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Winter, 2004
Book Bytes
A Newsletter for Lovers of Books and Food

from the authors of The Book Club Cookbook

As the holidays draw near, our thoughts turn increasingly to food… and books…as gifts, of course! In this issue, we celebrate the spirit of the season with reading recommendations and holiday recipes from book clubs across the country, along with some terrific gift ideas. And while we delight in bringing you news from book clubs around the country, we want to hear from you, too. Please consider entering our contest to win gift baskets for your book club, or just write to tell us about your book club, if you haven't already.

We wish you a happy, healthy holiday season, and a new year filled with the warmth of good friends and good food, and the luxury of time to curl up with a good book!

-- Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

If you have purchased copies of THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK for gifts, or plan to do so, we'd be happy to send personalized bookplates that will adhere to the inside of your books. Simply click the link below and send us the recipients' name(s), your mailing address, and the date by which you need the bookplates. We'll do our best to meet your deadline!

Please note: If you need bookplates in time for Christmas, we must receive your email by December 15.

And if you're planning to give THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK as a gift, why not nestle it in a basket with one of the featured titles in the book, along with the ingredients to make the featured recipe?

Check out this Book Cutting Board, available from the Bas Bleu catalog. Made of maple with a walnut "spine", each board resembles a hardcover book, perfect for serving cheese and crackers at a book club meeting or for using as a kitchen cutting board. Click link below, then enter "cutting board" into search box.

Has your book club prepared food to match the theme of a mystery? If so, tell us about it! We're looking for the most creative, compelling pairing of food with a mystery novel. Please send a brief description of your favorite mystery/culinary pairing by January 15. Each member of the winning book club will receive a copy of Alexander McCall Smith's THE FULL CUPBOARD OF LIFE: MORE FROM THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY, the latest novel in the Mma Precious Ramotswe series, and a sampler of red bush tea, or rooibos (Mma Precious Ramotswe's favorite beverage) from Kalahari Red Tea, along with a Ladysmith Black Mambazo mini-CD. (Limit: 15 members)

AND THE WINNER OF OUR LAST CONTEST IS… The Last Chapter Book Club of West Springfield, Massachusetts. They won the Book Bytes Fall contest calling for a creative menu paired with a novel. Last Chapter members created a multi-course dinner based on Laura Esquivel's LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, including Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce), Pollo Ala Con Mole Salsa (Chicken Wings with Mole Sauce), Roja Chile Arroz Con Gamberi Y Tocino (Red Chile Rice with Shrimp and Bacon) and Mexicano Queque (Mexican Brownies). Thank you to the twelve members of The Last Chapter Book Club for describing their sumptuous feast! Each member will receive a BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK apron.

When it comes to choosing books, nothing beats a recommendation from a book club. We asked the book club members we've met through our public appearances and our website about their favorite book club selections, and we're pleased to share their advice with you, along with some of their food pairing suggestions.

The Pre-Oprah Saturday Morning Book Club of Dallas, Texas, recommends:
"This story of an Afghan family is told in searching detail by a Norwegian journalist who lived with bookseller Sultan Khan for three months in the spring of 2002. The book helped us awaken to the joy and abundance of our free and pampered society. We were heartened by the universality of the entrepreneurial spirit. And we enjoyed the small details, such as what it's like for a woman to move about in a burka, covered head to toe and able to see just what is directly in front of her."

The Wormies of Clearwater, Florida recommend:
"We loved this book because of its format - a diary written from a woman's point of view [Napoleon's wife]. We liked that it's historical fiction and a little bit slutty, too. It features a strong woman working in the shadows of a strong man, and really describes the times they were living in."
Paired with: French cheeses with crackers, French wine, croissant sandwiches, fresh fruit, and Napoleons.

The Yet Unnamed Book Club of Viroqua,Wisconsin recommends:
CROW LAKE by Mary Lawson
"There is so much in this book--children surviving the traumatic loss of both parents; the older son giving up his chance at an education to keep the family together; the rivalry between the two brothers that escalates into a frightening physical battle in their home; an ominous situation with a neighboring family. What we loved about this book is that it made us re-think our own perceptions and opinions. It made us think and feel very deeply."

Reading Moms Book Club of Antioch, California recommends:
WICKED by Gregory Maguire
"WICKED tells the story of Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West. We are drawn into a world so unlike the story we've all grown up on. Painted as a purely sympathetic character, she grows up to set out and make the world a better place by battling the forces of evil. The hostess had several of the many versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ for us to flip through. WICKED will rock your world. We gave it our highest marks...5 out of 5 stars."
Paired with: "Devilish Concoctions," including a dip set inside the head of Frankenstein and a punch made with floating gummy worms and spiders. (Also, see Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe below.)

The Wine & Words Book Club of Chicago, Illinois recommends:
"These stories contain all the hallmarks of great literature distilled to their essence -- what Capote achieves in the space of these few pages many authors would need hundreds of pages to match. I re-read this collection every other year, and I never fail to marvel at Capote's ability to evoke time, place, and emotion in these stories."
Paired with: fruitcake, because much of the story in A CHRISTMAS MEMORY involves Capote baking holiday fruitcakes.

In the past few months, THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK, and the clubs in our book have been featured in the Boston Herald, the Kansas City Star, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and more. And if you live in New England, look for us on Chronicle, WCVB-TV's evening newsmagazine, scheduled for December 15. (Check your local listings for exact date and time). Click on the link below for a complete list of media coverage.


John Hornburg, chef at the Milwaukee School of Engineering's Great Books Dinner and Discussion Series, created "A Hopeless Christmas Dinner" in honor of the dysfunctional American family portrayed in Jonathan Franzen's novel, THE CORRECTIONS. Some of the dishes? Neurotic Caesar Salad, Roast Duck with Excessive Anxiety, and for dessert, he served this Candy Cane "Corporate Greed" Cheesecake.

Hornburg says you can substitute ricotta cheese for cottage cheese.

For the crust:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
For the batter:
  • 12 ounces cottage cheese
  • 12 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons clear mint-flavored liqueur, such as White Creme de Menthe
  • 1-1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped candy cane
For the topping:
  • Whipped cream
  • Miniature candy cane
To make the crust:
1. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan.

2. Wrap aluminum foil around exterior of pan (to prevent water seeping in from water bath while baking).

3. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon into melted butter.

4. Press graham cracker mixture into bottom and sides of pan, coating evenly.

5. Set pan in large roasting pan.

To make the cheesecake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat cottage cheese and cream cheese.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Beat until smooth.

4. Add milk, mint-flavored liqueur, and sour cream, and blend well. Fold in chopped candy canes. Pour batter into prepared springform pan.

5. Set roasting pan on oven rack. Add enough warm water to come halfway up side of springform pan.

6. Bake for approximately one hour, or until top is slightly golden. Center should jiggle, but perimeter of cake should be set.

7. Remove springform pan from water bath and cool cake on wire rack to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight before serving.

Top cake with whipped cream and a miniature candy cane, if desired.

Yield: 12-16 servings

The Second Sunday Book Club of McComb, Mississippi paired a pumpkin bread pudding brulee recipe from with Gregory Maguire's WICKED, a book they enjoyed. (Also see recommendation above.) Instead of brulee, we added a delectable caramel-rum sauce, making this a devilishly good holiday treat.

Note: The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Re-warm over low heat before serving.

For the pudding:
  • 1-3/4 cup half & half
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 slices cinnamon raisin bread
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon almond flavored liqueur or hazelnut flavored liqueur such as Amaretto di Saronno or Frangelico
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
For the sauce:
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
For the topping:
  • Sweetened whipped cream
To make the pudding:
1. Stir half & half and granulated sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove saucepan from heat and cool to lukewarm.

2. Spread butter over 1 side of each bread slice. Cut bread in cubes. Place cubes in the bottom of an 11x7x2-inch glass baking pan.

3. Whisk pumpkin, yolks, egg, liqueur, vanilla, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl until blended. Add half & half mixture; whisk until smooth. Pour pumpkin custard over bread in pan. Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread to submerge.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place glass pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of glass pan. Tent loosely with foil. Place in oven and bake until knife inserted into center comes out clean - approximately 1 hour.

5. Cool glass pan completely on rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To make the sauce:
Whisk all ingredients in medium saucepan to blend. Whisk over medium-high heat until beginning to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, whisking occasionally, about 25 minutes.

To serve: Re-heat pudding in 325 degree oven. Serve topped with warm sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

Yield: 6-8 servings

If you celebrate Chanukah with your book club, why not try a twist on traditional potato latkes? Amber Masud, a member of the Networking Association of South Asian Professionals Book Club in Washington, D.C., contributed her recipe for aloo tikki, spicy southeast Asian potato cutlets, to THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK. You can leave the applesauce and sour cream behind… but don't forget to prepare the creamy green chutney (yogurt sauce) to cut the heat on these spicy potato treats.

Look for the aloo tikki recipe on p.159 of THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK.

Through our website and public appearances, we continue to hear from new book clubs about their favorite books and in some cases, the foods they've paired with their selections. In each issue of Book Bytes we'll introduce you to a new book club, and their recommendations for pairing food and literature.

The Second Sunday Book Club of McComb, Mississippi recommends THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS by Anne Rice

An invitation from the Second Sunday Book Club is hard to refuse. When Christy Keirn invited the women of her club on a weekend get-away to discuss Anne Rice's THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS, a novel about Free People of Color living in 19th century Louisiana, she attached notes to voodoo dolls. "The notes warned members not to miss the trip, or they would regret it!" says Keirn.

All 14 members made the 2-day trek to New Orleans, where they found themselves drawn into the world of Rice's work of historical fiction, which Keirn says "brings to life a period of history that few understand or are even aware of."

To immerse themselves in the setting of the novel, the group dined at Muriel's, a restaurant housed in a restored mansion around the corner from a former school for Free Men of Color. "The mixed china and silver and other touches brought us back to the French Quarter of the 1800s," says Keirn. They dined on gumbo, a food mentioned in the book. "We could feel the world of nineteenth century New Orleans and the Free People of Color, a dazzling but damned class of people caught between the worlds of white privilege and black oppression," says Keirn.

Most Second Sunday meetings, of course, take place in members' living rooms, but invitations to these meetings are as intriguing as the invitation for THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS. For Stephen King's DELORES CLAIBORNE, about a housekeeper accused of murder, the hostess delivered "subpoenas" to each member to testify on her behalf. And invitations for Philip Roth's THE HUMAN STAIN, about a professor having an affair, appeared as ransom notes with letters cut out of the newspaper. "I thought it was a local scandal, and then I realized it was our book club invitation," says Keirn.

We'll continue to discuss our book, host panels on book clubs, and cook up dishes from our book at bookstores, libraries, book fairs and for private groups through 2005. If you're in the neighborhood, we'd like to see you at one of these events! For a complete list of our upcoming appearances, click here.

Order your copy of THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK

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