Ode to Lidia B.

I am walking in thick cement but I’m dreaming of Breezy and Easy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your toes in the sea and sipping on a glass of something bubbly with a sliver of peach and a red beaded raspberry. And on the table all set up and ready by some kind of fabulous fairy hands: tiny tender bits of tuna, moist and thyme studded, lemon zested breadcrumbed, pignoli and golden raisin bejeweled, topped w/ a fresh tomato coulis and served alongside zucchini escabache with scallions with mint and one whole other plate of strands of buttery and drunk on white wine mussels and spaghetti. For dessert: a cake studded with grapes.

Don’t give up on the fairies, but in case they don’t show up, recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Lidia’s Family Table:

For the Tuna:

Infuse a glog of olive oil with slivers of garlic and let it rest for a bit. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup homemade dry breadcrumbs, a little fresh thyme, lemon zest, parsley, salt, pinch of red pepper flakes (chopped up) pignoli and raisins. Rub the oil into the crumbs and taste. Slice 3 ounces of tuna per portion from a loin, and gently flatten it out w/a meat tenderizer. Sprinkle on breadcrumbs and roll up; roll them around in the breadcrumb mixture so there nicely coated. Secure with toothpicks. When you have them all ready, set them in a dish, cover with more slivers of garlic, a little drizzle of olive oil, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Marinate in the fridge for about an hour. Set them on a medium hot grill and turn to grill all sides, about 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes per side. They should be just done inside. Cover with a spoonfuls of tomato salad: chopped, seeded ripe and ready tomatoes, bit of finely chopped red onion, lemon, balsamic, olive oil and flat leaf parsley (and bit of basil if you have it.)

For the zucchini: saute slices of zucchini in olive oil in a single layer and top with a handful of sliced scallions. Give them a sprinkle of sea salt and let them sit undisturbed until nicely golden. Flip and do the same for the other side (without more scallion.) Drain over a colander. Pour a tablespoon of white wine vine into the pan and allow to sizzle. Coat the zucchini. Taste for salt and pepper toss w/fresh mint leaves. Let them sit and soak it all in.

For the mussels: get a pot of water going with a leek, a generous tab of butter, a little piece of ripe tomato, a piece of fennel, a peice of parsley, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, or whatever you have. Let that simmer for a few minutes. Pick out your favorite shellfish–mussels, shrimp, crab, crawfish–and drop them by type into the water, one batch at a time, covering for about three minutes, and then lifting them out with a slotted spoon. Keep going until all the seafood is done. You can hold it, separate from the cooking liquid in the fridge until you are ready to serve, then just it all come to temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Strain the cooking liquid, add a little white wine, and simmer to reduce for about two or three minutes. Pour over the seafood with a sqeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

For the cake: 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, pinch of salt, 6 Tablespoons of butter, softened to room temp, 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, 2 eggs at room temperature, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 3/4 cup dry white wine, 2 cups seedless red grapes. Topping: 3 Tablespoons of butter rubbed with 3 Tablespoon of raw sugar

Mix flour w/leavening and salt. Beat butter with sugar, adding sugar a little bit at a time until you can’t feel the sugar between your fingers. Add the eggs one at a time. Add oil, vanilla and zest. Alternate adding wine and flour, mixing with your hand, just until incorporated each time. Scrape into a buttered and sugared springform pan. Toss grapes with a bit of sugar and scatter across the cake. Push a few just a bit, down into the batter. Top w/sugar and butter and bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes. (check it)

Live large and lovely.

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