Monday, November 30, 2009

Why wait when there's a dinner party to write about?

I love to cook.  It's one of my favorite pastimes (others include gardening, yoga, debating politics, talking about food).  I really like it when other people eat what I cook (if I can be brutally honest, I think this is because I know I'm a great cook and I like to share the gift).  So I throw dinner parties as often as I can with a goal of once a month.  Let's just say it had been more than a month, so this past Saturday's "All the Fixings" dinner party was long overdue.  I think it was my biggest crowd yet; the 11 of us certainly made full use of the dining room!
Preparation started early Saturday morning.  I woke up, straightened up, and peeled, seeded and chopped three large, local butternut squash.
Then I ran (literally) to the chiropractor, which was probably a good use of time considering that I'd spend the rest of the day on my feet cooking!  I stopped at Dave's Fresh Pasta on my way home to pick up a few ingredients I didn't have on hand, including three tomatoes, one leek, a baguette, two apples, three shallots, and a few other things I simply couldn't do without.  I also sampled some buffalo butter, an amazing olive (or two), and some delicious cheese.  If you live in the Boston area, and haven't been to Dave's Fresh Pasta recently, you've got to check it out!  I love that they have a ton of local produce and that they have a great selection local and imported cheese!  And the folks who work there are great; they don't mind answering my million-and-one questions, and that makes me happy.  On my way home from Dave's, I was strategizing the preparation timeline.  It was almost noon and guests would be arriving in about five hours.  There was SO much to do!

As soon as I got home, I peeled and chopped the apples and threw them in two roasting pans with the butternut squash I had chopped earlier.  A drizzle of EVOO and some kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper and they were ready for a 400 degree oven!  While they roasted, I fried up some fresh purple sage leaves from the garden in some extra virgin coconut oil (I'd never fried sage leaves before, so that was fun!).
I removed them from the oil and threw in 1 large chopped yellow onion and 2 chopped leeks.  I sautéed them for a while to get as much sweetness out of them as possible, then added a few cloves of minced garlic.  I deglazed the pot with some extra dry sherry, added a can of TJ's light coconut milk, about 4 cups of water, and some TJ's veggie broth concentrate (great alternative to heavy cans of broth).  Brought all that up to a boil and threw in the roasted squash and apples from the oven (which were already delicious on their own!).  Stuck a lid on and let the flavors simmer together for a couple hours while I prepared carrots and parsnips with thyme, rosemary yams with a chianti reduction, and mini pumpkin arancini, which I topped with the fried sage leaves!  I used an immersion blender to blend the soup, which was amazing, especially after a little more doctoring with some minced ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon!  For apps, I threw together a few dips (I love dip), which I served with Crudités and pita chips : White Bean Herb Dip, Eggplant Caviar, Pumpkin Marscapone, and a Cottage Cheese Yogurt dip with fresh parsley, and My amazing roommate made two varieties of delicious homemade cupcakes for dessert and guests started arriving with the wine as preparation was winding down.

Dinner was fantastic.  I made the soup again on Thanksgiving!  I'll try to post some pictures soon!

Links to a few recipes (though I modify just about everything at least a little!):
Eggplant Caviar and Pumpkin Dip:
http://www.vegetariantimes.com/features/editors_picks/445
Rosemary Yams with a Chianti Reduction:
http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/9971?section=
Mini Pumpkin Sage Balls:
http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/10501?section=