The thing that always gets me about a season really kicking off is the way the first few overly hot or cool days are always a slog to the guts. Damn it was cold in Wellington yesterday. Really cold.
Complaints about this to a mate in Melbourne only resulted in a counter-whinge about "not being able to wear thongs for at least nine days". You can imagine my outpouring of sympathy.
Walking home from the opulence of my new workplace today was a necessary retreat into little dreams about the last summer, when I was forced to lie around in a beanbag in my undies, scratching my vast expanse of pasty puku, playing Xbox, and drinking beers in a vain effort to cool off.
What was great about that time wasn't the heat. The heat was incredible, on account of staying in a dive with no insulation. What was great was the people I house-sat for had a huge barbeque. It was a monster 5-burner with special do-dahs for Africa, and all a short walk from the beer fridge.
On account of the heat, the trip to the Barbie had to be short and sweet, but shorter and sweeter than trying to fix myself something in the kitchen. So, this leads us to talk about cooking steaks. After all, like those great hey-days of parties and debauchery, last summer is always a memory padded by the good bits we like imagine occurred, and not the crap.
Now, I know I said I'd never send you near the delicatessen, but, I lied. Sorry. You'll get over it. But I couldn't not talk about this meal. I described it to the housemate earlier this evening and her eyes glazed over with haze of bygone meals on the beach. And that's just the place for this.
I should also point out that many of the recipes I'm putting up here for your perusal are really not 'real' recipes. They're just some rubbish I threw together one time, that happened to work, and became standards in my repertoire.
An antipasto is usually just a bunch of cold foods put together on a plate. It can be anything really, which makes it such a great meal on those stinking hot summer days we're all missing. This one uses two things to separate it away from pretentious shyte. A steak, and heaps of cheap white bread.
The mistake people always make with things like antipasto is too assume that it has to be made up of expensive things. It doesn't. But, it can't be made out of complete rubbish. Don't get those Spanish black olives for example, they're not the right stuff for this type of meal.
So the ingredients list is pretty simple.
A small deli container of semi-dried tomatoes.
A small deli container of decent olives. Go for the kalamatas. It's hard to stuff those up.
A medium container of hummus, or baba ganoush, or red pepper dip, or something.
A heap of white bread, either French loaves, or just a big loaf of tip-top, doesn't matter.
A couple of small porterhouse steaks.
Now is where we get tricky.
A small container of Artichoke hearts.
A small container of marinated mushrooms.
Or any other fancy stuff you see in the deli that grabs your interest.
I love antipasto because you get to try out some of the weird stuff in the deli, and if you don't like it, no big deal, let your shifty flatmate eat it, and don't buy it again!
But, olives, semi-dried tomatoes and at least one type of dip are essential.
To prepare this, cook the steaks however the hell you want. Charcoal or blue, doesn't matter. Personally? Depends on the cut (ask your butcher. If he doesn't know? Change your butcher. Don't let munters sell you food that can poison you), but usually mid-rare. I say buy small steaks like porterhouse because the meat isn't the main item on the menu, it's the bread. In fact, if you're feeling risqué, buy some good prosciutto or other cured meats like smoked chicken instead.
Then, when the steaks are done, let them sit for a minute, while you pile the other stuff, i.e. olives and like, onto the plates. Make sure you keep the dips separate, so you can use a knife to get them out of the container and onto the bread.
Add steaks to plate, and enjoy!
This is one of those meals you need to sit outside for, a glass of wine or a really cold beer in hand, some good sounds on in the background (I was listening to the Veils a fair bit then), and maybe a view.