Today we had four friends over for a casual sort of Sunday lunch, and since the weather has suddenly become unseasonably warm and sunny, I went with a cold buffet-style spread. My friend S and her boy generously brought over two kinds of baguette (classic and whole wheat) and three delicious cheeses: a fontina, a smoked gruyere, and a blue Brie, which is just what it sounds like: triple cream Brie flecked with blue cheese. Stunningly delicious, with the saltiness of the blue cutting the crazy richness of the Brie perfectly.
I made a couple of cold salads, both of which I was very pleased with. One was very simple: roasted beets with crumbled soft goat cheese and my standard vinaigrette of maple syrup, dijon, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. it was a huge hit - I'm always surprised at how many people like beets. I mean, I like them, but I like all manner of odd foodstuffs. I'm glad though - I wasn't sure how it would go over. The second salad is also of my own invention, and can be varied infinitely. It's whole wheat couscous mixed with chickpeas, raisins, chopped raw vegetables (today it was cucumber, celery and green onion) and a dressing composed of the juice of one lemon, two tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Sometimes I put bell peppers or grape tomatoes in; sometime chopped fresh mint. It tastes fresh and springlike while managing to be quite filling.
There was also a platter of assorted cold cuts (sweet capocollo, smoked turkey and tuscan ham) and these amazing roasted almonds I made from a recipe in the new tapas cookbook I just bought. You take whole blanched almonds, toss them in olive oil and oven-roast them in a pan at 350F for 20 minutes, shaking once to turn. Then you put them in a bowl and season liberally with salt, cumin and paprika or chili powder. Incredibly tasty for very little effort.
For dessert I put together individual apple crisps, since I have these gorgeous little ramekins and I never use them. I forgot to buy ice cream to go with them, sadly, but they were pretty OK anyway.
I always get the urge to make iced tea when the weather gets hot, and today was no exception, so I made a huge pitcher using three or four Raspberry Zinger tea bags, one cranberry tea bag, and one blueberry tea bag. Pour a kettle of hot water over, them top up with cold water and add honey to taste. Allow to steep thoroughly until nice and deep berry red, then remove the tea bags and serve over ice. A sprig of mint would not go amiss with this. Very refreshing, no caffeine, and very low in calories too. (You could use Splenda for a zero-calorie drink.)
We ate and drank and chatted sitting in our sunny living room, and it was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.