23 November 2008

Friendsgiving: Cooking and Eating Together

As this picture suggests, I am still a lousy food-photographer. And I am also bad at actually documenting my cooking. Somehow I manage to take hundreds of delightful photos of my cats, and while they are, admittedly, wonderfully photogenic, the food I make too is rather attractive (sometimes). I'll put it down to less than ideal lighting in my kitchen. Nevertheless, I managed to snap a few pictures of the preparations and results of my contribution for a "Friendsgiving" potluck I attended yesterday.
In her cookbook The Art of Simple Food (a much cherished resource in my kitchen, given to me by an equally cherished friend), Alice Waters outlines 9 fundamental guidelines: eat locally and sustainably; eat seasonally; shop at farmers' markets; plant a garden; conserve, compost and recycle; cook simply; cook together; eat together; and remember food is precious. Now, reading this cookbook (which I did cover to cover) is like reading myself and my personal food beliefs. I admire Alice Waters, her cooking and her slow food ways. Though I respect her unyielding opinions, I do admittedly believe that there comes a point when reading her book that you must say to yourself: I don't live in the Bay area and do not always have access to fresh, local chervil. Bless her, but if food appreciation hinged on year round access to fresh herbs, this would be a sad thing.
Regardless, she is wonderful and I am proud to say how strictly (and effortlessly) I follow her fundamental guidelines. I eat locally and sustainably. I eat seasonally (with special thanks to my CSA being offered all year round!). I shop at farmers' markets (every week). I planted a roof garden this summer (with mixed results). I conserve, would compost (eeeh, more about this sensitive subject at a later date) and recycle. I cook simply. I would like to cook more together and eat more together. I never forget that food is precious.
That bit in bold there is kind of a lifestyle problem. I love to cook. I love to cook with others/for others and enjoy very much sharing great food with great people. I live a bit of a solo-life, however. I am rather quiet and independent, and I greatly appreciate time alone after too much time spent on campus. And I don't exactly have a built-in someone to cook for/with, if you know what I mean. I have some lovely friends though, and when our schedules cooperate we can do this cooking/eating thing together. Sadly, this rarely happens. However, I do sincerely hope to establish a weekly Sunday dinner with food-loving friends in the near future. This idea has been volleyed about for a few months now. New Year's resolution?
New food-loving friends Nate and Rachel hosted the aforementioned "Friendsgiving" potluck yesterday. Bingo: a chance to cook and eat together and to live up to my Alice Waters wannabe status!
I opted to make a Mushroom Pie with Sour Cream Crust, bookmarked in a 2006 Thanksgiving Bon Appetit since ... 2006, and a simple Pumpkin Pie à la Alice Waters. Friday night I prepped the two crusts and roasted and pureed a pumpkin (a CSA gem from a few weeks ago).
Here is the prep for the sour cream crust:
Freshly pureed pumpkin:
Saturday morning I prebaked the pumpkin pie shell (it did not shrink at all, leaving a rather funny ruffle around the end. Aren't pie crusts meant to shrink?!) Later my friend Alex came over so that we could do that cooking together thing I was just going on about. We strolled (in the COLD weather) down to the farmer's market and picked up some local organic broccoli for Alex's contribution. We then strolled further to the co-op to get an organic lemon. Then home to cook. I mixed up the pumpkin pie filling (with Alex assisting with sugar/spice mix) and threw that in the oven. Then I began sauteing onions and mushrooms, which I had prepped before Alex's arrival.
After taking out the slightly funny looking pumpkin pie,
I was able to throw in pie number two (thyme and cream cheese were added to the mushroom filling).
45 minutes later:
Alex steamed some yummy broccoli and poured over it a lemon/butter/garlic sauce (thanks again, Alice Waters). This modestly resides in the yellow Le Creuset pot in the first picture.
Firlefanz thoroughly enjoyed the slightly warmer apartment due to all the cooking, though he still opted to use Alex's coat for extra warmth.
Upon finally arriving at Rachel and Nate's we were greeted by much cheer, warmth and food. There, of course, was a turkey (thank you, Kevin -- I heard it was delicious), gravy, butternut squash soup, an absolutely delicious potato-sweet potato-leek-goat cheese gratin (I'm waiting on that recipe from Rachel and Nate), cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, stuffing, vegetarian shepard's pie, cornbread, homemade white bread, green beans, and more. Oh yes, there was dessert too. On top of my pumpkin pie (which might have been a little bit sweeter ... or not, to my taste!) there was sweet potato pie, a pear pie, apple-berry crisp, rum cake, freshly whipped cream, maybe something else. And booze too, of course! Mulled cider with brandy, cranberry and vodka punch, wine, whiskey. As I am able to write this post today, I assure you I did not imbibe in everything. Though I did eat a considerable amount of food! And that cider was tasty.
Assessing the crowd, I am confident that a lot of what was on the table was local and organic. (I know my npr-listening, green, food types). I hardly need mention that my contributions were local and organic (butter, sour cream and cream cheese were organic -- I can't say with total certainty that they were local).
It was a great evening. Coming together to appreciate food is such a special thing.
Speaking of special...it wasn't all serious business at this dinner (not at all). We green foodies like to have some fun too, and what is more fun than rummaging through the unique assortment of items (not all of which belonged to me), which had found their way into my bag. Brooke and Alex model their findings:
Now let me wish you an early happy Thanksgiving. I hope that your meal will be local, organic and delicious and accompanied by lovely friends and family.

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