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Amazing Meals from Amazing Chefs (& Cooks) with Amazing Fresh, Local Food!

It is inconceivable that September is nearly done! Genoa Bay seems like a year ago, though luckily I went online and found the French Jazz radio station that we were getting up there, so some of the nice feelings have lingered. We have had a couple of fabulous meals with a local focus this month and I feel so very privileged to have been able to take part in them. The first was Chef’s Collaborative’s annual Urban Picnic in Seattle. It was held on a rooftop downtown and we were high enough to not be able to hear any traffic and to see the sky clearly, yet still have lots of taller buildings around us for a wonderful urban landscape. There was a band and the lead singer was Carrie Cunningham, who has an absolutely beautiful voice. They played mainly old style country like I was raised on so I enjoyed singing along with them. This ‘picnic’ is like all Chef’s Collaborative events, so it focuses on local talent, local food and sustainability. We took our picnic basket with our own plates, cutlery and napkins and they provided the glasses for the abundance of locally produced wine, beer, sodas and waters.

And then there was the food. I am going to list all the foods and who made them and you can drool and wish you could taste it! The event is the main fundraiser for the Quillisascut Farm School scholarship, which is something I am going to apply for next year. If I win I will be going to the farm school in NE Washington for 1 week next Summer, to learn about working with farm fresh foods while living and working on the farm itself. I have wanted to do this for 3 years and I have decided to apply next year and I am nearly breathless with the hope of it! Anyway, here is the menu:
Quillisascut Chevre-stuffed grape leaves with walnuts and chokecherry gastric
Quillisascut raw milk farmer cheese (both from Quillisascut Farm Kitchen)
Creamy Polenta w/Estrella cheese, chantrelles & lobster mushrooms (from Oliver’s Twist)
Taylor Shellfish Geoduck Ceviche w/Alvarez chilies, corn & tomatillos (from Licorous)
Oregon Pink Shrimp ceviche w/chilies and lime (Anchovies & Olives)
Lightly smoked Ozette potato salad w/chives and smoked salmon roe (from Jason Franey/Canlis)
Churro Lamb & Full Circle Farm chard crepinette (from Seth Caswell, Emmer & Rye)
Grilled Reefnet Lummi Island Wild Sockeye (The WIllows Inn)
Smoked sockeye roe mousse on toasted baguette (The Willows Inn)
Wild Blackberry coconut squares with lime cream (Joule)
Molten dark chocolate cake w/red huckleberries (Hot Cakes Confections, Autumn Martin)

Plus Mark took my picture with Maria Hines, who I adore and admire! I got some pointers for filling out my scholarship application next year and we both had a very enjoyable time in general.

The very next week was the Harvest Meal right here in Kitsap. Did you come? I am in charge of putting together the chefs and organizing the menu, and this year I had more help with that than I did last year, which was fantastic. It is a daunting task to plan to feed 300-400 people and we put out the best food you will have all year long. The area farmers give us great material to work with, and the KCAA (Kitsap Community & Agricultural Association-you should be a member!) purchases livestock for protein from 4H/FFA kids at the fair auction, as well as from other local producers. The quality of the food is so good to begin with that my ‘ordinary’ roast chicken was absolutely delicious! We held this one at Olympic College and we will be begging to return to that fabulous space again next year. The kitchen is so huge all of us chefs/cooks were in our own areas and NOT bumping into each other! AMAZING! Yes, I have kitchen envy. The seating/buffet area was totally separate so again we had lots of room to work and thanks to all the wonderful volunteers it all got served up nicely! We even had leftovers this year, which is better than running out like last year, believe me! We had 2 pigs, 2 lambs, several chickens and oysters to work with for protein. The chefs all volunteer/donate their time, talent, energy and quite a bit of raw material to make the wonderful meal and I sure hope they all want to help again next year. We had Chris Plemmons from OC, Richard Kost from CJ’s Evergreen General Store, Lowell Yoxsimer of Hi-Lo’s 15th Street Cafe, Jeff McClelland of Pegasus Coffee House & Harbour Public House, Shelly Lewis of Cosmo’s Ristorante & Delicatessan, John Nesby’s chef Henrique from Mor Mor Bistro, Tomas Nevarez from Simmer Down Home Chef Instruction, and of course Mark, Leslie and me. Lowell made beautiful and delicious desserts from Washington grown fruit, I made sure there were lots of vegetarian dishes to choose from, and the most beautiful green salad ever was not even the only offering.

Donations really make this meal happen, including our coffee roasters Paul & Dean, our soda maker Mike & Dee from Hummingbird Hill, and Harbour Public House provides locally brewed beers and local wines at a very reasonable price! All the farmers and food suppliers give us a discount and Central Market donated some of the staples that we could not get locally. We made magic happen and the food was phenomenally good. We WILL do it again next year and whatever you may have planned that weekend, I highly recommend you change it. This is worth 3 times the low price, easily!

So we have been so very busy with these things, and now Italy is right around the corner. Inconceivable! We have the KCFC Fall Fair, a staff meeting, a wine tasting, Dining out for Farms party and weeklong fundraiser, and while we are gone Halloween will sneak in on us. We will have a party when we get back and then it will be Thanksgiving and into the holidays… and a whole bunch of other stuff in between all that. WHOA!

Ok so I need to breathe.. slowly.. in through the nose and out through the mouth. WHOOOOOOSH! A recipe for some comfort food is called for!

Dinner tonight:
Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms (and I am having it with roasted brussels sprouts, too!)

Polenta:
2 cups whole milk (I use 2%)
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup polenta (Corn Meal-about 7 ounces)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (or goat cheese! or any fresh or soft cheese)
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
1 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 TBS (or more) freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, stock and butter and bring to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until thick, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream, mascarpone, herbs and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms:

1 TBS unsalted butter
1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped (onion will do)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and halved (you can use 1 lb of any mushroom you like)
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, deep skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add half of the shallots and garlic and all of the chanterelles and oyster mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 6 minutes.

Serve the polenta with the mushrooms on top. SO GOOD! If you want to have roasted brussels sprouts on the side because you got them at the farmer’s market and you can’t wait to have them:

preheat oven to 350

trim the sprouts and cut each in half
toss in olive oil, salt and pepper
spread out onto a baking sheet in one layer
roast for about 10 minutes, or until done (depends on size and freshness)

YUM!