WHITMAN — They found little cause for elation in some of the dishes in “From Junk Food to Joy Food,” but are attracted to the possibilities ahead in “The Smitten Kitchen.”
Foodies and home cooks in the Whitman Public Library’s new Cookbook Club read, experiment with and prepare a recipe from a selected book to share and discuss at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.
It’s already a big hit.
“I was talking with two of our patrons who love to cook, because we love to read cookbooks, and we all said, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be great to have a cookbook club?’” said Library Technician Ellen Donaghey, who facilitates the group along with Library Director Andrea Rounds, who launched it. “We’ve had a good response from the beginning. You come when you want to, but everybody who comes usually signs up for the next month.”
So far there are three men who attend along with the growing number of female members.
The club has tried Food Network star Ree Drummond’s “Pioneer Woman” recipes and “Good Cheap Eats,” by Jessica Fisher.
“Drummond’s book was a really good one,” Donaghey said. “Everything was step-by-step.”
At each meeting, members vote from about five cookbooks for the next month’s selection. Place cards are made for the food table with the name of the dish and its cook. Door prizes of donated kitchen utensils are awarded each month.
“We have been very fortunate to have everything from soup to nuts,” Donaghey said. “It’s a banquet — so much fun.”
As July’s featured cook book was “From Junk Food to Joy Food: All the Foods You Love to Eat, Only Better,” by nutritionist Joy Bauer, the buffet table groaned under more than 20 dishes — from appetizers to desserts — designed as lower-calorie versions of popular recipes.
Healthier versions of deviled eggs — “Angel Eggs” using hummus instead of egg yolks and mayonnaise — potato salad bites and cole slaw started off, followed by cold sesame noodles, zucchini linguine with pesto, chicken cacciatore and classic chili and topped off with desserts such as Boston cream pie parfait, no-bake key lime pie, chocolate crunch bars and mini chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing.
“This cookbook has taught me that you don’t ‘healthify’ baked goods,” a home cook named Rachel, who loves baking, said. “If you’re going to have a cupcake, you might as well just have a cupcake and have a salad tomorrow.”
Another cook, named Hannah, agreed.
“I have a fundamental philosophical difference with this cookbook,” Hannah said. “I think that healthy ingredients can be good, but not when they are pretending to be not-healthy ingredients.”
She made avocado toast because she felt it was the only recipe that stood on its own and not, “Let’s take a recipe you love and take out everything you love about it.”
Rachel made both the “Joy” cupcake recipe and a regular one, because both she and her family were put off by the use of black beans in the cake and avocado in the icing. She found it tasted “OK,” but found the batter hard to work with and the icing …
“When you look at [the “Joy recipe] you’re going to say, ‘That’s vanilla icing?’ Because it’s kind of a funky color,” Rachel said. “It’s green because it’s avocado.”
Another cook put of by her recipe was Library Trustee Roberts Ellis Drews who said the Eggs Benedict was more difficult than it should have been. Others had better luck, or liked their recipe’s healthier ingredients, and club members shared their opinions and experiences as they sampled the dishes.
“I’m writing a book about everything that can go wrong with me testing these recipes,” Ellis Drews said with a laugh as she related the challenge in finding thick enough Canadian bacon and broiling without it and the tomatoes burning after the directed four minutes. She also found the yellow bell pepper, called for in the Hollandaise, sauce did not microwave or blend well.
“I blended the heck out of the thing,” she said. “After I was done, I had to put it through the strainer, because it wouldn’t mush and you’re supposed to liquefy it. Well, it wouldn’t liquefy, let me tell you.”
She did find the finished recipe delicious, though.
Donaghey, who made yummy chicken enchiladas, was less enthralled with the “super-sweet” chocolate peanut butter cups in which all one could taste was the ripe banana called for in the recipe. She did save the components of that recipe, however, as she felt the chocolate part made a good fudge sauce and the nut butter-banana combination might be good on toast.
The two cooks who prepared the cold sesame noodles had no complaints and said they might prepare it again. The Boston cream parfait, chili and chicken cacciatore were also big hits.
A member named Julie liked the chocolate crunch bark, but used Rice Krispies instead of puffed rice, which she had trouble finding in smaller packages.
Each participant received copies of all the recipes prepared for the session so they could try dishes they liked at home.
Next month they try and discuss recipes from Deb Perelman’s “The Smitten Kitchen: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook.” Billed as “fearless cooking from a tiny NYC kitchen,” the book by home cook, photographer and food blogger Perelman, “is all about approachable, uncompromised home cooking.”
Register for participation at the circulation desk, or call 781-447-7613.