More than a month has passed since I’ve written here, but that doesn’t mean I’ve left it to sit. Okay, it appears as if it’s been abandoned. But I’ve been searching for and learning about many things that will hopefully make it function better than it has in the past. It seems everyone is reading favorite websites on their cell phones and tablets these days and so that makes it necessary to ensure all is functioning properly here. You may be one to roll eyes and question any sort of change, and I will smile in response, understanding. I will! But please know, my 75-year-old mother has to deal with me on a regular basis as I coach her on the most efficient use of her Mac, Kindle, and brand new iPhone probably more than she’d like, but she tolerates me. Sometimes. So thank you for your patience as I not only strive to make Sass & Veracity the very best it can be (at a glacial pace), and exercise my brain while I’m in the process. My work will never be done.
The last few days of our recent vacation, we stayed at Bay Cottage, a lovely retreat located on the shore of Discovery Bay near Port Townsend, Washington. It seems like I’ve wanted to stay in a place like that forever — somehow making up for the lack of a family summer vacation rental that so many others seem to have had. If I think about it, the others I’m thinking of were most likely characters in summer reads, or old movies which makes me idealistic, I guess. No matter, because it was beautiful there and we enjoyed sitting in the old Adirondack chairs in the evening marveling over how long the daylight lasts at this time of year, or watching the fog slowly burn off the still water each morning. Large blue herons stand in the shallow water at low tide like statues, patiently waiting for a fish. It was so peaceful.
We’ve enjoyed a variety of vacation rentals in our travels. They’re much more relaxing than staying in a hotel because a television is usually absent, there’s a living room to sprawl out in just like home, and after the daylight is gone, we go through the cards and games usually stashed away in a cupboard somewhere to enjoy a few rounds of Rummy or Trivial Pursuit. We also take the time to read for extended periods of time, enjoying the stillness. Outside of the water lapping against the shore, not much else broke the quiet in the evenings, which is a rare thing to enjoy.
Having a kitchen available is another vacation rental perk. It’s usually stocked with a variety of pots, pans, and utensils and even some pantry basics to add to the groceries we shop for soon after arriving. I know that others often question cooking on a vacation, but honestly, it’s far less trouble at times than deciding where to eat — especially when money can be saved cooking for ourselves. It also makes packing a picnic easier when planning a day trip because if you plan with that in mind as you hit the market, then you can enjoy some pretty tasty treats on your outings.
Pan Bagnat (pahn-bahn-yah) is the perfect make ahead picnic food because other than needing to boil a few eggs, open a can of good tuna, slice vegetables, and prepare a simple vinaigrette, all you need is bread and some bricks — or in my case, weights. On the other hand, if you’ve got children, you might consider using the weighting technique mentioned in this version of Pan Bagnat published in the New York Times.
Each bite of this wonderful sandwich is a treat whether you’re enjoying it at home or otherwise — and it’s fun to make. Have you had Pan Bagnat before?
The calendar asserts that summer is dwindling, but I know better.
Damp air, flat, steely skies until late in the morning and an urge to put on a sweater are only teasers of what will come much later here than most other places in the country. Usually, I allow myself to be lulled into remembering all that I love about Fall weather after having had weeks of heat and humidity, but not this year.
No, I’ve enjoyed the blue skies and temperate weather — pleasant breezes that keep the house cool and the pots on our patio from needing constant watering. I haven’t had my fill yet, but know by the time September has passed, I’ll be ready. It’s usually our warmest month, only once every blue moon or so bringing blustery showers and a thunderstorm. But it’s been years since we’ve seen that.
So for now, a bowl of soup is fine.
Something bright and full of flavor, but not packed with calories.
Take advantage of all the beautiful sweet peppers at the market right now — or if you’re lucky enough to grow them yourself — and try this roasted sweet pepper soup. If you’re thinking it’s still not quite soup weather yet, then freeze it. It’s worth waiting for.
There are some flavor combinations I never tire of regardless of what time of the year it is. The classic flavors of basil and tomato with a sprinkle of minced red onion, squirt of lemon, and drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil will always entice me. Equally delicious are chopped fresh tomatos, green onions, cilantro, and jalapenos with lime juice — a combination so perfect, I can easily skip the tortilla chips and head right for a spoon to enjoy the salty-tart-spicy flavor that would never be the same without cilantro. I think I love cilantro even more than basil.
But another combination has come close to pushing both of the others aside as being tops in my mind — or my mouth: roasted peppers, capers, and briny olives. Ironically, the flavors in this combination would work quite well with many of the others I’ve mentioned, but I enjoy them in a mix like this one — assertively delicious with the unexpected addition of anchovies.
Anchovies? Those little fish in the can with the curly lid that when I’m ordering a pizza to go topped with “the works” I always politely decline? The little salty things whose absence would leave a Caesar’s salad an unappetizing plate of flavorless lettuce, and pasta puttanesca without anything to be sassy about beyond a sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes.
Do any of us ever really say we like anchovies? Probably not, but the key to learning to stop avoiding them is to see them as an ingredient to be mixed with others instead of sitting on top of a pizza. If the anchovies were mixed into the tomato sauce instead, it would intensify the flavor leaving us to wonder what made it so good.
Think about it. How many other ingredients which enhance one another when mixed together are basically unpleasant when eaten alone? Capers. I’ve tasted them just to see, and they’re quite bitter. Or in most recipes which call for capers, the directions will advise rinsing them first. For years, I did just that, and to make sure I understood why, I tasted the brine. Not pleasant. But when it’s mixed into many other ingredients, it’s quite fabulous. Soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar — all are less than pleasant when tasted alone.
Freshly roasted peppers, on the other hand, are perfect alone sprinkled lightly with salt, but they’re truly delicious in this mix. It’s perfect tossed with pasta for a salad when you don’t feel like cooking, or spooned over grilled meat or fish. It’s helps make an omelet interesting and is especially excellent spread over a piece of crusty bread slathered with goat cheese.
It’s the best party food even if you’re the only one at the party, because then you don’t have to share.
Be brave. Don’t forget the anchovies.
I cook such a wide variety of dishes and flavors from a seemingly crazy selection of recipes, that as much as you’d think I’d be satisfied with regard to food — I’m not. Good thing I’m the cook, right? Otherwise, that would sound truly ungrateful.
It’s difficult to explain, but at times like this, I need something to eat that really stands out: a dish whose flavors come together perfectly, and no matter how many times I’ve had it before, I know it will be perfect. That I will never need to tweak the recipe — although I have — because it’s just right the way it’s written.
AND…it’s healthy! So that means I can submit it to all the lovely foodies at Equal Opportunity Kitchen and their Tried, Tested and True…Take Two event which is focused on not only good, healthy eating, but to building much needed awareness of the important cause of organ donation. Healthy food, healthy organs, right?
Although I’ve mentioned Michael Chiarello’s recipes in past posts, I haven’t shared this one in particular. That’s odd because in my wild world of cooking, this reigns as one of the few recipes I’ve made again and again. “Swordfish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce and Linguini” is one of many outstanding recipes in his cookbook, Flavored Oils: 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils. I’ve tried over half the recipes in this book over the years, but this recipe is the best.
Yes, the flavors of the “tomato sauce” are my favorite, and yes, the pretty packets of fish and vegetables with pasta are something that can be special for a few friends who will think you’ve been slaving over a hot stove all day, or just the right touch to a special occasion dinner. But my favorite aspect of this dish is that it takes almost no time to prepare from start to finish, and gives the impression that you’ve really put some time and expertise into it. Plus, the packets make controlled portions, so going back for seconds isn’t an option.
I’ve never quite gotten the hang of folding the parchment exactly the way the directions describe, but it’s most likely from my lack of patience. But if you’re like me, wrap these bundles of deliciousness you own way. Just make sure you try them.