Alfresco evening under the stars

Last night was the first of many meals to come of sipping wine and sharing food around the table in our alfresco garden.
The air was cool and balmy, the sky was clear and filled with a three-quarter moon and sizzling stars lighting up the night.
Only the faint candlelight cast shadows of our faces in the otherwise darkness of the cool spring night.

It was a celebration. It was a time of sharing with friends, aquaintances and new guests at the table. The sounds of 5rthynms echoed from the garden speakers a humming staccato drum. Eight fit perfectly around a table I envisioned for six. Off to the market to buy another whole red snapper and fresh asparagus for the unexpected, but very much welcome, additional guests. The snapper was stuffed with fennel fronds and fresh meyer lemon slices. Fig leaves from the garden were now just large enough to wrap around the fish as an aromatic encasement. I bathed them with olive oil and sprinkled their glistening skin with coarse citrus salt. The oaky flavor from the wood permeated the air as the thick, peeled asparagus spears sizzled gently on the grill just until a gorgeous tender green. A quick grating of Parmesan-reggiano would finish this simple dish with everything it needed. Inside, the kitchen was filled with the perfume of jasmine rice steaming on the stovetop. Fresh mint and pistachio pesto with bits of preserved lemon was waiting to be tossed with the rice as a simple side dish to the grilled rice. On the back burner, root vegetbles in fish stock with a splash of pernod and fresh bay leaves were simmering.
As I put the finishing touches on the rice and ladeled root vegetables into a bowl, I could hear the laughter echo from the marble patio through the tiny window above the stove. More laughter.
The storytelling continued through the night until the last drop of wine was emptied and the belgium waffles with cooked berries and rose syrup was slurped from the plate.

Strangers and aquaintainces no more. Once we share a meal around the table, we are friends for life.

Root Vegetables simmered in Pernod broth
1 bunch carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 baby artichokes, peeled to the heart and thinly sliced
4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 pieces
1 bunch turnips, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
4 thin slices of meyer lemon
1/2 cup of pernod
1 cup fish stock or clam juice
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves

Place all ingredients in a pan. Over medium heat, bring to a slow boil. Turn down heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife {about 30-45 minutes}. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Mint & Pistachio Pesto
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp. shelled pistachios
1 clove peeled garlic
1 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Chop until fine. Slowly drizzle in olive oil just until blended.
Set aside at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to use.

* Toss 1 cup mint & pistachio pesto and 2 wedges preserved lemon cut into 1/4 inch dice with 3 cups of steamed jasmine rice.

Red snapper {serves 3-4 depneding on size} or red mullet {serves 1-2 depending on size} are nice accompanients.

Buon Appetito!
copyright 2007 Alisa Barry

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