Hello, New York.

Long story very short, we’re back. Some of the story is already out there in bits and pieces, and I’ll probably write down a fuller recount of the events of the last two weeks somewhere soon, but for now, I just felt the need to post a little something here. It seems right and appropriate – after all, Last Night’s Dinner was born in Brooklyn.

A good 95% of our stuff – furniture, clothes, kitchen and pantry supplies – are still locked up in a Providence storage facility, but we brought a few essentials to get us started in our new home. We have our trusty iron skillet, two plates, two bowls, flatware and glasses for two, my favorite chef’s knife, a small pot, mixing bowl, rasp and reamer – just enough to get us going, and sustain us until the rest of our belongings arrive. At least we hope that’s the case.

Went out for a walk. Stumbled upon a greenmarket.

Our new kitchen is smallish but modern – long and narrow, but with a big window to let in the light and air, plus a brand new fridge, stove, and dishwasher (!). And on Sunday, the day after we landed here, we headed out for supplies. The Flatbush Food Co-Op was our destination, just a short walk away, but we were happily surprised to find that the Cortelyou Greenmarket was in full swing as well. We returned home with a bounty of local goods, and cooked our first meal in our new home that night: sauteed blackfish, zucchini and squash blossoms with lots of fresh young garlic, thyme and lemon, paired with a bottle of Wolffer Estate rose. To my delight, the baby ate a little bit of everything.


It’s so good to be back home.

Flower Girl

finally, squash blossoms

Mike’s away at Tales of the Cocktail, and I’m once again left to my own devices when it comes to dinner. I’ve had a bit of food-related “homework” to attend to, in preparation for a couple of things I’ll get to tell you more about soon, but aside from that, my main goal is to work through the rather excessive amount of gorgeous summer produce I brought home from the farmers’ market last weekend.

Like tomatoes, for instance. I’ll admit that the best tomatoes of the season are still a little way off, but I can’t resist loading up on the lovely local gems I’ve encountered at the markets in both Boston and in Providence. I slowly cooked these ones in a bit of olive oil with just a pinch of salt, splashing water in from time to time, gently crushing them as they softened and got almost syrupy sweet, and finally pressing them through a strainer to remove any skins and seeds, leaving behind a rich, jammy tomato reduction.

lined up

I stuffed my cleaned squash blossoms with my usual mixture of fresh ricotta, soft chevre, salt, lemon zest, and a good amount of finely chopped fresh herbs – in this case parsley, basil from the patio, and summer savory. After piping the cheese mixture into the blossoms (I use the super-fancy zip-top plastic bag with a corner cut off for this), I set the stuffed blossoms in the fridge for a bit to firm up before dipping them in flour, then buttermilk, then another dip in flour (a tip from our friend Derrick that gives my favorite crisp-light result). I fried them in a 2:1 mix of olive oil and grapeseed oil until crisp and golden, and instead of sprinkling flaky salt over them as they came out of the oil as I do for other fried goodies, I grated a little Pecorino Romano over the fried blossoms.

Dinner: July 20, 2010

I spooned the tomato reduction onto a plate and arranged my little golden flowers on top, adding a little finely chopped parsley for color and a pop of freshness. And then, I ate. And this doesn’t happen often, but I was pretty darned happy that I didn’t have to share.

Weekend Eats (and Drinks) – Deluxe Edition

My weekend got off to a less-than-auspicious start, owing to train delays and missed connections. We had planned to meet friends for Indian food and an 8:30 showing of Food, Inc. at the Avon, but by the time I finally got home, it was late and I was in no mood. Enter Mike to the rescue, chilled Martini in hand. We had takeout.

peachy keen

The rest of the weekend shaped up much better than I could have imagined, with the arrival of many things we’ve been waiting for – the first of the season peaches, squash blossoms, and probably most exciting of all:

Poulet Rouge

Yes, it’s a chicken. But this is no ordinary bird. Pat told us a while back that, in addition to his usual tasty chickens, he was raising a heritage breed called the Poulet Rouge. They were finally available at the Hope Street farmers’ market on Saturday, and we were thrilled to bring one home.

check out those gams

Kathleen Purvis has a good primer in Gourmet on what makes these birds different than your standard breeds, so if you’re curious you can read about it there; I’m here to tell you that as far as the flavor goes, we were wowed.

Dinner:  July 18, 2009

We wanted to keep the prep and cooking as simple as possible so we could really taste the difference, so Mike just salted it, cut it “leaping frog” style, and grilled it. I made one of my favorite grilled bread salads to go alongside, with peaches, basil and a balsamic vinaigrette. The chicken was the star, though – intensely flavorful, rich and juicy, noticeably moreso than regular varieties. I expect a Poulet Rouge would hold up really well in the smoker, and we’re both itching to try coq au vin or riesling with one of these birds when cooler weather rolls around. Try one – you’ll be hooked.

Sunday breakfast at home

And then there was Sunday. A big cooking day.

mmmm lunch

Behold: grilled pizza perfection. Post will be up this week.


A little muddled basil made our gin & tonics extra tasty.

squash blossoms

firmed up


It’s just not summer until I’ve made fried squash blossoms. I still make mine the way Derrick instructed, dipping the stuffed blossoms in flour, then buttermilk, then flour again, and while this is still my go-to breading method, I have my eye on Anita’s version.

Dinner:  July 19, 2009

This time, however, I served the squash blossoms with some sliced heirloom tomatoes, a chilled basil custard, and a scattering of arugula and opal basil leaves. Did I mention I like colorful plates?

the Asbury

Speaking of color, our pre-dinner cocktail was as delicious as it was bright and beautiful. Who knew tequila and Campari would marry so well?

Summer Snow

The grand finale, and grand it was. We grabbed the last piece of Summer Snow from Matt‘s table at the farmers’ market, and he recommended pairing it with gooseberries. We grabbed some from City Farm, and finished out our weekend with this cheese and fruit course. It was pretty damn brilliant.

(As always, click the photos for a little more detail.)


Dinner:  August 11, 2008

Sigh. Mike tells me I should blog this, but I’m tired and stressed and when I get home all I want to do is get dinner going and have our cocktail hour and eat and sip wine and watch the Olympics, and I just haven’t had it in me to write this up… but it was a soup, of grilled golden tomatoes and other good things, crowned with stuffed fried squash blossoms, and it was a little fussy but so good, and I hope to get some time to put more words to this soon. Bear with me?

Exchanging Inspiration

A while back our friends Melissa and Derrick posted a photo and write-up of one of their dinners, mentioning that my writing about our day-to-day dining inspired them to do so. As you can imagine, I was flattered and delighted by this, but I also took away some inspiration of my own. You see, I have always been seduced by the lovely squash blossoms that show up in gardens and markets this time of year, but I have also felt very intimidated about cooking with them myself. I mentioned this to our friends, and with their encouragement I decided that I’d give it a shot. Am I ever I glad I did.

If you search the internet for fried squash blossom recipes, many of them look a little bit… futzy. Egg washes, breadcrumbs, milk, flour, batters with beer or without… I was worried that the flavor of the little blossoms would be overwhelmed by something so heavy. Derrick’s method was far simpler, and I think, superior: flour, buttermilk, flour then fry. This I could get behind.

lined up like little soldiers

I had a vacation day scheduled yesterday, so I decided to get a jump on the prep work. I trimmed the squash blossoms, opened them up and pulled out the little stamens, then set the cleaned blossoms aside. For the filling, I combined 2 oz. of crumbled soft goat cheese, 4 oz. of sheep’s milk ricotta, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh chervil. Our blossoms were a little on the small side, so getting the stuffing in without cracking them on one side was a little tricky, but I pressed forward, first using a spoon to stuff then and finally just using my fingers. I placed a little bit of the stuffing inside each blossom, then twisted the ends closed and press them together. They didn’t all stay closed, but I figured I could try to re-seal them before battering and cooking them. I placed the stuffed blossoms on a platter, covered it with plastic wrap and set them in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.


The blossoms and filling firmed up nicely with those few hours of refrigeration, and when it was time to dip them in the flour and buttermilk, I was relieved to see that they held together well. I fried the blossoms in batches until they were golden, and then set them on a paper towel-lined platter to drain as they came out of the oil, sprinkling them with a little kosher salt while they were still hot.

While I heated the oil and worked on the frying, I had a second pan on the stove in which I put together a summer vegetable ragout. I chopped up six garlic scapes and sautéed them in a tablespoon of olive oil, and then added half a cup of white vermouth, a cup and a half of water, a teaspoon of kosher salt and a parmesan rind. After that simmered for 10-15 minutes, I removed the parmesan rind and added 1 1/2 cups of halved red and gold cherry tomatoes. I let them cook uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, and when the last of the squash blossoms was out of the oil, I added a mixture of blanched vegetables (peas, cranberry beans, green beans, favas) and herbs (flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, thyme, dill) to the tomato and parmesan broth. I let this cook for just a minute or so more, turned off the heat and ladled the vegetables and broth into bowls. I topped them with the crunchy squash blossoms, and our meal was ready to go.

The squash blossoms were delicious – perfectly crisp on the outside, the filling soft and delicate, and they provided a really nice counterpoint to the light, brothy vegetables. Mike had taken a cue from Derrick’s post as well and brought home a lovely Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc to go with our meal. As we sipped our wine and ate, I thought how wonderful it is that food and drink have this great power to inspire, to bring people together across the miles. I felt a great sense of appreciation for the good food and drink in front of me but more importantly, I felt a great sense of appreciation for the good friends who inspired it.