A Dinner Party of Fresh Delights
On a recent journey to visit with family in their new home, we had to experiment in their kitchen. Because we were offered to stay the night – kids and all – my chef husband and I decided we would offer to prepare the dinner. As it was the end of May and the temperatures are starting to heat up rapidly, a light meal that is full of flavor was the ticket.
While we live in Baton Rouge and most of our family still resides or has now migrated back to New Orleans, it is always a treat to be able to spend time in our home town. As we tried to beat some of the weekend traffic, we ended up arriving into New Orleans in the early afternoon. Without trying to fill up too much, snowballs were the ticket. Try as we may, we haven’t been able to make it back to our favorite snowball stand to share this experience and flavor with our four year old daughter. May I mention that she is quite the food connoisseur, so this was sure to be an event to remember.
The snowball experience is a story for another day that is filled with sweating back, stained finger tips and one or more brain freezes. However, she ended up loving Sal’s on Metairie Road in Old Metairie. We decided after a long careful discussion that ice cream was her favorite flavor, but she wants to go back to try blueberry, watermelon, nectar, and root beer. Perhaps this might be the summer for such a check list. As a foodie parent, I can only hope to provide such a fulfilling summer wish list.
We had a dinner to prepare for, so we could dilly dally too long at Sal’s sipping the last bits of icy goodness in our cups in the shades of the oak trees. In the ice chest was a salad of marinated vegetables that was a mix of veggies from our home garden and locally grown from the local produce stands. The afternoon before I picked some bell peppers, grape tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden for the salad; next up was incorporating some sweet onions and carrots. After slicing all the ingredients thinly and placing them into a seal-able plastic container, I mixed up the vinaigrette and poured it over the veggies.
Because we were going to be serving this salad as the side to the grilled fish with herb sauce, I knew that the flavors had to be bold, yet still allow the sweet freshness of the vegetables to shine through. Using a combination of balsamic and red wine vinaigrette, I was able to create a delectable vinaigrette that would essentially marinate the vegetables while almost preserving them. By mixing them in the vinaigrette the night before I was able to extract the extra moisture in the vegetables and then reincorporate the flavors of the dressing by the time we were ready to eat.
We wanted to use a fresh gulf fish for the dinner that would be durable enough to withstand grilling. Amberjack was the best option at the local fish and seafood distributor. In cutting the filets to be a little more than 2 inches thick, we knew that when grilled, the flavor from the grill would permeate the fish while still keeping it incredibly moist.
Our hosts had a lush and fresh herb garden, once we arrived, we harvested a mixture of several different varieties: thyme, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro, dill, and basil. Combining those fresh herbs with sweet onion, shallot, orange zest and juice, and lemon zest and juice, we added them all to the mixer and pureed away. By drizzling olive oil into the mixer, a velvety smoothness was achieved. The bright green sauce was now a unique mix of pesto and chimichurri sauce.
Once the food was served, we all sat down to eat. It was amazing. The hosts each had a second full serving, our daughter ate most of her portion. All of which demonstrates how successful the dish was. I determined this was entire meal was going to have to be included in our repertoire going forward.
It was a bounty of freshness not lacking in any flavors, textures, aromas or satisfaction. Perhaps next time we will be sure to make more than enough, so that lunch the next day could certainly provide for a happy mid-day, after lunch nap.
Looks lovely Kat!
The fresh fish looks amazing!!! Who would have thought pesto and chimichurri go together so well! Sounds delicious Kat!