From the Merriam Webster website, a foodie is “a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads.” The Collins English Dictionary writes, “(Cookery) a person having an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of good food.” In the light of those definitions, I am definitely a foodie.
Sometimes, I think my avid interest in the latest fads set me a part from most in my community. Years ago (maybe 17 yrs), a restaurant opened in my town of 8000 people. This was a dream come true for me. They served Portobello mushroom burgers, bruschetta, foods that were on the cutting edge back then. I loved it and thought,’ finally a restaurant in my town that I can really enjoy.’ It stayed open less than 6 months. Residents of the community said that they just couldn’t grasp eating a “burger” made of a mushroom. My heart sank. I was once again relegated to driving to Omaha for foods that excited me. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak on the grill or tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a cold winter day. But to have something unique, something that I would not make on an average day, does get me excited.
After living here for 21 years, I have come to the realization that the only unique foods are going to come from me. And that is what I have set out to do, serve unique, not your normal run of the mill food, when we have guests. I also make it for my family when we have a little time to share the dinner spread.
My most recent venture was during the Annual Progressive Dinner that our church holds as a fundraiser for special programs . The money generally goes to the residence facility (retirement home) that is associated with the United Methodist Church (UMC) in our community, the church camp sponsored by the UMC and a homeless shelter where one of our parishioners works.
The dinner is all about the 3 F’s ; fun, fellowship and fundraising. On average 100 people participate annually. There are numerous homes that provide the first course, the main course and then we all meet up at someone’s home for dessert.
Over the year’s we have done the main dish but my favorite part of the meal is the first course. In the explanation of the dinner, it is usually called the salad course but I very rarely serve salad so I always refer to it as the first course.
This year my theme was mini’s. I purchased mini bowls, tasting spoons, mini plates to provide a variety of flavors but still not fill my guests so they are too full for the main course. My goal was to provide four cold soups that did not fight each other for taste and a “bite” to go with the soup. The bowls were three ozs. so there would be about 1.5 c. of soup with one bite each of 4 items. I would have extras of everything so if someone wanted more, it would be available.
The search was on for soup ideas. I decided on two savory soups and two sweet soups. My idea for the first soup actually happened in July when I was visiting my husband who was working in California. When there we ate lunch at Sides Hardware and Shoes, a Brothers Restaurant in Los Olivos. Our soup was a chilled sweet corn soup with chipotle sorbet. I decided I would do my best to copy it so I at least got the ingredients for the soup from them and then created the sorbet myself.
The second savory soup needed to be colorful. Since the corn soup would be pale, the second soup needed to POP! I chose a roasted red pepper soup. The sweet soups were fairly simple, a pale and a bright soup. The pale soup would be an apple and pear and the bright would be a mixed berry soup.
Chilled soups are fairly easy to create. Find flavors that you like, put them together, puree’ them and then strain. That really is as simple as it gets but it is time-consuming. To strain properly, it takes time. At the end of my blog I will share the ingredients for the soups.
After picking out the soups I needed to find good pairings. I already knew that with the berry soup I wanted chocolate, I decided on a chocolate mousse with fresh berries. That was the easy decision.
Next I thought of the corn soup. I wanted something like cracker sticks. Instead my thoughts went to a cracker recipe that I have used for years using cheddar cheese and Rice Krispies. I decide instead of making the crackers round, I would make them look like pfeffernusse. Pfeffernusse is a ginger-type cookie that my grandmother made at Christmas time.
Two down and two to go. I started thinking of the apple pear soup and thought, ‘something with nuts’ oh ‘and cheese’. I then created a brie wedge with a sugared walnut and homemade caramel drizzled over the brie.
It was time for the Red Pepper Soup. My original thought was a mini cream puff with chicken salad. Then I saw a recipe for a red pepper piece with crab salad. My menu was complete!
The interesting thing about the puree’ and straining, you never know what is left. I was straining the apple pear soup and saw that the leftover kind of looked like mush. Just because I am a curious sort, I tasted the leftovers. WOW! What a wonderful surprise. It was a cinnamon-y, luscious taste of apple and pear; in essence an apple pear sauce. Needless to say, it did not go in the trash. My son actually inhaled the concoction. He has a good palette and picked out the pear first, then the apple.
Now was the moment of truth. It was the day of the dinner and I spent most of the afternoon prepping for the meal. I was excited. I had the table setting established and it was just getting all of the items set just right.
Our guests arrived and I received a positive response on the experience. While I don’t know that anyone would do this for themselves, that is what it is all about. I wanted to create an experience that they would not have in their home. Most everyone finished their tastes (there was one teenager. She tasted everything but is not a vegetable fan).
The good thing is, all of these items I would make again. They passed my test which can be rather difficult. I especially like the apple pear soup and will make that again when apple and pear harvesting comes around.
I am giving you the ingredients for the soups. Like the chef at Sides Restaurant told me, ‘I really didn’t use a recipe, but here are the ingredients.’
Chilled Sweet Corn Soup – Sweet corn, onion, water and cream
Apple Pear Soup – apples, pears, Ginger Ale, lemon, sugar, cinnamon, cream
Red Pepper Soup – Roasted Red Peppers, onion, boiling potato, cumin, chicken broth, tomato, water
Berry Soup – Your choice of berries (I used strawberries and raspberries), orange juice, sugar, fruity wine, plain yogurt.
My latte’ for the day was gingerbread.