Dinner for 4

Last night was the very informal School Photo Dinner night.  Three of my friends I know from school brought pictures from way back then, and we reminisced about the old times, and how we didn’t really realise and appreciate then that they were good times.  Then we started to take a closer look at the haircuts each of us had over time.  Oh my…  Some of us also came up with stories others had forgotten, and we laughed so hard I thought the neighbours would show up to complain any minute.
The menu
In lieu of a liquid aperitif – Campari Citrus Popsicles
Starter – Chorizo & Tomato Salad
Main course – Zucchini Towers
Dessert – Green Chocolate Mousse
The preparation
On Friday night I started with the preparations by making Campari Citrus Popsicles. Everything went smoothly, but as I had only 12 popsicle moulds, I was wondering what sort of container to use for the remaining liquid.  I was about to unwillingly – because it seemed such a boring option – pour it into an ice cube tray when I remembered I had some more funky silicone ice cube moulds from IKEA stored away somewhere.  Never used them before, but I had to have them when I saw them in the shop… guess I knew they would come in handy one day.  These moulds make ice sticks, so I thought I’m sure I’ll be thinking of something that can be stirred with a Campari citrus ice stick at some point in the future.  You see I’m really someone who thinks ahead and has a plan… 😉  Filling the liquid into those stick moulds was easy, and I found out they can be stacked.  The hard part was getting that stack to the freezer and lowering it into a freezer drawer.  I felt like someone in a movie who had been handed an explosive device and was trying to safely tiptoe to the freezer without the device going off, i.e. the contents spilling on the floor.
Saturday I woke up a whole hour before my alarm was supposed to go off.  Everything else was right on schedule, no running around in panic, no last minute scares, enough time to  shop, prepare, and clean, and I had time for myself in between to relax on the balcony with a coffee.
Nothing went wrong except that I accidentally touched a dishwasher tab with wet hands and for a few hours it looked like the skin on two of my fingers would probably come off.  Felt and looked a bit strange, but fingers did not fall off.  And one thing I hadn’t really thought through – as I had planned to bake and serve the zucchini in stacks, I cut each one of the round zucchini into quarters, then into slices, keeping the slices of each quarter together so I could reassemble them again later on together with the mozzarella.  What an absolutely daft idea… what on earth was I thinking?  I should have cut them in rounds and then quartered them.  I could have saved myself a whole hour.
For dessert, I did go for the Green Chocolate Mousse after all.  It was very easy to make, except for the topping.  After burning sugar instead of caramelizing it the other day, I heated it slowly this time, but it seemed to take really long.  The recipe then says to pour it onto baking paper and spread it into a thin layer;  however, as soon as the caramel touched the baking paper it started to harden, so I wasn’t able to properly spread it.  That didn’t do any harm, though, as it has to be crumbled later on anyway, and the texture was good.  If you’re interested in the recipe, someone has already posted it, so I won’t do the same here.
The props
My popsicle moulds were from IKEA, as mentioned before.  And when I started getting out everything I’d need for the evening, I realised that so much else I have is from IKEA.  The blue little vases you can see on the table; the glasses holding the tea lights used to contain candles, and when they had burned down, I kept the glasses.  Same with the glasses I served dessert in.  I’ve used them for dessert so many times now, they’re just perfect and look really pretty.  People are always amazed when they hear where they’re from.

The food
We had the popsicles on the balcony because it was still lovely and warm at 6:30 pm.  The popsicles were a hit!  I had filled 12 moulds, and we were only 4 people, so… haha!  You can guess what I’ll be having over the next days…

The Italian tomatoes I had bought for the Chorizo & Tomato Salad were a bit disappointing, not much taste.  But the spicy chorizo and the dressing made up for it.
The stacked zucchini alla parmigiana were very good.  I made a bit too much, but in the end we forced ourselves to finish them all :-).
Until about a year ago, I didn’t eat chocolate mousse at all, because they all seemed to contain dark chocolate.  But since last year, when I made one myself for a party and substituted half of the dark chocolate for milk chocolate, I’m OK with it.  The Green Chocolate Mousse I made contained whipped cream, so I was good with that.  Also, the recipe said to use 50 – 70 % chocolate, and I chose the 50 % variety, which is about the darkest I can bear.
The Recipe
If you want to try my version of stacked zucchini alla parmigiana (because they’re in season and many people don’t know what to do with them as they have too many in their gardens), here goes:
salt + pepper
tomato purée
dried oregano
[grated parmesan]
Coat zucchini in beaten egg [I put salt + pepper into the egg mixture], then coat with breadcrumbs.  Fry in butter (or olive oil, if you prefer).  Season tomato purée with salt, freshly ground pepper, and dried oregano.
Stack as follows:  zucchini – some tomato purée – mozzarella and so on.  [In the original version of melanzane alla parmigiana the last layer is grated parmesan with flakes of butter on top.  For my stacked version with the quartered pieces it wasn’t practical.]
Stack as high as you want and finish with zucchini on top.  If you halve or quarter the zucchini slices, you might need to put a skewer in to keep them upright (soak skewers in cold water first!).  Cook for about 20 – 25 minutes at 180°C in a fan oven.
The guests
Were lovely, had fun, enjoyed the evening as well as the food.  Left around 1:30 am this morning, each with two samples of my homemade jams.
The host
Is happy with how everything went and had a great time.  And I’m already looking forward to the next guests I’ll have.  Whenever that may be.