September’s gathering, hosted by Jackie (and her friendly dogs!), showcased Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Near and Far. Heidi may be best known as the cook, writer and photographer behind 101cookbooks.com. Her newest cookbook (published in 2015) features vegetarian recipes inspired by Heidi’s travels to India, Japan, France and Morocco, as well as ingredients local to her San Francisco home. Near and Far helpfully includes a list of spices, flavors and ingredients common to each of the cuisines it highlights, as well as beautifully descriptive stories about the different locales, and of course, the absolutely gorgeous photography we have come to expect from Heidi’s work.
Our feast included twelve savory dishes ranging from the relatively familiar (Sue’s Red Lentil Hummus) to the relatively unusual (Becky’s Fregola Sarda), four delicious desserts, and one amazing beverage (Jackie’s Vin de Pamplemousse, an amped-up wine punch). We sampled some unexpected, yet tasty flavor combinations (like Jen’s strawberry salad, which included caraway seeds), learned a little Italian (fiasco style beans are traditionally cooked in a flask!) and the physics of a tagine pot, and enjoyed grains from farro to millet to quinoa on this culinary adventure.
This month, two dishes shared the first-place vote: Mary Lou’s Vaghareli Makai, a pleasantly spicy Indian corn dish with chiles, peanuts and cilantro, and Shelley’s Almond Cake, made entirely without wheat flour and just the right degree of dense sweetness. We learned about (and sampled!) Amaro, an Italian digestif that was used both as an ingredient in the cake batter and in the glaze. Bitter, yet sweet, Amaro adds a lovely but not overpowering perfume to the moist cake.
Second place went to Mary’s Farro Salad, a hearty dish including olives, nuts, raisins, and shaved Parmesan, and third place to Jen’s Strawberry Salad.
As always, we spent the afternoon in great conversation, shared our triumphs and tragedies in the kitchen, told tales of protracted hunts for elusive ingredients, and enjoyed another terrific meal among friends.
Click here for photos and recipes.