03 October 2007

Benito vs. the Hotel Room: Mediterranean Delight

When it comes to hotel cookery, there are certain things that you have to cross off the list. Large roasts of meat, for example. (Now, if I'm staying in a hotel with a fireplace this winter, that's a different story.) Most sauces are out of the question, and I have no desire to use dried packets of instant au jus. But there is a great sauce that is delicious and only requires a refrigerator: Greek tzatziki. I made mine out of strained Greek yogurt, shredded mint, chopped cucumber and tomato. I don't have pictures of this process, but it's dead simple. The magic comes from letting it sit overnight--the flavors marry together beautifully. Around this one concept I built an entire meal.

Rather than whine about what you can't do, focus on your strengths. With only a microwave and a refrigerator, you're pretty limited in the cooking department but you can boil liquids and heat up certain items pretty well. So I decided to go with a pan-Mediterranean dish incorporating the cuisines of Spain, Italy, Greece, and North Africa. Aside from the tzatziki, I have a tub of items from the olive bar, a box of instant couscous, a fantastic one cup box of organic chicken broth, a bag of unsalted trail mix, fresh mint, a jar of roasted red peppers, and some pitas. This project begged for some lamb, but as I didn't have any good way to cook it nor could I find any merguez lamb sausage, I lucked upon some Niman Ranch chorizo.

I took the raisins out of the trail mix and soaked them in white wine for a few hours beforehand, saving the sunflower and pumpkin seeds for later. I tore up some kalamata olives and added them to the couscous in the coffee pot along with the "drunken" raisins and seeds, plus a spoonful of residual oil from the olive tub. I heated the cup of broth to boiling, added it to the couscous mixture and then put a lid over the pot to let it steam and cook.

You know, when I get home I'm going to miss that little coffee pot.

I sliced the chorizo and heated it up in the microwave until just sizzling. I was able to use a little bowl (swiped from the breakfast buffet in the lobby) to make a perfect timbale of couscous, surrounded by roasted red peppers and topped with a mint leaf. Rounding out the plate were some dolmas and a stuffed pepper from the olive bar, a healthy dollop of my tzatziki and warmed pitas. The meal was precisely what I was craving and while I doubt that you'll see anything quite like it on a menu any time soon, it was a wonderful combination.

For the evening's wine, I selected the 2006 Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Great bitter grapefruit peel aroma, with tart, dry, full-bodied flavors that include hints of grass and licorice. A decent wine on sale for $10, and with a screwcap enclosure it makes it even more suited to the hotel room--for those who don't travel with at least two corkscrews at all times.


Anonymous said...

okok, no video, but I tell ya, you have the makings of fame and fortune here.

no kidding --


do it.

Allen said...

Another fine meal using the rules of KISS. When you get home I will buy you a small coffee pot. Looking foward to trying the white wine from New Zealand.

Fledgling said...

Hello Cuz!

Thanks for stopping by by blog. This is a brilliant post! "No large roasts of meat in your hotle room": I'll be sure to remember that. This sounds and looks so much more appetizing than the $5 M&Ms from 1998 in the mini bar. MUCH more.

I'll stop by now and again. Give my Aunt Lou my love: She IS the best!