The winter Foragers Dinner Club dinner does not disappoint. Persimmons are largely to blame.
Winter is a tough season for the forager. Winter foraging often means freezer foraging, or otherwise reaching for preserved foods foraged and found in an earlier season. Dried goods hold up well, along with pickled, cured, and otherwise preserved foods, but even in November there are still late fruits and nuts, and herbs from the garden. My contribution was an embarrassing richness of dried and frozen mushrooms, combined with garden herbs and served up as three different raviolis: porcini and thyme, morel and sage, chanterelle and parsley. My dad gifted me a freezer bag of dove breasts from a hunt he did early in the fall, which I wrapped in the last of the home cured bacon from the 2014 Yakima pig harvest and quickly broiled. Having also scored a bunch of u-pick walnuts out in Yakima, and having on hand a rather large amount of honey, I decided to make a baklava for dessert.
I noticed for this meal how the ingredients I was using has been accumulated over the course of almost an entire year. The honey from the spring, the morels from early summer, the porcini and walnuts from the fall, the chanterelles and herbs from the winter. In our first Foragers Dinners the ingredients tended to be found and foraged a lot closer to the event itself. But as foraged and wild foods have become part of my annual rhythm what I have on hand for any given meal has increased in diversity and quantity. My pantry, and so my cooking, has been transformed as a result.
The other members of the Foragers Dinner Club similarly overcame the challenges of winter foraging, producing a mouth-watering wealth of food and drink. In no particular order:
A persimmon gratin
Winter roots and greens stew, with walnuts
Dove breast with chili and rosemary, wrapped in bacon.
Beef flank steak salad.
Assorted spicy pickles, some blood sausage and fresh bread for appetizers.
Ruebens with homemade sauerkraut.
This particular dinner featured more in the dessert line than we typically produce. Persimmons, which had made a fist appearance as an entree, now showed up in a pudding, topped with a butter cream sauce. Some raw walnuts and a dessert wine were a nice pairing as well.
The baklava turned out perfectly. It's truly a decadent dessert, but when made with generous amounts of backyard honey and fresh walnuts it went next level.
Persimmons got the MVP award for this dinner, given their availability as a late season tree fruit, their appealing color, and their versatility.
As ever the meal was delicious, enjoyable, and remarkable. I think it's more than just my pantry that has been transformed by the steady practice of foraging foods and sharing together in these meals. When we gather around the foragers table our conversations and relationships are flavored with the memories and experiences of past meals, of outings we've shared together. As a community we're accumulating bonds that are durable, bonds that enrich our future interactions. Over time the Foragers Dinner Club is transforming not just the ways we cook, but perhaps even who we are. The results, if past performance is any indicator, should be delicious.