Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Club with Olive Kitteridge...

I hosted Book Club at my house today.  We read Olive Kitteridge (2008) a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Elizabeth Strout.  The book is actually a series of short stories all held together by one character... Olive.  We really had a nice discussion.  Everyone read and liked the book.  I loved the book and although this might not be the popular answer, I like Olive. I began to see traits of myself in Olive.  I have a sweet, loyal, well-liked husband,  I have a son, an only child.  I have been known to be plain-spoken (remember, my husband calls me Anne Frank).  I am partial to donuts and brownies.  I also saw traits of those in my family, and some of my friends.  I was so absorbed by the lives of these people that I had a difficult time putting the book down.  Even though the stories were incredibly sad, I was drawn in, wanting to know more.  The club all wondered... what was Olive's childhood like???  I would definitely recommend this book.

So what "theme" food did I serve at book club?  The book takes place in New Englad, so I served a shrimp platter, and Hot Crab Dip.  I made an Olive Pecan (dare I say Nut) Spread to serve with crackers.  And just to add a vegetable I made Caprese on a Stick.  The girls loved the food so I am sharing the recipes.

Ok, food stylist I AM NOT

Caprese on a Stick
(Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray)

1 pint grape tomatoes
24 small leaves fresh basil
1 container marinated bocconcini , bite-size mozzarella balls in olive oil with herbs
1 package 6- to 8-inch skewers

Skewer grape tomato, basil leaf and bocconcini ball and repeat until you have 12 skewers.  (Could not be easier!)

Olive Pecan Spread

This spread recipe did not sound good to me, but it got rave reviews on-line.  I mixed it up the night before book club and it was a hit.  Again, very easy to whip together.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened  (I used reduced fat cream cheese)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 (5 ounce) jar sliced green olives, drained
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Mix together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, olives and pecans in a bowl. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. 

Hot Crab Dip
(Sorry, I found this recipe on the internet, but did not keep my source.  Do you know how many Hot Crab Dips there are out there???)

2 cups crabmeat  (duh, I only bought one cup! Still OK.)
1 cup sour cream
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup buttermilk  (substituted  with 1 T vinegar + 1 cup milk)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup white Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup capers, drained  (first time I've ever purchased capers)
2 (8 ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried dill, or to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning TM, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8x8 inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, combine crabmeat, sour cream, cream cheese, buttermilk, mayonnaise, Monterey Jack cheese, Cheddar cheese, capers, artichoke hearts, garlic, black pepper and dill. Stir until well mixed. Spoon dip into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Old Bay Seasoning TM. Bake in preheated oven until top is crusty, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For dessert I made Blueberry Cake, hopefully just like the one Olive stuffed in her purse at her son's wedding.

Blueberry Cake

Streusel Topping:
1/3 cup (45 grams) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (56 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Cake Batter:
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (56 grams) (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/3 cup (80 ml) milk
2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, an 8 x 8 inch square pan or an 8 inch round cake pan.

For streusel topping: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and ground cinnamon. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside while you make the cake batter.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.  In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the flour mixture, alternately with the milk, and beat only until combined. Spread the batter onto the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Evenly arrange the blueberries on top of the cake batter and then sprinkle with the streusel topping.  Bake for about 40 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 9 servings.

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Lori Holt said...

You have peaked my interest about this book...I'll have to look for it on my next library trip!
Thanks for the suggestion.

Thimbleanna said...

Looks like you had a wonderful book group! I'll have to check into your book -- I'm wondering if it's the book my mom was telling me about over the weekend. As for your next book -- I LOVED it -- hope you do to!

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