The Cookbook Club

9 Jan

Julia Child started cooking at 32, and she said, up until then she just ate. If there is anything we learned from her and other culinary greats, is it’s essential to have a love affair with your food in life.

A cookbook club was my idea. Having more creative thoughts in a single morning than some may have in a week, combined with energy, can be more of a curse than a blessing.

I accepted the members that showed interest. Some of us have been friends for decades, while others are new acquaintances. Devour this blog post to get a taste of what our monthly meetings or meals consist of. While we are a secret group, there is no hidden agenda to cookbook club, aka the Cooka Nostra.

The time following the holidays for me is always a downer, so I thought it would be uplifting to have the Initial Meeting of Cooka Nostra in early January. In compliance with the time of year, I chose the winter section of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties! for the group. With two soups, an appetizer, ham for the main course, a side of sweet potatoes and apple crisp for dessert, we had an instant feast for seven.

Snacking on fresh vegetables with a crisp Tzatziki dip was a great way to start the night, brought to the dinner by Julie. This healthy and light snack, combined with Jason’s contribution of a refreshing Pinot Grigio, was a great palate cleanser.

Excellent to be served with drinks

Sitting down to a delicious steaming hot bowl of Fennel Soup Gratin and melted, freshly shredded Gruyere Cheese on top, is the way to any cheese lover’s heart; but while tasty, we soon learned Brad’s contribution was just a tease to our taste buds.

Not to be gluttonous, but we had two soups that evening. Matt’s Butternut Squash Soup soon followed. He altered Ina’s recipe by using just one Macintosh apple and added a little extra onion. Not only was it the group’s favorite dish, it was also the most surprising.

Many thought there was a secret ingredient to the soup

The main course was greeted with comments like, “When I eat ham it’s never this good.” That’s because Lynn, who never cooked a ham, also changed her dish with cranberry orange chutney, to bring out the orange flavor from the orange zest and juice. Like Lynn, I cannot stick to a recipe, which makes me a horrible baker. Nonetheless, I attempted the Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp. Making it healthier, I used whole-wheat flour and organic oatmeal. In the future, I’m going back to my own recipe, which is much more simple.

Ham and potatoes. It’s important to keep them moist.

Jennifer made it to the table sans her fingerprints. The night before she was scrubbing potatoes and peeling, coring and cutting apples for the Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples, a perfect side dish to the meal.

Personalities were large, giving way to festive conversation. With a group like this, one must keep a marker and dry erase board on hand for recording quotes.

There should be a lesson learned from every meal and this time I was taught, for even the biggest control freak, planning a cookbook club meeting doesn’t have much pressure and a terrific time is guaranteed.

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