Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Of Words and Wine - Food and a Book Review

Did you all know I have a book club? Yep, sure do. It’s a lovely little group. Just three of us, actually. We originally intended it to be a bigger group, but we decided that we like it the way it is, so we’re not changing a thing! We have a list of books we are interested in reading and then we draw them from a hat to decide what we will read next. We meet monthly, and take turns meeting at each others’ houses, then on the fourth month, we meet somewhere else, like at a local eatery. We just had our fifth meeting last Friday, and it was my turn to host the club. One of the best parts for me is the fact that I get to cook for people who enjoy food, and we get to drink wine, and gossip, and rant if we need to (all after we get done talking about the book, of course!)

So, for this month’s meeting, I made a selection of little appetizers that were all recipes I got from my blog reader and had never tried, They all had great potential, but for one reason or another, they all ended up being just okay, in my opinion.

For starters, I made the Tandoori Chicken that I spied on The Food of Love. It looked tantalizing and easy to make. I added some additional seasonings of my own as well (a little turmeric, some garam masala) and, while the chicken did have fabulous flavor, it fell short. You want to know why? Two reasons; One, I should have grilled it instead of using my grill pan. It stuck something fierce (I need a new grill pan) and never really got the caramelization that I was hoping for. I will be trying that one again when I have time to fire up the grill.Second, I have had this Caramelized Chili Shrimp saved for eons (but I can't remember where I got it from!), and decided this was the night I would finally try it. Both the girls really liked it, and I agree that the flavors were spot-on, but there were two things I should have done differently. One, I wasn’t about to use precooked shrimp, and the only raw shrimp I could get my hands on were pretty small, so they didn’t get to cook long enough to get that nice crust going that I wanted. Two, I committed one of the all time worst culinary sins....I crowded the pan. Yep, I was too lazy to get a bigger pan out when I realized I was out of room on the pan I was using, so I crammed them all on there and they poached, rather than caramelizing. Again, a recipe worth trying another time, with more patience.Finally, I had been drooling over these Thai Meatballs with Peanut Dipping sauce from Krista's Kitchen. You know, the meatballs were really easy and quite tasty. When I read the ingredients for the sauce, however, I paused. It called for a half a cup of peanut butter (to a mere cup of coconut milk). Having had experience with peanut sauces in the past, I decided to edit this one ingredient. I whittled it down to about a quarter cup or less, but I should have stuck with a bare tablespoon, as we all thought the peanut flavor was just too overwhelming.One last thing. Normally I drink wine when we meet, but I also found a lovely looking cocktail over at The Italian Dish and was dying to try it. The drink calls for Aperol, which is an orange liqueur, not readily found in my area. However, it reminded me that I have an unopened bottle of Orangecello in my cabinet, so I broke that out along with a bottle of Zonin Prosecco, and in place of the club soda, I tossed in a dash of lemon lime soda. It was quite a refreshing choice for a night when we actually had weather lovely enough to open the house up and feel the spring air! Definitely one I'll make again...after all....I still have half a bottle of Orangecello to use!So, all in all, I liked each recipe, but I need to try them again, with a little more effort. Lesson learned? Always have at least one “old standby” on the list when serving friends instead of using all new recipes.

For the last part of this post, I decided to try something different. I’ve been meaning to start reviewing the books I’m reading, but I just never get around to it. That, and I’m not the greatest at putting my thoughts into words when I talk about books I have read. So, I have enlisted the help of my friend Whitney, who is also in the club, and she has written up a little review for you on the book we just read, The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant.

Introducing Whitney!

Hello, I’m Beth’s friend Whitney. Before I go into my review of my Red Tent, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my background. I’m a southern gal through and through, born and raised in Memphis, TN. Most people raise their eyebrows when they hear I’m from Memphis and that’s probably because it’s featured on A &E’s First 48 weekly. However, I didn’t grow up in that part of Memphis; I grew up in Germantown, the city’s utopia. As you know Tennessee is part of our great nation’s Bible belt and I’m a God fearing girl who knows her Bible backwards and forwards, my Bible Bowl trophy from ’96 proves it. So every time I hear about a book that tells a Biblical story from another perspective, I’m really wary. The God fearing part of me feels that I’ll get sent to hell for reading this blasphemy. (Just kidding) The Red Tent really did disprove my feelings on Biblical stories told from a different point of view though. The story of Dinah is found of Genesis 34:1-31, which is roughly 2 paragraphs. The story of Dinah is tragic and I remember thinking that she deserved more than two paragraphs. For those of you who do not know the story of Dinah, I will give you the Cliff Notes version. She is Jacob’s daughter; You know Jacob? He stole Esau’s blessing. Well Jacob’s family was traveling and Shechem, who happened to be a wealthy prince decided to have sex with Dinah. In the process he fell in love with Dinah and decides he wants to marry her. Shechem’s father comes to Jacob and offers him many gifts for Dinah’s hand, including daughters for Jacob’s sons to marry. But Jacob says, “No, you and all the men in your house must get circumcised.” (That’s not a direct quote by the way) Shechem “loved” Dinah so much he granted Jacob’s wish. Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi go to the palace later that night and kill Shechem and all the men in the palace because they claimed that no man could treat their sister that way! As an adolescent I thought, “Wow, that is so cool, they’re defending their sister’s honor.” After reading the Red Tent my perspective of this Biblical story changed. I began to see the Biblical heroes such as Joseph and Jacob, dare I say it, as evil men who were only looking out for themselves. This book celebrates women unlike the stories of the Bible you’re used to and at the end you’ll find yourself wondering what really happened to Dinah.

As a side note, all three of us loved this book. We were all raised in the church, and have a background in the history of the bible. After reading this book, we now all have a different view of the women of the bible and the lived they lead. I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say we give this book a strong thumbs up!
I hope you enjoyed the recipes and the review....stay tuned for April's club meeting. We'll be reading The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver!


Mary said...

While it caused you trouble, your food looks wonderful. Have you tried soaking (24 hours) your grill pan in powdered dishwasher detergent? Sometimes it does the trick. Your friend did a wonderful job with the book review. I found your blog by chance but I'll be back often. Your blog is very interesting.

Deanna said...

I love the Red Tent! There were so many things in there that made me stop and think.

Foodycat said...

Good luck with the Poisonwood Bible! I found it gripping, but there were bits that hit very close to home and made me really uncomfortable!

it looks like a great selection of appetisers that you made - I'm sorry not all of them turned out the way you wanted!