I am currently hosting our bimonthly edition of Cook the Books Club, Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship, by Isabel Vincent. This was a book I read last year, and at my re-reading had to wonder - how does one compose a proper tribute for a guy like Edward? However, our author has totally nailed it. I feel as though I was graced to know a wonderful man, just a bit, through her poignant memoir, She brought him to life for us. Though it was also about her, and what she was going through at the time, that story served as a fine contrast and underscore to Edward's own character, his concern, compassion, ability to love, and enjoyment of life, which he is able to gradually regain after the death of his great love and wife, Paula.
Isabel's old friend, Valerie, is worried about her grieving father, as as she and her sister are both out of the country. Valerie asks that Isabel look in on him occasionally. When she does, he invites her to dinner. The book serves as a chronicle of their developing friendship and the dinners he prepared for her, with menus heading up each chapter.
Something Edward told Isabel early on, sums up his attitude toward entertaining, and hospitality:
"The secret is treating family like guests and guests like family," And she continues, " No matter how terrible I felt in the moments before I knocked on his door, I always left Edward's apartment with a smile on my face, a sensation that I had just experienced some kind of pure joy."
There was so much to inspire as far as food, lots that I eventually want to prepare. The meal I finally chose came from near the end of the book, a dinner celebrating the anniversary of Edward and Paula's wedding. His menu reads:
Chicken Liver Pate, Crackers
Flounder alla Francese over Steamed spinach
Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Well, I have made chicken liver pate, but not right at this point in time. I'm attaching a photo of it though. Mine has cognac included as well, and is from Elizabeth David's recipe.
Next adjustment - the flounder - which I couldn't source, but changed out for cod, and instead of Riesling, there was my Carambola wine. Nonetheless it all came together wonderfully. I am doing things in a more relaxed mode these days, thanks to a terrific cookbook, Food52 A New Way to Dinner, by preparing parts of a meal ahead of time.
Vincent did not give any exact, detailed recipes, though she does say: "He spent hours writing out recipes for me" which he then mailed to her. But the descriptions were enough, with occasional help from Google. I steamed the sweet potatoes, cut in quarters, let them cool, then sliced into further into wedges, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling briefly. The spinach was steamed at the last minute in the same pot. I just followed Vincent's report of what Edward did with the fish. Basically, breaded the fillets, then sizzled about 3 minutes, and set aside in a warm oven while the sauce was prepared. I used a cup of bouillon with 1/3 cup vermouth, fresh thyme and a squeeze of lemon juice, reduced down to about half.
The fish sort of fell apart, but was sure delicious with that sauce. Be sure to stop by Cook the Books for our Roundup, now posted, of wonderful dishes and reviews. I'm also linking this post to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and with the March Foodie Reads Challenge.