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What to Serve at Your Next Book Club

3 recipes to make for your literature-loving friends.

My wife loves me, my wife also loves her book group. This is a tight knit group of ladies; they formed the group when we left the city, and while they certainly talk about the book, they also spend equal amounts of time catching up. A big part of each month’s book group get together is the food, ring a bell with anyone? I wonder sometimes if her book group is a veiled excuse to get together and enjoy great food and wine?

Hey, maybe I need to join a book group. But I digress…

We have been asked on numerous occasions if we could cater for a book group. Yes we have, many times. In planning the menu’s for these occasions, I like to create menus that are bright, not too fussy and can be eaten at a leisurely pace between what I have heard are rather lengthy discussions (the 50 Shades meeting was forever!)

Here are my three favorite lunch time recipes for your next book group that I know my wife and her friends would love. Not only are these recipes completely delicious, but they can be made in advance so you won’t be running around the kitchen all morning!

Caramelized Onion and Three Tomato Tart

  • 1 package of frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 5 cups thinly sliced purple onions
  • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. dry thyme
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2-3 heirloom tomatoes, preferably different colors, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • ½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan divided
  • 1 tbs. chopped basil
  • kosher salt & pepper

Defrost sheets of puff pastry dough in refrigerator for one hour or 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch square, then transfer to a large baking sheet. Place on a cookie sheet and set aside until ready to use.

Lay tomato slices on paper towels in a single layer. Sprinkle liberally with salt and let rest for approximately one hour.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a very large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook on for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and cook onions another 15-20 minutes until they become golden brown, sweet and caramelized. Add thyme and wine. Cook 2-3 minutes, until most of the moisture has evaporated from the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine goat cheese, ricotta, ½ cup of parmesan, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir to combine well. Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When cooled, spread caramelized onions evenly over the bottom of the puff pastry. Place dollops of the cheese mixture on top of the onions and spread evenly to the edges of the crust using a small offset spatula.

Blot tomato slices with a dry paper towel before layering on top of the cheese mixture. Finish the tart by sprinkling 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and a grind or two of black pepper.

Place tart in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheeses are melted, crust is fully baked and all layers are warmed through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before removing slicing into 6-8 pieces for serving.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Store 3-4 days in the refrigerator. For best reheating results, place slices of tart in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes.


Salmon with Citrus Yogurt Sauce

1 (3-lb) piece salmon fillet without skin
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
For sauce
1 C. low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. finely grated fresh lime zest
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mild honey (to taste)

Preheat broiler. Line rack of broiler pan with foil and lightly oil foil with some olive oil.

Pat fish dry and check for bones by running your hand over fish from thinnest to thickest end. Remove any bones with pliers. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper, then broil 4 inches from heat 7 minutes. Cover fish loosely with foil and continue broiling until just cooked through, 7 to 9 minutes more.

While salmon broils, whisk together all sauce ingredients in a bowl until combined. Fish can be served room temperature or warm.

Orzo Arugula Salad with Ricotta Salada, Almonds & Cherries

3 tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby arugula
1 lb. cooked orzo
½ cups toasted sliced almonds
4 oz. chopped ricotta salata
½ cups dried cherries
¼ cups finely chopped fresh mint leaves

In a small pan, warm oil over medium-low heat. Sauté garlic until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer garlic and whatever oil remains in the pan to a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons zest, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Add remaining ingredients, toss to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made 1 day in advance.