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Friday
Jul102015

Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

I was super excited to receive this cookbook; I loved Christina's first book. When in New York, I usually stay in a hotel just around the corner from Milk Bar and I occasionally hop in for a sweet snack....cereal milk, crack pie, and more crack pie.  I have even enjoyed the messy pleasure of making crack pies (and not wasting time with a knife and plate but going straight to the pie-plate with my fork).  So, when I tell you that I was super excited to receive this book, you should believe me.


As I began reading the book, I was somewhat gob-smacked.  Why does the book include recipes for cookie-dough cookie, cinnamon toast, store-bought pretzels with blue-cheese scattered on them, 7-layer salad, and something made with spaghettios?  I was incredulous as I read a recipe for a ritz cracker cake where the ingredients are grape jelly, cool whip, and ritz crackers.  Yuck!  I was really disappointed with this book overall as I expected so much more from this talented and whimsical chef (No, I don't consider ritz cracker cake whimsical).  There are a few winning recipes in this book; however these recipes have been covered time and time again in many other cookbooks.  But I will give these recipes a shot...grandma's oatmeal cookies, rosemary nuts, and banana cookies.  I can only have hope for Christina's next book. 

Friday
Jul102015

Stir.  

I fell in love with Jessica during the first chapter of her book, Stir.  In my heart, Jessica has been a life-long friend; one that I have known for decades.  She would be the type of friend that I would tell silly stories to, throwing our heads back in laughter…..sitting outside on the patio during an early summer evening, squashed among pillows and having a cocktail.  Perhaps a Cherry-Lime cocktail with a couple of sweet-sour cherries thrown-in for good luck or perhaps a gin & tonic with an extra squeeze of fresh lime from a plump, fat, super-tart lime.

Jessica’s story is one of love and perseverance and never letting go of her love for life.   I read her book over two days, sitting in the LaGuardia airport, with my legs thrown over my carry-on bag, waiting on my flight’s never-ending delays and eventual cancellation (and then another round of delays, delays, delays).  Her voice tells her story as if she is telling it to close friends.  The story moves around a bit, backward and forward, but the flow takes the reader in the circle of her life.  That is why I know she and I would be fast friends.  Jessica’s story resonated with me.  I cheered with her successes, cried at the elephant gift from Poland, and was profoundly happy that, at the end of her story, all was well.

The recipes at the chapter ends include several that I would love to sink into at this very moment; they seem to be heart-felt recipes.    These are familial recipes; recipes that Jessica has relied upon many times in moments of hunger or for a little deliciousness.  No frills.  No fancy.  Just recipes made with love.  I didn’t know of Jessica’s blog, Sweet Amandine, prior to reading this book.  Now, I am going to the beginning, January 2009.  I plan to work my way through her blog, learning even more of my new friend as I go along. 

Sunday
Jun212015

Love Hate Relationship with the Curing and Smoking Handbook from the River Cottage

Yes, I love this book.  I hate this book.  I'm torn between my emotions.  I hate this book, but oh so love it, because it makes me yearn for the ability to cure my own meat.  I LOVE lardo, bacon, prosciutto, guanciale, chorizo, salami.....a never ending list of cured and smoked meats.  And now, I have discovered, I am in desperate need of a butcher's saw, brinometer, a meat safe, thermo-hygrometer, salami nozzle for my kitchen aid, and a fridge in my garage, one in which I can control the temperature, humidity, and air circulation.  I think I am going to start with Lardo.  Based on my readings of this tomb of knowledge, I believe that I will be able to perform Lardo magic with just my fridge.  (Crazily enough, I have searched ALL over Charlotte, NC for Lardo....no one sells it and most haven't even heard of this heavenly fat...so I'm making it myself).

I just peaked into my fridge and I currently have six logs of salami.  All with various spice and various sweet flavorings.  All with various lengths as some have been sliced and nibbled much more than others.  I love any type of small-batch artisanal cured meats.  So perfect for a meat and cheese tray or my perfect lunch of an arugula and lemon juice salad with a few, or ten, slices of salami on the side.  

This book is genius; it informs the reader of the basics and walks the reader, in a detailed fashion, through each step in the curing and smoking process.  And, most importantly, it includes detailed photographs of each step.  Thus, why I believe....no, I know, that I can be successful in my quest for Lardo.  There is nothing like fresh asparagus that has been grilled and then draped with a succulent piece of Lardo. This book is one to be studied and savored.  This book of mine will have dog ears and stains and notes in the margins.  It may take me a while...as I sit writing this, it is 100 degrees in Charlotte and I need 50 degree weather to air dry my spicy salami!  But I am excited about my path; one that The River Cottage will guide me down.

Stick with me.  I will report back on my Lardo!

Friday
Jun052015

Getting a little heat in my life

Taste buds change ever-so-often, or so they say (don't ask me about 'they'....the professionals....I don't know...).  And I can attest to that my taste buds have changed.  Over the past five or six years, I have been constantly craving spicy foods.  The hubs and I always get our Thai food at the Thai hot level...can you imagine?   I love it!  I had always thought that if I ate something really spicy, that I would only taste the heat and not the food so what would be the point?  But, certain foods I think, taste better with a little heat.  Take Indian food - absolutely yummy with heat; even when the spice/heat takes my breath away and makes my eyes water uncontrollably.  So you know when I saw Salsas and Moles, I had to have it.  Mexican food is one of my favorite foods of all time....or really any type of Latin food is my favorite....

Salsas and Moles has wonderful recipes to enliven and heat-up your food!  The photos in the book made me want to try so many of the recipes.  And while I am not really one for moles (I have bad experiences with Moles), Deborah's mole recipes, while elaborate, are multi-step recipes that allows one to build the flavors of the mole.  The reader will be familiar with a few of these recipes; table salsas and taco salsas that are on the table at the local Mexican dive.That shouldn't distract anyone from making the salsas; the addition of the fresh juices brings a brightness to the recipes and allows them to pop!  

Be fore-warned!!  There are some crazy hot salsas in this book; take the Habanero salsa and the Evil Green Hot Sauce...gorgeous colors and extreme heat!  The Habanero salsa, I think, would be really good with the additional of either roasted pineapple or mango to offset some of the heat with a little bit of sweetness.  I haven't gotten that far yet...of bringing my little spin to the salsa....but I plan to....and I will report back.  These recipes lend themselves to your little additions; a great way to make the recipes your own.  Salsas and Moles is a great book for its recipes by the book or as a building block to make you a super-star of Mexican sauces!

Friday
May292015

Growing Tomorrow

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book!  This book is written by Forrest Pritchard and represents a farm to table journey in that Forrest visits 18 farmers from across the country.  I was sold on this book the minute that I began reading....you see, I am already an organic eater; the less processed a food is, the better.  I shop at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on the weekends and what I cannot get there, I buy at Whole Foods.  When necessary, there is a quick trip to the local Harris Teeter or Publix.  

This book is a must read.  Forrest draws the reader in with his melodious words.  Forrest tells the farmers' stories and draws you into their lives, their hopes and dreams for the future of our food culture.  This book also shows the importance of supporting local farmers as it speaks of the struggles that the farmers face as they follow their passion; a passion of creating food that is nourishing to our bodies and leaving the earth in better condition than what they found the earth in.  These farmers are not growing or raising organics for the fame or the money.  On the contrary,  many of these farmers have faced serious struggles and one mishap or force of nature could destroy their livilihood.  (A neat little necessary listing at the back of the book provides you with information on how to contact each farmers and obtain their products....which is a fabulous thing because I want to order so many things after reading how each farmer focuses on the nature and quality of their products)

This books takes you into the lives of dairy farmers, cattle, goat, and pig farmers, fruit and veggie farmers, cheese makers, bee keepers, mushroom farmers, and grain farmers.  Better yet, recipes are included at the end of each story and are based on each farmers' products.  I haven't made any of these recipes yet but I have so many flagged to make!  Lavender and Lemon Balm mint tea!  Blueberry Salsa! Cherry Clafoutis! Mustard-Braised pork shoulder with fried cornbread!  Orange-Honey drumsticks!  Peach soup! Braised Beef scaloppini! Blood Orange marmalade! Boiled Peanuts!!

There were two items that made me curious and perhaps these are tidbits that will be fixed before this book is published.  (I obtained a copy of this book prior to it being published for review purposes)  The dandelion salad from the honey bee chapter, which sounds great by the way, uses 1 cup of dandelion blossoms.  However, there is a note at the end of the recipe which tells the reader that "dandelions are a favorite for pollinators so think twice before removing them from your yard; instead, share them with the bees".  So, I'm sitting here thinking that these two items, the recipe and the note, really work against each other....either I make the salad and the honey bees loose out or I leave the blossoms for the honey bees and the recipe becomes a useless tidbit because I can no longer make the dandelion salad.  The second item relates to an information tidbit in the Ronneybrook Dairy Farm chapter that notes that Ronney's cows produce roughly ten gallons of milk every day.  This has got to be a misquote because 1) how do they supply their customers with milk, ice cream, yogurt, etc on ten gallons a day and 2) in the body of the chapter, Forrest writes of how the farm currently processes 300 gallons of milk an hour.  An easy fix!  These two items do not, in any way, take away from the magnificentness (yes, i used that word) of this book!  

I am ready for round two of this book! (and round  three, round four, round five...).  Seriously though, this is a great book, one that should be read and pondered and cooked from.  This book should have dog ears and splatters on its pages.  And with the many small farms around the country, there should be additional books from Forrest; it would be a shame not to.