Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Meg & Scott's Rehearsal Dinner

The beautiful moment in this photograph took place on Saturday, July 8th. Before we arrived here at the end of all the months of planning and anticipation, there was a little affair commonly known as a rehearsal dinner.

The party we had the night before Meg and Scott's wedding was no ordinary rehearsal dinner. No, it was a big, casual cookout on Lake Samish in Bellingham, WA that included the groom's home-brewed, limited edition India Pale Ale, a meal for forty cooked by family and friends and a pickle ball tournament.

My Aunt Jo, our friend, Veda, and I cooked from 10:00 a.m. right up until the party at 5:00. We had help from various folks, but it was just the three of us who rallied when we encountered a major setback about an hour and a half into the cooking. All of the produce and meat that had been purchased on a four hour shopping expedition the day before had been unloaded into the spare "refrigerator" in the garage of the rental house. It turned out that the extra refrigerator was actually in the basement and the "refrigerator" in the garage was really a freezer. The meat could be defrosted, but all of the produce was ruined. Take it from me, friends: refrigerators are not always what they seem!

So after a mad dash with Aunt Jo through Costco and Fred Meyer, our supplies were replenished and we pressed on with great success. The freezer disaster was pretty hilarious in the end. The stars of our menu were wild salmon cooked simply on the grill and baby back ribs precooked in the oven with barbecue sauce and finished on the grill. We prepared massive amounts of side dishes that were easy to make ahead and could be doubled and tripled for forty. My favorite was a roasted corn salad that not only tasted sweet with corn and fresh with lime and cilantro, but looked really beautiful. The photograph and recipe are below. Our green salad with strawberries, pine nuts, feta, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette was also beautiful and easy. We roasted huge trays of baby red potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. I also did a crock pot dish that is a great accompaniment to cookout food: Baked Bean Salad with Apples and Bacon. It is an old recipe my mom has made for years that was always irresistible at her summer barbecue. The secret is a bottle of Heinz chili sauce and brown sugar. It is sweet, but not candy-like, and full of bacon flavor.

Dessert was fabulous homemade cheesecakes from the bride's friend, also named Meg. I am not a cheesecake person, but these were so good that I ate more than I am willing to admit to in this blog. And I cannot forget to mention Scott's beer. He's been collecting equipment and brewing in their basement on G Street for less than a year. The India Pale Ale he made for the wedding was so good that I would expect to pay $6 for a pint of it in a nice brew pub.

This cookout wasn't just about great food and drinks. It was a chance for all of Meg and Scott's friends and family to get together and get excited for their big day. But there is no rehearsal dinner rule that says you can't have a tasty time doing that. Now check out a few pictures and some of our recipes. Try them for your next big summer party!

Mike gets the wild salmon ready for the grill with some extra virgin olive oil.

Members of the wedding party, Meg and Mary, working on the Strawberry and Balsamic Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts. Check out the 6 burner Viking range behind them...awesome.

Friends on the deck.

Groomsman, Tyler, basting the ribs...mmmm, ribs.

The groom with two friends and Homer, G Street Brewery mascot.

The fabulous Fire-Roasted Corn Salad.

Fire-Roasted Corn Salad
My mother-in-law got this recipe from a friend. I believe it originally came from a magazine, and we adapted it slightly by lightening up the dressing. We multiplied the quantities to serve to a crowd and assembled it about 3 hours in advance. This recipe serves 6 to 8.

6 ears of corn, shucked and trimmed
2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
6 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
¾ c. red onion, chopped
¼ c. firmly packed cilantro, chopped
1 c. feta cheese, crumbled
Extra virgin olive oil
Lime juice
Chili powder, cumin, fresh ground pepper to taste
Whole cumin seeds, roasted and lightly crushed (optional)

Preheat a grill (charcoal is preferable for that smoky flavor). Lightly brush the corn with olive oil and place it directly onto your oiled grill. Cook for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until corn is lightly browned. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then use a knife to cut the kernels off the cobs while holding them vertically on a cutting board. Combine the corn kernels, tomatoes, green onion, red onion, cilantro and feta in a large bowl. Season with the fresh ground pepper and as much chili powder and cumin as you like. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and fresh lime juice over the salad, gently combine, taste and dress with additional olive oil and lime as desired. If you want to add a little extra crunch, roast about 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, crush lightly with a mortar or the back of a spoon and sprinkle over the salad. You can make this a few hours ahead and keep covered in the refrigerator. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Strawberry Balsamic Salad
Serves 6-8

2 bags prewashed spring mix salad greens
2 c. sliced strawberries
3/4 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
1 c. red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
1 c. feta cheese, crumbled
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Your favorite bottled balsamic vinaigrette

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, you can refrigerate the salad for up to 5 hours. Just before serving, toss with balsamic vinaigrette. You can also make your own dressing by emulsifying balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil in whatever ratio you prefer. I usually do equal parts of both, but most recipes call for more oil.

Baked Bean Salad with Apples and Bacon
Serves 18-20

1 - 1lb. can kidney beans, drained
1 - 1lb. can pinto beans, drained
1 - 1lb. can baked beans, drained
1 - 1lb. can pork & beans not drained
1 - 1lb. can french cut green beans, drained
3 cups golden delicious apples, chopped
6 slices bacon
6 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
3/4 cup Heinz chili sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar

Add the first 6 ingredients to a crock pot. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat. Put the bacon on paper towels to cool, then crumble into small pieces. Pour all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of bacon fat out of the skillet. Cook the green onions in the bacon fat until lightly browned. Turn the heat to low and add the chili sauce and brown sugar to the skillet, stirring constantly for about 1 minute until combined. Add the chilie sauce mixture to the crock pot along with the bacon. Cook on low for 6 hours. Alternatively, you can preheat your oven to 325 and bake in a covered dutch oven for 2 1/2 hours.

1 comment:

Cate said...

Mmmm, having a party next weekend, and I think the strawberry salad just mike make the menu. ;)