Friday, 11 May 2012

Cookbook: Chevre with Saint Joseph’s Wort

Allow me shock the breath out of your system with a few brazen remarks, dear reader! Listen closely.

I think the Mediterranean Diet ought to be forbidden. 

I despise the Mediterranean Diet. Death to the Mediterranean Diet, I say! Eradicate it. Prohibit it. Deposit it on the dunghill of obliterated food regimes!

Why? Well, because – with dear old Plato - I object deeply to raising a mirage onto public pedestals where only real life heroes should be honored. You see: the Mediterranean Diet does not exist. It is a fiction, like the Unicorn, or the ever-happy kingdom of Utopia, or the imminent return of Don Sebastian to the Portuguese throne, a hoax that gets abused by self-interested parties to score points and claim false superiority and get people to do things which they really ought to shun.

Just do the test yourself if you ever have the chance. When next you meet some random individual unfortunately born near the shores of the Middle Sea, start up a conversation, nudge the subject gently towards food and victuals, then express your undying admiration for the Mediterranean Diet (you gotta lure them into the trap, remember?) and once he or she is convinced you are totally well-deposed and adulating of the Latin culinary traditions, ask ever so gently of what the Mediterranean Diet consists.

You know what answer you’ll get?

You will hear that the unsurpassed, nourishing, delicious and salubrious Mediterranean Diet consists of…. Olive Oil. Olive oil and… well, nothing else, really. Yes, there are salads, and there is meat. They eat pasta and vegetables and rice, and a glass of wine if you are lucky, and they sprinkle salt and peppers on top of most victuals, and they eat with knife and fork (if you’re lucky again) and wipe their mouth on the tablecloth like normal people do. In short: nothing different at all from what you and I, from the North Cape to the Loire and from Land’s End to the Urals, spoon upon our sorry plates seven times a week, 52 weeks a year, 95 years in a lifetime.

But the olive oil suddenly makes all the difference between Human Fodder and Mediterranean Diet! Oh yes! As long as you pour super quality Virgin Olive Oil into or onto your fare, you have promptly changed it into a healthy, holy and happy manna from the Med. For Olive Oil possesses unending magical qualities so very mysterious and stealthy, that not even science has yet succeeded in locating or explaining them! Goes to show how massive they are! Oh yes! And how superior Mediterranean Culture really is, amidst the poverty, waste, corruption, animal cruelty, nepotism, pollution, unstoppable holidaymaking and mandolin music. Bah! What a fake! Gimme good cannibal gastronomy any day!

All that is not to say, however, that there is not, here and there, off and on, from time to time, a Mediterranean snack worth making, eating or serving to your guests. Indeed there is. Taramasalata is a fine example (as I explained in an earlier blog). The occasional paella (soon to be discussed in this cookblog) should not be despised. A happy plate of hummus? Always welcome. A tapa of razor-thin mojama? Bring it on by all means! And so on and so forth. 

Yes, we should enjoy these. Indeed we should serve them to our dearest invitées. But what we should never never ever do is babble about magical qualities or mysterious benefits to health, as if we had peeped out of Plato’s famous Cave and spotted, right around the corner where the Ideals hobble about, a Dago Pizza-baker doing his idiotic acrobatic tricks with a wheel of uncooked dough whirling around in the air! Impress through Simplicity and Please through Ease IN SILENCE, I say! Good wine needs no bush, and good cooking no baloney.

Therefore, after this brief tutorial, allow me to propose to you a most simple, quick and tasty Southern Snack, which you can prepare in minutes to serve as an entrée to a larger feast. For the poetry of your carte du jour, I styled it ‘Chèvre with Saint Joseph’s Wort’, but it is, of course, nothing more than goat cheese with a sprinkling of basil.

So to work. Get yourself these

Tools and ingredients:

            A roll of quality goat cheese (as the picture above shows)
            As many ceramic plates as you have guests
            One leaf of sweet basil for every guest
            A working oven, preheated at 125º C
            A bottle of the best olive oil
            Some pieces of bread
            Rough salt and black pepper freshly crushed in a mortar

Once you have all this together, proceed to the following


With a wet knife, cut the roll of goat cheese into 2 cm thick slices. Put one slice onto each plate. Put these plates into the pre-heated oven for about five minutes, while you chop up the basil leaves.

NB: keep a good eye on the warming plates. The cheese should not melt or run, but should just turn soft around the centre of the top. As soon as you think the desired effect has been reached, take the plates out of the oven.

Put a splash of olive oil on top of the cheese. Then put chopped basil on top of that. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Put a piece of bread on the side. Serve as quickly as you can, while the plates are still warm.

Since people love to fool around with the food you lovingly prepared for them (and which needs no improvement at all), set the table with additional salt, pepper, bread and olive oil. Also make sure they have a glass of wine and some sparkly water.

But most importantly of all: have a big sign in the middle of the table saying 

‘At dinner we do not discuss politics, bathroom matters or the Mediterranean Diet!’

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