Monday, September 12, 2011

The Weekend's Bounty

By Amy Baranski

Packed with social time are the four words I'd use to sum up this weekend. So much so that I spent all day  Sunday in my apartment relaxing and baking chocolate chip cookies with the yummy Bluebird Farm Emmer Flour (ground from farro).

At McLendon's in Renton.
Things ramped up on Thursday afternoon when I drove down, for the first time, to McLendon's hardware store in Renton. This past spring I spent a lot of time in hardware and gardening stores, and I love them. McLendon's is now my favorite.

As my Master Gardener mentor said, "it's more organized and reliable than Hardwicks, and it's better than the big box stores." They not only have a great canning section with some fantastic deals but a Top Pot donuts air stream trailer out front. How. Cute. Is. That. Too bad if I want a donut this month I have to make it myself.

At the hardware store, I picked up a water bath, the Ball Canning book (they update it regularly, so it's recommended to get a newer edition), and some other canning accouterments. Because it's the end of the season I was also inspired to buy a new grate for our grill and a folding six-foot table, since we've been enjoying sidewalk suppers as apartment building dwellers lately. These two purchases came in handy the very next day for Melissa's paella birthday party.

Free canning demonstration.
After the hardware store trek I picked up Melissa and we headed to The Spanish Table, a great import/specialty shop at the Pike Place Market. Disclaimer: this part of the past few days does not translate into self-reliance and in fact relies on the fossil fuels of global trade, but the plan was to make paella and tapas for Melissa's birthday. Of course, jamón serrano and jamón ibérico were necessary. Ask anyone who's ever had slices of either.

After all the running around we attended a canning workshop at Madison Market. It was a free event sponsored by the co-op and Seattle Tilth, led by Carey Thornton, the adult education program manager. Carey emphasized food safety for the majority of the session. Then, we watched and participated in canning several jars of peach jam. Having a hands-on demonstration was super helpful. Canning doesn't seem as intimidating as it once did. Now on to doing it.

Friday evening came quickly. Which meant it was paella time. I made two tapas: Cevizli Patlican (eggplant slices with walnuts and garlic) and caramelized figs with arugula and jamón serrano. The first is actually a Moroccan dish, but that country is so close to Spain I figured the flavor would not be that out of place. People seemed to like it. It calls for an intense amount of garlic. Sorry I did not take pictures of either.

Paella sidewalk supper.
The paella was magical. I've never been part of a paella party. We laid down mesquite briquettes versus the normal charcoal, and I preferred the way they burned, seemingly longer and hotter. The smell was also more pleasant. So many people were involved in the paella. I fell back, took pictures, and enjoyed the aroma and smiles on people's faces.

I spent Sunday morning compiling a rude slide show of the event. You can watch it HERE. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday came quickly and felt like there were many chores to do. My house has been (and still is) in complete disarray. We have too many projects going on. But I managed to wash the dishes, clean and pack up the party supplies from the night before, strip the bed, do some laundry, and pull old items out of my wardrobe. If you were in my house now you'd have no idea these chores were completed. Sad.

A new meal with the beans!
Remember The Best Beans of My Life? Well, I had a lot left over and aside from eating them in salads or out of the bowl straight from the refrigerator, I decided on Saturday evening to reheat them on the stove. Joyce, Melissa's Mom, who had come up to chat, said it would be a very British thing to put an egg on top.

"Then let's be British!"

I grabbed a couple eggs and fried them over-easy. I threw in a handful of oven roasted tomatoes--for color. Their sweet tang complemented the Parmesan flavor of the beans. It turned out to be such a satisfying and delicious meal that I repeated it for myself as Sunday breakfast.

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