I had the good fortune to wish two friends of mine happy birthday this week (well, three, but one didn’t allow me to cook anything). The first occasion was a sort of haphazard surprise BBQ party–we all gathered at the birthday boy’s house and sort-of-surprised him. He’d have noticed the gathering peoples if he hadn’t had his head in the groove banging on his Rhodes in the basement.
The impromptu BBQ had obvious challenges–mainly, that nothing had a chance to marinate. Off I dashed to the kitchen to make some sauces to go on the chicken, steak and skewers that abounded.
(N.B. all amounts are wild guesses–I was winging it, people)
1 c. sweet/hot mustard
2 tbs. grated horseradish (from the bottle, natch)
2 c. Trader Joes apple cider
2 cl. minced garlic.
s/p to taste.
(mix well, ya wanker)
1/2 cup olive paste (I made my own with some pitted kalamatas from new seasons, so it was nice and inconsistent.)
4 cl. garlic, minced
1 tsp bird chile powder
2 c. yogurt
1 tbl lemon juice
(mix well, ya wanker)
1 c olive oil (or E-V-O-O if you suck, like rachel ray)
1/2 c rice wine vineagar
1 tbl. sambal
4 cl garlic, minced
1″ ginger root, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
smattering of pepper flakes
1/2 tsp soy sauce.
(mix well and often, ya wanker)
I called them the international trio–German, Greek and Tiki (as in anglicized, kinda-sorta-pan asian)
Party #2 was a much more composed, prepared affair with an Italian Theme, so I made something radically neo-romanesque
melon “caprese” salad with a lemon-basil gastrique
the salad was, essentially, frenched Tomatoes and Cantaloupe from the co-op layered with whole Basil leaves–I put it in a straight sided, 1″ deep circular dish w/ a bottom layer of cantaloupe, then basil, then tomatoes, then basil etc… with some nice starburst patterns on top. I scattered a fair amount of hawaiian pink salt throughout. The gastrique–which I explained to curious minds as ‘the french version of sweet and sour sauce–was the only cooked element, and man was it tasty:
1 c. braggs apple cider vineagar
1/2 c. raw sugar
simmer until reduced by half, or for me, the prep time for the melon and the rest of the gastrique ingredients (my knife skillz are still here, for the most part)
toss in 1 bunch of basil stems and small leaves and simmer for 5 minutes–remove. You could and probably should leave them in a bit longer–the basil flavor was muted in the final product–but I had more than enough basil in this dish already.
add in 2 tbl. Lemon zest, minced to microscopic minutiae
prep your first tomato and then add 3 cloves of minced garlic
prep your second tomato then add 1/2 a giant walla walla sweet onion, finely diced (about 2-2 1/2 cups of cut onion)
keep it simmering while you finish the prep/construction of the salad. When the onions are nice and glossy/translucent take the pot off heat and let it sit for a few minutes. Adding the onions late means that the gastrique will get diluted by the liquid exuded from the cooking onions, and that’s good, but it lengthens cooking time. That’s the gastrique. For this use, I wanted something more ‘dressing-like’ so I added about 1/2-3/4 c. olive oil to round out the flavors as well as the juice of one lemon.
I kept the dressing and salad separated and allowed people to compose their own.