Thursday, July 9, 2009

Playdate Special: Our European Summer Picnic

The house was still smelling of fresh paint. The 4th of July was spent on designing a cozier environment -- adding spice and earthy tones to some walls, painting the boys bedroom and adventuring on the removal of a nasty carpet.

In the meantime I was dreaming about Creole food and Moroccan dishes. I even thought about buying a tagine to prepare a meal for our lunch. After realizing that it would be one more object in my collection of not so frequently used pots and pans, I decided to quit of the exotic idea and migrated to a apparently easier project: Creole food, one possible interpretation of a not so hot jambalaya. Didn't work either, as the smell of paint was still confusing my ideas -- and would probably do the same to my guests.

So, let's go for a picnic, eating al fresco. And some of the ingredients I had for my trip to Southern food and North African dish just became a Italian conversion of everything: a frittata with couscous and andouille sausage. Everything was looking fresh and I even wrote the menu on the night before! The kids could indulge on a round and cut sandwich of turkey, spinach and Monterey Jack cheese, fruit salad and gorgonzola crackers from Trader Joe's. Darienne brought the cantaloupe, which became a hit, specially for Diogo, who tasted all of the slices! And for the moms, just one glass of bubbly was missing to transform the lawn into a typical European picnic. But for that, I must confess, we would have to leave the kids somewhere else...

Over excited about the picnic they just decided that the blankets on the grass were an extension of the playground. They insisted on using it for everything else but to serve food! But they finally relaxed with the summer breeze and apparently had lots of fun, frolicking around the sandwiches and fruit salad and playing with cantaloupe slices... Probably better off there cavorting in the grass than under the effects of the fresh paint smell

Moroccan Creole Frittata

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 broccoli florets, coarsely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut thinly
1/2 orange bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut thinly
1 small purple onion, chopped
1 andouille sausage, finely chopped
5 eggs
2 cups cooked couscous
1 handful fresh baby spinach
Kosher salt to taste

Pour olive oil in a medium-size skillet and set over medium heat. Chop all vegetables finely, but the fresh spinach, and stir-fry them over a medium flame. When almost blackened add the sausage and fry it a while to get it crunchy.

In the meantime heat the oven to 350 F. Beat the eggs as if preparing them for an omelette. Pour the veggies into an 8-by-12-inch ovenproof pan and sprinkle the couscous evenly on top. Add the eggs and finally the fresh spinach leaves, and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for around 15 minutes. When the frittata looks like a soufflé, just change the oven to broiling mode and broil for about 5 minutes or when you see the frittata getting golden. To keep it hot while going to the picnic, I wrapped the pan in aluminum foil and let inside a brown grocery bag inside the car.

Full Moon Sandwich

3 olive oil tortillas from Trader Joe's
3 slices of smoked turkey breast, shredded
Enough slices of Monterey Jack cheese to cover the surface of tortilla
1 teaspoon of mustard
1 handful of baby spinach leaves

Heat a skillet and tower the ingredients in layers alternating the ingredients. When the cheese melts turn to the other side to cement all the ingredients. Just wrap the full moon in alumminium foil and cut when ready to serve in slices.

Red Salsa with Mustard Vinaigrette

2 ripe tomatoes, cut in small cubes with seeds
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon powdered California garlic
2 tablespoons regular yellow mustard
1/2 cup apple or orange juice
1 pinch black pepper
5 fresh basil leaves, cut in thin stripes

Mix all and let the salsa sit on the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving. It's a good company for the frittata and also delicious when served with Trader Joe's Roasted Gorgonzola crackers.

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