There's an effortlessness about sunflowers in a masculine space. Mind you, there's a casual ease in a week-old pizza box on the counter, too, but in a wholly different way.
On Saturday, LSis and I met at the farmers' market (and here and here) to buy fresh veg for the lunchstravaganza we'd planned in order to fête our two dads (TFin and MJ).
When we arrived we discovered that a) it was broiling hot and b) our lunch didn't require as many vegetables as we'd originally thought, but LSis picked up some fuzzy, round, huggable peaches for her homestead, and we grabbed some bunches of basil, green peppers, cucumbers, and the prettiest heads of cabbage you ever did see.
The biggest difference between market cabbage and store cabbage, I found, is density. I often hear cheflebrities say that the best way to gauge fruits and vegetables is draw the nebulous distinction between those that are "heavy for their size" and those that are not.
But nebulous no more. This little cranium had the heft of a bowling ball.
And just look at those layers. It's like gray matter! Only crunchier.
They lent their stunning crispness to blue cheese cole slaw, an Ina Garten invention with carrots, mustard-cider vinegar-mayo dressing, lots of parsley, and a mountain of Point Reyes blue.
If you're even moderately apathetic about blue cheese, step away from this recipe—it's potent. But my people love a strong flavor, and if you heart a big blue like we do, you must make this. A comment on the Food Network Web site says it: "This is coleslaw for people who don't like coleslaw." (Which is helpful when LSis sends you a text message that reads, "Gross. Jb said dad wants cole slaw too. Ew.")
LSis set to work on the cornbread panzanella, which wasn't really fair because it had the greatest potential to be meh and ... was. The flavor was good—bright and complex—but the texture was off.
I have since discovered that the problem was decidedly not the fault of my hardworking sous chef. Check out that recipe LSis—there was a cardinal sin of omission on my part: WE FORGOT THE CHEESE. This was doomed before it left the gate.
The third dish was a slam dunk, TFin-wise: succotash on cheddar grits.
The recipe calls for the grits to be prepared, chilled, breaded, and deep fried, but I read that as their requiring forethought, being stripped of their warm, creamy texture, and necessitating hot oil that would mean mess, burning flesh, and/or a kitchen inferno.
Needless to say, we served them the old-fashioned way. Topped with a mixture of bell peppers, corn, and lima beans topped with bacon (I instinctively threw a couple of pinches of cayenne into the grits, and though I think that went unnoticed, I like that it cut the richness just enough).
It is worth noting that this was the one dish for which there were no leftovers at all.
Finally, the main event: braised short ribs.
They cook for three hours, so in the meantime the Foodimentary Guy whipped up his infamous tarragon chicken salad, a work of art that I almost absconded with to keep people from RUINING THEIR APPETITES.
Ultimately, though, I was glad people had something to snack on, because I thought the ribs, while good, were mostly just OK. Browning them was possibly the most satisfying task of the day, because they came out to beautiful and crusty and fragrant.
Three hours later, they ... well, they didn't fly off the platter.
The flavor was spot on, but I spied people pushing some meat around on their plates that looked pretty dry and tough. I'm hoping that JBSH can find something inventive to do with the leftovers that might redeem them.
Frankly, the whole meal was just capital-f fun—I adored being back in a kitchen again, particularly one so beautiful and well stocked, and the preparation was full of laughter and cocktails. I am grateful that I have a dad who appreciates that his girls gave him six dishwasher loads for Father's Day. It's the gift that keeps on giving.