Monday, June 18, 2007

"Dad is great! Gives us chocolate cake!" - Bill Cosby

I never know what to get H for Father’s Day –but this year was relatively simple – I am having a portrait taken of the three boys together; we got him a new pair of sturdy leather work gloves since he lost his last pair; and I bought him a panini press. We were at a party over Memorial Day weekend at which the host served Panini with grilled veggies, meats, and cheeses. H was rapturous. It was a no-brainer.

We host Father’s Day dinner; in the past we have served grilled steaks but this enterprise frustrates H because his family is all about the well-done steak. H and I like our filet rare. It made him crazy and ruined his day to have to grill the living daylights out of a gorgeous piece of meat before anyone other than he and I would eat it.

Instead we prepped and grilled two eggplant, four zucchini, four red peppers; also sautéed two giant bunches of spinach. We offered fresh mozzarella, whole milk mozzarella, and sharp provolone (also white American for the kids). Our meat selection consisted of hot and sweet salami, cracked pepper roast turkey breast, hot capicolla, prosciutto, and Genoa salami. Our sides were fresh fruit (grapes and strawberries), devilled eggs, kettle potato chips, garlic- and feta-stuffed olives, a tossed green salad with carrots, cucumber, peppers, grape tomatoes, and field greens from our CSA. I baked a chocolate cake, served with vanilla ice cream, for dessert.

H wielded the press like a pro. Once we figured out that you kinda have to hold the sandwich back in the press with a wooden spoon until the bread heats and collapses a bit, they got a lot more professional looking. (Sorry, I did not take photos, as really, how would I explain THAT? My in-laws know the Internet exists, but that might be about it.)

I myself had a panini with prosciutto, provolone, zucchini, and spinach, chased by several (um, more than that) olives and about four devilled eggs. (I would have eaten more but everyone else ate them first – grumph.)

Liz at Pocket Farm is hosting a One Local Summer project, encouraging bloggers from around the country to eat at least one dinner a week created from local ingredients.

Still in the practically post-coital glow of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, I leapt aboard the bandwagon and signed up. I was thinking I might try to make my panini my first local meal for the project.

The ciabatta came from a local bakery that we know we are insanely lucky we have: their bread is amazing. Their raisin-walnut loaf is wonderful toasted with butter for breakfast, and I would walk across hot coals for their green-olive foccacia; often half of one was an entire meal when I was younger, thinner, and less, um, solvent. (What? Aren’t olives a vegetable?)

The butter was from Beaver Meadow Farm in nearby DuBois (that’s “DEW-boyz” to all you non-yinzers. I know, it makes my ears bleed, too.)

The prosciutto is made by Parma Sausage, in the Strip.

The spinach was from our CSA.

But the provolone was imported, as were the olives. I am sure my mother-in-law used Giant Eagle eggs for the deviled eggs, which means they could have been shipped from anywhere in the country. (I probably would have used eggs from Hillandale Farms, in Ohio, but really, I am still jonesing for my own chickens, although I need to investigate Mildred’s Daughters eggs.)

And that’s just what I ate; the rest of the cheeses, and lots of the meats, are most definitely not local. I think I can do better, especially for my first week out. But I have to admit, those panini are damn yummy.

So was the chocolate cake. H requested this one especially, as he likes the hint of cinnamon in the cake and the rich-without-being-too-sweet icing.

He may be a raging pain in the ass as a husband, but he’s a damn fine father and I was happy to celebrate the day with him and our three beautiful boys.


Brabham Family Chocolate Sheet Cake

(From Michael Lee West’s wonderful Consuming Passions)

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 TBSP cocoa
½ cup buttermilk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp salt
1 scant tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix together flour and sugar in a large bowl.
Boil water, add butter and cocoa and stir till everything is melted and it’s thickened a bit (it doesn’t get very very thick, just FYI).
Pour over the sugar and flour.
Using a large spoon, blend well.
Add buttermilk, eggs, salt cinnamon, soda, and vanilla.
Mix well.
Pour into a buttered 9x13 pan.
Bake 35 minutes.
Cool 5 minutes (preferably on a wire rack) and ice cake in its pan.

Chocolate Icing

1 stick unsalted butter
4 TBSP cocoa
6 TBSP milk
3 ½ cups confectioners sugar
1 TBSP vanilla

Melt butter in a saucepan.
Stir in cocoa.
Whisk in milk, pouring in a slow stream.
Remove from heat, add sugar and beat.
Stir in vanilla (and 1 cup chopped pecans if you like – we do not like.)
Icing will be grainy and lumpy. Pour over cake and spread to cover. Icing sets quickly so work fast.

We served this with Turkey Hill vanilla bean ice cream, from Lancaster County, about four hours east of here. (Reinhold’s is made right in Pittsburgh, and is the most delicious ice cream, but it’s not readily available in the typical grocery stores.)

And I forgot the vanilla in the frosting because Primo was interrogating me about what I was making, and I don’t do well when I am distracted when baking. It seemed ok, but I do wonder if it had anything to do with the icing not really setting? Which was fine, all gooey with the cold ice cream and all.

And since H left this morning with the two older boys for Stroudsburg and Thomas, the remainder of the cake is ALL MINE. Oh yes!


Jess said...

What a fabulous menu! And an inspired gift.

I wondered if you had seen this?

Sarah Louise said...

And now you only have one rugrat!

Iamthebookworm said...

That sounds so yummy!

Stomper Girl said...

I'm trying that cake!

Peg said...

Sounds like a lovely Father's Day -- and dee-lish to boot.

Is the Stroudsburg trip now an annual Boys' Getaway? That's great.

P.S. It's hard to write a comment when you're listening to LOVE.

Steph said...

Yours is the second recommendation for the Kingsolver book. Time to read it! Thanks for the link to One Local Summer.

BreadBox said...

Ah, the strip district --- I used to love to go there on Saturday mornings. Does the Penn Macaroni Company still sell fresh yeast? That is, big blocks of yeast, rather than powdered?


Badger said...

Oh, salami. How I love thee. Sweet or hot, doesn't matter. We can't get good salami down here. Not enough Italians.

And yes, olives ARE a vegetable, dammit!

Suse said...

I'm halfway through my library copy of Animal Vegetable Miracle and loving it. I thought I was a pretty conscientious shopper (organic, free range, Australian made) but looked extra closely this morning as I did the grocery shopping and was shocked to find that most tomato pastes are imported from Italy, and mayonnaise from either Holland or Canada.

I put them straight back and kept on investigating until I found Made in Australia labels.

(Oh, and in the fruit section there were cherries from the US and mangosteens from Thailand.)

Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious. I was sorry before that I skipped breakfast this morning; now I'm even sorrier.

blackbird said...

The panini press is a great thing -
and don't forget dessert paninis...nutella and strawberries?

Caro said...

You mock me woman. I'm trying to diet. :)