Tag Archives: weekend cooking

Weekend Cooking: Book Review – Delicious by Ruth Reichl

Delicious!

 

Title: Delicious by Ruth Reichl
Source: Library copy
Format: audiobook
Publisher: Random House, 2014
ISBN: 9781400069620

Billie Breslin is a girl with a magical palate and a flair for cooking. This skill, however, goes unused as Billie moves from Santa Barbara to New York to work for the famed food magazine, Delicious. After a year at the magazine, the owner decides to fold the magazine and fire all of its employees except for one. Billie remains as the sole employee to ensure the Delicious Guarantee that all the printed recipes satisfy their customers. This requires a lot of phone calls and research. In the now abandoned mansion, Billie finally gains access to the library. A secret room that has been locked and sealed for decades. After researching a particular recipe, Billie stumbled upon a series of letters from the famed James Beard and a young girl named Lulu living in Indiana. Soon, Billie realizes that each letter holds a clue as to where the next letter would be filed in the library’s archives. Putting together the clues, Billie learns not only about Lulu’s life during World War II, but she gains some valuable insight into her own life as well.

The narration by Julia Whelan was purely mesmerizing. The story, despite some flaws, eye-rolling moments and predictability, was well-written and well executed. The characters had a respectable depth and differentiation. I’m so used to supporting characters blending into each other, that is was refreshing to read a book where each side character stood apart. I’m not quite sure if I can credit that to the author or to the narrator though. Whelan’s impression and different voices were superb.

The story did have some flaws. The whole ugly duckling into a beautiful swan scene with Billie was some over-the-top and unnecessary. A girl who never put any effort or thought into how she looked, ate bad take-out Chinese food each night and never exercised ends up a body of a model and a hidden flair for putting outfits together. I also didn’t understand why someone with a deep-rooted avoidance of cooking, to the point of it inducing panic attacks, would want to work at a food magazine where cooking takes places around the clock. The storyline with her sister was predictable from the first email as was the eventual love story.

All that aside, I really did enjoy the story. I LOVED the library scavenger hunt. It was so clever the librarian, Birdie, hid the letters and the clues that Billie had to look for to find the next letter. I loved reading about Lulu’s childhood with her insecurities and uncertainties, all during World War II. Reichl definitely did her research and presented a very unique and personal take on the war from a small-town outlook. Reichl is known as a food writer, and it’s clearly evident how skilled she is when she wrote about the kitchens, the cooking and the food. I was craving Italian food non-stop when listening to this book. It’s definitely a good choice for a foodie.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

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The post: Weekend Cooking – Book Review: Delicious by Ruth Reichl appeared first on The Novel World.

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Weekend Cooking: Picnic in Provence

 Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co, 2015
ISBN: 9780316246163
 
Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes This is the sequel to Lunch in Paris which I absolutely adored. Its one of my favorite French memoirs. The sequel finds us in a small Provencal town of Céreste with Elizabeth, Gwendal and their newest addition to the family, baby Alexandre. What I appreciated the most in this book was Elizabeth’s insightful views on parenting and the difficulties of parenting that no one ever wants to talk about. She spent a good portion talking about her difficulties bonding with her son. I think its something all new parents go through at some point of the early years.
 
Although Bard has lived in France for 10 years, she still feels like an outsider, always learning and growing. Although, as a side-effect, she lives inbetween worlds. Neither fully at home in France nor in the US. Her observations are poignant, and her chapters are short and to the point. She doesn’t dwell too long on any one topic and at times it seems like the chapters are lifted directly from a journal she kept. What I liked about the book is the small town they moved to. Céreste is incredibly small, and hardly even shows up in the guide books. Although it’s now found a place on the map with the emergence of Elizabeth’s and Gwendal’s ice cream shop,  Scaramouche, in the town square. I’ve always loved Provence. When I think about my honeymoon, I think most about my time in Arles, not Paris. Surprise, surprise. I like the small glimpses into the casual everyday lifestyle of the country, rather than the generic generalizations of big-city living. I sort of wish I reread Lunch in Paris before picking up this book, because I feel like Elizabeth’s voice as a narrator has grown and matured in the years between the books.  
 
At some point between books, Bard also wrote a cookbook? She makes a slight mention of it in one of the chapters, although I haven’t come across any cookbooks penned by the author. Unless she meant the recipes in these books. These wonderful sounding recipes that make your mouth drool with hunger and anticipation. One thing that I’ve always loved about Bard’s recipes is that she provides a mix of recipes from her life in the states and her life in France. Each recipe has a special story and place in her heart. It makes me want to jot down little stories that go with some of my family’s favorite meals and kitchen concoctions.
 
Sadly, with the book having a large number of holds on it at the library, I couldn’t keep it for as long as I would have liked. I didn’t get a chance to make any of the recipes in this book, although reading it did inspire me to pick up some new-to-me ingredients in the grocery store and try to create my own recipes for dinners. Most of which were semi-flops, so nothing worth reposting, unless you want a what-not-to-cook guide.

Weekend Cooking: The Egg Cookbook

The Egg Cookbook: The Creative Farm-to-Table…    

The Egg Cookbook: Fresh Farm to Table Guide to Cooking Eggs

Healdsburg Press, 2014

The Egg Cookbook is a wonderful guide with dozens of recipes covering topics from quick and easy eggs (scrambled, poached, etc) to sauces (hollandaise) and appetizers and snacks (grilled egg stuffed mushrooms anybody?). Prior to getting my hands on this book, my egg expertise consisted of simple scrambled eggs and poached eggs. This book helped add many new recipes to my kitchen. It’s particularly helpful with a toddler on board, who loves eggs, but gets bored with the same meal. He is human afterall.

The book is divided into 2 parts Part 1: Understanding Eggs discusses the nature of eggs, basic cooking and preparation tips. There is a lot of time dedicated to raising chickens, which will be helpful as that is quickly becoming a growing pastime. A friend of mine in Portland had chickens in her backyard and often raved about the eggs they laid. Part 2 covers a wide range of recipes. There is a nice selection of vegetarian and paleo-recipes, so no rock has been left unturned. Everyone will find at least one recipe that meets their needs.

Sadly, I think this book is only available as an ebook right now. But it is incredibly easy to navigate, with quick links on the sidebar to take you exactly where you want to go. I highly recommend this book for anyone feels like they want to expand their skills from the basic scrambled eggs.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld or at my Tumblr.

Weekend Cooking: Suffering Succotash by Stephanie Luvianovic

Suffering succotash : a picky eater's quest to understand why we hate the foods we hateSuffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate by Stephanie Lucianovic
Age: Adult
Format: Book
Source: Library
Publisher: Perigee Trade, 2012
ISBN: 9780399537509
Find this book at your local library

Former picky eater, and now foodie/chef Stephanie Lucianovic takes a humorous and in-depth look at why and how picky eaters are picky eaters. Part memoir, part science and part humor is how she makes her point that picky eaters aren’t just fussy, but have valid medical, psychological and physical reasons for their tastes and reactions to specific foods.

She examines taste buds, she goes to a genetics lab to examine her DNA, she speaks to food behavioral therapists, parents, friends, chefs, and children in the Bay Area and around the nation. Her work is lively, chatty and informative. I bet the audio cd would be a hoot to listen to if she narrates it. I’m also a little bit partial to this book because most of her research is done around the Bay Area. She lives in Menlo Park, and I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever brought her young son to the baby storytime I did there. Not that it has anything to do with the book, but that its a small world after all if she did. =p

This is a book that picky eaters and foodies can associate with. Although it is chock-full of research, and anecdotes, there isn’t much in the way of advice other than “try new food” and “don’t push foods onto kids, they’ll just hate them all the more.” She makes a good point that kids today are exposed to a wider variety of foods via farmer’s market not to mention the super yummy creations of Ella’s Kitchen for tiny tots.

We are all picky eaters in our way. As much as I love cinnamon buns, and crave them on a regular basis, I avoid eating them because I can’t stand the sticky sauce that is poured over it, same goes for most drenched finger foods (ie ribs). Too messy = not for me. My husband can’t stand anything pickled (cucumbers, pickles, etc). We love food, love to cook and consider ourselves foodie-wannabes, but we still have our hang-ups. Everyone does! As long as it doesn’t get in the way of your health, then its really no big deal is mine and the author’s stance.

So, what food have you avoided recently?

An Everlasting Meal – Tamar Adler

An everlasting meal : cooking with economy and graceAn Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Grace & Economy by Tamar Adler
Age: Adult
Genre: Cooking, Food Essays
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Scribner, 2011
ISBN: 9781439181874, 250 pages
Find this book at your local library

To say that I was disappointed with this book would be a major understatement. I found this book to be mostly irrelevant although a few sections did provide a few key ideas for me. Although the title states it’s a how to on cooking economically, don’t think of this as a place to go for cost-cutting tips. On the contrary, much of Adler’s advice is towards high quality foods that are often well above an average person’s grocery budget. By economy, she means not wasting any food that enters the home. This includes onion peels.

By economy, Adler means making the most of every single food item that you buy. Ok, so this something that I am interested in learning about. The chapters discussed various aspects of cooking, from boiling veggies, to cooking with fish, meats and desserts. There is also a pretty lengthy section on cooking with beans and grains that I found to be interesting. The problem for me was that I couldn’t find anything new of inspiring in this book. There was nothing written in this book that I hadn’t read on some random food blog, or Martha Stewart magazine in the past 2 years. It’s a plus that all this information is in one places, but she mostly just touches upon a few narrow ideas rather than provide any tips that I can put into practice.

The only good resource I got from this book is to cook all the vegetables I buy at the farmer’s market in one day, and then mix them into meals throughout the week. Although a very good idea, I really wish I hadn’t paid $15 for it. I also appreciated her devotion to the idea of simple cooking. A sumptuous and filling meal does not have to be a big, elaborate ordeal. I like how she simplifies the meals which in turn simplifies the art of cooking.

The other irksome aspect of this book is that Adler is at times preachy and bossy. Sentences like “An omelet is the egg’s comeuppance”, “children must shell peas” and “you must make rice pudding with leftover rice” were scattered throughout the book and felt very strict and to over the top for me. Oh, and her love of salt. Good grief. The amount of salt she was adding to every single item of food was giving me heart palpitations.

This book is really more of a love letter to the philosophy of cooking, not so much a practical how-to-guide. Adler is gifted with her writing style, although some parts ran on for too long, and some chapters ended too soon (the chapter on canning. I wish she had provided more examples and advice on that one). I had high hopes for this book, but it really wasn’t worth the investment for me.

Weekend Cooking – the CaliBowl

I’m always on the lookout for local Bay Are & Eco-Friendly businesses, particularly for kitchen ware. Bay Area & Eco-Friendly, kind of go hand-in-hand, which is why coming across this article about an East Bay Company called CaliBowl was very uplifting. Calibowl is bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US, primarily to the Bay Area. This will be a great boost to the local economy, and as an added perk, the product itself is really spiffy.

I’ve recently ordered the set of bowls pictured above, so they haven’t arrived yet. What makes this bowl unique is that it’s marketed as “non-spill”, meaning there is an inner lip, so that when you scoop some salsa it falls into the spoon, rather than spilling out over the bowl. Granted, a little care and know-how with a couple of tortilla chips could solve the spill-over issue, the bowls are also designed for kids, which I’m guessing will help make mealtimes that much easier and less messy to deal with. I love using bowls as prep stations when I’m cooking and have to chop up various ingredients. Plus, I’ve been wanting to slowly convert all of my kitchen gadgets into green gadgets (both color and eco-friendliness). The cost is also considerably affordable when you look at the features specs:

Features

  • Patent pending lip around the top of the bowl is designed at an angle which pushes food onto your utensil avoiding any spillage and overflows.
  • Multi-size bowls accommodate a variety of kitchen tasks
  • Quantity 1-12oz low profile bowl, 1-28oz low profile bowl, 1-44oz low profile bowl with non slip bases
  • Nest neatly inside one another for easy storage
  • Made of Polypropylene, a plastic polymer that is exceptionally durable.
  • Manufactured using 100% recycled FDA approved materials
  • Dishwasher Safe
  • BPA Free

Gourmet Rhapsody (Muriel Barbery) Weekend Cooking

Gourmet rhapsodyGourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library
Publisher: Europa Editions, 2000
ISBN: 9781933372952 / 156 pages
Find this book at your local library 

Gourmet Rhapsody is, in short, an ode to food in all its forms. The premise of the book recounts the final days of a renowned French food critic, on his death-bed, craving a certain food that is just on the tip of his tongue. The chapter’s alternate between his voice, the voices of his children, wife, servants and even the pets. It is a beautiful little tribute to food, and its preparation.

Muriel Barbery also wrote one of my absolutely favorite books, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. While Gourmet Rhapsody pales in comparison to the former novel, the book is not without its merits. Barbery’s gift with descriptions brings food to life in a new way, a three-dimensional way, for me at least. I could visualize and sort of smell the food she was describing.

The characters were pretty boring, to be honest. I didn’t really care for any of them, except for the food critic’s wife, who was neglected by her husband and pitied by her children. I liked the maid’s chapter the best, and I didn’t really see the point of the chapter’s told through the cat and dog’s perspective. I did like how all the stories were tied together, and each revolved around food. Food loved, food devoured, and food that was disgusting.

A snippet…the description of whiskey:

To start with, the unfamiliar aroma unsettled me beyond anything I thought possible. Such formidable aggressiveness, such a muscular, abrupt explosion, dry and fruity at the same time, like a charge of adrenaline that has deserted the tissues where it ordinarily resides in order to evaporate upon the surface of the nose, a gaseous concentration of sensorial preicipes…Stunned, I discovered that I liked this blunt whiff of incisive fermentation.

The book is brief, as are each of the 29 chapters. One of the chapters is narrated by Renee, the concierge and one of the primary characters in Elegance of the Hedgehog. This book can be a bit of a disappointment if you’ve read Elegance of the Hedgehog first, but don’t let that deter you. It’s still a good book about the love and search for good food.

Weekend Cooking – Happy National Beer Day!

Today, April 7th, is National Beer Day in the US. I thought I would use today as an Ode to Craftbrew and why it is wonderful, creative, and just plain good for all of us (over the age of 21 that is).

Although I don’t discuss this on the blog, my husband & I are huge fans of craftbrews, as are our two best friends. Both men of the group love to brew their own beer at home, and have gotten really good at drafting their own recipes.

Beer tasting is just as detailed and time-consuming as wine tasting. There are so many different types of beer styles, each with its own nuances, that its mind-boggling. My favorite beers are porters and red ales, and my husband loves his hoppy IPAs. We luck out in San Francisco, as craft brew is really on the rise here. A local brewery, Anchor Steam, just opened its own tap-room at the Giants Ballpark!!

If you want to learn more about beer, craft brew, and the beer industry here are a few recommendations to get you on your way: 

Beer Wars PosterThe movie is very well paced, and well documented. Our own Weekend Cooking host posted a wonderful review of the movie a while back. The movie (directed by Anat Baron), documents the rise and fall of beer, and the current competition between the small breweries (craft brews) and the larger breweries (Anheuser-Busch, Coors & Millers). Right now, there is a fight over space on TV ads, on shelf space in stores and in our refrigerators at home. The big three have an advantage in regards to financial backing, but the smaller craftbrews have been expanding, and the desire for fully flavored beer is only furthering the rise of craft brews. The main takeaway of the movie is that Anheuser-Busch is the WalMart of the beer industry. The bully with the cheaper goods of terrible quality.

Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Book Cover ImageThis book is awesome on a bunch of levels.

  1. The recipes are amazing varied and delicious (peanut butter porter anybody??).
  2. The recipes are written in 1 gallon batches (perfect for small kitchens) and 5 gallon batches (perfect for larger kitchens).
  3. You can order the ingredients online and have them shipped to your home, or you can look up your local beer store and buy the ingredients locally. If you don’t want to piecemeal your beer, you can order kits online which are then sent directly to your home.
  4. This book has been immensely helpful for my husband, who used it as a guide to draft his own original homebrew recipes. Having the recipes broken into the smaller 1 gallon portions makes it easier to experiment without kits at home, as there is less waste.

A fantastic resource. Its like the IMDB/Goodreads/Librarything for beer. You can keep track of what you’ve drunk, write reviews, create a wishlist, find out what stores sell the beer you want, and look up information on breweries. They also have a fantastic iPhone app for travelers looking for a good drink on the road.

Once a year, Bay Area residents are treated to a week-long tribute to beer, local breweries, and good merry-making all around. It’s usually held in February, and events span from San Francisco to San Jose. LA also has a beer week, so search online to see if there is one near you.

Weekend Cooking Author Talk with Donia Bijan

On Thursday, I was very lucky to be able to see Donia Bijan at the Redwood City Public Library. I missed her book tour last fall when Maman’s Homesick Pie was first released. I was glad to get another chance.

Maman’s Homesick Pie is part memoir, part Persian/French cookbook and partly an ode to her ever supportive and loving mother. Since there are so few memoirs of Armenians who have left Iran for California, I try to grab as many Persian memoirs in the field as I can.

Last night was a special treat, because Donia wasn’t there to talk about her book. She was there to discuss the Persian New Year of Norouz and explain how it is celebrated. She went over the Haft-seen (the table display of seven items that begin with the letter S), the big picnic held on the 13th day of the new year, and of course the meals. 

Donia discussed stories of her family, her childhood, and her mother, touching lightly upon the topics in the book, but mostly discussing new stories. The good news is that she is currently working on her next book, but the sad news is that I didn’t get a chance to ask her if it was another memoir or if it would be a cookbook, because I’d love to have either. Her recipes are the same ones that my mom makes, but are also the ones that I can never replicate because the instructions just don’t carry over well. I can also happily say that Donia provided all of my favorite Persian cookies as a gift for the audience. I believe she made the cookies herself. =) Food + Books = Awesome.

If you weren’t able to go last night, there are still 3 upcoming events in the Bay Area:
 
Saturday April 7th, 2012, Noon
Mt. View, CA

Sunday May 6th, 2012, 3pm
701 Laurel Street, Menlo Park, CA

Sunday May 20th, 2012, 2pm
San Mateo Library
55 W. 3rd Avenue / San Mateo, CA 

Weekend Cooking – Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives PosterI recently watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives, about the diets of Americans versus Asian countries. The  main premise of the documentary is that by altering our diet from meat-based to plant-based, we can not only lose weight, but also decrease the number of medications, prevent disease and cancers, improve our health without medical intervention.

I found this documentary to be very insightful, particularly in regards to how modern medicine and doctors neglect to consider food and eating habits as a potential source of illness and cure for various symptoms. There is a lot of scientific evidence and interviews with doctors from various fields in the documentary to provide substance and validity to the facts present. There are also a series of interviews with individuals who have reverses heart disease and ailments with dietary alterations. The part of the documentary that stuck out to me was the section about dairy. The higher the calcium consumption, the higher the chances for osteoperosis. What I also liked was that this documentary didn’t use any fear-mongering to get its point across. I hate when documentaries do that, it takes away from the message. This documentary was balanced, although I wish they would discuss how exercise helped increase the health of the people interviewed, and I also wish they discussed the monetary aspect of poor nutrition v. healthy nutrition. I mean, if you really want to change the mind of the American public, you have to consider the wallet.

Although my husband and I have already drastically changed our diet from Kraft Mac & Cheese to properly prepared meals, we are in the infant stages of a new chapter in our foodie lives. Over the past month or so, we’ve been dipping our toes into the Vegan/Vegetarian pool. I’ve been incorporating more tofu into our meals. We eat a meat-based dinner 3-4 times a week, and its usually just baked chicken breast with a side of brown rice and steamed broccoli. Its been a real challenge trying to find vegetarian recipes that work for us and our schedule. You’d think cutting out meat would make cooking easier, but that’s not the case with us. Most vegan recipes are stir-fry dishes, which isn’t all that healthy since you’re basically deep-frying tofu. Pasta dishes are boring and we  don’t have the time to sit down to make stews or curries. Still, we order the vegetarian dish when we eat out, and try to do what we can at home. I haven’t noticed any drastic changes in our lives as a result, but it’s probably too early to tell.

Although I started us on the vegetarian path because I had read one too many articles about livestock being mistreated, Forks Over Knives helped me reaffirm my desire to cut meat out of my diet for reasons other than the dubious treatment of chickens, pigs and cows. Fans of Michael Pollen with appreciate this documentary and I hope will feel inspired to make simple diet changes as a result.

If you’ve read my rambles this far then congratulations! You get a recipe for my favorite tofu stir-fry recipe from Eating Well

Pineapple Tofu Stir-Fry Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks or tidbits, 3 tablespoons juice reserved
  • 5 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 7 ounces extra-firm, water-packed tofu, drained, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (See Tip for Two)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1/2-by-2-inch strips

Preparation

  1. Whisk the reserved 3 tablespoons pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup and sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Place tofu in a medium bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Let marinate for 5 minutes. Add cornstarch to the remaining sauce and whisk until smooth.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer the tofu to the skillet using a slotted spoon. Whisk any remaining marinade into the bowl of sauce. Cook the tofu, stirring every 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes total. Transfer the tofu to a plate.
  3. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the sauce and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Add the tofu and pineapple chunks (or tidbits) and cook, stirring gently, until heated through, about 2 minutes more.