Potluck Parties: Magazine Club March

EVENT: Mag Club March
VENUE: Cara’s Apartment, Park Slope
SIZE: Seven (we missed the rest of you!)
MENU: Colorful Southwestern Salad (C); Corn and Barley with Chive-Mint Vinaigrette (P); Leora’s Baked Tofu, Roasted Broccoli with Pine Nuts, and Caramelized Caprese; Sarah’s Summery Angel Hair; Kate’s Peanut Butter Hummus; Michelle’s Tzatziki Two Ways; and Jordana’s Cheese (and Love)

“Magazine Club” is simultaneously the silliest thing we do and one of the most satisfying. It was invented by Kate and Cara one Sunday in late July 2008. We were eating Mexican food outdoors in the insane heat and talking about how everyone always talks about starting a book club but almost no one really has the time and follow-through to start and maintain a group, and the tastes of potential book club members inevitable range from chick lit to obtuse philosophical fiction, making it impossible to please everyone anyway. Perhaps it was heat-induced, but it came to us suddenly that a magazine club took away all the pressure of reading and thinking that a book club entailed, but it preserved the hanging out part and the potluck part—a.k.a. the crucial elements.

The rules we set out are stringent, so of course no one keeps to them. The idea is that each member arrives with a magazine article and a dish inspired by the magazine. The original email contained excellent examples, so I quote: “a) this past month’s issue of W had a photo shoot about camp, therefore ‘smore’s or anything that reminds you of camp would be appropriate! b) there was a purple dress on the cover of In Style, and thus you made eggplant parm!” In other words, we left room for interpretation.

finishing the barley salad, no magazine in sight

At Mag Club, we eat the dishes, and then if someone remembers, we go around and present the articles. Sometimes the connections are tenuous, but the food is always delicious and the company excellent.
As for the potluck part, we seem to have developed ESP vis-a-vis the menu planning. Even without talking, we miraculously gauge each other’s moods and cravings, and the spread that results is almost as well-rounded as if one really hungry cook had prepared it all.
Since we’re so of one mind with our Mag Club members, we figured instead of mentioning and picturing the food they made, we’d actually post the recipes so readers can make their delicious dishes too. Stay tuned over the course of the week for posts from them!

the spread
From our kitchen, where magazines inspire meals, to yours,


Colorful Southwestern Salad
Serves 6

This salad can be made heartier with the addition of some protein—cheese, beans, or some grilled and sliced meat. I figured that depending on what other dishes wound up at the potluck, I could always open a can of black beans, but as the feast turned out, I didn’t have to.

As for the magazine connection…well, I tied this to a Glamour article I had read while I was sick and incidentally sleeping 10+ hours a night. It’s about how getting enough sleep can make you drop lb’s effortlessly(!), partly just by making healthier choices, since you’re awake enough to do so. And what’s healthier than a salad?

3-4 cups fresh greens
1/2 cup corn (frozen is fine, just defrost)
2 scallions, light green parts only, chopped
1/2 avocado
1 red or yellow pepper, cut into matchsticks
3 slices jalepeño from a can, diced
1/2 tomato, diced, or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, diced
1/2 recipe cornbread (see below), or 3 thick slices of store-bought cornbread
2 slices jalepeño jack cheese
Tomato-cilantro dressing (see below)

Make the dressing and the cornmeal croutons.

Cut the avocados into large chunks and toss carefully with a few spoonfuls of the dressing to prevent browning.
Arrange the greens in a bowl with the corn, scallions, avocado, pepper, jalepeño, tomato, and cilantro artfully arranged on top. Add the warm or room-temperature croutons. Sprinkle with the dressing and toss just before serving.

For the croutons:
Cut the cornbread into 1-inch squares. If you have time, let them dry uncovered for about a day. Then preheat the oven to 375°F and toast for about 10 minutes. Dice the jack cheese and sprinkle over the croutons, pushing them into one corner of the pan, so not too much cheese misses the croutons. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted. Cool slightly, then add to the salad.

For the dressing:
In keeping with the spirit of “healthy choices,” this tasty dressing uses a light hand with the oil. Agave nectar is a sweetener that dissolves really well into liquids.

1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
juice from 1/2 a lemon
dash cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon agave nectar of 1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup canned tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a blender or mini food processor, combine the cilantro, salt, scallions, lemon juice, cayenne, and yogurt. Blend until smooth, adding 3-4 tablespoons of water as needed. Put in the sweetener and the tomatoes, and continue to blend until very smooth (the mixture will turn a balsamic-vinaigrette-type brown). With the motor going, slowly add the olive oil. Taste for salt. Keep covered in the refrigerator until serving.

For the cornbread croutons:

Of course you can use your favorite store-bought bread or muffins for the croutons, but I was itching to bake the day before the potluck, so I whipped this up, then cut it immediately and gave the squares 24 hours to get stale, which they did very well. Thus, if you’re planning just to eat the cornbread, it’s best to do so right away.

1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups fine-ground cornmeal
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 eggs
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put a 9×13″ baking pan onto a middle rack while the oven warms up.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Whisk together the half and half, eggs, applesauce, and maple syrup, then pour over the dry ingredients and fold to combine. Last, add the melted butter and fold until very little of the dry mixture is showing. It’s better to see some flour than to overmix.
With a potholder, pull the pan from the oven. Quickly spray it with cooking spray, then pour in the batter. Return to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until the top is golden and the edges have pulled away from the sides.
Cut half into large squares and eat or save, and cut half into 1-inch squares, putting them aside to get stale for the salad croutons.

Corn and Barley Salad with Chive-Mint Vinaigrette
Serves 6

Because it wouldn’t suffice at Mag Club to say my inspiration for this dish came from Cara, who’s been making a lot of seldom-used grains lately, I’ll draw my parallel from the April issue of Teen Vogue. Usually I would not publically admit to reading this magazine, but I found the spread below—springtime for teenage hillbilles, as I would call it—very inspiring at work, where they pay me to think like a 15-year-old girl. Anyway, it seems like the March frost has finally cleared on the farm, a budding springtime Romance is underway, and in Teen Vogue world, that mean’s it’s time for little Dorothy to break out her favorite Marc Jacobs hat and Miu Miu stilettos.

Though I could have easily used the hens in this image for a chicken salad, I found the fields (barley? corn?) in the distance spoke to my conception of a hearty grain salad with fresh herbs—just a hint of the season to come.

1 cup barley, thoroughly rinsed in cold water
1 15oz can corn, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt

In a medium stockpot or Dutch oven, bring 2 1/2 cups water and 1 tsp salt to a boil. Add the barley and return to low heat. Simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the barley is al dente. If liquids remain, drain in a colander or using the lid of the pot to release any excess moisture.

Combine barley and remaining ingredients in a salad bowl. Serve at room temperature.

Posted in: Potluck Parties
  • Kate

    What other kind of dressings could I use if I was trying to stay away from yogurt? Is there anyway to incorporate these flavors into an oil based dressing, or what other bases could I substitute?

  • Callie

    Cara, by scallions you also mean green onions? 😉

  • Rebecca

    Yay!! I finally get to see your apartment in this post!! (Now for a real visit…)

    ps Dani will be in Brooklyn next weekend, and if she is invited over to taste a new recipe and makes it on the blog without me I may never recover. Just saying.

  • Brynn Cahalan

    I love the cornbread crouton idea!

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