Hosting a Deliciously Successful Book Club Dinner by Aviva Goldfarb

In addition to cooking and eating, one of my passions is reading and discussing great literature. Since I was a child, I’ve always read fiction before bed, and I actually find it challenging to fall asleep without unwinding with a wonderful book for 20 minutes or so.

Some of my recent favorites include The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, andCutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, which I’m reading now. I’m lucky to belong to a wonderful book club that has been meeting for the last 15 years. Each month we gather over appetizers, dinner and wine at a member’s house. When it’s my turn to host book club, I look for a recipe that’s elegant enough for company but is easy enough to make for 12 or so people.

I’ve compiled one of my favorite book club menus, from my new cookbook, SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families. Since all of the recipes in the book take 30 minutes or less to prepare, you can choose your seasonal favorite from the hundreds in the book.

For your next book club or party, try Mexican Lasagna with Avocado Salsa (page 162 of the book), served with Sweet Summer Corn on the Cob (page 89), a Green Salad with Grapes, Pistachio Nuts, and Maple-Dijon Dressing (page 232). For dessert, we like to keep it light and figure friendly.  Try serving sliced mangoes with Greek yogurt mixed with honey and fresh lime juice for dessert and with mango sorbet. Enjoy!

Mexican Lasagna with Avocado Salsa
Prep + Cook = 30 minutes
8 servings
This casserole is a great one to make with your kids, though you should brown the tortillas yourself to prevent burns.
15 oz. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. vegetarian refried beans
15 oz. corn kernels, naturally sweetened, drained
1 cup mild salsa
4 scallions, sliced
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
4 tsp. vegetable oil
6 soft taco size (8-inch) flour or wheat tortillas
1 avocado, peeled and diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 lime, juice only (1 Tbsp. juice)
1/4 tsp. salt
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, stir together both types of beans, corn, salsa, scallions and cheese.
  • Put the oil in a small bowl.  Heat a large skillet (heavy duty or nonstick) over medium to medium-high heat.  Brush both sides of each tortilla with a thin layer of oil and fry it in the skillet, turning once, until it is puffed and golden in spots, about one minute total.  Stack the cooked tortillas on a plate.
  • To make the lasagna, put 2 tortillas in the bottom of the casserole dish; top them with 1/2 the bean filling, then top that with 2 more tortillas, and the second half of the bean filling.  Top it with the final 2 tortillas.  Press down with a spatula on the top tortillas to seal the layers.
  • Bake the lasagna, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes until it is heated through.  Cut it into squares with a pizza cutter or serrated knife to serve.
  • In a medium bowl, gently toss the diced avocado and tomatoes with the lime juice and salt.  Top the lasagna squares with the avocado salsa at the table, if desired.

Scramble Flavor Booster: Use spicy salsa and mince one hot chili pepper or some red onion with the avocados for the salsa.

Tip: To dice an avocado, cut it in half lengthwise and separate the halves.  Remove the pit and scoop out the flesh with a large spoon.  Put the halves flat side down on a cutting board to dice them.

Nutritional Information per serving (% based upon daily values):
Calories 410, Total Fat 19g, 29%, Saturated Fat 8g, 40%, Cholesterol 30mg, 10%, Sodium 1140mg, 48%, Total Carbohydrate 55g, 18%, Dietary Fiber 10g, 40%, Protein 17g, Sugar 3g
About Aviva Goldfarb: Aviva is a mother of two and the author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble®, an online weekly menu planner and cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), and is author of the new cookbook, SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).
Thank you so much Aviva for stopping by and letting me know how I can knock the socks of my book club at our next meeting. I can’t eat the Avocado Salsa (darn avocado allergy!), but I sure would enjoy the looks on the faces of my friends as they enjoyed this treat.

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