On Saturday I had the pleasure of cooking for 2 guests at my place. So far, in 5 months of living in my place, I have not entertained nearly as much I would have liked to so I'm hoping this will kick off a new phase and will become a regular occurrence. If you are a friend, or even an acquaintance, you may be getting an invite soon! I love cooking so much, but even more that that, I love cooking for other people. This is for several reasons:
-Share the love
-Learning from others about food and the way they prepare things
-I get feedback on the creations which ultimately help evolve recipes
-More hands make the washing up easier!
I had 2 dishes in mind, an appy and a main but I decided to take a risk and make a dinner party cardinal sin by attempting dishes I had not made before. However, I weighed up the risks and determined the appy was a "no-cooking involved, minimal assembly required but maximum visual and flavour impact" and the main seemed fairly straightforward too. Plus my guests are both very easy going and they both knew I was experimenting with them. I mean, the food.
Here is the menu:
Prosciutto wrapped figs
Greek Grilled Squid
I spent the day running some errands and headed over to Whole Foods to pick up most of the ingredients I needed. For the appy, I needed fresh figs which I knew Whole Foods had in stock and I have yet to see anywhere else, ever. Better still, they were on sale at almost 50% off. Sweet, literally. I already had prosciutto in the fridge and basil in the garden to garnish. I had planned to make a balsamic reduction to drizzle on top but, as frequently happens in Whole Foods, I stumbled across something that looked impossible to resist. It was a Fig Balsamic reduction...perfect. It cost $12.99 but I figured it was worth it and basically, I was dying to try it.
For the main, I needed a few generic ingredients that were not already at home(lemons, cucumber, red onion, pitted black olives, parsley) so I picked those up too. I usually wouldn't buy basics at Whole Foods as it can be expensive but I was pleasantly surprised to find the bill coming to only $33. Not bad considering the fig glaze was almost half of that. I have found that sometimes, and only sometimes, Whole Foods can be cheaper than the regular supermarkets. The key is to buy ONLY what is on sale and DO NOT get sucked in by expensive and alluring, mouthwateringly delicious, beautifully packaged creations such as fig balsamic reduction. Unless it's ON YOUR LIST and unavailable elsewhere. Or it's your birthday, or someone else's. Or any day ending in Y.
I had one more, rather important, ingredient to purchase that was available at Whole Foods but surprisingly did not look so fresh...squid. So I headed off to Seven Seas Fish Market on Lonsdale which was a good call. They had lots of squid, already cleaned, and with lots of tentacles. I got enough for 3 people and was, again, pleasantly surprised at the cost of only $6.50. So in my head (taking into account what I already had at home and that I would not be using all the balsamic sauce or all the figs) I roughly calculated that the 2 courses for 3 people would approximate $10 per head. Not too bad and both dishes look very impressive and dinner party worthy. Well, in my head anyway, seeing as I hadn't made them yet.
I got home and assembled the appy. I quartered the figs and cut the prosciutto in to thin strips. Too much meat v's fig is not good so I kept it light and delicate. I arranged them on a platter and drizzled the drizzle over top and then picked some fresh basil to garnish. This is how it looked....jewel tone juicy figs, deep sticky balsamic drizzle and a splash of green from the fresh basil.
And then came the main dish. The recipe for Greek Grilled Squid came from a magazine, I think it was Chatelaine but I can't tell as I just tore out the page and there is no mention of the magazine name on the page. I asked my guests before they came if there were any foods they disliked and they both said no but most people don't imagine that squid (plus tentacles) will be placed in front of them. I did tell them both after that, that it would be squid and one person said they had only ever had breaded calamari but were willing to try it. The other guest was game to try it too. I just hoped it came out nicely and not overcooked and rubbery.
Here is the recipe:
Greek Grilled Squid
enough squid bodies and tentacles for 3 people
5 tbsp EV Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 bell pepper
1 or 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
half cucumber, sliced
1/2 can black olives
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
Even though the squid were already cleaned, I rinsed and checked each one and pulled out some rogue quills that would have caused serious damage to the mouth if chewed. I then roughly chopped the bodies and threw them in with the tentacles to the marinade of 3tbsp olive oil, garlic, oregano, hot pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let stand for 30-60 mins. While marinating, I lightly oiled the bell pepper and quartered it and placed under the broiler (grill for UK readers) until charred. Charring tends to cause smoke and so my guests kindly stood guard by the smoke detector and wafted with the designated tea towel each of the 3 times it was set off. The pepper was charred perfectly.
I arranged the pepper, tomato and cucumber slices in a large pasta bowl and set aside. I then placed the squid on a baking tray and broiled it too (the recipe called for BBQ'ing but that was not an option) for about 10 minutes until cooked. I then transferred it to the bowl and scattered with the olives, salt and pepper and a little more lemon and olive oil. I served it with brown rice.
The verdict was a thumbs up. A tasty, fresh, light main course with a good balance of flavours and textures. I would make this again but it is definitely a summer dish so it will be a few months until I make it again.
I was pleased it turned out well and that both my guests enjoyed it, tentacles an' all. As always, I'm thinking if I would make any changes next time around and I though the addition of Tzatziki would go well and maybe some kalamata olives for a more flavourful hit that the less intense black ones.
All in all, a successful evening and I definitely have my cooking mojo back. Bring on the next gastronomic gathering!