Saturday, September 22, 2007
As my friends know, when I host a dinner party it means I'm in the mood for experimentation. Despite my mother's sage advice, when I invite people over, we generally end up eating creations I have dreamed up and tested for the first time. Most of these risks pay off. But once in a while, I make something bad and occassionally I make something awful.
Like the ugly child born to supermodel parents, this week's fig spread is a dreadful melange of otherwise tasty ingredients. It was inspired by a recipe I saw almost a decade ago in my hometown newspaper. It was so awful that my dinner guests made me promise never to make it again.
I don't doubt that the original was tasty, but this version contains the same ingredients in different proportions. This illustrates an important learning experience - some dishes and some ingredients are more forgiving than others. For example, I believe you can never have too much cinnamon, garlic or ginger. You could not say the same thing, however, about baking soda, salt or chili. Similarly, some dishes are very flexible and you can generally add or subtract ingredients - soups and salads are good examples. Others are predicated on a finely tuned balance of flavors and even a minor change can ruin a dish.
Another important lesson for me is that more is not always better. For example, if I had used far fewer olives and tomatoes, they may have been a better complement to the sweetness of the figs. In my recipe, however, the flavors seemed to be equally weighted, which ended up cancelling out the good.
Disasters like this can be embarassing, especially when you are serving a crowd, but I think you can learn a lot from your failures and it sure makes for a good story. In the worse case scenario, you order in pizza...
I wasn't sure if I should provide this disastrous recipe, but I figured some of you might be curious...
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 fresh figs, finely chopped or 1/2 cup fig spread
200 grams feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup olives, finely chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
freshly ground pepper
parsley, for garnish
1. Mix all ingredients and serve as a spread on bread or crackers.