Book club: winter

I’ll start here: I’m in a book group. In addition to enjoying books, we all also enjoy cooking. So when we gather each month, the food we prepare and enjoy makes our group as much a dinner group as it is a book group.

We’re a bit of an odd group, partly because we’re co-ed (and wouldn’t have it any other way), but our routine is just like any other book group rotating from house to house each month. With the exception of Hillbilly Elegy, we read only fiction, and mostly new fiction. In December we read a short story instead of a full-length book (because, holidays…).

Because we’re an odd group, what works for us, food-wise, on our book group nights might not work for anyone else. But if you are in a book group (or club), co-ed or not, and your group is as dedicated to food as to reading, then maybe this will help if you’re on the schedule to host in the next few weeks. Even if you’re not in a book group, one of these ideas might be just the thing to get you motivated to have a few friends over one winter night.

And, for the record, “The Stew” really is good, particularly when made with some strong, fresh ginger (if ginger is appealing to you). Whether you make it exactly as the recipe specifies or modify here and there to make it your own (I added lime and doubled the stock), it’s a hearty comfort on a cold night..

Curious about the books my book group has enjoyed recently? Here are a few we really liked:

  • Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
  • Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls
  • An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
  • Leaving Atocha Station, Ben Lerner

Southwest

Scottsdale

Tacos make for easy entertaining. Prepare all of the individual components, and then let everyone assemble their own plates. The bonus is that people can pick and choose without having to feel impolite about it.

Instead of standard taco bar taco fare, try some spicy chicken paired with cool mango (or peach) salsa and a bunch of cilantro. It’s a lighter version of the traditional taco night but still with the hot-sweet combo.

Love to Cook: This Bobby Flay recipe for Grilled Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa is easy but requires a long marinating time for the flavors to develop fully.

Weeknight Reality: This recipe for Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos uses pantry spices instead of fresh ingredients for the chicken, which makes prep faster (although there’s still a required marinating time). You could use frozen mango pieces instead of fresh to speed things up for the salsa.

Need a Miracle: If you’re making the chicken at home, there’s no way around marinating time. This recipe from La Tortilla Factory uses prepared spice rub, though, so it’s really about as simple as simple can get.

Mediterranean

olives

So, you didn’t plan dinner and you don’t feel like cooking and it’s hot outside? Yeah, here too. How about a platter of fresh vegetables and Mediterranean treats, scooped up from the olive bar at your local market?

Mediterranean Platter (Greek salad, stuffed grape leaves, olives, hummus, grilled lemon chicken, etc.)

Love to Cook: This Composed Greek Salad makes a pretty presentation, and a hearty vegetarian meal. For a different twist, try this hummus made with white beans and anchovies.

Weeknight Reality: Here’s a Greek salad that’s ready in 15 minutes, even with homemade dressing. Provided you have a food processor, this simple hummus is also super quick. Serve with some store-bought stuffed grape leaves and a tray of olives.

Need a Miracle: Yep, you’re buying it all pre-made from the market, or take-out from Taziki’s.