It was the beginning of the year, and the air was filled with New Year's resolutions. But, since "resolutions" has become somewhat of a dirty word, I will use "intentions" and "goals" as its euphemisms from now on. One of my personal goals was to spend more time in the kitchen, invite friends over for dinner more often, and to connect with other creatives in my town beyond the social media.
I also wanted to get out of the cooking rut I found myself over the last few months, possibly years. My husband and I found ourselves playing it "safe" in the kitchen by cooking the same "go-to" things over and over or simply making Trader Joes frozen meals. It is hard to be adventurous when my 5 year old wants to eat dry pasta for every meal, should I let her.
I am sure you noticed, there are SO many new cookbooks out there, and the rate they are coming out at is growing exponentially. And while I want to try some of them, I don't necessarily want to buy all of them, or at least not before I know that they are any good. Plus, I already have a good dozen or more of cookbooks at home. Thus, an idea of sharing cookbooks while sharing the meals lead me to start a cook book club. I called it Cookbook-ish, and on my birthday in February I decided to try it out with close friends before extending the invitation to more people. It was a great success, and I am now ready to let it see the light of day. So, if you are reading this and want to be a part of it with me, please reach out!
How it Works:
1. We meet once a month or every two months.
2. I choose a cookbook (a new one or a classic).
3. Those who already have the book (or choose to buy it right away) pass it around to those who aren't ready to commit in advance of the meeting. Some classics are probably available in the library.
4. Each person puts their name on a few recipes they are interested in making (but in the end will end up making just one)
5. A week before the event I come up with a cohesive menu based on what everyone chose and assign specific dishes to people who chose them.
6. Everyone cooks their respective items at home. I have the oven warmed up for any dishes that get cold in transit.
7. We eat! And drink! And talk! And plot the next gathering.
For our inaugural meeting, I chose the book I got for Christmas--Alison Roman's DINING IN. I have heard so many good things about it, and her chocolate chunk short bread cookies were becoming an internet phenomenon. Naturally, I made the cookies first, and they became my gateway drug to the rest of the book.
Our group was small (5), so adding a few extra touches didn't take too much time. I painted our dinner menus by hand with watercolor ink. I used a sprig of wax flower to pin down the sides of the menus. It served a functional purpose and it looked pretty!
Since my dining table is wee, keeping table settings simple made sense to allow space for the food (the important part!). Having a business specializing in table and kitchen linens came in very handy. Since I always test the items I put in the shop, I have a set of almost everything in my linen drawer. For this dinner party I used linen napkins in Heather Gray. A complete list of tabletop items is at the end of the post.
While we all agreed that every single thing on the menu was stellar, the one dish that everyone raved about was the burrata salad with tangerines, shallots, and watercress. Here is the recipe.
Alison Roman's Burrata with Tangerines, Shallots, and Watercress, from DINING IN cook book:
1 shallot, thinly sliced into rings
1 table spoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 8oz ball burrata
3 tangerines, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
3 cups small spicy greens (watercress, mizuna, arugula)
Flaky sea salt
1. Toss the shallots with lemon juice in small bowl and season with kosher salt and pepper
2. Tear, slice, or cut burrata into pieces and arrange them on the serving platter.
3. Scatter the tangerine slices around burrata
4. Combine the shallots and spicy greens, and season with salt and pepper. Toss and scatter around the burrata mixture.
5. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
If you'd like to be involved in the future Cookbook-Ish gatherings, be sure to sign up for my news and updates, follow this group on Instagram (@cookbook_ish), or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how you would like contribute. I am looking for passionate home cooks who want to try new recipes and share them with people. I am also looking for hosts, photographers, guest stylists, vignette-arrangers, flora foragers, dish washers, and story tellers. AND...there is always a spot at the Cookbook-Ish table for those who may hot love to cook, but are rich in wine, bread, or sparkling water. If this sounds like you, I would love to have as part of the Cookbook-ish adventure!