Monday, June 19, 2006

Dreams become Reality

We actually made almost all of the proposed Father’s Day menu.

And it turned out pretty good. Better than the pictures would have you believe, anyways. It wasn't so much an orchestraed concept as a series of individual stars, each one delicious in it's own right.

The Lemon Verbena Curd Pie with the Blackberries on top was outstanding, despite the fact that I’m not much of a pie crust baker. I do a better galette crust, and maybe I should have made a pâté brisee style dough. But what I made was good enough. And anything covered with that creamy delicious lemon verbena curd, with those HUGE blackberries would taste good.

I also made a lemon verbena syrup, and dipped the blackberries in it before putting them on top of the pie. That worked out very well. Even though the berries were big, not every one was a sweet as you would expect.

The ribs. Whew! Beef short ribs (not pork, but still good). Marinated for several hours in a soy – ginger – garlic – rum – brown sugar mixture. Sounds odd, but tastes outstanding. Then braised for 5 hours at a very low temperature in the marinade. Just 225ºF. Covered with foil. The ribs were fall-apart tender by then. A quick brush with more marinade, and a quick turn on the grill (yes, we cleaned off and fired up the monster!). Succulent. Tender beyond belief. Fantastic deep flavor. Not the ketchupy type of BBQ most would expect, but outstanding flavor and texture. Really the highlight of the day.

With this, I grilled up some sweet potatoes. Something we’ve been doing in recent years. The potatoes are boiled until not quite tender, then cut into lengthwise slices, like giant French fries, and grilled. A nice lime-cilantro sauce goes on top after grilling. Delicious.

A tomato salad with tarragon vinaigrette (of course! What did you expect!) on the side. Got to be my favorite way to eat tomatoes.

And a light pea sprout salad to round things out.

The only thing we didn’t make, and I was a little disappointed, was the corn salad. We had gone to several different stores looking for fresh corn on Saturday – and nothing edible was to be found. It was all either completely picked over, or looked just plain bad. I was hoping for a fresh grilled corn and red pepper salad, with a basil dressing. But that will have to wait for another day.

And because we didn’t make the corn salad, we didn’t use the purple basil we had bought at the farmer’s market Saturday. Well, we will have to find something to do with that in the next few days.

Anyhoo – everyone seemed pretty satisfied with the meal. For the most part, everything turned out very well. And we are all the fatter for the experience!

BBQ Beef Short Ribs
Recipe source unknown
Recipe adapted by surfindaave

6 lbs beef short ribs, excess fat trimmed away
1 cup water
¾ cup light soy sauce
2/3 cup sherry (we used ½ cup rum with ¼ cup triple sec – worked just as well)
½ cup packed brown sugar
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp Chinese five spice powder

In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients except ribs. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat a let cool.

Arrange ribs in a single layer on a roasting pan. Pour marinade over ribs. Let marinate for 1-2 hours.

Heat oven to 225-250ºF. Cover ribs tightly with foil, and roast for 4-6 hours, turning once or twice. Remove ribs from oven.

Grill ribs over a hot charcoal fire until well browned on all sides. Serve. Enjoy!

Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Recipe from

4 pounds sweet potatoes (long, thinner ones work better)
¼ cup lime juice
1-2 tsp salt
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until just getting tender, but not quite done. Remove to pot of cold water to stop cooking. If they get too done and soft, they will be hard to cut and grill. When cooled, cut into quarters lengthwise.

Prepare grill for cooking.

Whisk together the lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Add the olive oil in a stream, whisking.

Brush potatoes lightly with olive oil. Place potatoes on grill and cook without moving for 1-2 minutes per side, until grill marks appear. Turn, and repeat on other sides. Remove to a serving plate and drizzle with the cilantro-lime sauce. Serve. Enjoy!

Lemon Verbena Curd Tart with Blackberries
Based on recipes from and Web sites
Adapted by surfindaave

Lemon Verbena Syrup:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon verbena leaves

Mix 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons lemon verbena in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and cool completely. Strain syrup into bowl.

Lemon Verbena Crème:
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon verbena leaves

Mix 2 tablespoons cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons lemon verbena in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and let cool 30 minutes. Strain into small bowl; chill.

Lemon Verbena Curd:
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into slices, at room temperature
Lemon Verbena Crème

In a stainless steel bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice and sugar. Set over a double boiler with simmering water, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes pale in color and thickens significantly (like hollandaise sauce or sour cream), about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and immediately strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Whisk in butter slices until butter has melted. Whisk in lemon verbena crème. Cover, and let come to room temperature before chilling in fridge. Let cool completely before filling in pie crust.

Sweet Pastry Crust:
1 ½ cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup butter, at room temperature, cut into slices
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Sift together flour and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in egg, beating just until incorporated.

Add flour to butter mixture all at once, and mix lightly just until it forms a ball. Don’t over mix. Wrap ball in plastic wrap and let sit in fridge for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll out dough until about 1/8 inch thick, and 11 to 12 inches in diameter. It should be about an inch large than you pie baking dish all the way around when it is inverted on top of the dough circle. Gently roll the dough onto your rolling pin, and unroll it onto pie pan (of course so that it is exactly centered and fits perfectly! We had to roll and unroll twice to get it close!) Press lightly into sides. Trim off extra overhanging pan. Cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400ºF. Prick bottom of pie shell with fork. Line pie shell with parchment paper, and weigh down with pie weights, or rice or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let pie shell cool in a wire rack until completely cooled.

2-3 pints large blackberries

Spread chilled lemon verbena curd into pie shell. Warm lemon verbena syrup in microwave slightly. Dip blackberries into syrup, letting extra drip off, and arrange on top of curd. Place pie back in fridge until well chilled. Serve. Enjoy!

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