begging to be popsicleized!