Savor the summer
I have a new addiction. I can't stop watching episodes of "Chopped." Four chefs, three rounds, a $10,000 prize, and a basket of four mandatory ingredients they must incorporate into their dishes. For example, one dessert round required contestants to use hoisin sauce, red chili peppers, yuca, and figs. The chefs are pushed to the limits of their creativity, technique, and presentation skills. I find it fascinating largely because I just can't imagine ever having such an encyclopedic knowledge of foods and how to prepare them that I could whip up such creative, cohesive dishes. However, it's also a startling show at times because it really brings out all the worst stereotypes of successful chefs; crass, fiercely competitive, egotistical trash-talkers. Half of them are simply there to prove something, to save face, to get their fifteen minutes of fame. Makes you wonder how much love they really have for food.
I was thinking about this yesterday as I was preparing the food in the above photo. Sometimes I dream of being a chef, but then I watch shows liked "Chopped" and realize that I would rather have a more untainted relationship with the kitchen. For this time in my life, I have the privilege of being able to cook and bake for leisure and for pleasure. They are what I do to relax; they are things that bring me delight; they are things I can do to communicate my love for the people around me. There is no reputation at stake, no money to earn, nothing to prove.
Recently a friend from church gave me an enormous bunch of rosemary. I am a rosemary addict and was so excited by the possibilities this presented! I usually end up baking with it, but this time I wanted to try something new involving meat....If I don't learn to step it up in the protein department, my poor future children will exist on nothing but bread and muffins and cookies. So a bewildered Google search led me to this recipe. I thought it sounded easy and delicious, but I also liked that it offered instructions for grilling or broiling the chicken, because the weather forecast was not in favor of grilling. Broil it I did, with marvelous results! A beautiful golden-brown, crispy exterior, and a perfectly-cooked juicy interior that managed to soak up a lot of the marinade flavors even though I hadn't let it marinate quite long enough. I'd like to try this again soon on the grill and compare the results of the two techniques.
My sister brought some chopped green peppers, celery, sprouts, and other miscellaneous greens, which we mixed with quartered fingerling potatoes and a light vinaigrette. We also had a fruit salad of cantalope, kiwis, strawberries, and pomegranate seeds. I love the extra crunch and burst of sweet juice that the pomegranate seeds add!
I didn't put very much thought into beverage pairings, to be honest -- we were not feeling so picky about that. With dinner we enjoyed some Old Speckled Hen, an English fine ale which brings back fun memories for us. In 2007 I was studying abroad in London, and two of my sisters came to visit me. We took a lovely picnic to Hyde Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, spread out a blanket, and opened a couple bottles of Old Speckled Hen. Suddenly, the sun vanished and it began to hail! We quickly packed up our picnic and prepared to escape to somewhere warm and dry........but we hadn't finished the ale and, dangit, we poor students were not going to let that good stuff go to waste! So chug it we did, under an umbrella in the middle of a hailstorm.
All in all, a great evening. Here's to cooking for FUN. :)