Last week I hosted my book club (the first gathering of pals in my new apartment) and despite the lack of chairs, knives and exotic appetizers, I think the evening ending up being a blast. We read Rachel Kushner’s Telex from Cuba (a unanimous good read) and it prompted some very interesting conversations about privilege, race and the history of the Cuban Revolution. Heady stuff! I wish we’d read Elif Batuman’s compelling New Yorker article Reading Racist Literature beforehand to help guide our discussion (nice find Amelia).
To give you an idea of how committed we are at BC, last year when we read Night Film by Marisha Pessl, one fearless member, brought along a creepy one-eyed doll she found on the side of the road suspended inside a jello blood bath (in a salad bowl).
My menu was a little less daring, but nonetheless delicious. It included roast chicken, prosciutto and plantains (a very Cuban combo), an ABC Kitchen-inspired roasted carrot and avocado salad, and a cauliflower, eggplant, and pine nut side – a dish that pays homage to my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles and my former (incredible) employer Gjelina.
Thanks to my friend Abigail, who arrived early with everything Pina Colada related, we were set for success.
I admit that I bought the chicken and plantains (from Cafe Habana), so I won’t share that recipe. The others are below.
Abi’s Piña Coladas (serves 4)
1 cup of pineapple juice
6 oz. rum
1/2 cream of coconut
2 cups crushed ice
Basically you just mix or blend and serve with some fresh mint for color. These could also be served for dessert.
ABC Kitchen-Inspired Roasted Carrot & Avo Salad
You’ll need arugula, carrots, salted and roasted sunflower seeds, ripe avocados, a simple lemon/balsamic dressing. This salad is pretty self-explanatory. The only thinking part is the carrots. Cut them lengthways, toss in olive oil and whatever combo of Indian spices that take your fancy (cumin, paprika, turmeric) and roast them on a tray (350 degrees) until tender. Then use your intuition about the amounts of the other ingredients and you have yourself a super salad. The pic below has croutons and a dollop of natural yogurt – I left them out.
Gjelina-Inspired Cauliflower, Eggplant, Currant & Pine Nuts
You’ll need one whole cauliflower, 2 eggplants, 1/2 cup pine nuts, 1/2 cup currants or sultanas, one small tub natural yogurt, shallots, lemon juice, and olive oil.
The secret to roasting eggplant is time. I don’t do the salt thing that draws out the water, I’ve found if you cook it slowly and long enough, like for over an hour on 350 degrees, it’ll be perfect and not rubbery.
Cut cauliflower and eggplant into large chunks or bite-sized pieces and place on separate baking trays (the eggplant will take longer). Toss in olive oil, add chili flakes, salt and pepper to your liking. Roast the cauliflower until golden (1 hour on 350 degrees) and eggplant until it looks done, prob an hour and half.
Brown the pine nuts in a frying pan or in the oven until and set aside. Place dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a pan and add currants/sultanas until they get nice and plump. Take off the heat.
Slice up the shallots and mix them into the yogurt with a squeeze of lemon juice and a tablespoon of olive oil.
Combine eggplant and cauliflower in your serving dish, sprinkle the pine nuts and currants over the top and then dollp the yogurt on top. Garnish with some left over shallots. Done!
The shot below is not of my version – it’s Gjelina’s. I forgot to take pics!