Tag Tomato Soup

July 2013 Cookbook Club: A Summer of Salads

There is never a boring day in the PTC office. We once spent an entire week debating which cookbook to feature in our next cookbook club. Emails zinged back and forth before Christina had a brilliant idea. Everyone was asked to bring in their favorite summer dish. (The perfect theme for this girl!) Earlier that week, I visited B Patisserie in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. I was thrilled to discover a variation of  Flammkuchen, a delicious German “pizza”, on their menu. B’s substituted toasted ciabatta for pizza dough, and I was enamored with the extra chewy texture.

I knew what I was going to make for cookbook club!

Coming into the office on the day-of, the refrigerator was packed with various containers of this and that. I barely found room for my own shopping bag of ingredients. At about 11:30am, we trickled into the kitchen and started the prep-work for our dishes. We were soon peeking over each other’s shoulders and discussing the best way to plate. As completed dishes began appearing on the table, I pulled out my camera and started playing food paparazzi.

Kale Salad First up: Heather made an INCREDIBLE Kale Chopped Salad with a pleasant Spicy Peanut Dressing. I was a big fan of this tangy take on kale. Kale has a pretty distinct flavor, so the peanut dressing really added an unexpected depth. Needless to say, this was well received by all in the office.

Cabbage SaladAlso on a summer salad bend, Erica, our warehouse manager, made a delicious Cabbage Salad with Avocado and Jalapeno. I simply could NOT get enough of this. In fact, I copied the recipe and stopped by the grocery store on my way home so I could keep some in my fridge!

Tomato SaladMary surprised us with a gorgeous old fashioned Heirloom Tomato Salad from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table. I loved these tomatoes. With much more complex flavors than tomatoes you find in the grocery store, I was immediately transplanted to my favorite farmer’s market.

Mango SalsaEmily reminded me how refreshing a great Mango Salsa can be. Tangy and spicy, like a salsa should be, but with a sweetness that added even more depth to the flavor. I loved her mango-to-jalapeno ratio.

Tomato Basil SoupCrissy’s delicious Tomato Basil Soup was the perfect thing to brighten the cloudy day’s mood. Warm, comforting flavors beautifully combined with a slight citrus kick: YUM. I know what I’ll be making this winter!

PolentaRebecca made a deliciously rich Mushroom and Herb Polenta from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. Though this cheesy dish was not making it’s first appearance at our table, nobody cared. I mean, it’s addictively good. Seriously, just go make it. Only then will you understand the heaven our taste buds were in.

Pasta Salad with MushroomsKelle must have read my mind (or my stomach?) when she brought a delicious Mushroom and Herb Pasta Salad with  Corn and Feta. It was the perfect summer dish! Actually, I could see myself making a warm version in the winter. Anything to be able to enjoy this simple dish year-round.

Turkish Lettuce WrapsAt long last, Bibby had the chance to bring in Turkish Lettuce Wraps from Food and Wine. Incredible. I particularly loved the light sauce, kept on the side for drizzling pouring making it rain. Assembly was quick, as we each piled on a little of everything. And just like that, they were gone…

Chocolate Chip Cookies with ToffeeRosie made a guest appearance (cameo by her bright-eyed son, AJ) and really took our breath away with her Chocolate Chip Cookies with Home Made Toffee. Almost dangerous, they were just too good. The sticky toffee left everyone craving more.

Stone Fruit CobblerChristina has been cracking me up for the past month by literally singing praises of stone fruit… but I shouldn’t be laughing. I fully agree that stone fruit is seriously awesome, and we should sing songs about it. Anyway, with the help of Paulina, our Polish Warehouse Intern, Christina created a deliciously simple Stone Fruit Cobbler. She even left out most of the sugar to let the fruit flavors stand out. Absolutely perfect.

Sweet Corn Ice CreamFinally, Beth surprised us with Sweet Corn Ice Cream. I’ve sampled some unusual ice cream flavors in my day, but nothing quite like this! The striking corn flavor made for a slightly sweet yet oddly savory dessert. My taste buds were a bit confused, but some folks in the office were clearly impressed.

All in all, it was a great culinary adventure. We actually ended up with a pretty balanced meal (not too many summer salads), and everything was spot on! Who knows, maybe cookbook club will become more of a favorite recipe club…

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.