I’ve been a bit quiet of late on Red Bistro, though numerous dishes have whizzed from the kitchen in May. For two reasons…
We’ve entertained, but I’ve had no time to shoot the action while being in the thick of it. So, I’ve a good many ideas to recreate and post. And, I’ve been hard at work on the D.I.Y front. May is usually the best, and perhaps only ideal month in the year for outdoor jobs as it sits between winter and spring’s humidity and summer’s blistering temperatures. This May has been a disaster weather wise however, putting paid to my good D.I.Y. intentions. While mid and northern Italy have had snow and thunder and seen ‘legs’ of the Giro d’Italia abandoned, we southerners in Malta and our neighbour Sicily have had sand storms. The weather has gone awry all over the Med it seems. Libyan Saharan sand coated us for several weeks on and off, ending in a massive sand storm with gale force winds. I might want to sand doors, but not this way!
My project – a massive courtyard make-over – has progressed in fits and starts. Little hope now of getting it spruced up for summer; something I’ve been trying to do for around five years or more. Having shifted a lot of old junk courtesy of the kind men at our free bulky rubbish collection and also Malta’s version of eBay, I’ve been attempting to get down to the more uplifting job of painting 12 doors and windows that face the courtyard. Did I say uplifting? Yep, up a ladder wobbling around with not one door completed and 11 still to go. Perhaps not as uplifting as I’d hoped. The fun part of seeing a new colour is yet to come.
That, however has proved very tough. I think I’ve a good eye for colour, but translating around one inch on a colour chart under flourescent light in the home store to stark daylight (as you can see from the photos here) and ever changing light on a large expanse of door are two totally different viewpoints on colour. I wanted a change from green to grey. Grey isn’t grey – it’s beige, purple, Provencal blue, and comes with names like ‘downpipe’ (which is charcoal grey), ‘mouseback’ (flat, light grey) or ‘summer cloud’ (light blue). Four pots later (they don’t do those little sample pots in Malta), I am poorer and no nearer my optimal match. Today, another trip to the store, with a snack lunch squeezed in. Not much time to make food when I am keen to achieve my goal of one solitary door in the right colour before May is out. Which is why it’s time for tabouleh…
Tabouleh gets on with itself while I work. Fresh tomatoes now very flavoursome, mint from the garden, basil from the farmers’ market as mine is still seedling height (but I’ve a good crop coming on), and lots of lemon juice and Umbrian olive oil. The mozzarella di bufala lifts this quick lunch to something special. Simply rip it apart and drizzle on the pesto. Flavours to let summer roll on…once my painting’s done that is.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
- 2 large balls of buffalo mozzarella
- 250g fine bulgar wheat
- 6-10 red cherry tomatoes
- 6-10 yellow cherry tomatoes (optional)
- cucumber, around 12cm, sliced lengthways, then diced
- fresh mint, large handful, chopped finely
- fresh parsley, large handful, chopped finely
- a lemon, juice and zest
- 3 tbsps best quality extra virgin olive oil
- fresh basil, very large handful, chopped then crushed in a pestle & mortar
- 3 tbsps best quality extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt, large crystals
- Start by soaking the bulgar wheat: place grains in a wide saucepan and pour in boiling water to cover to around 1.5cm depth. Stir up with a fork, then cover with a lid and a tea-towel to allow the wheat to swell and become soft to bite (but not a mush) for around 20 minutes. Fork up grains gently to loosen them.
- Prep vegetables: wash tomatoes and dice finely, and do the same with the cucumber. Chop mint and parsley finely and stir in to the salad vegetables.
- Salad dressing & combining: Whisk 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with the juice and zest of a lemon. Fork the dressing lightly into the bulgar wheat, then fork in the salad vegetables, mint and parsley lightly til combined. Leave to chill in the fridge for an hour but preferably three. If you are serving the tabouleh as a starter, you can use dariole moulds or small cake tins to form it into individual portions. Press tabouleh in the moulds, cover with foil and chill.
- Pesto: rip the basil leaves and place in a large mortar. Add around half a teaspoon of sea salt, large crystals, and then crush up the leaves roughly with a pestle. Add the olive oil a little at a time, still crushing and stirring. The pesto needs to be quite liquid so you can pour over the mozzarella. There is no need to make a very fine pesto and note that this version is basil, salt and oil only; no Parmesan or pine nuts.
- To serve: spoon tabouleh onto plates, or serve individual portions from dariole moulds by placing a plate over the top and tipping right way up. It should retain its form if you chilled the tabouleh long enough. Rip up the balls of drained buffalo mozzarella, placing portions next to the tabouleh. Just before serving, pour a little pesto over the mozzarella, toss over some more lemon zest and chopped mint. Serve with extra cherry tomatoes. Ideal as light summer luncheon or as a starter.