Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cooking for the Book Club

This last month my book club read The Girl From Foreign by Sadia Shephard. It's the true story of a young woman who grew up in the US with a Christian American father, a Muslim Pakistani mother, and her Muslim Pakistani grandmother...except that towards the end of her grandmother's life, Sadia learned that her grandmother was actually originally from an ancient Jewish community in India and had converted to Islam when she married. Sadia set off for India, fuelled by a Fulbright scholarship, to learn more about the Jews of India, and her grandmother in particular.

Each month a member hosts the book club meeting at their house, and usually the host provides a light supper or heavy snacks or even a nice sit-down dinner. I don't have seating in my house for 12 people nor a flat surface large enough (or clear enough of clutter) to put out a buffet for that many people. So for this meeting, Sharon and Peter hosted it at their house, and i brought the food. I did a bunch of research online and realized that one of the cookbooks that i lost either to the flooding of my basement 10 years ago or subsequent spraying by Gingy would have been perfect...The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York by Claudia Roden...but i don't have it anymore and didn't have enough time to get a replacement copy.

So i made recipes that i found online...Chittarnee, which is sweet and sour chicken in an onion sauce; a cauliflower, potato, and pea curry; and a carrot, potato, and chickpea curry. Amusingly (and to my surprise), each dish had a crushed tomato base, so all three dishes were reddish in color, but each was spiced differently, so at least their flavors contrasted. I made cucumber-dill raita as an accompaniment, brown Basmati rice to go under everything, and put out little bowls of sliced bananas, grated unsweetened coconut, cashews, raisins, fresh cilantro, and plain yogurt for garnish. If i'd cooked it just for myself, i would have greatly increased the heat quotient but since i was cooking for a dozen people with tolerance for very different levels of heat, i made all three dishes fairly mild. (The spiciest, the cauliflower dish, was hands-down the best.)

For appetizers i heated up a dozen veggie samosas from Trader Joe's, which turned out to be a challenge because Sharon almost never bakes, so her oven was quite cranky. For dessert, i brought these scrumptious frozen desserts from Island Way (had to go to Costco to get them)...they are halves of real fruit filled with a creamy (low-fat, mostly natural flavor) fruit sorbet in interesting flavors like orange-mango, coconut, and lemon.

I spent over an hour Friday evening shopping, almost all day Saturday cooking, with a quick trip up to Trader Joe's for the samosas, a fruit nut mix for appetizers, and a couple of items it turns out they don't carry anymore, and then on Sunday i loaded everything into my vehicle...three Pyrex bowls of food, the frozen desserts and appetizer, all the condiments, bowls for the condiments, pot holders, cooking timer, etc. I didn't bring a cookie sheet, but i should have...Sharon had to hunt to find one in her cabinets (but she did find one).

All in all, the book discussion was great with all of us learning a lot about each other, the dinner was tasty and well-received, and i've had yummy leftovers for dinner all week.


  1. That sounds like an interesting book and meal! I hope every one had fun!

  2. Wish we lived closer and could join your book club. Sounds like a lucky group, you fed them so well!

  3. Wowser! The description of all that lovely food has really got my taste-buds tingling! it sounds absolutely delicious - and very different! Yum yum!