2/26/2024

Stacked or Unstacked Enchiladas for Relish


Our current book selection for Cook the Books Club has been Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, a Graphic Memoir by Lucy Knisley.  Cartoon formatted books are not my usual go to read, or cookbook for that matter.  I found some of it entertaining and humorous, some recipes a bit questionable, and a few that made me want to give a try.  The pickle episode was funny, but in actuality, pretty bad.  I've never seen such a complicated and strange procedure for making pickled vegetables.  Cooking the cucumbers first?  1/2 gallon apple cider vinegar?? She says that her grandmother made incredible pickles, and further that both she and her mom were never able to duplicate the process.   It totally made me want to email her a good recipe for naturally fermented pickles, which is probably what her grandmother made.  Here it is for anyone interested: https://honeyfromrock.blogspot.com/2010/10/they-cant-be-that-easy-pickled.html

From the Publishers: 

"Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe―many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy's original inventions.

A welcome read for anyone who ever felt more passion for a sandwich than is strictly speaking proper, Relish is a graphic novel for our time: it invites the reader to celebrate food as a connection to our bodies and a connection to the earth, rather than an enemy, a compulsion, or a consumer product."

You see those chunks in the salad?  You'd never guess - Lion's Mane mushrooms!

One of the mentions I was inspired to try was her mom's Stacked Enchiladas (P. 141) with homemade mole, fresh queso fresco, green salsa and black beans.  Which I did.  We enjoyed it, quite delicious!  Here comes the "however" they were not as advertised in my online search, easier than the traditional sort.  Too much fussing about for me.  So, a few nights later I thought, since there were more tortillas and black beans, I'd try an Enchilada Casserole, for an easier prep., and liked it even better, for that.

To go with it, we had Mexican Rice, a very good thing to do with left-over rice, as an alternative to Fried Rice, my usual go to.


That turned out perfect -  sooo good, with all the seasonings, including smoked paprika, and some Mexican oregano, which I had just dehydrated.  That's another story.  We had so much getting leggy in the garden, some of it not looking too good, and rarely used.  A radical cutting back was indicated.  The really good news was how much drying improved the taste.  More intense and complex.  


Enchilada Cassarole

Ingredients
10 small tortillas (corn or flour) cut in half
cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon seasonings of choice (cumin, Mexican oregano, culantro, chili powder, paprika etc.)
salt and pepper to taste
15 ounces black beans rinsed and drained
2 cups green enchilada sauce
2 ½ cups cheeses, shredded (I used Sicilian Jack, Queso Manchego and Cotija for the top)
2 tomatoes cored, seeded and diced or 1 large one
¼ cup green onions sliced & 1 tablespoon cilantro or culantro

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with oil.
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook for 6-8 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spoon.
Add the seasonings, salt and pepper to taste, and beans; stir to combine.
Spread ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.
Layer ⅓ of the tortillas over the sauce.
Add ½ of the meat mixture, then add ¾ cup of cheese on top of the meat.
Pour ½ cup of the enchilada sauce over the cheese.
Repeat the process with ⅓ of the tortillas, the rest of the meat mixture, ¾ cup of cheese and ½ cup of sauce.
Add the final ⅓ of tortillas on top of the casserole; pour the remaining sauce over the top of the tortillas and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned.
Sprinkle tomatoes cilantro and green onions over the top. Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes before cutting.


Absolutely delicious!  And, be sure to check out all the tempting dishes soon to be posted at Cook the Books for the Club's Relish Roundup, soon after the first of March.  I'm also going to be linking up with Weekend Cooking, hosted by  Marge of The Intrepid Reader and Bakeand with Foodies Read, hosted by Heather.





1/23/2024

Undercooked - A Persian Lamb Stew

 

For this (December/January) round, we at Cook the Books Club have been featuring the collection of essays, memoir really, Undercooked by Dan Ahdoot.  A very personal, sometimes light-weight romp about his obsession with eating, frequently at high end restaurants, all over the world, to the detriment of any personal relationships, and how he got that way.  As the sub title of his books states "How I let Food Become My Life Navigator and How Maybe That's a Dumb Way to Live".  Well, duh.  It was at times funny, though often in a sad sort of way.  An enjoyable read for the most part.

I loved the description of Dan's first kitchen experiment as a kid.  A ten year old, and he wanted to make a Grand Marnier Souffle!  Then totally nailed it with the assistance and encouragement of his mom. 

From Kirkus Reviews: "A comic describes his lifelong love affair with food. "A good meal gives me more happiness than almost anything in life, including sex, money, and sex," Ahdoot writes in this collection of humorous essays. Later, he adds, "I'm probably the best comedian in the country with a deep obsession with food, so that's something, right?"  Much of the narrative describes how he got that way. Unfortunately, the book is like a restaurant that can't keep good chefs because the offerings vary wildly in quality. As the middle of three boys, Ahdoot was the only child in their Iranian Jewish household who shared his father's love of fine cuisine, a passion his father maintained until the oldest son died of cancer. Ahdoot's parents then turned to religion and frequented "subpar kosher immigrant eateries…". 

10/24/2023

It's Fall with Savory Stuffed Mini Pumpkins

 
Our current Cook the Books Club read has been The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, by Louise Miller.  A fun, food filled and romantic light read.  Nothing too serious, but still an encouragement for anyone wanting to begin again, or starting a new project in a new place.  I enjoyed it and found lots of delicious cooking inspiration, for desserts especially.  

Miller weaves some quirky characters in with lots of good country music, I felt like I could hear it all, as the lead, Olivia joins in with the musicians. She has escaped life in the big city, working in a fancy Club/Restaurant, after accidentally setting the place afire with a flambeed dessert.   Leaving behind a dead end relationship as well, she joins an old friend in a small country town.  When she is offered a job at the Sugar Maple Inn, the getaway becomes something more lasting.  Of course, there are various hurdles in the way, mostly from the cantankerous owner.

9/30/2023

The Portuguese Escape and Bacalhau, Etc.


The Portuguese Escape by Ann Bridge, an author I have only recently discovered, then also saddened to hear she is no longer with us, in one sense anyway, but luckily her books live on!  This is the third novel of Bridge's I've read, and the second of her Julia Probyn mysteries.  What a wonderful, witty, and intelligent writer, always a delight to discover such an author!  Very highly recommended.  

From the Publishers:  "Julia Probyn, journalist and amateur sleuth, must acquaint herself with the world of counterespionage. Hetta, a young Hungarian Countess, just released from behind the Iron Curtain, is drawn into a communist plot. Together the two young women will need all of their strength to unravel the schemes and machinations closing in from all sides.

With Ann Bridge's talent for evoking place and mixing mystery with humor, The Portuguese Escape, book two in The Julia Probyn Mysteries, is full of danger and adventure amidst Communist intrigue." To put it mildly! And with romance touchingly thrown into the mix.

8/25/2023

Home Cooking and The Great Ulu Project

When you have uku (Hawaiian for plenty) ulu (breadfruit) then you make flour!   That way the useful season gets extended further into the year.  Currently researching the best recipes for it.  No gluten, so you have to move on from there. I don't normally do gluten free cooking.  So, I've found one solution is to incorporate some Semolina flour!  My banana-chocolate brownies came out well.  With a mix of AP flour and ulu flour half-half.  The focaccia not so well.  It needed more water as I found the ulu flour absorbs more.

Which brings me to the book: Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin, various essays, which I've been reading in a sort of haphazard way.  There's her Cold Roast Chicken recipe with buckwheat noodles.  And that inspired the next step.  Make noodles.

Meanwhile, a short review on the subject of that book:

From the Publishers: "Weaving together memories, recipes, and wild tales of years spent in the kitchen, Home Cooking is Laurie Colwin's manifesto on the joys of sharing food and entertaining. From the humble hot-plate of her one-room apartment to the crowded kitchens of bustling parties, Colwin regales us with tales of meals gone both magnificently well and disastrously wrong."

8/18/2023

Love and Saffron with Ulu and Deconstructed Kebabs


We at Cook the Books Club are currently reading Love & Saffron, by Kim Fay,  this round hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.  It's sub-titled A Novel of Friendship, Food and Love, and truly is.  A series of letters written between two women who come to know one another well, beyond which it becomes a friendship that deeply affects their lives and those they love.  It was also a reminder of the friendships in my own life, those I communicate with daily.  Particularly a good friend of many years, just recently more closely reconnected with.  We now email back and forth about what we're cooking, planting, research of the various aspects of it all, and food we're experimenting with; occasionally visiting local farmers markets, and sharing meals.  Lately the experimentation has been ways of utilizing breadfruit (ulu), including making flour.  (A post on that to come.)

7/06/2023

A Good BBQ For Food Americana

 

Our most recent Cook the Books Club selection is Food Americana  -The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories behind America's Favorite Dishes, by David Page. This round hosted by Simona, of Bricole.  

Not my usual sort of reading material.  This is a lovely club/ reading group, which gets us all out of ruts! :). .. My usual sort of rut being escapism, light mystery fiction, or non-fiction totally based on what project I'm involved in or researching.  At the moment, improving my chocolate making.  Just finished making a fermentation box, and it's cooking away at the moment. So much for that.  This book, on the other hand, is about food in America.  In case you weren't aware of it all, and with background on the various types: Hamburgers, BBQ, bagels, spaghetti, ice cream, etc. etc. including those not so American, i.e. Mexican, sushi and Chinese food.  According to the publishers:

"David Page changed the world of food television by creating, developing, and executive-producing the groundbreaking show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Now from this two-time Emmy winner comes Food Americana, an entertaining mix of food culture, pop culture, nostalgia, and everything new on the American plate.

The remarkable history of American food. What is American cuisine, what national menu do we share, what dishes have we chosen, how did they become “American,” and how are they likely to evolve from here? David Page answers all these questions and more.

Engaging, insightful, and often humorous. The inside story of how Americans have formed a national cuisine from a world of flavors. Sushi, pizza, tacos, bagels, barbecue, dim sum―even fried chicken, burgers, ice cream, and many more―were born elsewhere and transformed into a unique American cuisine."  I would beg to differ.  These items may be what we or some of us eat, but they are not our National cuisine.  We obviously don't have one.  

5/30/2023

Kitchen Experiments for Lessons in Chemistry

 

Our latest book selection for Cook the Books Club has been Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, hosted this round by Debra of 
Eliot's Eats.   From the Publisher:

"Meet Elizabeth Zott: “a gifted research chemist, absurdly self-assured and immune to social convention” (The Washington Post) in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show."

 I found the book somewhat enjoyable, occasionally interesting and sometimes annoying.  Interesting historically in a sad way, with a look at how professional women have been treated in the past.   Annoying, hypocritical really, in the sense that "scientists" as well as authors, artists, engineers, etc. understandably, very much dislike having their work and inventions, or designs appropriated by others.  As happened in the novel.  Actually it's a criminal offense.  Yet they can look at the beauty, purpose and design all around us and assign it to random chance. Ha.  Also, I found it highly unlikely that her cooking show would have become popular in the early1960s.  What did become popular then was Julia Child's cooking show. 

There is a lot of hypocrisy in the world and always has been, not just in the arena of women's rights.  At least Garmus' novel was thought provoking and even occasionally humorous, despite the improbable and sometimes fantastical side.  I loved Elizabeth's dog, 6:30.  When Calvin died, "he sensed her death wish, and because of it, had been on suicide watch all week." Like her daughter, the dog is rendered almost magically intelligent and gifted.

5/09/2023

Chianti and Cannelloni


Another new series!  And, I love when it's a good one.  This novel involves a former NY Homicide detective who retires to Italy, and of course, gets involved in solving a homicide!  Who would have guessed?  But there are enticing mentions of delicious local food and wine, with a fine development of characters and plot.  More here from the Publisher's Weekly: 

"At the start of this vibrant mystery from Trinchieri (The Breakfast Club Murder as Camilla T. Crespi), retired Bronx policeman Nico Doyle is having breakfast one morning at the run-down farmhouse he has rented near the town of Gravigna, Italy, his late wife's hometown where he's recently settled, when he hears a gunshot in the hills. When Nico investigates, he comes across the body of a man whose face has been obliterated by a shotgun blast. The victim's Michael Johnson running shoes suggest he's an American. Salvatore Perillo, the carabinieri officer who takes charge of the case, says on learning Nico was once a homicide detective: "I've dealt with only a single murder in my career. Holy heaven, New Yorkers must have murders every day." Nico agrees to assist Perillo, despite his dislike of working homicides. 

Enticing descriptions of food and wines, an introspective protagonist with an unusual background, and an intricate plot that weaves its way amid past peccadillos combine to make this a winner. Readers will eagerly await Trinchieri's next."   



Unfortunately, there are so far only two books after this one in the series.  However she has also written under her nom de plume,  Camilla T. Crespi.  So there is that.  

I was going through another library book, One, Jamie Oliver's latest, for which I had been on quite a long wait list.  I made a dish from his cookbook to go with this post, which he calls Crazy-Paving Cannelloni.  Was quite yummy, and we both liked it a lot.  Plus, crazy easy!  But,  a reminder, I really, really need to get out that unused pasta machine and experiment!