Dinner of Unusual Ingredients or Unusual Combinations
Last night’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans dinner may have been one of my favorites. Despite being only 6 strong, the offerings each person brought were thoughtfully prepared and fit the theme of the evening – make a dish using an unusual ingredient or an unusual combination of ingredients. I had several strong cravings today for these flavors, that’s how good it all was.
Our hostess Tina, greeted us with Gin and Tonic Royals… a lovely G&T with a splash of Veuve Clicquot and a pitted loquat floating in the bottom of the martini glass. None of us could resist eating the alcohol laden loquat that tasted like a cross between apricot, pear and mango. This photo does not do the drink justice… none of the pretty bubbles show.
Tina’s unusual ingredient was agar, more a helper than full-on ingredient, agar is a gelling agent made from the cell walls of some species of red algae, so it’s vegan and kosher a win win for some folks. She used it to make brie cream to top Pringle potato chips that she sprinkled with ground coffee beans and olive oil she had infused with vanilla beans.
She also used agar to make bittersweet chocolate gelée that went with grilled cauliflower and cocoa nibs and a smidge of sea salt. Do I have your attention yet? Tina has 3 very active boys at home so I’m not sure how she pulls this stuff off but both these taste treats were fantastic.
Our last appetizer was oven roasted radishes. Not being a radish lover I was hesitant, but of course tried one and schazam, wow. These were really good. Cooked in a piping hot oven they were sweet and no longer had the usual radish hot bite.
While we sipped and savored these bites, the rabbit Emily stuffed with prosciutto, pancetta, salami, garlic and fennel fronds was resting, just waiting to be carved so she regaled us with the story of taking her sons to Paulina Meat Market to purchase the rabbit, trying to be stealth about it with Easter coming in less than a month…this has us in tears. With no collusion, Emily’s rabbit was complimented perfectly by Sue’s sumac bread salad. Made with an abundance of grilled onions, tomatoes and cucumbers, much to our amazement no vinegar or oil was added making it very light yet packed with flavor.
After sitting a spell, we moved on to dessert.. Oh boy. Liz brought her famous Snow Pudding, a recipe from her childhood combining very lemony meringue topped with crème anglaise packed with microscopic vanilla bean seeds… ummm. I’d been dying to try this since she first posted it on her blog, Lazy Cook, Crazy Cook, last winter.
My contribution to our dinner was Stout Ice Cream. My neighbors, Rod and Paige, were very generous to part with a cup of their home-brewed 1815 Oak Stout from the last half growler they had stashed away. My idea that beer and ice cream are far from being unusual ingredients on their own, used together, they fit the unusual combination requirement for tonight’s dinner.
As if all this was not enough, Tina carried out about 8 bottles of ports and liqueurs for us to sample. Luckily, we know that alcohol kills any germs spread from sharing glasses so we had sips of a chocolate cherry port, another tart cherry liqueur and a couple of others but the consensus was the Spanish Licor 43 over ice was our favorite. Made from select fruits and herbs from the Mediterranean basin it is smooth and the perfect end to a perfect meal. Thanks to these amazing women with their talents, humor, wisdom and willingness to share ideas, “The Sisterhood” is moving into its third year together. Next meeting looks to be at the end of April, theme undecided but there is little doubt how great it will be.