Thursday, September 30

Sunset Dinner in the Orchard

photo courtesy coco+kelley

To say that I'm ecstatic (and nearly whimpering with joy) is an understatement.  This Saturday, the Hubs and I will be attending a benefit that supports our local chapter of the Slow Food Movement.  Alongside 53 other guests, C and I will enjoy a sunset dinner in the orchard at Delvin Farms, who will be hosting with world renowned Chef Michael Martin.  The Fall inspired menu will feature wine pairings with locally grown ingredients including those from Hatcher Dairy Farm and McDonald Free Range Chicken Farm.  Few things top any one of these on it's own (an orchard in the fall, local food + wine, an elegant evening with the hubby...) but when married into an entire evening (gasp), words fail me.

Here's a peek of the menu...just to make you jealous... I mean, inspired:

Arugula Salad with Shallots, Sourdough Croutons and Shaved Parmesan
smothered in Warm Shiitake Vinaigrette

Balsamic Glazed Butternut Squash with Toasted Hazelnuts

Slow Roasted Eggplant and Bell Pepper Caponata with Fresh Basil

Braised Fall Greens with Apple-wood Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions
and Crushed Red Pepper

Grilled Rosemary and Garlic Chicken

Basque Almond Cake with Roasted Apples and Honey
and Fresh Whipped Cream

I may very well need to be rolled out of the orchard and straight into bed!  I'll be sure to capture lots of photos from the evening and of course, a full report of the sure-to-be delectable menu.

Have a fabulous and inspired weekend!

Tuesday, September 28

Butternut Squash Risotto

Sighh.  I've waited so patiently for my dear friend, Autumn to arrive.  I know it's clichè to write about, but Fall is arguably the best season.  Oh, I love them all, but there's something about the anticipation of it's arrival that makes me crazy for change.

Traditions mean the world to me, and without argument, there are a “few” requirements to properly welcome Fall.  It’s undoubtedly necessary to update the old wardrobe, clean out the closets, dig out the scarves, lust for new home decor and rummage through recipes old and new.

I just love how a little update here and there can change your perspective and give-way to much needed inspiration.

And while my husband complains that I've wished summer away with my Fall agenda, I would debate that it's not just me; the trees know it's coming too.   Hardly a day will pass without the Maple trees making subtle updates of their own.  I love that.  As if it's my religion, I wake every morning to open the blinds, sip my coffee and take note of the "sprucing" up that's happening outside.

I’ve never made risotto, but I've eaten plenty.  I’ve also never fully appreciated the effort that's involved in making it; the adding…the stirring…the waiting.  Since August, I've been fantasizing about a pumpkin risotto.  I must tell you, I thought I was exceptionally clever to dream up such a lovely combination of sweet and savory…but as it turns out, that "damn Martha" beat me to it.  In any case, I decided that my first attempt at risotto would include some assistance from Ms. Stewart with a few adaptations of my own.

Most people eat risotto as a side dish, but I love a brimming bowl full of comfort all on it's own.  And despite my inner vegetarian, I secretly envision crispy pancetta crumbled over this slightly sweet and incredibly creamy dish.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1/2 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
sea salt and fresh pepper
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) organic chicken stock, plus 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
small handful of fresh sage

Prepare butternut squash:  remove seeds and membranes; discard.  Remove outer skin with vegetable peeler.  If this proves difficult, microwave squash for 3 minutes to soften. Slice lengthwise, then chop into 1/2 inch cubes.  Chop onions and mince garlic.

Start risotto:  Heat butter in bottom-heavy pan over moderately-low heat.  Add squash, onions and garlic;  stir frequently while cooking, about 6-8 minutes, or until squash is slightly softened and onions are translucent.

Prepare stock:  Mix chicken stock and water; heat in saucepan.  Set aside.

Finish risotto:  When squash has slightly softened and onions are translucent, add rice and stir to coat.  Slowly stir in wine until evaporated, about 2 minutes.  Begin by adding 1/2 cup heated chicken stock, stirring frequently, until nearly all liquid has been absorbed.  Add another 1/2 cup, repeating the previous steps until the stock is gone, taking about 35-40 minutes.  Stir constantly, ensuring risotto doesn't stick to pan.

Mix in parmesan and freshly chopped sage.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 1

The Last of Summer

Happy Hump Day, and better yet, Happy First Day of September!

While Claudia and I have been busily capturing the last bits of Summer (and squeezing the last of the strawberries and rhubarb from the supermarket shelves) suddenly fall seems to be around the corner.  I can feel a crispness in the air and have seen the first of the rebellious leaves falling from their branches.  While it's gone by quickly, I've had my share of all things summer and have begun to anticipate the fall (think sweaters and jeans!).

Summer isn't officially over, in my book anyways (witty as I may try to be), until we've had our last BBQ of the year.  Until then, I have one more chance to relish in the heat, the lake and alfresco dining.

Have a fabulous Labor Day weekend!

For more of Claudia's inspiring photography, visit her blog or her website!