Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Es en torno a una mesa que los amigos comprenden mejor la calidez de estar juntos." ~ It is around the table that friends understand best the warmth of being together.

One of the lovely things about being home is finding myself back in the fold of my longtime friends. I have reconnected with my knitting group; I am having lunch today with my birthday gals; will meet with my book group this evening, and met recently with BITE, our small cooking group. This all makes it sound as though all I do is float from group to group, which really isn't the case. With the exception of knitting, which meets weekly, everything else gathers once a month. Things just happened to fall all at the same time this month!

BITE does not meet during the winter months as Chris and I are south, while Ellen and Tierney are north. We are always eager to get back together once we hit the same neck of the woods. For our first gathering in 2015, Chris chose Tapas as our theme. Small bites! By the time we had finished our evening, we were in agreement that we could eat like this all the time. Small bites of various things, enjoyed with a glass of sangria. We actually never even made it to the beautifully set table. We just pulled chairs up to the counter where each offering had been placed!

To begin with Ellen brought Patatas Bravas, a bar dish made with roasted potatoes topped with a delicious sauce. Having had these herself in Spain, she felt that this would be a wonderful opening act, and it was. The potatoes were perfectly done, and the sauce had just enough zippiness to have us scooping up more.

Crisp Sangria whet our whistles as we moved on to Tierney's contributions of Fresh Veggie Rolls with Peanut/Ginger Sauce, and Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad. Both were wonderfully delicious, even though fennel could not be found locally at all. I imagine that it would be a wonderful layer to these bright flavors. Both dishes were fabulous and fresh. The sauces this evening were stars themselves, from Tierney's, to the ones accompanying Chris's dishes further below.

Chris used bacon (both regular and turkey) as the wraps for her two different tapas. First up were Bacon Wrapped Scallops, salty, fishy, wonderful! Next she served Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts, which were sweet, salty and crispy - all delicious! With these she served Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce, Thai Style, just the right combination of heat and sweet!

Last up, with dessert, I tried something completely different. Thinking that any dessert could be served up as a "small bite", I decided to try my hand at making ice-cream. I like ice-cream, but do not crave it the way I know some people do. Having recently acquired the ice-cream making attachment for my mixer however, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity. I hunted for a recipe that had Spanish flavors and found Rosemary, Olive Oil and Pine Honey Ice-cream. Wow! While the recipe called for Spanish olive oil and pine honey, I used what I had in my cupboards. I'm sorry that I did not get photos of the process, which was visually interesting. The rosemary stems were simmered in the custard and then discarded, but the rosemary flavor ended up being very, very strong. As did the honey. As did the olive oil. This was a very flavorful dish and happily, we all enjoyed it very much. The recipe called for Fleur de Sel to be sprinkled on top, and this salty addition was amazing!

We chatted away the evening, catching up on each others lives over the winter and talking about upcoming plans. Wonderful conversation with wonderful friends. I am leaving you with an article that surfaced this week in the New York Times. Our cooking group is only 3 and a half years old (I think), and we don't have nearly the bylaws that the highlighted organization does, but it's fun to read about other groups, and to see how some of them have stood the test of time and are going strong!

                     The Thursday Afternoon Cooking Club, 124 years Old and Counting.

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