When I was writing The Dinner List, the importance of sharing a meal with the ones you love was at the forefront of my mind. That’s why I absolutely love book clubs! There’s nothing better than gathering with good friends and great wine to discuss a lovely book. I’m happy to share some ideas for hosting a book club for The Dinner List with my best dinner party tips and book discussion questions all in one place.
My friends at Flatiron Books and I put together a set of discussion questions to help your book club navigate The Dinner List! Make sure to finish the book before downloading the reading group guide to avoid accidental spoilers.
Download the guide here.
Dinner Party Tips
Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The air gets crisp, the leaves start to change, and it’s the perfect time to get together with friends over a cozy meal. There are so many fun things you can do to make your dinner party special!
One of my favorite things to do when hosting a dinner party is to design a special menu just for the occasion! Putting one at each place setting adds a bit of elegance to the evening and gives guests a fun keepsake to take home. Download The Dinner List-themed menu stationary here!
Whether you have four guests or fourteen, using place cards to arrange seats is an easy way to make each one feel special. Place cards take some advanced planning, so using them shows each person at your table that you truly appreciate their presence. Plus, you can decide your conversation partners in advance!
Centerpieces can really set the atmosphere of your dinner party, but so often we think they have to be floral. Fresh flowers are a great option, but don’t be afraid to try something new! Try candles, small house plants you already have, or using beautiful serving dishes to serve the meal family style.
The most important part of any dinner party is, of course, the food! I’m vegetarian and have food allergies, but there are so many wonderful fall meals I love to make to share with friends. My ideal dinner party menu would start with a caprese salad, continue with a hearty lentil soup and crusty French bread or challah, and finish with a vegan chocolate mousse. Check out my favorite recipes for these below!
(Recipe courtesy of Food Network)
3 vine-ripe tomatoes, ¼-inch thick slices
1 pound fresh mozzarella, ¼-inch thick slices
20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Coarse salt and pepper
Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter. Drizzle the salad with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup
(Recipe courtesy of Cookie and Kate)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh collard greens or kale, tough ribs removed
Juice of ½ to 1 medium lemon, to taste
Warm the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. One-fourth cup olive oil may seem like a lot, but it adds a lovely richness and heartiness to this nutritious soup.
Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion and carrot and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Pour in the drained diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavor.
Pour in the lentils, broth and the water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender. Securely fasten the lid, protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid, and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pot. (Or, use an immersion blender to blend a portion of the soup.) Sometimes I skip this step to keep more texture in my soup!
Add the chopped greens and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the greens have softened to your liking. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the juice of half of a lemon. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavors really sing. Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep well for about 4 days in the refrigerator, or can be frozen for several months (just defrost before serving).
Vegan Dark Chocolate Mousse
(Recipe courtesy of Vegetarian Gastronomy)
15 oz full-fat unsweetened coconut milk, such as Thai Kitchen brand
4 tbsp powdered sugar, or maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
Toppings of choice: cocoa nibs, fresh fruit, nuts, shredded coconut (optional)
Place the can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight for at least 24 hours.
Chill a small-medium size bowl in the freezer for a few minutes.
Once you are ready to whip, remove the can from the fridge without shaking it. Slowly turn it upside down, and then open the can.
You will see the liquid coconut milk (the part that did not solidify) will now be at the top of the can. Slowly pour out this liquid into a bowl or cup. This coconut milk liquid is not used in this recipe, you can save it to make a green smoothie.
Once you have poured out the liquid, the part that remains is the hardened coconut cream.
Scoop out this coconut cream into the chilled bowl (note, do not use too large of a bowl otherwise it will be difficult to whip).
Using a stand mixer or a electric hand mixer, beat until fluffy. Start on low speed and work your way up to a higher speed until you start to see stiff peaks forming.
Half way through, add the sweetener, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder and continue to beat.
Sprinkle with any toppings if using and serve immediately or store in the fridge in an air-tight container.
Be sure to use full-fat coconut milk for this recipe.
They also sell coconut cream, which is the thickened part of the coconut milk once it's been refrigerated. This should work as well, but you will need to add more sweetener if using an entire can of coconut cream.
I prefer to use natural sweeteners like maple syrup or agave nectar when possible, but powdered sugar tends to work best here. But they all taste good and work well!
Note that if you use liquid sweeteners, your end result may not be as fluffy or stiff because you are adding more liquid to the cream.