Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Club night

I've belonged to a book club for about 17 years. There are still 3 women in the group that originally invited me to join. Women have come and gone but we have had this group for several years now and it is wonderful - warm, soul satisfying and fun. There are many great cooks in this group and some who need to grab something on the way due to work, kids, life. One of the main wonders of this group is the lack of judgement-you didn't read the book, you're still welcome, have to come late, no problem, can't make a dish for the potluck, please don't worry there is always plenty of food. No lie!

Last night was a feast as usual. Here's the menu.

Megan-smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers on sliced whole grain bread
Adeline-pita chips with hummus and olives
Victoria-baked stuffed mushrooms
Jennifer, the hostess-Chicken Marbella, challah and sweet potatoes
Jan-roasted butternut squash
Annalisa-mixed green salad
Trish-red velvet cake and fresh fruit
me-Israeli couscous
lots of wine and bubbly water and tea

Jennifer suggested couscous to go with her chicken and I found a recipe on that sounded simple and delicious.

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Parsley my way

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup pine nuts 
1 large shallot , finely chopped
2 1/2 cups Israeli toasted couscous
1 small cinnamon stick
1 dried bay leaf
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
small handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped 

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts and stir until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to large serving bowl.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in same pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until golden and soft, about 10 minutes. Add couscous, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf and stir until couscous browns slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add broth and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until couscous is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir and fluff and let cool slightly.

Add couscous to bowl with pine nuts and stir in parsley. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.

The couscous was delicious with the chicken and butternut squash and would work well with other meats and vegetables. It would also work well as a 1 dish meal with chopped vegetables like steamed broccoli, roasted red bell pepper and chopped ham or cooked chicken.

The meal was lovely and the company even better. It's a treat to eat these dishes that my friends have cooked and brought and to discuss our books, our kids and our lives. Here's to many more. Enjoy!

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