Tag polenta

Parties That Cook’s August Cookbook Club: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Last week, the ladies of Parties That Cook gathered around the office’s kitchen table (you better believe we have a kitchen in our office!) for August’s Cookbook Club. It had been a while since our last lunch, having skipped July’s Cookbook Club, and it was clear we were all excited to bring it back.

This month it was Erin’s turn to determine our fate select the featured cookbook. She went with Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (of London). This book provides large, beautiful photos of the completed recipes. They’re quite inspiring. Prime example: Beth got ahold of the cookbook early on. She not only found it a difficult to pick a recipe, but ended up tagging the book with so many post-its you would have thought it was her go-to cookbook! I’m pretty sure she ended up buying the book for herself.

And now, on to the recipes:

Watercress, Pistachio and Orange Blossom Salad – After blatantly calling her out in the previous paragraph, it’s only fair that we put Beth first. Her vibrant salad provided a great break from the bold flavors found in many of the other dishes. After the effort it took to narrow down her selection to this recipe, I cannot wait for Beth to bring in some of her other creations from this book! (Fingers crossed)

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad – Talk about a gorgeous menu item! Heather selected this crisp, refreshing salad – a great option for those with dietary restrictions celebrations. Heather was pretty pleased with her salad, though she did wish there was a bit more flavor to the rice.

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango – Roxanne brought in this delicious dish, and let me just say: YUM. These cold noodles cook very quickly! And though she removed them from boiling water before the recipe had advised, Roxanne still thought they were overcooked. Nonetheless, everyone loved the light, mild citrus flavor of this salad. I enjoyed the leftovers all week!

Eggplant with Buttermilk – Michelene went with the cover recipe – a beautiful, simple dish we all welcomed onto our plates. Michelene said she could see herself making this recipe again for her next get-together.

Stuffed Zucchini – Crissy, also impressed with the amazing photography in the book, claimed the Stuffed Zucchini for this cookbook club. The results: DELICIOUS. On a normal day, one stuffed zucchini could probably serve as lunch in itself. On a cookbook club day, however, we feast!

Mushroom and Herb Polenta – As usual, Rebecca was one of the last to pick her recipe, but this time, it proved worth the wait! This buttery, cheesy side tastes best hot out of the broiler. And while I’m sure one could easily eat a heaping helping of this polenta for lunch or dinner, I’d definitely recommend a light salad to offset the rich flavors of this dish.

Lemon and Goat Cheese Ravioli – Rosie elected to make fresh ravioli, vowing to put her pasta maker to use. Mission. Accomplished. Though they lost some of their heat waiting for certain slow pokes to get their contributions to the table, these giant raviolis were so tasty! I don’t think ONE single ravioli made it to the fridge.

Caramelized Garlic Tart – Bibby selected her dish early on, and boy did she choose wisely! This fantastic tart had a great, crumbly crust (thank you, puff pastry!), and you really can’t go wrong with goat cheese. Perhaps this dish really did live up to it’s hype as the “most delicious recipe in the world,” but I’ll let you decide.

Surprise Tatin – Erin took the cake (pun intended, as we quickly learned this book did not offer dessert recipes!) with the Surprise Tatin. What’s so surprising, you ask? Would you be surprised if I told you those were potatoes layered across the top of that puff pastry tart? BAM! This tart was also quite delicious (another victim of wonderful goat cheese).

Christina was unable to cook for this cookbook club, as she hosted a huge summer bash the day before. Luckily for us, she decided to contribute a simple, delicious (addictive) drink instead! Lemonade + Strawberries + Mint + a dash of Sparkling Water is really the only way to go on a warm summer day. Mmmm!

Notice anything missing from this lunch? (Besides mention of Laura, Kelle or Tanya, each of whom were unfortunately unavailable.) How about MEAT?! That’s right, Plenty is a vegetarian cookbook. And you know, we didn’t miss the usual meaty centerpiece at the table this time. Together, our dishes brought a wholeness to the meal, proving that you don’t need meat to have a truly satisfying lunch/dinner/party. We had PLENTY.

Parties That Cook’s July Cookbook Club: Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen

This past Monday, the Parties That Cook office staff got together to take a culinary journey to one of PTC’s cities in the Pacific Northwest. Can you guess which before the next sentence? Without leaving the office, we were able to enjoy Italian food, Seattle-style! It was Carolyn’s turn to pick the book for July’s cookbook club meeting, and with a little help from Bibby, she chose New Italian Kitchen. Ethan Stowell, named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in America in ’08, put this cookbook together featuring mouth-watering pastas, meats, soups, salads and desserts.

The photos are beautiful and really inspire you to jump in the kitchen! For the most part, the recipes are pretty simple. Steps are clearly laid out, and there is little guessing involved except when it comes to seasoning. We decided that seasoning is specified less in cookbooks that come from restaurant chefs. Still, the recipes in New Italian Kitchen are easily executed (and executed well) by home cooks. There’s even a “Building Blocks” section with recipes for kitchen staples!

We had 11 people in attendance, including two guests: Laura, a great sous chef out in the field, and Liz, our new PR contact in San Francisco! Boy, were they in for a treat. Get ready for a recap of this feast of smaller proportions!

Antipasti Platter: Cassandra was originally going to redefine “off-roading” by selecting a recipe from another MAGAZINE. But prior commitments got the best of her weekend, and she so nicely offered to supplement our meal with a delicious antipasti platter of assorted meats.

Heirloom Tomato Soup: Melissa, our NEW Warehouse Manager, participated in her first PTC cookbook club this month! She brought in Heirloom Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons, and with the guidance of Cassandra, found the courage to off-road on the very first step in the recipe. Rather than using raw tomatoes, she opted to cook them before puréeing. They weren’t the ripest to begin with, which left Melissa a bit disappointed by the final result.

Swiss Chard with Golden Raisins: Michelene selected this recipe, which originally contains pine nuts, despite being allergic to pine nuts! An easy fix: she left them out. The resulting sautéed chard was delicious! Most, if not all, of the bitterness chard is known for disappears in the process.

Lentils with Pancetta: Rebecca chose this recipe in a mad scramble the Friday afternoon before our meeting, and she chose well! Everyone loved this simple recipe that differs from “normal” preparation in that the lentils are pre-cooked with veggies, and served with fresher, non-mushy vegetables and pancetta.

Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta and Pine Nut Salsa Verde: Crissy stole the show with this dish! Her homemade Ricotta was addictive and the Pine Nut Salsa Verde was the perfect addition! Trust me, the photo looks exactly like the book’s!

Grilled Polenta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Pounded Anchovy Sauce: Rosie’s dish was fantastic! Nobody would have guessed that there were sardines present in the recipe until Rosie told us – a good sign.

Frittata with Morels and Savory: With this dish, Carolyn proved that Savory is more than just a flavor. Her frittata was delicious, and there was no evidence of a struggle despite the Stowell’s warning that skillet size and frittata thickness is everything.

Penne con Pomodoro e Aceto Balsamic (Penne with Tomato and Balsamic Vinegar): Bibby called Cassandra’s bluff and literally off-roaded, as she went car camping this weekend. For the trip, she made a dish Cassandra introduced us to back in May. ‘Twas a crowd-pleaser then, remains a favorite now!

Blueberry Basil Sorbet and Cardamom Sablés: Beth selected the dish that sparked a heated debate over the pronunciation of sablés. The accent mark says it all: Delicious. The sorbet was a crowd favorite – not too sweet, not too savory – and paired perfectly with the cardamom cookies!

Goat Cheese with Chestnut Honey and Hazelnut Dust: Erin brought in this delicate dessert, and being the “civilized” bunch that we are, we loved it! The combination of a light goat cheese and an Italian honey that was not overwhelmingly sweet (a substitution for Chestnut Honey) was AMAZING. A great choice from the section titled “Cheese for the Civilized and Desserts for the Rest of You”!

Though some of the dishes felt like they belonged on a winter menu, the general consensus was that with so many delicious recipes to offer, New Italian Kitchen is a great cookbook for home cooks. Keep an eye out for a potential themed cookbook club in the future: French Laundry, anyone? Just a thought: maybe we should take a day off from work to make those recipes a reality.