Welcome to our May gathering of our Cottage Cooking Club where we monthly share dishes from the cookbook River Cottage veg everyday, by British author and TV cooking host, Hugh Fernley- Whittingstall.
Hosting the group, ‘our fearless leader,’ as I affectionately call her, out of Bonn, Germany, Andrea, the Kitchen Lioness, Notes from a Very Small German Kitchen. This day of the 28th, collectively cooking our way through all the offerings in this cookbook, we together join online sharing those dishes that we have prepared from among the monthly line up carefully selected by Andrea, local and seasonally based by recipe ingredients, or as best possible.
This is the first month since joining the Cottage Cooking Club last June (yes, it will be a year this upcoming month) where I literally prepared all of my months dishes in one day. Generally, eager to begin the selections, I set right out to intermittently purchasing my needed ingredients before systematically testing the recipes. Only this month had a different sort of ‘busy-ness’ to the schedule, including lots of food programs and events having me most frequently out and about.
And so here I was, two days before deadline, and thus in less than twenty-four hours creating and preparing each of my chosen dishes as part of an impromptu Memorial Day weekend barbecue for a dozen friends and neighbors. Whew. A selection of bruschettas served as hors d’ oeuvres, including this months Courgette Bruschetta (zucchini, shown above) these went over nicely and I thought the recipe was very good with the fresh lemon juice sprinkling along with salt and pepper to finish. Also prepared were the Griddled asparagus spears with lemon dressing, sounds easy enough, right? Yes, skewering these delicious spears just picked from a nearby farm gave them a rather dramatic flair with the flavor imparted, once grilled, an almost nutty finish, and so recipe two, also got mine, and the groups seal of approval.
Now since blogging, I’ve always dreamed of photographing parties at my home, both food and people. Though I’ve once shared I’m not the envious sort, still, I am a little envious of those bloggers who seem to manage these lovely photos of parties in action, people standing about with cocktails, people at the buffet tables. How do they possibly do this? How can one manage to chat, serve cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres, set out a main course or buffet, and dessert, to a group of friends while meanwhile running about doing an essential photo shoot? We even have a woman from our Cottage Cooking Club, Mary Hirsch from Lights on Bright No Brakes, who includes these type shots. She simply tells her friends to ‘wear lipstick’ the clue that photographs will be taken for the blog and then displays these fun, great shots within her story line. Mary’s latest Post was a real tear jerker, these photos with close friends, culminating the final recipe of the French Friday’s with Dorie Cooking Group of over four years preparing recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s, “Around My French Table.”
Given the timing of our clubs end of month gathering requires producing a photograph on each of these dishes such as the Pasta with Broccoli above, another of my months selections, using Rienzi brand Spirals 38 (also called cavatappi.) With abundant kale in my garden, this dish served combined with pre-blanched broccoli and kale, later tossed into a saute of tender onions, garlic, and some red pepper flakes which I had to substitute for the red chilie peppers as I must have bought the area supply or something having prepared lots of Vietnamese foods the week prior using lots of these peppers, for they were literally, at least temporarily, no where to be found when I needed them again. Anyway this dish topped off with plenty of fresh cracked pepper and lots of fresh grated Parmesan cheese was lovely to display as well as to eat, with guests in full agreement. Well, all except Frani, that is, who just hasn’t been able to tolerate broccoli over the past couple of years but this discretion was made up for with plenty of other choices otherwise, including Bob’s ‘smokin’ smoked ribs below, with perfectly spiced seasoning served alongside homemade barbecue sauce, and Peggy’s grilled Chicken Tikka legs, adapted from the awesome recipe of Steven Raichlen, one among some serious amazing global grill recipes in his television program series, primal grill. Oh, did you notice my homemade pickles on the front of the table? Delicious.
Determined to capture at least a couple of photographs at some sort of dining event at my home, including people and food, I decided to make the smaller buffet table a make-shift scene on the grass beneath the deck after a.) asking guests to humor me taking a few photo shots just before dinner b.) enlisting the young girls at the house behind us to help set up the table and buffet. Incidentally, these three girls in the party photos above are the nieces of Lynn Lampe Lindquist, “Cook on Call” who I recently featured on her Personal Chef Service on Spiced Peach Blog, with her brother, Steve, being the dude in the sports cap below.
Naturally, in my first chance ever to capture the moment, the sun at the back of the house was blazing and grilling as hot as a red flaming bbq coal, the glare even setting off my flash. Boo hoo to you sun that won’t dim to perfect softness at my precise beckoning. Soon. Very soon, like seconds later, guests began asking where they should put the other platters of food yet to set on a buffet, Oy Vey, I should’ve just set out the big long tailgate table but I had been worried about needing more fill in decorations… you know, the extra fussy stuff, making shots ‘photo worthy’ boy this picture taking thing while hosting a party is really, really tough. Did I mention this was a less than twenty-four hour impromptu barbecue, fulfilling each of my Cottage Cooking Club dishes for the month all at once? Fortunately, already fitted on the table was the final of my this months selections, Herby, peanutty, noodly salad. Although increasing amounts for this salad to serve a crowd, being an old Tailgating pro as I am, I could tell just by quick look at the recipe measurements, that proportionately, the sauce amounts would surely not be enough to fully flavor the pasta, and given absorption, if not serving immediately at least.
Easy enough, the dressing was prepared with the usual suspects for a cold Asian noodle dish, rice vinegar, lime juice and zest, garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and red chilies, again, the red chilies, of which I did not have, substituting long hot Korean pepper. Asian noodles tending a more delicate composition than dried pasta for this dish I used thin spaghetti, doubling the dressing per portion. And for this dish, my friend Mike liked the balance, but Steve and Patie voted for even just a bit more dressing of which I concur, still, Herby, peanutty, noodly salad was very much enjoyed by all.
A lovely early weekend day in New York making a presentation at Thomson Reuter’s Times Square on exotic Vietnamese ingredients as part of Asian Pacific American month, picture perfect weather (well, all except photo sun glare), and sharing an impromptu barbecue with some friends and neighbors, and with another busy week coming up, meeting deadline for our Cottage Cooking Club, all combined, a great kick off to the summer season. And today, Memorial Day, a national American holiday, as we make our way to swimming pools, shore destinations, and other festive warm weather events, time for a brief reflection, thanks, and appreciation for all of those Veteran’s and American Service People, those given their lives for our freedom, and sustain us still today. Thank You to these brave and loyal soldiers, God Bless America.
To see what other Cottage Cooking Club members have prepared this month just click here. Thank you to Andrea for her continued efforts in creating a perfect cooking club with fabulous members, always welcoming others to join in.