Mad Hungry with Lucinda Scala Quinn

Spring Dinner

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Classic, classic us: thinking its another utterly free and unplanned day--I ride up to the Colombia farmers market to see what's there and the bounty is great. THe fish from Long Island is the freshest and only what's come from those waters. I picked a couple pounds of fluke and a couple pounds of mussels. Right next door, the rhubarb was displayed with the ramps so there was no resisting these fleeting seasonal bedfellows. Another stand on the other side had all kinds of new potatoes and fresh spinach so I grabbed those and within minutes was completely done for dinner.
No sooner had I arrived home before lunch though and one son asked for a meal--"what did you get?" "Dinner," I said. "can I have some now?" he asks. Sucker that I am--I dip into a little of each and make him a quick one-pan saute of potatoes, (steam some spinach) and on the other side of the pan make a quick meuniere (lemon butter sitch). And, figure I'll do the same for dinner.
About 6pm--hubs appears freaked cause he just got a call from out of town guests we were meant to take out to dinner at 7. Oy, that's the last thing I wanted to do was go out but we'd promised them our favorite new seafood restaurant, Marea. Still, it was a gorgeous night and while the house wasn't exactly guest presentable and my kitchen isn't exactly Marea--we got them to come here instead. And, I decided to change my cooking plans. Afterall these folks are healthy- low-fat type of peeps and they were expecting a grand seafood dinner out.
Instead of the buttery meuniere, I went with a parchment set-up. First oven roasting halved new potatoes for 15 minutes and adding the ramps for a final 5 then cooled them. On the parchment I laid the cooked potatoes, the ramps, the fish (fluke), some lemon zest and capers (ok maybe a little butter). salt and pepper. Wrapped it up and it was ready to go. A quick saute of garlic, shallots, pepper flakes and tomatoes, a healthy pour of white wine and the mussels steamed for 9 minutes. Dumped the whole thing in a big bowl and laid out a baguette for sopping up the juices. While we ate that the parchment packets did their thing for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, the spinach steamed lightly. And, the whole thing came off without a hitch. The amazing sunset on the river diverted from the household chaos inside. Again I was reminded--with friends, real friends--it's the being together, with simple food that really makes the evening not an often unobtainable idea of perfection.
For dessert, I was on the fence with the rhubarb and ramps--wanting to combine but instead separating to their savory and sweet homes. So, I took the 4 funky apples left in the fruit bowl and combined them with the rhubarb and some frozen strawberries, some sugar, flour and salt. The topping, just a drop biscuit made with buttermilk. A dollop of maple-sweetened plain yogurt topped it off. The kids thought it to sour, the guests loved it not too sweet. Go figure.

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