Valentine’s Day and more

Last week fled by in a flurry of who can even remember what! Despite the persistence of the pandemic that has changed all for us, life seems to be going on.

For the family celebration, a special dinner was in order. In this instance, I knew just where the three nice-sized filet mignons had been carefully nestled deep in the freezer. Beef has not really been my forte, but slowly I’m learning to cook it in ways Daughter enjoys. I guess, easy does is the key to this preparation.

Filet Mignon, simple. Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking to bring them to room temperature, lightly salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet. When it sizzles, add the steaks and sear – about three minutes each side. Then put into a 400 degreeF oven for no more than five minutes. Many people enjoy this meat topped with a unctuous, yummy butter. We do not. The fatty richness of the meat is enough to satisfy our needs.

I prepared a mushroom sauce to accompany the steaks. This was very simple – sliced mushrooms with minced onions (I forgot about the shallots in the pantry!), sauté til they look done.

Constant Companion surprised me with a beautiful box of delicious chocolates. They brought to mind a haiku that appeared in the New York Times a few years ago:

“So I will have a/chocolate and I will be/better tomorrow.”

Two other dinners in the week were the results of exploratory excavations in the freezer.

Tuna with Roast Vegetables. A suggestion of Tuna with roast vegetables in the newspaper inspired our Wednesday night meal. Fresh tuna, sweet potatoes an easy one-pan meal. Our local chef specializes in short cuts for quick meals. She placed the bunch of halved Brussels sprouts and bunch of cubed sweet potato in the microwave on high for five minutes before spreading them on a sheet pan with the tuna. Her’s was in the oven five minutes for each side.

I just tossed my veges in some olive oil and sprinkled with thyme salt, then put the pan in a 380 degree oven for about 45 minutes. After about 20 minutes stir around, making sure all sides get browned. The tuna I cooked as I did the steaks; seared in a hot pan with oil for about 3 minutes a side. Finely chop some scallions to scatter on top when serving.

Garlicky Chicken with Herbs & Vinegar. We enjoyed this dishr another evening latter in the week. Start by preheating your oven at 450F. I used a whole chicken cut into pieces (it was time to free it from the freezer’s depths). The recipe called for 3 pounds of bone-in, skin-on thighs and legs. I mixed 5 minced garlic cloves with 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, 2 tablespoons of dried thyme, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to make a paste (add some grated cheese and red pepper flakes if you desire)

Sear and brown the chicken in a good sized pan, skin side first. Remove from pan. Smear the herb paste on the skin side of the chicken. Pour ¾ cup of dry white wine or chicken broth, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar into the hot pan, scrape to loosen the browned bits. Scatter fresh thyme in the sauce and return the chicken to the pan, skin side up along with any pan drippings. Transfer to the oven and cook about 15-20 minutes.

I served this dish with gnocchi and mushrooms using leftover mushrooms from earlier in the week. Cook the gnocchi as directed (I’ve never tried to make it from scratch!). Sautée some cleaned and sliced leek and yellow pepper in oil in a skillet to which I added the sliced mushrooms. Add the gnocchi when cooked and also add some generous spoonfuls of the water the gnocchi cooked in. A lovely side dish.

And back in the time before … I had to take a photo of this floral arrangement at an event where I was volunteering. I thought is was such a clever display; looks good enough to eat!

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