Wednesday, June 16, 2010

something to try

A fun idea: have a dinner party where everyone brings something someone else hasn't eaten. I did this over the weekend with my dad and two friends, and we all had a good time. The idea came to me after my dad and I were talking about the peas in his garden. He found out that I had only ever had them canned or frozen, never fresh. "I used to eat them raw when I was a kid -- straight from the pod. They were delicious," he said. A little while later, I asked him if he had ever had fresh artichokes; he hadn't. Thus, the dinner was born.

fresh artichokes
On Sunday the peas were picked and ready to be eaten, so, as planned, I went over to my dad's with two friends. We brought: homemade seitan (braised) with fresh basil pesto; Israeli couscous with sauteed asparagus, kalamata olives, and golden raisins; hearts of palm; boiled peanuts; artichokes (steamed, dipped in vegan butter, and eaten one leaf at a time); a kiwano; a casaba melon; and vegan ice cream. My dad provided the fresh peas and homemade french fries.

Excluding the fresh peas, I had never had boiled peanuts, Israeli couscous (though I've had couscous many times), casaba melon, and kiwano. I've also had setitan numerous times, but never with pesto. The boiled peanuts were pretty good, though a bit salty for my taste; I'll like them better the more I eat them. They bring out the bean flavor of the peanut (a legume) and don't taste much like nuts. The casaba melon tasted like cucumber combined with honeydew. One one of my friends rated it a "solid A"; I'd give it a B minus. The kiwano was hard to taste because of all the seeds that basically float around in a gooey, gelatinous casing. (We had no idea how to eat or prepare it, so we just sliced it and sampled the inside. Possibly a grave injustice was done.) The peas were very good, and the Israeli couscous was good but not great. My dad liked the seitan and the artichokes the most, and said he would definitely be buying artichokes for himself in the future. He was also curious how to make seitan. After eating we all went to get snowballs with the rule that everyone had to order a flavor they had never tried. A fitting idea, but much less successful than the dinner.

Earlier in the day, when we first sat down to eat, I said that the meal wouldn't be a success unless at least one person ended up in anaphylactic shock, and even though that didn't happen, I still had a great time.

pesto seitan
Israeli couscous, seitan and basil pesto

cut casaba melon
casaba melon

kiwano blowfish fruit
African horned cucumber or melon, jelly melon, hedged
gourd, English tomato, melano, blowfish fruit or kiwano


the curator said...

When I go to the Asian supermarket I like to purchase one thing I've never tried and assign myself the challenge of figuring out what to do with it. This is more fun if it's something I've never heard of, and even better if I don't even know what it is until I get home and research it. For me, this is easy to accomplish at the Asian supermarket, where I don't recognize a significant percentage of what they have, but it's also possible to do this at normal grocery stores.

To make it into a party game, you could have everyone bring something foreign to themselves, and then collaboratively work out how to prepare it all (with the hope, probably, that someone else will know what to do with your contribution!). A further challenge would be to combine as many of the items as possible, although obviously greater risk would be involved in that case.

Another, less exotic idea: a friend of mine is having a bridal shower this weekend, and she's requiring everyone to bring a fresh plant of some kind. The idea is that guests will then come up with drinks (alcoholic or otherwise) using the plants as ingredients and inspiration.

Hectocotylus said...

All good ideas.

A bad idea: ordering a snowball called "Harry Potter."