Romantic Formal Dinner on Naboo
Padmé and Anakin have dinner at Varykino, the Lake Country
Padmé Naberrie Amidala was the former Queen of Naboo and served as senator of the system, obligating the government of Naboo to protect her when her life was threatened. She resolved to hide in the Lake Country, where her family and classmates had spent idyllic holidays. Little did she dream that she would spend time alone with her Jedi protector, and the she would fall deeply in love with him. She was surprised that she was infatuated with him in the first place; when it turned into love, she was shocked.
To mask her feelings, she ordered a very formal dinner for the two of them on their first night in Varykino, the Naberrie family retreat. The two sat on opposite sides of a beautifully inlaid and polished table, served by caretaker Paddy Accu, and servants Teckla and Nandi. Surrounded by formality and manners, Padmé felt more secure, safe from assassins, but also safe from the Jedi Padawan's affections. She could show him that her world of politics, social grace and behind the scenes intrigue did not mix well with his world of charity and protection.
But Anakin Skywalker knew how to behave at a formal table; he'd transcended his slave roots and was a genuine gentleman. He entertained her with tales of his adventures with his master, Obiwan Kenobi, and his thoughts -- articulate and intelligent -- on issues concerning the galaxy. She discovered, to her dismay, that she ended the long meal more in love with him than when she sat down to start it. What started as a forbidding, protective device turned into a romantic blossoming.
Years and years later, in hiding and frightened, she was equally dismayed to remember back to this meal. With so little effort, she could recall every dish, every serving piece, and the nuances of Anakin's smile, his gentle voice and infectious laugh. Padmé also remembered the man who loved her more than anything else, who was willing to give up everything for her. It broke her heart anew every time she compared him to the man who had eventually sacrificed her, for everything else.
Much later, Padmé's daughter remembered her mother as being very beautiful and very sad. If only she knew why ...
Feather Bread Rolls
These rolls require no kneading, yet come out fluffy and light. It's a great favorite, and they look like you really, really tried. They go with everything, and Padmé always had to remind herself not to eat too many! Serve warm with butter.
Stir down the dough and half fill greased muffin tins. Let rise again till the pans are full. Bake in a 400°F (185°C;) oven till browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Mesclun Mixed Salad
This salad suffered from being 'trendy,' but it's actually a nice mix of bitter and bland greens, with lots of flavor and texture. If you wish, serve it as a bed under a single soft-shell crab (recipe below) for a nice presentation.
Soft Shell Crabs Stuffed with Basil Butter
Padmé used to catch these crustaceans while swimming in the waters around Varykino, and she liked them boiled or pan-fried or even roasted, but she liked the soft-shelled ones best. On Naboo, they were a different species from hard-shelled crabs, but on Earth, the softies are molted hard-shelled crabs, and are available only in summer. She liked that she could eat them with a knife and fork and not get all messy, unlike when she ate the hard-shelled ones, that had to be cracked and sucked on to extract the meat! The soft-shells are much more appropriate for a formal meal!
In a small bowl, mix together the butter, herbs and hot sauce into a uniform paste. Pat into a disc and place in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or more. When hard, cut into 8 equal wedges.
Stuff each butter wedge firmly into the flap you cut to remove the gills from the crabs. Cover the butter completely. Salt and pepper the crabs to taste.
Dredge the crabs in the flour, then the egg, and finish with the bread crumbs. Sauté the crabs in a frying pan in which about an inch of oil is heated. Turn over once, when cooked -- takes about 3 minutes. There will be a lot of splatter, so be careful!
Serve the crabs, two per person as a nice lunch, or once apiece as an appetizer or fish course.
Lime & Basil Sorbet
This is a palate cleanser, meant to "clean your tongue" of one set of flavors and prepare your tastebuds for different tastes. Traditionally, this is an astringent-type of ingredient, like citrus. This sorbet is refreshing, and picks up the basil flavor from the crab dish, and the lime flavor goes so well with pork. Since the pork is not served with a fruit relish or side dish, the lime is the perfect way to carry into the next course.
Every 20 to 30 minutes, remove the container and beat the contents with a fork till fluffy and to break up the ice crystals. Repeat till frozen solid, about 2 hours.
Serve in a shallow wine glass.
Brine Marinated Roast Pork
Despite Naboo's wealth of plant and animal species, the people of this small green planet were forced to trade for basics like food and medicines due to the dense population. Its animals were generally endangered and it was forbidden to hunt or slaughter them. Thus imported meat was cooked carefully, and brined to ensure tender and flavorful flesh. This pork roast, despite its preparation time and seemingly fussy process, is a simple, hard-to-screw-up recipe. Again, another dish that appears more complex than it is!
Mix together water, sugar, salt, pepper in a large plastic bag, dissolving the sugar and salt. Crush the herbs and add to the brine. Place the pork in the bag with the seasoning brine, making sure the meat has good contact with the brine. Close the bag, trying to get as much air out as possible. Refrigerate overnight, about 4 to 8 hours.
Heat oven to 400°F/235°C. Remove the roast from the liquid and pat dry with paper towels. Place the cut up onions and lemons, and the garlic on the bottom of a roasting pan; sprinkle with additional herbs or lay down sprigs of herbs if desired. Place the roast fat side up (if there is no "fat side," place with any seam side up) on top of all this (it will be a sort of aromatic rack). Roast in the oven for about an hour. When is it done? Use a meat thermometer -- it's done when the roast registers 150°F (60°C). Larger, plumper roasts will take longer, of course. You do NOT need to cook it more! Remove from the oven, remove from the hot pan, and let the roast rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before carving -- the meat will reabsorb the juices that boiled out of it, and will continue to cook on standing. Don't skip this step unless you like dry meat!
Slice thinly or thickly, as you wish, and according to the appetites of your guests. Serve immediately, while still warm and juicy!
Risotto seems fussy, but think about it -- you WANT the rice to be sticky and wet and somewhat heavy, not fluffy and separated and dry! So it's actually a low-stress recipe, and really nice served with the pork.
Mixed Mushroom Sauté
Paddy Accu is an expert forager, being the caretaker and housekeeper of Varykino; the more he can hunt or pick or grow, the lower the expenses of the household. This dish takes advantage of woodland fungus, which he picks, barters or trades for other household needs. Padmé used to dislike the weird looking vegetable, but after tasting this recipe at a young age, she had to let go of her prejudice and embrace mushrooms in any recipe, in all forms!
Heat the oil in a large pan. Sauté the garlic and mushrooms together till the mushrooms wilt and exude liquid. Add the red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. Continue to cook till the juices are cooked away.
Squeeze lemon juice over the mushrooms, toss to mix, and serve immediately.
Simple Baby Carrots & Asparagus
Surrounded by rich dishes, simply steamed or boiled vegetables provide a good crunch and healthy contrast. Use what you have that's fresh and seasonal. Varykino is down-coast from a sand bed filled with wild asparagus, and it's tastiest cooked simply.
Boil water in a shallow pan, and toss in the carrots. Cook till easily pierced with a skewer, and the color is bright. Remove and drain, then place the asparagus spears in the boiling water. Cook briefly till bright green. Remove from the hot water, drain and serve immediately with a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Water Cooled Fruits
Refrigerators are dehumidified, meaning that if you like your fruit cold, storing it in the refrigerator will dry them out. Also, coldness retards ripening, stunting the luscious texture and rich flavor that people love in orchard fruit. When Padmé's mother was pregnant with her precocious daughter, she saw that the local people would hang their fruit in net bags in the cold waters of Lake Como. The fruit she bought from them was cool, refreshing and beautifully ripe. She reasoned that she could duplicate their process by letting fruit ripen on the warm, sunny windowsills of Varykino's kitchens, and cooling it in ice water. For many years, this water-cooled fruit was a traditional finish to a Naberrie meal.
For each serving, select whole orchard fruits with intact skins: pears, peaches, plums, apples, apricots, cherries, for example. The fruit should be drop-dead ripe and soft, without bruises or cuts.
Draw some water, and place it in a pitcher for convenience, about half way. Fill the remainder of the pitcher with ice and let stand to chill.
About 30 minutes before the fruit is to be served, place the fruit in a glass bowl and pour the ice water over it, filtering out the ice pieces. Serve at the table.
If you prefer, place a single piece of fruit in a glass bowl and pour ice water over to cover. Serve with knife, fork and spoon. If the diners wish, they can remove the cooled fruit to a place to eat with knife and fork. Some people like cutting or mashing the fruit in the ice water, and drinking the cold, fruit-tinted liquid.
This dish was served in the sitting room, after the main meal was done, in the glow of a romantic fire. Note that if you drop your fruit or cake into this delicious dessert dip, you must kiss the person opposite you! Also note, there are no specifics as to where or how you should deliver this kiss ...
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