Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Story of Stuff

Obsession is a funny thing. Most of the time we are alone in our personal fervor. If we are lucky, our friends and loved ones smile at us indulgently when we go on about something they don't really care that much about. When we find someone who shares our obsession, what a blissful meeting of the minds!

I had the pleasure of catering a book party last week to welcome author Annie Leonard, a writer who truly speaks to my soul. Leonard's amazingly well researched and thought out book, The Story of Stuff is a riveting account of how our consumer society is impacting the planet on every level.
Lucky me got a signed copy from the author. I am completely immersed in the text.

You perhaps may not be losing sleep at night wondering where your trash goes, like I have since childhood (and apparently Ms. Leonard has too), but the trail of our use and disuse of everyday items should be fascinating to all.

The brainy and charming Ms. Leonard honored me with a visit to the kitchen where I was nailed to the stove cranking out hors d'oeuvres. I gushed over her book and paid compliments to her hilarious recent appearance on the Colbert Report.  As for the food: The hostess of the party loves to stay with healthy options so the menu was filled with lots of fresh vegetables. I made the Moroccan couscous rolls featured in a previous post, mushroom pizzas and Thai vegetable rolls among other things.

The next day, in the spirit of reduce reuse recycle, I decided to take a look at the ingredients I had left over from making all those hors. There was literally only a handful of this and that by the time I had done all the cooking for 100 guests, just enough for a light lunch for my daughter and I.

The spinach and broccoli were leftover from the vegetable rolls, the sauteed mushrooms were the topping for the pizzas. A simple pan saute seemed to be the way to go.

The mushrooms were bought at The Fruit Exchange at Chelsea market, one of my favorite places for produce, they have a huge selection of organic and non organic stuff (stuff!). The mushrooms were a mix of trumpet, shiitake and baby bellas.

To make a simple meal from these leftovers I started with a base of onions, garlic and creole seasoning slowly cooked in lots of olive oil to bring a boost of flavor to the vegetables

I put everything into the pan with a splash of white wine and then reduce reduce reduce till everything is cooked down and tender.

The dish was finished with a large handful of chopped mint and a sprinkle of pine nuts, both left over from the couscous rolls.  These vegetables would taste great served over rice. My daughter scarfed them up mixed with noodles. It would also work well as a crepe or omelet filling. The mushrooms really dominate with a deep woodsy flavor.
Don't be afraid to go with what you've got. A well seasoned oil will bring different elements together to make a cohesive and delicious whole. Amanda- I know you love mushroom dishes. What wine would you serve with this?

The Story of Stuff seems like such an interesting book - I must seek it out! And the book party sounds like it was a success! I'm having a "Mom's Spring Get-Together" this week, and I have been toying with the idea of making the Moroccan Cous Cous Rolls - I'm just not sure if this is something that will turn out fantastic my first time trying it! But after making Deb's Black Bean and Sun Dried Tomato Quesadillas for dinner twice this week, I know they will definitely be on the menu! Absolutely delicious and so easy! And, my big meat-eater of a husband loved them too!

This current simple pan sautee also looks like a winner. I love the idea of serving it over rice for a quick, healthy dinner. As the warm weather approaches, I love to enjoy lighter fare for my meals and this one hits the nail on the head! For this recipe, I want something with nice minerality, and enough fruit to complement the creole seasoning.  I would pour myself a glass of white Burgundy to sip alongside this dish. As we know, Burgundy can be extremely expensive. For something enjoyable yet affordable, look for a simple Bourgogne Blanc, or a Macon Villages. The cooler climate of Burgundy produces a racier, crisper, livelier Chardonnay than other warmer regions like California or Australia which produce riper, fuller Chardonnays. You don't want a wine that's too big or it will overpower this delicate dish. As a general rule - if a Chardonnay is what you are looking for - choose Burgundy for lighter fare, and California for creamy, richer dishes.

A Burgundian Chardonnay will offer notes of earth and minerals, making it a nice match for the mushrooms. And the rich, complex fruit notes will pair well with the creole seasoning.

J.J Vincent, Olivier Leflaive and Vincent Girardin are producers which are relatively easy to find. The Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles is worth seeking out. It offers up lively acidity and green apple and citrus flavors. It is medium in body and has all the elements to make it a great partner for Deb's recipe. It can be found for around $15-$17 per bottle.


  1. Hi Debbie,
    Annie also put together a fantastic video, either as a companion piece for the book, or perhaps as its predecessor. You can find it at

  2. Thanks for the link Charlie. Annie really captivated the audience when she spoke at the party. I was only able to catch a bit of it peeking out of the kitchen, but my waitstaff were very impressed.

  3. I was a happy guest at the reception for "Story of Stuff." I told Daniel and Maggie I thought they served the best food and wine I had ever tasted at a book party. Well done!

    Thomas Matthews
    Executive editor
    Wine Spectator

  4. Thank you so much! I am very happy that you enjoyed the food!


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