7/20/2017

Waffling for My Kitchen Year

Having been a fan of Ruth Reichl for quite a few years, I'm only surprised it took me this long to read her latest memoir/cookbook, Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year, 130 Recipes that Saved My Life.   Most cookbooks, I find at least, you don't really read from cover to cover.  This is one of those that you should.  I suppose it's the memoir aspect.  And, okay, so the title is a bit dramatic, but no one gets into the positions she has over the years without being something of a drama queen.

Her book was written in a depressive aftermath following the rather abrupt shutdown of Gourmet magazine, where Reichl had been editor in chief for 10 years. Most of us have gone through stuff equally horrid, say the death of someone close, relationship traumas, divorce, children gone off the deep end, job loss, etc., but for a writer like Reichl, it becomes material for a new book.  Taking lemons and making lemonade.  Which is good.  I just wrote a few desperate poems.  Though Jesus was and is my main support.

She is consistently a fine writer, even the tweets, dividing her notes and recipes, haiku like, are so descriptive, sense evocative and full of Ruth's wonder at and love of the surrounding world.  i.e.:

     "Sun coming up. Hawks hovering outside.  Dancing in the kitchen with gnocchi and the blues.  Good way to start a Sunday."

I was hard pressed to narrow down an inspired recipe for this post.  There is much to tempt one in the book, especially if you enjoy trying vibrant new flavor combinations - and experimentation!  I've bookmarked a bunch of things, made the Ma Po Tofu (her recipe) which is not at all subtle.  Definitely knocks your socks off.  Though it took some searching to find Szechuan peppercorns, which at least I did manage to locate here, and not have to order online. Always fun, trying a strange spice.


Some things were just spur of the moment, thrown together meals, I mean do we really need a recipe for a bacon and marmalade sandwich.  At least it was on pumpernickel bread, or for Matzo Brei?  Excusable, as comfort food, during a time when that was greatly needed, and admittedly, all a part of the storytelling, which she does so well.


But, while she was recovering from a foot injury (which I recently had to do, and can totally relate) Ruth asked her husband to throw together this classic Fannie Farmer waffle batter.  It's yeast raised and sits in the fridge overnight (mine did anyway).  Next morning you add the eggs and a bit of baking soda.  But what I really liked - after making the waffles, you stick the remaining batter back in your fridge - and next morning, and the next, you have more waffles.  I do this with scones too.  Make a batch which lasts most of the week.  From the book:

     "'All you have to do is mix up the batter tonight', I pleaded.  'Leave it on the counter to rise.  Then in the morning, you just stir in a couple of eggs and heat up the waffle iron.'
     'I think I can manage that.'  Michael went off to the kitchen, and the cats, sensing an opportunity, jumped off the bed and followed him hopefully down the hall."


That was so funny, to me anyway.  My husband would balk as well.  In fact, he saw the waffle iron sitting out later, when he came home from work and asked about it.  I told him, all you have to do is pour some batter into the hot iron, it's easy.  Not at all believing he would actually do it, but next morning, by the time I was up, he'd eaten one and gone.   Got to be a first.  Bob, baking his own waffle!

These are splendid, so light, crisp and a little yeasty.  I added part whole wheat flour, as I do when baking most things.


"Leave it on the counter to rise", that's of course, if your room temperature is pretty darn cold.  Here, the batter went right into the fridge, and as you can see, rose up to the plastic wrap even in there.


Highly recommended with or without fruit.  I had mine with lovely fresh mango and pineapple. So nice to know there will be more tomorrow morning.  Will share the goodness with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and with Heather at the July Foodies Read Challenge.  Check out some excellent book recommendations, and good recipe ideas.

7/13/2017

Beets with an Avocado Cloud for The Marseille Caper


Peter Mayle's The Marseille Caper was a terrifically enjoyable read, right from the first sentence:

 "Shock has a chilling effect, particularly when it takes the form of an unexpected meeting with a man from whom you have recently stolen three million dollars' worth of wine."

Although pretty lightweight, his novel was throughout, entertaining, funny, romantic and included a thrilling high jinks rescue off a grand yacht.  There are gangster thugs, and an intrigue-ridden local real estate war going on in Marseille.  Sam, the fixer, takes on various tricky jobs mainly to make his life more interesting. This is on top of all the wonderful food and wine descriptions, being as our intrepid hero and his client are both connoisseurs.   Good summer reading.

The only other book of Mayle's I've read was French Lessons, a memoir which our Cook the Books group did a few years back.  That link will take you to the round-up with all our inspired dishes for the book.  I think, all in all, I like his fiction better.

7/06/2017

A Trade Wind Pizza

 This post has only a marginal link between book and culinary interest.   Trade wind by M. M. Kaye, is set in Zanzibar, so I had thought of investigating the food of that Island and making something.  Never got to it.  Anyway, I don't really recall  much  local cuisine being mentioned in the book.

However, that is a digression from the central point of any review of her novel.  It is so well written and researched, with fabulous characters who come alive, right off the pages; pirates, slave traders, concubines and sultans included.  The setting is a tropical paradise, though contrasted with the filth, disease and squalor of the time.  Ameliorated by romance, and fascinating history worked into an amazing plot and story.  I absolutely loved this novel.

"The year is 1859 and Hero Hollis, beautiful and headstrong niece of the American Consul, arrives in Zanzibar. It is an earthly paradise; it is also the last outpost of the slave trade. A passionate opponent of slavery, Hero is swept into a turmoil of royal intrigue, abduction, piracy, smuggling, and a virulent cholera epidemic. There in Zanzibar, the most cruelly beautiful island of the southern seas, she must choose her love and unravel her destiny." (from Goodreads)

6/20/2017

Goldy's Potatoes au Gratin


 Over the last few years I have enjoyed reading Diane Mott Davidson's fun culinary mysteries, starring her intrepid, nosy heroine, Goldy, who now has her own cookbook, Goldy's Kitchen Cookbook, Cooking, Writing, Family, Life.  If you've read any of the series you will know there are some terrific recipes included with each book, and they are all here, plus a few.  I especially loved hearing Ms. Davidson's background on the various books, origins of plots and characters, how she got started, and accomplishes her writing.  She is an inspiring as well as an entertaining writer.
 From the Publishers:

 "The beloved New York Times bestselling culinary mystery writer delivers a cookbook packed with more than 160 mouthwatering recipes and charming anecdotes about her writing and cooking life.
Diane Mott Davidson is the author of seventeen bestselling mysteries featuring caterer/sleuth Goldy Schulz, a woman who 'took the lemon that life had given her and made not just lemonade but Lemon Chicken, Lemon Bars, Lemon Cookies and Lemon Meringue Pie.'

6/15/2017

Split Pea with Fresh Corn Soup for Bertie

 Bertie needed a bit of comfort food in this book, another from the inimitable writings of Alexander McCall Smith, The Bertie Project, from Smith's 44 Scotland St. series.   Seven year old Bertie has a mother everyone loves to hate, the horrid Irene.

As the publishers write:
"Bertie's mother, Irene, returns from the Middle East to discover that, in her absence, her son has been exposed to the worst of evils -- television shows, ice cream parlors, and even unsanctioned art at the National Portrait Gallery. Her wrath descends on Bertie's long-suffering father, Stuart." 

Admittedly Stuart is a total wimp, but might just be acquiring some wee cojones by the end of this book.

6/10/2017

Olive Oil and Fresh Rosemary Cake - Happy 21st!!


 Ever since the bit of time I spent in Greece, and subsequently buying Greek cookbooks, I've been intending to make one of those lovely olive oil cakes popular around the Mediterranean.   The idea is a little off-putting, but they have two good things going for them: 1.  the excellent taste and 2. the ease of putting one together.  Being as we are celebrating my grandson's 21st birthday today, and as I was making a chicken curry, my thought was that this Rosemary Olive Oil Cake would be an excellent dessert pairing , accompanied by a light sorbet.

6/03/2017

Nuevo León Style Tamales


It's Potluck week at IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs) and I'm doing tamales.  Way too long since my last go around.  Those were Carnitas with Black Bean Tamales.  These were inspired by some excellent pork - wild boar brought me by a hunter friend.  A whole leg (what ham is made from for you folks not up on "know your cuts of meat".  Does anyone remember where that came from?  The old David Letterman Show, I think.  So you might say it was inspiring a whole cartload of meals.  And this has cleared out the lot.

From Rick Bayless - Nuevo León Style Tamales, which may be found in his excellent and extremely well-researched book,  Authentic Mexican.  I varied mine by using a formula for making the dough without lard.  For which recipe I am sadly without a source.  Someone over at the now defunct "Daring Cooks" event.

Tamales are quite an involved process, which can be broken down into 2 days worth of steps if you like.  Firstly soaking the corn husks.  Next making filling, by shredding the cooked pork and adding various spices, and seasonings.

5/25/2017

Warm Leek and White Bean Salad from River Cottage

 I've been enjoying dipping in and out of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's  River Cottage Every Day, though really, it's only a "cottage" in the sense of those lovely, big estates of a bygone era, on the East Coast, humbly referred to as cottages by their owners.  He at least is out in the vegetable patch occasionally, (judging from photos in the book) working at his gardening as well as cooking.

This recipe for warm leek and white bean salad with mustard dressing was delicious and a perfect first course along with some fresh baked bread.  We must give some credit here as well to Tamar Adler's section on beans in An Everlasting Meal.  She was such an encouragement to me about something so basic.  After a run of bad experiences, due to the keeping ability of dried beans in Hawaii.  I tossed all of mine and have begun again, with small amounts of a select few, meant to be used rather soon.  They don't keep long in the tropics, and refuse to soften.  She takes such care with the preparation, and suggests making a big pot of them, enough  for several meals during the week.

5/18/2017

Pub Grub for Bryant and May


 My latest read in the Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery series by Christopher Fowler, is Bryant & May: Strange Tide.  I'm caught up now and will just have to wait (impatiently) for the next in line. Anyway, being as the I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC) theme this week is Pub Grub, it fits right in with my fiction book selection.  The two elderly detectives spend a goodly amount of time in London pubs.  So, we're serving them up a digital lunch of Chicken and Leek pasties.  Though that term is a bit cringe-worthy, harkening as it does to naughty night club strippers.  I would prefer turnovers, empanadas, meat pies, hand pies, take your pick.  Good, tasty finger food at any rate -  the recipe from our IHCC featured chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's scrumptious cookbook, River Cottage Every Day.

Arthur Bryant, the oldest of the detective duo, by 3 1/2 years, is also the funny, wildly eccentric, totally intuitive, odd man out to his straight man, John May, who tries, unsuccessfully, to keep his partner in line with Metropolitan Police standards of operation.  Let's just say that Mr. Bryant operates out of the box.

Christopher Fowler has got to be one of the most inventive, witty, and hilariously funny writers on the scene today.  Mystery or otherwise.  As The Guardian says, he "takes delight in stuffing his books with esoteric facts, together with a cast of splendidly eccentric characters (and) corkscrew plots, wit, verve and some apposite social commentary, they make for unbeatable fun."  Totally on spot. Of course I've raved on previously about his novels, The Memory of Blood, and The Water Room.  Terrific reads.


So, Pub Grub.  I've had some in my day, not a whole lot as I don't really frequent pubs, since my husband doesn't drink.  In London I did enjoy fish and chips with a side of mushy peas in a nice pub near the Tower bridge, in Honolulu there are a couple of Irish pubs we've gone to, where the music was great, and in Ireland we  popped into one or two.  That's about it.   Still, you don't need to be in a pub to serve up some typical pub grub.


I especially liked the way Hugh's recipe separates the slices of chicken from the lightly caramelized onion and cream filling.  When you bite in it's not all smushed together, and the taste is sublime.  I used a thick kefir cream and previously prepared chicken. (you notice how I'm not using the L-O's term anymore?)  My pastries didn't get crimped too beautifully though.  Still they were yummy.


These little meat pies are great to take on picnics, as your lunch to go, or just for dinner with a bit of salad. You'll notice I'm also having mine with a glass of Guinness for more pub authenticity.

And, now a slight diversion on a little known pathway, about that particular sort of Guinness, the Draught, black label with the harp, it gets rid of tape or heart worms in your cat or dog.  I kid you not.  Just 1 oz. per 20 lbs. of critter, due to the particular type of hops, and that Dublin water, which renders worms sterile.  You can do your own research, but here's a link..  I was looking for something more natural, to replace the rather toxic meds from the vet, for our elderly kitty and came upon this info. And, yes the cat is fine now.  End of rave.


I'm linking this post to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event and to IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs), so be sure to drop in and link up yourself or get some good book suggestions and or cooking ideas.
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