Blind Kitchen Sink Challenge – Door County Pulse

Photo by Sarah Koehler.

Experimenting with friends in the kitchen

This is an idea, a concept, a creative way to bring friends together for dinner. It was born in the world of moms: busy, working moms who find company after grabbing all the ingredients from their fridge and pantry, contributing them to a pool, and meeting to cook a meal and have a good time together to spend. These meals are unforgettable and so much fun. This concept blossomed and grew.

Jess Farley (right) with her cooking buddies. Photo by Wyatt Bultman.

We women – my friends who share my love of cooking – delight in the preparation of food, but also in the pleasure of sitting around a table, enjoying a leisurely meal and sharing wonderful conversations. There are similarities to kitchen shows like Chopped, but our goal is collaboration, not competition. We welcome the concept of collaboration and look forward to everyone enjoying the experience and sharing in the surprising flavor explosions. It’s even more special because we choose to take time out of our busy lives.

I hope you accept this challenge! Use what you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry. The experience is the reward, and sharing a meal is the icing on the cake. You will also learn some shortcuts and new food preparation tricks from each other. This is a very flavorful experience based on love for food and friendship.

Follow these tips for a successful, tasty and surprising meal:

• Invite four to six of your favorite people – the more, the merrier!

• Each guest must contribute three or four ingredients to the pool, but keep them secret: part of the fun is not knowing what your friends are sharing.

• Prepare for success by having a pantry of good all-round essentials to fill in the blanks during your culinary adventure.

• Create a soundtrack with funky music and a good beat to get the kitchen energy going.

• Have fun!

Step one: Inventory the ingredients

Take stock of the ingredients contributed, then put your heads together to plan a menu. The goal is to use all the ingredients. When my good friends and I tested this concept, our combined resources provided these ingredients: Brie Cheese, Fresh Basil, Poblano Peppers, Sprouted Pole Beans, Butternut Squash, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Kielbasa Sausage, Kale, Golden Beets, Door County Creamery Truffle- Chèvre, prawns, zucchini and peppers.

Photos by Sarah Koehler

Step Two: Create the menu

Our menu consisted of three courses (recipes can be found on the following page).

course 1

Stuffed and roasted peppers
Mini peppers filled with brie cheese, sausage and fresh basil, finished with a balsamic glaze

course 2

Poblano Butternut Squash Soup
Topped with truffle chèvre and roasted pumpkin seeds

course 3

Grilled shrimp and sausage pan
Sautéed with wilted kale, beets, mashed beans and zucchini in rosemary-garlic butter

After deciding on the menu, we got to work, dicing and slicing and preparing all the ingredients. We roasted pumpkins to prepare the soup and grilled sausages.

“Can we all just move in together and do this every night?” asked a friend.

We got the prep work done pretty quickly, and then we moved on to the fun part: getting the flavors just right. how much salt Which spices? How long should I let this cook?

Include everyone in the process and remember to listen to each other. It was so much fun to see the ideas and concepts we all came up with. The best part for me was knowing that we were all stronger together when it came to figuring things out than we were as individuals. We shared our abbreviations and ideas, invented new words and laughed – we laughed a lot! In my opinion, laughter is the best medicine for a happy life.

And I promise you: when you finish your evening, your belly will be full of delicious food made with love and your heart will be filled with joy! What will fill your belly and soul during your Blind Kitchen Challenge?

Stuffed and roasted peppers
Preheat oven to 375°F.

Grilled kielbasa sausage (grilled sausage; then remove casing and crumble) 1 cup brie cheese, rind removed and remaining cheese diced ½ cup fresh basil, chopped salt and pepper to taste 12-15 mini sweet peppers, tips trimmed and seeded Balsamic vinegar Frosting While the oven is preheating, mix the grilled sausage, brie and basil together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Place the peppers on a baking tray lined with baking paper and pre-bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Using a spoon, fill each pepper with the brie and sausage mixture. Place the peppers back on the sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the peppers start to brown and the cheese filling oozes out. Remove the peppers from the oven and arrange on a plate. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and a sprinkling of fresh, chopped basil.

Poblano Butternut Squash Soup
Topped with truffle chèvre and roasted pumpkin seeds

Photos by Sarah Koehler Preheat the oven to 425°F. 1 butternut squash (medium), halved, seeded Olive oil Coarse salt 3–4 poblano peppers, grilled or oven roasted without charred skin (keep the seeds if you like the tanginess, or remove for a milder one Flavor.) 5-6 cups chicken broth 1 cup apple cider 1 teaspoon nutmeg Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Truffle chèvre Roasted pumpkin seeds Drizzle the squash with olive oil and a pinch of coarse salt. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 30 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven when tender, set aside and let cool. Remove the skin and place the squash, poblano peppers and chicken broth in a soup kettle. Blend all ingredients with a hand blender until silky smooth. (We added about a cup of apple cider, a teaspoon of nutmeg, and plenty of freshly ground pepper to finish the soup. The flavors were layered and complex.) Bring the soup back to a gentle boil. Top each cup of soup with a Quenelle truffle chèvre and a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds before serving. Season with salt and pepper.

Grilled shrimp and sausage pan
Sautéed with wilted kale, beets, mashed beans and zucchini in rosemary-garlic butter

Photos by Sarah Koehler 1 pound fresh wild-caught shrimp, shell and tail on olive oil Juice of ½ lemon Salt and pepper to taste Fresh rosemary (large sprig), finely chopped, stem removed 2-3 cloves of garlic, diced 3-4 Tbsp butter 3 golden beets, diced and roasted 1 zucchini, diced ½ pound speckled green beans, ends broken off 1 head fresh kale, chopped, ribs removed ¼ cup chicken broth or white wine 1-2 pieces of kielbasa sausage (grilled at the same time as the sausage for the stuffed peppers), cut into circles Toss the shrimp in a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and add about 1 teaspoon of the chopped rosemary and half the diced garlic. Set aside and marinate for 10-15 minutes. Heat a large, cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter, the remaining rosemary and the remaining garlic. Once the butter has melted and the garlic starts to sizzle, add the beets, zucchini, and sprinkled beans. Sauté for 5-10 minutes – long enough for the beans to sweat and the zucchini to collapse and become translucent. Add the kale and a drizzle of olive oil and the broth or wine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and simmer the kale for about 3 minutes. Uncover and stir well. Add the grilled sausage at this point. We pre-cooked it on the grill so it just needs to be warmed through. Meanwhile, grill the marinated shrimp. This step doesn’t take long – only about two minutes on each side. They’re done when they start to turn pink. Add the grilled prawns to the pan, stir vigorously again and season with salt and pepper. We put a bottle of hot sauce on the table, and my friend Jess also had homemade ramp butter, which we placed on our plates as we served.

***

This culinary adventure takes time, so we capitalized on it by incorporating some fun cocktails and mocktails into the experience.

The Mocktail: Blackberry Ginger Sparkle
Makes 4 servings

Photo by Sarah Koehler Surprisingly refreshing and absolutely delicious, this drink was a hit with two of the three children in tow. Rosemary-infused sugar (¼ cup turbinado sugar and 1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped rosemary mixed together) 2 tablespoons blackberry jam 1 teaspoon elderberry syrup 24 ounces ginger kombucha 2 12-ounce cans blackberry soda Fresh blackberries Fresh mint leaves 4 pieces candied ginger Rim the glasses with fill with the rosemary sugar and add ice. Put jam, syrup and kombucha in a cocktail shaker and shake well. (You may need to do this step twice depending on your shaker size.)

Divide the mixture evenly among the four glasses, filling them halfway. Top off with the blackberry seltzer. Garnish with fresh blackberries, mint leaves and candied ginger.

The cocktail: Sake it to Me!
Makes 4 servings 1 750ml bottle of Nigori Sake 8 tbsp sour cherry juice concentrate Juice of 1 lime Rosemary sugar (see recipe above) Rosemary sprigs for garnish Make each drink separately. Using a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add about 240ml sake, 2 tablespoons cherry juice concentrate and a squeeze of lime juice. Shake it well. Fill a Rocks glass with rosemary sugar and pour the contents of the shaker into the glass without ice. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

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