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need to cook for 8 women, book club is at my house this month. Eeks!

Everyone in the book club knows I took cooking classes recently. I am having them over for dinner/book club in 2 weeks. We usually meet at a restaurant. I don't want to spend a ton but I want it to be nice. I was thinking pasta or maybe chicken and potatoes with a salad..... I could do spaghetti, ceasar salad and garlic bread.... and I need a dessert too. How does that sound? Do I have to do appetizers? We may just order in Thai if I can't figure something out;)

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  1. Do you normally sit around a table to eat? I can't really see eating pasta off my lap while holding an open book. Just something to think about. But maybe you do eat at a table, in which case, if pasta is something you're very comfortable with, then by all means go for it. You'll impress them the most by not being stressed, so something you know you do well, like a good pasta, would be best.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LulusMom

      we can all fit at my table and chat. We usually don't open the book during our discussions when I come to think about it.

    2. What is the book? Maybe there's inspiration there?

      3 Replies
      1. re: AnneMarieDear

        Olive Kitteridge, nothing about food in the book but it is set in Maine.

        1. re: danionavenue

          Hi Danionavenue! My book club read Olive Kitteridge recently, and I was in charge of the dinner. I decided to serve food that was suggested by the novel, just because this helps to decide the menu. There's not a whole lot of focus on food in the book (with the exception of the chapter about the anorexic girl) but there are some hints. I served Lobster Pie (lots of lobstermen in Maine) a salad with blueberries, brownies (remember the scene at the funeral when Olive eats all the brownies?) I would have made blueberry muffins (muffins appear in the book) but they seemed kind of extraneous! I also made a fresh corn salad, for no reason except that corn is such a seasonal New England favorite.
          BTW, we all loved the book. I heartily recommend it.
          P.S. Lobster is fearsomely expensive unless you live near to a source --somewhere coastal in the East. I ended up making a Lobster Pie using fake lobster (I think it's hake) in a casserole with mushrooms, cream, and sherry, topped with fresh breadcrumbs. Real Lobster Pie is supposed to be topped with buttered Ritz Crackers but I was going upscale! ;-) Anyway, people scarfed it up. I liked that I could make it slightly ahead and then bake it for the meal.

          1. re: Goblin

            that was so funny when she ate all the brownies ha ha

      2. My fragile male ego quails at the thought of keeping 8 women satisfied at the same time.

        Take a theme from the book your reading. Hopefully there is some alliteration to food. Or the region of the world it is located in. When all else fails, breakfast with eggs to order always impresses and always is looked favorably upon in the early evening.. Save angst and use the Knorr hollandaise. And definately prep for the omelets.

        So what is the book?

        1 Reply
        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          "My fragile male ego quails at the thought of keeping 8 women satisfied at the same time."

          Best smile of my day so far.

        2. I'm just imagining 8 women trying not to drip red sauce down the front of their nice clothes as they eat pasta. I wouldn't do pasta; I'd do something that is easily eaten but scrumptious. Since it is dinner, rather than lunch, I wouldn't do a quiche or an egg dish. I'd find a casserole that has nice ingredients and is somewhat rich. Putting it in the oven to bake will be much easier than trying to boil pasta, make sauce, make salad, etc. Do a nice casserole, a really nice salad with lots of tastes, buy bread from a good local bakery, and the day before make a dessert. Serve coffee, if the ladies like it, or what ever beverage you think they will like. I agree that using an ingredient or two that echoes something from the book is a great idea. Here is just a little secret: most people just want the dessert anyway. If most of your meal is nice, and the dessert is extra special, they'll think your meal is wonderful!

          3 Replies
          1. re: sueatmo

            If I did a casserole would I start the meal of with a small plate of salad and bread, then serve say, Shepherd's Pie in a low profile bowl if you will? Is Shepherd's Pie a coastal dish? What kind of dessert of go with that. I was going to make a trifle for one last time since it will be winter soon but that won't fit. Maybe pie and ice cream on the side with coffee?

            1. re: danionavenue

              You could certainly do that! Since shepherd's pie is pretty heavy, I would look for a lighter dessert. But that is just me. A really simple dessert is a scoop of very good quality sherbet in a triangle of fresh melon. You could drizzle just a bit of a good chocolate syrup over that. But your friends probably want a 'real' dessert, and if you are up for it, you could make a cake or pie, or fancy brownies. There is no one on the face of the earth who does not love a fancied up brownie.

              1. re: sueatmo

                starting to think I want a 1 plate meal and shepperds pie will kind of take up the whole plate. Will consider another casserole. Or, back to chicken potatoes and salad...

          2. I too am in a book club and we go to someone else house each time - host does the main dishes and the guests bring the appetizers, desserts and drinks - we find less pressure that way and takes some of the burden off the host. We are all in Manhattan or Brooklyn with small kitchens and living rooms and this is what we’ve had so far:

            Pozole, guacamole
            Baked Macaroni and Cheese, salad
            Big sushi platter and other cold salads (beet salad, orzo salad, kale salad etc.)
            Summer roll bar - this was a hit - rice paper, tofu, mango, cucumber carrot, mint, basil, various sauces and people made their own
            Burrito bar - with all the fixings ordered in from a local Mexican place and then everyone did their own.

            One of the best desserts we had was pretty simple, someone sliced a baguette, put some chocolate on it and baked it until it got melty and then sprinkled it with coarse salt when it came out of the oven.

            1. How about a blueberry dessert as a nod to Maine. Or maybe doughnuts.

              1. I have a dish that I love, most other women love, is easy to serve to a group and is no fuss: Wild salmon with roasted tomatoes over polenta.

                Make polenta--I usually saute a couple of minced garlic cloves in olive oil with tarragon and a drop of crushed reds. When garlic is soft, add half chicken/veg/or seafood stock and half water and bring to a boil, then stir in Bob's Red Mill Polenta. This can be kept warm while you do the rest and chat with your guests.

                Meanwhile put (maybe 4 packs--or 2 large packs) of grape tomatoes in a caserole dish. (I know it is tomato season right now and given my moniker here, I LOVE tomatoes from the gardern--but this application calls for grapes. Of course garden grown grape toms would be terrific, but store bought are OK here.)

                Toss grape tomatoes in olive oil, S&P and roast at 400 for about 45 minutes--stirring often. By 45 minutes they will be falling apart but still juicy. Now take wild salmon fillets (I even use the frozen wild sockeye from TJs to good effect) that you've dredged in ground flax seed seasoned with a bit of tarragon, cayenne, S&P.

                Lay the salmon on top of the tomatoes and roast for another 8 minutes more (I like mine rare inside-do it for longer if you don't). The beauty of this dish is it tastes terrific, it's extremely healthy-whole grains and flax, salmon, olive oil, flax. People will be astounded at how tasty it is and that it is irreproachable healthy at the same time.

                Moreover, it's easy on you as you can do the polenta, roast the tomatoes ahead, dredge and set aside the salmon fillets. When you are about 10 - 15 minutes before dinner, lay the salmon on the tomatoes and warm up the polenta. Serve the salmon over polenta with roated tomatoes over top.

                It's so good. Even non-salmon lovers love it. If you have a guest who just hates/doesn't eat seafood--give them a bit of chicken instead (cooking time will vary, of course).

                I even served this at an Easter dinner for about 14. It's THAT good.

                Anoher nice feature of this is none of your guests will have had this SeaSide Tomato original. :)


                2 Replies
                1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                  That's a beauty of a recipe, SST: but I always hesitate to provide Fish for a group unless I know for sure the entire group enjoys it and can have it. Something similar could be achieved using chicken - the cherry toms. are making my mouth water!
                  (You could also do a really super mock-Wellington thing w/ chicken breast, boursin, and puff pastry; encased and baked; served with a side salad w/ a lemony vinaigrette?

                  1. re: mamachef

                    omg mama = that is a throwback of yesterday! and was that a great dish - thanks for reminding me! i also did it with mrs. weinberg's chopped liver in the chicken - and i can't seem to find that product anymore.

                2. A giant main dish salad with bread? (I am a sucker for grilled chicken with grilled peaches, romaine and a raspberry vinaigrette...) Then dessert.

                  Or, a main dish soup or chili. This way no cutting or worrying. Just a bowl o food, a carb and room for dessert.

                  Though man, that fab summer roll idea is making me hungry!

                  1. We rotate homes for our 6 woman book group, and I once served a chicken and rice pilaf similar to this:
                    I subbed portabellas for some of the chicken just for fun. it is good hot or at room temp and was a big hit, simple, satisfying, delicious, not fussy. Can sub any veggie for peas, though they actually work well. i would serve a seasonal salad or some sliced tomatoes on the side and a fruit crisp for dessert., a la mode, for fun. You do not need appetizers at all, this is not a dinner party, it is a meeting of your book club. Women don't usually want a ton of food.
                    We loved Olive K, btw.

                    1. so blueberry and doughnuts are maine desserts? Maybe I could make something with both of these ingredients??? thoughts?

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: danionavenue

                        Blueberries are the official Maine state fruit, and the official Maine state desert is blueberry pie.

                        You could also make blueberry muffins, blueberry buckle, blueberry parfait, blueberry sour cream cake, blueberry crisp, blueberry peach cobbler, blueberry sour cream pie--or just blueberries with a topping like honey cream., to name a few from a New England cookbook I use. Oh yes; I've been served blueberry doughnuts too, (and blueberry bagels for that matter) though personally I don't think of muffins or doughnuts as a dessert for after a meal. But doughnuts are consumed so often in the book--maybe you could think of a way to feature them.

                        Remember that wonderful children's book by Robert McCloskey, "Blueberries for Sal"? Won the Caldecott award (arguably the most prestigious award for children's picture books, at least in the US.) It is set in Maine.

                        1. re: Goblin

                          i want blueberry dessert right now.


                          1. re: Goblin

                            Wonderful book. So cute when she cries out, "Clam chowder!" :)
                            (Ot, but his Make Way for Ducklings is lovely, too.)

                            1. re: AnneMarieDear

                              OT, but I agree with you about "Make Way for Ducklings."
                              As a (retired) children's librarian, i could never resist reading these both aloud once a year.

                            2. re: Goblin

                              I don't have kids and am way behind on childrens book but I did buy my goddaughter President B. Obama's book as part of their x-mas gift last year if that gives me any points

                              1. re: danionavenue

                                It does! Gotta keep those kids reading!

                            3. re: danionavenue

                              Blueberries are Maine, doughnuts because I thought they played in the story.

                              1. re: danionavenue

                                Blueberry donut trifle. Layer cubes of blueberry or other flavor donuts (or blueberry muffins) with vanilla pudding/custard, whipped cream, and fresh blueberries.

                              2. Chicken Marbella is delicious, can be made ahead, and the recipe serves 12. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/mem... I would serve it over farro or couscous.
                                Add a simple green salad, good bread, and maybe a store-bought dessert.. Perhaps a fruit tart with blueberries. Anything you can prepare ahead and just stick in the oven is a win-win!

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: dulcie54

                                  I am going to make Sheila Lukin's Chicken Marbella from The Silver Palate Cookbook. I even found a youtube video on how to make it. I am also going to do garlic (not too heavy on the garlic with some romano cheese) mashed potatoes and a nice salad (leafy greens, tomatoes, red onion, basil, salt pepper olive oil balsamic). Dessert is still up in the air but it will have blueberries in it and I like ice cream or whipped cream with my desserts.

                                  1. re: danionavenue

                                    You will love this. Make sure you let it marinate it overnight. I often cook farro, let it drain, and then quickly saute it with some cream and caramelized shallots. It's delicious with the Marbella!

                                    1. re: dulcie54

                                      i have yet to cook or taste farro - although i cook with most other grains. Can you describe what it is similar to? is it more like a pasta - and perhaps like israeli couscous?

                                      1. re: smilingal

                                        denser than Israeli couscous, nutty flavor.

                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                          i will put it on my shopping list - I think it has become increasingly more popular - I remember when I saw an episode on Top Chef (I think) in which they used farro but I couldn't find it in my store.

                                        2. re: smilingal

                                          I think it's similar to barley, but nuttier and it stay a bit more firm (in a good way).

                                  2. I just tried the Gold Coast Lobster Spread from Costco, $8.79 for a one pound (pint) container. Although it also contains surimi, the first ingredient is Maine lobster, and it is quite tasty. Stuff cucumber cups or celery ribs with it as finger food.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      I may pick some up as I am going to costco for the 4 chickens anyways. Good thoughts. Better than cheese and crackers or caprese salad on skewers which were my ideas. DANG! I wish I could do mini lobster roll appetizers.

                                      1. re: danionavenue

                                        Never deny the power of a good blueberry crumble...so easy to make the day ahead, it just gets better the next day if you don't get up in the wee hours and eat it all! And you get props for making it yourself!

                                        Something lemony is always wonderful with it. Cold lemon curd with whipped cream?

                                      2. re: greygarious

                                        That idea of Lobster Spread is a good one. Wish I'd thought of it when I cooked my Olive Kitteridge-Book Club menu. Mmmmmm.

                                        Oh yes; I almost forgot: as an edible pun you really need to serve something with olives! Either as an easy hors d'oeuvre by themselves, or as olive bread--I served an artisinal-type bread. Don't say anything and see if anyone gets it! ;-)

                                        1. re: Goblin

                                          I am going to make lobster pie someday. Your menu was perfect. Chicken is just cheaper:)

                                      3. You mentioned taking cooking classes. Is there anything you learned to make in class that you'd like to share with your friends?

                                        1. i really love this idea of cooking around the theme for bookclub! I will introduce this to my group - most of them are not cooks but we can still select pre-made things from the theme!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: smilingal

                                            Smilingal, my book club has been "cooking around the theme" for several years and we enjoy it a lot. We meet in each others' homes for a supper/light dinner--the hostess provides a main course and the rest bring things for a potluck. The hostess decides it she wants to follow a theme--usually, but not always built around the setting of the story. Anyway, some of the members don't cook a lot but there are always items that come pre-made, as you say. Next week we're discussing The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast, so mais naturellement, it's going to be French-themed. Someone is bringing a delicious runny cheese, someone else a (pre-made) fruit tart, and of course--some wine! I think the hostess is making coq au vin (another great made-ahead dish.)

                                            1. re: Goblin

                                              wish I could join YOUR bookclub! lol