Wednesday, April 26, 2017

what I'm reading: food books

I have always loved to read. When I was younger you might have even called me a book worm. The rise of social media, however, has contributed to a decline in my worminess, it seems. Last year I finally renewed my library card and have gotten back on the literary wagon. I mostly read food-related books. mostly. Here is a round up of my most recent reads (click the covers for amazon links):

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti

I'll start with a food book about food in books! Cara Nicoletti, granddaughter of a butcher and now herself a butcher (follow her on instagram @caranicoletti for amazing looking sausages), loves reading. She always has. I can Identify with this. She is also passionate about food. I can identify with this, also. She started a blog cooking food from her favorite books, called Yummy Books, and then wrote Voracious, which follows the same idea. There is so much I loved about this book; the nostalgia, the personal stories, the introduction to books I need to read, the reminders of books I've also loved, the well-thought-out recipes. It's a quick read, but satisfying. Well, maybe satisfying is the wrong word... it will leave you wanting to read all the books and try all the recipes. Yummy Books, indeed.

Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes by Maya Angelou

This is another book that is part memoir/part cookbook. Maya Angelou's accounts of her past and the food that accompanied it will give you so many feels. I found this book while browsing at the library, but I may need to own it because the recipes sound so scrumptious. The writing, of course, is wonderful... It's Maya Angelou for chrissakes! What a life she lived. If I could have a dinner party with anyone living or dead, Dr. Angelou would certainly be on the guest looks. She saw and experienced so much and loved and cooked and wrote with all her heart. 

Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr

Speaking of dream dinner parties, Luke Barr's Provence, 1970 is a curated account of December, 1970 when the greatest minds in food writing were all in Provence. Julia Child, James Beard, Richard Olney, Judith Jones and, Barr's aunt, MFK Fisher! CAN YOU IMAGINE? Well, you don't have to. Barr assembled and account of this meeting of the minds (and stomachs) based on the letters and journals of all of them, mostly Fisher's. There are parts where is gets a little more gossipy than I was comfortable with, and he is kind of repetitive about the whole "revolutionizing food in America". But overall worth a read, just to fall in love with France (again) and these writers (again) and daydream about being a fly on the wall. The food descriptions are drool-worthy and the travel details will make you want to pack a suitcase. I vowed multiple times while reading this to have dinner parties more frequently. They don't need to be in Provence nor do they need to be fancy. Just gatherings of friends and good food (and wine) and intelligent conversation. 

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
While Provence, 1970 will make you want to go to France, Down and Out in Paris and London will make you want to stay comfy cozy right where you are. This book came up in Voracious, and on an Anthony Bourdain reading list. It's about an English newspaper writer living in Paris with nothing to his name. He pawns clothes, lives in horrible conditions, works in harsh basement kitchens washing dishes 14 hours a day or following other tramps around to different camps where they get free tea and bread in exchange for listening to preachers. It's the underbelly of gay Paree. But a good, gritty look at the past and the human condition as only Orwell can illustrate.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

I've already written about this book in my post: Chili Roasted Acorn Squash with Kale Stem Pesto. I just wanted to recommend it, and MFK Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf, again. They will simultaneously bring you back to earth with their realness and give you hope that you can make a difference and all is not lost. Somehow. 

I have more on my list to read, but am open to suggestions. What are your favorite food-related books?

Friday, March 31, 2017

warm gai lan salad with salted duck egg

I was smitten with this Jamie Oliver recipe for Broccoli and egg salad with anchovies, and thought a version of it with Asian flavors would work out well. It sure did! This is a gorgeous dish, and can be eaten as a hearty side dish or, eaten on top of rice, a meat-free entree!  

Warm Gai Lan Salad with Salted Duck Egg

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Black pepper to taste

1 lb. Chinese broccoli (gai lan)
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds1 cooked salted duck egg, chopped fine1 mini sweet red pepper, chopped fine 

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a far with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine. Rinse and steam the gai lan until just tender (the stems will still be crunchy) and bright green. Place on a platter and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle sesame seeds, duck egg and red pepper on top. Serve as a side with  the protein of your choice, or over rice as an entree. 

Similar posts from the archives:

Put a Salted Duck Egg On It
Sesame Roasted Tofu
Sesame Chick Pea & Tofu Stir fry
Ginger Sesame Noodle Soup
Build a Better Taco Salad
Wedge Salad with Chili-Lime Ranch and Crab
Lemon Caper Salmon with Yellow Squash
Miso Salmon with Daikon Slaw
Salmon with Cilantro Gremolata

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

lemon caper salmon with yellow squash noodles

I've joined a cult. 

You probably know someone in this cult. It's the cult of "I eat bread everyday!" The cult of "how many points is that?" Yeah, that cult. Don't worry, I'm not gonna talk about it all the time. It's just a little health kick-in-the-butt that I really really needed. Also if Oprah's in, I'm in.

It's actually kind of a fun challenge to come up with meals that allow me those precious extra points for booze. Most vegetables are a juicy zero. More veg = more fire water. So, I've been eating more vegetables. Conveniently, I won a Veggetti at a Hanukkah party and am very excited about Veggetti-ing anything I can. Mainly because I love saying "Veggetti." Veggetti.

Lemon Caper Salmon with Yellow Squash Noodles & Spinach
2 small salmon fillets
2 teaspoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon juice from caper jar
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups baby spinach

Veggetti-ed Yellow Squash:
1 large yellow squash, veggetti-ed (sprialized)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons capers
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Place the salmon fillets in a glass baking dish with the lemon juice, olive oil, caper juice, garlic and seasoning. Rub everything all over the salmon fillets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, skin-side down, until opaque and flaky. Flip so the skin is facing up and place under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the skin gets brown and bubbly and crisp.

Meanwhile, make the spinach. Place the olive oil and garlic in a non-stick skillet and cook until just soft, about 1 minute, over medium heat. add the spinach and cook until wilted. Season, set aside. 

In the same skillet, add 1 teaspoon olive oil and the yellow squash and season. toss and cook over medium heat until just soft. add the lemon juice and capers and toss to combine. divide among 2 plates. Top with spinach and salmon.

Related posts from the archive:

Friday, February 10, 2017

chili roasted acorn squash with kale stem pesto

I can think of a myriad reasons you should read Tamar Adler's book Everlasting Meal , and I haven't even finished reading it yet! I will be very soon, though, seeing as I have read 75% of it in under a week. That's saying a lot these days...I used to be an avid reader, but I have admittedly read fewer and fewer books over the years. I blame social media and it's erosion of my attention span. But this book hooked me. For one, it's completely in-line with my resolution to waste less food. Adler offers a plethora of practical solutions for frugal yet delicious eating. And it's not just recipes (in fact, there is only 1 or 2 per chapter), the book guides you to think differently about what you have in your fridge and pantry, so that you can come up with your own solutions and culinary inventions. 

But I think the main reason I'm digging this book so much is the writing. It's downright poetic at times, and has re-ignited my love for both reading and cooking. Check out some excerpts (large segments of the book are available at the Guardian's website here):

"Save the lovely green murk from the Swiss chard pan to warm the Swiss chard tomorrow, which will be happier for the chance to spend time with yesterday’s more experienced cooking." 
"All ingredients need salt. The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within it all the perfection it would ever need. We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It’s not so: it doesn’t reflect badly on the pea, or the person, that either might need a bit of help to make the most of itself." 
"Let smells in. Let the hot tarmac of summer remind you of a meal you first ate after landing in a hot destination, when the ground smelled like it was melting. Let a salty aroma remind you of a paper basket of fried clams you ate once, squeezing them with lemon as you walked on a boardwalk by the sea. Let it reach your deeper interest. When you smell the sea, and remember the basket of hot fried clams, and the sound of skee-balls knocking against each other, let it help you love what food can do, which is to tie this moment to the past."
Basically, Adler picks up where MFK Fisher lives off in How To Cook a Wolf (another must-read!). They both urge us, with beautiful language, to use as much of your ingredients as you can; save scraps and bones for stocks, re-invent your leftovers, be creative with what you have on hand. What I had on hand this week was the stems and scraps of leaves from a large bunch of kale that I had bought to make salad for another meal. I know the stems are flavorful and nutritious as much as the leaves, but they are kinda tough, and most recipes have you discard them. Adler recommends them boiled and made into a pesto. So good! I went with Mexican-leaning flavors to go with sweet and spicy roasted Acorn squash.

Kale Stem Pesto
-1.5 cups chopped kale stems
-handful of chopped kale leaves or other fresh leafy green
-1/4 cup roasted acorn squash seeds (see below)
-3 cloves garlic, peeled
-zest and juice from 1 lime
-1/4 teaspoon cumin
-1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
-salt & pepper to taste

Put the stems in a small pot and cover with water. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and let cook about 10 minutes until the stems are just tender but still bright green. Drain and let cool a bit. Place in a food processor with the rest of the pesto ingredients except the oil. Pulse 4 or 5 times to get everything chopped up. With the processor on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you get the consistency you want. I went with a thicker pesto. 

Roasted Acorn squash Seeds
remove and rinse the seeds from 1 acorn squash. Pat dry and toss with about a Tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in a 300ºF oven, stirring halfway through, until just starting to look golden. 

Chili Roasted Acorn Squash
-1 Acorn squash, seeds removed (see above for roasting instructions), sliced into 1/2-inch thick half-moon slices.
-3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
-1 teaspoon chili powder
-2 Tablespoons Olive oil
-Juice from 1/2 lime
-salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400ºF with sheet pan in the oven. Toss the squash slices and garlic with the oil, chili powder, lime juice and salt to taste. When the oven reaches temperature, pour the squash onto the pre-heated sheet pan. Spread in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve with kale pesto, fresh radishes and a sprinkling of the roasted seeds.

Related posts from the archives:

The Books:

Monday, January 02, 2017

happy new year!

Happy New Year, friends! I know 2016 was a pretty dismal year for the world in general. In that respect I am glad to put it behind us. Personally, though, 2016 had some good things in store for me... not the least of which happened on Christmas Eve. If you didn't spot it the first time, look closer at the photo of scrummy eggs above. Yep... Joel and I are engaged! He surprised me with the help of our favorite brunch spot, Three Flags Tavern. We are good friends with the owners, so when the waitress said the kitchen was sending something out, I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary. I saw the ring immediately. What a perfect proposal! Eggs Jeanette was chef John's idea, to ensure that 1) the ring would be visible and I wouldn't accidentally eat it and 2) the ring wouldn't get sticky gooey yolk all over it. None of them knew I had actually made this dish before and blogged about it, way back in 2008. Check out the first line of the last paragraph in that post:

Whoa. Fate, much?! So, yeah. 2016 was a love-filled year for me. (Also, travel-filled, casserole-filled, friend-filled, hug-filled, family-filled, laughter-filled...) 

Cheers/Good riddance to 2016!
So what does 2017 have in store? While I am legitimately frightened of the political climate of the next 4 years, I am also looking forward to making the best of life. We can do things to make our lives and the world better, even if they are little things. Here are some of my food resolutions for 2017 (and beyond, hopefully):

   -no more disposable coffee cups
   -remember my reusable bags when I shop
   -make more stocks to use meat and vegetable scraps
   -use re-usable bowl covers instead of foil/plastic
   -eat (or play Chopped! and re-invent) all the leftovers
   -plan meals ahead
   -keep kitchen organized

   -I love the library...I need to take advantage of it more
   -social media has ruined my attention span. Must focus!
   -maybe even write about books on here once a month?

   -I know everyone says this
   -Less booze, less carbs, less eating out
   -more veggies, more home-cooked meals
   -move more
   -plan meals ahead

Tell me about your food resolutions. Also, what food books should I read?

Let's do this, 2017!