The progressive dinners that I remember from my childhood were casual affairs, which took place on the beach where we grew up. It was an "adults only" event. In a small, enthusiastic, and progressively rowdy herd, the participants would walk from house to house according to the meal schedule. These memories started me wondering why I don't hear of progressive dinners anymore? Perhaps, we don't feel comfortable enough with our neighbours to initiate the idea or, quite often, our closest friends and family don't live in the same town. Regardless of the reason, logistics seem to be the main barrier.
We were intrigued to find out that our church holds an annual progressive dinner, and we decided to join the fun. Alan & I signed up to host an appetizer course. Three couples showed up at our door at 5 o'clock sharp. I served a warm spinach & cheese appetizer (see The Good Egg, June '09), smoked trout dip (see The Good Egg, Dec. '07), a white bean, roasted red pepper and feta cheese spread, crostini, and crudite. Everyone enjoyed the food and each others company until about 6 o'clock, at which point this progressive dinner took an interesting twist. We said our goodbyes and Alan & I went on to the next course at an unknown address (we had no idea who our next hosts would be). We were greeted by three new couples and enjoyed pumpkin soup and pizza soup amidst good conversation and wine. After an hour, we were on to our next destination, greeted once again by new hosts and two more couples. This was the main course and we were served stuffed pork roast, mashed potato & sweet potato casserole, and vegetables in a cheese sauce.
The last stop on the progressive dinner was back at the church with everyone for a dessert buffet and coffee. With the lights low and candles lit, this was the perfect way to end what had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The point of the evening was to get to know people and it was certainly a success.
Accommodating a large amount of people in a progressive dinner is a substantial undertaking. However, you can keep things on a much smaller and simpler scale. Why not plan a progressive dinner of your own with your friends, co-workers, or neighbours? Get the food cooking, the wine flowing, and let the socializing begin.
White Bean, Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Spread
This recipe is great to serve with veggies, crackers, crostini or fresh pita triangles. For a smoother consistency, puree the mixture an extra minute and add another tablespoon of olive oil.
1 cup dried white beans (or 1 - 17 ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained)
2 sweet red peppers, roasted
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
If you are using dried beans, this method eliminates the need to soak the beans overnight. Place the dried beans in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain the water from the pan and cover the beans with fresh, cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Simmer the beans on low heat for 30 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through. Drain the beans.
Combine the cooked beans, roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture comes together and continue pureeing until the spread is smooth. Add the feta cheese and puree just until incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.