Charles Siskin: Sunset And Hors d'Oeuvres

  • Wednesday, December 14, 2022
While I still enjoy visits from friends and family, I’m not always keen to have uninvited guests arrive with very short notice. That happened to be the case when Hurricane Sally, that hussy, blew in bringing the same hysterical warning as our local television stations always do, breaking in on important shows like my beloved “Jeopardy,” and earlier in the day, “The Price is Right,” where middle-aged individuals jump up and down hysterical at the idea of winning a coffee pot.

Now, I grant you that the young weather man (at a local station), who appears to be not old enough to have good sense enough to get out of the rain, informed us that Hurricane Sally was headed our way.
I sniffed and spoke directly to the television screen, letting it know that we rarely get anything more than people buying out everything on grocers shelves. Newcomers!

Furthermore, my advice to the weather person was to head home before his folks realized he was out after dark.

Well, Sally did arrive and brought a whole slew of unwelcome family to our area. In particular, rain and wind found its way to my second floor deck. Fast forward two years later and we have tightly sealed the open deck. A deck we rarely used has now become the focal point of a tastefully redecorated outdoor space with teak chairs, a nifty chaise lounge and indoor-outdoor carpet.

Recently my bride, of numerous decades, casually mentioned one Sunday afternoon that she had asked the neighbors to stop by that very evening for sunset. All this was to take place on our redone second floor deck. Also she promised some simple hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine to toast what has been, this particular fall, some really amazing and glorious sunsets.

However, it rained! No, not a sprinkle, but serious rain that soaked our newly installed outdoor and, lest we forget, indoor carpeting, and promised to soak everyone’s sandals, which are the chosen footwear here at the beach. (No socks please.)

My dilemma became what could I put together in the short time before guests arrived? I considered what provisions I currently had in my fridge that would not embarrass my puffed up culinary ego?

Inside the fridge I found no help whatsoever, unless of course you were gluten intolerant. However looking through the vegetable bin I came across a shiny purple eggplant. Really, what would you expect to find, crunchy skinny asparagus or something even goofier like a plate of crudités with a champagne dipping sauce?

I also spotted some goat’s cheese and a box of lightly salted matzo crackers. Moses never left home without them - the matzo, I mean. You never know what or who you are going to run into down on the banks of the Red Sea.

With little time to spare I set about punching small fork holes in the eggplant then greasing it with simple cooking oil and finally wrapping it tightly in foil and putting it in our convection oven at 425 degrees. Convections are great in situations like this one where time is limited.
Meanwhile I found a red pepper that I seeded and cut into strips and then cubed. I did the same with a half of a red onion that I diced. Note: recently I tuned into the cooking channel and watched some attractive young lady demonstrating how to slice an eggplant into four wedges then spear the wedges up and down with toothpicks that had fresh rosemary attached, along with other fresh herbs, and doused it with olive oil.

At that point she put the four wedges back together and put the whole deal in the oven. I’m not sure what happened next, as I placed a call to the Gourmet Police to report a travesty taking place on my television. I was hoping that when I again looked at my TV screen I would find that Friday the 13th was on and Freddie had devised some kind of eggplant torture.

Once I saw inside the oven that my eggplant had shriveled similar to old men, who I am more cognizant of than ever, I took the coveted soon-to-be haute cuisine out to let it rest. Personally a glass of red wine does it for me.

Once cool enough to handle, I scooped out the flesh, sounds more like Freddy doing the dirty deed, and put it into the food processor along with the diced onion, red pepper and at least one teaspoon of diced garlic as well. If you have guests who are sensitive to garlic, omit. However if you have plans to never visit with these neighbors, a couple of teaspoons of the garlic should do the trick!

I added 2 tablespoons of EVOO and at least one tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar, or perhaps a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Truthfully, I like the lemon juice to give it a bright taste. Then give the processor a couple of turns before putting it on high. The mixture should be smooth with a little bit of crunch from the pepper and onion.

Lastly I diced some fresh parsley and garnished the spread. Not only does the parsley add color, it gives some additional flavor and makes a more inviting hors d’oeuvre.

Voila mon ami and bon appétit! (That’s what a minor in languages will get you, and onto the wrong train out of Paris.)

For the eggplant dip you will need:
1 medium eggplant
Oil for greasing the eggplant
1 cup red or yellow pepper diced
½ cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon diced or minced garlic
¼ cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of diced fresh parsley

As stated previously, grease the eggplant with oil and prick with a fork, then wrap in foil and bake until it is soft.
Split the eggplant and scoop out the flesh when cool.
Place eggplant in blender along with pepper, onion and garlic.
Pulse a couple of times, then add oil and vinegar and place on medium speed until well blended.
Taste and add however much salt and pepper you think is needed, then pour into one of your best serving bowls and garnish with diced parsley leaves.

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Flying Squirrel To Serve Dinner Only; Ending Sunday Brunch
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