Really Cool Women\'s Book Club

Run by Ann Patchett at Susan C’s house on Wed, Feb 20th, 2008 January 24, 2008

Filed under: Books — Susan @ 10:28 pm

run2.jpgFrom Publishers Weeklyrun2.jpgrun2.jpg
SignatureReviewed by Andrew O’HaganNovelists can no longer take it as an insult when people say their novels are like good television, because the finest American television is better written than most novels. Ann Patchett’s new one has the texture, the pace and the fairy tale elegance of a half dozen novels she might have read and loved growing up, but the magic and the finesse of Run is really much closer to that of Six Feet Under or ER or The Sopranos, and that is good news for everybody, not least her readers.Bernadette and Bernard Doyle were a Boston couple who wanted to have a big lively family. They had one boy, Sullivan, and then adopted two black kids, Teddy and Tip. Mr. Doyle is a former mayor of Boston and he continues his interest in politics, hoping his boys will shape up one day for elected office, though none of them seems especially keen. Bernadette dies when the adopted kids are just four, and much of the book offers a placid requiem to her memory in particular and to the force of motherhood in lives generally. An old statue from Bernadette’s side of the family seems to convey miracles, and there will be more than one before this gracious book is done. One night, during a heavy snowfall, Teddy and Tip accompany their father to a lecture given by Jessie Jackson at the Kennedy Centre. Tip is preoccupied with studying fish, so he feels more than a little coerced by his father. After the lecture they get into an argument and Tip walks backwards in the road. A car appears out of nowhere and so does a woman called Tennessee, who pushes Tip out of the car’s path and is herself struck. Thus, a woman is taken to hospital and her daughter, Kenya, is left in the company of the Doyles. Relationships begin both to emerge and unravel, disclosing secrets, hopes, fears. Run is a novel with timeless concerns at its heart—class and belonging, parenthood and love—and if it wears that heart on its sleeve, then it does so with confidence. And so it should: the book is lovely to read and is satisfyingly bold in its attempt to say something patient and true about family. Patchett knows how to wear big human concerns very lightly, and that is a continuing bonus for those who found a great deal to admire in her previous work, especially the ultra-lauded Bel Canto. Yet one should not mistake that lightness for anything cosmetic: Run is a book that sets out inventively to contend with the temper of our times, and by the end we feel we really know the Doyle family in all its intensity and with all its surprises.Andrew O’Hagan’s novel Be Near Me has just been published by Harcourt.

 

Pistachio Soup by Marci January 20, 2008

Filed under: Recipes — Susan @ 6:29 pm
Pistachio Soup

1/2 white onion, peeled
4 tomatillos, peeled and halved
4 Serrano chilies, stems removed
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
2 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
1 cup loosely packed cilantro
3 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut onion half in two, and place on a baking sheet with tomatillo halves, chilies and garlic cloves. Rub vegetables with oil, and bake until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Peel garlic cloves and transfer to large saucepan, along with other roasted vegetables; do not turn off oven.

2. Place pistachio nuts on a baking sheet, and bake until lightly toasted, 5-7 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of nuts for garnish, and add rest to saucepan of vegetables.

3. To the saucepan add chicken stock, cilantro, peppercorns, bay leaves, sugar, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Place over medium heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes; discard bay leaves.

4. Puree soup using a food processor or blender. With processor running, add cream and continue to puree until mixture is smooth. Transfer soup to a clean saucepan, and place over low heat; do not boil. Serve hot, garnished with reserved pistachio nuts.

Yield: 5 cups (4 to 6 servings.)


I’ve made this several times and I’ve learned a couple things about this recipe (the hard way, of course), so I’m also including my personal recipe notes here:

1. In the ingredients: don’t use 4 Serrano chilies unless you know you/your guests like very spicey food. 2 will give a slight kick. 3 a solid kick. All 4 is a statement (I happen to like all four, but I damn near killed my guests the first – and only – time I made it with all four.) For book club, I used 2 and served hot sauce on the side.

2. In step 1: Any vegetable or olive oil spray works every bit as well an individually rubbing oil on each vegetable, and it’s easier too.

3. In step 2: watch the pistachio nuts. They cook funny: nothing, nothing, nothing, perfect, burnt – and the time between “perfect” and “burnt” is only about 10 seconds. Don’t bother reserving any nuts for garnish. Unless you chop them very finely, they sink like stones in the soup with the result that your garnish ends up gracing the bottom of the bowl/cup. I throw all the nuts into the soup and garnish with cilantro (if I think about garnishing at all, that is.)

4. In step 3: Like all soups, you can cook this way longer with no worries. Not shorter, tho. Also, at this step, you can stop and hold the soup for a couple of days more successfully than later on.

This recipe is easily doubled.
 

January 9th, 2008-The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho at Marci’s house January 1, 2008

Filed under: Past Meetings — Susan @ 7:41 pm

Cool Women in Attendance:

Marci, Susan E, Susan C, Danda, Heidi, Ann, Panagiota

Menu:

  • Pistachio Soup
  • Quesadillas
  • Chocolate Pudding Pie

Memorable Moments:

  • I’m not sure but I don’t think Marci liked the book
  • Susan E made it through the night with out crying over sending Kenton to Spain
  • I don’t care how simple it is, chocolate pudding pie is 5 star!