Thursday, June 27, 2013

Early Summer Flowers

A few shots from our back yard which we continue to convert into a little oasis where we can sit and talk and dine on our rare days at home.











Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pork Tenderloin Bánh Mì

Monday morning came way too early after a late Sunday night out on the patio and I wasn't in the mood really to think about dinner. Moreover, Ann left her phone in Dimitri's car and I had no way to talk to her about dinner as we usually do on Monday mornings, so I was left to my own devices.

At some point during the morning, I got this vision of a pork tenderloin bánh mì in my mind and that was all the spark I needed for dinner.

Pork Tenderloin Marinated in Hoisin, Fish Sauce, Garlic, and Cilantro
I sliced the pork tender into medallions which I flattened with the side of my knife blade and then threw into a seal-top plastic bag with hoisin, fish sauce, and finely minced garlic and cilantro stems.

Simple Garnishes: Cucumber, Cilantro, and Fried Red Onions

This Bánh Mì Tasted Even Better Than it Looks
I made a spicy mayo to go on the bread from equal parts sriracha, hoisin, agave nectar, minced garlic and cilantro stems, all mixed with two parts mayonnaise. For a little crunch, I sprinkled on Thai fried red onions, which I believe is a misnomer. I believe that they are shallots fried in palm oil and they are one of my favorite guilty pleasures!

Glen Manor Vineyards

We finally made our first visit of the year to Glen Manor Vineyards; our last visit was in late November. Seriously? Has it been that long? Our calendar is so full that we just cannot get to do the things we want to nearly as often as we like. Through much persistence, Ann finally put together a group of us (more than six: Shh! Don't tell Jeff!) for a picnic there this weekend: Matthew and Michael, Bill and Drew, Mike (Dennis is overseas), Amanda and Dimitri, and Michele and Christophe.

When we walked in around 1pm, Kelly, Jorge, and Jane were all busy pouring for a counter full of tasters. Amanda and Dimitri were already there and tasting and the rest of the crew arrived over the next hour or so. Kelly brought over a glass of 2012 rosé for us to sip on while waiting to taste: it was really great to see them busy! The 2012 is a beautiful wine, but there isn't enough of it for us to pour it at the restaurant. When the counter crowd finally thinned out, Jane finally tasted us on the 2011 Cabernet Franc, which is one of the very best wines I have tasted from 2011, and the much more structured and predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Vin Rouge. We're still waiting on Jeff to release the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, which I needled him about when he showed up late in the day, after having been out spraying in the vineyards since 2am, poor bastard.

Kelly, Jorge, and Jane Busy, Busy!
On a very overcast day that was threatening rain, Kelly was kind enough to save us seats under the shade canopy outside and that was fortunate because at one point, a squall blew through from the southeast. It was so loud in approaching that we all turned and watched it blow right up to us. Rarely do you see a line of rain approaching like this. In any case, it was over about as quickly as it blew up and we didn't miss a beat.

Mike "I don't like rosé" Hoffmaster

Matthew and an Especially Nice Photo of Michael's Chin

Dimitri and Amanda

What is She Thinking About?

Excellent Eats

The eats were fantastic. Ann baked a loaf of sage and roasted garlic bread, I baked a pepperoni-spiced terrine (paprika, garlic, pistachios, Mangalitsa pork belly, a ton of ground fennel seed, red wine, basil, and oregano), Michele made a great pasta salad, and M&M kicked in tuna tartare. I also brought along an amazing Valençay clone cheese from Shepherd's Whey Creamery, and two salame from Olympic Provisions: chorizo navarre and salchichón.

Variable Weather: Rainy to Bright Overcast with Late Sun

A Jigsaw Puzzle Photo: Compare Here

Ann Holding Court with Drew and Bill
Just as Mike and I were leaving to go get Carter, Jeff finally arrived after a quick nap and a shower. I am sorry I didn't get more time to talk with him but it was good to see him nonetheless. I did however get a few minutes to chat with his brother Steve and a couple minutes chatting with Kelly. It's been too long since we were there and that just wasn't enough time to catch up.

Amanda, Dimitri, Bill, Drew, and Mike all joined us back at the house, but Mike left before I threw together some pasta. We continued the festivities out on the patio.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cellophane Noodle Salad with Grilled Red Drum

After a really unpleasantly hot and humid weekend full of nasty thunderstorms, Monday started out to be a carbon copy, but turned out to be a pretty decent day and cool enough to sit outside. Finally! And I was able to move a late afternoon meeting up by an hour so that I could get home to enjoy the nice weather that developed during the day.

Note to self: I am under strict orders from my wife to give her credit for the following dinner.

During the morning and early afternoon, it was pretty humid and it looked like the day was going to be a rehash of the weekend: soupy air and threat of thunderstorms. And the morning is when we discuss what we want for dinner. Given the weather, we were looking for something light and Ann had Asian on the brain and specifically mentioned cellophane noodles (the credit, folks, is all hers). I wanted grilled fish, so I put the two together.

After we picked the kids up from school at 5:00, I started prepping dinner, making a quick cellophane noodle salad (yum woon sen), the dressing for the salad, and prepping a side of red drum.


Standard Thai Salad Dressing

Dressings in Thailand are very simple and although I make mine from slightly different ingredients than they would in Thailand, the end result is almost identical. The dressing above is a mix of lime juice, sambal oelek, fish sauce, minced garlic, and agave nectar. I use sambal so that I don't have to crush the chiles in a mortar and I use agave nectar so that it goes directly into solution without a lot of stirring. A basic recipe idea is:

    juice of 3 limes
    3 tablespoons agave nectar (to taste)*
    3 tablespoons fish sauce
    2 tablespoons sambal oelek*
    2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix well. Adjust seasonings to your taste. Makes enough for a large salad.

*or your favorite sweetener/your favorite heat

Cellophane Noodle Salad without Fish and Dressing
Cellophane noodles, aka glass noodles, bean thread, woon sen, among other names, is a noodle made from various kinds of starch, most typically mung bean. They have a slippery-crunchy quality that makes them perfect for cold salads (although they are often stir-fried, see pad woon sen). They come in small bundles, each of which is typically enough for a single serving. Cover the bundles with boiling water and let stand for 5-10 minutes, then drain the noodles, and spread them out to cool off. When cool, chop into manageable lengths with a knife (or some people use scissors).

Mix with your favorite crunchy raw vegetables and herbs and toss with dressing. Add a protein if you like. My salad above has noodles, orange peppers, red peppers, carrots, cilantro leaves, and Thai basil leaves, green onions, lots of each. I love sliced red onion in this salad too, but didn't have any. No worries, it's just a salad!

After prepping all this, we went outside and enjoyed a glass of wine while the noodles were chilling and the grill was heating. I congratulated my wife on her brilliant choice of dinner.

Asprinio d'Aversa, our new Favorite Summertime Sipper
The wine that we opened is our new favorite summer sipper, a sparkling Asprinio from the town of Aversa, near Naples in Campania. We just love this lightly creamy wine: it feels more like beer in the mouth than sparking wine and it is a touch cloudy. The nose to me is of yeast, beer, apple cider, pear cider (perry), and apple sauce. The flavor on the palate reminds me of similar things but with really nice and refreshing acidity. It kind of reminds me of Mauzac a bit and some of the Blanquettes de Limoux that I have tasted, only a lot better than any Mauzac that I have ever had. This particular bottling from Grotta del Sole is also famous for being made from grapes from vines that are trained to grow up poplar trees. It's a pretty cool sight to see.

Dinner! All Ann's Idea!
When we were good and relaxed and the grill nice and hot, I put two big slabs of drum skin side down on the grill and closed it up, checking every few minutes until each piece had just turned opaque. I scraped the fish off the skin into the salad and tossed it all with dressing, all the while complimenting my beautiful wife on her wonderful dinner idea.

Dead Soldiers at Dusk
I am so glad that Ann had this idea for dinner tonight. She deserves all the credit.

Keeping it Local

It hit me when I woke up two Sunday mornings ago in Auburn AL. Or rather it felt like several people and a baseball bat hit me. I wasn't...