Many times we get all psyched up to cook a meal for family and friends, and we pick a main dish or dishes, steak, chicken, fish, and we determine how to cook, fricasee, barbecue, curry etc., but then what goes with what?
Often we then ‘settle’ for the boring rice, or boiled potatoes, or a loaf of french bread, with, wait for it, wait for it….. Garlic butter. And of course desert is ice cream! Sound familiar? Nothing wrong with these combination’s, but rather predictable.
If we invite people to our homes, to share a meal, unless we really do not like them, and are doing it out of obligation, some thought and creativity is really appreciated. It can be as simple as adding orange segments to a garden salad, (not the same as a fruit salad) or instead of garlic butter, serving a garlic flavoured cream cheese that is store bought. Again, quite palatable alternatives.
Let’s stretch the elastic here a bit, with some newish, simple things that can be done on the barbecue, or on a rainy day modified for the oven, and stove.
Bacon wrapped Sweet Corn
Simple simple simple. Wrap bacon around corn! OK, no so simple.The main thing to watch out for on a barbecue to prevent flare-ups, you must use a drip pan. That’s it? Yuppa, that’s it. I like to have a little honey on standby that for the adventurous you coat the bacon on the inside before wrapping around the corn. Just kidding, coat the corn! Use a toothpick soaked in water for at least 1/2 hour to avoid it catching fire, to peg the bacon to the corn so you can cook it standing up, it will cook more evenly this way.
Deep Fried Ice Cream
This takes some time, but is a shock for your guests that is well worth the effort.
You need almonds or any un-salted nut that you like chopped really fine, and for the binding agent egg whites. Take your favourite flavour of ice cream, my preference is vanilla, and using your ice cream scoop create little balls in a plate. Put the balls back in the freezer if in a rush for 1/2 hour, if not in a rush in the fridge for 2 hours to get really firm. Take the balls out and dip completely in the egg whites and coat with a layer of nuts. Put back in the fridge for a couple of hours. Re-coat with egg whites and nuts and back we go again with the firming in the fridge until our guests have almost finished eating their main courses, at least 2 hours.
Now comes the fun part. Either using a deep fryer with a non-flavouring oil like canola, or a pan, and get the temp of the oil to 365 degrees. Why? That is suggested as the perfect fry temp so that your food, meat, fries or now ice cream balls, do not absorb the oil. Drop the balls in for a couple of minutes until completely golden brown, and get each guest to fish their own balls out! Adds to the fun.
Bruschetta on your favourite French Bread or Melba Toast
This can be served with a meal, Salmon off the barbecue springs to mind, or as an appetizer.
Again so simple, yet your guests will appreciate the addition to an old favourite.
Buy chopped tomatoes in the can, mix with a store bought basil pesto, heat over a medium heat for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Add some Romano or Parmesan cheese, with a sprinkling of chili peppers from a bottle and voila. Or you can make it from scratch.
In a food processor add 1 cup pine nuts, 1/4 cup olive oil, basil chopped coarsely and puree. Add your mix to a saute/fry pan with 2 cups of chopped tomatoes, 1 chopped chili pepper and stir in your cheese. Tadaaaah! Either way, simple easy to make, and the flavour combination is out of this world. You can also add salt and black pepper if you must, or experiment each time with a new herb. ( I know what flashed through your minds) Parsley, bay leaf, thyme, those are the safe, legal ones.
And finally what to do with the RICE? Hmmn. there are so many types of rice on the market today, pre-flavoured, Basmati, Jasmine etc, but, how about something a little different again, a set it and forget it dish. Since everyone seems to use a rice cooker nowadays, and after one or 2 uses you can be a self professed master rice maker. So go crazy. Add chicken broth, instead of plain water. Put in some noodles, green peas and broccoli, or one I love and my kids too, some frozen corn. For a bit of coloured rice, add some curry powder and cumin, or some soy sauce.
So, there you have it. Some simple suggestions that can add balance and extra flavour to your main course.
Always remember my secret recipe, cooking without a recipe. Make it fun and this will be reflected in your food. The only bad side perhaps, your guests will keep asking to be invited back!