Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quails & Succotash

This one was at the end of August, on a balmy Wednesday night. Midweek dinners seem like a forbidden pleasure; a beautiful respite between one day's work and the next.

The previous week, the day the invite was sent out, I opened Wednesday's New York Times Dining Out section and was greeted with a huge story on The Waverly Inn, Graydon Carter's oh-so-exclusive restaurant in the West Village. It just so happens that, in a previous life, I lived in an apartment at 227 Waverly Place (W.S. Merwin lived there before I did) just down the street from the old Waverly Inn, and I had many a cozy lunch in the old, ramshackle, down-on-its-heels joint. In its newest incarnation, I would never be able to eat there, not being beautiful, rich, or "important" enough to be found worthy by the Maitre D'. That's fine, since I tend to try to eat in places where the food takes precedence over the clientele...

But the thing that really galled me (all before my first cup of coffee, for fuck's sake) was the picture. The picture of the chef sitting at a table with a glass of wine, surrounded by his front of the house staff. The MALE staff. A Boy's Club.

It made me think about all the restaurants in the city who STILL believe that an all-male waitstaff is the proper and preferable way to go, these chefs who think that having a woman working the restaurant floor "cheapens" the service... A woman can be a waitress, but a man is a

If you are reading this and thinking it ain't so, go out and do your own field work. The next time you are in a high-end/trendy NYC restaurant, take a little visual survey: How many women are on the floor?

Why does it matter? Because there is a lot of money on the floor, that's why. Knowledge, connections, power, respect... It's all there for the taking, and the fact that women don't have equal access is obscene.

There it is: My diatribe on sexism in the restaurant business. That's enough for today, but don't worry, I am sure there will be another occasion to bitch about it.

And the good news is... The ire the article raised inspired a lovely backyard dinner with a late summer menu...

The invite:

If you can't get into The Waverly Inn.... Dine in my backyard!

Hello again Hungry Kiddies!

Last Wednesday's dinner was such a resounding success, I thought we would do another. I don't know about you, but watching all of those toned, scrub-faced, bright and shiny Olympic hopefuls at the height of their athletic ability makes me want to grill some quail and drink some wine. It makes me think about lima bean succotash and wonder how much butter is too much? It makes me want to saute ripe tomatoes with garlic and basil and toss it with some pasta! It makes me want to test my Butter lettuce with yogurt-mint dressing recipe! It makes me think about plum tarts! Yes indeed.... that pretty Michael Phelps is inspiration indeed. And I am wondering if the Chinese government might take a look at my passport? I think by birthyear could be adjusted slightly..... If you are hungry, and want to come to dinner, we would love to have you. This is a smaller one-- limited to 12. Think of it as The Waverly Inn-- outdoor borough edition. The one that you CAN get into. The one without celebrities. The one without an all male waitstaff.

Mmm. Succotash before the corn and tomatoes are added. I blanched purple and yellow wax beans, zucchini and fresh limas, sauteed some butter and shallots, and then added the corn (cut right off the cobs!). I sauteed it all together with some more butter and cream, (I won't dare tell you how much), dropped in some cherry tomato halves and called it good. Summer on a plate!

Butter lettuce salad was just butter lettuce, thinly sliced persian cukes and radishes with a yogurt/buttermilk/mint dressing. Simple and refreshing.

There was fresh linguini tossed with sauteed tomatoes, butter, garlic and capers...

...and quails marinated in olive oil, pomegranate molasses, herbs and garlic, spatchcocked and grilled so the skin was crispy. I served them over a bed of arugula that wilted under the heat of the quail and their juices. Fuck, is that great!!

Served over grilled figs...

And Katie's homemade Blueberry Pie carried from Greenpoint in its very special travelling box!

A fitting and delicious end to a very fun night. Thanks, KT!!!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Back To School With Lamb Skewers!

Ahhhh, yes. The 6 week break from writing one's blog. What can I say? It was summer, I was sweating, and frankly, trying to write a book and be funny and then turning around and writing a blog (and being funny) is just a little more writing:funny ratio than I can handle. I think I am home alone too much. It is a terrible adjustment for a 40 year old, social woman to suddenly be home alone all day-- truly!!

I will say that for all of my dear husband's prodding (gentle!!) it was the voice of my father, (the voice that my husband imitates to perfection) that jolted me out of blog fog. I seem to remember that voice yelling at me to do shit I didn't have any intention of doing for much of my earlier life. He (my dad) called me last night, as I was shopping for mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls and wine(!!) and after he asked how we were, wanted to know what happened to my blog. Turns out he is one of my 4 loyal everyday readers and I have been letting him down for the past 6 weeks! Who knew?

So... I am back. I will write. Even if it is not funny I will close my eyes and push the "publish" button. Fuck it. The next few posts will move backwards through the summer so you can see what you missed when you were on your vacation to fabulous far flung places, or "stay-cation" to your air conditioned living room. Either way, if I didn't see you in my backyard, I missed you. Fix that, will ya?

Behold, the lamb kabobs.


This was one of those smaller dinners on a Wednesday night, so Karl was unavailable to take pictures. Hey-- someone has gotta work around here! These are the pics I remembered to take at the very end, which is why the vegetables look a little wilted in the next pic.

We started with some Moroccan eggplant dip that I got from Gourmet mag, improbably with sugar in it!! that was delicious. Truth be told, I had made it 3 days earlier and it was even better on the 3rd day. Charred eggplant, scooped out and mashed up with sugar, salt, red wine vinegar, parsley, olive oil.... Hot pita torn into pieces accompanied. Excellent. Also, my all time favorite standby, radishes with butter and salt. Nothing simpler, nothing better.

There was bitter dandy salad with sauce gribiche and lardons (BACON!!!) that was fucking great, if I do say so myself. I made the gribiche with hellman's mayo, sour cream, greek yogurt, lemon juice, chopped tarragon, chopped parsley, capers, and hardboiled egg scattered about. The fat makes the bitter dandies palatable, and people plowed right through it all. I forgot to mention to them that those bitter dandys act as "nature's broom", as my friend Millicent so often says to my delight; I guess they were cursing my name the next day.

There was lima bean puree made with fresh limas. What a pain in the ass!!! Seriously. Fucking hateful. But.... really really good. limas pureed with olive oil, garlic, chili flake and just a tad bit of sherry vinegar. It was served with the lamb kabobs, which had been marinated all day with rosemary, oregano, garlic, thyme, and a little olive oil. They were grilled on the gas grill -- ( i know-- but it is hard to be a bad ass when you are alone!!) and served with salsa verde Italian style: mint, basil, parsley, anchovies, capers, lemon and olive oil in the cuisinart. I highly recommend it. And of course, a little extra special greek feta --Arahova-- from The Greek House on 30th ave.

And below... behold my masterpiece. Simple, yet something I want to eat every single day. Blanch green and/or wax beans, little potatoes and zucchini. Cut cherry tomatoes in half, and chop up some radicchio. Make anchovy butter. Combine and toss. Serve. Seriously, I could NOT get enough of this-- so much so that the next day, I put the leftovers in a skillet with some shell on shrimp, heated the whole thing and ate that too!!!! Outrageous so easy and so good for you, and so... did I say it?? Fucking Delicious. Take that, Rachel Ray. (I wonder if our publicist will be able to get us on her show, and, if so, will I have to sign something promising not to cuss? Hope not...)

And below, my other masterpiece. Rustic, yes.... but oh so excellent. Fresh figs tossed with sugar, and tossed into a pastry crust made with both all purpose flour AND pastry flour and european butter. Parmesean cream rounds it out. It is sweet, and sharp, and that terribly seductive taste of figs..... all together. AND... you don't have to roll the crust because it is a crostata!! Even better! I got the recipe in 2004 from the NY Times..... I bust it out every couple of years when the figs are worth it.

Mmmmmmmm... Sexy figs...

12 people, on a Wednesday night. What could be nicer? A couple of high powered cook friends showed up early and volunteered to help-- I eagerly took it. Thanks Ian and Michelli!! We drank and ate and laughed too much, as it should be. We came up with genius ideas....Don't learn to cook, Bra strap!!

And tomorrow I will post again, I promise, Dad.