Chef offers new twist at book club

Stefanie Paganini hosts book club where participants learn to cook


Ever thought about joining a book club? How about taking a cooking class? Well now you can do both at the same time. One woman is offering a new twist at her book club.

Every month chef Stefanie Paganini hosts a book club where participants also learn to cook.

"Everyone in the class reads the book and then I pull out food from the book," said Paganini.

For one night, the inspiration came from "The Book of Unholy Mischief."

"We're going to start with our butternut squash soup," said Paganini.

First, Paganini sautés potatoes and peppers. She adds roasted onions, squash, tomatoes and a little bit of garlic. Next comes the white wine.

"That white wine is actually pulling up all of that flavor," Paganini said.

Everything goes into a blender then back into a pot with some vegetable stock to cook a little longer. Paganini tops it with fresh cilantro and crusty bread.

"We have this gorgeous sort of butternut squash bisque," said Paganini.

For the main course, it's ravioli. Paganini makes a "well" with a cup of flour.

"Into our well is going an egg with a little bit of salt," Paganini said.

Paganini whisks it and pours in white wine, then comes more flour and kneading.

"And we're going to roll our dough," said Paganini.

Paganini fills each ravioli with a mixture of carrots, garlic, potatoes and ground beef, and tops it all with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Paganini said the food helps the women open up.

"When you sit down for dinner you converse," said Paganini. "When you sit down as a family at the dinner table you talk, so it opens lines of communication."

"I love the combination of food and books and friends," said one woman.

"I love to read and I love to cook, so it combines two of my passions," said another.

Paganini has been leading the book club for about eight years.



Golden Squash Bisque

--2 lbs. butternut squash, seeded and cut into 8 large pieces
--6 plum tomatoes, quartered, seeded
--1 white onion, quartered
--¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
--1 green pepper, large diced
--1 red pepper, large diced
--1 yukon potato, diced
--2 cloves garlic, crushed
--½ cup white wine
--2 quart chicken stock
--3 tablespoons. fresh cilantro, chopped
--Salt and pepper, to taste
--1 baguette, sliced

•Preheat oven to 350°F. Place butternut squash, onion, and tomatoes on a cooking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, skin the tomatoes.
•In a large stockpot, heat ¼ cup olive oil and sauté green pepper, red pepper, potato, and garlic until tender. Add roasted vegetables and cook for 3 more minutes. Deglaze with white wine. Add chicken stock and bring to simmer.
•Remove from heat in small batches purée soup.
•Place puréed soup back into the pot to reheat.
•Add cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste.
•Bring to a boil. Simmer about 20 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro and crusty bread.

Beef & Potato Filled Ravioli

For dough:
--2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
--3 large eggs
--¼ cup dry white wine
--½ teaspoon salt

For filling:
--1 ½ pound lean ground beef
--¼ cup onion, minced
--¼ cup carrot, minced
--1 cup yukon gold potato, peeled, diced very small
--2 cloves garlic, minced
--1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
--¼ cup dry red wine
--1 tablespoon tomato paste
--2 large eggs
--1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
--1/8 teaspoon ground clove
--Salt and pepper

•To make the dough, place flour on wooden board and form into a mound. Make a deep well in the center and break eggs into it. Add the wine and salt. Use a fork to break up eggs and mix contents of the well.
•Slowly add flour, beginning at the top of the well so that the walls collapse and blend into the mixture. When flour is almost totally absorbed, begin kneading, pressing with the palms of your hands. Knead dough for about 20 minutes until it becomes smooth and sticky. (If dough is too dry, add a few drops of water. If it is too sticky, add a sprinkle of flour.) Gather dough into a ball, place in mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes. (To test for doneness, punch dough with your index finger. If it springs back, it is done.)
•To make filling, cook ground beef until just browned. Drain off as much excess liquid as possible. Add onion, carrot, and potatoes. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add garlic and tomato paste and stir until meat and vegetables are coated in tomato paste. Deglaze pan with red wine. Add nutmeg and clove, and cook until wine has evaporated. Season to taste and remove from the heat into a bowl to cool. Once the mixture is cooled, add eggs and parsley.
•Break the pasta dough into lemon-sized pieces. Shape each piece into a long, thin sheet. Place ½ teaspoon meat filling every 1 inch and fold dough over, and seal with egg wash. With a small round cutter, cut ravioli and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all ravioli are done. Spread the ravioli out to dry on parchment-lined cookie sheet, making sure they do not touch.