Part XXXVII: Mr. Clean
You’re a slave to the room you’re cooking for. As much as you (and by “you” I mean me, let’s be honest with myself here) want to come up with some crazy peppered maize and chili ice cream to finish off your equally ridiculous seven-course “tasting menu”, all that effort means approximately nothing if no-one wants to eat it. You could eat all that yourself, of course, but at that point you’re basically a Victorian king looking around for a wife to behead. Cool for the 1500s, downright crazy-town in 2013.
So yes, you might have to substitute that peppered corn ice cream for some vanilla, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put some balsamic vinegar on top. Something unexpected, but still familiar enough to keep the room happy. I mean, if you really do have a room full of expectant gastrophiles waiting for a taste, isn’t that the whole reason you’re in the kitchen in the first place? If nobody likes what you’re cooking…why’d you cook it?
I can pretend all day that I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks when I’m in there, but it’s pretty obvious I do on some level…otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this at all. And in as much as a wholesome way as I can muster, yes, it’s cool to make things that make people happy. Nobody wants to make angry cooking. That’d be pretty uncool. And kind of weird. So today I’m making a couple of things that’ll keep everyone happy; a Black and White Bean Tapenade and Mini Watermelon Salad Two Ways. Time to get happy.
Here’s what you need:
– 1 15 oz. can black beans
– 1 15 oz. can cannolini beans
– 1 cup pimento-stuffed olives
– 1/4 cup fresh parsley (don’t go throwing that dried nonsense in there)
– 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for the bread
– A lemon
– Couple dashes red pepper flakes
– A nice loaf of bread, go with something hearty like a multi-grain or a sourdough, something with some texture.
– Half a watermelon, preferably seedless (hey, if you wanna dig around for seeds for an hour, go for it)
– Curry powder (I feel vindaloo works best, but go with what you like)
– 2 serrano peppers
– 8 oz goat cheese
– A couple limes
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– Balsamic vinegar
Here’s how you do it:
There’s pretty much nothing to either of these dishes other than throwing the ingredients in the same general vicinity of each other, but there is a bit of finesse involved, so I’ll go ahead and speak on that.
For the tapenade, first rinse off your beans and olives. You don’t want too much of that nasty olive juice in there.
Next, zest and juice your lemon, and put that and the rest of your ingredients into a food processor.
Here’s the semi-tricky-but-not-really part. You want to JUST barely pulse the ingredients. I’m talking two or three presses of the button, max. Now, if you listened and didn’t go all Wile E. Coyote on the stuff, the bottom should be a bit mixed up, but the top should still be pretty unmixed.
Once you’ve done that first couple of pulses, take a spatula and mix up the tapenade. You want to try and get the solid stuff down towards the blades at the bottom, because that’s how things become tapenade instead of a pile of lemony bean garbage.
Give it a couple more pulses, but again, keep it gentle. You want it to have a little bit of chunkiness, something to give it texture. Make it look like the picture up there and you’ll be in good shape.
All that’s left is the bread: slice it up, brush it with a bit of olive oil, and toast it. Then spread a big knifeful of that tapenade on there and try not to eat all of it while you do the watermelon.
The only real hard part about this is cutting the damn watermelon. It helps if you have a serrated knife; that way you can saw through the good parts without completely hacking apart your melon. Try and guide it along just above the rind, and make sure you get as little of the rind as you can. You might have to muscle the knife a bit to keep it going along the curve, but don’t fret if you don’t get it perfect. You can always pretty it up later if you make the thing look like a jigsaw puzzle.
Once you’ve freed the delicious watermelon from it’s delightfully green prison, cut it up into squares about an inch and a half a side. Or just cut them up into random-ass rectangles like I did. Whichever.
It is actually important you keep the slices relatively small. There’s a lot of flavors going on in this dish, and you’ll drown them out if your watermelon’s the size of a house foundation, so make sure they’re tiny-ish.
Now, here’s where the recipe splits off into two. You can do either one, or both, depending on how fat of a person you are. I did both…unsurprisingly.
The first way to do this is hit each slice with a bit of curry powder, about half a pinch. It sounds bizarre, but trust me…it works. If you don’t like that idea, just sprinkle the same amount of salt on there.
For both, slice the serrano real thin; you want just a hint of it hiding in the watermelon, not a big spicy punch to the jaw.
Add a bit of goat cheese next, then add the serrano slices.
If you went with the curry, juice those limes and add it to a bowl with the olive oil. Whisk it up, then hit the watermelon with a real light drizzle of it. I used the edge of a butter knife and just get a few drops on there.
If you went with the salt, skip the oil and limes and use some balsamic vinegar instead.
Either way, hit your mouth with a piece of that flavor, and marvel at your appetizering abilities.
Since the whole “theme” of my incessant blathering this week is about pleasing the public, I decided to make this week’s guest a vegetarian, so I could get out of my comfort zone a bit. Also he’s a cartoon gopher, which makes me even more uncomfortable, but hey, we’re expanding our horizons, right? Here’s Gutsy McDivot with this week’s beats:
Alright…I’ll admit it. I get a big fistful of the warm and fuzzies when someone really, truly likes something I conjure up from the kitchen. I like the attention, and damnit, I like making people happy. I like pissing them off a little too, but I like the happiness! Honest!
Eating alone’s a drag, man. Get some people at the table, speak to their stomachs, and make them happy. That’s my advice. I’ll see you guys next time.
You can find Gutsy McDivot in Fairway Solitaire for iOS and Facebook. Or you can just click this link and accidentally play for 8 hours in a row.