Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Very Special Year-End Report from the CCR Book Club

Our CCR Book Club coordinator, Nicoletta Barbarito, has sent us this wonderful year-end report on activities, including a selection of delicious recipes!

This was a particularly successful year for the CCR bookclub!

Our multicultural/multinational membership rose spectacularly to 14,  with an enthusiastic average attendance of 11 at every meeting. Books are selected collegially every 2 months on the basis of individual proposals.

Meetings are held from 7 p.m. to 10:30 pm in members' homes and include a potluck supper. We read books in English by authors from different parts of the world. Among them, this year we read DEAR LIFE by Alice Munro, the Canadian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Our reading list was as follows (*marks the final overall preferences):

Aravik Arviga, THE WHITE TIGER * 
Jhumpa Lahiri, THE LOWLAND
Penelope Lively, HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Alice Munro, DEAR LIFE

The bookclub will re-start at the end of September 2014 and the reading will be
David Grossman, TO THE END OF THE LAND. 
Committed new readers are welcome!

By the way, our potluck suppers have turned unexpectedly into banquets -- never mind the calories! -- so, in case you are curious, voilà some recipes for dishes we enjoyed this year.

Chocolate cake (with no dairy products)  - Jeannine Ouimet

3 eggs
1/2 cup each of HOT water, powdered UNSWEETENED cocoa, vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar
3 cups of flour
1 little bag of "Pane degli Angeli" or 1 tsp baking powder

Mix all ingredients well.  Bake in greased and floured pan in pre-heated oven at 180°C for 40'.

Greek Phyllo Pastry Cheese Triangles  -  a big hit! -  Eleni Menegatos

1 1/2 cups of feta cheese
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1/1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 eggs
phyllo pastry (It may be a challenge to find it in Rome! Eleni finds it at Castroni, Metro and Elite supermarket. You can freeze phyllo but thaw it well in advance. When making the triangles, be sure to cover the phyllo not in use with a damp cloth so it does not dry out.)

Crumble the feta cheese into a bowl, add the other cheeses and the eggs, mix well.  Set aside.
Melt some butter and set aside. You will need a pastry brush to spread it.
Remove phyllo from package and cut it in 3 equal size long strips, about 7cm apart.
To make the triangles:  use one strip at a time, brush some melted butter over it. Spread one tbs of the filling on top and fold in the corner over it. Take the pointy end and fold it again and again. Your pastry should start to look like a triangle; continue folding until you run out of pastry and you will have your first triangle! Repeat this until you have used all the phyllo.
Place all the triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush melted butter over each triangle. You can sprinkle sesame seeds on top if you wish.
Bake in 180°C preheated oven for 15 minutes.  You can also refrigerate the triangles or freeze them for 20 minutes and bake without thawing them.

Orange and Almond Cake  - Diane Dennis 

2 oranges
250 gr white sugar plus some for sprinkling on top
6 eggs
250gr almond meal
1 tsp baking powder

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Wash the oranges and cook in the boiling water for 2 hours. Drain, let cool and puree. All this can be done ahead of time.
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Grease a 22cm spring form cake and line it with parchment. Preheat oven to 160°C (140° for convection ovens).
Beat eggs and sugar until well mixed. Stir in the orange puree then the almond meal and the baking powder. Pour into the prepared pan and dust the top with icing sugar. Bake for 1 and 1/4 hours until the top is golden.

Apple Cake - Françoise  Rastel

4 eggs
80 gr of sugar
100 gr of flour
pinch of salt
1 small liqueur glass of rum
1/2 litre of milk

Mix everything in a bowl.

500 gr of apple slices

Put the apple slices in a buttered pie dish  and  pour the mixed dough  on top.
Cook in preheated oven for about 45'.
Before serving sprinkle some sugar on top.

Vignarola, traditional Roman spring vegetable dish  -  Silia Fasciani

300 gr fresh shelled peas
300 gr fresh shelled fava beans
300 gr fresh artichoke hearts, quartered
1 head of Romaine lettuce
1 or 2 onions
half a glass of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: bits of fried bacon/pancetta

When spring is no more,  use frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones!
In a large saucepan sauté chopped onion in oil until they are soft and transparent, then add half a glass of water and salt.
Add peas, fava beans, artichokes and chopped lettuce leaves. Cover saucepan and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender. Add bacon bits at the end, if you like them. 
Vignarola is just as good when reheated. Good with Basmati rice on the side too. 

Jellied fruit dessert  -  Nicoletta Barbarito

oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise
pineapple slices (canned pineapple slices are OK but be sure they are well strained)
kiwis, peeled and sliced crosswise
bananas, peeled and sliced crosswise
strawberries, whole if small, otherwise cut in half
powdered clear gelatin - TORTAGEL brand, easily available; one bag is enough for 10 servings
Amount of fruit depends on number of servings, each has one slice of every type of fruit.

On a flat serving platter, make individual mounds by placing on top of each other thick slices of pineapple, orange, kiwi, banana, strawberry.  Prepare the jelly according to package directions - i.e. add water and sugar to powder, bring to a boil, let cool for 1' only otherwise it overthickens;  pour gently over the fruit mounds to cover them all. Keep refrigerated until serving time.