Making a cookbook connection in Wilton

WILTON — Cooking dinner during quarantine is not always a fun task. It can get very routine very quickly, and harried home cooks often don’t even have all the ingredients they need to make a dish delicious or special.

If only there was someone to turn to for cooking advice and to share recipes and ideas.

Voilà! Wilton Library is serving up a virtual recipe swap called Cookbook Connection.

Twice a month, library users can join in this lively discussion via Zoom about food, recipes and tips. The first Cookbook Connection was held May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) and featured the food of Mexico. The second was held May 19 and focused on Italian cuisine.

The Connection is hosted by Susan Lauricella and Carolyn Benjamin of Wilton Library. In addition to tasty food conversation, Lauricella emails participants recipes and photos of the dishes that were discussed.

At the Mexican Connection, a wide variety of recipes were swapped to satisfy all appetites.

Savory recipes discussed (and drooled over) included Zucchini Fritters with Cilantro Lime Sauce, Mexican Black Bean Chili, Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup, Mexican Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa, Garlic-Cilantro Chicken, Lime and Shrimp Ceviche, Mango Salsa, Corn and Bean Salsa, Mexican Stuffed Peppers, One-Pot Chicken Thighs With Black Beans, Rice and Chiles, Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice, Roasted Chickpea Snack, and Spicy Barbecue Rub for Chicken.

Dessert delights included Mexican Brownies and Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bites.

And what Cinco de Mayo would be complete without a recipe for margaritas featuring Cointreau and frothy egg whites?

Those who had no idea what to make for dinner, got plenty of tips from this meeting.

Participants also discussed their favorite cookbooks featuring Mexican food, and Benjamin mentioned if the book was available at the library.

Because certain foods during the pandemic can be scarce, especially meats, the discussion turned to substitutions that could be made to certain dishes, for example swapping ground turkey or eggplant in certain beef dishes.

As participants shared their favorite recipes, they also discussed why they liked to make them and their family’s reaction to them.

While talking about a recipe that featured cumin, Laureen, a retired educator and dietitian, recommended buying cumin seeds from the Patel Brothers store in Norwalk, and grinding them to get a vastly superior product than preground cumin. She then displayed what she called a Masala Spice Box, that contained little jars of all her favorite spices.

The tried-and-true recipes shared in the group were easy to make, big on flavor, and featured common ingredients, saving home cooks time, and likely to bring smiles to those eating them.

Two recipes from the Mexican Cookbook Connection:

Mexican Black Bean Chili

(Adapted from Vegan in 7 by Rita Serano)

1 onion, chopped

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, chopped in ½” chunks

1 T. olive oil

1 t. chopped garlic

3 t. oregano

2 ½ t. cumin

2 t. paprika

1 t. smoked paprika

14 oz. diced tomatoes, drained

3 14 oz. cans black beans, drained

Cook onion, garlic and peppers in oil for 8 minutes until soft. Add spices and stir for one minute. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add black beans, stir and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Season to taste and add cilantro to serve, if desired. Serves 4.

The Best Margarita

(From Williams Sonoma)

18 oz. ice

3.75 oz Cuervo 1800 Tequila Gold

2 oz Cointreau or Triple Sec

3.5 oz water

3 T. sugar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 T. fresh lemon juice

1/2 egg white, lightly beaten

Margarita salt

Lime slices for garnish

In a blender, combine ice, tequila, Cointreau, water, sugar, lime juice, lemon juice and egg white. Blend mixture until smooth and pour into a pitcher. Coat rims of margarita glasses with salt, as desired. Pour margarita mixture into glasses; garnish with lime slices. Makes one 36-oz. pitcher.