1/19/2018

Sous Vide at Home, a Salad and Ahi alla Pesto


Sous Vide  - the device and a book -  my Christmas present to myself.  Cheers!! Fun with a new appliance.  At least it takes up very little room when not in use.  I did try McGivering this technique, without too much success a number of years ago.  There are now amazing  and inexpensive tools for doing sous vide at home, like the restaurants do it.  The handy tool clamps onto a large pot of water, circulating and heating it to an exact temperature, programmed to cook for the set time. You probably know all this, but it was only recently brought to my attention.  Sous-Vide at Home, by Lisa Q. Fetterman, is the bomb!.

So far I've done the poached eggs, beets marinated in various good things and ahi in pesto.  Looking forward to making duck confit without loads of duck fat, tempering chocolate and infusing liqueurs.

Her book is full of very tempting photos, gorgeous actually, which help in encouraging one to press on with mastering a new technique. Lots of great recipes and tips on using the device.

I did poached eggs first just because they are the easiest, and it's something I never seemed to get right.  No need to bag them, they go into the temperature regulated water bath, shell and all, then cook til the timer stops the process.  There was a pretty short learning curve, getting used to programming the instrument correctly.  Some devices have an ap so you can control everything from your iphone.  I like being more hands on myself.



So, to do the Beet Salad with Gouda and Pistachios, I first cooked the beets in a bag with the marinade. When they were done, I let them cool at room temperature, then put in the fridge for serving the next day.


Beet Salad with Gouda and Pistachios

A few substitutions were made, as we were out of ginger, I dug up some galangal.  No fennel fronds, so I used arugula, roasted salted cashews instead of pistachios, and like that.  The marinade cooking along with the beets made for a sweet infusion of flavors.


And, the ahi tuna was perfection. Just the right texture, and softly tender. I zip-locked it in with a pesto marinade, and served over some rice. Very nice.


This post will link up with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend cooking event and to the January Foodies Read Challenge.  Join in for some good book recommendations and recipes, and or contribute your own.



1/12/2018

Cooking Roman for Feast of Sorrow


We at Cook the Books Club have been reading Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King.  This, our current bimonthly selection is being hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  Ms. King has written an excellent novel for anyone interested in ancient Roman history, food or just some fascinating reading.  It's a fictional memoir, based on the life of an individual, historical gourmet, Marcus Gavius Apicius, even though not much is really known about him, and his imagined head chef, a slave named Thrasius.  It begins in 1 BCE, the 26th year of Augustus Caesar's reign. The author has certainly done her research, everything rings true, often horrifyingly so. 

From the publishers:
"Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

12/07/2017

"This Must Be the Place" for Brutti-Boni


Just finished This Must Be the Place, a novel by Maggie O'Farrell.  She certainly knows how to spin an intriguing story or two.  Or three, or four.  They kept coming, interconnected, and at different dates, and places, leaping back and forth between 1986 and 2016, with the various characters, though most were a recurring group.  I found it a bit confusing, and was continually shuffling around in the book to figure things out and understand what was going on.  Still O'Farrell keeps us fascinated throughout.  She is such a good writer.  I've read a number of her novels at this point and loved them all.   From the Publisher:

"Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse.

But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children, and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?"


12/05/2017

First Chapter - First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

I'm doing something new today - First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, which is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where bloggers post the first paragraph(s) or introduction of a book they are currently reading or planning to read sometime soon.


I have noticed some stunning beginnings in my reading years, though the books don't always live up to them. My contribution today is This Must be the Place, by Maggie O'Farrell.  I'm just into the second chapter, but it's quite good so far.

11/29/2017

Lamb in Cotes-Du-Rhone for Cook the Books


 I have enjoyed all of the books by Martin Walker, in his series featuring Bruno, Chief of Police.  The Patriarch, is our current selection for Cook the Books Club.  However, a disclaimer here - many of us, myself included, like to start reading books written in a series at the beginning, as further along, the returning characters have undergone some previous development.  I suppose authors don't like to repeat themselves too much.  So, you may want to go back and read the first first.

In this novel Bruno is invited to the chateau of a boyhood hero, a popular leader in the French Resistance, for a lavish birthday celebration.  Of course a murder ensues and our village police chief gets involved.  It looks to be an accident, but Bruno thinks otherwise.  Family secrets and tragedy are exposed.  Also causing trouble in the region, an animal rights activist is protecting deer without any means of keeping them safe, outraging local hunters. 

For this, as in his earlier novels, the food and wine descriptions were plentiful and tempting, however the only difficulty was in narrowing it down to what might be available, or in tune with the season.  I decided to go with a take-off from one of Chief Bruno's very first mentions, a roast of lamb marinated in wine with herbs.  Not being able to secure the Monbazillac, I went with a nice, earthy red Cotes-Du-Rhone from Saint Cosme instead, and made a braise of  lamb shoulder stew chunks.

11/16/2017

Roasted Roots for Blood at the Root

 
Blood at the Root, by Peter Robinson, is the 9th in his Inspector Banks mystery series.  I don't like to admit it really, but a male author's perspective is frequently coming directly from Mars (just my personal opinion here) and I often find the writing of women more simpatico. It would be obvious to most why Banks' marriage is failing.  The real mystery is the length of time his wife put up with things.  But his problems, marital, and job related tend to get in the way of the murder solve, and there is a lack of real resolution at the end.  We're supposed to read the next book apparently.   All that aside, I know some of you are total Peter Robinson fans, and actually the plot was quite intriguing with the supposed "good boy" turning out to be something else altogether.  Neo Nazis, race riots and drug exporting behind it all.

As the Publisher's blurb says:
 
"In the long shadows of an alley a young man is murdered by an unknown assailant. The shattering echoes of his death will be felt throughout a small provincial community on the edge—because the victim was far from innocent, a youth whose sordid secret life was a tangle of bewildering contradictions. Now a dedicated policeman beset by his own tormenting demons must follow the leads into the darkest corners of the human mind in order to catch a killer."

11/02/2017

Pacific Spinach Cannelloni and Nero Wolfe


 Don't you love discovering new authors and new foods?   Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries have just done it.  He's been around (1886-1975) for quite a few years, but new to me all the same.  The detective hero, Nero Wolfe, head of his own agency,  has been described as "overweight, epicurean and orchid-loving."  And I love how he spends as much time with the orchids as he does solving mysteries and helping his chef, Fritz, to perfect various culinary creations.  In the first of this volume, two novels in one, Black Orchiids and The Silent Speaker, Fritz was making some special sausages, saucisse minuit.  Later on he and Nero, on the advice of a Southern girl, material witness in an ongoing murder investigation, tried adding chitlins to a batch of corned beef hash, in a quest to solve that cooking problem, of nearly equal importance to solving the identity of the murderer.

10/28/2017

Cacao Nibs and Mac Nut Brittle



No Tricks, just treats today! Saturday morning project!  My first experiment in cacao nib brittle making, or brittle making period.  I found 4 recipes to experiment around with, and this is the first, maybe the only.  The kind of guinea pig I don't mind being..  This one was courtesy of  Marc Matsumoto at No Recipes. The only change I made was adding in macadamia nuts. His notes are excellent, so I've included them as well.  My notes and changes are in pink.

10/01/2017

A Death in Vienna - Pastry Disaster

 I just finished A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis, the debut novel for a new series, and was quite impressed with his unique combination of the history of psychology and early 20th century Vienna, romance and mystery.  This is the era of Freud, Klimt and Mahler. There is a new wave of artistic as well as scientific innovation, contending with old school thought, the reigning, male dominated conservatism which categorized abused and traumatized women as "hysterics" and often had them committed to hospitals for the mentally ill.  It was also an age in which antisemitic feeling was gaining ground.

This then is the setting for a murder, and the fledgling psychologist hero, Max Liebermann, assists his police detective friend in finding the totally unusual and unexpected solution.

A beautiful medium is killed in mysterious circumstances – a murder that couldn’t have been committed by anyone alive, from all the available evidence.  The supernatural is invoked, but of course, appearances can be deceiving.  A fascinating, delightful read and highly recommended.