Culinary curiosity

Try a new recipe with the Oak Bluffs library’s Cookbook Club.

So how often have you gone to the library for dinner? Well, now you can every month, for the Oak Bluffs library’s new Cookbook Club.

The smells wafted in from the program room, where we hungrily circled the table with the dishes each person brought in from the cookbook “True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure.” The inside jacket cover says the aim of authors Dr. Andrew Weil and Sam Fox was to make sure every dish was not just delectable, but also “supports our well-being.” If you feel warm, pleasing dishes support your sense of well-being, then this 125-recipe cookbook is for you.

Weil and Fox’s aim was also to make the recipes inviting and easy to cook. The consensus was that they were, even if a few folks had to go out of their normal shopping environs for a few of the ingredients. Carol Goldstein, who whipped up a curried cauliflower soup that included onions, cashew milk, and light coconut milk, said, “This was an experiment in just wandering the aisles of Cronig’s, looking for these ingredients.”

No one, it turned out, improvised with the recipes, and so they were a true test of the cookbook. Lory Reilly brought in a sweet potato gratin served topped off with a tablespoon of cashew milk. Garam masala, an Indian spice mix, as well as others, added a little pizazz to the deep orange tubers.

“My gut feeling is that this was one of those dishes that would have been better made yesterday and reheated,” Goldstein said of her soup. “I don’t think the flavors really had time to come together.” But those trying it unanimously agreed it was mighty tasty.
Everyone agreed that Paula Driscoll’s kale pesto was deceptively light, despite its rather thick consistency. It had a distinctly different taste profile than traditional pesto, even though the recipe stated you weren’t supposed to be able to tell the difference between it and the usual basil version. What was most challenging about making it? “Cutting up 10 cups of kale,” Driscoll said wryly. She continued, “But it was quite interesting. After you cooked it you plunged it into ice water to make it stay green. You could make it two or three days ahead of time.”

Everyone agreed that one of the benefits of the book was that it helped them step out of their comfort zone.

The club is the brainchild of Carolina Cooney, programming and public relations coordinator at the Oak Bluffs library. “The idea for the Cookbook Club spawned from the library’s Make-N-Take Program, which was great fun but extremely labor-intensive,” Cooney explained. “It required a lot of preparation in advance, and the library’s limited kitchen facilities made it difficult to prepare the ingredients. The Cookbook Club is nice because more people can participate, as the preparation is done at home, rather than in the library, and cooks provide their own supplies.

“I more or less randomly selected Weil’s cookbook from our large collection, based on first impression. I wanted to find something that would have broad cross-appeal, and the subtitle of the cookbook — ‘seasonal, sustainable, simple, pure’ — sounded very Vineyardy, and also a healthy way to start off the new year.” 

“True Food,” in addition to the items our group cooked, includes recipes such as Spring Salad with Aged Provolone, Corn-Ricotta Ravioli, Spicy Shrimp and Asian Noodles, Bison Umami Burgers, Chocolate Icebox Tart, and Pomegranate Martini. The cookbook is peppered throughout with essays on topics ranging from farmers markets to proper proportions to the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet.

Next month’s meeting is Thursday, Feb. 20, with “Mad Hungry Family” by Lucinda Scala Quinn being the book of choice. The March 12 meeting’s cookbook is “Comfort Food” by Rick Rodgers. Participating is easy; stop by the front desk to peruse the book, select a recipe that pique’s your culinary interest and they’ll Xerox a copy of it for you. Then just bring it in for the potluck dinner — dinnerware and utensils are provided for you.

Contact Carolina Cooney for more information at 508.693.9433 x408 or at