Another two-dish meal

Mara, Debbie, and I ate at home on Friday, with Ellie as a guest.  Two dishes – both from Epicurious, need I say?

The Grilled Summer Vegetables with Harissa Dressing could be made in advance, so I grilled them in the midst of a Djibouti-like Washington DC summer day.  One goofup, which worked out okay: the “Harissa Dressing” is harissa powder whisked into oil and lemon juice basically.  I thought that some stuff called “Harissa” at Whole Foods was just the powder in oil.  Turns out – and, dummy me, I didn’t see it until after I had mixed it with lemon juice – that the major ingredient in the Whole Foods stuff is tomato.  Mara tasted it, however, and said it tasted like sun-ripened tomato and would be OK as a dressing.  So it was.

So I really only had to assemble the grilled veggies at meal time.  I guess this is my first experience plating.

The other dish, Shrimp and Pancetta on Polenta, was pretty tasty for how easy it was.  Just make some quick polenta (we do it in the microwave, per Debbie, with one part polenta to 4 parts water) and cook the other stuff in a pan.

Here’s what Ellie wrote the next day:

Thanks for the dinner.  I loved the shrimp, polenta dish.  I came home and read the crummy blog.  I gather that pancetta can be tricky.  Nice to visit . ellie

I guess that’ll do in lieu of criticism/self-criticism.

Caramel Fish Filets and Peas w Pancetta & Garlic

Back in form this week, I made two simultaneous involved dishes.  Well, maybe not that involved.  But involved enough.

Main dish was Caramel Fish Filets, from Mark Bittman.  Since he doesn’t publish his own recipes online, see fellow blogger Boots in the Oven for the recipe.

Basically you melt sugar until it caramelizes, put in a bunch of other stuff, and cook the fish in it.

The other dish was from my partner Harry, who is a serious Italian-authentic cook.  He recommended rendering some pancetta, browning garlic in it, and tossing it over peas.

OK.  Neither of these is daunting to our halfway-through-the-year Crummy Cook.  But together, they presented some complications.

I put in the pancetta first.  I was going to get it crispy, take it out, cook the garlic, toss it with the peas, and then reheat the peas right before Debbie and I ate.

But I got so bogged down with melting the sugar (sugar as in caramelizing scares the bejeezus out of me) that the pancetta burned.  I had these four disks of completely blackened pancetta, and not much time to decide what to do.  Fortunately I had more dry powder, so I put in four more disks and ate the evidence (the blackened ones, not too bad by my standards).

Everything settled down.  The fish turned out well – it’s sweet, sour, and fish-saucy, a even spicy (although next time I’ll use chili pepper instead of black pepper) – and the peas were decent (although I want to work next time on getting the pancetta more tender; it still didn’t work out completely right).

Debbie was pleased, and I let deeper criticism/self-criticism slide for the night.

No crum(b)s this weekend

Well, one thing followed another, and there’s no suitable meal for the Crummy Cook this weekend.

Friday I was coming back from a one-day trip to Atlanta, Debbie offered to cook and I didn’t say no.

Saturday we decided to try a hip Japanese in the “new” K St (I put “new” in quotes because it may only be new to the New York Times and us).  Great food, but not produced by me.

And tonight we’re going over to friends’.