We have three refrigerators and lots of food in the house on any given day. It’s not a typical larder, in this day and age, but I am fairly into our food, as many of you know after reading this blog over the last 6+ years… So every few months or so, I get this urge to purge, and that doesn’t mean throw out. More often than not, it means inviting a few friends over on a lazy Saturday or Sunday, and the personal challenge is to use up as much of the odds and ends in the fridges and pantry as possible. The meals don’t have to make sense, but they still have to taste good, and folks can pick and choose and hopefully in the end, the objective of clearing out “stuff” is reasonably achieved. Few friends turn down these last minute invites… :)
Besides the odds and ends, the weekend is when we have an incredible amount of wonderful produce, including herbs, on hand. Market forays, CSA boxes, etc. result in a very well-stocked fridge, and often, I have to think of ways to use all of the wonderful bounty. Here, I start the meal with several tapas and salads, meant for folks to take as they please… loading up on one dish that strikes their fancy, or a bit of everything. But again, the rule is to “mop up” and finish everything… Up top, some white shrimp or suahe from the freezer is defrosted, brined, peeled and de-veined and made into a buttery gambas… patterned after a version I saw on the Australian Masterchef TV series. It’s done with butter, pureed garlic, salt and pepper, and a last minute addition of basil, here in two colors purple and green. The key is to just barely cook the shrimp or they will toughen. I love that this recipe has no big bits of garlic, but instead the sauce is seriously infused with garlic flavor. The tender soft shrimp are lightyears away from hard chewy overcooked gambas so often served in restaurants…
A second hot tapas is this simple dish of prosciutto, slow-roasted oven tomatoes, manchego cheese, whole eggs, Italian parsley and salt and pepper. Also inspired by the same TV episode from Australia. I changed several of the ingredients in this case, but nothing could be simpler to make… and these would be brilliant for breakfast. Simply place the slow-roasted tomatoes (they store well in the fridge if you want to make a big batch of them at home, as we did beforehand), and other ingredients in a small cast iron pan or ceramic “cazuela” and place in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes until the eggs are just set. Serve with sliced french bread on the side. Delicious! A nice meal for one. The first salad was made of shaved fennel with three kinds of citrus, all of them hanging out in the chiller waiting for their final use… Simply peel and section some oranges, grapefruit and pomelos and add some shaved fennel and olive oil and salt and pepper and garnish with fennel leaves or dill fronds and serve cold. Refreshing, light and very easy.
Some vinegared or pickled beets we made last weekend were still in the fridge, so I took those out, added some cubed sweet Chinese pears from the fruit bin, and garnished with fresh mint. The pears take on an incredible lighter shade of beet and the mint leaves make them appear so cooking showish… :)
Another great “mop-up dish” is the farro salad in the center of the photo above. Ancient grains, mixed with the remnants of bottled artichokes from the giant S&R bottle that has wallowed in the fridge for months… add the 3/4 bottle of brilliant local feta cheese from the Gawad Kalinga Farm in Bulacan, stray black olives, Italian parsley, basil, oven-dried tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and chilled before serving. I really like this salad. But we only have it a few times a year, whenever I remember to stock up on farro (the grain) on trips abroad… We also laid out some sliced prosciutto in another dish, some sliced french bread (the only thing we purchased specifically for the meal that evening), etc. And that was only the appetizer spread. :) I forgot to photograph the main course but it was simple enough — a roasted mega chicken that had been in the deep freeze… just stuffed with lots of fresh herbs, a lemon, massaged it with butter, and seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. Under the chicken we cooked some carrots and potatoes. For dessert we had a pili cake, homemade marzipan (post coming up), an apple pie and guests brought a lemon meringue cake, also home-made. Finish off with tea and the odd bits of dark chocolate from the fridge and mission accomplished. :)