June 15, 2008

Inspiration


Like its sister and nextdoor restaurant, Diner, Marlow & Sons is one of my favorite restaurants for its fine selection of oysters, cheeses, and local ingredients cooked in seasonal meals with flawless execution. I forgot to tell you, but when I was there with my youngest sister on a rainy late night in April, we shared a divine ramp soup and their crispy-skinned brick pressed chicken, which is among the best chicken I've ever head. I hadn't been in a while, but it reminded me that Marlow & Sons surprises me everytime by taking simple sounding dishes and making them the most delicious things ever.


A couple weeks ago on a supremely hot early evening, we coincidentally took my other sister to Marlow & Sons too. We shared a baby kale salad with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice and coated in thinly shaved parmesan. Meanwhile, Jesse had to himself a warm squid salad with a broth-like dressing over Bibb lettuce. Our meal was exquisite as always. However, this time I felt a bit more depressed than usual about their prices. I understand the worth of paying more money to eat local foods made wth care, but $10 for a salad of greens and parmesan?


Let's take it back to earlier this spring, when I planted a container of mixed green seeds on my deck. Most of what came up was baby kale, bitter greens, and sad small light leaves, and after a winter full of bitter green salads from the farmers market, it didn't look too appetizing. When the lettuces started to wilt in last week's 90 degree heat, I decided it was time to rip 'em out, eat 'em, and replace 'em with more fun herbs.


I harvested about a big salad worth of greens. Then one night when Jesse was working late and I could eat however simply I liked, I wanted to have a plain salad for dinner and set out to imitate Marlow & Sons baby kale salad. I mixed a vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried herbs, and a couple splashes of lemon juice. Then I topped it off with grated parmesan. Ta da! Though mine may not have had the same soft brush of kale leaves, it was delicious and at a cost of essentially $0 vs $10, I say Marlow & Sons 0 Julia 1.


Likewise, Jesse's scrumptious squid salad at Marlow & Sons motivated us to pick up some squid from the Greenmarket this weekend. I've always been confused about how long to cook squid so I did some research. Apparently when sauteeing squid, you either need to cook it for under two minutes (after that it turns rubbery) or for more than 20 minutes (when the squid becomes tender again). Jesse chose to go with the long cooking version as he's done in the past. He sauteed it with olive oil and garlic, added a few splashes of vermouth and water, covered it, and let it cook for about 30 minutes until tender. The aroma that filled our apartment as the squid braised was salty and wonderful.


As for the salad we served it over, I didn't replicate Marlow & Sons' bibb lettuce saald exactly, but just used what I had on hand. Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced radishes and baby carrots (first of the season!), warm sauteed squid, that same olive oil-red wine vinaigrette, and parmesan. Surprisingly, it worked. I think you could refine it further by serving it over greens that have more structure and flavor, like mustard greens, and leaving out the carrots and parmesan. But for our purposes we enjoyed digging into a big healthy salad with perfectly tender small bites of squid, tasting of the sea.


Inspired by Jen from her ever-inspirational blog Last Night's Dinner, we also grilled clams and topped them with a garlic scape pesto. The pesto was made simply in the food processor using a few garlic scapes, a handful of parsley from my deck, the zest and juice of half a lemon, salt, pepper, parmesan, a handful of almonds, a few tablespoons of olive oil, and a tablespoon of water. It was lovely, but I think I prefer eating clams by their lonesome to enjoy their distinctive taste.

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