tomato and mussel starter with grilled fig salad in the background
I realize that while no one may care what I had for lunch, I simply must write about what I ate for dinner. I may be the caterer in our little household and enjoy making 175 individual tartlets for a party, but Jimmy is a true artist when it comes to answering the age old question, "What should we make for dinner?"
Jimmy cooks when he is inspired and today was my lucky day. Earlier in the afternoon he had been reading this book (thanks, Kev) and I could practically see the idea~bulbs appearing above his head. Next thing I knew he was off to the store to prepare his culinary artist palette.
Jimmy is a true artist in the kitchen because he uses cookbooks for inspiration, not for recipes. He will look at a photo or see an interesting ingredient and then he's off to the races, creating solely from the heart, and tummy. However, the thing about him not using recipes is that it's hard for him to recreate something truly divine. He calls what he does in the kitchen "happy accidents". I call them genius.
He sometimes likes to surprise me with his dishes, and needs space to create in our one-booty kitchen, so when inspiration hits he might pour me a glass of wine and send me on my way which was the case this evening. The result of which is me spending the entire meal having him walk me through each step anyway so we may keep some sort of record of what he did to explain my dancing tastebuds. Not that I am complaining, there is nothing like a man who can cook.
For a starter he constructed a yellow and orange tomato salad topped with a little grilled red onion, mussels steamed on our indoor cast iron grill and dressed with olive oil he infused with basil & mint.
He then made a salad which I believe to be my new most favorite salad in the world. He grilled figs to bring out their yum and combined them with spiced pecans (he spiced them with cumin, coriander, ancho chile and a bit of brown sugar and then toasted them) nestled on a bed of arugula, topped with shavings of nutty and smooth manchego cheese and simply dressed with the basil and mint oil emulsified with a bit of fresh lemon juice and sea salt. Oh. My. God. The marriage of layered flavors in this salad are so perfectly balanced it was like a song.
The ingredient which inspired this particular feast was Kabocha squash. Probably a little too early in the season still, but readily available year round, Kabocha squash is similar to butternut squash but sweeter. It looked to me as if the hardest part was cutting the skin off, but the results were worth it. For our third and final course, he tossed the squash slices with olive oil and sea salt, caramelized them on the grill along with some onion and fennel, and grilled a healthy fillet of black cod to absolute perfection as their chaperon. As I write this I have a full belly and a happy heart.
I hope this inspires a bit of kitchen play in your home.
UPDATE: Jimmy asked me to add that if you do try this, he used molasses in the olive oil and sea salt toss for the squash to further caramelize the veggies. He did this first so by the time he grilled the fish, mussels, other veggies and figs, they were essentially cooked in this wonderful lusciousness of flavor given off by the squash, molasses and seasonings.