As mentioned earlier, we have been hosting dinner parties at our place every couple of weeks. Unfortunately, we were without a camera for all of them except for the last, which took place at the end of September. Fewer folks were in attendance, as Sam & Randy were preparing for Sam's 9 month departure for France. Poor Shane & Sarah were sick babies. Kyle & Courtney have to work many weekend nights, but though there were fewer folks, we still had a great time...and didn't mind eating their portion of the food.
Mark attempts to eat two funnel cakes
Taking a cue from my good friend Amanda, I deemed the theme "Yo' Mama" allowing everyone to interpret it in any way they choose: a dish made by their mamas, a dish that reminds them of they mamas, or they could simply dress like they mamas (I hoped for more of this, quite frankly...oh, and also any kind of chip-crusted casserole for novelty's sake). I didn't take any pictures of the food I made because we've all seen it before: Miss Anna Laura's Meatloaf, Turnip Greens with Bacon, and Mashed Taters. I also made a veggie soup as an option for any potential vegetarians in the audience. I choose meatloaf because it's the first thing I remember helping my mom to cook. She didn't really like to cook, but there were a few of her dishes that I absolutely love and feel really nostalgic about. Meat loaf is one of them, though I was rather put off when I found out there were eggs in it! I ate it much more gingerly after that.
Turnip Greens always remind me of my great-grandmother Mama Della (pronounced "Deller") and grandmother Peg. Mama Della certainly knew her way around the kitchen and spoiled me with chocolate gravy and biscuits in the mornings after I had spent the night at her house. (I would often refuse her offers to cook me dinner and opt for a Gregg's Pizza (still some of the best pizza ever as far as I'm concerned--a place I'm also very nostalgic about), the pizza shop within walking distance, or Kid Cuisines. I regret the Kid Cuisine business, but I was a baby then, with undeveloped taste buds. Thinking of those undercooked mushy brownies kind of grosses me out right now. Either the dessert compartment would get completely under or over cooked--there was no in between). Peg, on the other hand, was a lot like my mom and only cooked out of necessity--which wasn't as often for her.
Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about my Mama Della as this August marked the 15 year anniversary of her death and it coincides with my sister and her family moving into her house. I'm working on a related blog post for the other, less food driven blog. We'll see if it ever will see the light of day.
But, back to Yo' Mama: I did make a hearty veggie soup that turned out pretty well. I had a lot of odds and ends from the CSA that were lingering and needed using up. I started by roasted some leeks, carrots, onion, various squashes, potatoes, garlic cloves, and tomatoes in salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Then I grilled some mushrooms, peppers, and some corn (not pictured, obviously):
They were also seasoned lightly with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
I did all this roasting and grilling the day before. On the day of, I made decisions about texture. I wanted to keep the corn and mushrooms whole, while the rest was to be pureed smooth. So, I dumped the other stuff in a soup pot with a quart of veggie stock, a 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, a bay leaf or two, red pepper flakes, dried oregano (still the stuff from Lazzaroli's from Feb.), and dried thyme. I let that heat up and simmer for about 10 minutes. I pureed it with my immersion/stick blender. The roasted potato lightened the color, making it look and taste creamier (a good trick, as potatoes, though they have their faults, aren't as devious as cream). Afterward, I added the grilled corn and mushrooms.
I then had to decide if I wanted to add a noodle/pasta and what kind of bean, if any, I wanted to include. I made my decisions based on appearances: tri-color orzo and white beans, added after the soup was pureed. I used canned white beans and the best thing you can do for a canned bean, as you may know, is drain it into a colander and rinse it, giving it a few minutes in the sink before you add it into anything. This can cut the sodium by nearly half, or so I'm told.
After the orzo and white beans were added, I let it simmer for about 1o minutes, then tasted and adjusted the seasoning. There's no telling what I added, but if you've got good sense and a spice cabinet, I'm sure it won't be hard to figure out. Just do what you like.
So that was the soup. I didn't take a picture because it looked like pink in a bowl & who needs that? But trust me, it was good. Enjoyed by all, actually:
Jeff & Susan think it over
What about dessert?
Mark & Jeff had devised an unstoppable plan for funnel cakes in a phone conversation the night before. I tried to talk them out of it then and there, but they would not have it. Funnel cakes would be made.
despite the lovely cakes Jeff & Susan had brought:
By the end of it all, we were sugar drunk, babbling incoherently. Brandon Socrates Amstrong was in attendance, a lovely lad I hadn't seen in more than a year
and it was a great crowd: Jeff, Susan, Brandon, Mark, and myself. Our discussions meandered from topic to topic. Raw meat, family bed, paint selections, nothing went untouched, not even the semicolon.
The Harbrace was consulted and, as it turns out, many of us harbor misconceptions about the semicolon.
It was a riveting night, kids.