I’ve been wanting to start these weekly posts for some time now as an accompaniment to the menu, the story behind them, where the inspiration came from, how I found or concocted recipes, what worked and what really didn’t work before I put chalk to board.
Most direction comes in the way of what I can’t do. And I’m not just talking no meat, no dairy. That limitation is second nature by now. The bigger considerations are space, time and equipment. What can I make in advance that will hold up so that it’s just as delicious when served? How much stress do I really want to put on my little toaster oven this week? Can I make a cobbler in there? How much stuff can I cram into that steam well?
I like my tiny space. And fitting everything in wasn’t such a problem three months ago when we opened. But now! Farmer’s Market tables are overflowing with delicious things and my brain is drunk with ideas. I’m trying to reign it in.
I’ve been dying to make this week’s panzanella salad. I first saw a photo of it in the River Cafe cookbook this winter. (An introduction courtesy Bryce Coulton of the Boiler Room. Thank you, Bryce!) I salivated. I longed for summer, maybe in Italy, maybe with a glass of Barbera in my hot little hand. I’d been waiting for my opportunity, biding my time for the juicy heirloom tomatoes and fragrant basil. And then last week, like a sign from the culinary gods, I over ordered baguettes. There would be day old bread!
When I was putting together the panzanella I pulled out the River Cafe cookbook and scanned their recipe. I also did an internet search, sticking mostly to Epicurious, Saveur and the tragically defunct Gourmet. After reading a few over I put together my own version based on what I’d seen and what I foraged at the market.
The “Hello Dubai” dish is another item on this week’s menu I’ve been anxious to get to. Maybe not the dish itself, exactly, but a few particular ingredients. My sister recently took a vacation to Dubai. Her husband is currently working in Afghanistan and it was a convenient (if not spectacular!) meeting point. She visited the Dubai spice market and brought back riches! Saffron and hand mixed curries. The aroma created while making the curried vegetables was intoxicating. I’m already devising other dishes to make just to smell it again.
The sandwiches this week include the usual suspects. I really can’t get enough of the Bahn Mi. It’s the freshness of the mint, cilantro and brined vegetables, the crisp and soft, cold and warm, creamy and crunchy. Man, I’m crazy for that sandwich. I have added a collard wrap this week. I was feeling the menu was short on gluten free items and the collard itself is short on respect. I’ve put myself on a one woman crusade to make the collard the hippest vegetable of 2011. Comfort food is in y’all. Dig it.
Natalie Hussey’s desserts also make their first full week debut this week. I am continually bowled over by her flavor combinations and her use of savory herbs in sweet creations. I’m not much of a sweet person myself, so I feel extremely fortunate to have met Natalie. It’s wonderful having that dessert void filled on the menu and having it filled with such sophistication and flavor!
Hope to see you this week!
Love and grub,