Friday, October 08, 2010

A super-easy early fall supper in Los Angeles

Red lentil soup with lemon, harissa & cilantro
(adapted from Orangette)

Skewers of herb-marinated chicken (with a hint of harissa)
Roast tomatoes & grilled corn
yellow & green zucchini with queso fresca, parsley and lemon
Green couscous

Salty-caramelized tarte tatin

One of my favorite things in life is supper with friends.

Los Angeles has had schizophrenic weather: the highest temperatures ever recorded last Monday, followed by thunder, lightning, rainbows and a deluge on Wednesday, turning Laurel Canyon into Joni Mitchell's proverbial river.  It's October, but we're expecting temperatures in the mid-80s this weekend.  This morning, at the barn, only 15 miles from here, it was 49 degrees. Only a true Brit would give the weather so much space, right? Well in terms of cooking, this presents problems too. Already the stores are highlighting butternut squash and pumpkins, but you can still find good heirloom tomatoes and corn.  I don't need any excuse to make a lovely, unctious stew or a Moroccan tagine, but isn't that a little heavy when it might be warm enough to sit outside?

my favorite loud Fall tablecloth from Ikea (by way of Virgin Suicides)

Therefore and forthwith and without any more ado, today's menu embraces all the best bits of late summer and early fall, and most of it is make-ahead, which makes it particularly useful for a Friday night.

did I mention our house is full of birds?

The lentil soup is adapted from Orangette, who adapted it from In The Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark. I didn't have tomato paste but I had a tube of harissa, so I substituted one tablespoon of harrisa for the two tablespoons of tomato paste and left out the cayenne.  Also, as my lemons were small, I added a little extra lemon juice and and extra handful of cilantro (which I whizzed in using one of the marvelous hand jobbies.)

The chicken is sitting in a baggie in the fridge. I used those organic breasts from Trader Joe's, chopped them into four and threw them in a marinade of mint, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper (and I threw in a dollop of harissa for good measure).  They can be threaded onto wooden sticks and grilled at the last minute, very happily, by the Maharishi, who likes to stand outside by his grill which sits next to the fig tree, and muse on his day.  Sometimes he'll throw a fig on the grill too.

My pragmatic clever friend Mrs L inspired the zucchini salad. Yellow and green ones are mandolined and tossed with lemon zest, lemon juice, chopped parsley, olive oil, salt, pepper and ricotta salata.  I used queso fresca, the delicious Mexican cheese, and didn't use lemon zest as I'd forgotten about it, juiced the lemons and threw them away. If I wasn't feeling lazy, I'd run out and grab a Meyer lemon off the tree and zest it (another amazingly fortunate result of living in a Mediterranean climate).

one of my kitchen assistants

The tiny multi-colored heirloom tomatoes are baked in the oven with a little olive oil and salt until they begin to color. Meanwhile, I threw four ears of corn, sprayed with olive oil, onto the grill and let it brown a little.  Cut the corn off the cob and throw it on top of the tomatoes in a bowl.  Interestingly, slightly burnt corn tastes astonishingly like chestnuts which have been roasted in the fire. That was my Proust moment, as I tasted the blade of the knife and became quite homesick for chestnutting in the Ashridge woods.
roast tomatoes & grilled corn (with pea greens)

Couscous is easy.  Heat water or chicken stock, throw in couscous and a knob of butter and a handful of chopped herbs (or raisins or pistachios or pine nuts or what have you). Fluff with fork.

Pudding is a lazy girl's) tarte tatin.  Quarter, core and peel a few Granny Smith.  Slice each quarter into three, toss in a little lemon and water to keep from browing. Meanwhile melt some butter and sugar (and a sprinkling of salt) in a pan and when it begins to get golden, throw in the apples.   Top with a pre-cut pastry round, and whoosh it into a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Served with whipped cream or a la mode.  If you're very clever, try to get your teenage daughter who was a pastry chef intern to take care of the dessert. That way, you have more time to glam up. And what girl doesn't want to slap on a bit of lipstick on a Friday night?

It's nearly seven and I must get ready, but as I went outside to take a picture of the knobbly old pumpkin that sits outside my front door, I heard an owl hooting, which feels like a real sign that autumn's here.

knobbly old pumpkin & Fred's lucky horseshoe


AftonHH said...

Lord, of love that table cloth! Love the pics in general as well :)

LPC said...

Babette brings her feast to Los Angeles. Whole Foods makes a salad of burnt corn and arugula that I eat up like crazy when it's here. Dinner outside, cheating fall, oh something is evoked.