Saturday, August 01, 2009

Baby, let's BBQ...

Exactly twenty-four hours ago I was still enjoying an amazing evening and meal. Around the Table met up for the July dinner by honoring the essential summertime classic, the BBQ. Of course we kicked it up a notch and a thought a bit outside the box to come together and enjoy one delightful dining affair. I have to say that it was up there with one of the best we've had. This is good news! Many of you recall where we started and what we had to go through to get here! I don't know if these posts about our dinners are something you like reading about or not as I usually don't get many comments on them, but I share them in hopes that you will find the menus appealing or perhaps get inspired to start a fabulous group like this in your area. Joining this group is honestly one of the neatest things I've ever done and I don't think I'll be without one ever again. The whole thing is just way too good!



So sit back and make room for a lot of beautiful, mouth-watering photos and recipes. You might have to loosen your belt a bit... The talented and ever domestically-inclined Mallory hosted the soiree and will be blogging about it herself soon and very soon. I invite you to pop over to her site to see her take on things.



As usual she did an absolutely bang-up job making the atmosphere gorgeous and special. She actually drug her kitchen table out to the back deck. When it comes to entertaining Mallory does all that she possibly can and I really love that about her. All of her efforts are very worth it because what it brings to the dinners are touches that make it unforgettable. I think atmosphere and aesthetics are almost as important as the dishes we create. Wasn't it gorgeous?



I had the task of providing the beverage for the night. I knew weeks ago when we started brainstorming our dishes that I wanted to make sangria. I personally love the stuff because of it's easy drinkability and endless flavor possibilities. You could make a lovely, refreshing white sangria enriched with peaches, pears, lemons, and nectarines. Or a rosé version filled with plums, strawberries, and grapes. Or you could stay classic and make a red wine concoction like mine. I wanted to be playful with it by adding lots of fruit and just making it gorgeous. Mallory's precious antique white cart housed the drink beautifully! My sangria didn't realize how good it was going to have it! I'd live in there if I could.



I used a very traditional recipe that involved eight cups of Burgundy wine, don't be afraid to reach for low-grades like Carlo Rossi, by the time you add all the fruit and liqueurs any fine nuances of expensive wine will be ruined. To the wine I added two cups of orange juice, one-third cup each of lemon and lime juices, one-third cup as well of Triple Sec and brandy, one-half cup sugar, and one cup of filtered water. After letting that sit overnight to meld the flavors and get very nice and cold, I added one apple thinly sliced on a mandolin, an orange, lemon, lime, peach, and both bing and maraschino cherries. This will yield four quarts which will be about the perfect amount for six.



Dipping the glasses in key lime juice and then super-fine sugar made for pretty and very delicious framework for the sangria. It was perfectly sweet and tart and paved the way for the cold, fruity wine to spill over your taste buds like a wave hitting the shore. Seriously. : ) There were many moments in the evening where I looked at my glass and couldn't get over how gorgeous this cocktail really is. Red, green, pink, orange, yellow. Ooh la la.



Okay, just one more for the cheap seats in the back...



Ahhh, Ina Garten. And Mallory. Two women to treasure. And when you put them together what you get on a warm, summer evening is caramelized onion dip. So simple and easy but unbeatable in taste. We seriously couldn't stop ourselves from gorging like it was going out of style. Unable to find sweet potatoes for her oven chips, Mallory used yams and purple potatoes. Chives garnished the dainty bites.



To make enough for six, you simply caramelize five Walla Walla sweet onions for about an hour or so over low heat. Midway through season them with a good sprinkling of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Let the onions cool and mix into one-half cup each of sour cream and softened cream cheese. Season to taste and serve with home-made potato chips or your favorite store-brought brand. Trust me, your guests and taste buds will thank you for making this.



One of our members is moving away to Portland unfortunately and she actually shared her last dinner with us yesterday evening and said her goodbyes with some mighty fine grilled halibut, more about that to come. So, we've added a new member, Annika, a close friend of Laurel who is also in the group and will be the star of the dish following this one. There is always some pressure on a newbie to 'measure up' and impress the first time they attend and it's always fun for us veterans to see what kind of flair and personality they will bring to the group. You can usually tell a lot about people with their first dish. I'll just leave it at that. Annika delighted our senses with a light and zingy first course. We deemed this dish: Cucumber, Orange, and Radish Salad with a Sweet Soy Vinaigrette. She didn't work from a recipe and created this beauty all on her own. It was just heavenly in my opinion.



To make this crunchy and refreshing salad, thinly slice radishes and red onion. Peel, de-seed, and dice cucumber. Supreme and orange and dice the segments in like-sized pieces. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and minced parsley. Seems easy enough, right? Here's where it gets tricky. This is one of those vinaigrette's where there is practically a dozen 'this and that's' and you are just going to have to tinker and make it delicious. It will be worth it. Here we go, for the vinaigrette... Canola oil, sesame oil, rice wine, a couple drops of Balsamic vinegar, fish sauce, Worchestire, soy sauce, and a generous amount of brown sugar. Annika did a great job with this dish and made a fabulous and very promising first impression. I could eat this every other day at least! Just take in those gorgeous colors! It tastes as good as it looks, friends...



Laurel furnished us with another lovely salad. This bacon-studded one was loaded with rich avocado scoops and watercress.



I thought this Tyler Florence-inspired salad was so pretty set on top of this lovely blue and white dish Laurel picked up on a trip to Mexico. Doesn't it just look like an utterly perfect summer salad? She layered lots of fresh, peppery watercress and big spoonfuls of ripe avocado and dressed it in the most classic vinaigrette there is: Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. To garnish she added a few big chunks of lemon for additional usage and topped the whole thing off with crumbled, crisp bacon...



If you added some roasted grape tomatoes you could turn this into a BLAT salad! So good, Laurel! But wait, she didn't stop there...



To accompany her salad Laurel made some delicious corn bread cakes which at dinner time she decided would best be served with the fish that was grilling away on the BBQ. It was a good plan. This is a recipe that you can find over at Cook's Illustrated, if you really want to make it just write a comment and I'll try to track down all the details and whereabouts for you! She added lots of fresh dill which is why she thought it would go nicely with the fish and served them with two amazing spreads. One was a whipped honey butter spiked with lots of cayenne pepper. The other was of the cooling variety and was made by mixing sour cream with chives, shallots, salt, and pepper. We discovered that they were most tasty by alternating bites of the sweet and then savory. Even with all of the food and courses, most of us had seconds! So, so good!



We're nearing the end our our evening but the best parts of dinner are still to come, the entree and dessert. We've had some really intense heat waves here in the Northwest for the last couple weeks, so when Laura was planning her entree choice she quickly switched from ribs to halibut. And boy, were we glad she did! Grilled halibut with onions and dill and then topped with an herb compound butter that melted ever-so-perfect and puddly that you practically wanted to dive into the dish head first!? There's just something so wonderful about grilled fish on a lazy summer evening. It was divine and such a classy way to say farewell to the group! We're going to miss you, Laura! May Portland bring you many blessings and most importantly, delicious meals!! Thank you!


Oh how I love this picture...



And last but not least, but unfortunately always the last to be eaten and photographed... dessert! No matter how we try to plan and roll things along, dessert always gets eaten at about ten o'clock at night. Too late for any good natural light! I couldn't leave it out though and ran inside to steal a couple little peaks of it for you.

Alexis is a wonderful woman and also a vegetarian who has really stretched her boundaries and been trying lots of new things at our dinners. It's quite endearing and fun to observe! She's a sweetheart and has really been pushing herself to try new things and really get creative in the kitchen. It's delightful to see. For dessert she chose to roast peach halves and topped them with homemade mascarpone cheese! She made her own mascarpone! How many of you have ever done that? I have always wanted to but never had the guts to try it! She did it and it was lovely. She also topped the dish with some candied walnuts by using the recipe on here I recently posted that was part of the granola. It was simple, elegant, beautiful, and balanced. We all loved it!



Well there you go, folks. I hope that one or several of these dishes make their way onto your tables this summer! They really were delicious and so inspired! Everyone did a really lovely job!

Stay tuned for August's dinner where we will be serving up some Italian fare and will have Ashley back as she's been in Idaho for a few weeks! I'll give you a little sneak peak, well sneak mental image I suppose, I'm hosting and I'm making a giant ravioli pillow for the second course... Can't wait! Happy Summer, everyone!

4 comments:

Linda said...

newbie to ur site & i am so enjoying it! sangria is fab! would u please track down the laurel's corn bread cakes...they sound yummie! thanks...

RachelleLouise said...

Hi Linda! I'm so glad you are enjoying the site! Laurel's muffins were amazing... I'll email her right away and get the recipes for you! I'll come back in with another comment once I get them.

Where are you from? I'd love to see this inspire others to start a group in their town. It's really, really cool. Usually we foodies/enthusiasts/cooks do the work of making delicious meals all the time mainly by ourselves and it's just such a treat to get together with similar women and sit down for a few hours to enjoy a meal that didn't come entirely from you!

Well thanks again for stopping by! Come back soon and I'll have that information for you! : )

Ashley said...

Everything looks fantastic. Miss you guys!

RachelleLouise said...

Hey Ashley! It's really tragic that you only came to one of the dinners! You would have been a great addition! They've really been going well lately. Thought of you guys last week when we went to Mars Hill... I didn't think Mark would ever finish! I thought for sure I was going to faint from heat overload! : ) I made it to the end though! Are you loving all of the Seattle action? Miss you guys, too!