Thursday, March 12, 2009
By (Ahem) Popular Demand
When they say put in a pinch of salt, how big is the pinch? Or even worse, salt to taste... whose taste exactly? What if you were brought up in a household that used less salt, then what? That was one of the reasons I never took cooking seriously, plus I spent most of my adult life practicing precise measurements, and a pinch (of anything) would get you in serious trouble. What's really funny though is that we at work liken making paint to baking a cake - well, more of the mixing of the cake batter than baking, although we have ovens at work, but not for food. And yeah, we make paint... and they call the formulas recipes!
The other day Trauma Queen suggested that I follow Aunty Helpful Dictator's footsteps and include recipes for the stuff my sister and I slaved near the kitchen for (there was not enough place in the kitchen, so we made use of the dining area for some of the work!) and I figured why the hell not, although I'm afraid that our bastardized versions of the recipes might shock the purists to a certain extent ;) Please note that neither of us researched the real recipes
1.What you need is basically two french loaves (depending on the size of the loaf, but we figured two will be the safest bet) which needs to be cut a day earlier so that you get a bit of the stale bread effect. If you have a bread knife then, excellent. Considering that bread comes sliced over here, a bread knife could not be found and a normal knife was used. I bet my right biceps and triceps were thankful for the little workout I gave them while cutting/sawing the loaf into 3/4 inch thick slices!
2.In typical Jamie Oliver fashion, cut a couple of cloves of garlic and rub them against the bread the next day. Lay them in the tray and drizzle about half a teaspoon of olive oil (extra virgin, virgin, or non-virgin doesn't really matter) on the bread. Heat up the oven to a 150 C. Then toast the bread in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes depending on how brown you like your bread. We did ours for ten minutes.
3. To prepare the dressing, dice about 4 tomatoes after removing the seeds. Choose the sweet variety because they are bright red and much prettier. Chop up a few pitted black olives (I used those from the can because there were no fresh ones available) and we had to ditch the idea of using capers as well because we couldn't find them. For the actual dressing, we used a low fat ready made Italian dressing dressing because we weren't sure about the type of vinegar to use (besides, there would have been alot of balance, and we don't use it in our day to day cooking, etc) - but it saved us a whole lot of time! We used just enough to cover the surface of the chopped tomatoes and olives in the bowl.
4. Finally we chucked in 1 sprig of Italian parsley and 1 sprig of mint (after chopping them, of course) and stirred it with a fork. It kind of lacked flavour at first, but we decided against adding salt.
5. To serve, scoop up a bit of the dressing and put them on the toasted french loaf. There's your bruschetta all ready to eat. Funny thing is, on the bread, the dressing seems to much more flavourful, so I suppose it was a good point to ditch the extra salt.
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
1. It's supposed to be baby Portobellos, but we could only find the adults... so that was it. It was cleaned (wiped dry only as the label said there were no pesticides - keeping fingers crossed, and it does seem that everyone at the party is still alive, so we're safe!), stalks chopped off and chopped finely for the vegetarian filling (my mom's a vegetarian)
2. Since we couldn't find Italian sausages (why?), we had to opt for local sausages. Looking for sausages was an adventure on it's own. We have a very famous local brand but it was nowhere to be found! Finally, a lady who was giving out samples approached me and guess what, she had sausages of all kinds! So we picked two variants - two pieces of sausages of cheese and black pepper, and some minced chicken for the filling. I am now a de-boning champion... We stir fried this over a low heat with some onions and garlic, finally adding in some Worcestershire sauce.
3. For the vegetarian filling, we added some button mushrooms, also finely chopped, but skipped the sauce because there's apparently anchovies in it. This was also stir fried over a low heat with onion and garlic
4. The mushrooms are laid out on a buttered pan, the oven heated to 180 C. Drizzle some olive oil in it (we did this to ensure the mushroom got cooked well), put a layer of tomato puree on it which is supposed to act as glue, followed by some mozarella - more glue, and then the filling. Pack it in, and add the parmesan cheese powder to hold it in, but we also added mozarella because we could.
5. We attempted two methods of cooking it in the oven. The first one was to cover it with aluminum foil so that it cooks by convection, but it ended up quite soggy (I'm anti-soggy, so I was not very thrilled by this) Secondly, we tried cooking it without the aluminum foil and it seemed to have turned out just fine, though still almost soggy-ish. This was cooked for 10 minutes in the oven, and allowed to sit and was then placed in a tray with Aluminum foil at the top and the bottom.
Both the recipes were meant to serve 13 people.