Last Friday night’s dinner party was about as fun as it gets. We had over a super cool couple, Becky and Jim. Becky’s one of my little sister’s oldest friends. I’ve known her since she was basically a baby, and I have about a million memories of her as a little kid. Almost all of them make my laugh out loud – She was always so fun and cute and funny. And as I found out this weekend, none of that has changed. It’d been ages since I’d last seen Becky, I don’t even know how long. But the moment she and Jim walked through our door, it felt like no time at all had passed. She was as fun and adorable and hilarious as she ever was. So while Ben and Jim got in a little male bonding out on the deck, the two of us had a ton of fun catching up in the kitchen.
So now let me fill you in a bit on the happenings in the kitchen. Along with all our laughs and reminiscing, there was quite a bit more a’ brewing. To start, these all too tasty zucchini fritters:
I’ve been going crazy with zucchini lately, eating it around the clock, serving it with everything and in every which way, just savoring it completely while it’s still at the height of its seasonal, summery goodness. Luckily, it’s overall a pretty healthy infatuation. But not tonight. On such a fun night as this, healthy zucchini just seemed like a drag. And so, combined with bits of crumbled bacon, a smattering of sliced chives and a hot kick of minced jalapeño, then folded into a smooth and creamy batter, and plopped spoonful by spoonful into a hot pan of bubbling oil, this wholesome vegetable got the chance to show off a deep-fried naughty side. These hot, delicious fritters were a perfect late-summer indulgence. A crisp and beautifully golden crust yielded to a tender, puffy inside generously studded with bits and pieces of tasty goodness. With a quick sprinkling of salt, this starting snack was near perfect. But when dipped into the huge flavors and cool creaminess of basil aioli, well that’s when true perfection was reached.
And now onto the main course - steak. Charcoal grilled, salt and pepper rubbed, New York strip steak to be exact. Man oh man, how good is grilled steak?! It’d been ages since we’d last cooked up some big ol’ steaks, so we figured it was high time to do it again, and this time with a summery grilled twist.
It’s hard to put into words just how much I adore the extraordinary combination of steak and blue cheese. They’re an unbelievable pair. The steak - with its seared, blackened crust and its lush, pink interior, so tender and incredibly juicy, so perfectly medium-rare – and the blue cheese – its creamy white crumbles streaked with blue ribbons of enormous flavor, sharp and pungent and intensely delicious. Wow oh wow, nothing could be better!
This perfect pairing served as a strong inspiration for a first side dish. I combined huge hunks of blue cheese with bright green spears of tenderly cooked green beans, juicy wedges of heirloom tomatoes (jade- and emerald-striped Green Zebras and a rosy-golden variety I’ve always nicknamed ‘Sunset’ tomatoes) peppery leaves of arugula and a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. The blue cheese was certainly the principal player in this dish, but the rest of the ingredients came together beautifully, serving as a gorgeous backdrop. A cool, crisp, bright and flavorful salad, it was a great match for our hot-off-the-grill streaks.
I felt from the beginning that this was going to be a meat & potatoes sort of night. And these twice-baked beauties are one of my favorite ways of cooking (or eating) potatoes. Rather than going with the all too typical, all too large and ugly russet potatoes, I like to use cute little red-skinned potatoes. A bit more delicate (their thin, waxy skins aren’t quite so tough as russets’ dusty jackets, and so you must be a bit careful when scooping out the insides), but way more charming. And if you ask me, way more delicious too. With regular twice-baked potatoes, the rough leathery skins seem pretty pointless – who wants to eat those? I always end up eating just the insides and leaving the skin behind. But with these potatoes, the skins are tender and prettily pink, just as lovely as their pillowy, creamy, chive-speckled centers. And on top of that, they’re just so cute, which if you ask me, is reason enough to abandon the russet.
And finally dessert – a blackberry-apple cobbler. A fitting blend of summer (blackberry) and fall (apple). I’ve found myself in an interesting predicament lately – most of the time aching for autumn, but still savoring those last lingering hints of summer whenever I enter the market. As excited as I am for the coziness of sweater weather, I’m pretty bummed to say goodbye to such gorgeous stuff as tomatoes and corn and blackberries. Ah well, soon enough I’ll be properly excited for other gorgeous stuff like butternut squash and apples and pumpkins. For a while though, I’ll wean myself into fall by following the pattern of this delicious crumble, blending summer’s last bounty with the beginnings of autumn’s harvest.