My bookgroup did come over last night for dinner. It’s a new thing — we’ve met for something like 20 years, but generally after dinner. Now we have a member who lives over the bridge, and none of us have kids at home anymore, so it just makes sense that we meet for dinner. It’s a bit of effort if you’re the host — but it’s worth it. It’s so much fun to have dinner together. There are only five of us, so it’s not so difficult. I think we have better conversations, too. I think we are distracted by eating, which may somehow make it easier to talk about the book.
In any case, it was so great to have all these old friends in my kitchen while I finished up dinner, and then sitting around my kitchen table in deep and serious discussion (well, kinda, yeah).
I made this wonderful, delicious soup,
Chickpea, Tomato and Bread Soup
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 carrot, peeled, cut lengthways in half and sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup white wine
14 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes
1 Tbsp. chopped oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. sugar
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
salt and black pepper
2 large slices (4 oz) stale sourdough bread ( crust removed)
2 1/2 cups chickpeas (freshly cooked or canned which have been rinsed and drained)
4 Tbsp. basil pesto
handful of shredded basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the onion and fennel in a large saucepan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute on medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, just to soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato paste and stir as you cook for 1 minutes. Add the wine and let it bubble away for a minute or two.
Add the canned tomatoes with their juices, the herbs, sugar, vegetable stock and some salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then cover and leave to simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
While you wait, break the bread into rough chunks. Bake for about 10 minutes or until thoroughly dry. Set aside.
About 10 minutes before you want to serve the soup, place the chickpeas in a bowl and crush them a little with a potato masher or the back of a spoon; you want some to be left whole. Add them to the soup and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Next add the toasted bread, stir well and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper.
Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Spoon some pesto into the center and finish with shredded basil if desired.
And a Nantucket Cranberry Pie, as here:
This dessert from Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking (Harper Perennial 2000) is easy, pretty and delicious.
Serves 6 to 8
For the Filling:
Butter, to grease a pie plate
2 cups chopped cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
For the Topping:
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the cranberries in a buttered, 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Toss the sugar and walnuts, and sprinkle over the berries.
Mix together the eggs, butter, sugar, flour and almond extract until smooth.
Pour the topping over the cranberry mixture and bake for 40 minutes.
Someone brought a salad, and someone else brought lobster ravioli. It was great. We were on hiatus for a year or two, and I’m so glad we’re meeting again.
We read the Lobster Kings, which we decided was pretty much a soap opera. there were parts we did like — the island — and it was interesting to figure out how it could have been better (why first person, could the structure have been twisted, not make the love interest so blatant, so many blind leads (the inexplicable number of large coats) and maybe too much detail and for the love of good why did they all have to be painters?) For next month, we’re reading the Blind Man’s Garden, and we have a lead on another book that sounds like it might be good — the Visionist.
So, feeling happy, and lucky to have such good friends and good things to read.