Finding a theme for any great dinner is the most important yet probably the hardest thing to do. You do not want your plates to feel random or disconnected, however making something overtly obvious is probably not your best bet either (after all this isn’t Iron Chef!). Subtlety is always the best way to go. Whether it’s a taste, and ingredient, or even a smell, keeping your foods linked is key to creating an outstanding meal.
This is a great transition to this weeks dinner. We usually try to create a theme based on the people that we have invited. This time around we had planned to have an Ecuadorian couple and her sister, which was visiting. Well with such an obvious theme, one would think that Ecuadorian food would be the continuous link, however, as mentioned above, the obvious isn’t really the best way to go. First off, I am not too sure what is the most typical Ecuadorian food, and with 3 Ecuadorians, why give them something familiar? Better serve something new and different. So with that ruled out from the get go, what would this weeks dinner be based on?
There you see me, on Wednesday night going through my collection of cooking books (not to use the recipes, but for inspiration), Alain Ducasse has some amazing books, and I will tackle his cooking soon enough, just not this week. Gaston Acurio from Peru has some amazing dishes, and his books are inspiring but I feel that last weeks use of aji amarillo would seem as if I am overdoing it on the Peruvian food. Nothing was working. I had 7 books laid out in front of me, and inspiration came through one treasure of a book from Villegas Editores called Sabor + Color (Maria Villegas). Skimming through it, I came upon a recipe for a very common dish, tuna tartar. But it was the use of the fruit that really struck a cord, and like that I found my theme for the night… fruit! The use of fruit in Latin America is very prominent so why not create dishes that revolved around fruit.
At once Tamy and I started brainstorming ideas. She had told me once of a rice with fruit that she ate in India and never ever saw again. Immediately I thought I could use the amazing Indian spices that I have and create a curry. Done a delicious Indian curry with her rice with fruit. For appetizer, a salad with aged balsamic caramelized figs and a fresh strawberry vinaigrette. It was amazing how the ideas started to roll out the second I knew what that one connection was. Our menu was set in stone and ready to go.
That very same night I got going on grinding various spices, that were brought to me from a friend and my mother’s trip to India, together to create my version of an Indian curry. Now, I do not pretend to know an authentic recipe for Indian curry, nor is the one that I will provide you with pretend to be authentic. This is just my take on a classic. So, I took a mix of spices, some of which I knew and recognized, others I had no idea what they were or called (please see picture). Placed them in my version of a mortar, a coffee cup, and began grinding them with my makeshift pestle, a caipirinha fruit masher. After about 20 minutes of grinding and a tired arm, I ended up with the red powder that I was expecting and set it aside for the night.
With the grocery list ready to go, we were set for a goodnight rest.