Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Good Weekend

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” – Robert Southey

I stumbled across this quote while attending college in small-town Ohio, far from my family in Arizona, and I loved how accurate it is. It’s a double-edged sword of wordsmithery: on one hand, it’s horrible being so far from the people you hold dearest, yet on the other, you’re lucky to even have relationships that grow stronger with distance and improve over time. I still think of this quote on a weekly basis, as I’ve done for about the last nine years straight (it seems I am always separated from someone). But all of those miles and minutes spent apart fly out the window when things like road trips, dinner parties (and breakfast parties and lunch parties) and food comas and conversations and laughter create the most-excellent of reunions.

Oh, and I can’t forget the Diplodocus dinosaur shadows (courtesy of Lina):

From new year, new food

Now-- I know you’re excited to hear about all the fun I had last weekend, but I’d first like to say a big I’M SORRY to the blogosphere and my friends and family who are faithful readers… after moving into Our! New! Apartment! the last weekend of February, I’ve been struggling to balance between nesting in my new room, cooking lots of things with reckless abandon in our kitchen, and traveling quite a bit for work. Now that I’ve properly apologized, I want to mention that this blog will take a bit of a growing-pains turn and, while still maintaining its focus on home food (preferably international) recipes, I want to document all of the other things we are cookin’ up at le chateau as Erjona started calling our most-awesome of apartments. And yes, we are dorks, I already know that.

So, wanna know more about the dinner that Lina’s shadow dinosaur was trying to eat? Well, here’s a quick background: Whitney and Lina came to visit. We all went to said small-school in Ohio, and Whit and her hubby Andy road-tripped in from Columbus while Lina took the green line train in from Maryland, and, long story short, there was much rejoicing.

After visiting museums and walking around in the chilly weather, we got down to bizniz. And by bizniz, I mean the start of our 4-hour dinner. Also, I am giving props to Jamie Oliver right now for his delightful Italian cook book, Jamie's Italy, but also for how adorable he is in his writing. He’s so British and makes food sound even better when he gushes about a simple vegetable, saying “It’s bloody gorgeous!”

Okay, for starters—we like bread. To accompany the bread, we wanted Brie. Lina likes her Brie warm, and microwaved it a little too long. But I, for one, have never met a cheese (especially a soft, gooey, melty cheese) that I haven’t liked. So, we bonded with a puddle of melted brie. And it was goooood.

From new year, new food

(also, props to Lina and Whitney's positioning of the one working light in our kitchen so that we could actually see the food we were cooking and eating. You ladies rock!)

Next, Erjona put together an olive/sun-dried tomato Bruschetta which was also the bomb, but I don’t have a recipe because she got it out of a very classy jar from Whole Foods and paired it with a good Soppressatta. By the way…I don’t think I’ve accurately expressed my love of olives, but you should know that I LOVE them. So, apparently, does Andy, because he bought a jar just for himself and ate nearly the whole thing.

From new year, new food

We had voted earlier in the morning to go with Jamie’s Pasta Alla Norma, a Sicilian pasta dish that is pretty straightforward with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, basil, and cheese.

From new year, new food

(demonstrating my sweet moves with the tongs)

I hadn’t ever cooked one of his pasta recipes, but it was simple and hearty and looked absolutely lovely on a chilly spring night. The eggplant was well-seasoned and meshed nicely with the other flavors and had a good kick from the red chili flakes.

From new year, new food

(As a side note…and multiple helpings of the pasta later, there was still quite a bit leftover. The pasta tasted even better on Monday when I brought it in to work where it fed me for two lunches straight. Score!)

After dinner we got all adventurous and decided to try a pretty simple suggestion of Mr. Oliver’s for something called gelato con olio e sale: good-quality vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Huh. This was quite the curiosity, but we were all strangely attracted to that page in the book, and had buzzed about it for a big part of the day as we walked around the city. Oil? Ice cream? Salt? Oh my. Strange does it sound, but good does it taste! I kid you not. We all placed 2 scoops in our bowls with our new toppings, and I couldn’t help but think that I’ve come a long way with my ice cream topping choices. From bubble gum and Gummi bears as a kid to strawberries and chocolate jimmies in high school to… olive oil and salt. But you know what? It’s GOOD. Strangely good, like syrup and bacon or cheese and apples or chocolate and popcorn. The sweet-salty mix was creamy, a bit grassy from the oil and pretty addictive. Every single one of us got second helpings, and that’s when Andy went downhill, (I think he let the wine get to his head) and decided to make a vinaigrette of the oil, wine, and balsamic vinegar and attempted some new and unpalatable concoction of an icecream float… gross. I won’t go into details, but the rest of us happily stopped with the olive oil and salt combo. I’ve since successfully tested this combo on another group of friends, and now feel like a true ambassador for Mr. Oliver’s simple-desserts cause. (Jamie! Call me! We’ll collaborate on a new book!)

From new year, new food

(the remains of our ice cream ventures)

Sadly, the next day after a wonderful morning meandering through the DuPont Circle Farmer’s Market, and then a good brunch of leftover pancakes, fruits and a green chile and scallion frittata, Whitney and Andy had to hit the road and Lina had laundry and I had to take a nap. Priorities, you know. My next major reunion is with my sister Natalie and our friend Jared in about 3 weeks! (!) Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of distance, but it does help you realize how lucky you are to have anyone deem you worthy of a road trip, a plane ride, or even a four-hour dinner… and it makes the time you do get to spend together pretty wonderful, especially when it’s accompanied by fun surprises in the ice cream world.


DC said...

my two cents about your collaboration with Mr. Oliver would be come up with an ice cream that's friendly for lactose intolerant folks!:)), that's delicious!

Brian said...

More fun at the chateau....Nice. It appears that you ladies forced all of the wine on poor Mr. Barchus, poor fella.