Spicy Cold Noodles with Beef Slivers for Kitchen Chinese

We, at Cook the Books Club, are currently reading and getting inspired by Kitchen Chinese, a delicious, little debut novel by Ann Mah. Fairly light weight, but I very much enjoyed it, both for the storyline and an up close look at a country headlining the news lately, mostly in a negative way.

 Our protagonist, Isabelle, has come to a standstill in her life, with loss of job, no romance in sight and craving some new horizons.  She decides to explore the family connections in China, where her sister is working as an attorney in Beijing. One drawback being that her knowledge of the language is limited to a bit of "kitchen Chinese" picked up watching and helping her mother cook while growing up.

However, once there, Isabelle manages to land a job at a magazine for the expatriate community in Beijing and connect with a small circle of friends. The relationship with her high powered sister is not so smooth, and they circle one another warily at first.

From the Publishers: "Kitchen Chinese, Ann Mah’s funny and poignant first novel about a young Chinese-American woman who travels to Beijing to discover food, family, and herself is a delight—complete with mouth-watering descriptions of Asian culinary delicacies, from Peking duck and Mongolian hot pot to the colorful, lesser known Ants in a Tree that will delight foodies everywhere. Reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s runaway bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, Mah’s tale of clashing cultures, rival siblings, and fine dining is an unforgettable, unexpectedly sensual reading experience—the story of one woman’s search for identity and purpose in an exotic and faraway land."


A New Sort of Monkey Bread

I'm going to share a recent read, The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, and a recent food creation, with a very loose          connection. Well, maybe connections would be that the ingredients in the Monkey Bread were all essential, and that both the book and the recipe were delicious. I loved them both.  And, I just noticed that this is actually book 1 of a series, so looking forward to reading her next, The Lost art of Mixing.

The novel is about a basically self taught chef and restaurant owner who opens up her premises once a month, on Mondays, the day the restaurant is closed, to a small group cooking school.  Of course, all of the students, in the manner of a Maeve Binchy story, are revealed in their unique characters and situations, and come together, helped by the learning experience and the creating of good food.

From the Publisher's Weekly:

"In this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence. Respected chef and restaurateur Lillian has spent much of her 30-something years in the kitchen, looking for meaning and satisfaction in evocative, delicious combinations of ingredients. Endeavoring to instill that love and know-how in others, Lillian holds a season of Monday evening cooking classes in her restaurant. The novel takes up the story of each of her students, navigating readers through the personal dramas, memories and musings stirred up as the characters handle, slice, chop, blend, smell and taste. Each student's affecting story--painful transitions, difficult choices--is rendered in vivid prose and woven together with confidence. Delivering memorable story lines and characters while seducing the senses, Bauermeister's tale of food and hope is certain to satisfy. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"


A Blue Zones Kitchen in June

I was happy to finally arrive at the top of our library's list for The Blue Zones Kitchen, by Dan Buettner, having been curious as to what that sort of cooking would involve.  The recipes presented, from each zone are all very simple and easily prepared.  No fancy cooking involved here.  A back to the elemental basics, plain food.  So far, I've made three of the recipes, was quite happy with them all, and am looking forward to trying a few more before the book goes back.  A summary from the Publishers:

"Building on decades of research, longevity expert Dan Buettner has gathered 100 recipes inspired by the Blue Zones, home to the healthiest and happiest communities in the world. Each dish-- uses ingredients and cooking methods proven to increase longevity, wellness, and mental health. Complemented by mouthwatering photography, the recipes also include lifestyle tips (including the best times to eat dinner and proper portion sizes), all gleaned from countries as far away as Japan and as near as Blue Zones project cities in Texas and Hawaii.. Innovative, easy to follow, and delicious, these healthy living recipes make the Blue Zones lifestyle even more attainable, thereby improving your health, extending your life, and filling your kitchen with happiness."