15 November 2009

Intimate Gatherings


Chronicle Books has an excellent track record with the production of cookbooks. They tend to favor a slightly small and square format, the paper stock is thick, the photography is beautiful and while they might not be as exhaustive as some cookbooks, but every title is solid and true to their titles.

Intimate Gatherings feature meals for groups of two, four or six individuals set in each season of the year. Ellen Rose runs a cookbook shop, The Cook’s Library, in Los Angles and Jessica Strand is a journalist and writer. The purpose of this book is to provide an outline to prepare simple and uncomplicated meals for small gatherings.

Each menu begins with a “Meal Manger” which provided an outline or a “to do “ list for the meal. You can begin the meals at least three days or an entire week before your gathering. The recipes are simple and you have probably seen most of them before. I am not sure that is such a bad thing in this instance. The idea of the book is to create an intimate gathering, bringing together a small group or even a single friend or lover to share a meal. The communion is the most important ingredient.

I wouldn’t mind communing with someone who made me this cobbler.

Aunt Jennie’s Mixed Summer Fruit Cobbler

1/4 cup walnuts

Topping

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Filling

5 cups mixed fresh fruit, such as peeled, sliced peaches or nectarines, and blueberries or blackberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or more depending on the sweetness of the fruit0
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt


Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Put the chopped walnuts in the pan and roast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes.
2. To prepare the topping: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla and beat for another minute. Add the flour and beat until just combined. Stir in the nuts by hand. Roll the dough between two sheets of waxed paper into a square the size of a baking pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. To prepare the filling: Place the fruit, sugar, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan.
4. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the filling is hot and bubbling. Remove the pan from the oven
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Peel off the top layer of waxed paper, place the dough on the fruit, and peel off the remaining piece of waxed paper. Tuck any overhanging pieces of dough between the fruit and the sides of the pan. Cut 3 or 4 small decorative slits in the dough with the tip of a sharp knife. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is pale golden.
6. While the cobbler is still warm, run the blade of a small knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Serve warm with a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

While the meal manages are spelled out in this book, they are a good idea to plan any party, large or small. Next time you plan a meal, think of what you can make ahead, plan it out a bit and make a simple to-do list. It will make your part of the meal a lot more enjoyable.

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