Have I mentioned that I love my book club?
It’s always a highlight of my month.
Most people would call our system of book clubbing a bit nutty, as we have a wildly unwieldy roster of 25 gals. This totally works for us though, as we’re an insanely over-scheduled bunch. We have careers and husbands and committees and events and travel. Oh, and lots and lots of carpools, as between us we have 75 children. (That’s not a typo).
We’re all juggling so much that on any given book club night, the most that have ever managed to muster at one time is 17… and we usually average about 8 to 10. It’s guilt-free when you miss a meeting, as there are always enough people around to discuss the book.
Each time we meet, it’s a riotous catch-up session (mucho to share, always), followed by an even more riotous discussion of the book (we have a LOT of opinions). My family tends to run away from home the evenings I host. I can’t blame them. We’re not quiet.
Oh, and of course we feast.
It was my turn to host the other night. Our selection was The Kitchens of the Great Midwest, which reads like a series of interconnected short stories populated by quirky food-obsessed characters. (Loved it, was definitely my kind of book.) I fretted for days about composing a menu with ingredients from the book (but where on earth would I find lutefisk? moonglow tomatoes? chocolate habernos? venison? … in Virginia?)
In the end, I settled for a combo of salads with vague Midwestern and fall flavors. This Arugula, Wild Rice and Dried Cherry Salad from Cookie and Kate disappeared first… This Food and Wine Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese and Grapes was also a big hit. But my personal favorite, adapted from the Fall Issue of Sweet Paul Magazine, was the Quinoa Salad with Blueberries, Walnuts, and Goat Cheese.
The Sweet Paul version features Bulgar instead of Quinoa, but I had a lovely bag of red quinoa in my pantry, and I’m in a tinkering-with-gluten-free-ingredients-phase. I bathed the quinoa in the fabulous dressing, featuring both balsamic vinegar and lemon juice (it works!) Sweet roasted red peppers, blueberries, toasted walnuts, and tart pomegranate seeds mingled with tangy goat cheese and herbs to finish off the salad. It was divine.
The healthy, wholesome salads may have been nice, but the undisputed stars of the evening were a pair County Fair inspired bars pulled straight from the book – Barb Ramstad’s Kraft Caramel Bars and Pat Prager’s Peanut Butter Bars, baked by Mary and Shannon. I mean, really, how can quinoa compete with caramel bars? Or peanut butter and chocolate?
Trust me, this delicious little quinoa salad is a keeper. Just ask my book club.
But maybe I should write a post about those Caramel Bars too.
Quinoa Salad with Blueberries, Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Adapted from a recipe found in the Fall 2015 Issue of Sweet Paul Magazine
Serves: Serves 4
- 2 red peppers, cored and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups cooked red quinoa
- ½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- ¾ cups blueberries
- ½ cup crumbled goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- salt and pepper, to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Toss the chopped red pepper in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and spread on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Roast for about 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Mix together the dressing: Place the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honey and rest of the olive oil in a small mason jar, and stir to combine.
- In a large serving bowl, mix the quinoa and dressing together, until the quinoa is well coated.
- Add the roasted peppers, walnuts, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, goat cheese, basil, and parsley.
- This salad is best served at room temperature.