A warm & cool salad plate for a warm summer eve:
Sautéed potatoes and artichokes with mackerel
Haricots verts salad
I'd serve this with a well-chilled rosé or a chilled, crisp, herby Marlborough-style Sauvignon Blanc.
(I'm making the assumption that anything that's in my kitchen for at least 3 weeks out of most months constitutes a staple. Ingredients used: potato, artichoke hearts, green beans, mackerel, mushrooms. My added ones for this menu are red wine, shallots, butter, lettuce, fresh herbs, oil & vinegar, and a bit of lemon.)
Mise en place:
--Top and tail the green beans.
--Finely mince a shallot or two.
--Decant the mackerel filets and rinse them very well. Place them in a shallow dish with a little fruity olive oil and some fresh chopped thyme, salt & pepper, and a squeeze of lemon to marinate.
--Look around in the fridge for some lettuces - watercresses, butter lettuces, red leaf - anything softer than an iceberg will do. If you have none, skip it.
--Wash the mushrooms & dry them. Wash and dry any lettuces you've found.
--Chop a handful of fresh thyme, and a handful of sage. If you don't have an herb garden, using dried herbs is ok.
To prepare the meal:
1) Start the ridiculous mushrooms: In a reasonably-sized pot, sautée the mushrooms whole. They'll make a very odd squeaky sound; don't fret. When they're sufficiently browned (~5 minutes), pour in enough red wine to cover the mushrooms with an inch to spare. (If you're the sort that keeps stock around, you can split the red wine in half with stock, but don't use a salted stock.) Bring this to a simmer, and let it reduce until you have intensely red mushrooms bathed in a few teaspons of viscous liquid. This will probably take a half an hour. (I often start this with my mise-en-place to give a little extra reduction time.)
2) Make a sherry-shallot vinaigrette: whisk some good vinegar (sherry vinegar is what i would use), some good olive oil, a tablespoon or two of finely minced shallots, the chopped sage, and salt & pepper to taste. Your oil:vinegar ratio should be about 2:1. Set aside.
3) Put a pot of water on to boil. When it's boiling, blanch the green beans for 2 minutes, and shock them in cool water. Make sure you check them for tenderness before you shock them. Toss beans in sherry-shallot vinaigrette & set aside. Keep the water boiling.
4) Drain the artichoke hearts. If they were in oil, rinse them well. Dice into approximately half-inch cubes and allow to dry on paper towels while you prep the potatoes. To prep the potatoes, peel 4 large russets (an extra if any are small), and cut into half-inch cubes. Cook the potato cubes for about 4 minutes in the boiling water, and remove. (If they start to crumble around the edges, take them out ASAP.)
5) Heat some butter (or olive oil or duck fat) in a heavy skillet. Throw in the potatoes, and let them sit for a minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally. Scatter some salt and pepper over the top, and the thyme. Fry the potatoes until they're golden on all sides. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the artichoke cubes. (They're already cooked; you just want to brown them up a bit.) Salt and pepper the final product to taste.
To assemble your supper:
Get a large plate. Place any lettuces you find in the middle, in a shallow but wide circle. Mound some warm (but not too hot) potato/artichoke mix in the middle. Lay a few filets in a row on top. (The heat from the potatoes will bring out the flavors in the mackerel.) Arrange the haricots verts & the ridiculous mushrooms to the sides - i might make the points of a square/diamond, alternating beans and mushrooms per corner. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the mushrooms.