Oh, delicious, beautifully ripened summer vegetables. You make me weak in the knees just thinking about the abundance of sweet deliciousness that you provide during the too short season of summer in Baltimore. I love vegetables, specifically locally grown seasonal vegetables. Can you tell? I also looooove summer. So, imagine my delight when I happened to fall in line as CBC host during the month of July, when two of my favorite things were in full swing. I knew for a fact that we would be going vegetarian (a lifestyle I currently practice, except for the occasional indulgence at CBC) and I found the perfect book to bring out the best in all things vegetable: Plenty – Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. It seriously delivered and even the most hardcore of the carnivores left the table completely satisfied. So, enough talk, let’s get to it! First up, a pretty summer table:

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And a few indulgent photos highlighting some of the goods:
Maria’s fixins for her desserts (more on that later)
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Garlic galore…

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Oooooh!  Zucchini!
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Okay, enough shenanigans.  Back to business!  Our first course of the night was prepared by Renee.  She chose to make the Quesadillas for the appetizer and they were INCREDIBLE.   The quesadillas were stuffed with a creamy black bean paste, sour cream, and a beautiful salsa that included fresh tomatoes (YUM!) and avocados.  The quesadillas were then grilled to perfection and devoured by all.

Here’s pic of that gorgeous salsa:

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And here are those tasty quesdillas.  My mouth is watering just looking at this picture.
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Next up was a Garlic Soup and Harissa prepared by Joanne.  This soup received mixed reviews.  Those who could handle a lifetime supply of garlic in one bowl of soup were in heaven.  It did have great flavor, but after a few spoonfuls, I definitely found the flavor to be a bit overpowering for my taste buds.  Not to mention that my kitchen and most of my clothing smelled like garlic for about a month after this was made.  So, a small word of advice if you decide to make it:  Cook it outside on the grill, or else you will smell like garlic indefinitely.  Here’s a pic of all of that garlic from above and onions sautéing:
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And here is the final product:  Gorgeous!

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Next up was Elizabeth’s Cucumber Salad with Smashed Garlic and Ginger.  I think the title describes the ingredients quite sufficiently, but it doesn’t even come close to describing the power punch of flavor this salad packed.  The onions were marinated in the dressing for over an hour and the sweetness of the onions and ginger mixed beautifully with the tangyness of the dressing.  Beautifully balanced if you ask me!
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Finally we made it to the main course.  As a vegetarian, you tend to eat a lot of pasta.  Mainly because it’s quick and easy, but also because you can pretty much throw everything but the kitchen sink in and it will still taste awesome.  To add a little carb load to our dinner, I decided to make the Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad.  I know, I know, it says salad in the title, but I promise it served it’s purpose as a main course.   The sauce was a sweet basil pesto and the zucchini wowed with flavor after being fried and then marinated in red wine vinegar.   It was a tasty as it looks.
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And finally we made it to dessert.  Maria prepared the Pear Crostini, which consisted of grilled pears, goat cheese, and sour dough bread.  They were very tasty, athough, I think we all agreed that a drizzle of chocolate would have added the perfect amount of indulgence to finish out the evening.
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Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad (Serves 4)

Ingredients:
2/3 c sunflower oil
3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3/4 c frozen edamame
2 cups of basil leaves, shredded coarsely
1/4 c parsley leaves
1/3 c olive oil
salt and black pepper
9 oz stozzapreti or penne
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp small capers
7 oz buffalo mozzarella, torn by hand into chunks

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Fry the zucchini slices in a few batches, making sure you don’t crowd them, for 3 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides; turn them over once only.  As they are cooked, transfer to a colander to drain.  Tip the zucchini slices into a bowl, pour over the vinegar and stir, then set aside.

Blanche the edemame for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain, refresh under running cold water and set aside to dry.

Combine half the basil, all of the parsley and the olive oil in a food processor, adding a bit of salt and pepper.  Blitz to a smooth sauce.

Cook the paste until al dente; drain and rinse under a stream of cold water. Return to the pain in which it was cooked.

Poor the zucchini and their juices over the pasta.  Add the edamame, basil sauce, lemon zest, capers and mozzarella.  Stir gently together, then taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper.  Before serving, stir in the remaining basil.

The January Cookbook Club, hosted at Casa de Dunn, was filled with celebration, amazing food (as usual), and an uninhibited frenzy of fun!   We were also joined by a Baltimore Magazine photographer, who had the pleasure of documenting our monthly kitchen chaos.   The book for the evening was “Tapas – A Taste of Spain in America,” by renowned DC chef, Jose Andres, which provided many flavors and delights to our awaiting taste buds.

The evening started with a champagne toast to celebrate our spotlight in a “supper club” article in the upcoming March issue of Baltimore Magazine.   Cheers!

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I also picked up some gorgeous (and quite tasty) olives from the store to tide us over while the rest of the dishes were being prepared.

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And so began the procession of tapas…First up was Renee’s dish, Austurian-style Salmon, which is the fancy name for salmon ceviche.  Renee splurged at H-Mart and bought the good sushi grade salmon and it literally melted in your mouth.   The salmon was mixed with a medley of apples, juniper berries, blue cheese and salmon roe and dressed with a tasty apple cider vinegarette and chives.  The flavors and textures greatly complimented each other, although Elizabeth and I thought the salmon roe was a bit much.

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Next up was a refreshing salad from Julie, the Frisee with blood oranges, goat cheese, almonds, and garlic dressing.  I bet you can guess the ingredients she used!  The salad had a beautiful balance of bitter and sweet, with the blood oranges being the shining star.  They were perfectly ripened and juicy.

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Joanne went all out this month and decided to make two dishes.  First up were the Traditional Catalan flatbreads, which featured handmade dough topped with carmelized onions, roasted peppers, and manchego cheese.  Here’s a picture of Joanne adding the fixins…

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and here’s the finished product fresh out of the oven…

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Joanne also made the Morish-style chickpea and spinach stew, which finally brought the spice to the table.  Perfectly textured chickpeas in spicy spanish saffron and paprika broth and balanced with fresh spinach.

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Meanwhile, Elizabeth was busy making Serrano ham and chicken croquetas.  The croquetas had an crispy crust and a decadent creamy center that was bursting with flavor.  We paired these with the chickpea stew, which provided a nice contrast.

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And we’ve finally made it to the “main course” of the evening, a chicken and mushroom paella. I was really excited to test out my new paella pan and I was pretty satisfied with the results, although, I think it took a little longer to make than I had anticipated. Saffron is the main spice in this dish, and worked well combined with the chicken, serrano ham, and mushrooms. I honestly think the mushrooms (shitake, chanterelle, and oyster) were the star here and brought the most flavor to the dish.

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Maria was tasked with dessert, and while she was preparing, we decided to have an impromptu dance party (these are becoming a regular thing when cbc ladies get together).

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Back to business!  Maria was also adventurous and made two desserts.  First was a flan prepared ahead of time due to the timing in the recipe.  I’m normally not a huge fan of flan (ha!), but the flavor of vanilla and lemon zest, topped with gooey melted sugar syrup was out of this world.  I’m drooling just thinking about it again.

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Finally, we sprinted to the finish line with Maria’s Rustic Bread with dark chocolate, olive oil, and salt.  I know that you’re thinking “this sounds weird, how will this ever taste good?”  But trust me, it was pretty spectacular.  The chocolate mixed with the salt, was pretty heavenly, and how simple is it to melt chocolate on bread, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.  I love simple and delicious!

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Our evening tour of spain was a success and I think all of the dishes had something unique in flavor, whether it be a spice or an interesting pairing (e.g. chocolate and olive oil. say what?!). And while I would never claim that the cbc is as talented as Jose Andres, I think we did a solid job of recreating his vision and ended up with an amazing array of dishes to enjoy.

Thanks for tuning in and don’t forget to check us out in the March issue of Baltimore Magazine!