09 July 2010

The Failed Menu and Other Stories

There's been a lot of cooking going on in the Desert Candy kitchen, but sadly little of report. I've been busy gardening (and watering, watering, watering), painting our guest room, watching the World Cup (oh Argentina), and making my own birthday cake.

And then there's the case of the failed menu.

A while ago, we had the idea for black and white dinner party, where all the food would be black and white, and our guests could come dressed up. It sounded fun, right? That's what we thought, until we started testing recipes. We played with several themes along the following lines:

- amuse: forbidden rice, poached quail egg, goat cheese whipped cream
- grilled hearts of palm over white slaw, balsamic reduction
- seaweed-wrapped steamed fish, daikon broth, black bean sauce
- squid ink pasta, drizzle of cream sauce, seared scallops, caviar
- roast pork loin with black and white sesame seeds, ricotta-whipped potatoes, blackberry-balsamic reduction
- poppyseed cake (mohnkuchen) with labne-grapefruit whipped cream

As we tested and tasted, everything was just okay. We'd sit down to test our latest recipe and we'd end up staring at the dish on our plate, sigh, and think, maybe we should add lobster to the cream sauce, or maybe the broth needs more pepper. There were some highlighs: the delicious goat cheese whipped cream, the pok loin seasoned with white pepper and fennel. But everytime, it seemed the dish was fine for dinner, but it lacked punch or flavor. It wasn't anything we wanted to invite friends over to eat. Apparently if you remove all color, you remove lot of your flavor palate too.

So instead of shelling out money for more caviar and lobster, we just abandoned the idea. The next night, Paul made a great spicy curry, and both of us practically beamed at the idea of having color and flavor on our plates.

In the meantime, we've been eating good simple summer food. Have you ever tried toasting a slice of potato bread, spreading it with goat cheese, and topping it with sliced figs and a drizzle of honey? Well, you're in for a treat if you haven't. Or the simplest, tastiest salsa we've had in a while. And mainly, I've been cooking a lot from the archives here: ajo blanco, and apricot honey and shrimp with mango and avocado.

Stay tuned for lots of colorful recipes in the future.


GretchenJoanna said...

The black-and-white dinner sounds like something I might have tried--so glad to read of your experience and know *not* to try. :-) I appreciate hearing about the simple yummy things you're eating: potato bread with goat cheese...ooh la la...
I think of you when visiting the Middle Eastern market we have in our little town now. I can't go in there and not spend 45 minutes perusing all the shelves.

Vanessa1983 said...

Happy Birthday!!!

Kate said...

Sometimes what seems like a good idea aesthetically ends up tasting bland. I mean, black and white is a more stark look.

That goat cheese with figs and honey sounds so good. I have been craving figs lately so I might need to hunt some down and try this!