Savoring the Seasons: What Makes a Party

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My favorite kind of party is one where we do something together. That may seem obvious, but lots of parties don’t involve “doing” and often don’t include much togetherness. Some of my favorite parties are work parties where, together, we stack wood, make many batches of cookies or plant a garden. David and Anna at Natural Roots Farm in Conway had a party to build their barn, my friends Caroline and Yvonne had days of parties to help build their strawbale house.

I love the collective accomplishment and the special type of connection with the other people. Often, I leave such a party not knowing a whole lot about what someone does in their daily life, but much about how they approach a task, how they interact with others. Years later, I’ve remet folks who I worked alongside and there’s an instant connection as we say, “Remember when we did ...”

Of course, food is the heart of a party. Parties that combine making a meal together, preserving food together or other food-related “doing something together,” are delightful. I’ve hosted pesto-making parties where we harvested vast quantities of basil together and ate a big feast at the end.

At one of my favorite food parties we made peach chutney together and then built our own pizzas. We each brought a variety of pizza toppings, spread a lump of pizza dough on a cookie sheet, then made three variations of toppings on our cookie sheet. We baked the pizzas, cut them up into small pieces and had the most amazing pizza tasting sampler.

You could apply the same idea with a “bring ingredients for your favorite pasta sauce” party. I never thought about combining beets, balsamic vinegar, honey, and goat cheese on pasta (see below), although I might have if I’d had a party like this.

A friend of mine said she loves potluck stir frys, where each guest brings something to add to mixture. She said you need a big wok and faith that it will all go together well. It reminds me of the classic “Stone Soup” story about everyone adding their ingredients to the pot.

What will you do together at your next party?

This week we’re eating...

Caramelized Balsamic Goat Cheese Pasta

From http://www.halfbakedharvest.com/caramelized-balsamic-goat-cheese-pasta/

Serves 6

4 T. olive oil

4 medium red beets, quartered

1 T. chopped fresh thyme

kosher salt and pepper

1 pound long cut pasta, such as spaghetti

2 T. butter

8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 C. balsamic vinegar

2-3 T. honey

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 C. crumbled goat cheese or whipped goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On baking sheet, toss together 2 T. olive oil, the beets, thyme, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer to oven and roast for 25-30 minutes or until beets are tender and lightly charred.

Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta until al dente according to package directions. Just before draining, reserve 1 C. of pasta cooking water. Drain.

Melt butter and 2 T. olive oil in large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they just begin to caramelize on the edges, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove mushrooms and garlic from skillet, place on plate.

To same skillet, add balsamic vinegar, honey, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to boil over medium high heat and cook for 5-8 minutes or until balsamic reduces by about 1/3 and is sticky to touch. Reduce heat to low and stir in pasta and mushrooms.

Toss to coat, if sauce seems too thick, thin it with pasta cooking water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta immediately, topped with roasted beets, goat cheese.

Local food advocate and community organizer Mary McClintock lives in Conway and works as a freelance writer, editor, and book indexer. Send column
suggestions and recipes to mmcclinto@yahoo.com.