Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tapas night

While on vacation in Vegas (yes Vegas) Susan and I stumbled upon a fantastic, inexpensive, happenin' tapas joint not far from The Strip. Called Firefly. Well...we didn't really "stumble" upon it....there was a bit of research on Yelp involved. People were raving, and it was a tough reservation to get, and did I mention it was inexpensive?

Now...seeing as how this was WEEKS ago, and can't really remember all the things we had, but the one thing that stood out was dates wrapped in bacon, stuffed with goat cheese in a red wine reduction. Yummmm. And, I thought, "I can make that!"

So, a few Friday nights ago I decided to do tapas night at home, starting with a variation on the Firefly theme. Dates wrapped in proscuitto (actually "speck", which seems to be a smoked proscuitto). Pan fried in my cast iron skillet. That's it. No cheese. No red wine reduction. But it was fabulous. Sweet dates wrapped in the salty umami of the speck. Just the right starter to get me going for the rest of the evening.

Next up -- pan roasted parsnips and carrots. Now...I'm head over heels for roasted veggies in the winter. All sorts -- carrots, parsnips, turnips, brocolli, cauliflower, sweet potato, pototo, sqaush, onions, cabbage...whatever. Usually with rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper (though that big jar of herbs de Provence has been getting the call from the bench lately). It just needs to be tough enough to stand up to 45 minutes to an hour in the oven and roasted to a carmelized crunchy sweet hearty filling treat. Well....I didn't want to wait 45 minutes, and I wanted to keep it simple. So I simply sliced the carrots and parsnips (just white carrots, eh?), tossed in olive oil and the herbs, and skillet roasted them. Perfect. Like al dente roasted veggies. They had a bit more crunch, but not much, and the parsnips still had a little of their bitter edge to them, but not much -- the sweetness really came through.

And then the beets. I love beets, because you get at least two meals out of them -- one for the greens and one for the bulbs. And I'd just read about making a raw beet and carrot salad on Chocoloate and Zuccini, and was inspired. I followed her recipe pretty much verbatim, so I won't repeat it here, but the keys are cider vinegar and spicy mustard, and not overdoing it on anything. And those green flecks are cilantro, which worked well.

The last one was a little inspiration from wishing for something sweet. A few days before I had had the brainwave that if you take dried fruit and soak it in water overnight, you get reconstituted dried fruit. Now, for some of you, this may seem obvious, but for me, it took awhile to come around. I'd had fruit compote before, but I'm pretty sure that was cooked. This is simple -- just apricots, prunes and water. And after a few days, the water gets all syrupy. And I had a little sour cream in the fridge, leftover from something, so I added that as a garnish, and was very happy indeed.

What I liked most about the meal (aside from the food) was the pacing of the meal. One little bit of bites at a time, let it settle, move on to the next course in the kitchen and enjoy. And then think up the next course. An entire evening of entertainment!

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