I’ve mentioned before that I am the resident caterer for my group of friends. I’ve done birthday parties, anniversary parties, surprise birthday parties, more birthday parties, but this one was a first – my friend, Robin, called up and asked me to cater her geocache party.
If you knew Robin, you’d know that this is not a normal request. I didn’t even know what geocaching was (and after a trip to Wikipedia, I’m still not sure I understand it). As far as I can tell, you run around pretending to be a cyber-era Jack Sparrow looking for buried treasure, using your smart phone to find specific coordinates. (I know, sounds like oodles of fun, huh?) I still haven’t gone beyond making calls with my cell phone, and now I find out that you can hunt for the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge while playing Angry Birds at the same time.
What is Robin thinking? I mean, she really doesn’t come across as an outdoorsy type of gal, if you know what I mean. She’s pretty buttoned-down, so running through the woods with a phone in her hand doesn’t jive with my vision of what Robin would qualify as ‘fun’.
So of course there’s more to this story: Robin’s daughter, Lauren, was recently engaged. Her new fiancée, Tim, evidently proposed by making Lauren geocache her way to a diamond ring (aww). “So wouldn’t it be romantic to throw them a Geocache-themed Engagement Party? We were thinking of a Gourmet Picnic to go with it.”
OK, I fully understand the gourmet picnic idea, so I was immediately on board. 50 people, gourmet sandwiches, and portable sides. No problem. But in addition to the beef tenderloin and roast turkey breast sandwiches, I had to come up with a vegetarian sandwich to accommodate some friends who would be attending.
It’s the height of summer, so the zucchini and eggplant are overflowing at the market. I thought that would be a great start – throwing them on the grill would be even better. Add a little fresh spinach, throw it on a baguette, and call it a day. Problem was, the test run was really missing something. Back to the drawing board.
Turns out that I didn’t have to go far. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t finished. After rummaging through the fridge, I found I had some cream cheese (really doesn’t say ‘gourmet picnic’) and some mushrooms. I decided to sauté the mushrooms with a little garlic and shallot, toss it with the cream cheese, then take it all for a spin in the food processor. Pretty good, but not quite enough. On a whim, I tossed in some sun-dried tomatoes that have been on the door of the fridge for a little while. That did it: the ordinary, boring cream cheese was no more, and becomes the flavor backbone of the sandwich. Actually, I think I liked this sandwich better than the beef and homemade pesto option.
The party was a hit – OK, I skipped the whole geocaching thing (well after all, someone had to set up the food), but it was a lot of fun – or so I was told.
And wouldn’t you know it, the eggplant sandwiches (of which I only made a few) were the first to go. Oh well, just goes to show that there’s a little vegetarian in all of us, I guess.
Of course, this is just the beginning. Lauren and Tim aren’t getting married until the spring, so there’s plenty of time for more parties. Even better, since Lauren works for Destination Wedding magazine, she was under a little pressure to not have the ceremony in the back yard. That means a Savannah wedding is looming on the horizon. In fact, if you want to follow along, Lauren is writing a wedding blog for the magazine’s website. Check it out. If you need some help finding it, maybe you can geocache it.
Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with Creamy Mushroom Spread
- 8 oz. mushrooms chopped
- 1 medium shallot minced
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 4 T olive oil divided
- ¼ t red pepper flakes
- ½ t fresh thyme leaves
- 8 oz. cream cheese softened
- ¼ C sundried tomatoes
- 1 medium eggplant slice into 4 planks
- 1 large zucchini sliced into 4 planks
- 1 ½ t dried oregano
- 2 C fresh spinach
- 1 baguette cut into 4 equal pieces (sandwich size)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat medium sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add 2 T olive oil, mushrooms, shallot, garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, salt & pepper to taste.
- Sauté until mushrooms begin to brown.
- Remove from heat, and cool for 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add mushroom mixture, cream cheese, and sundried tomatoes.
- Pulse until smooth.
- Set aside.
- Preheat grill (or grill pan).
- Brush each side of eggplant and zucchini with remaining olive oil, then sprinkle dried oregano, salt and pepper (to taste).
- Grill 4-6 minutes per side until cooked through.
- Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
- To assemble sandwiches, split each baguette piece.
- Generously spread mushroom mixture on interior of baguette.
- Add ½ C fresh spinach, then one slice each of eggplant and zucchini.
- If desired, wrap sandwich with parchment to serve.
This post is reblogged from my earlier site, ‘Inexpensive Eating’.
And a quick update: the wedding was great, the couple celebrated their first anniversary a few months ago.