All the dinner parties of August, and there were many . . .

This is cherry clafouti, a dessert I always think of fondly but never make. The batter takes about five minutes to pull together, it skates that elusive elegant/rustic line perfectly when served warm, and it can be made with just about any fruit. It was, literally, my Dessert of the Month.

dinner for Aaron’s far-flung cousins:
confit of mixed garden greens (kale, beet and chard) with currants, pine nuts and capers, extra-virgin olive oil on garlic-rubbed toasted baguette
Alex Raij’s cold Spanish tomato soup “salmorejo,” garnished with olive-oil-fried croutons, cherry tomatoes and iced chunks of cippolini onion
spaghetti with fresh sausage, garden broccoli and garlic, for a crowd
maple pots de crème with whipped cream and wild blueberries

dinner for 12, Aunt Mary’s Birthday:
pork shashlyk, marinated in red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano and spicy paprika, grilled quickly
Uzbek marinated raw carrot salad with dill, cilantro, coriander, caraway, garlic and red pepper flakes
green been salad with walnut-yogurt sauce (garlicky, herby)
meatless plov: basmati steamed with currants, pine nuts, a touch of curry and a bit of saffron
georgian cheese bread: (wonderful … a soft, eggy, buttery bread literally bursting with soft, stringy cheese, in this case a mixture of grated fresh mozzarella and havarti. I followed the recipe in my georgian cookbook and wouldn’t change a thing.)

dinner for Mom, Aunt Renee, and Marc:
ribeyes from Thielen’s, grilled over an oak fire
grilled cippollinis with blanched haricots vert in caper-mustard vinaigrette
grilled corn with butter
cucumber salad with sour cream and vinegar
tomato salad with lemon, shaved aged parmesan, purple basil
sautéed spinach with brown butter, garlic and nutmeg
(in true Thielen form, we ate so much meat that we couldn’t even consider dessert … I knew this in advance and didn’t even plan one.)

menu for melissa’s birthday:
chilled cauliflower soup with garlic-almond crunch, whole milk yogurt and lemon
my Mediterranean grilled chicken (cumin, coriander, cilantro, garlic, lemon, olive oil, mahlab, cinnamon) marinated for 6 hours and then grilled
haricots vert, steamed and buttered
basmati rice with dill and garlic
mesclun salad with hazelnut vinaigrette and roasted grapes
fresh cherry clafoutis with dark rum and whipped cream (cherries with the pits in them! Wonderful and lots of fun and the intact cherries didn’t dilute the custard. Julia Child recipe, and it was perfect.)

dinner for Brian and Jill and Mike and Michelle:

Mike’s homemade cured coppa and soppressata. Both were amazing. He used the cylindrical roast inside the boston butt for the coppa and it was the ideal cut: lacy with fat and naturally tender. Makes me want to pull out that cut and roast it on its own, quickly, like a loin.
grilled flank steak with charred scallion Frankfurter herb sauce
boiled new potatoes with brown butter and grilled cippollini onions
haricots vert with tiny bits of Thielen bacon
mesclun with hazelnut vinaigrette
fresh berry tart with lightened vanilla bean pastry cream, a super-flaky crust (thank you, Rose Levy Berenbaum), and mixed black cap and purple raspberries

a good, simple, quintessentially northern 30-minute meal for Sarah Spangler:
chicken breast pan-roasted on the bone with lemon and thyme and garlic, thinly sliced
basmati rice warmed in brown butter
buttered haricots vert
salad with toasted hazelnuts and sliced grapes and a touch of curry
wild berry tart with a cream-cheese/pastry cream filling

dinner for Merle on the occasion of his annual fishing trip in Vergas
Roast baby chickens with thyme/marjoram/garlic butter, and quick pan gravy
Potato gratin with creamed kale and caramelized onions (creamed kale made with a base of caramelized onions, half and half and a bit of water, mixed with two egg yolks and poured over cooked, buttered and salted sliced potatoes, topped with grated parm and baked until all browned and tender … a brand-new idea and an total winner).
turnips glazed with honey, butter and rosemary
cucumber salad with yogurt, dried sour cherries and olive oil (Shea’s recipe)

Just a Wednesday night dinner that turned out better than expected:
Grilled flatiron steak with tomato-basil vinaigrette
Poached fresh shell beans tossed with bacon, butter-braised onions, rosemary and parsley
Cabbage fried in ghee with leeks and thyme and garlic
Cucumber salad with sour cream and lemon

dinner for Bruce and Cheryl:
What I thought I’d make:
garden agrodolce: eggplant, zucchini, beans, onions and tomatoes with currants and pine nuts, made sweet and sour with honey and vinegar and olive oil
slow-roasted porchetta
new potatoes with rosemary
boiled greens sautéed in garlic and oil and sprinkled with lemon
shredded zucchini and basil with yogurt
Muscat grape clafoutis with rum

What I actually made:
No appetizers, just white wine
Roast chicken rubbed with French quatre-epices (black peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, dried ginger) plus some red pepper flakes, garlic powder and salt; roasted on a bed of thick-sliced cippollini onions for 20 minutes at 450 degrees (breast-side-up) and then another 50 minutes at 375 degrees (breast-side-down); rested 15 minutes before carving.
Roasted turnips, carrots and freshly dug fingerling potatoes with rosemary and olive oil
Creamed corn and garden leeks
Greens sauteed with pine nuts, garlic and dried currants
Apple clafoutis with rum

Reading through these menus, I’m confronted with the simultaneous abundance and scarcity of a garden-reliant kitchen. The beans, the onions, the cukes … it gets a little repetitive, but that’s the reality of cooking from the garden. And I absolutely hate letting anything over-mature, so I try to pick every morning. The cucumbers grow from pill-sized oval nubs on yellow blossoms to full pickling size in the space of a day, so it goes fast. Beans, too. When the haricots vert come on, it’s a deluge.They were kicking for four full weeks, and if it warms up these next few weeks, they should produce beans again. They’re called Maxibel. It’s a french import and it has produced profusely for two years in a row now. We’ve also been blessed with nice fat cippollinis this year, sweet and juicy enough to eat raw.

Cherry Clafouti
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Beck, Bertolle and (Julia) Child
(I added the rum!)

They call for pitted cherries, but I know that traditional clafoutis were made with un-pitted cherries, so I left them alone. It was no bother to dip the pits out onto our spoons and heap them like rock piles at the edge of our plates.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons dark rum
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour

butter for the dish

Place the milk, rum, 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour in a blender jar. Cover and blend at top speed for one minute. (This can be ahead of time, in the morning before you plan to serve it. Just refrigerate after blending and then allow to come to room temperature again before baking.)

Butter a 7- to 8-cup fireproof baking dish or pie plate about 1 1/2 inches deep. Pour a 1/4-inch layer of batter in the baking dish. Pop into the oven and cook until just set. Remove and spread the cherries over the batter and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter.

Place on the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake for about an hour. The clafouti is done when it has puffed and browned, and a needle or knife plunged into its center comes out clean. Sprinkle top of clafouti with powdered sugar just before bringing it to the table.

I served mine with rum-spiked whipped cream: I cup cream, 2 Tablespoons sugar, a splash of rum.

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