What’s Cooking? Almost-spring dinner

Last night we had friends over for dinner for the first time in, well, months. It was a lovely sign that we’re recovering some normal in this journey with Richard’s brain cancer, or if not normal (whatever that means in these days of nuclear disaster in Japan and bloody revolution in Libya), at least the ordinary pleasures of cooking together.

The latter is no small thing. As I began prep cooking late in the afternoon while Richard napped, I tried to remember the last time Richard’s brain was up for the task of collaborating on a meal. I couldn’t. I’m guessing sometime before my mom’s downhill slide around the holidays.

But last night, he was on task. He checked the barbecue and cleaned off the grill, made the guacamole , and grilled the lovely whole salmon filet I had scored on sale at the grocery store (wild Alaskan salmon, thank you very much, caught in FAO Area 67).

I made the quinoa salad, picked fresh greens from the garden for garnish, prepared and baked the apple-nectarine crisp, and plated the meals. (They were pretty, as in the photo below.)


Here’s the menu, which uses as many local foods as possible:

Almost-Spring Dinner (in honor of John and SueEllen’s visit)

Organic yellow corn tortilla chips with freshly-made guacamole (the chips are from Colorado, the rest, no)
Grilled salmon brushed with blood-orange-infused organic California olive oil (nothing local there, but quite yummy!)
Quinoa Loves Lemon salad with fresh spinach and chervil garnish (all local but the olives)
Whole wheat boule (fresh-baked at Salida Bread Company from local organic wheat)
Apple & Nectarine Crisp with vanilla and lemon ice cream (the crisp is all-local, the ice cream not at all)


Quinoa Loves Lemon Salad
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 cup rinsed quinoa (I substituted a third-cup of bulgur for a third-cup of the quinoa just for variety)
juice of one small Meyer lemon (about 1.5 T), in this case from our own dwarf tree
2 cups water
pinch salt
1/2 cup chopped broccoli, steamed
1/2 cup Greek or Spanish mixed olives, pitted
1 T lemon-infused olive oil
greens to garnish (I picked spinach and chervil out of our winter greens bed–sweet and fresh!)

Mince garlic and sauté in olive oil until just beginning to brow. Stir in quinoa (and bulgur, if substituting) and saute for two to three minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. While grain is still warm, stir in broccoli, olives, and olive oil. Mound atop fresh greens. Delicious warm or chilled. (Makes 4-6 servings.)


Nectarine & Apple Crisp
1 quart frozen nectarine slices (I freeze them ripe with a dash of citric acid and sugar to preserve their color)
6 apples (I used last fall’s local Sungolds–they’re a mite withered, but they still have great flavor)
1 T apple brandy
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 T oat bran
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup roasted pecans
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter (chilled or frozen)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Core apples and chop into one-inch chunks. Spread evenly into a 6- by 10-inch glass or ceramic baking pan. Top with nectarine slices (I like to arrange them prettily as in the photo above, even though they disappear under the crisp topping), sprinkle with apple brandy and set aside. Put flour, oat bran, sugar, pecans and spices into food processor and whirl to combine. Cut butter into chunks, add to food processor and pulse until butter-flour mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal. Pour mixture over fruit, level out, and tap pan a few times to settle. Put pan in oven and bake for 55 minutes or until crisp top is browned slightly. Cool before serving with ice cream. (Makes 6-8 servings.)


Delicious food, much of it local and organic, good friends, wonderful conversation–all in all, a great evening. Best of all though, was the sweet realization that Richard and I can collaborate in the kitchen again. An absolutely ordinary miracle!