For March, we cooked from two highly acclaimed cookbooks published this past year. Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden highlights mostly savory dishes, so we opted to complement it with a dessert cookbook, Stella Parks’ BraveTart.
Six Seasons features vegetable-centric dishes that encourage seasonal cooking. Josh McFadden’s career includes training and experience as both farmer and chef; his time on the farm was the inspiration for the premise of this book: there are actually six seasons for produce. Using vegetables at the height of their season as a guide, he stretches summer’s bounty to early summer (beets, carrots, celery fennel, new potatoes), midsummer (broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, string beans, summer squash) and late summer (corn, eggplant, sweet peppers, shell beans, tomatoes).
McFadden uses unique combinations of ingredients to bring out the best of each vegetable. Our dishes featured quite a variety: asparagus, carrots, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, celery, artichokes, peppers, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, fennel, beets and kale - paired with flavors added by cured meats (prosciutto and salami), dairy (feta, gruyere, taleggio, creme fraiche), olives and pickles, tuna and anchovies, whole herb leaves (mint, basil and parsley), farro, homemade breadcrumbs, toasted nuts, a variety of citrus and lots of chili flakes!
BraveTart is a celebration of American desserts; pastry chef Stella Parks thoroughly researched the history of familiar favorites such as chocolate chip cookies, pies, graham crackers, even Oreo cookies and Wonder Bread and includes recipes for her best homemade version of each item.
Thirteen cooks gathered at Patty’s home to share fourteen savory dishes and five desserts. One thing that’s unique about this club is that we are encouraged to choose recipes that really push us out of our comfort zone (whether we’re new or experienced cooks). We each shared our challenges - from finding green garlic and pea shoots to making homemade sprinkles for cookies.
This month, we chose favorites from each cookbook.
From Six Seasons, the top choice was Patty’s Potato & Roasted Cauliflower Salad. What a great combination - swapping roasted cauliflower for half the potatoes, and binding the mix with a combination of whipped feta, olive oil and lemon juice. Additions of kalamata olives and peperoncini add a savory bite, along with thyme and crushed pepper flakes put this over the top.
A close second was Becky’s Gratin of Brussels Sprouts, Gruyere and Prosciutto. The sprouts were roasted with onion chunks, then baked again with creme fraiche, prosciutto and breadcrumbs. This one may just make it to several Thanksgiving tables come November!
Brussels sprouts were a popular choice for this gathering. Our final featured favorite was Jackie’s Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Carrots, Walnuts, Cilantro and Citrus Vinaigrette. Served, as suggested, on a bed of farro. The sprouts were cooked on top of the stove, then tossed with pickled carrots, nuts and sliced scallions. What made this dish so tasty was the citrus vinaigrette - zests of orange, lemon and lime were added to honey-sweetened white wine vinegar and olive oil. We loved it!
So many desserts and so hard to choose a favorite. But two were transcendent:
Linda’s Magic Key Lime Pie (which earned her a standing ovation for making her own graham crackers for the crust AND homemade condensed milk for the filling!) was everything a key lime pie should be. Tart, creamy and utterly delicious.
Shelley wowed us by baking her own birthday cake:
One-Bowl Devils Food Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting. Despite a slight misstep with the frosting (which was easily rectified and not noticeable in the end result), this 3-layer beauty was everything one would wish for in a chocolate cake: dark, moist and rich. The milk chocolate frosting was like thick chocolate whipped cream mousse, so smooth - and it added a most needed balance to the dark dense chocolate cake. A real winner!
A million thanks to our most gracious host Patty, a real-life Wonder-Woman who ran 20 miles that very morning to prepare for the Boston Marathon. Again, a most enjoyable afternoon filled with great food, friends, and fun. Until next month!
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