11/05/2019

Jubilee and a Cajun Catfish Etoufee

I was recently invited to be part of a review event for Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, a just published, new cookbook by Toni Tipton-Martin.  Thanks Camilla for extending the invite. 

About the book, from the Publishers:
"More than 100 recipes that paint a rich, varied picture of the true history of African American cooking—from a James Beard Award–winning food writer

NAMED ONE OF FALL’S BEST COOKBOOKS BY The New York Times • Bon Appétit • Eater • Food & Wine • Kitchn • Chowhound

Throughout her career, Toni Tipton-Martin has shed new light on the history, breadth, and depth of African American cuisine. She’s introduced us to black cooks, some long forgotten, who established much of what’s considered to be our national cuisine. After all, if Thomas Jefferson introduced French haute cuisine to this country, who do you think actually cooked it?

10/29/2019

Various Incarnations of Crack Chicken

My dear grandson came for dinner the other night and happened to mention that he had just cooked up a batch of Crack Chicken in an Instant Pot. (knowing my interest in haute cuisine :))  What? I asked - Crack Chicken?  He tells me, as in addictive. Now in the recent past the boy would cook whole meals in his rice cooker, everything would go in there and he'd have dinner for a few days.  Now it's the Instant Pot.

This was the first I'd heard the term Crack Chicken.  He told me how great it tasted, and how easy it was to make.   So later I asked friend, Duck Duck Go and found a number of recipes for this odd sounding dish.  Very Au Courant I discovered.

Thus, we had to whip up a batch.  A bit like creamed chicken, but with ranch seasoning, cream cheese and bacon.  How could you miss?  One benefit is that it makes a goodly amount.  On various nights, and for lunches, we had it over noodles, with mashed potatoes, in a hamburger bun with tomato and lettuce, on toast topped with melted cheese, on pizza with some sliced olives, and I froze some for another day.

10/25/2019

Orange Chicken Koresh for The Temporary Bride

Our latest selection (October/November) for Cook the Books Club is The Temporary Bride - a Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec. A truly fascinating read. I especially enjoyed the account of Klinec's very unusual growing up years, which went a long way toward explaining her extreme courage and independence.   Also the cooking school she ran in London sounded like my kind of fantasy class to take. Eclectic, wide-ranging culinary explorations, learning everything from Oaxacan moles to preparing a Vietnamese-style snapper. She says: "We crimp dumplings between our fingers and mix pickled tea leaves with roast peanuts and lime juice in tiny, lacquer Burmese bowls."

On the other hand, I certainly don't find Persian cooking fabulous enough to take it to the extent she went to, in her determination to learn how to cook their food on site.  In fact, I came away with the impression that it would be an extremely horrific place to live, let alone visit.  You couldn't pay me to go there.  Although everything wasn't totally squalid, enough was, especially when added to the extremely oppressive political atmosphere.  Something like going away to live in Nazi Germany maybe, as a Jew, to learn how to make strudel.  Maybe fearless, maybe stupid. Pardon me.  Just my opinion, coming away from this memoir.  Not talking about some of the people who were kind and helpful, the interesting culture or food here, just the current religious/political situation, particularly for women.

10/17/2019

Salade Lyonnaise for Mastering the Art of French Eating

Here's a memoir you might enjoy, even if you aren't a Francophile, which I'm certainly not -  Mastering the Art of French Eating, by Ann Mah.  Lots of super food ideas and mentions!   I had already read and loved two of her other books, The Lost Vintage, and Kitchen Chinese, Mah's debut memoir.

Ann's husband is called away on a diplomatic assignment to Iraq, for a year - no spouses allowed - after being first assigned to Paris, their dream come true. She must get over her disappointment, and as an aid to that, as well as her almost overwhelming loneliness, while he is away, she takes side trips to various of the French regions.  The idea being to feature a specific, representative dish from each area, interview chefs, farmers, marketers and French foodies for an article or book. As Dorie Greenspan remarks, "feasting through France with Ann Mah is a delicious adventure."  

I did think she went on over much about missing her husband, but hey, it's truth and a memoir.  She coped well, meeting new people via her craft of writing and interest in food; getting to know these people, not only their representative foods, but their culture, interests and unique personalities.  She discovers that the French are very serious about their meals.  Lunch is not meant to be carelessly consumed at one's desk, or food eaten whilst walking along the street.  I can only imagine what they would think of eating while driving.  Quel Horreur!

9/26/2019

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Peppers for The Food Explorer


The Food Explorer, by Daniel Stone  is a biography of David Fairchild,  and our most recent Cook the Books Club selection, chosen and hosted by my fellow Hawaiian blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. The full title adds: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats."  I enjoyed the book quite a bit, though this type of historic biography is outside my usual reading purview.  Very informative however, despite some of it being a bit dry, there's enough to keep one interested, with all his travel adventures and mishaps, the variety of seeds, cuttings and plants Fairchild, as well as his protegee, Frank Meyer, and contemporary, Walter Swingle, were able to ship back to the US, or carry themselves.

 From the Publishers:  "The true adventures of David Fairchild, a late 19th-century food explorer who traveled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes - and thousands more - to the American plate

In the 19th century, American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable lust to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater.

9/13/2019

A Night of Miracles and Mango Coffeecake


Having just finished Night of Miracles, by Elizabeth Berg, I've got to say she's got another winner! I've reviewed several of Berg's novels in the past (The Art of Mending and Never Change), but am not letting that stop me.  When they're good, they're good, and you want to share it!

This one calls to mind the sadly late Maeve Binchey, featuring a number of diverse characters in a small town, whose lives are tied together in various ways. The central figure, an elderly woman, Lucille, is a consummate baking queen, who has begun to teach classes in her home, between fending off a few encounters with the Angel of Death.

So mentions of food abound, not just baked goods, but plenty of scrumptious Southern cooking turns up here, with another of the characters working in a local cafe.  Beware of constant temptations from the likes of Upside-down Chocolate Pudding Cake, Praline Cupcakes, and sugar cookies stuffed with raspberry jam.  Oh Boy!

9/04/2019

Perfect Cold Borscht for Hot Weather

This is the time of year when cold soups come into their own, and yes, it's still hot here.  I was very happy with the way this version of Borscht turned out.  I've tried others, good too.  There are probably as many variations of this soup as there are nostalgic emigres around.

On a related, sort of, subject?  We must have been in a Russian mood, as I ordered a jar of Shilajit, which if you've never heard of, is a supplement, a mineral rich tar found in high mountain ranges, like the Himalayas, Altai and Caucasus.  You add a small amount - less than 1/8 teaspoon to some tea and voila, energy!  It just came in the mail from Siberia, so I'll let you know how it works.  My brother-in-law, who is sold on the stuff, told me about it.

So, here's a delicious soup to be made earlier in the day, chilled and, then when you don't want to heat up your kitchen, there you have it!

8/15/2019

A Meal from Prune, The Cookbook


I've been enjoying Gabrielle Hamilton's cookbook, Prune, based on the recipes featured in her New York restaurant of that name, and which I checked out from our local library.  I didn't renew it though. Bought my very own copy, YES!  A fairly hefty tome.  And looking forward to trying many more of her recipes, methods and creative ideas.

We at Cook the Books Club had just read and reported on Gabrielle's previous book, a memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter, which led me to check out her cookbook. So glad I did.  Gabrielle's background, learning to cook with her French mother, working for various small restaurants, and catering companies, traveling and learning along the way, all informed her unique personal style and conception for Prune.

7/30/2019

Blood, Bones & Butter Review With a Negroni!

We at Cook the Books Club are closing out this segment with our latest book selection, Blood, Bones & Butter, a memoir by Gabrielle Hamilton, and I'm just getting my post in under the wire.  I loved this book, found it a truly enjoyable read!  There's an old saying, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" and does it ever apply here. Gabrielle not only stands it, she actually revels in it, the overwhelming, awesome heat of a small restaurant kitchen with 10 burners going.  She says: "I am the only one I know who likes it.....I feel like we are two small-time boxers---me and the heat---meeting in the center of the ring to tap gloves..."

Though I hadn't thought about heat too much in terms of restaurant work,  I do know that my own little kitchen often heats up beyond my tolerance and I just have to get out.  Go sit in front of a fan on the deck until I'm cooled down enough.  Not possible for anyone on a restaurant job.

What a trip! Gabrielle carries us along with her, from the beginning of her interest and contact with food prep, watching her French mother,  through years of camp cooking and catering, to the opening of her own unique little restaurant in New York City.   Her stint with various catering companies would certainly put one off ordering from them, by the way.  "The Inadvertent Education" adventures are narrated in a writing style that kept my interest to the end.   She is a truly talented, evocative raconteur and cook, her MFA in fiction writing clearly shows.