So Cookbook Club was a huge success. Despite the size of my kitchen (standard Brooklyn small), the size of the group (10, a lot for the kitchen), and the outside temperature (hot, not much cooler inside the house), we had a great time and somehow managed to make 6 dishes for 10 people in less time than it usually takes me to make a simple dinner for two. I didn’t even have that many dishes to clean at the end.
So what did we make and what made it work so well?
First up, the menu. Plenty was a good cookbook to start with now in the height of summer because it is all vegetables (which are ultra-plentiful), and many of the recipes don’t require that much oven time.
Our starter was marinated mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes. I made this one, so I’ll tell you a little more about the marinade in an upcoming post.
Aubergine (eggplant) with buttermilk sauce, which was delicious and beautiful and I somehow didn’t get a picture of,
Quinoa with red rice, arugula, and dried apricots, topped with edible flowers:
Grilled Pears with goat cheese and pinenut toasts (I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of these–the grill lines on the pears were so pretty!)
and Feta with Watermelon and Basil:
We also had wine, generously provided by some of our non-cooking members.
It was a great way to eat a lot of delicious food in one meal at a relatively low cost. It was also so much more fun than a dinner party, which can be stressful for the cook. In this case many cooks made a great meal, and no broth was harmed.
A few things that I think made it work…
1. The kitchen was obviously too small for more than 2 people to be in, so we spread out into the living room. There were plenty of chopping stations for everyone and we weren’t in each other’s way.
2. We each choose a recipe to be responsible for, but it wasn’t mandatory. Non-cooks were welcomed. And it was a good thing too, because we already had too much food. It also took the pressure off of each person to prepare a whole dish alone, because “non-cooks” rotated and chopped and cleaned for people who had picked a dish to prepare. They also played the very important role of keeping the music going. Records don’t flip themselves you know.
3. We all shared what we were having ahead of time so we could collaborate on groceries. No need for everyone to buy bunches of basil when one will be enough for the group to use.
4. We had enough equipment. My kitchen isn’t as stocked as some, but there were enough decent knives for several chopping stations, and enough pots and pans for the roasting and boiling that was needed.
5. A great cookbook, with interesting and varied flavors. Plenty was fun to start with because it had recipes that we didn’t have preconceived ideas about what they were supposed to taste like, so nobody felt like they had done something wrong with any given experiment. Also, everything tasted great.
6. A fantastic group. This is really the key ingredient. Everyone helped each other, cleaned up, relaxed, and praised each other’s dishes. They were also all willing to be a little silly and wear selections from my apron collection (mostly courtesy of my sewing fiend of a great-aunt). Gender experts by day (for about half the group) and apron models by night. I’m already looking forward to the next meeting.