We have belonged to a dinner group for over 25 years. The group is us and two other couples who love to cook and love to eat. The term “gourmet” is probably not correct for describing us. In general the food is not “haute cuisine”, just interesting and well prepared. Only occasionally do exotic ingredients appear but novel combinations do show up from time-to-time. In reality, we could probably be called “foodies” because we all like good food and good cooking.
We meet at each others home about three times a year. This isn’t a potluck or a theme party. The host and hostess make all the decisions, do all the preparation and cooking, and finally, all the clean-up. This time its our turn and I was going to take you on a foodie trip from planning to clean-up but once the whirlwind of getting everything to the table on time swooped us up and spun us around, I completely forgot the camera. So the only shots you’ll get to feast upon are some of the prep, and then the aftermath.
Our “theme” was roughly Middle Eastern. How did we decide that? For the last 6 weeks we’ve been throwing out ideas. Usually we’ll have some dish for dinner and one of us will say, “This would be good for the group.” But if we don’t write it down, that dish usually gets forgotten. Curt was lobbying for a Spanish Diaspora theme because that could include Spain, Central and South America, the American Southwest, the Philippines and probably a few other places. But one night we had meatballs with pine nuts from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and knew that was a recipe we wanted to share. So except for the cherry tomato salad, all our recipes came from Claudia’s book. The following picture gallery should give you a tiny look and taste of what happens at our house when its our turn. Recipes and references to recipes follow the pictures.
The Menu with recipes/references:
(page numbers refer to The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden)
Starters: assorted olives, cheese: Saxony (WI), Red Hawk(CA), Humboldt Fog (CA)
Eggplant Filo Pies (Turkey), page 121
Cherry Tomato Salad: from Momofuku by David Chang
2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 T. light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 C grape seed oil
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
Bring saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop tomatoes, in batches into water for ten seconds, remove and plunge into ice water bath to cool. Slip skins off blanched tomatoes, put them in bowl and refrigerate for ten minutes.
Stir together vinegar, soy sauce, sesame and grapeseed oil in a large mixing bowl. Add all the tomatoes and toss to coat. Season with a pinch of salt and few grinds of fresh pepper. We also added some fresh dill weed.
Daoud Basha (Turkey), Meatballs w/ Pine Nuts and Tomato Sauce
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
2 onions,finely chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
2/3 C pine nuts
1/2 C golden raisins
2 lbs tomatoes, peeled
2 tsp sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
In a bowl, mix lamb, onions, S & P, cinnamon, allspice, raisins and pine nuts with your hands until well combined. Roll into balls the size of small walnuts.
Put a little oil on a plate and roll the meatballs in it. Then put them in a baking dish and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until their color changes.
Cut the tomatoes up and liquidize them in a food processor. Add a little salt and pepper, the sugar, garlic, and pour over the meatballs. Bake another 35v minutes, turning the meatballs once, serve hot. Serves 6.
Hindbeh wa Bassal (Lebanon), Curly Chicory with onions, page 287
Mashed Potatoes w/ Olive Oil and Parsley (Tunisia), page 297
Apricot Granita, page 424
2 lbs ripe apricots
3/4 C sugar ( I cut back from the recipe)
3/4 C water
juice of 1/2 lemon
Remove stones and stems from apricots and blend to a paste in a food processor. Put the sugar in a pan w/ the water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes and let cool. Add the syrup to the apricots and blend to a cream. Pour into a shallow pan, cover and put into the freezer. Check in 1-2 hours, watch for the edges to start to freeze. Once that occurs scrape the edges into the middle and then do that three times ( every half hour).
Take out abut 10 minutes before serving and then scrape balls of granita with a rounded tablespoon that has a sharp edge into bowls. Served with coffee & Chocolate/Orange Pirroles. Serves 8