Favorite friends came for Sunday supper last night.
As Richard sliced, diced and Cuisinart-ed in the kitchen, I decided to set the table with one of my vintage white tea cloths… that is until I looked in my ‘vintage white tea cloth drawer’ and saw that they all needed ironing. Now, ironing for me is only one step above root canal, but I love the look of a small tea cloth square that leaves a good portion of our rustic, pine farm table showing. What to do… drag out the ironing board or try to convince our friends that wrinkled tea cloths are the new black?
But wait! As I rummaged through the drawer I found the solution hiding at the bottom: an off-white (translation: very aged), embroidered linen blanket cover that my grandmother had given my mom for my baby stroller. I had totally forgotten about it. I mean really…who has linen baby-pram blanket covers? Well, it seems I do. I put the blanket cover in the middle of the table. Perfect! It left just enough of the pine wood exposed. Continuing my white ‘theme,’ I decided to use my white English ‘heirloom’ ironstone dishes, but threw in a bit of color by using navy blue and brown linen bandana squares as napkins. I dragged out the sterling silverware and antique, gold-rimmed wine glasses (one of my great flea market finds), put white candles in my painted white iron and crystal candle sticks (another flea market find), found a few things around the house for a centerpiece and voila! Farm table formal!
When our friends arrived we settled in the living room for appetizers.
A few weeks ago, Richard and I went to an Epicure Warehouse gourmet sale where we got a taste of blue cheese on a slice of baguette with white truffle oil drizzled on top. If I could have afforded it, I would have bought every bottle of that oil, but we did buy one and last night we served it on a sliced baguette with Blue Castello. Richard also made a creamy tuna spread and a sweet pea dip. A cheddar cheese with caramelized onions completed the appetizer tray. The wine was a chilled Souverain chardonnay, a lovely, moderately priced California wine.
For the main course, Richard made cod in a Pernod broth with veggies (recipe below) and a side of quinoa (Richard's new favorite - it's OK for me)... For dinner our friends brought a superb bottle of 2004 BV Georges De Latour private reserve cab which was absolutely delicious.
Dessert was an olive oil cake to die for that Richard had made the day before, paired with a cup of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, La Parisienne hot chocolate to sip as a complement to the cake. The combination was heavenly.
The guests left, the table was cleared and Richard went off to our library to watch the end of the Yankee game he DVR’d. Me? I had appetizer dishes, white ‘heirloom’ ironstone dishes, silverware, flea market wine glasses, dessert dishes and my mother’s bone china English tea cups to wash… a small price to pay for an evening with good friends, good food and a spectacular wine.
HALIBUT/COD IN PERNOD BROTH WITH VEGETABLES
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced
4 slender asparagus, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
6 baby carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into ¼-inch-thick ovals
4 shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
2 cups bottled clam juice
¼ cup Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur
5 fresh basil sprigs
5 fresh dill sprigs
4 fresh tarragon sprigs
4 5-to-6 ounce halibut or cod fillets
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chilled butter
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat.
Add fennel, asparagus, carrots and shallots; sauté until crisp-tender (about 5-7 minutes).
Transfer vegetables to bowl.
Add clam juice, Pernod, and herbs to the same skillet; bring to a boil. Add halibut or cod fillets. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer until fish is just opaque in the center (about 10 minutes).
Using slotted spoon, transfer fish to large shallow soup bowls.
Return vegetables to the skillet. Add lemon juice and butter; stir until butter melts. Season with salt and pepper, then spoon warm vegetables and broth over the fish.
Makes 4 servings.