Just a few short weeks ago we at EAF had the Laforest sisters in our kitchen cooking up some apps from The Forest Feast cookbook. Judging by site and social activity, it was easy to see that you all loved this review. So we decided to cook from Erin Gleeson's new book, The Forest Feast Gatherings, which releases September 27, 2016. Our guest this week was Jessey who works at Canadian Manda Group, the agency that handles sales and marketing for the book in Canada. She's a big fan of the series and was so happy to be cooking from it. She's also a badass host and I was secretly hoping she'd recycle some of these recipes the next time she has me over!
We chose to make 4 recipes from the book; watermelon mint water, black pepper shortbread cookies, roasted potatoes with artichokes, and strawberry balsamic sundaes. Jessey also has some food allergies, so the allergens we were avoiding included peanuts, nuts, dairy, legumes, egg, and peaches.
First we made the watermelon mint water. Gleeson offers up a number of possible water flavorings and iced tea varieties to serve at your next gathering. She makes a good point that sometimes all your guests want is water, not a cocktail or glass of wine. So it's a good idea to have some prettier waters on hand that area bit more thoughtful than just plain old tap water. By setting them out in pitchers your guests can easily serve themselves.
All we had to do was chop up the watermelon, tear the mint, add to a pitcher, and then top up with cold water. Jessey muddled the watermelon using the handle of a wooden spoon to bring out that fresh watermelon flavor. Altogether this took less than ten minutes. It would be great to have a fleet of different flavored waters out on the table, for refreshment but also as decor.
Next we made the black pepper shortbread cookies. Someone from my office recently made the rosemary shortbread cookies from the first Forest Feast cookbook and they got rave reviews at our cookbook club. This is literally the simplest cookie recipe ever, no rolling, chilling, or precision necessary! The recipe calls for sugar, butter, flour, and black pepper. Instead of butter we used Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread. There is one variety that doesn't contain pea protein so that's the one I buy.
Since I don't own a mixer or food processor (or microwave, or ice cream scoop.. I'm really into runnin' lean) I made Jessey mash the dough up by hand with a fork. This was a long process, unsurprisingly. The following week she sent me the link to a Kitchenaid hand mixer that was on sale. I bookmarked it.
The dough was pressed into a square baking pan lined with parchment paper, then baked for a half hour. Once it was cooled Jessey cut it into squares and we devoured immediately. I made it again the next day but added chopped Ontario strawberries and a crunched up graham cracker to the dough and it was spectacular.
While all this other assembly was taking place, the potatoes for the potato and artichoke dish were quietly roasting in the oven until they reached that wonderful state of gooey inside and crunchy outer crust.
Jessey laid out a thick bed of baby arugula and then placed the potatoes and artichokes artfully on top. Using jarred pickled artichokes meant there was no prep or cooking required, and the Unico brand that I bought was free from our list of allergens to avoid.
How good does that look? And it took no more than five minutes to assemble. We ate it straight off the platter, like chips, but if you're hosting a party I'd suggest actually using side plates.
And finally, we needed second dessert. So we made strawberry balsamic sundaes which are truly the easiest thing you can ever make and everyone will love them. We used Larry and Luna's Coconut Bliss Ice Cream (vanilla) which doesn't contain any dairy or nuts at all! Toss some strawberry slices on top and add a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar and they're ready. As someone who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth I thought it was a perfect dessert. Jessey made them again on the weekend, and when Brandon came home later he had one too and loved it.
Things we loved about the book:
It's beautiful and so different from any other cookbook on the market currently.
There are many recipes that require very little alteration to become allergy-friendly.
It only took us 2 hours to make all 4 recipes and eat them, including time for photos, posing, readjusting, and a dance break.
The recipes in this book are completely uncomplicated. You don't have to be a seasoned cook to make any of them, you just have to desire to be a great host.
Pre-order your copy here.