Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book Group

Amid a week which was contained in a month that is part of a life that is pretty kid-centric, there was Book Group. Book Group is like a spa-day packed into 3-4 hrs. minus the facials, mani's and pedi's but heavy on the girl talk and emoting (femoting?). There is always plenty of wine, delicious food, and chocolate in one way or another. It was my turn to host, and for several days I ruminated over what to make. I wanted the menu to be decadent and delicious but at the same time light. Spring is starting to poke through all the snow, and that alone is cause for some celebration.

The evening began with my German dip which is a lot like Hungarian liptauer cheese, but not as pink (it's the paprika), and a white bean and sundried tomato dip/spread that has no cream or butter but is thick and creamy and tasty. I served the dips alongside wholegrain crackers, pita chips, soft pretzels, boiled fingerling potatoes and other fresh veggies. We sat in the den sipping wine and nibbling and waited for everyone to arrive. This month's book selection was "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout. What a great book! It's about this difficult woman-Olive Kitteridge- who lives her life in Crosby, Maine and the book is written from her perspective as well as the perspective of many number of people who live in the town and and how she, and they fit into each other's lives. Incredible writing, I really loved reading the author's words.

After everyone had arrived we moved into the sunroom/breakfast nook where I had set the table with my girliest pink tablecloth with matching napkins, festooned with eiffel towers and elegant dames. They all settled in, inhaled deeply and looked forward to Girl Time. I made 4 savory tarts; a balsamic shallot with sundried tomatoes and feta, a sweet onion and cheddar, a goat cheese mushroom, and a tomato gruyere. I made the dough for two of them, and it was well worth the moderate effort. For the other two I used puff pastry which was fine- but definitely not as good. I served Caesar salad alongside the tarts- which was a great complement, light, crunchy, green, savory.

A great thing about Book Group is that it is made up of wonderful women who are not part of my everyday life. So when we get together it's a special treat. I especially love it because the energy of our gatherings is so different from my everyday life of kids, and kiddie cooking classes, commitments, and homework and dinner and bath and bed. That's not to say that my life is devoid of fun social inetrludes. Of course there are the quick coffee breaks, and comfy dinners for two, also hot tub soaks- but also friendly miscommunications and the Differences between men and women. Book Group is like a support group on vacation. We have three or four hours uninterrupted hours to be with girl friends and drink wine, eat, and talk freely.

For dessert I made a chocolate layer cake. I used a cup of strong coffee and four 4oz. bars of semi sweet chocolate as well as cream and butter. It was good, and I got all the endorsement I needed when Shan took a break from Lent and enjoyed a small wedge of it. Remembering those soft and chewy peanut butter cookies from the Reading Street Terminal Market, I made a batch of PB cookies- not as soft and chewy, but still good. I sent Les Femmes de la Livre home with plates of cake and cookies. Today's root canal went down easier thanks to last night's group healing.

Ridiculously Chocolatey Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven 325F. Grease two round cake pans. In a large bowl combine 1 1/2c. sugar, 1 1/2c. all-purpose flour, 3/4 tsp. baking soda. In a saucepan simmer 1 c. strong coffee- remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 c. chopped semi sweet chocolate- stir until melted and smooth. Then in a second bowl whisk together 1/2 c. melted butter, 1/2 c. sour cream, 2 eggs, and 2 tsp. vanilla extract. Add the melted chocolate to the wet mixture, mix well. Add a third of choc-sour cream mixture to the dry bowl, mix well. In two more additions add remaining choc-sour cream mixture, mix well after each addition. Divide batter between two cake pans. Bake for about 35 mins or until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool.

For the Frosting: In a saucepan bring 2/3 c. heavy cream, 5 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp. sugar, and 3 tbsp. water to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat, add 2 c. chopped semi-sweet chocolate mix until melted and smooth. Add 1 tsp. vanilla. Refrigerate until cool and thick enough to frost cake with.

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