Monday, December 6, 2010

Invite: A Lumberjack Dining Room (and a yummy soup too!)

With a dismal economy, people are getting creative about seeing their friends and family members.  No longer are they making a reservation to meet up at a local eatery.  Today, people are opening up their own doors to welcome guests into their homes (something we haven't done in a while!).  I was wandering through an antique shop and found a hilarious look at days past in Betty Crockers Guide to Easy Entertaining, published in the early 1950s.  Paging through, I couldn't help but long for the same dedication to relationships and bringing people around one's very own table with food prepared by the host (no matter how humble)!  But, I have to say that the book promoted a breed of "easy" entertaining most of us can't commit to.

So keep it easy (really!).  Open up your doors this month and invite people to do the things you're already doing with you.  Making cookies?  Put on a pot of soup, light a fire, plug in your tree lights and invite your friends and neighbors to join you.  Entertaining doesn't have to mean scouring your house, a multiple course meal, or hand written invitations.

Trestle style table legs, upholstered plaid dining chairs, hammered copper platters, muddled glass lanterns, rustic iron-glass wine glasses.

After tromping through Rist Canyon this weekend to cut down a Christmas tree at Bender Farms, I wanted to come home to a dining room like this one and cozy up with a bowl of soup and a flavorful salad.

Here's a recipe for Zuppe Toscana, a flavorful soup loaded with potatoes, hot italian sausage, bacon, and kale.  Pair it with a crusty bread from a local bakery (torn, not sliced)and a salad assembled from items at the grocery store: dried cranberries, bleu cheese, and sliced pears over washed and prepped greens from the produce department.  Easy!
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1½ tsp crushed red pepper flake
  • 1 large white onion, diced 
  • 1/2 lb bacon,
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 10 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 lb sliced Russet potatoes (skins on) 
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ of a bunch of kale, chopped
Brown sausage and crisp bacon with red pepper flakes and onion over medium heat in a large dutch oven.  Add garlic and cook one minute more.  Drain fat and return to pan.  Add chicken broth and potatoes.  Cook over medium heat until potatoes are fork tender (about 30 minutes).  Reduce heat and stir in heavy cream.  Just before serving, add kale and allow to wilt for a couple of minutes in the hot broth.  Serves 6-8.

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