A friend came to my house last week to help me prepare for an open house/book signing event that my Simple, Good and Tasty Book Club was hosting. Our guests of honor were to be the authors of the recently published book, “The Minnesota Table: Recipes for Savoring Local Food Throughout the Year,” Shelley N.C. Holl and B.J. Carpenter. It would be held at my house and we were expecting 70 to 75 people to come meet the authors. I definitely needed help getting ready for the special evening. My friend was planning to arrive around lunch time, coming from another appointment. I decided the least I could do would be to offer her a nice lunch before we got down to work.
I cooked up a pot of vegetable soup, added some whole wheat elbow macaroni and stirred up a small batch of basil pistou (the French version of the Italian pesto). It was a simple and flavorful lunch, combined with a Marinated Zucchini, Tomato and Mozzarella Stack nesting on a bed of fresh spring greens and a slice of whole-grain peasant bread. It was just the fuel we needed as we began work on things that needed to be done for the open house.
The next day, Minneapolis authors Holl and Carpenter arrived at my house just in time to make some of their mint iced tea and honey lemonade and freshen up before guests began to arrive.
Members of my book club prepared food for guests to sample, using recipes from “The Minnesota Table.” One of the favorites was Wild Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries. Oh, what a party it was. The authors seemed to be bursting with passion and pride as they talked about their book, how it came to be and the experiences they had in the process.
They graciously signed many cookbooks, but not without a short visit with each purchaser in order to make more personal comments with each signing. Not every author does that. Everyone was impressed.
There were a few tidbits of food remaining after all the guests had gone home. My friend, Polly, stopped over as the two authors and I were nibbling some of the leftovers and sipping wine. Polly and Shelley Holl graduated from high school together. What a small world. Polly snapped this picture of Shelley, B.J. and me.
Two local bloggers were in attendance that evening and both have posted nice photos. You’ll enjoy reading their take on the book signing/open house. Get right to Heather Hanson’s blog post by clicking here. Rachelle Houle has her story about the event along with beautiful photos, right here.
Read more about the authors, their book and see their recipe for Wild Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries in my newspaper column this week. You can also listen to a short audio interview I did with Shelley Holl.
Added 9-9-10: Watch B.J. Carpenter make Honey Lemonade, a recipe from “The Minnesota Table.” If you’ve ever tasted the Honey Lemonade at the Minnesota State Fair, B.J.’s version tastes just like it. Yum! Click here to watch the segment B.J. did with me for Lakeland Public Television.
And, before I forget, here is the recipe for the soup I made for lunch the day before the book signing open house. It might be just the thing you need to warm up on a cool Labor Day weekend.
Seasonal Vegetable Soup with a Fresh Basil Dollop
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large carrots, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large leek, trimmed, cut lengthwise into four equal pieces and sliced (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
- 1 cup peeled, cubed potatoes
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups chopped zucchini
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
Heat butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add carrots, onions and leeks. When vegetables are crisp-tender, add potatoes, broth and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer gently until potatoes are almost cooked through. Add green beans, zucchini, crushed tomatoes, chopped tomato and beans. Continue cooking, uncovered, until vegetables are tender.
Cook macaroni separately according to directions on package. Add cooked and drained macaroni to soup in pot. Stir in 1/4 cup Pistou. To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Spoon a small dollop of remaining Pistou on each serving. Makes about 12 cups of soup.
- 1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 chubby cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Process fresh basil leaves and garlic in a mini-food processor or blender. Gradually add olive oil and continue to process. Scrape mixture into a bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Makes about 1/2 cup.
This Pistou is delicious stirred into an omelet, a bowl of hot pasta, or homemade tomato sauce. Spread it on homemade pizza, too. A little dollop on top of tomato soup is good, too. Oh, so many ways to use this versatile Pistou.