Well, even though I’ve definitely been enjoying my time up at the Red House by not having to cook 3 squares a day to feed the family, by the end of the week I realize (sigh) that while I wasn’t missing the shopping, prepping and cooking aspect of it per se, I was in fact missing the ritual of dinner. The cocktail, the entree, the side dishes, the wine, the dessert.
So, when Lynn comes up for the weekend and brings Nick with him, I surprise myself by not screaming “but I’m on vacation, I don’t want to cook,” and instead think, “Wow, what can I make?”
It’s sad but true. Here I was a mere two weeks into my granola for breakfast, fruit for lunch, and salad for dinner routine and now I was happy I could do a modest family meal? You betcha.
But this story needs to start the night before. You see the previous night I started thinking about dessert (perhaps because of my modest calorie intake this week?), which is always a challenge with these two because Lynn doesn’t like dessert and Nick’s stomach usually can’t tolerate anything remotely dairy-like (i.e., good stuff like ice cream and whipped cream.)
Still. I had a container of vanilla ice cream on hand and a box of chocolate chip cookies I had picked up and thought, wow, I could so do mini ice cream sandwiches! Except it was 76 degrees in the room and when I took the ice cream out of the freezer and held the container, it had kind of a squishy feel to it. This meant I had to work quickly.
I laid out the cookies on a piece of wax paper and put a tiny scoop of ice cream on what would be the bottom half. Don’t they look adorable?
I then put another cookie on top, lightly pressed them together, and tried to quickly wrap each one in wax paper and get it into the freezer. In theory, this might have worked fine had the ice cream not melted nearly instantaneously between each cookie! I mean was the room so hot that my cookies already had a “fresh out of the oven” temperature without that actually being the case?
“Dessert” done, the next morning I woke up and realized I needed a plan. I’m one of those strange people that usually has to visit a supermarket (any old one will usually do) in order to get an idea for dinner. That theory doesn’t work up at the Red House. I decided I’d simply have to make do with what I had in my fridge and freezer. Ok, so I did cheat a little because I was fairly well stocked and managed to pull out a big bag of red potatoes, a couple of red onions, some tiny grape tomatoes and a very lovely and surprisingly inexpensive pork loin I had picked up the last time I was in town.
And then I headed out to the garden. No, I wasn’t skipping as I made my way there, but you know, it’s quite uplifting when I think that if I want a salad for dinner, I can wander into my garden and simply get some! So, after ripping off some of the green leaves, I looked around to see what else was ripe, namely basil and yellow squash and picked that, too. I snipped some fresh tarragon and chives and brought everything inside.
Since I knew how long it would take to get water boiling on the side burner of the grill, I peeled the red potatoes and put them in a pan of water to let them do their thing. I then decided to make a side dish of the squash, red onion, tomatoes and basil, so I cut everything up into funny little pieces and tossed it with some olive oil and decent red wine vinegar.
I washed the lettuce and plated it and looked at the pork roast. Since I still had a couple of work-related projects I wanted to finish before the “boys” got there, I simply couldn’t fathom babysitting a pork loin on the grill for the few hours I had left to get everything done. So, I cheated again. I put the pork loin on a metal pan and popped it in the toaster oven. Surrounded as it was by small tomatoes and dusted with paprika, tarragon and salt and pepper, it turned out exactly the same way I make it at home.
But that wasn’t the final version of the dish. I actually had the chutzpah (yes!) to brush on some BBQ sauce and wrap the whole thing up in tinfoil and put it on the grill. It gave the pork roast the appropriate smokey flavor I needed without me worrying about cooking it outside. Plus, I knew they liked BBQ so I thought I’d let them think this was the real deal.
By now the potatoes had cooked, I drained them, and mixed everything together with some mayonnaise and both fresh and dried tarragon. (Why not, I had both, why not use both!)
And last but not least, because they’re both men, and I knew would enjoy some bread to go with this “BBQ,” I wrapped up a hero roll (also known as a grinder in these parts of the woods) in some tinfoil, and made “garlic” bread. Why the quotations around the word garlic? Because in our house even though we call any kind of bread that we slice and slather with a combination of butter and/or olive oil and a good shake of dried “Italian” herbs on top as garlic bread, we actually rarely put garlic in the loaf.
They eat almost everything and most importantly, I welcome their company. The cookies? Well, let’s just say it was a good idea at the time.