It seems I am involved in planning several events that celebrate the end of this year’s growing season. A funny name, harvest dinner, as truly the harvest begins early in the year, and in many creative farming operations the harvest never really ends. Still, we do like to celebrate things and one of these is the end of the big summer harvests. What lies ahead is transition to fall and then winter crops, the increased use of the green and hoop houses not to mention the early sprouting of seeds and seedlings.
At the same time, the shelves in the larders and pantries are bulging with dried, canned, preserved, and frozen produce. So even though fresh items are continuously harvested throughout the year in the local food system...now is a great time to celebrate food.
In my view of a harvest celebration, the food should be primarily be locally procured and simply prepared to accentuate and promote the quality of our local food system. And equally important is the sense of community that is celebrated in this dinner. That is why I love to serve these dinners family style. I want the food to be served to the table and people to interact with each other in the sharing of the food, to truly break bread together. I truly believe that food tastes better when it is shared; there is an extra seasoning that comes through in the fellowship of people. It is what turns sustenance for the body into sustenance for the community and for the soul. Community cultivation in this manner is what really motivates me as a cook, to nourish the family and friends that make up the fabric of my life.
I would like to mention 3 events that I am preparing food for:
Thursday October 6 th : Ecofest, a benefit for Southern Environmental Center. Takes place at the Harbert Center in Birmingham.
More information at www.myecoscapes.org.
Sunday October 9 Birmingham Originals present BreaknBread at Railroad Park.
More information at www birminghamoriginals.org.
Alabama’s premier food and wine event, Break ’n Bread will feature signature dish tastings from nearly 40 Birmingham Originals restaurants paired with a wide selection of wine and beer.
ENTERTAINMENT: Festival guests will also be treated to entertainment from American Idol winner and hometown hero TAYLOR HICKS, as well as tunes from Memphis-based singer/songwriter Eliot Morris.
FOR THE KIDS: A designated kid’s area will feature activities by the Birmingham Zoo, pumpkin decorating, Children’s Hospital face painting clowns, a DISCO writing workshop, kid’s cooking demos and more.
Thursday October 11 A harvest celebration and benefit for PEER. This dinner takes place at Gabrella Manor, a neat venue in East Lake. PEER a wonderful organization dedicated to the community of East Lake. They run the East Lake Farmers Market, as well as many other excellent programs. More information at www. peerinc.org.
All of this thinking of serving family style brings back the memory of a meal I prepared as one of many chefs each preparing a dinner for a table of 8 in a hotel ballroom. As my colleagues were working very hard on individual plating of elaborate dishes...I prepared a selection of tapas and my Spanish favorites: Tortilla Espanola and a big pan of Paella Valenciana, that wonderful dish of chicken, sausage, seafood all blended with a saffron rice...I then poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to enjoy the wonderful celebration of sharing. I raise a glass to all and say as the Spanish do: Que Aprovechen!
TORTILLA ESPANOLA (Spanish potato and onion frittata) Serves 6 all ingredients as needed: Olive oil Potatoes, sliced Onions, sliced Eggs Salt and pepper Heat the oil and saute the potatoes until they are cooked through, but not browned.
Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and drain well. Reserve the oil and clean out the saute pan. Saute the onions until soft and golden brown. Beat the eggs and season well. Mix the onions in with the potatoes. Pour the eggs over and mix well.
Heat the saute pan with some of the reserved oil and add the egg mixture. Cook briefly over high heat to set, and then turn down the heat, shaking back and forth to make sure the bottom is not sticking. When the top of the omelette is just set, cover the pan with a large serving plate and turn out the omelette. Add a little olive oil to the pan and slide the omelette back in to cook that side through.
Serve warm or cold, it is excellent with stewed tomatoes.Ha