Spring Challenges

May 14, 2008

I got an email from a friend who asked how my spring was going. I caught myself thinking that it was actually February instead of May. I’d like to say that this spring is worse than others – that it has been colder and rain-ier than any other EVER. But as I write that complaint, I know I have written it before and the truth is that we never really have much of a spring in Seattle. The winter weather continues with longer days until somewhere around July 5th when summer kicks in. Therefore I find spring cooking to be a bit of challenge. I am tired of winter fare and feel ready to dive in to peas, asparagus, artichokes and stop ROASTING for goodness sakes. But yesterday I turned on my gas fireplace and today I am wearing wool socks. So yes, spring brings its challenges.

Speaking of challenges, I am in the midst of a cooking frenzy. Randy is out of town and so, to give myself something to look forward to, I invited a group of friends over for dinner on Thursday night. Thursdays are usually a client cooking day, so this week I brought food to them on Tuesday and Wednesday instead. It is a lot for me to orchestrate three client/friend worthy meals in one week (three days in a row no less) but I did some doubling up on recipes.

Tuesdays dinner was a Chickpea and Six Vegetable Stew from The World Vegetarian cookbook. I also made Dates Stuffed with Pistachios and Goat Cheese and a Beet Salad with Oranges, Mint, and Lemon Vinaigrette. I was proud of myself because I didn’t use a recipe for the Beet Salad. I am such a cookbook cook and it is hard for me to break out of that habit. I find myself knowing the kind of dish I want to pair with another but rather than just winging it, I spend time I don’t have trying to track down a recipe in one of my many cookbooks. I think the salad turned out well and I made enough beets to make another, slightly different salad for friends on Thursday. Roasting beets – ugh. Why does it take so long??? But the results are, of course, worth it. Randy hates beets so I always try and make them when he is not here because I love them.

While I was roasting the beets, I roasted some carrots for an Orzo Salad with Carrots and Dill. This was a nice surprise. I always think of some kind of Greek taste when I think of orzo – you know, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, etc. But this had very different flavors – LOTS of dill, and the carrots gave it a nice sweetness. I’m already thinking I would make it again the next time we have a big group over for dinner – Sunday of Memorial Day actually. Tonight, I made it to pair with a Spinach Feta Pie, Steamed Asparagus, and a White Bean Spread spread on crostini. I made about a gallon of the spread (my motto: when in doubt, double!) so I have enough for my dinner party tomorrow night.

So, on deck for the party… Along with the spread (and possibly more stuffed dates) I am going to make the delicious and beautiful Fontina Galette from the Macrina Cookbook, Orzo Salad, another Beet Salad (this one with Green Beans, Arugula, and Ricotta Salata) and an incredible dessert (if I do say so myself). I found a recipe for a Gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) mousse and it looked very easy. But of course, the recipe said that it is delicious sandwiched between chocolate cookies and frozen overnight. Being me, I couldn’t just let it stay simple, I had to make the sandwiches and I had to make my own chocolate wafer cookies to make the sandwiches (from Pure Chocolate). Oy! But I have a reputation to uphold, especially in the dessert department and now that I have finished it, and the chaos in my kitchen is under control, I’m glad I made the extra effort. We’ll see how my friends like it!

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