Entertaining on a Monday is a silly idea right? That too when it is unplanned.
You would want to serve something elaborate and fancy when your guests are coming from all the way across the city, bearing a freshly baked brownie which they are kind enough to share with you. Guests who are expert cooks, are passionate about food and are professional chefs themselves.
I planned a Mediterranean dinner of some pasta and fish. A bacon pesto spaghetti which I offered as bait to Rhea to share the brownies she had baked. I bought some basa to go with it. Emboldened by my recent Thai chilli paste experiment I decided to make something Italian this time with the basa.
The two dishes did not require more than half an hour’s cooking at my end, were easy to shop for and was anything but mundane. The cooking methods were a mix of a couple of minutes of shallow frying, some boiling, very little chopping and a bit of microwaving. The only physical effort came out of my using the mortar and pestle instead of a food processor. But I find the mortar and pestle therapeutic and often a source of good ideas in the kitchen.
Given the mood of this post I am going to keep the recipe descriptions short and to the point. Go through them and you will realise that entertaining on Monday needn’t be a chore. Specially if you have some the company of passionate food lovers and raconteurs.
The best way to bring in the week.
Balsamic base in fresh chilli garlic paste
Basa is similar to catfish according to Kurush. It is an incredibly light and airy fish which has a slightly fatty creamy feel to it. Has to be treated with a lot of tender loving.
- Take 250 g basa fillets (Rs 125 at Pali Market). Thaw them. Marinate them with the paste of 4 small green chillies & 4 garlic cloves. Add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. I used the Raspberry Balsamic that Maunika of Cook In a Curry gave me. Pat both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. I used the Australian bush salts that Kunal gave me at Melbourne
- I took the marinated fish out when it was time to eat. Heated some olive oil on a flat pan. Shallow fried each side of the fish for a minute or so
The end result was extremely delicate with the taste of the marinate floated around the creamy bites of the fish.
The trick is to not over cook or over spice the fish. To eat it fresh off the pan. Italian cooking of fish is often very simple from what I understand. The fish is the hero of the dish. The purpose of spices and herbs is to enhance the taste of the fish and not to overpower or hide it. Cooking is often done through grilling or shallow frying so that the freshness of the fish is retained. The antithesis of fish preparations of the West & South coast of India where fish preparations use a lot of masala and some pretty heavy duty cooking.
Spaghetti tossed in fresh balsamic pesto with bacon (for 3)
I like to make my pesto fresh with a mortar and pestle. I love bacon too for the decadent flavours it imparts to a dish. This dish was prepared in the microwave barring the spaghetti which I boiled in an open pan.
- Boil 300 g spaghetti and set aside
- Pesto mix – 2 teaspoons of pine nuts + 6 garlic cloves + 3 handfuls of shredded basil leaves plus 50 g parmesan. Keep pounding as you add each ingredient in. Add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin oil to this and mix. Alternately put the entire thing in a food processor and grind.
- Chop 250 g of streaky back bacon
- Put into a microwave vessel and microwave for a minute. A bit of the fat comes out as the bacon begins to emit a smoky aroma
- Add the spaghetti to the bacon and mix the two with a mixing ladle and fork
- Then add the pesto mix to the two and mix. Add a teaspoon of salt
- Put this in the microwave for two minutes and you are done
The best part of the dish is the way the heady flavours of bacon and the fresh whiffs of pesto spread through the spaghetti.
The high point of the evening for me was seeing Kurush make a beeline for the cheesecake I made which I made him taste a few days back. He seemed to really like it.
And then there were Rheas’s ravishing brownies which we just couldn’t have enough of.
What a wonderful Monday.