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On the Road: Farm Stands of Lancaster County became On the Table for an early Sunday evening family dinner for five. Sunday home entertaining has the distinct advantage over Saturday in that it gives you an extra weekend day to spread your tasks. By doing several things on Saturday, there is less to do on Sunday.
Sunday Dinner Menu
Tomato Barn Hot Salsa with Nacho Chips
Lemon Verbena Iced Tea
Heirloom Tomato Salad
Grilled Paillard of Chicken with Garlic, Cilantro & Lime
Grilled Eggplant & Banana Peppers
Corn & Pepper Salad
Beet & Red Onion Salad
Wax Bean Salad
Lemon Verbena Sorbet
Nectarines and Golden Raspberries
Market Day Canele – from Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market
Dinner began as a buffet.
But with only five of us, we opted to serve dinner family style at the table. The heirloom tomato salad became a first course. We served an inexpensive Pink Truck California Rose with dinner.
I learned flower arranging from Peter von Starck when I was a busboy at La Panetiere in the early 70’s. Here is seventeen dollars worth of farm stand flowers from the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market turned into a lovely flower arrangement for dinner and days after. There is a wonderful two-page spread in At Home on “Simplified Flower Arranging” that I highly recommend. Flower arranging involves technique that is quite straightforward. It all starts by building a “web” or armature of stems. Once you get the hang of it, you can easily make your own “florist-worthy” arrangements.
A simple hors d’oeuvres of prepared Tomato Barn hot salsa with store-bought nacho corn chips.
Dinner began with an heirloom tomato salad — from nature’s paintbox comes one of summer’s glorious tastes. Tomorrow’s post will be Assembling and Plattering an Heirloom Tomato Salad.
Our dinner’s centerpiece were Grilled Paillards of Chicken marinated in garlic, cilantro and lime topped with a little arugula and served with grilled baby eggplant and mildly hot banana peppers. (I just love that mix of sweet and hot!)
A simple corn salad with sweet red peppers, jalapenos, corn, red onion and dressed with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil.
A simple beet salad of boiled beets, peeled and sliced with just red onion and a but of red wine vinegar and olive oil.
Blanched yellow beans, lots of thin-sliced torpedo red onions plus scallions for more color.
Dessert was a Lemon Verbena sorbet with tree-ripened nectarines cut into small pieces, combined with golden raspberries and a little sugar — all allowed to sit a few hours to macerate and adorned with a Market Day Canele. The lemon verbena sorbet is very simple to make though requires an ice cream maker. The recipe for this sorbet will be posted on Saturday.
Market Day Canale — available in the small size pictured here and a larger size — are a sort of baked caramel-custard. Ingredients are whole milk, eggs, sugar, flour, rum, butter, Tahitian vanilla and orange zest. Market Day’s Canale are available at area Farmers’ Markets including Calark Park, Fitler Square, Rittenhouse Square and Headhouse Square. Metropolitan Bakery also sells wonderful canele.
Behind the scenes.
To facilitate the absorbing of the brushed olive oil and grilling, I made a cross-hatching of slits in the eggplant.
Using my ever-trusty grill pan, the eggplant start with flesh side down. When well marked, they are turned.
There is a recipe for in At Home for Charred Chicken Paillards with Citrus-Cilantro Salad on Page 192 that is a variation of this farm stand dinner. I use a knife I bought in Kyoto many years ago, but any sharp slicing knife will work. The key is sharp.
By cutting chicken breasts into thin “paillards” you expose much more of the chicken’s surface to the wonders of the grill compared to simply grilling whole breasts and slicing. In addition, the thin-sliced breast absorbs more of the marinade’s flavor — an altogether superior way to grill chicken breasts. You begin by making lateral slices of the breast. Then, place these slices on parchment paper — plastic wrap also works — leaving space between slices. Cover with an additional sheet of parchment paper and lightly pound with a meat pounder or bottom of a small pot to further flatten slices. Take care not to pound so hard that the paillards fall apart.
Here are the pounded paillards. These are transferred to a bowl with a marinade of garlic, cilantro, fresh lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.
They grill quickly. Turn as you see the edges turn opaque. My objective was to serve them just warm so I was content to grill them in small batches in my little grill pan.
Do Ahead Strategy
I have said again and again, home entertaining is more a matter of aspiration, planning, spreading tasks over time and organization than any culinary skills. Here everything is ready to go. The chicken is marinated and ready to grill by the stove, the grilled eggplant and sweet and hot pepper grilled earlier in the day, heirloom tomatoes sliced and ready to platter (see tomorrow’s post on Assembling and Plattering an Heirloom Tomato Salad), the corn salad, yellow beans and beets ready to bowl, iced tea made and arugula at the ready. It’s not rocket science.
The only item served warm were the grilled chicken paillards. The platter was ready with the room temperature elements with the arugula for topping adjacent. Everything else was plattered and bowled and in the dining room.
Do Ahead Prep — If you leave everything to the last minute you only have a minute to do everything.
The key to relaxed and enjoyable home entertaining is to spread your tasks over time. Here was the schedule for this dinner.
Prepared corn salad except for dressing. It sat happily in the refrigerator through Sunday and by blanching corn that I had bought only several hours earlier, I captured the corn’s full sweetness.
Boiled, peeled and sliced beets
Blanched yellow string beans
Prepared base for lemon verbena sorbet
Froze lemon verbena sorbet
Bought and chilled wine
Prepared chicken paillards
Finished beet salad
Bought and arranged flowers
Sunday — early
Cut and grilled eggplant and peppers
Dressed corn salad
Added onions and scallions to yellow bean salad and dressed
Cut nectarines and macerated with golden raspberries
Cut tomatoes for heirloom tomato salad
Cut lime wedges
Made lemon verbena iced tea
Pulled all platters and bowls
Shortly before guests arrived
Salsa and chips out on coffee table
Platter and bowled everything and put out on buffet — except for chicken
Plattered heirloom tomato salad — See tomorrow’s post for how to do this
Just before sitting down to dinner
Grilled chicken paillards and plattered
Transferred sorbet from freezer to refrigerator to temper (soften) before serving
It was a relaxed Sunday and easy dinner. Not because the dinner was so simple, but because I spread my tasks — tasks that I enjoy if I don’t feel under pressure — over time. Reminder that At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking and Entertaining is loaded with tips and strategies to make home entertaining easier. For more information.
Friday: Assembling and Plattering a Heirloom Tomato Salad
Saturday: Lemon Verbena Sorbet Recipe
Next week’s On the Road begins a series of posts focused on Philadelphia’s major neighborhood farmers’ markets. Also ahead are trips to New York’s Hudson River Valley and Long Island’s South Fork.
To access all At Home’s Blog Recipes, click here.
Thank you for visiting.
Your Home Entertaining Coach