Sunday, September 7, 2008

Food, Fun, and Friends

Yesterday afternoon I was delighted to attend a gathering of foodies and food bloggers from the area. We convened on Shayne's home in Livonia, ten "lady food bloggers" and assorted husbands and children, for an afternoon of homemade goodies and lively conversation.

Shayne's homemade mojitos with fresh mint from her garden. Yum!

I had been unable to attend the previous gathering due to being on vacation so I was looking forward to this one. I managed to snag a quick catnap on the car ride from Ann Arbor; the 20-mile training run I had done that morning was weighing heavily on my body. I didn't want to nod off at the table once we arrived!

Kate's contribution to the feast.

Shayne had prepared a stupendous buffet of fixings for homemade pizza grilled on a slate slab. Individual balls of dough were hand-formed into little rounds and spread with homemade tomato sauce, prosciutto, salami, grilled chicken, onions, basil, hot peppers, a variety of cheeses...whatever one's heart desired.

We talked, drank, ate (and ate, and ate), laughed, and had a grand time.

I'm so glad I was able to attend this gathering and I look forward to the next one!

Good food and new friends make for a lovely afternoon. And we were serenaded by the local high school marching band practicing across the street. Live music and dining outdoors-- what could be better?

I brought two items: chocolate beet cake and sauteed summer squash pasta salad.


  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups pureed beets (can be more or less; it really doesn’t affect the taste. 3-5 beets depending on size will work.)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, or a mixture depending on your preference)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting (if desired)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt cake pan (other baking pans will work as well).

To make beet puree, trim stems and roots off beets and quarter them. Place in heavy sauce pan filled with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 50 mins or until the beets are tender. Drain off remaining liquid and rinse beets in cold water. Slide skins off and place beets in blender. Pulse until a smooth puree forms. Let cool slightly before using in cake.

In a mixing bowl, cream ¾ cup butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs; mix well. Melt chocolate in a double boiler with remaining ¼ cup butter; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Blend chocolate mixture, beets and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Sift together the flour, baking soda , salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl; add to the creamed mixture and blend until flour is just mixed in. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely before dusting with confectioners’ sugar.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until tender, 5-8 minutes; add garlic, squash, red pepper, and 3/4 tsp salt. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the squash is translucent and the red pepper tender, about 10 minutes. Add black pepper and additional salt to taste. Stir in the parsley and remove pan from heat. Serve as a side dish by itself or as a filling for a vegetable tart, gratin, or frittata.

I cooked a batch of whole-wheat penne pasta and tossed it with the squash mixture while it was still in my big braising pan. I also added a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to boost the taste because I thought it was kind of bland the first time I had it. I confess I am not a huge fan of squash and this, I feel, is the least "squashy"-tasting squash dish I have ever had. I thought it was delicious, in fact. I've eaten it both hot off the stove and cool as a pasta salad and loved it both times.