When you’re lucky enough, like we are, to have a distinguished chef in the family, you take care of him (or her as the case may be) as best you possibly can. For us that means following Chef Tyler Viggiano’s instructions to a T, gathering the nicest vegetables the garden has to offer, running up and down from the pantry hoping to find the sherry vinegar or the anchovies he’s asked for, or trying to suggest poor substitutes for what we don’t have.
We slice vegetables in ‘petals’ as Chef demonstrates, clean up pots and pans – if we can get to them before he does – and set up the food processor for his magic, hoping to hell it works. It means having an ice cold beer at the ready, a pair of tongs, a carving fork, a cake tester, a small whisk, a bottle of nice olive oil, snacks.
It’s a great gig, if you can get it: playing sous chef to Chef Tyler for a day. The various chores, not that any one of them is less than a pleasure anyway, pay off when dinner is finally served.
The grilled vegetables, which Chef stores in nests of newspaper when he’s finished, do in fact have an amazing smoky flavor intensified by the newspaper as promised. I eat platefuls of them and will remember the trick for the next time I grill vegetables.
My garden has never tasted better.
Two simple sauces that Chef Tyler whips up, Romesco and Salsa Verde, which he adjusts to whatever we happen to have, or not have, on hand, transform our humble vegetables and grilled chicken into something gorgeous and decadent, but still bright, healthy and bursting with the flavors of my garden.
With Chef Tyler at the helm, we make everything here at The Muddy Kitchen in the afternoon, sending various members of our party out to the garden to gather the requested greens, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs.
We start popping open the wine and beer at 5:00 pm (well, it’s 5:00 pm somewhere) and when the prep work is finished, we load it all in the Subaru along with an armload of wine bottles and bread, and drive over to Rose’s for a Summer Supper al fresco, at her breathtaking Hudson Valley spot around the corner.
As is her spécialité, Rose provides the yummy gluten free dessert on her whimsical collection of plates, the interesting and artistic guests up from Manhattan, and the piping hot cappuccino.
The night ends as it always does at Rose’s, with laughs, something sweet to cap things off, and our creeping into attic until someone swears they see something strange in the corner. Then some reminiscing about those who are no longer with us. More laughs. And occasionally – wigs.
This nutty, smoky sauce, which originated in Catalonia, Spain adds a decadent plop on top of our humble collection of grilled scallions, peppers and our grill-roasted potatoes.
2 dried chiles, like Ancho (the smokier the better)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
40 Marcona almonds (Chef Tyler turned down my offer of raw organic almonds in favor of these delectable crispy, salty ones)
20 pine nuts
1 cup torn cubes of stale sourdough bread
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 medium-hot peppers char-grilled (or sauteed), peeled and chopped
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (Chef Tyler used cider vinegar because it was all we had but sherry is his official choice)
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
Salt to taste
1. Cut the chiles in pieces, place in a small mixing bowl and cover with boiling water to reconstitute. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds, pine nuts and torn bread cubes and stir until they begin to turn golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and stir until lightly browned. Add the cooked peppers. Remove from heat.
3. Drain the dried chiles and remove stems and seeds. Chop and add them to the pan. Cook a minute or so until softened. Remove from heat.
4. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse until a rough paste is formed. With the machine running, slowly pour in the wine, vinegar, add the paprika and salt, to taste, then pulse briefly to blend.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups.
Salsa Verde is mild but tangy and surprisingly rich sauce given the l-i-t-e collection of ingredients. It’s a great topping for grilled fish or meats and amazing to have on hand if you’re counting calories or watching your fat intake (I’m never doing either…but someday I imagine, my luck with that will wear off).
12-15 tomatillos, husks removed, quartered
5 cloves of garlic
1 medium yellow onion, char-grilled or roasted, skin removed, coarsely chopped
1 large handful of cilantro coarsely chopped
1 small handful of mint (Chef Tyler’s idea) coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 large or 6 small medium-hot peppers (we used “Sweet-Hot” which are a bit like Padrons) char-grilled or roasted and skins removed
The juice of 1/2 lime
1. Add onions, hot peppers and tomatillos into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until blended.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups.
Chile Verde can be served immediately like we did, but is better when it sits overnight in the fridge to let the flavors meld.
Take your boots off before you come in here!