Sunday, May 15, 2011

Douze points for Italian Eurovision feast

Great flavours and textures make the Italians a winner in my kitchen

Douze points for Italian Eurovision feast

I did promise in my last post that I would get cooking soon. I had my first opportunity last night, when I hosted a Eurovision Song Contest party. I love Eurovision; it’s broadcast in Australia every year, but the day after, so by the time I get to watch it, I know who’s won. It doesn’t matter though, as it’s so kitsch and tacky that it’s loads of fun. Although in the last couple of years Australia has sent its own commentators over, I’ve heard the rather witty BBC commentator before and it was amusing to listen to him again last night.
Tomato and basil crostini

I’d invited some friends over who hadn’t seen Eurovision before, so I thought I would cook dinner. I decided on a bit of an Italian feast, which was rather appropriate as it turned out, as Italy returned to Eurovision for the first time since 1997 and, having entered with a great jazz-pop song (which I voted for), ended up coming second (to Azerbaijan!). I settled on crostini with three different toppings from Jamie Oliver’s Italy and paper bag seafood linguine from Donna Hay, which I’ve made and blogged about before.

Fig, prosciutto and mint crostini
Buffalo mozzarella and chilli
For the crostini, I decided on three different toppings; traditional tomato and basil; fig, prosciutto and mint; and mozzarella and chilli. It’s pretty easy – simply grill the bread, rub with a piece of cut garlic and place your toppings on top. The tomato and basil speaks for itself – just drizzle with a little good quality olive oil and season with salt and pepper. The fig, prosciutto and mint one I had to slightly deviate with as I accidentally bought dried figs, not fresh (with fresh figs apparently not in season at the moment). But they still turned out great, with the salty prosciutto contrasting nicely with the sweetness of the figs. And the mozzarella and chilli was a slice of texture heaven, with the crunchiness of the bread a nice contrast to the soft squidgyness of the buffalo mozzarella.

The last time I made Donna Hay’s paper bag seafood linguine, I had issues getting the right ingredients. I used calamari instead of vongole (clams) that time, but it still turned out good. This time around I used vongole and it turned out great. I think the saltiness of the vongole adds to the flavour and there’s something fun about using your fingers to pick the vongole up while you pull out the meat.

Paper bag seafood linguine
A real highlight of the night was what I did with all the dirty dishes afterwards – put them in the dishwasher. Usually after a dinner party, I leave the awful task of washing all the dishes until the next morning. This time I could just put the dishes in the dishwasher as we finished with plates and cutlery, and the entire lot was done before my friends even left. Now that’s the way to end a dinner party on a clean note.

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