Don and I threw a party this weekend for all those guests who could not make the trip across the pond for our recent wedding. IT was such a different evening to that blissful day in June- no white dress, no hair and makeup, no top hats and morning suits and most obviously no body else doing the work for us!
I adore having a good party but I have this unavoidable tendency to make things harder for myself than they need to be. I lie awake thinking of all the things I could make and then stress about how much time it will take, the money it will cost and how I frequently I will have to rush to the kitchen during the party.
So, this time I set rules for myself. It was really the only way to contain and restrict my wild fancies.
Rule #1 Five different nibbles only- no adding extras at the last minute. Pick five stick with five. Follow the rules, Helm Baxter.
Rule #2 No hot nibbles- Saturday was predicted to be the hottest day of the year and our 650 sq ft apartment was struggling to stay cool without having to fight with the oven. Everything would be cold or room temperature. First thing off the list mini Yorkshire puddings.
Rule # 3 Only one nibble was allowed to be an attention seeker. All others had to be pre-made and pre-assembled- pre-party.
Rule # 4 No more rules, rule inhibit creativity.
Rule # 5 Even though you hate rules, there are only three real rules. So STICK with them.
Rule # 6 Rename rules as guidelines as clearly the words rules and cooking in the same sentence are a cause for deep concern.
It was hard. Almost as hard as it was to stop myself from drooling on my keyboard over this. I broke the first rule guideline and ended up with six but I left one of them for my guests to assemble themselves. Ah ha! An extra point awarded for delegation- I think so! And excluding the Pork butt I had in the oven for eighteen hours before the party I managed to keep the oven pretty much entirely in the off setting save for a few nuts toasting and croutons crisping, which was all done pre-party. Success! This party thing was suddenly becoming a whole lot easier.
On the menu we had
- Smoked salmon & cream cheese spirals you can find here although I added some rocket leaves and forgot about the lemon. Hey- there were no rules about sticking to recipes!
- Union square nuts– can’t claim credit for these but they are so good!
- Crostini with ricotta, lemon, hazelnuts & honey- recipe coming soon!
- Pulled pork (slathered in a mixture of chili flakes, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and soy and cooked for 18 hours at 225F). These I left for the guests to assemble themselves with rolls, applesauce and bbq sauce on the side.
- My delicious guacamole with spicy pita chips- always a crowd pleaser
- Watermelon, tomato & feta skewers with lemon truffle vinaigrette (the unplanned hero)
Which leads me nicely, almost as if I planned it, to talking about the salad and the skewers you see photographed. I am a huge fan of adding fruit to salads and as salad combinations go watermelon, tomatoes and goats cheese make a perfect little trio. They are such good buddies that when I had left overs from Saturday’s lunch I decided to stick them on a skewer. The perfect solitary bite ready to pop in your mouth in one go and hence, nibble number six came to being.
This is a salad I’ve been making for the past two summers- and for some reason I’ve never gotten around to blogging about it. I’m not sure why- too lazy to weigh a watermelon, I suppose. But then this weekend I did- weigh the watermelon that is and everything else and then just for good measure I’ve thrown in the added bonus of two recipes for the price of one reading. Am I the most generous girl around, or what?!
Well sort of. One’s a recipe, the other is just common sense. I know it’s Monday but please tell me you can cope with that? Here’s a few guidelines (by no means rules!)- cut the watermelon into small-bite-sized pieces slightly bigger than half a cherry tomato and a piece of feta (goats cheese is better but harder to skewer) and then put on a toothpick interspersed with Thai or regular basil leaves . I made about 50 skewers with 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes and 2 lbs of watermelon (weight with the rind on) one block of feta and 1/2 a small bunch of Thai basil. Drizzle with a little vinaigrette before serving. Easy as can be.
If you’re not having a party then you really ought to try this salad. In fact even if you’re having a party then you ought to try this salad. Today in fact would be a most excellent time. Why? Because it’s mid-August and summer will soon be over and tomatoes will be imported and bland and the watermelon will be mealy and you will be cold and wanting something hot. So go! Quickly! No, wait! Rule #1 read the recipe first!
Watermelon, tomato & goats cheese salad
This salad is delicious on its own or with a handful of rocket leaves. I’ve even served it alongside a buffet spread. It only takes minutes to make so avoid assembling in advance the tomatoes and watermelon don’t like sitting out! Buy the best tomatoes you can- it really make a difference. This uses my favourite dressing lemon truffle vinaigrette which frankly makes the salad. You could try balsamic and olive oil.
Diet Facts: not your average boring salad
For the lemon truffle vinaigrette:
Zest 1 lemon
4 Tbsp lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
125ml/ 1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
4 tsp white truffle oil
For the salad:
1.8 kg / 4 lbs watermelon (with rind weight) a shy 1.3 kg/3 lbs rind removed (rough weight- no need to be exact)
675g/1 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes or other delicious in season tomatoes (rough weight- no need to be exact)
110g/ 4 oz log of rindless soft goats cheese (rough weight no need to be exact)
1/2 small bunch Thai basil (or regular basil or mint) leaves picked
1/ Make the lemon truffle vinaigrette. Put all of the ingredients into a jar, put the lid on and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
2/ For the salad. Cut the rind off the watermelon and then cut the flesh into large chunks or cubes. Core the tomatoes and cut into similar sized chunks. Place on a plate then crumble over pieces of the cheese and spoon over the dressing (start with a little and leave the rest on the side). Garnish with the Thai basil leaves.