Perhaps I mentioned this already, but it's official. It took a while to get to this point, but 'Around the Table' (what we've dubbed our dinner/cooking group) has officially made it! Although I wouldn't mind one or two more girls in the group, to make up for those who can't make it once and a while, the food, conversation, and experience has far exceeded my wildest dreams! It truly is such a treat to get together once a month and enjoy a huge, delicious meal.
I have to preface my post by apologizing. I have had these pictures up for almost, if not over, a week. I have to explain (quickly though, I promise). Let's start with the beginning of last week; finals. Business 101 was easy peasy, but my entire business class was a walk in the park regardless of the final, so I had no worries there. A+++. American Literature was another story. I will spare my dear reader the details, and rant. Let's just say the teacher was incredibly disorganized, and armed with impossibly high expectations. Trust me, I know. We're talking about a girl who has, until this class, only received one B outside of an average 4.0 GPA in the last two years she's been in college. I know hard work, I know hard teachers, I understand high expectation. I did nothing different, worked just as hard, did just as well and got a lot of flack from the teacher. On top of that she rarely responded to questions and concerns, never participated in discussions with the class, and lacked any kind of guidance a teacher should exude. B-a-d. Worst teacher thus far. Thursday has been my only day off in, oh, about a week. I took the opportunity to drive me, and my broken car (fingers crossed it would make the trek) up to Lynden o visit one, no make that two, of my favorite girls in the whole wide world, Ashley and her new gorgeous little girl Aurora. It was the light of a hectic week. We had lunch, walked to town for treats, ate ice cream in the backyard, and I did a sufficient amount of baby hogging. I'm happy to say, Aurora and I have found our little niche, or, I have found a way to hold her, at least for now, that she really seems to groove. It was nearly impossible to tear myself away from the two of them late that evening, but I managed to do so, and my green beetle managed to get me home with no problem. Friday, was Rayne's graduation (the boyfriends little sister). A ton of his family from around the country attended the graduation, which was held down at the marina in a gorgeous little building. Rayne attended an alternative high school, and compared to mine, I preferred her graduation. The 60+ people in attendance brought a gaggle of mexican food, and we all pigged out while listening to each child make speeches about what they had learned. Besides the 'how's the weather' chit-chat with their fam and the 6 hours in total the graduation took, it was great. I'd spent all day that day cleaning, and cooking 100+ mini hot chocolate mexican cupcakes, so needless to say by the time we all got home I was tired. But we weren't just going to head off to bed, it was her only high school graduation! So, we picked up a bottle of champagne, threw a bunch of dead eucalyptus wood on the fire, toasted and relaxed the night away in front of the fire until almost 4am. Which was a bit of a disaster because the next day I was up at 8am for another round of graduation party madness. A cousin of mine had worked very long and hard on her teaching degree and was up with my family for the graduation at Western. I offered to host a little party for her. So I spent my entire morning cleaning, cooking, assembling, and getting ready. The rest of that day entailed feeding and entertaining another sect of my family. Whew. Talk about a LOT of work in two days. Sunday I had off. Except not really, because I was mentally preparing myself for the oral surgery I had yesterday. So, here I sit, in a bit of pain, tired, a little drugged up, and with a swollen face to boot! Yet, I wanted to get this post finished.
June's theme for the cooking group was 'Sushi'. One of my favorite things in the world. Everyone brought a bunch of filling, whatever they felt sounded good to them. I provided snow crab, avocado, cucumber, and prawns (which were skewered, battered in tempura and fried). I also made the sushi rice, which I thought turned out perfectly. I got the recipe from Sushi Day, which is a site full of incredible information, technique, and recipes for any sushi aficionado. I also made a cocktail, a mango lemonade martini which was killer good. I will say, each of us probably had our fair share of cocktails, after the mango lemonade got dusted off we moved onto the raspberry lemonade, then much later in the evening, a concoction created by Rachelle which featured (and stay with me here) Malibu Rum, Sparkling Water, Strawberry Daiquiri frozen juice, and lots of fresh lime. Might sound odd, I haven't had Malibu since high school, and feel a tad skeptical about it's coconut-y sweetness, but was pleasantly surprised by how refreshing the cocktail was.
We started our meal off with Rachelle's homemade pork dumplings or Gyoza. As well as a slew of freshly fried tempura. For the tempura we had carrots, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, and mushroom caps. The favorite consensus on the veggies was hands down mushroom, broccoli, and zucchini, my personal favorite being he zucchini. Rachelle's Gyoza were heavenly, in fact, I think I could've eaten simply that and tempura for dinner. So good! The wrappers were perfectly chewy, the filling incredibly tender and salty, the dipping sauce was indescribably good. I could go on for days about how perfect her two dishes were.
After that, Laura served us a brine-y dish full of cucumber and seaweed. She prefaced it and I must repeat this, it's not the most appetizing looking of dishes. However, it tasted much better than it looks. The sauce was simple, if I remember correctly is was a pairing of Mirin, Tamari and a bit of sugar drizzled over fresh cucumber and seaweed. Laura used nori for the seaweed. After some discussion it seemed clear that using a different, heartier seaweed leaf like Wakame would've held up better to the moisture and dressing. Because while the flavor was there completely, the texture was a wee bit mushy.
Dear Alexis couldn't be there with our miso soup course, so after our salad we headed into the kitchen and began rolling. To simplify I will give you a list of what we stuffed our sushi rolls with. This is a slight list compared to the millions of things one could roll up in rice, but we were all quite pleased, and stuffed, with the final results!
- Snow crab mixed with a little mayo
- Smoked Salmon
- Tempura Fried Prawns split in half
- Mayo mixed with a bit of 'cock sauce' (ie super spicy red chili paste I can hardly say or spell)
- low sodium soy sauce
- and of course Nori
We each took turns placing a wad of rice (with wet hands) over sheets of Nori placed upon bamboo rolling sheets. Each roll had a different combination. We found that we each gravitated towards the rolls that were packed to the gills with a variety of fillings and flavor. All I know is that I've never eaten such terribly delicious homemade sushi. It was complete success.
After rolling, eating and drinking copious amounts. We plopped down upon the adorondaks around the giant fire-pit and enjoyed a good hour or two of smoky relaxation. Our bellies each needed a break for an hour or two before even thinking about dessert
After a bit of lounging we were itching to try Laurels incredible dessert. She had created a dessert ice cream cake tower of sorts. Layers of homemade lemon ginger pound cake rounds were smothered with vanilla bean stewed ruby red plums and stacked with one very large, creamy scoop of homemade ginger ice cream. Swoon. The ice cream was smooth, rich and creamy. The plums were tart, but the vanilla bean syrup imparted just the right amount of sweetness to them. The cake itself was moist and light, the ginger and lemon flavors came through almost ghostly, which was perfect, as to not compete with the other flavorfully intense components of the dish.
What can I say? All in all, another triumphant success for our cooking group. Stay tuned, June 27 we partake in our group "Picnic" dinner. I feel we may see some incredible food and recipes that may aid you all summer in packing perfect picnic dishes!