Last night’s Virgo Bash was dining and eye filling beyond expectations. Diane decorated the kitchen and the dining area with a collection of pictures selected around the theme of “Temptation in The Garden of Earthly Delights.” She did close up photocopies of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden plus the Apple and earlier Eve emerging from Adam’s Rib. Which I always had thought was pretty weird until Kevin told us last night that it was commonly thought by the Ancients that was how babies came into the word but it still seems pretty weird to me. Diane had many photo copies of famous artists and their interpretations of the events in the Garden placed around the dining area.
At the counter with much conversation Di served a Sparkling Libation with these hors-d’oeuvres: a Wild Hibiscus Flower in their glass and Gorgonzola Stuffed Dried Figs, Greek Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and Macadamia Nuts. Then we moved into the dining room for the remainder of the dinner.
The First Course: Tortellini alla panna: the Tortellini were thought by the Bolognese who invented the shape to be the navel of Venus This dish is particularly luscious being made with tortellini, butter, cream, strips of leg ham and 1 cup of ground pecorino and sliced bits of prosciutto accompanied by some bread of life (brilliant garlic bread).
The Chef’s Main Course: Adam’s Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb (the ribs), Tree Broccolini of Life with Bitter Herb and Rocket Salad. Everyone mentioned at how tender the lamb was and surprisingly the broccollini was mostly devoured.
Tempting Apple Cake with Cream was made from a recipe Diane’s mom sent to her and it was a big hit.
The beverages were many and very applicable to the age of the guests as well as their driving needs: the hors—d’oeuvre’s were accompanied by two French sparkling wines, Grandin and Grande Curve’e 1531; after this initial welcome the drinks were split between those driving and those not: Sparkling Apple Juice and San Pellegrino mineral water for those driving and Fortant Cabernet Sauvignon for those not.
Thursday, August 28th
Last night was a definite break from our 2-5 Diet because tonite is going to be a big (if 7 people are constitute big) Virgo Bash. These three very old friends plus a very young looking wife, Diane, who make up this miscellaneous, grab bag collection of people, who tend to be a little snooty regarding the rest of the Zodiac. Further, one of the problems with this Virgo Bash is that there are too many guys who, being Virgos, tend to easily lose control: they can’t handle too much freedom and must be kept on a very short leash.
Diane, being a particularly grounded Virgo, has devised an excellent party for the loose-change Virgins (never was a more inept moniker attached to this motley group) attending tonight, minus the poor ever patient spouses. Her efforts today required a quiet day yesterday, hence the pizza in the evening. We tried to keep it calorie conscience during the day. Diane has made a wonderful party for the assembled virgins.
Wednesday, August 27th and Diane shopped in the afternoon and as all good chefs do she returned with the freshest fish at the fishmongers. It was Australian Herring which we have never eaten although they say it is plentiful along the coast. They also say that it has nothing to do with its northern hemisphere namesake which is smaller and belongs to another family of fish all together. Its Australian name is Tommy Ruff. The name Ruff is widely known as a synonym for this fish; why it is called Tommy Ruff I do not know.
To begin our meal Diane made a luscious tapenade toast using bread baked at the New Norcia Monastery north of Perth in the deep country.
After this marvellous beginning Di brought out a serve of fried field mushrooms.
Then our main course of Sautéed Tommy Ruff with a sauce of lemon butter, thyme and the tapenade that she spreads on toast as an hors-d’oeuvre and it did as well for the fishe’s flavour as it did for the toast. As a side we finished the remainder of the roasted vegetables.
As a beverage we had two glasses of the very drinkable Verdelho from the Swan Valley.
Alas, yesterday was the first day of the 2-5 Diet but Di’s Cajun Blackened Fish made the dinner seem like it was any other day of the week (except Thursday) when the delights of the table are there to be appreciated. Saltwater Bream are truly enjoyable fish and I believe them to be a little too delicate for this dish; probably a stronger tasting fish would be more suitable.
With the fish Di served a side of roasted root vegetables with garlic cloves distributed as well as rosemary shoots over the top of the vegetables ala Jamie Oliver.
Diane made a quiet salad with none of the goodies that so enhance a normal salad but as Weir used to say, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” That peaceful salad and a glass of cold water capped off a tasty diet night’s meal.
Yesterday was a unique meal for a couple of reasons: first it was a box meal which is all most never seen in the Johnson house and second it was a New Orleans’s meal which simply because of its origins mean that just walking into that city will mean that you leave far heavier-your waistline expands. There are few other places in the world that this phenomenon happens: anywhere in the US, or anywhere in Mexico; the first because of the plethora of fast food joints, the second because the food tastes so good.
Anyway, back to New Orleans and an outfit called Zatarains who produce old New Orleans’ favourites such as “Hoppin John” which is just beans and rice; in this case, Black Beans and Rice. This dish is known throughout the southern part of the US and is the main dish eaten in Cuba under a different name. I like Zat’s version because they season it well and usually, give and take the amounts and ingredients, this is what you’ll have: Black Eyed Peas, onion, capsicum, celery, chipolte pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano, paprika, pepper and bay leaf. To be frank I have not made Hoppin’ John from scratch but I will as an experiment this recipe sounds great.
We had a mixed spinach and lettuce salad with some olives and sliced tomatoes. The meal is inexpensive to make and filling to eat and I will be returning to it often.
Yesterday’s meal had to take on a reflective cognisance because Margot’s dinner the day before was so different; Diane returned to older meals that were not only similar to thing’s past but also simpler than the Asian meal laid before us Saturday. Diane made a tasty old favourite of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce. The flavourings were a few sliced olives as well as some crushed Garlic Cloves.
Also there was the ubiquitous salad that acted as a cleanser and it accomplished this difficult assignment with great success!
Diane and I had a marvellous meal at their house Saturday night; Margo is a wonderful cook and on that evening she spread her cooking somewhat to make us a delicious Asian meal. Neither Diane nor any of our friends experiment with Asian cooking at all because we have grown up with Mediterranean or in Margo’s case she married an Argentinean guy and that country basically follows European cooking traditions. Now, however, that her son who is a mining engineer in Laos I believe is drifting her cooking style towards Asiatic cuisine due to that change.
Saturday day night Margo prepared a delicious Asian influenced meal for three guests. The meal was composed of: an hors-d’oeuvre plate followed by Spring Rolls of very fresh ingredients, then the main of roasted chicken with an Asian sauce. She served a Thai influenced side of vegetables. The dessert was stewed pears with a spoon of, how you call it-either hardened cream or soften ice cream; however it was very tasty.
The meal was very appetizing and Margo should be proud of her accomplishments in her new cooking explorations.
Last night, being Party Night, called for a special meal and Diane as she always does provided just such a meal. We began with her signature Manhattan made with Old Crow and accompanied with Potato Chips and Dried Black Olives in memory of the Savoy Hotel in Florence, Italy. They served only chips but no olives. A special place to date before a pizza that was more in line with a student budget; working two jobs over the summer lines your pocket a little more though.
The lady that provides special pate’s in Australia, Maggie Beer, served up (from the super market) a particularly tasty one for our enjoyment last night: Pheasant Farm Pate’.
The main course was as delightful as you could imagine: Spicy Prawn Stir Fry. It is an old recipe that we took from the back of a Veta Olive Oil can; served with rice it is very good. It uses: lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander, garlic cloves crushed, cumin, turmeric and olive oil. Then arrives the now historic salad.
The last bit of this party was a special gift to me because the chef does not care for it too much: Banana’s Foster with her own special homemade walnut, choc bits and banana liquor ice cream. The Banana’s Foster requires: sliced length-wise whole bananas, brown sugar, banana liquor, plus some rum to flame at the end. Fosters is an old New Orleans restaurant where it was developed.
Last night was a real beauty! Diane started the meal with a serve of fried Swiss Brown mushrooms and it just got better from there. The main course was a low-cal version of a French classic called Cassoulet with: lamb cutlets, onion, garlic, a can of chopped tomatoes, two cans of cannelli beans plus flavourings of French herbs, brown sugar and red wine vinegar. This easy and delicious recipe comes from Ainsley Harriott’s Gourmet Express 2 which is a little font of classic recipes that have been simplified to a certain extent making them available to all who would like to try dishes a little different.
A cleansing salad came after the Cassoulet.
A French wine for a French meal was called for and one from the case that we bought earlier came immediately to mind: it was an inexpensive, as are all of our wines, Fortant from the south of France. The wine was from the Littoral Terroir (land beside the sea) that also includes an inland region encompassing the medieval French walled city of Carcassonne.
Last night was a special night that only happens three times a year in the winter months of June, July and August; we missed July this year so it will be repeated, hopefully, sometime in the spring. I am sure that eating Blini does not require snow (which we have never had in Perth) but I imagine that Russian food should have short days and cold weather hence my crazy desire to equate it with the winter months.
Diane put together the Blini or small pancakes made with half wheat flour and half buckwheat flour with different items added to the top of the pancake. Our favourite toppings are always sour cream upon which can be added (our favourites): salmon pieces (Di likes salmon slices cut into small pieces, I like canned red salmon), Latvian Sprats, chopped Dill, Chopped Spring Onions, or any combination of the above.
With the Blini we always have salads or sides: last night Di made some heated Red Cabbage for herself and a sliced Cucumbers with Sour Cream.
As a beverage we had a jigger of the Bison Grass Vodka which is as superb as the bottle label extols. The vodka is really excellent and if you have seen Europe’s only remaining virgin forest as well as its only remaining herd of wild Bison then the combination of all three makes a heady brew. We only had a nip of the Bison Grass Vodka but we enjoyed a bottle of cold Minchinbury Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir to finish a brilliant meal.