For a couple of years now I’ve been part of an awesome cooking club called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans (uh huh). We get together every couple of months at one of our homes to cook, eat, drink and talk food, food, food. It’s so much fun to hang out with a bunch of fun and funny foodie friends and talk about almost nothing except food. Whether it’s a restaurant, an ingredient, a new food shop, killer recipe, food show, food book, chef news, or a recent food flop or obsession, the nights are always fun and delicious. We usually have a theme or a goal – it might be ethnic or it might be something like “Chicago Neighborhoods” or it might revolve around a key food group, like vegetables. On March 11, our theme was “Unusual and Surprising.” So it could be a mix of unusual flavors or ingredients or an unusual use of an ingredient. And the Sisters did not disappoint! So I share with you what was brought to the table – because it was truly extraordinary!
We met at Tina’s and sat in her cozy kitchen, nibbling on – get this – roasted cauliflower and dark-chocolate “jam” that she made with 85% dark chocolate and agar, a seaweed-based thickening agent. And while cauliflower and chocolate might make you go, “What the hell? GROSS!” do not be so hasty in your judgment, my friends. It was good! Really good!
And how ’bout this: roasted radishes! I’d read a lot lately about sauteing or roasting radishes, so I was super-excited to try them – and they are amazing!
The roasting takes away any bitter flavor the radishes might have and makes them tender and flavorful. All Tina did was pre-heat a sheet pan in a hot oven (about 400 degrees) and toss the trimmed radishes in olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. When they hit the hot pan, they get an instant sear and she cooked them for about 20 minutes, tossing once to get a sear on more than one side. She let them cool and served them at room temperature and we popped them in like candy! And she also had a divine cocktail!
This is basically a gin and tonic, with a generous splash of Champagne and a loquat (and a little bit of the juice from the loquats). What’s a loquat? It’s a Chinese fruit – kind of a hybrid of a lychee and an apricot. Fabulous! Beautiful! Bubbly! But wait, there’s more! How about Pringles potato chips topped with Brie cream (she mixed the Brie with a bit of the agar to thicken it and piped it onto the chips and dressed up with a bit of vanilla oil – just olive oil infused with a vanilla bean – and a sprinkle of ground coffee)? Uh huh. Subtle, salty, creamy and delicious.
So, cocktailed and hors d’oeuvre’d, we were ready for the main course. Emily made roasted rabbit (yes! rabbit!) stuffed with prosciutto, salami, fennel, and sorry, sorry other things that I cannot remember, and while it did indeed look just like a bunny rabbit, that didn’t stop us from devouring it. I can’t lie – it tastes a little like chicken – it’s a white meat – it was delicious! And Sue made a phenomenal sumac bread salad (sumac is an herb that has a slight lemony tang – it’s delish) with roasted chicken, roasted onions, cucumber, tomatoes, some salad greens, just tossed together – no additional oil or vinegar – it was so good!
And then it was on to dessert! Amy made luscious stout ice cream (stout being a rich beer) and I made Snow Pudding (search this blog for the recipe), which is a light and fluffy situation involved gelatin infused with lemon zest and juice and then you add two egg whites and whip the hell out of it in a stand mixer, to be topped with a dollop of vanilla creme anglaise).
And so another evening with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans ended with a sweet sigh and so many good bites and good laughs. It’s so much fun to have a group of friends who are so passionate about food (and wine – we enjoyed two fantastic bottles of Shiraz with the entrees). I’d love to know if you have your own group of friends who get together to share food, fun, recipes and food talk! Leave a comment and let me know! Until April 29, Sisters!