Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cooking for Dad

My Dad turns 70 today. Wow. Anyway, I wanted to do something special for his birthday, but being the low-key guy that he is, he didn't want a big party, but he said I could cook him dinner. So, Saturday, I cooked him a four course dinner, trying to include as many of his favorite foods as possible. I even printed out little menus.

We started with stuffed mushrooms and micro-green salad from my new favorite show, French Food at Home. Then, for the main course, it had to be lamb. But what kind of lamb? What would be really special? Thankfully, I had checked out the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook and she had a really simple looking recipe for a whole roasted leg of lamb. Nothing says special a like a giant piece of meat, right?
And I just happen to know where of a Middle Eastern market where I could walk in a pick up a whole leg of lamb...or a whole goat, but that's a different party.
It was DELICIOUS. I just finished the leftovers today...and I was licking the last little bit of beautifully seasoned juice from the plate. Go Barefoot Contessa. And to accompany it, I made roasted asparagus and Parmesan polenta, which I'd never made before....it was so good and so much easier than mashed potatoes or rice. It's my new favorite starch. Highly recommend that you click on that link and make it for dinner, asap.

The third course was the cheese course, and that was the one that Casey said he was most looking forward to....but as that involved no cooking on my part, I don't know if that's a compliment or an encouragement. Whatever. Cheese is always good.

And dessert. With my dad, the options are what kind of pie and what kind of ice cream, so I made a version of my grandmother's cherry pie, using sour cherries. Her pie was very simple. Butter crust, toss the cherries in some sugar in the crust, top with another crust and bake.

 But I wanted to make something a little more fancy, so I added almonds and a lattice crust, combining a recipe for a tart and a pie.

Sour Cherry Almond Tart

1 ready-to-use double pie crust
3 (15 ounce) cans pitted sour cherries, drained (I found them with the canned fruit at the store, not with pie fillings)
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
1/4 cup sliced almonds, plus a few more for garnish
1 cup white sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, divided use
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg, beaten with a bit of milk
coarse sugar for sprinkling

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Press one of the pie crusts into a pie plate or tart pan.
3) In a blender or food processor, grind ¼ cup almonds, 1 tbsp sugar, and tapioca
4) Stir together the cherries, tapioca mixture, sugar, and almond extract in a bowl. Pour the cherry mixture into the pie shell, sprinkle with a handful of almonds.
5) Cut the other pie crust into 1/2 inch strips to make a lattice top. Lay the strips across the pie in a lattice pattern, and pinch the edges to seal. Brush crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
6) Bake in the preheated oven 40 to 50 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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