Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Harvest Dinner

For the last few years we have been celebrating the end of summer's harvest with a special dinner made up of multiple courses featuring our own vegetables and any other homegrown and local ingredients. The date and details of the dinner are planned far in advance, mostly by my mother and Nancy, a close family friend, advanced gardener and gourmet cook. This meal was officially our second harvest dinner of the season. We celebrate the arrival and bounty of ripe tomatoes in mid to late summer with a "Tomato Fest" and it tends to feature tomatoes as the star player appearing in various roles throughout the meal. Harvest dinner is easier for us all to make contributions as we are all have a bounty of something by fall whether it is tomatoes, chicken, cheese, caribou, turnips or carrots... The following pictures do not do the meal justice but perhaps my descriptions will help. It was a fabulous meal. Several wonderful bottles of wine accompanied the meal. I intended to include the pairings, but failed to keep track.

The very top photo is a picture of the dishes I prepared before leaving the house. I had spent the afternoon planting garlic and fortunately was able to throw everything together rather quickly. I wanted to be able to relax and enjoy the night so I tried to keep things simple so that I wouldn't have to make anything on the spot. On the left are three small cauliflower heads out of the garden, notice that each cauliflower is a different color, white, cheddar yellow and graffiti purple. I blanched the heads and pressed on a buttery Parmesan bread crumb mixture with red onions, thyme and parsley, all out of the garden. The middle boat is my own garlic drizzled with olive oil and a little salt. On the right is our goat cheese mixed with our own sun dried tomatoes and herbs and pine nuts (not ours) and also drizzled with olive oil. I was able to just put everything in the oven at the right time and then pull them out and enjoy.

The first appetizer bite was scrambled quail eggs on a toasted slice of baguette and topped with slivered bacon. (Quail eggs from Chris and Nancy's quail, prepared by Chris and Nancy)

Next we had some fabulous bread with roasted garlic and the chevre spread. (Bread brought by Patrick, garlic out of our garden, thanks to the goats for the very nice chevre, with a bit of work on my part).

This is tomato sorbet on top of diced tomatoes in a pool of fresh basil oil with a garlic Parmesan tuile. I'm not sure if either salsa or relish is quite the right word for the diced tomatoes, I remember that green zebra and tangerine tomatoes made up either the sorbet and/ or the relish. I must say that this appetizer was both unique and exquisite. I savored every drop. (Tomatoes and basil grown by Nancy, prepared by Nancy)

I was a little late trying to get a picture of this course. A beet salad with oregano and walnuts paired with a small serving of grilled caribou. We realized after taking our first few bites that the beet salad was missing the crumbled chevre and we paused as mom rushed to put some chevre in a bowl to pass around. The beets and caribou complimented each other nicely. ( Beets and oregano grown by and prepared by Marylee, chevre from our goats. Caribou prepared by Adam. He didn't actually kill it, but it is my understanding that he helped an older gentlemen get it and was given half of the meat in return for his work.)

And for the main course: Roast chicken with sage pesto, fried turnips and roasted cauliflower heads. This chicken was some of the tastiest chicken that I have ever devoured. I was a bottomless pit, helping myself to seconds and thirds.
(Chicken raised by Chris, prepared by Nancy. Turnips grown and prepared by Adam. Cauliflower grown by myself).

Dessert: Carrot cake and Pumpkin Pie (actually Sweet Meat winter squash - better than pumpkin) and coffee and tea (neither local.) (Carrots grown by Marylee, cake and frosting made by Marylee with help from Noah. Squash grown locally, from the market I believe. Pie baked by Adam.)

This time of year I'm spending more time indoors looking at cookbooks and food magazines. The fridge, freezer and shelves are stocked with enough produce and food for winter. I feel like I should be making some sort of pledge to not buy any groceries for a few months. While I'm not that hard core I will say that we are eating mostly out of our own garden. Each day I'm looking at what needs to get eaten or preserved. This past week I sliced up ten pounds of cabbage and started some sauerkraut. Yesterday I cooked up about ten pounds of tomatoes into sauce. We've eaten the last of this years peas, beans and zucchini. On the list for this week is carrots. I'm planning on making carrot soup, carrot juice, carrot muffins and possibly canning some.

Looking forward to a winter of good food and many more special meals shared with loved ones.

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