Sunday, March 16, 2008

Food as the Common Denominator

I just experienced a new and delicious way to interact with DC Bloggers. I could hear. I could eat all night. And the topic in general was food. What could be better?

Troublewithtoast and Culinarycouture organized the most fabulous evening for those of us who love to cook and even more to eat. Most of us had never met before tonight, but we all had a love of food in common. No one seemed to notice or care that my husband and I were old enough to be their parents.

I was assigned to bring a side dish. I vacillated between ratatouille, curried Indian potatoes with cilantro chutney, and Israeli couscous. I decided on the latter two, figuring that if one of them didn’t turn out, I’d take the other.

I ended up bringing both. That’s my couscous in the sunflower dish above. Here’s a rough version of the recipe, which was an “invention”:

Israeli Couscous with Vegetables

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
A big hunk of ginger finely, chopped
1 red pepper, 1 orange pepper, 1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 carrots, cut in thin rounds
4 oz. shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of Israeli couscous
2-1/2 cup vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in a heavy large pan. Saute the onions, shallots, ginger, peppers, and carrots for about 5 minutes on medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, and salt and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous until well coated. Add 2 cups of the broth, cover, and turn down to medium low. Cook 10-15 minutes until couscous is done, adding broth if necessary. The liquid should be absorbed by the time it is done.

Here is a sample of our smorgasbord:

My fabulous pisco sour being "flamed" by a real bartender

Desserts to die for
Homemade bread hot out of the oven

Beef stew in honor of St. Patrick's Day

The remains of homemade dumplings and sauce that were the best I have ever eaten (and I'm a dumpling fanatic)

Pork belly with delicious sauce, "bubbly" citrus, and homemade buttermilk biscuits

The aftermath as we all scrambled for leftovers to take home

So what did we talk about? Cooking, of course. I learned about why people seem to prefer Shun and Misono knives. I learned how to hold a 3-layer cake together with a soda straw. I learned that even good cooks have bad days.

Hopefully this will be the first of many such Blogger dinners. This is such a better way for me to get to know the DC Blog community. Thanks to the organizers and to our gracious host and to everyone who participated. You are all welcome to come to our house in Virginia for another eating extravaganza!


Anonymous lemmonex said...

We loved having you--thanks so much for coming!

11:30 PM  
Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

yum! what a delicious evening - and thanks for sharing the couscous recipe!

12:19 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

a delicious post - I need to move south!

6:50 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Lemmonex -- Hopefully this is just the first of many DC Blogger potlucks!

Mouse -- It's always fun to talk to people who are just starting out on their careers, especially people who love food as much as I do!

Pauline -- Yes, yes, yes! You would fit right in with this crowd.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

It all looks very good.

When I was in university, I found that dessert potlucks (under the rubric International Café) worked better than meal potlucks.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous bettyjoan said...

Thank you so much for being a part of this inaugural event! I hope we can squeeze in at least one more before my relocation. Your couscous and potato salad were wonderful!

6:48 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I like the other courses too much to limit a potluck to desserts! It was all delicious!

BettyJoan -- You get the gold star for coming up with this idea. We may just have to bring you back from Atlanta for future such events!

8:38 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

When is your cookbook coming out?

9:28 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

OldLady -- I think most of these people invent as they go not following a recipe, so there's likely not going to be a cookbook!

1:36 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

How fabulous! I want to try that couscous but what's Isaraeli couscous and if can't get it, what should I substitute?

(BTW, have you read Rabbi Harold Kushner's books? I've read When Bad Things happen To Good People and really want to get his new one about living With Life's Disappointments. I heard him interviewed and really thought he was great. I agreed with a lot about his idea of how to pray and for what.)

3:31 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- Send me an e-mail message ( with your address and I will mail you a couple of boxes of Israeli couscous.

I love Rabbi Kushner's writing. He makes sense for people of all religions!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Yes, that really struck me how universal he was too. I just bought both books. (Overcoming Life's Disappointments)

Thanks! I'm checking my mailbox every day now!!!

1:49 AM  

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