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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MediterrItalian Night

Hellooo!  It's been a while since I last posted.  Life gets busy...and even those of us who love to cook go through phases of just cooking/eating simply for fuel/survival.  However, tonight we had a good reason to celebrate.
                            This adorable couple (good friends of our's) recently got engaged!
Meet Ryan and Shelly.

So what to cook for a joyful, celebratory dinner?  I decided to stick with Mediterranean/Italian dishes...MediterrItalian.

Several years ago, Lucas and I had an interesting dinner experience at a nice restaurant in Southern Spain.  You walk in and the first thing you see is fresh, whole fish on ice in a glass case.  The option on the menu says simply, "fish cooked in sea salt".  This dish had been highly recommended to us, so we knew to order it.  The waiter brought it out still in the roasting pan, packed in the sea salt crust.  He cracked through the crust and expertly pulled the most amazing, delicious meat right out of the fish and transferred it to our plates at the table.  It was divine!
This pic is straight from my Spain Shutterfly book.

Lucas and I have wanted to attempt this for a while, but have not been brave enough.  I'm not sure what it means for Shelly and Ryan that we chose them as our guinea pigs...but hey, an engagement calls for new adventures together, right?

So Lucas picked up the fish at the fish market and I looked up the instructions on Pinterest (of course, where else?).
Red Snapper

It was really quite simple.  Just be ready to purchase a ton of sea salt.

Ava and Clark are thinking this is a very interesting supper prep.

The fish are packed in the sea salt mix and ready to go in the oven.

One of my all time favorite TV chefs is Giada de Laurentiis.  For years, we have cooked her delicious and very approachable recipes on special occasions, as well as weeknights.  Our sides and dessert were straight from her.  You can find these recipes by looking her up on

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Caprese Salad

 One more residual from our visit to Spain is our love for olives.  I never touched them before we went.  But now I know how delicious they can be when they are fresh,  rather than from a jar.  Whole Foods has a stellar olive bar.  So I like to stock up when we are having friends over.

Olive selection and roasted garlic bread: all from Whole Foods

Once the fish was done, we had to crack into the sea salt wall that had formed around it.  It was harder than we thought it would be.  Ryan and I are both having a whack at it.

I had wondered if our's would turn out anything like the one we had previously enjoyed.  When we finally ended the archaeological dig to the meat within, it was well worth it.
That is some tender and delicious red snapper!

My plate.  

Whoa whoa whoa!  I'm forgetting one more recipe.  Since I have a thing about colors of foods, I adore beets.  I'm weird about making sure my and my family's diets are not all beige.  A long time ago, I read an article about how deeper colored fruits and vegetables are better for you than paler ones.  Have you ever seen the color of a beet?  It is the most magnificent shade of fuchsia I've ever seen.  Call me crazy, weird, whatever.  I love me a beet!  
Just look at the color of that beet boiling water!  That's got to be some antioxidants right there!  I feel more energetic just looking at it!

We have some beets growing in our back yard.  But I still had to buy some at the store for the beet salad I made tonight.  I did manage to use one of our's.  It is the tiniest one on the cutting block.  The little beet that could! Haha!  How sweet!

You might be wondering about the greens...or you might not be, I don't know.  But I'm going to tell you about them anyway.  I have seen so many recipes for "Swiss Chard".  I love greens, so I always have a warm fuzzy feeling about making doing those recipes.  But I go to the store to get it and it's a tiny bundle for a million dollars.  When I picked up the beets yesterday...I started looking at their leaves and then noticed the Swiss Chard on the shelf above it.  They looked curiously the same.  Lucas googled it later and Chard is simply the greens of a root vegetable, such as a beet.  Low and behold, I had Chard growing in my own back yard!  Whether it's "Swiss" or not, I don't know.  I'm thinking it's Alabamian.  
I washed it really well, chopped it up, and added it to this salad:

Last but not least, dessert!  I made Giada's Panna Cotta with fresh berries.  Panna Cotta is an Italian custard type dessert.  It is sweetened with honey and a bit of sugar.  But overall its not very sweet, which I like.  I infused this batch with one drop of lavender essential oil.  That put it over the top.  The flavor was beautiful!
Lavender Infused Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

After all that eating, it's time for a serious game of Banannagrams.  This crew gets competitive!   I love them anyway.  Congrats Ryan and Shelly!  May you have a long life of love, laughter and MediterrItalian dishes!