Coconut Tapioca with Mint Syrup

Local authors Dina Guillen and Michelle Lowrey–authors of The Plank Grilling Cookbook–have just written a new book with perfect timing. Cooking Club: Great Ideas and Delicious Recipes for Fabulous Get-Togethers
was released just in time for the outdoor eating season. The Folsom residents write about their years of fun as members of a dining club–a rotating party of women who eat together every month or so.
As a member of such a club myself, it’s really fun to try new dishes and see how your friends throw a dinner party. Since the dinner party concept seems to have fallen off the radar for many people, this is a great way to get back into it. Not only do you get to enjoy eating with friends, but you get to practice cooking for more than yourself and your family. No PB&Js or mac & cheese at these parties (unless they have something special added). It’s also relatively affordable. You can feed a party on very little if you know how to budget.
Lowrey and Guillen cover not only budgeting, but how to set up a club, recruit members, and determine menus. They give twelve theme-party examples with recipes, like One Night in Bangkok and Hawaiian Luau. They also interview other cooking clubs from around the country about how they got started and what rules they follow.
I’ve included one of their intriguing recipes below (watch out, fellow Epicureans–you might be tasting this at my next dinner!). As a bonus for our readers, Sasquatch has sent me a book to give away to a lucky cook. Just comment below with your favorite dinner party theme and I’ll use a random name generator to pick a winner. You have until May 29 to enter (once only per person, please). I’ll do the drawing on June 1. Winner: Gail!
In the meantime, go see Dina and Michelle at Taylor’s Market tomorrow at 11 a.m., where they’ll be signing copies of their book. You can also catch them at Borders in Folsom on June 6 from 2-4 p.m., and at Barnes &Noble in the Birdcage Center on July 18 at 1 p.m.

Coconut Tapioca with Minty Lemongrass-Ginger Syrup and Mangoes
Makes 8 servings
You can substitute rice if you prefer. This dessert makes for a great presentation.
Lemongrass-Ginger Syrup
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2-inch piece fresh gingerrot, peeled and thinly sliced
20 fresh mint leaves
3 cups whole milk
One 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2/3 cup small-pearl tapioca
2 large ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1/4 cup toasted sweetened coconut
8 sprigs fresh mint
To make the syrup: Trim the root ends of the lemongrass, and remove and discard the tough outer layer. Bruise the stalk with the back of a chef’s knife, and coarsely chop the stalk.
Combine the water, sugar, lemongrass, ginger, and mint in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the syrup to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set it aside for 20 minutes to infuse. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve into a medium bowl, cover, and let it chill in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To make the tapioca: Whisk together the milk, coconut milk, tapioca, and sugar in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Stirring frequently, let the pudding simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until thickened and it coats the back of a spoon, being careful that the pudding does not scorch. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and wrap with plastic, smoothing the wrap directly on the surface of the pudding so that a skin does not form. Chill the pudding in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Divide the pudding among 8 dessert bowls. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of Lemongrass Syrup over each serving and garnish with the mango, coconut, and a sprig of mint.

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