and so it begins... again.
some of you who know me or who have been reading this blog for a long time (four years or more- thanks, by the way), know that i decided to integrate my interest in cooking into the world-wide world cup fever that takes over in the month of june (and into early july). for no reason in particular, this phrase "eat the cup" occurred to me in the same instant that i had the idea that it would be hilarious and fun to start cooking a meal in honour of the day's tournament winners. and indeed, despite some competitive disappointment on my part at the end, the whole thing was fun- lots of fun. and there really isn't any reason not to do something again when it's fun (as long as there aren't criminal charges involved).
this year, in order to be equitable during the opening round and in the interest of making things as difficult for myself as i possibly can, i've added a little wrinkle. for the first round, rather than simply picking a match and cooking a meal in the style of that team's homeland, i'm going to make meals that fuse elements of the cuisines of the day's various winners. that'll make something fun even... funner...
of course, this year's tournament has already shown its willingness to laugh in my pasty white face, since the first winners all seemed to hail from countries where veal is considered a vegetable. since i tend to avoid either red meat or poultry, this adds a wrinkle on which i hadn't counted. from what is being predicted, i take comfort in the fact that the delightful fleur sauvage natural food shop in my neighbourhood has a healthy supply of mock bavarian sausages and mock italian sausages. (no it isn't cheating!)
so to start things off, i decided to wait until sunday to cook a big meal (because sunday just feels like a cooking day and friday, when i really should have started, i was headed out to a show. this isn't the kind of thing that can just be rushed along.) of course, the teams did cooperate a little by limiting the number of winning teams that i actually had to contend with. heck, if i'd started on friday night, i'm not sure what i would have done. if there's no clear winner that day, should i just fast? that sounds like less fun.
by sunday, however, there were some clear winners and so i set to work making a feast in their honour.
lettuce and rice wraps with spicy sauce (korea)
in fact, both koreas have teams in the world cup this year, and so far the one team to play scored the first clear victory of the tournament, with a convincing victory over greece. these little wraps are pretty simple street food, but the magic is in the sweet, spicy, pungent and garlicky sauce. (korea can compete with any nation on earth in the love of garlic sweepstakes.) this year provides a welcome chance for the team to prove themselves after winning their bid for the 2002 cup (sort of) under controversial circumstances and having their run for the cup tainted by accusations of referee malfeasance. the straightforward win was probably a welcome distraction for the nation after a catastrophic incident with the country's space program earlier in the week.
empanadas- these wonderful little dough-wrapped pockets of pure food pleasure can be stuffed with basically anything. although apparently spanish and portuguese in origin, they are associated mostly with the former colonies in south america. an unfortunate tendency i have to overwork dough made the crusts of mine a little too crusty, but these are really about the insides. (i probably set my expectations too high, in that i was spoiled in toronto by the drool-worthy el gordo- meaning "the fat one"- empanada emporium, which i always found superior to its better known neighbour.)in this case, i opted for a cheese filling, but in honour of two of the tournament's lesser-known victors, i added raisins (after a well-known slovenian dish, actually a dessert, with cheese and raisins) and chunks of sweet potato (a important food crop in ghana). as a side note, to roll out my dough, i used an empty australian wine bottle. because if country needed to feel that they could steamroll over something at the moment, it's got to be the australians.
and speaking of nods to less than inspiring play, i couldn't resist accompanying the meal with a tasty side dish of buttered greens, with a dash of lemon for that tang of bitterness.
to finish off, the meal was accompanied by a bottle of mosel riesling, the superstar german varietal, because their 5-0 shellacking of the australian team definitely deserves a toast. the hosts of the last world cup (and therefore the first "eat the cup") served notice that cup favourites argentina and spain are going to have a very tough time on their hands.
warning to those who may want to attempt this: this meal is rather astoundingly rich and managed to send two full-grown adults into what i would describe as a "food coma" and hoping that the next country to win would be one that is known for its superb crackers and soda water. the challenge continues tomorrow. onward and inward.