Monday, September 12, 2011

antipasto plate

For a dinner party, I decided to do an antipasto plate. I have these cool glass plates with four sections on them that I got from Crate and Barrel during an online clearance for 95 cents each, so I decided I'd knock out four of the antipasto from the book.

I ended up making five, and only two came from the book. It's a long story.

OK, here's the start of the long story. We have an avocado tree, and it has probably hundreds of pounds of avocado on it right now. So I decided I wanted to make something with them. But there is nothing in the book that uses avocado. Shrug. Minor problem.

I knew I was going to make cold avocado soup.

I made up my own recipe. It's avocado pureed with vegetable stock and heavy cream. Some salt and some lime juice. I couldn't believe how thick it stayed, so I added a little water, because I was afraid the vegetable stock was going to change the color. I wanted green. Then I made a little salad of crab, red onion and lime juice as a garnish. Done. 

Meanwhile, I took to Twitter and asked Mario what he would do if presented with a tree full of avocados.

Then this happened:

“@jwscoop: @Mariobatali hey chef, no avocado in babbo book. my tree is groaning. ideas?” I like a salad w grapefruit endive and avocado yum,

That sounds easy. I got some endive and grapefruit, added some mango because I picked one up at the office, then made a champagne vinaigrette. It ended up looking like this:

He's right. Yum.

The two I made from the Babbo cookbook were the beet and parmagiano bruschetta, which is pretty easy. Just roast and chop the beets, toss with balsamic and caraway, put on toast and shave cheese over it. I'm sure I could have found a way to make it sound difficult. OK, I had to go to a second store before I found caraway. But it was one on my way home from work, that I go to all the time. Not much drama. 

Then there was the cod in saor. I didn't know what to think of this dish. It sounds like a bad idea. Take fresh fish. Fry it. (That's not the questionable-sounding part.) Then make a mix of currants, pine nuts, onions and vinegar and soak the fried fish in there for 24 hours. Huh?

To be honest, when I was preparing for this dinner, I failed to see the "soak for 24 hours" step. By the time I started, I only had 8 hours. And I was OK with that, because I kept having to pull my eyebrow down, anyway. 

It was fantastic. One of the things I'd like to make again. I don't know what saor is, but the effect is basically pickled fried fish. Even though I have definitive evidence that it works, it still sounds like it shouldn't. But it does.

Also, one of the main ingredients, celery, originated in Oviedo, my homeland.

The last antipasto I made for the dinner was not from the book, but it was straight out of the Mario playbook. Just slices of mortadella, the fat- and pistachio-studded bologna that was illegal in the states until a few years ago (seriously), wrapped around slices of robiola, a soft, creamy cheese. For good measure, I put a dab of cherry-pepper jelly in mine. Then they get grilled.

This is a dish we had when Pam and I went to Fort Worth last year to work at an event for Mario's foundation. Here's a gratuitous photo of Mario and me eating this dish in Texas. 

It was great that day. But I liked it with the cherry pepper jelly, too.

Up next: baby chicken alla mattone

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