Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Cherub Hunting Day!

Happy biggest fake Hallmark holiday of the year day! Oh well, it's a good reason to break out a good wedge of Hilary’s cheese and pop open a bottle of Venturi Shulze Millefiori.

I’m in the middle of another non-stop week of events, dinner parties and climbing prep. Last night, we had some newly-found friends over for dinner. Local college students who are proving that even on a limited student’s budget, basic cooking knowledge and a busy schedule that you can still eat locally and not break the bank or belt. Kudos!

I got home about 6:30pm with a half an hour before our guests would arrive. I whipped off my jacket and turned on the oven to 350F. I chopped up a huge batch of potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onions and garlic for roasting to see us through the rest of this busy week. Depending on how big they’re chopped and their density, they take 30-40 minutes to roast. I cut everything except the onions and garlic into ½ inch cubes for faster cooking. The onions I cut into quarters and garlic remained in whole cloves.

I also dug up a batch of moose sausage and a batch of locally raised and made Bavarian sausages from the freezer. No, we don’t get tired of sausage in this house. Again, I made enough to see us through the rest of the week. A quick sear in a hot pan and those were also popped in the 350F oven for about 20 minutes to finish cooking.

When the guests arrived, I quickly chopped up some freshly picked collard greens from Nanoose Edibles. Into a hot wok, I drizzled in some veggie oil and dropped in some minced raw garlic. I threw in the greens and sautéed them for few minutes. A few grinds of black pepper and a drizzle of Auld Alliance Farm’s (on Gabriola Island) pear balsamic vinegar and we were ready to eat.

Our lovely guests picked up a bottle of Saturna Island’s Pinot Noit from the government liquor store on their way here and that went perfectly with the sausages and veggies. They also brought over a wedge of Little Qualicum’s Raclette cheese (a favorite of mine). They were the perfect 100 mile diet dinner guests. I think we’re going to have them over more often:)

To accompany the savoury sausages was a tart and spicy rhubarb & plum chutney that I made last summer. It gave a nice contrast to the rich and meaty sausages.

We ended the meal with some local kiwi fruit, apples and the raclette cheese.

So for the next few days, I’m going to build all the dinners/lunches around the roasted veggies and sausages. For all those who’s heart is clenching (or drooling) at the idea of sausages for a week, keep in mind that the dishes I’m planning are using the meat as a side element, rather than the main element of the meal. Tonight I’m planning to make a Tuscan style white bean soup. Basically chop up a link of sausage, saute it up, dump in some chicken stock and soaked canelli beans or other white bean (or canned beans). Simmer until beans are done, about an hour. Of course, if you use canned beans, you won’t have to simmer them for that long. 10-15 minutes will be enough time.

I’ll also add a parma cheese or some other unwaxed hard cheese rind. It will help flavor the soup and give it an extra bit of richness. I also find that any good real cheese (not the processed cheddar stuff you buy by the brick) that has gone hard in your fridge also is a good candidate for this use. I simply break them down to smaller chunks and keep the in the freezer until needed. Cheeses like a raclette, any alpine style cheese or farmers cheddars can be used.

Once the beans are done, bring up the heat to a medium high, dump in some of the roasted veggies, some finely chopped kale or chard or collard greens. As soon as the greens turn bright, brilliant colour, you’re ready to eat!

If you want a smoother, creamier soup, blend up half of the bean soup before you add the rest of the veggies. Watch out for the cheese rind! That’ll just gunk up your blender.

If your dinner companions are in the habit of not paying much attention to what they’re eating and tend to scarf down their food, I’d pull out the cheese rind so nobody gets a mouthful of spongy cheese rind. Then again, maybe you ought to leave it in there to teach them to not scarf down the lovely meal you prepared for them :p

BTW, I'm going to be at the Ban Terminator Event in Parksville tonight and at the Nanaimo Malaspina University event tomorrow . Drop by the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge table and say 'hello!'

Happy Eating!


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