Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dinner for friends: going organic

After seeing the Thanksgiving menu, one of my clients asked if I would please cook dinner for them. Of course, that would be my pleasure. For for three guests, I pulled together dinner. But there was a twist -- one of them is not supposed to eat dairy, sugar, or wheat. And two of them mostly opt for organic foods. So I decided to try out a couple of things: - Make a dinner of things I want to cook and am happy to serve without using dairy, wheat, or refined white sugar - To the furthest extent possible and practical, use organic foods - See how much more if costs (if any) to eat organic The menu was: Salad/starter (wine: sparkling rose) Ahi tartare with preserved lemons, mixed greens and black olive tapenade Homemade sourdough baguette Entree (wine: Washington State Syrah) Moroccan spiced lamb shanks Barley pilaf Roasted carrots and zucchini Dessert (green tea) Rosemary-scented compote of apples and pears with oatmeal granola topping The only place where wheat came into play was in the bread, and of course anyone not wanting wheat can opt out of that. The ahi tartare and lamb sharks are tried-and-true recipes of mine, so the only risk areas were the bread, the barley pilaf, and the dessert. For the bread, I used the Malgieri recipe I've been working with, since my starter is nice and sour now. And I made it into baguettes using the nice new baguette pan. I have to say that this was the best bread I've ever made, in terms of texture and crumb. I think it could have used just a little more salt but by and large it was really great. The barley pilaf was something I had to make up, since I wanted something that could go into the oven and finish while the lamb shanks reheated. I went with 1/2 red onion and 1 cup of barley, sauteed in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil until the barley was toasty, then about a clove of minced garlic. Added three cups of chicken broth and a cup of water. I should note that all of these ingredients were organic. Simmered for about 45 minutes, then put a lid on and put into the oven. It fluffed up nicely and held in there for a couple of hours. The dessert took a little thinking, and I settled on organic brown rice syrup for the sweetener. Simmered that with about a tablespoon of roughly chopped rosemary. The "scent" was nearly overwhelmed by the taste of the brown rice syrup, but it was there. Found organic oat granola with nuts and maple syrup sweetener at the market. I roasted three granny smith apples and three Bartlett pears at 225 for a few hours while I ran out to take care of something else. When I pulled them out they were just barely tender, so I was able to cut them up and just peel off the apple skin with my fingers. The pear skins were nice and tender so I left them on. Tossed the syrup with the fruit, piled it into an 8" square baking dish, and covered the top with the granola. Drizzled more syrup on top, then put into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until it was bubbly. Came out pretty good, and it was 100% organic as well. For the lamb, I couldn't find organic, but got them from a good natural producer. Rubbed with spices on Saturday, braised on Sunday, rested on Monday, served on Tuesday. They were really good, as usual. Going organic wasn't terribly difficult, as long as you don't mind spending *a lot* more money. I think this meal cost 50% more because of the cost of not only all the organic produce, but things like olive oil, tomato paste, chicken broth, etc. At least when you buy wild fish (like the ahi) you don't have to worry if it is organic or not. But with wine, the ingredients for that dinner for four cost over $30/person. Personally, I'm going to study that "top ten" list of the produce with the highest levels of pesticides etc and maybe focus on that for going organic in the short term.

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