That’s what I said when Curt asked what I wanted for dinner tonight.
“How about a salad?” I said.
“Oh, I have something planned already. And it’s simple.” He said.
Here’s what he calls simple.
Roasted Tomatoes au Gratin
But these are simple! Preheat an oven to 400˚ F. Cut a good sized ripe whole tomato in half (around the equator). In a bowl, mix 2 Tbs breadcrumbs (I use panko style), 1 small clove garlic, finely minced, 1 Tbs minced fresh basil, 1 Tbs minced parsley, 1 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and a light grind of black pepper. Moisten the mixture with about 1 Tbs or so of good olive oil so the mixture holds its shape. Put the tomato halves on a lightly oiled oven-proof dish and pack half the mixture on each half of the tomato. Nestle a grape-sized chunk of some nice melting cheese into the breadcrumb mixture (I used Taleggio but most any soft or semi-soft cheese would work – try brie, camembert, colby, fontina, Gouda, Gruyère, Monterey Jack, or Muenster). Bake for 15 minutes or until the tomato is soft and the the breadcrumb mixture is lightly browned.
Chicken Thighs w/ Herb Honey Sauce
Again, this couldn’t be simpler. This is based on a duck preparation I had at the Auberge de la Reine Blanche (The Inn of the White Queen). I boned one skin-on thigh per diner but you cold use boneless, skinless thighs or bone-in thighs just as well – the bone-in thighs will take longer to cook. Season the meat with salt, pepper and a light sprinkle of thyme, basil, oregano or some commercial herb mix (I used Penzeys’ Fox Point Seasoning mix which contains salt, shallots, chives, garlic onion and green peppercorns). If using a commercial mix take care to account for any salt already in the mix when adding any extra salt to the meat). Let rest for 1/2 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. or simply leave the oven on if you just finished making the Roasted Tomatoes au Gratin.
Heat a medium/large oven-proof skillet that’s large enough to hold the thighs in one, uncrowded layer. Lightly oil the skillet and put the thighs in the pan, skin side down. Saute the thighs until the skin is nicely browned and starting to crisp (about 8 minutes). Turn the thighs and put the the pan into the hot oven. Roast for 10 minutes or until the chicken is just done. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven – TAKE CARE – the handle will be blisteringly hot. Put the chicken on a platter to rest, covered with a sheet of aluminum foil. Add a knob (about 1 Tbs) of butter to the hot skillet to melt. Add 1/2 Tbs honey and 1/2 Tbs malt or cider vinegar to the pan. Whisk the butter/honey/vinegar sauce to blend, add leaves of two springs of tarragon and one sprig of rosemary (you can substitute dried herbs or other herbs or seasonings like oregano, a little minced chili pepper, lemon zest or minced tart apple. Heat for a minute or two to reduce slightly. Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs and serve.
Celery and Mushroom Salad
Thickly slice 4 large button mushrooms into 1/4″ slices. Chop about half as much tender celery (the blanched inner ribs and leaves are best to use) and one small zucchini into similar sized pieces. Thinly slice 2 cherry tomatoes and a small onion. In a medium bowl, toss the vegetables and dress with 2 Tbs Extra-virgin Olive Oil, 2 tsp white wine vinegar, a pinch of coarse sea salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Toss and serve.
Simple could be tacos or a grilled cheese sandwich and salad. They are, but not any simpler than what I made. Our dinner didn’t involve any special cooking techniques or exotic ingredients (or at least there are easy substitutions available if you don’t have everything that I used).
Simple doesn’t mean using fewer or plain ingredients. It means using standard techniques to cook ingredients to their best advantage and using what you have at hand in interesting combinations.
Well there you have it. Curt’s simple dinner. My idea of simple is a salad, grilled cheese sandwiches or tacos. Was it good? Yes very good and frankly pretty simple for me, I just had to set the table.