This past weekend was my son’s 12th birthday, and as usual, I had not planned anything big. BUT, as usual, it turned out to be quite the event! I love birthdays and want it to be a special day. However, I dislike the over-the-top approach of themes, performing clowns, pony rides and party favors. And, If I can avoid going to such parties, I certainly do! I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that is what the rest of the world does, because that would be such a gross misrepresentation of reality.
In fact, my daughter just fell in love with a book I have to mention, which we found at our friend’s lovely shop this weekend. It is called “Where Children Sleep” by James Mollison. It is a glimpse into a snippet of various lives lived by children all around the world. There is a portrait photograph of the child and a pictutre of their room (or where they sleep), with a short biography of their life. It was a real eye-opener to her, and she is fascinated to find out more. Check it out if you get the chance.
As I was saying, there was nothing planned, until, we got an email from Evan, an old college friend of my husband’s, inviting us to join his family at their little beach house for the weekend. As it is with old friends, it didn’t seem to matter that I had never met his wife and 2 kids (although we did get a picture of them each year from Evan’s Mother every December for the holidays!). We thought it would be great to meet them, and for the kids to hang out, and get to know each other.
When we met, Evan and I (the cooks in the family) immediately started talking food, and before we got to his house we make a quick stop at the fish market. It was a divine place full of the freshest fish I had seen in a long time. We both picked out fish like we had done it a hundred times before! I knew it had to be the start of a great Birthday weekend.
I was not wrong. The kids got on famously and I was so happy to meet a girl who was as excited about life as I am! We cooked, we beached, we drank, we talked and are certainly planning on doing something together again in the near future!
Recipe for: Baby Potatoes and Aromatic Veggies & Herbs
You will need: 1 lb bacon, 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 3lbs teeny tiny potatoes, washed & left whole, (I used red, yellow and purple potatoes that I found at a great local veggie stand), 8 scallions, chopped, including green parts, 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 2 big sprigs of basil, leaves left on stem, 2 thick slices ginger root, 1 big bunch kale, thick center vein removed & leaves finely chopped & rinsed,(do not dry kale as you need the residual water to help cook it), 2 long skinny red peppers, sliced, Or, 1 red pepper, diced, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
1 – Put potatoes in a big pot and cover with cold water. Put water on to boil. When it is boiling, cover pot with lid and cook potatoes on a steady boil until just cooked through. Drain into colander and set aside.
2 – Put big pan on low/medium heat and add bacon to cold pan. Fry until crispy. When bacon is cool enough to handle, chop into 1″ slices (or thereabouts). Set aside.
3 – Prep rest of veggies while bacon is frying. When bacon is out of pan, pour off all but 2 tbs of bacon fat and add the oil to the pan. Turn heat to medium and add the scallions, peppers and ginger and cook for 5 minutes or so.
4 – Add the herbs and garlic and continue to cook for another 4 minutes. Add the kale and stir into rest of veggies. Cover with lid for about 10 minutes, checking every so often to stir. If it seems dry, add a little stock or water and continue to cook.
5 – Add the potatoes and bacon and stir into the dish. Taste for addition of salt and pepper and add as you see fit. Remove the basil, rosemary and ginger, and discard. Add a drizzle of oil, and keep warm until ready to serve.
You could serve this potato dish with all manner of things….meat fish, or alone.
The Rest Of Dinner
I marinated the mako in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and minced ginger root. Evan choose to cook it in foil. We both had never cooked this particular fish before and so were cautious. He told me, the next time he would cook it directly on the grate.
Evan also grilled fresh local corn in their husks, which turned out heavenly. It was like having dessert on one’s dinner plate!
The squids were the scariest, and the most fun to prepare. We knew there was a particular way to clean these creatures so we watched a chef (who Gab didn’t mind looking at!) go through the process on YouTube.
It turned out to be quite simple but required the kind of finesse and strength that Gab seemed to possess. We were all amazed at the “quill-like” backbone, and couldn’t bring ourselves to throwing them away. They will make great smelly hair ornaments!
My daughter was put in charge of peeling the skin once they were de-quilled and gutted, but, when she arrived to the kitchen Gab had done the job saying she got carried away by the process. She is now the official Squid-cleaner!
Evan grilled them and they were sweet and chewy in the best possible way.
The plates were piled with a little of everything, and it all felt very festive and beach-y.
I am in no doubt that my son had one of those birthdays that you never forget, a birthday that he will ache for in years to come…