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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Perfect-pre-party-pick-me-upper...


I'm cooking dinner for some of my DHVIBC’s tomorrow.
That (if you really couldn't guess right away), refers to, Dear Husband’s Very Important Business Colleagues. See why I simply can't type all that out more than once?
Yup, thought so.
So that’s why I’m doing.
Now, while I really enjoy cooking for friends and I simply adore cooking for myself, I have to admit, I find cooking for DHVIBC’s slightly stressful. There’s just way too much pressure you know?
For instance:
“Sid’s wife made us such a great meal last night. A person married to such a person simply must be given a corner office with glass walls and a view of the Big Ben.”
That.
Or...
“Sid’s wife poisoned us last night. A person married to such a person simply must be transferred to the iciest depths of the North Pole.” 

(Or the South Pole. One mustn't discriminate.)

But, see what I mean?

Now, in such a circumstance as I have just described to you, any intelligent person would cook what they cook best – you know, the tried and tested, failsafe stuff.
But me?
Nooooo…
In such a circumstance as I have just described to you, it so happens, every time and without fail, that I am forced to dabble with something I have never cooked before. I have no idea how this happens on every single occasion that I have cooked for DHVIBC's. But it just does. For one reason or another. And if you’ve concluded from all this that I’m clearly not very intelligent, then well, I can't really blame you. "Pea-sized brains," my Biology teacher used to say, years ago in school. "You all have pea-sized brains." And then he used to demonstrate by pinching together his thumb and index finger just in case we needed further elucidation on the precise size of a pea. Well, at least he didn’t single me out. But it would appear, in at least one case, that he was right. Because once again I am cooking without a clue.

Mind you, I don't plan for things to unfold like this. They kinda just do...
Lookie now, in this case, for instance...
I get an email from DH the other day…
“They love Indian food”
“OK” I write back happily. Indian food? (I think to myself) Are you kidding me? A dinner for some DHVIBC’s that - for once - involves me being in my comfort zone? This is *almost* too good to be true! 
Then,10 seconds later…it turns out it is...
“...But without any spice”

Whaaa?

“Indian food with no spice? How does that work?” I shoot back, adding this link to illustrate the impossibility of this mandate.

His reply comes back too soon to have even clicked on the link. “Dunno," it says, "but Im sure you’ll figure it out.”  Followed by “I told them you're a great cook.”

I purse my lips and want to throw my phone into the baby bath tub. Incidentally where, just a few minutes earlier, turning a deaf ear to the screams of despair, I've thrown in my son.

Anyway.

You know when a person is trying – very hard – to be helpful and somehow they end up being expressly unhelpful? Yeah. This, my friends, is that.

So…
My brief for tomorrow night is bland Indian food.
And so, all I've been doing today is trying to prepare for this impossible culinary goal.
And that too, with spectacles on.
Because my eyes have apparently become “intolerant to lenses.”
Whatever that means.
I'm hoping it resolves itself because it is really a feat of human endurance to go about life’s normal duties in spectacles. To those of you who wear spectacles on a regular basis, I salute you. And to those of you who cook with spectacles, I fall on my knees in front of you. I mean, how do you stop them from fogging up every 30 seconds??

Anyway, to cut a long and very off the point story short, all this thinking and planning and prepping and plotting for tomorrow's dinner for DHVIBC's means that today’s dinner has got to be quick and straightforward. But it’s also got to be totally delicious because I could seriously use a pick-me-upper right about now. And nothing picks-me-up as much as a totally delicious dinner.

And so, here it is, my pre-party pick-me-upper…it's roast vegetables with crumbled chevre. That's goats cheese in English. But I feel like being fancy and calling it chevre. Humour me.

Here's what you need:

- 1 large aubergine, cut into medium pieces
- 2 red onions, cut into thin wedges
- 2 courgettes, cut into thick slices
- 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
- 1 yellow squash, cut on the diagonal into thick slice
- 4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed and gills scraped out
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- LARGE pinch of chilli flakes since I wont get any tomorrow…boo!
- 3 tbsp fresh basil, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 250g soft goat’s cheese, crumbled
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

Here's how you do it:

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Drizzle all sides of the peppers with some of the olive oil. Grill the peppers, turning them occasionally, until they are blistered and lightly charred on all sides. Place them in a bowl, cover it tightly with a lid (or plastic wrap), and set it aside to steam while you grill the remaining vegetables.

Brush the remaining olive oil on both sides of the mushrooms, aubergine, courgette, squash and red onion slices and place them on a large baking sheet or platter. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill the vegetables, in batches if necessary, until they are lightly charred and caramelised on the edges and nicely marked on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the grilled vegetables to a platter, add the peppers to it, and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the goats cheese, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble your dish by topping your grilled vegetables with the crumbled goats cheese, sprinkling liberally with chilli flakes and drizzling over with balsamic vinaigrette.

I have to admit, this dish is not only delicious, but it’s quite the looker. And you know I'm a sucker for lookers. But there it is – a beautiful platter of chargrilled smoky reds, greens, and purples topped with rich, mellow creaminess…isn’t it pretty?

And when something scores on taste and looks, I call it perfect. There you go, then…

The Perfect Pre-Party Pick Me Upper!

To be enjoyed with a glass of chilled White.
Or many glasses.
Or…I suppose…orange juice will do as well?

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