Hi, all. Well, this past Saturday was my cooking demo for Van Duzer Days on Staten Island. First, I want to thank my hosts, the ladies of Bent Pages bookstores, Robin and Katie. They were great and very supportive throughout the afternoon. And they were kind enough to provide me with a hibachi for the occasion.
Knowing that a hibachi was going to be my sole cooking implement, I had to choose two recipes from my cookbook (after all, it was my book I was pimping at this thing) that I could easily make on a grill. So, I chose “Eggplant and Garden Vegetable Canapes” and “Exquisite Potatoes and Peppers.” All I had to do was grill some eggplant, red onions, and peppers. Simple enough, right?
Except that it was 1,000 degrees! My vegetables charred beautifully, and I got nice and crispy. It was around 95 that day and it was really hard standing there for over two hours cooking and preparing food samples under a blazing sun. I also had the interesting problem of being on a slant. Yeah, um, having your peppers roll off your hibachi and your sample platter slide down the table toward the street is not really helpful. We had to lift the front end of the table with books.
So, I grilled eggplant and red onion slices, while I chopped up tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and basil. (My actual recipe calls for baking and pureeing the eggplant, but grilling it gave the canapes an even better flavor. Good to know!) When the eggplant and onions were done, I chopped those up and mixed everything together with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. I put spoonfuls of that on pieces of melba toast…and they went faster than I could put them out! Eventually, I ran out of melba toast (I totally underestimated how much I would need) and my friend Judy came to my rescue when she ran to a nearby deli to buy crackers. When she got back, she informed me that all they had were saltines and one box of Triscuits. She went with the Triscuits. Good call, Judy. Except that I went from nice-sized toast to teeny tiny Triscuits. It was interesting trying to get the vegetable mixture onto those.
Next up was my potatoes and peppers. I grilled red and green bell peppers on the hibachi and when they got nice and black, I peeled and seeded them. I had boiled and diced the potatoes at home because I would have no way of doing that at a street fair without a more sophisticated set-up. Anyway, I chopped up the peppers and tossed them in a bowl with the potatoes, some paprika, salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic that I had sauteed in a little pan I had brought along. I put that in little cups with forks and, once again, the samples flew.
By that time, I, too, was cooked. So, I packed up my gear, hugged my hosts, and hightailed it back over the Verazzano. I spent the rest of the day in air conditioning, drinking Mike’s Hard Limeade.
But when it was done, I was happy to know that people enjoyed what I had made. There was one kid, maybe about 10 years old, who told me that he was “born a vegan” but that his “main lifestyle was vegetarian.” Cut kid. Ate lots of my samples. Lots. I also sold and signed a few books, which was cool. It was a great experience and I plan on doing it again when the weather is more amenable to cooking outside.
Anyway, it’s going to be a scorcher here this weekend–the pool and some Mike’s have my name on them. I hope everyone has a safe and cool weekend.