Goodbye Alfresco Dining

And, just like that, the particularly glorious summer we have had here in New York this year is over. Despite the often sweltering heat that envelops the city at that time, it remains my favorite season as most weekends during it involve some kind of alfresco dining – on terraces, side walks or the parks.

One of my best friends moved out to Jersey City earlier this summer and now that she has the rare privilege of having a backyard of her own, she threw a July 4th BBQ at her place. I volunteered to bring a couple of dishes to help out and also, of course, because that meant I could experiment with something better suited for outdoor eating than say, what I would normally cook at my Sunday gatherings.

And I had a recipe right in mind from the start. Yotam Ottolenghi’s cauliflower cake. Even since my dear friend Sam from London bought me Ottolenghi’s famous Jerusalem cookbook (as a thank you for me cooking him dinner on one of his visits to NYC), I have been lusting after the recipes and this one in particular. I love cauliflower but had never thought of having it in a savory cake before and it didn’t disappoint. It was easy to eat as a side dish with the usual sausages and burgers, but also stood on its own with a green salad. The recipe calls for boiling the cauliflower first – I actually felt that the texture was a little too soft and the  taste a little mild for my liking once it was baked with the rest of the ingredients. So next time, I will try to roast the cauliflower instead and I hope it will keep a slightly crunchier consistency and a stronger flavor.

Cauliflower cake

I also had the opportunity to make some snacks for my friend Jaime’s birthday which he celebrated in Central Park with a bunch of friends. I wanted to make food that could be easily transported, bite sized and summery. I decided to make lamb meatballs that could be stuffed in mini pitta pockets and served with a dollop of Tzaziki.

I followed the sous-vide instructions detailed in the “Sous-vide at home” cookbook by Lisa Q. Fetterman in her recipe for Moroccan lamb meatballs in which she advises dunking the meatballs in water heated to 140F for an hour (and up to five). For the actual recipe I got inspired by both this one and this one and borrowed from each to come up with a recipe where I combined: 2 pounds of ground lamb with 2 tablespoons of oregano, 1 tablespoon chives, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 large egg, 2 teaspoons of salt (which was a tad too much – I will reduce a little next time), 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, a couple of generous sprinklings of red chili flakes and the zest of a lemon.

The other little snacks I made were asparagus and Halloumi skewers. I love, love, love Halloumi and used to eat it almost weekly when I lived with ex-boyfriend in London and we used to make this wonderful grilled Halloumi with a tangy caper dressing recipe from the legendary British cook Delia Smith. It’s kind of hard to find in NYC so I have seldom had it since moving here and these just hit the spot – deeply savory yet fresh from the combination of the cheese, the crunchy asparagus and the mint leaves interspersed between the two.

Jaime's picnic

The summer has also meant that I have not hosted at mine at all – since there are so many distractions and opportunities to be outside instead. The dawn of fall and impending winter will remedy that of course and I am already gearing up for hosting and cooking two separate Thanksgiving feasts for friends. Looking forward to that already 🙂




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s