The menu Orange, black olive and pink peppercorn salad Pasta with seafood Peaches with rum, brown sugar and cream
THIS MILDLY Mediterranean meal is very satisfactory on a hot night. The first course, a somewhat startling combination of orange slices, purple onion, black olives and pink peppercorns, is cheerful to look at and to eat. The seafood in a barely cooked, garlicky, fresh-herbed tomato sauce lightens the pasta, and the pasta itself adds a casualness that works so well in summer. Dessert is a heavenly agglomeration of peaches, brown sugar, dark run, a pseudo creme fraiche and pistachios.
The capacity of oranges to live happily with such unlikely foods as ducks, pates, tomatoes and onions is a constant and pleasant surprise. The first course is an example of this versatility of the orange, whose tart sweetness is a lovely foil for the other ingredients. I peel the oranges first with a potato peeler, which leaves the white rind behind, and then dry the strips of peel for an hour or so on a cookie sheet in a turned-off oven with a pilot light. They are then put into jars, and very handy they are for the next bouillabaisse or provencal stew. The white rind of the orange should be attacked with a sharp, non-rustable pearing knife.
Canned olives are acceptable for this dish, but blah compared to good Greek calamatas . I have a fabulous heavy-duty olive pitter (which also does cherries) that stones olives neatly and in seconds.
The pink peppercorns, whose peppery sweetness is a perfect foil for the oranges and onions, I liberated from the back of a shelf where they have languished, a relic of the nouvelle cusine that had them strewn on everything from poached eggs to ice cream. A good fruity olive oil is wanted to bring these ingredients together.
The main course needs very little preparation and almost no cooking time. The sauce base is made in the morning and finished off just before you sit down. Also shell the shrimps early in the day, as well as scrub the clams, halve the scallops (if I couldn't find bay scallops) and slice the fish. The clams are opened in another pot, since they always throw off sand. The juices can then be filtered through cheesecloth and added to the sauce.
Dessert depends on the ability to amass a sufficient number of peaches that have no green and therefore have possibility of ripening, a feat that is harder this year than ever before. The only thing to do is to stand at the bin and go through every peach, if necessary, to find ungreen albeit hard fruit. And it the produce manager doesn't like it, tell him why you are forced to pick over his wares. I buy several more peaches than I need since some inevitably go rotten in the ripening process, which takes several days in a closed brown paper bag. You must remember to check the peaches every day because one can go bad very quickly and infect the others. As the peaches ripen, refrigerate them until you have enough for your dish.
If all this is too discouraging or the results fruitless (sorry), you can happily substitute three pints of strawberries, which have this summer been full of perfume. They are delicious prepared this way.
We are told that buttermilk or sour cream added to heavy cream produces real creme fraiche . It doesn't. Buttermilk and sour cream are made with two cultures, only one of which is appropriate for creme fraiche. The second culture fights the desirable one and keeps the cream from acquiring the nutty, creamy, dairy taste of the real thing. Having said this, the combination that the lightly whipped cream and sour cream produces is sensational Unlike other mock creme fraiche recipes, where the buttermilk and the cream must stand in a warm place to thicken for 24 hours, this can be refrigerated immediately. Nevertheless, it only merits being called mock creme fraiche . It is worth finding heavy cream that is not the ultrapasteurized abomination in supermarkets. Some of the co-ops carry it and so does High's. I use Myer's rum, which has a deep flavor, and unsalted pistachios. ORANGE, BLACK OLIVE AND PINK PEPPERCORN SALAD (8 servings) 5 medium-to-large navel oranges 1 large red onion, minced 32 calamata olives or pitted canned olives About 3 tablespoons olive oil Salt to taste 2 teaspoons freeze-dried pink peppercorns
Use a sharp paring knife that doesn't turn black when exposed to acid, and peel the oranges right down to the flesh. Remove every trace of the rind. Slice the oranges thinly and pick out the white rings in the centers. Divide the slices evenly on 8 salad plates, making a bed of them. Sprinkle the minced onion evenly over the orange slices. If you are using calamata olives, pit them with a cherry or olive pitter and arrange four on each plate. Drizzle each portion with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Then sprinkle on each a litle salt and about a quarter of a teaspoon of the pink peppercorns.
This can be prepared about an hour in advance and left out in a not-too-hot kitchen. PASTA WITH SEAFOOD (8 servings) 1 1/2 cups olive oil 1 1/2 cups chopped parsley 6 cloves garlic, finely minced 3/4 cup chopped green pepper 1/4 cup chopped serrano, poblano or any mildly hot peppers 2 35-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dried 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint (optional) Salt and pepper to taste 3 dozen cherrystone clams 24 medium raw shrimps, peeled and deveined 1 1/2 pounds fresh haddock, cut into 2-inch strips 1 pound whole bay scallops or sea scallops cut in half 1 cup dry white wine 2 pounds homemade linguine (see recipe) or fettucine or 2 pounds packaged linguine (de Cecco, Conte de Luma or some other good brand) 6 tablespoons butter 1 cup cognac
Early in the day, heat the oil in a large saute pan or in a wide-bottomed 6-quart pot.Add the parsley, garlic and both peppers. Chop the tomatoes and add them with their liquid. Add the basil, optional mint and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes and set aside.
Clean the clams by scrubbing them with a brush or plastic pot cleaner under running water and refrigerate.
Half an hour before you sit down, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Twenty minutes before you sit down, heat the sauce to a simmer and add the shrimps, haddock and scallops. Cook for 15 minutes and set aside. Meanwhile, in another pot, add the clams to the cup of white wine and put over a high flame. Cover tightly. Toss the clams so that they cook evenly, holding the handles and the cover at the same time. The clams should open in 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the opened clams and add to the sauce. Then strain the clam liquid through a double layer of cheesecloth and add to the sauce. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes and set aside.
Cook the pasta. This will take about 2 to 3 minutes if it is homemade -- keep testing. Packaged pasta should be cooked for the minimum recommended time. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce. Then add the butter and cognac.
Put the pot over low heat, cover but leave the lid slightly ajar and begin with the first course. HOMEMADE LINGUINE (Makes 2 pounds, or enough for 8) 3 cups unbleached flour 4 eggs
Process the flour in a food processor for 30 seconds. With the motor running, add the eggs, one at a time, and process until the dough froms a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, knead two or three times, dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Sometime in the afternoon, make the pasta. Break off a piece of dough the size of a small lemon and put through the widest opening of the pasta machine. Do this about 10 times, folding the dough in half each time you put it through, to knead the dough. Continue until all the dough is kneaded. Tighten the rollers by one notch and feed a strip of dough through the machine. Do not fold the dough. Continue, reducing the notch until reaching opening number 3, or whatever setting on your machine that still leaves a thickish strip of dough. Lay out to dry in single layers on dish towels or hang on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Then run the strips through the fine noodle cutter. Cover the pasta with a dish towel to keep it from drying out too much until you are ready to cook it.
(For fettucine, roll the dough thinner, dry for 15 minutes and cut on the wide cutter.) PEACHES WITH RUM, BROWN SUGAR AND CREAM (8 servings) 16 ripe peaches, about 3 pounds, or enough to make 6 cups, sliced 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar 4 tablespoons dark Jamaican rum 1 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 cup chopped shelled and skinned unsalted pistachio nuts
Scald the peaches for 30 seconds in boiling water, turn them into a colander and slip off the skins. Slice the peaches, put them into a bowl and sprinkle the sugar and rum over them. Mix lightly, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or more.
Whip the cream, but not too stiffly. Add the sour cream and blend well. Refrigerate. Before serving, turn the peaches into a pretty bowl, glass if you have one. Pour the mock creme fraiche over the peaches and sprinkle on the chopped nuts.