Monday, July 22, 2013

Picture Perfect?

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”  
                            - MFK Fischer, from The Art of Eating.

Ms. Fischer's prose is beautiful and wise, but rather than comment further on such a fitting introduction, today we'll allow the photo to triumph over the written word. 

Grilled Prawns

Mussels in Chile, Feta and Wine

Tomato and Onion Salad with House Viniagrette and Anchovies 

This picture is a recipe. There's a grilled prawn - (olive oil, salt, pepper.) There's a sliced heirloom tomato, an anchovy, parsley, and vinaigrette. (Oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar.) 

I will, however, wordily explain the mussels: There were five pounds of them, brought by our two esteemed Sunday Dinner guests. After they were debearded I started the broth base -  eyeing the heaping pile of shellfish and estimating how many ingredients I'd need to start simmering in a gigantic skillet. I probably sautéed 6 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup chopped tomato, 2 diced up, roasted poblano chiles, a few threads of saffron, and lots of fresh oregano. You can't have too many fresh herbs. After those flavors started melting into each other, I made sure the heat was high and splashed white wine in the pan. It evaporates: you can keep adding more to reduce and intensify the flavor. I poured in a final 1/4 cup, and in went the mussels, covered with a lid and heat turned up to high. It took about 8 minutes for all of them to open up and cook. I started transferring the fully opened mussels to a bowl, until there were no more in the skillet. 3/4 cup of feta was crumbled into the broth and whisked around, simmering until half melted. The whole pan of broth was then dumped into the bowl of mussels. My advice - add salt to your broth base very sparingly. Because the feta and the mussels have salt, I might advise waiting to add salt until tasting the final product. (In other words, don't be like me and accidentally over-salt.) Serve with grilled or toasted bread. 

Our esteemed guests were Doug and Cassandra, a delightful Canadian couple with fun filled and wacky senses of humor. Doug is a professional photographer. He breezed through four headshots in the half-hour leading up to dinner, and one family portrait in the 15 minutes after dessert. 

In which we are all portrayed as perfect models of refinement, and do not smile too widely. 

Now wait - just when you're starting to despair that Sunday Dinner is a cloyingly idyllic food fest of love, rainbows, and pretty pictures...stop. All is not as it seems. The mussels might be so overly salty, you'd find them inedible. The conversation may wax romantic, but just as often turns sensational, ugly, or inappropriate. 

Doug's Story: A cautionary tale of embarrassment and survival

"One fateful day in 1989, Doug found himself in tropical paradise to photograph a swimsuit spread. That's the life, 500 swimsuits to choose from...until the poor model tripped on a rock while frollicking across the beach and ripped her toenail out. So, Doug put on a tank top, gym shorts and neon green rubber Crocs and headed to the golf course, where they barely let him in, being thus attired. He started drinking at each beerhut between holes, and found himself a little rubberlegged by the 9th. By the 14th, he asked the caddie to play for him, while he drank more beer. At this point he was extremely sunburned, and had given away his RayBans as a tip for the caddie. He stumbled back to the resort, where he drank some more and fell into the pool. His whole body was still aflame with sunburn, though, so he frantically ran out into the ocean, where he trampled on a bed of sea urchins, which lodged 21 spikes in his feet. Of course, he didn't feel anything until the morning, when his feet were the size of beach balls. At the hospital, they admonished that if only he had peed on his feet, the damage wouldn't have been nearly as horrific. He finished the photoshoot hungover, blistered red, and barely able to stand. For six months he walked as if he was stepping on broken glass, until the 21 urchin spikes hit against his footbones and finally dissolved."

"Ah, yes," we all nodded: "there come times in life when it's necessary to pee on one's feet."

Hello, 1989! All in all, a successful shoot. 


  1. The mussels were amazing - I had no idea what was in your sauce - great popping flavours. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. That shot of me proves what your mother has said over and over..."The Lone DeRanger is HOT because of his Bangkok teeth!". Great article Megan!

    1. You are a really good sport, to put up the unflattering depiction!

  3. Mmm... I would drive up from LA just to have one of those mussels.


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