Today I wanted to take a little time to share with you my cooking club – we meet every month for dinner prepared by all of us from the same cookbook. It made me smile to see in a recent copy of Sunset Magazine that cookbook clubs are becoming more and more popular. I got the idea for mine from Ellen Rose’s cooking group The Spoons. Ellen started The Spoons back when she had her much missed Cook’s Library, that little sanctuary for all good things written about food, on 3rd Street. As a nod to its origin and because we have our hubbies join the fun, we named ourselves The Mother Forkers. We have had many great evenings since we started the Mother Forkers a couple of years ago – and the food has been exceptional. I like the excuse to buy a new cookbook and then it also forces me to cook something new and different. The friendship through food and the laughter we share means these gatherings are good for the mind, body and soul. Just like these beautiful daffodils on my counter – every time I walk into the kitchen they make me smile – their sunny color, the promise of spring and the distinct narcissus scent.
At one dinner Chef Ludo Lefebvre came and taught us those all important knife skills – he then spent a lot of time ‘expressing himself’ as he critiqued our attempts to cook from his book Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses. This coming weekend Minty has decided that she is cooking dinner for Krissy and Ludo on Saturday – her menu is a secret but she doesn’t seem phased at the idea of cooking for a famous French chef. In the photograph above I have included some of my other favorites that we have used for dinners and that I now cook from all the time. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi never fails and we often bring back a couple of veggie dishes to accompany a meat or fish dish from another cookbook – roasted fennel seems to be a popular choice. Our inaugural dinner was from the River Cafe cookbooks (The Cafe Cook Book: Italian Recipes from London’s River Cafe by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers is shown above). It was a spectacular evening – I made the lemon basil risotto which has become a family favorite. Chanterelle: The Story and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic is full of excellent recipes for a special occasion or when you really want to have fine dining at home. The olive oil poached wahoo with a red pepper sauce has been cooked up many times and the recipe shared with guests who ask for it. At the top of this pile is Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain which we shall be cooking from this month at a tapas dinner. This really is a bible and I think the biggest tome we have yet tackled. I am excited to explore the food of my childhood holidays and I’m baking pine nut cookies that I remember so well at seven years old.
At our last Mother Forkers dinner we cooked from Coleman Andrew’s new book The Country Cooking of Italy. What I loved about this dinner was that every dish was delicious – I had been really skeptical when I had first looked through the book to pick out our menu. I made a simple fish dish – we coined the term ‘rustic’ to describe the dishes we all cooked up – and this describes the flaky white fish over onions, olives, and grated tomato. For me the best dish of the night was the mussels that Caroline, our lovely host, made. The photograph above shows her mise en place and the book open to the recipe ( I love the fact that my book, Made in America, is on her kitchen counter nestled in with Eric Ripert, Neelam Batram, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay). Below is a shot of the finished dish.
We all commented on how easy this dish was to make and how we rarely cook mussels. Ever since that night I have become a little obsessed with mussels. So much so that when I had them at Cooks County recently I suggested to eat there again soon afterwards with a different friend – just to get my mussel fix. I like the heat of the red pepper flakes and the sweetness of the pea tendrils – both easy additions to the original Andrews’ recipe which comes from the fortified port town of Alghero in northwestern Sardinia.
Inspired by Coleman Andrews Alghero style and the mussels at Cook’s County.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 springs Italian parsley minced
8-10 basil leaves, julienned
4 anchovy fillets, mashed with a fork
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 pounds small to medium mussels – thouroughly scrubbed and debearded
1 cup pea tendrils
salt and pepper
sourdough toast to mop up the juice
1. In a large pot big enough to hold all the mussels heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, parsley and basil and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. In a small bowl mix together the anchovies, wine and vinegar and then add them to the large pot and stir well. Add the mussels and pea tendrils and cover. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes, until the mussels open, shaking the pot periodically. If you still have one or two mussels that aren’t open, do not serve these – discard them.
3. Toss the mussels in the sauce before serving in 4 bowls with thick slices of sourdough drenched in olive oil. The extra sauce can be served in a bowl on the side for dipping.