By the third week of August it’s obvious the sun is setting much earlier, and the feeling of Fall starts to permeate your senses in subtle ways. However, it’s too soon to throw in the towel—beach or otherwise. With summery temps still lingering in the high 80’s, we knew another patio party was in order—and having just returned from the Jersey Shore a few days prior, a seafood theme seemed appropriate…
With a familiar gathering of six, guests included Barb, Brad, Rosanne and Gary—no need for introductions. In a nod to the shore motif, Rosanne even bejeweled herself in starfish accessories. Now that’s taking a topic and running with it! Vittle-wise, we started off with Barb’s doctored up shrimp dip. Apparently the original recipe was too bland to begin with so she increased the old bay seasoning and celery salt—now that’s my kind of thinking!
Barb’s shrimp appetizer plated in my signature purple… Love it!
Libations time! What’s more beachy than Hypnotiq, a tropical-fruit liqueur made from a blend of premium french vodka, pure cognac and natural tropical fruit juices. Oh, and that gorgeous blue color! Throw in a pineapple chunk with a mini umbrella, and let the party begin!
Onto the patio we gathered, carting out drinks and appetizers. Conversations ran the gamut from exactly what constituted a tomato pie (interesting how many variations we described), to the Pittsburgh area’s odd food combos, such as putting french fries on their salads, calling skewered pork and veal “City Chicken” and serving ham BBQ’s.
Here’s another: men’s shoes. I mentioned that Brad’s looked new—he confirmed they were. Gary was sporting similar docker’s, informing us it’s hard for him to buy shoes just anywhere because his are a triple-E—now that’s a wide foot! Throughout the night, Gary often consulted Siri as questions arose (where is this year’s superbowl being played?)—some of them down-right hysterical… yes, we were getting silly…
The tables are set and waiting for the party to commence.
As dusk was settling, it was a clue for Russ to heat up the grill, and light the abundance of candles and turn on the strings of battery operated lights lining the knee wall for an added touch of ambiance. And it was also a tip-off for the ladies to put the finishing touches on the rest of the meal. While I finalized the side dishes, with her clever artistic talent, Rosanne assembled a tossed green salad replete with fish-shaped watermelon cut-outs!
Rosanne assembles her salad that included watermelon cut with a fish cookie cutter.
The main attraction was our Cedar-Planked Salmon which I blogged about a few weeks ago. (Remember we totally forgot to serve the horseradish-chive sauce?) Of course, this time around with six people instead of just two, we amped up the amount of salmon filets to over 4 pounds.
The cooked salmon filets rest for a few minutes before Russ slices them into individual servings.
One of the side dishes Buttery Balsamic Corn with Shiitake and Grilled Onion is perfect because you can make it ahead of time and serve at room (or patio) temperature. And because we crave heirloom tomatoes this time of year, our other side was an adaptation of the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Warm Anchovy Vinaigrette, found on FoodandWine.com (recipe without eggs follows.) The warm, garlicky anchovy dressing complements the assortment of juicy, peak-season tomatoes, topped with tangy pickled shallots, and herbs fresh-picked from our garden.
Seriously, you have to make this delicious side dish while corn is at it’s peak.
Grilled pineapple planks seasoned with Tajin add a tropical touch to the meal.
With a lot of pineapple leftover (from the drink garnish), I sliced it into planks, brushed with a little olive oil, seasoned with Tajin, and grilled them a few minutes on each side after the salmon was moved from grill to platter.
The mermaid mascot oversees the bounty of food.
Gary regales the crowd with Siri’s answers.
And for dessert, a rich, homespun moist chocolate pound cake flavored with espresso and studded with chocolate chips, topped with homemade strawberry ice cream and a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce. (Recipe follows at end of blog.)
Here’s hoping for a few more months of dining al fresco!
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Warm Anchovy Vinaigrette
This recipe will feed 8-10 guests, so cut in half if you plan to serve less.
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 anchovies, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 2 mediums shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes—large ones sliced, small ones halved
- Fleur de sel
- Freshly ground pepper
- Flat-leaf parsley, for serving
- Marjoram leaves, for serving
Minced anchovies, garlic and lemon zest are warmed in the olive oil.
- In a small skillet, combine the olive oil, anchovies, garlic and lemon zest.
- In a small bowl, toss the shallot with the vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Arrange the tomatoes on a platter and season with fleur de sel and pepper. Scatter the shallot and vinegar over the tomatoes.
- Warm the anchovy dressing over moderate heat to a gentle simmer; pour over the tomatoes. Scatter the parsley and marjoram over the salad and serve at once.
Double-Chocolate Expresso Pound Cake
- 1 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for coating the pan
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at a cool room temperature, plus more for coating the pan
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 5 large eggs, at a cool room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
Line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, then dust lightly with flour.
Our chips were on the large size so we chopped them down a bit.
Into the butter and sugar mixture, beat in the eggs one at a time.
Mix in the cocoa mixture and the vanilla.
Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and the chocolate chips just until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Baking our cake took almost 50% longer than described, so make sure you don’t take it out of the oven until it’s done.
- Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter. Line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, then dust lightly with flour, shaking out the excess.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together onto a piece of parchment paper.
- In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the cocoa and espresso powders. Add the boiling water and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool, about 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally.
- Mix in the cocoa mixture and the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in half of the dry ingredients until almost fully incorporated. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and the chocolate chips just until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. (It took ours 85 minutes, so make sure to check starting at 60 minutes.)
- Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake and peel off the parchment. Turn the cake top-side up and let it cool completely (cover the cake with a slightly damp kitchen towel so the outside doesn’t dry out). Just before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar.
Cake Recipe by Kim Laidlaw