Archive for the ‘Cooking Club’ Category

Kim’s Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

Last month’s cooking club was hosted by the lovely Kim, our lone vegetarian. One of my favorite cooking club conversations occurred thanks to her eating habits, (plus a few glasses of wine and some sheer honesty).

Bianca: “Kim. To be honest, I didn’t know if I’d like you after I heard we had a vegetarian in the club. But I really do. You are fantastic.”

Kim: “Thanks, Bianca. I’m happy I changed your mind.”

Appropriately enough, her theme was a vegetarian fall harvest, which was delicious. One of the highlights from the meal was a creamy, slightly spicy pumpkin soup.

This recipe serves eight.


4 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

2 tsp minced garlic

1/8 to ¼ tsp crushed red pepper

2 tsp curry powder

½ tsp ground coriander

Pinch of ground cayenne pepper (optional)

3 (15 oz) cans of 100% pumpkin (or 6 cups chopped roasted pumpkin*)

5 cups vegetable broth

2 cups milk

½ c brown sugar

½ c heavy cream

1 tsp salt


Pumpkin SoupMelt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stir often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for another minute.

Add pumpkin and 5 cups of broth; blend well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Transfer soup, in batches to blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return to saucepan.

With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring. Add cream and salt. Adjust seasonings to taste. (More cream if too spicy). Pumpkin Soup

*To make pumpkin puree, cut a sugar pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds and stringy stuff, lie face down on tin-foil lined baking pan. Bake at 350 until soft (45-60 min). Cool, scoop out flesh.*


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Caprese Salad

This salad is so simple and perfect for summer. My lovely friend Alli, (one of the cooking club members), introduced it to us during our grilling-themed July club meeting. It’s simply a caprese salad, sans tomatoes, and replaced with mangoes instead. The sweetness of the mango paired with the bitterness of the balsamic is a refreshing flavor combination.

A traditional caprese salad is supposed to represent the colors of the Italian flag. Obviously, switching out the tomato changes things a bit. Not to worry, the new colors are the same as the Indian flag. Ironically enough, they are also the largest producer of mangoes worldwide.

Ingredients:June 2009 007


Fresh mozzarella

Fresh basil leaves, minced or whole

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper


Peel and slice mangoes into thin slivers. Slice mozzarella into thin slivers as well. Place on a plate in alternating order, mango then mozzarella, and so on.

Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle basil leaves, salt, and pepper on top.


Caprese Salad

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Cooking Club

The Girls

This story takes place almost one year ago.

Last September, I was out enjoying a gigantic German beer during Oktoberfest with three of my girlfriends. There we were, huddled up on two giant, wooden, Deutsche Bierhaus benches, brainstorming activities that didn’t revolve around the the meat market that is the bar scene. I suggested starting a cooking club, and we all agreed it would be a perfect way to spend a weekend night. The Girls

Our first meeting was last October. Since then, we have continued once a month. Here’s how it works:

 There is a standing group of 11 girls, all mid to late 20s. (We also have some additional guest appearances by other friends). The hostess plans the menu around a theme of her choice, does the grocery shopping (or delegates items), and invites the club into her home. The cost never exceeds $15 a person. A fair price for a gourmet dinner, with no rush to leave the table. She sets up stations in her kitchen for each course. The club breaks off into mini groups and tackles their recipe of choice. Wine, of course, is necessary and strongly encouraged. We cook, we eat, we laugh and share stories. We leave the hostess’s house with smiles and full bellies, and sometimes, leftovers.

The Cooking ClubTo be honest, at the beginning of this I would not have thought the club would have lasted this long. We’re all so busy now. Sometimes it feels like we need to make an appointment just to talk on the phone. Not everyone can come to every meeting, and that’s ok. It is still strong. This club has provided an incredible opportunity to establish new friendships and foster those that already existed.

I’d like to share our first menu with you. I hosted, and the theme was California Cuisine. I wish I had more pictures of the food, but I don’t. In fact, these pictures aren’t even from our first meeting. They were taken during my birthday dinner last February. We had a wine expert come in for a tasting, thus the excessive number of empty glasses. But it is the same group of girls, so that’s all that matters. Know that everything was delicious.

California Cuisine
October 24th, 2008
First Course
Cheeses with baguette and apple chutney
Pastureland Herb Gouda
Cypress Grove Midnight Moon
Berger de Roncastin
Fresh beet salad with orange vinaigrette and goat cheese
Grilled rack of lamb with thyme
Mushroom risotto
Crème brulee with fresh berries
 The girls
 Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette
3 pounds fresh beets
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons good olive oil
½ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
Cut tops of beets and place in large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and cool beets. Peel and dice beets into ½ inch cubes. Place in a bowl and add raspberry vinegar, orange juice, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, red onions. Mix well. Serve with crumbled goat cheese on top.
Grilled Rack of Lamb with Thyme
1 lamb rack
Heat charcoal grill. Cut lamb racks between bones. Spice each side with salt, pepper and thyme. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side. If charcoal grill is not available use a sauté pan on medium-high heat.
 The girls
Risotto with Mushrooms
3 ¼ ounces vegetable broth
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms
1 cub Arborio rice
½ cup dry sherry
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and sauté one minute. Add wild mushrooms; cook about 8 minutes or until tender. Add rice and stir to coat. Add sherry and cook until rice absorbs it, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high. Add broth, ¾ cup at a time. Wait until each addition is absorbed until adding another. Stir frequently until all broth is absorbed. Stir in parmesan cheese and serve.
Crème Brulee
2 1/3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup sugar
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sautee cream, milk and sugar to almost boiling. In a separate bowl, beat the whole eggs and egg yolks together. Whisk the heated mixture into the eggs and return to the saucepan. Cookover medium heat, stirring constantly withwooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into custard dishes or shallow baking dish about 9 inches across. Place on pan in center of oven. Pour hot water into outer pan to come level withcustard. Bake 35-45 minutes. Remove, cover and chill. Sift brown sugar over top of custards. Flambé with culinary torch.

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