For our Cook the Books Club this go round, hosted by fellow Hawaii resident and blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, we read (or in my case re-read) Comfort Me with Apples, a memoir by noted Chef, Food Editor, Restaurant Critic, TV personality, and author, Ruth Reichl.
I must suffer from some sort of medium-term memory loss. Most of the book seemed new to me. Had forgotten the long, drawn-out, often sad, business of her marriage break up and affairs, but on the brighter side of honesty, there is humor, good food, more humor and interesting snippets with restaurant personalities and food VIPs. Do read as well, Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, they are even better.
There was much in her memoir to tempt and inspire, as well as challenge our cooking skills. Reichl has the ability to communicate smells and tastes through descriptive writing, aided by an unbelievable palette, which is the premier gifting for a food critic or chef. I sometimes wish mine could be tuned up a few notches. It would certainly help in the area of wine tasting as well. I wonder if there is an herb that would help??
It was difficult to decide exactly what to prepare for this round. So many directions you might go, from California nouvelle, to Chinese or Thai. The idea of Cook the Books Club, in case you are new here, is to read the current bi-monthly book selection and then to cook and post a recipe inspired by your reading.
Since we have been having cold, rainy weather lately (yes, even in Hawaii), what finally called my name was her Swiss Pumpkin, nicely filled with half-and-half, Gruyere cheese, toasted bread, etc., and baked for 2 hours. I used one of our locally grown Kabocha pumpkins, which are just the right size for for two (with not too much left-over). So, given a 2 lb. squash, I cut the recipe in half, and didn't for once change anything, wanting to test out the original.
1 pumpkin, about 4 1/4 lbs.
a 14-inch baguette, cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices, then toasted lightly
1/4 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
1 3/4 cups half-and-half
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Carefully cut a 1-inch slice off the top of the pumpkin, reserving the top. Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. Make 3 layers each of toast and cheese in the pumpkin cavity, alternating layers and ending with cheese. Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg, then slowly pour the mixture into the pumpkin. Replace the top and bake on a shallow baking pan in the middle of the oven until the pumpkin is tender, about 2 hours. Serve by scooping out the pumpkin flesh with the bread and cheese.
So easy to put together, and such good comfort food, especially in cold weather, and perfectly delicious. I served this with bowls of basil tomato soup as a first course. Do check out the round-up of recipes, which should be ready early in April, on the Cook the Books Club website.
Also sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking.