Thursday, April 23, 2009

A potluck in the south: TexMexxing, y'all

I eat more than I write, and that's why I am finally blogging about the TexMex potluck at Emily's house long after other, more diligent bloggers have done so. You can check out Kristy, Pip , Cindy and Michael (note there's two different links there to two different posts), and Lisa's posts too for more time-appropriate writing! Also, have a look at Lisa's chihuahua companion Kimba in her tequila-chihuahua outfit at Pip's blog. I will preface this post by saying that awesome as the food was, it takes second place to the adorableness of Kim's outfit (Sam wasn't having a bar of it).

The emergence of themed potlucks is, in my splendid opinion, a top hole idea. It gives structure and purpose, and allows us to really concentrate on finding something new and appropriate to cook. For pretendy-chefs like me who are always tempted to crawl back into the hole of easiness and comfort and prepare a boring variation on boring theme - and for me it's pasta five thousand ways - it's a real challenge and one that has the added benefit of expanding my personal repertoire as well letting everyone share in a special event.

Also, Emily bought a new tortilla skillet that she wanted to try out.

Pregan, my sister had made me some quesadillas which I devoured in cheesy gooeyness. I was eager to recreate them as non-quesadillas, and was happy to find that there are more than a few vegan versions floating around the interwebs. Some use soy cheese and some smashed red kidney beans to stick it all together, so I decided to take a bit of an experimental approach (and use up the one lonely can of kiddly beans I had a-mouldering in the cupboard ... no! it wasn't actually mouldy! I did not attempt to poison my friends!) and combine a bit of everything. I didn't take pictures of the preparation though as I was also cooking some food for my friend who recently had a gorgeous little girl (hello Minnie!) so my cookering that day was timed to the nanosecond.

I bought two rolls of Cheezly, the highly flavoured and highly orange nacho and the more neutral mozzarella, and grated the lot. Yep, the lot. I chopped some spring onions finely, diced some orange capsicum, used some sliced black olives form the fridge, sliced some spicy jalapenos, defrosted some corn (it's cheap and it lasts!), and smashed me up some o' them red kiddlies. I mixed it all together, and heated up Magic Pan.

I had a packet of El Paso Light Flour Tortillas - why get the full fat when I was just gonna sizzle it anyhows? - and I spooned the mixture into half the tortilla until it was about 1.5 centimetres high, folded it over into a moon shape, and then whacked it on to a pre-oiled Magic Pan.

Each non-quesadilla required a couple of minutes on each side, and there was a bit of trial and error in working out the boundary between nicely toasted and a bit too sizzled. However, none of them came out in such bad shape that I wasn't happy to present them to the potluck, so they're not really that hard to mess up. After they cooled I garnished them with some coriander.

Pip was kind enough to say she really liked them, and I think they came out ok. The kidney beans were very effective and coalescing all the ingredients, but who can seriously resist a great big handful of melted Cheezly?

I also made gazpacho, something I experimented with over the heatwave in February, and I can never get over how easy it is (and also I think of Red Dwarf so it makes me giggle).

Here's the recipe I tend to use to make a truckload, although there are some faaa-aaaancy variations out there that use black beans or watermelon too:
  • 8 - 10 ripe tomatoes. It's better, although messier, to peel them.
  • 1 orange or yellow capsicum
  • 1 cucumber, sliced any way that your food processor will get at it
  • a couple of stalks of spring onion
  • a few cloves of garlic - I always like more
  • a big slosh of lemon juice
  • a slightly smaller slosh of olive oil if you want it a little less fattofied, but if you like it then feel free to splash it about some more (and use the good stuff; you'll taste it)
  • parsely, coriander or other fresh herbs to taste
  • red wine vingear to taste
Method: in the food processor until you think it looks good. You might like it more chunky and salsa-like than others, or you might prefer it baby-style pureed. Whatevs - you just can't mess this one up folks!

Back on the ranch, there were some truly stupendous TexMex offerings. I loved Lidia's Cowboy Beans which were beans with lots of mock meat including sausages and bacon, and which were accompanied by authentic (I think) cornbread, and Craig's chilli was hot hot hot!

Tim's chilli with corn, mushroom and chickpea was a good contrast in restraint, and the black beans, made by someone who's name I rudely forgot, were fascinating.

Vanessa made a fantastic paella with lemon wedges and artichokes, which I went back for long after I was full to have a little pick at, and a sangria that was, unlike festy sangrias I've had in Barcelona, not at all over spirited and very, very drinkable.

Tara made some unbelievably delicious salsa which I also got stuck into for thirds, and Lisa also made a fabulous dip - the creamiest, smoothest guacamole I've ever had. I didn't get a chance to try Cindy and Michael's green pumpkin seed mole from Veganomicon and I sorely regretted it.

And what would a potluck be without dessert? Kristy and Toby outdid themselves with two types of cupcake - tequila and chilli chocolate. I downed a tequila one and the icing was incredible - not enough to get you pished but definitely adults only!

There were two kinds of Mexican Wedding Biscuits, chocolate ones made by Cindy and some plain from Jo. They were both perfectly crumbly, and were complemented by some raw oatmeal cacao nib cookies which were fantastically sweet and sweetly accessorised with an ingredients list.

Finally, Pip and Tim made some churros. Yep, real, live, fried churros with melted chocolate. And cinnamon sugar. And lots of fatty sugariness - mmm-mmm-mmmm. They were fried and sweet and delish, and, like the sangria, better than what I've actually had in Spain. So there, Iberian Peninsula!

I didn't hang around much long after the obligatory tequila; Sam had had a bit of a testing night after not wanting to play with the other puppies and was clearly rejecting this attempt to introduce he and Kimba to their culture-of-origin.

In any case, I was in a world of stuffed-belly and the introduction of hard spirits might have seen me burst like Bec's awesome pinata after she and Toby had demonstrated their proficiency at various martial arts on it:

But seeing as there was an absolute mountain of lollies from Rishon's inside the pinata, I was glad I did. Ain't they purdy?


Cindy said...

Gazpacho gives me Red Dwarf giggles too. :-)

I loved your non-quesadillas! (I can't get enough of those nasty mass-produced white flour tortillas, terrible I know...) I topped mine with a big dollop of Michael's mole and they made quite a team.

Mandee said...

I like the themed pot luck idea you guys have and I might pinch it for the next Sydney pot luck ;)

Also, your quesadillas look sooo good, I have a roll of Cheezly in the fridge just waiting to be used up, quesadilla-stlye.

Kate S said...

Wow what a great idea! Looks like a fun night was had by all- I am seriously jealous of the cooking abilities displayed!