This one is a serious stumble and it all went down as I was hunting for food — for a student art exhibition I was in charge of running and making the aperativo — in my local grocery store on Via Olona in Milan.
The recipe popped into my head as I was going through my favorite section of produce and fruit.
RAG SALAD: radish/avocado/grape
4 large avocados diced into bite size chunks
1 large bunch of red (preferably red globe) grapes cut into halves or quarters
1 medium bunch of radishes thinly sliced so there are beautiful circles of them
Layer all this up in a large bowl and toss with a light coating of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pepper over top. The smooth, sweet mellow of the avocado goes really nicely with the crunch and sweetness of the grapes and the spicy crunch of the radishes. Plus it just looks really beautiful and summery heaped on a nice white platter.
I came back with this recipe to Ohio after my semester abroad in Milan, Italy and served it as one of the dishes at our annual potluck Memorial Day party and every guest came up to me asking how to make it and could I please make more. You’ll get serious points for deliciousness, easy presentation and innovation — people like eating something that looks and tastes great and they feel better about themselves for trying something different. You won’t have to ask “Ne vuoi ancora?” — Would you like some more? Treat them with some prosecco (Italian champagne) or a nice juicy hopped up IIPA like: Bells Hopslam or Buckeye Aquarius.
A few weeks ago, I tried my hand at pairing an interesting beer list around a dinner prepared by a friend. I knew my audience: 11 friends and some family, a few winos and some dedicated but uneducated hopheads. The menu was a delicious hodge-podge: Cambodian chicken rice (details below), bbqed thick cut steaks, chickpea salad and for dessert crepes with homemade walnut frangipane.
To whet our appetites I started the diners off with a personal hop favorite, Bell’s Hopslam (only downside is the pricey nature of a 6-pack so go singles and mix it up with other hoppy friends like Thirsty Dog Hoppus Maximus, etc.).
Beer truly made its place known at our table and garnered the attention of everyone. To compliment the juicy chargrilled steaks: Lakefront Organic ESB. For the spicyness of both the Cambodian chicken rice and the chickpea salad a bottle of Saison Dupont Vielle Provision and a Cantillon Gueuze – the tartness of both played off the spicyness and citrus aspect complimented the ingredients of the salad well. Dessert was incredibly rich and very sweet, so in order to pay respect to this classic French sweet I served up small doses of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout. LIke a shot of coffee as an aperatif, this brew is lavish but bitter enough to stand beside the crepe. Hell, you could pour this over vanilla ice cream and call it a night.
CAMBODIAN CHICKEN RICE:
Saute in a large and decently deep skillet one large yellow onion and a large garlic clove in olive oil over medium heat
Over the sauteed onions and garlic toss in 3 large chicken breasts cut in bite size pieces
As soon as the chicken starts to turn from pink to white start coating the surface of the entire pan with turmeric, cayenne, ground or fresh shredded ginger and black pepper. Alter the spice amount depending on your spice threshold. Add in about a cup of fish sauce (you can find this around the soy sauce at any large grocery store) and half a bag of frozen or fresh peas.
At the same time you start the process of the chicken and spices, start making a few cups of white rice depending on how much or how little rice you want to eat with your creation. Once this is prepared (the simplest way I’ve found is just taking another large skillet over medium heat, throwing in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the rice until it starts to turn translucent around the edges and then start adding water, let it cook out and then add more until the rice is al dente).
Once the rice is complete turn back to your chicken stew and toss in a can of coconut milk and the rice and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve up with some lime wedges and cilantro.
Just made a chickpea salad and am drinking Southern Tier Iniquity with it and it’s fantastic:
SPICY CHICKPEA SALAD:
2 cans chickpeas drained
large bunch of curly parsley
half a large red onion
Dressing (just eyeball it)=1:1 of olive oil to lemon juice, large tablespoon grey poupon and cayenne pepper (to give it more heat I also put in a tiny dab of Defcon wing sauce, you will be so addicted to this stuff, I am a glutton for punishment)
Pour all contents into a large ziploc bag, shake it around, refridgerate and let marinate or just eat right away with a bomber of ST Iniquity. Soooo goood.
Disclaimer: prepare to be a fire breathing dragon with roasted/toasted burps. you’re bound to feel a little…imperial.