Since early Monday and up until last night, I was in quite a mood. By early, I mean truly very early. And by quite a mood, I mean a doozy of one.
It might have been the fresh start of a new week, or maybe it was my recent birthday, but whatever the reason I have been in a clean-out-the-closets-get-rid-of-the-clutter-oh!-should-I-start-the-flower-beds-there-is-laundry-to-be-folded-hey!-does-that-window-need-cleaning-air-out-the-curtains sort of mood. I felt like a squirrel riding the swell of a caffeine high, skittering between task to task, caught just between busy and absurdly frantic. More often that I would like to admit I veered recklessly into the latter category.
What finally brought this careening momentum to a halt was, to the surprise of no-one I'm sure, food. A nibbly sort of snack, the most modest of things really. Scorch-grilled bread, a mound of oven dried tomatoes, creamy bocconcini, and a healthy spoonful of lemony, herby, capery, chili-spiked olive oil was enough to stop me in my tracks.
All laid out on a big plate, it was the sort of thing to be lingered over.
A combination of flavours and textures well-suited to this in between time when Ms. Spring can still be a tad temperamental; substantial without being heavy. Rich and unctuous, creamy and mild, astringent and fresh - all piled together on top warm, crusty slice of garlicy bread.
True, I am one that would happily munch on my left shoe if it was topping a fat wodge of freshly-baked bread, but take my word, this is something rather good. Put down the to-do list and pass the wine.
LEMON AND PARSLEY SAUCE
A pared-down, rustic variation of the Italian classic, salsa verde. This recipe is for the amount I needed for our snack, but the (estimated) quantities are intended as only a guideline. You can also add some toasted pine nuts and plumped up raisins for a sauce to serve over griddled slices of salty haloumi.
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped if large
- 1-2 anchovy fillets, minced (optional)
- Zest of one lemon, cut in thin strands
- 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, combine the parsley, capers, anchovy fillets and lemon zest. Stir in the lemon juice. Slowly add the olive oil until you have a loose, chunky vinaigrette. Check for the balance of acid to oil, adjusting if needed. Season to taste with chili flakes, salt and pepper.
Makes around 1/2 cup.
OVEN DRIED TOMATOES
Making oven dried tomatoes is hardly new and not at all demanding, but the results are so rewarding it garners another mention. They are juicier than sundried, with a texture I far prefer. You can also control the level of roasting to best suit your needs, which is a bonus, and slow roasting coaxes a bit of summer sweetness from the hothouse varieties available to those of us waiting for local field tomatoes.
I basically use Nigella Lawson's recipe for Moonblush Tomatoes, with a few changes:
• I use fresh thyme instead of dried and add a few grinds of black pepper.
• More often than not I add a head's worth of unpeeled garlic cloves to the pan.
• Upon putting the tomatoes in to roast, I turn the oven down to 350°F (175°C). After about 10 minutes, I turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes to finish drying. Keep in mind that the total roasting time will depend on the size of tomatoes you use. Rarely do I leave them overnight.
• I often make these after baking bread, to take advantage of the already-heated oven.