Or, to put it another way, my favourite picture so far. This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, yet another first time event for me...this month it is being hosted by Scott at Real Epicurean. Thanks Scott!
There are certain cookbooks that you find yourself addicted to. You carry them around in your bag in case you get a spare few minutes to read it at work, all other cookbooks become forelorn because this particular one is getting preferential treatment. And then along comes another cookbook to usurp the last favourite and so the cycle continues and so our menu (and waistbands) expand further still.
My favourite cookbook of last summer was Rebecca Rathers The Pastry Queen. I didn't have high hopes for this book when I ordered it, other than a few reviews on Amazon and someone who had said that Rather seemed like a Texan version of Nigella Lawson. Still, I was intruiged and when it turned up, I was charmed, beguiled and seduced by the book.
The recipes are unlike any others that I had cooked before; cafe style cakes and muffins, unusual Tex-Mex hybrid dishes and classics, like Chicken Pot Pie and Chocolate Chip Cookies. I cooked from it incessantly.
The Pecan Pie Bars were, as every other Pecan Pie endeavour I've had, a runny but tasty failure.
The Whole Lemon Muffins were delicious, tangy and moreish.
The Peach Kolaches tested my baking skills but I was rewarded with rolls that were softer than any other bread dough I had ever tasted.
Yet, as the Summer passed, Rathers book was replaced by Nigel Slater and Diana Henry, British food writers who intrisically understand the English desire for cosy comfort food. The Pastry Queen became relegated to the bottom of the pile.
That is until Paul mentioned that he has invited work colleagues over for dinner next weekend for a "Mexican Feast". Suddenly I thought of Rathers book and her section of unusual Quesadillas and Tostadas. I shoehorned the book out from the bottom of the pile, blew the dust off and started reading. It was as if I had been reunited with an old friend. I remembered recipes that I had cooked, some that I had long forgotten making (such is my short memory) and was pleased to see that my tastes had changed enough to consider making some of the recipes that I had previously skirted over. Such is the nature of the constant cook.
So, Friday Night, whilst sniffling over a cold, I decided to make something Summery and bright: Prawn, Parsley and Proscuitto Tostadas. Curiously I had everything in the house to make this dish: my grandmother had passed a packet of the paper thin Italian ham to us ("it's too stringy") and I had just purchased a pot of Curly Leaf Parsley to let die on the windowsill and keep the other twigs company. The scene was set.
I had never had Tostadas before so eating a crispy, open tortilla was somewhat of a novelty. However, the flavours were positively bursting with summery joy and whilst I would put a little less lemon juice in (Paul was a bit heavy handed with his squeezing of the lemon), it felt like a tiny piece of Baja in our living room. I also quickly fried the Prosciutto in a hot frying pan because I'm not keen on it 'raw'. It's up to you how you serve it.
PRAWN, PARSLEY AND PROSCIUTTO TOSTADA - serves 2
2 Flour Tortillas
Prawns. The quantity depends on what size prawns you have and how much you like them. I put in about 30 smallish prawns for the two of us.
One Small Onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Small Handful Parsley, roughly chopped
1 Large Spring Onion (or two small ones), chopped, including greenery
1 Clove Finely Chopped Garlic
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Splash White Wine Vinegar to taste (the recipe asks for Champagne Vinegar so use that if you have it)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Yellow, red or orange Pepper, chargrilled (over a gas flame or under a hot grill whilst you are preparing the prawns - takes about 20 minutes under the grill, less over a flame)
8 Slices Prosicutto
Handful of Mixed Lettuce Leaves (preferably small leafy ones)
Sour Cream (optional)
Pierce the pepper all over and place under a very hot grill (in a baking tin to collect any juices it will leak out) or over a gas flame.
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until softly transclucent.
Add the garlic and spring onions and cook until the whole mixture has started to collapse and is fragrant. Do not let burn.
Roughly chop the prawns and throw them into the frying pan. If they are raw, cook until they turn pink. If already cooked, just heat through.
Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and vinegar, judicially at first, tasting as you go along. Season well.
Optiona: In another frying pan, throw in the pink rags of Prosiuctto and cook over high heat until they curl and crisp up, about 30 seconds. Remove to a plate.
In the same frying pan, or under a hot grill, toast the tortillas until they brown and are crisp.
Assembling the Tostadas:
Stir the salad greens through the prawn mixture and divide between the two tortillas. Top with the Prosciutto.
Peel most of the blackened skin from the pepper and cut into thin strips. Drape these on top of the Tostada.
Add some sour cream if desired, although not necessary.
Apply to face and have napkins to hand!