Last night Matt and I hosted a little dinner party with two couples from his graduate program here. One couple is from Iran – they literally just moved to the U.S. – and last week they had us over for dinner. You can imagine how delicious the authentic Persian food was. It helps too that Fatima’s parents apparently grow spices – homegrown saffron and cardamom!! She set the bar quite high.
In planning the menu, I started with the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which comes out of the amazing Smitten Kitchen blog. I’ve been wanting to try her peach dumplings recipe, and I needed a can’t-fail salad. (SK is a great place to look if you need a can’t-fail recipe.)
I went for the Sugar Snap Salad w/Miso Dressing, by the book. The salad itself was fairly simple – thinly sliced sugar snap peas, Napa cabbage, radishes, and scallions – but the dressing was just spectacular. Every time I moved the dressing (from the blender to the container, from the container to the bowl) I ate what must have been several spoonfuls. Oops.
It was an even better version of the dressing you get at sushi restaurants, or Kanki. You know, the one with ginger-y tangy nuttiness. Because of the cabbage, it ends up looking more like a slaw but, as you may have gathered by now, I am okay with that.
For actual dinner, I had three things on the menu:
- Pork loin with cherry mostarda
- Minted rice salad
- Summer squash gratin
For both the pork and the rice salad, I used this lovely recipe from Food52. Because I was feeding 6 people, however, I tripled(ish) everything and made a 3.5 lb pork loin in the oven instead of on the stove. I’ve always found it’s basically impossible to just sear a pork tenderloin on the stove and get it cooked all the way through, as the recipe would suggest. (This might be because I start from a refrigerator-temperature cut of meat rather than room temp.) I’ve made this recipe before and had to throw the seared tenderloin, skillet and all, in the oven for a while.
Anything sweet with pork is so good. Cherries and pork tenderloin. Apple and pork sausage. Maple bacon doughnuts. You get the picture.
Moving on! The squash gratin has so much flavor that it will beguile even those who swear against “squish,” I promise. The original recipe also comes from Food52, but my less time-consuming take lies below.
Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde
- 3/4 cup store-bought salsa verde (I used Herdez brand)
- 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (I have “Italian herb” flavor breadcrumbs and they worked just fine)
- 2 lbs summer squash, e.g. zucchini
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sliced shallots
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves, dried or fresh
- 1 jalapeno, minced and seeded (leave in the seeds if you like things spicy!)
- 1 cup grated Gruyere or Comte cheese
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat your oven to 400°F
- Slice the squash into thin (1/8 inch) rings. Mix the slices in a colander with a teaspoon of salt, and let drain in the sink or over several layers of paper towels on the counter for 10 minutes, or while mixing the other ingredients
- Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Melt the butter in a Pyrex or microwave-safe dish in your microwave. This will take about 2.5 minutes on high, depending on what type of microwave you have. Pour the melted butter atop the breadcrumbs, being sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of your container. Wait a minute for the butter to cool, and then stir to mix
- In a large bowl, mix the shallots, garlic, thyme, jalapeno, salsa verde, and some black pepper
- Drain the squash and pad slices dry with a paper towel as you transfer the slices into the large bowl with the salsa mixture. Padding the squash will help remove some of the salt so the dish isn’t too salty overall
- Stir to combine and add half of the buttered breadcrumbs. Stir to combine and add all the grated cheese. Stir again and season with salt and/or pepper as necessary
- Pour the entire mixture into a gratin dish or a 9×9 oven-safe dish. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs on top
- Bake 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned
- DIG IN. (you may want to let it cool a bit first…)
Now for the highly anticipated (by me) peach dumplings!
When it comes to how I spend my time, I’m pretty anti-pie crust. (<< Who in their right mind says a sentence like that?!) Maybe I’ve had some bad experiences, but it’s just so much easier to walk into the grocery store and, four dollars later, walk out with two pre-made crusts all nice and rolled up, ready to thaw. Especially when that store is Trader Joe’s. *sigh*
So when SK called for the use of homemade pie crusts, I thought, “Ah-hah! A shortcut!” My slightly altered version of the recipe lies below:
Peach Dumplings with Bourbon Sauce
- 2 store-bought frozen pie crusts, rolled up (Pillsbury makes some, but the generic store brand is usually cheaper)
- 3 large peaches, unripe is fine
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- 1 egg yolk, for glaze (to capture just the yolk, crack an egg into the palm of your hand & allow the whites to seep out between your fingers into the sink or a trash can)
Bourbon Sauce Ingredients:
- 4 tbsp melted butter
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp bourbon
- Ball the two thawed crusts together and roll out flat. Divide into six 6-inch squares (5.5 inches will do as well) with a pizza cutter
- Wash and halve the peaches. I used a grapefruit (i.e. serrated) spoon to remove the pits and the red portion; you could also use a melon baller or a knife
- Combine the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture into the center of each pitted peach half. Squish in as much as you can! Place on top of the sugar mixture a slice (1/6 tbsp) of cold butter
- Place the filled and buttered peach halves in the center of each pie crust square. Pull up each of the corners and pinch the dough together over the center to create a seamed little peach-pocket. SK says, “if it feels tight, or as if you’re short of dough, make sure that the dough underneath is flush with the peach curve; it tends to get slack”
- Arrange parchment paper atop a 9×13 baking sheet, and place the raw dumplings atop the paper. Move to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes
- Preheat your oven to 375ºF
- To make the glaze, whisk together the egg yolk with 1 tsp warm water. Brush over each of the cooled raw dumplings
- Bake 30-40 minutes, until browned, fluffy, and juicy
- To make the bourbon sauce, melt butter in the microwave or on the stove. Whisk together with the bourbon and sugar until smooth
- Serve each pastry with a large dollop of the sauce and EAT
Not gonna lie – I took the last two pictures this morning as I ate a leftover dumpling for breakfast. It’s like, fruit and carbs, right? That’s basically peach oatmeal!
If you end up trying any of the recipes above, or any rendition of them, please tell me how it goes in the comments! I’d love to send all of you a peach dumpling and an airplane bottle of Jim Beam in a brown paper package but hey, teach a man to fish!