Some meals are particularly right for summer -- iced drinks, large salads, cold meats, corn on the cob and so forth.And there are meals one associates with winter -- steaming soups, large roasts, heaps of potatoes.
But what do you do while the seasons are changing? How do you plan a dinner when you're subjected to the uncertainties of autumn or the vagaries of spring, those awkward days when the weather forecasters are using words like "variable" and "mixed" and "partially?"
Well, each dish tonight has one quality in common. No, two qualities. In the first place, each dish tastes good. Secondly, each dish tastes good whether it's served ice cold or piping hot. Or, for that matter, lukewarm.
Tonight, the all-temperature dinner.
The Staples: Make sure these are all on hand: olive oil, lemons, soy sauce, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, tarragon thyme, garlic, butter, curry powder, coffee, rum, milk, sherry.
The Shopping List: 1 five-to-six-pound loin of pork (have your butcher bone it and tie it); small jar of currant jelly; rice; 1 green pepper; 1 small can of water chestnuts; 4 leeks; 5 artichokes; 1 bunch scalions; 1 medium onion; 1 cucumber; 3 pounds potatoes; 2 cups light cream; 2 small cans chicken broth; chives; parley.
Let's assume the weather forecaster is waffling today.While tonight's meal can be reheated and served hot, it is normally -- and to best advantage -- served cold. In which case the entire meal should be prepared in advance.
Beginning With the Vichyssoise: Wash he leeks carefully under cool running water. (Danger! Very carefully. For some reason, leeks attract more sand than your average beach.)
Slice the whites of the leeks -- only the whites -- and put these into a heavy pot with 1/2 stick of butter. Add the onion, peeled and chopped. Cook over a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion begins to turn translucent. Peel the potatoes, slice them and add the slices to the pot. Also add the cans of chicken broths. Bring all this to a boil; then immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer for somewhat less than on hour.
When the mixture has cooled, run it through the blender. What you have now might be called vichyssoise concentrate. Store it in the refrigerator, and just before serving, mix in 1 1/2 cups of light cream. If soup still seems too thick, it can be thinned with chicken broth, light cream or milk. Each serving -- whether it be hot or cold -- should be topped with freshly ground pepper and a scattering of chopped chives.
Next, the Artichokes: There should be directions for eating, not cooking, artichokes. Cut off stems and stand the artichokes up on their bottoms in a pot of water over medium-high heat. Cook until tender -- oh, 45 minutes or slightly more. Then turn them upside-down to drain. Serve them with a dip and with a separate plate for discarded leaves.
Remove one leaf at a time and dip the meaty end of the leaf into a sauce and scrape that portion away with your teeth. As you work your way into the plant, you will be able to eat large portions of the leaves. The inner leaves and the feathery portion above the artichoke heart should be removed and discarded. The heart is then cut into small pieces, dipped and eaten.
If the artichoke is to be served hot, I like a dip of melted butter with a squeeze of lemon. If cold, try mayonnaise with a dash of curry powder.
Moving Right Along to the Loin of Pork: The pork loin is marinated overnight in a 1/2 cup of oil, 1/2 cup of sherry, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, a pinch of thyme and 3 cloves of garlic, chopped. Turn the meat over several times in the marinade.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Allow plenty of roasting time -- about 30 minutes for each pound of pork. While the roast is cooking, baste it several times with marinade.
Heat currant jelly in small saucepan over medium-high heat until it bubbles. Add 4 tablespoons of marinade and cook for a few more minutes. Coat pork with mixture when cooking is complete.
You can then -- depending on your mood or the mood of the weather -- serve it hot (good), cold (better) or warm (best).
Now, the Rice Salad: Cook 1 cup of dry rice according to the directions on the box. Add 1 green pepper, chopped fine. And a chopped cucumber and a small can of water chestnuts, sliced. Also a bunch of scallions, chopped.
Make a salad dressing from 1/3 a cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and pepper, a large pinch of minced parsley and a small pinch of tarragon. Toss with the rice mixture.
And Finally, the Coffee with Rum: You mix each cup of coffee with a jigger of rum and 2 jiggers of cream. And serve it hot. Or cold. Or whatever.