Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Party at My House

watermelonmargarita2 Bob Blumer (aka The Surreal Gourmet) is always an inspiration to me--primarily because he takes some of the sting out of entertaining. You know how it is, you make a great dish one night you want to share with your friends and so a week or so later, you invite them all over. After a hellish day shopping and cleaning your house, by the time evening rolls around and your guests start arriving, your supposedly fun dinner party has transformed itself into an excruciating chore you can't imagine why you wished upon yourself. Instead of cooking, you're ready to chuck it all in the trash and go out for dinner. Even the carefully planned cocktails are just an ineffective balm to take the edge off the stress. Or is this just me? In all of his books (and particularly The Surreal Gourmet Entertains), Blumer plots a strategy to calm even the most neurotic of host(esses)s like me. He clearly outlines the steps for a successful dinner party for each dish, including not only tips for what can be made ahead, but also wine and music suggestions (and as the former manager of Canadian singer/songwriter Jane Siberry, his advice is both informed and broad, not to mention, ultra-cool). Couple that with flavorful and unusual dishes (Dishwasher Salmon? Don't knock it till you've tried it), I find myself turning to his books almost every time I (foolishly) entertain. His "Build-Your-Own Burrrito Fiesta" on p. 70 of The Surreal Gourmet Entertains last night inspired me to try the dinner party thing once again. Marinated and grilled pork tenderloin provided the base for the burritos with guacamole and salsa recipes following. His marinade is fine but really can be stepped up to a full-fledged adobo with the addition of garlic and a little oregano (recipe to follow). Since I had guests bring guacamole and salsa, I can't attest to those particular recipes, although I've had such good luck with Blumer's books, I wouldn't hesitate to make and serve them without reservation. Nonetheless, besides the pork and the recommended condiments (things like sour cream, green onions, cilantro--obvious really, but I love having it spelled out for me in list form), I felt compelled to put my own spin on the whole burrito theme. It occurred to me that the fresh peaches I had ripening away on the counter might make an interesting salsa--if you can do it with mangoes, why not peaches? The sweet and spicy chunks complemented the smoky meat perfectly (if I do say so myself) and my only recommendation is to serve it with a slotted spoon because it was a little too juicy after sitting for an hour at room temperature (the peaches, not the pork). Pushing the theme a little farther, I remembered that summer is the perfect excuse to serve margaritas. In Off the Eaten Path, Blumer has a frozen watermelon margarita recipe I've served before. I recalled though, that it needed a little punching up. It wasn't quite strong enough and I really wanted the watermelon flavor to shine. More watermelon and less ice didn't really do the trick. More tequila and Cointreau instead of triple sec helped but it still wasn't quite enough. Then I remembered my favorite Switch soda--it's a carbonated juice my children adore and are actually allowed to drink--strawberry watermelon. Ah ha! Three or four frozen strawberries added to the mix enhanced the watermelon flavor just enough without the whole thing morphing into the predictable margarita so many restaurants seem to have whirling away in a big slurpee machine behind the bar. Now, don't think I actually relaxed that evening. Despite the Los Lobos and EL Vez albums playing on shuffle and repeat, I never did calm down completely. Blumer isn't a miracle worker, although, come to think of it, maybe I should have taken his advice and done tequila shots out of the empty lime halves. That might have been his best advice after all. , , Adobo Pork Tenderloin (inspired by the Surreal Gourmet) 1 1b. pork tenderloin 1/2 c. fresh lime juice 1/2 c. fresh orange juice 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 t. cumin 1 t. oregano 1 t. coarse salt 1/2 t. black pepper Combine the juices, garlic, and spices in a large ziploc bag with the pork. Marinate a minimum of two hours. Pat dry, and grill over indirect heat for 18-25 minutes (turning in 5-6 minute intervals) until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Slice thinly and have guests wrap with warmed flour tortillas, choosing their own condiments. Serves 4-6. Peach Salsa 3 ripe (but not mushy) peaches, diced 1 small red pepper, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced fine 2 green onions, chopped 1 jalapeno, chopped 2 Tb. fresh lime juice 1/2 Tb. honey salt and pepper to taste Combine all the ingrediants in a small bowl and allow flavors to meld at room temperature for about one hour. High-Test Watermelon Margaritas (based on a recipe by the Surreal Gourmet) 3 cups seedless watermelon, cubed and frozen 3-4 frozen strawberries 3 Tb. (or 1 1/2 oz., if measuring with a shot glass) fresh lime juice 6 oz. tequila 2 oz. Cointreau 1 c. ice Place everything in a blender and whirl away like a slurpee machine until smooth. Serve in salt-rimmed glasses and be prepared for seconds. Serves 4-6, depending on the size of your glasses.


Blogger ThaiGrocer said...

If you are interested in downloading the Surreal Gourmet, The only catch is that you have to learn how to use bittorrent. I'm hoping that you know about DD already.

And, oh yes, I love your pictures.

June 23, 2005 7:01 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Thanks! I've played with BitTorrent a little but was daunted by the download times. Digital Distractions looks great though--thanks for the tip!

June 25, 2005 9:15 AM  

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