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New Sugar and Spice

I so enjoyed this cookbook!  I read it as if it were a great novel!  I love that Samantha uses unusual spice combinations (or at least they are to me!) in her baking to to derive delicious baked goods.  I have my little accounting-type flags marking soooo many pages of this gorgeous book.  This book's chapters are broken down by spice; a great way to quickly find what particular fun spice you want to try on a given day.   I cannot wait for the holidays to make the apricot and ginger cookies, the gingerbread (which I plan to pair with a mouth-puckering velvety lemon ice cream), and the cinnamon bread pudding for an early-morning breakfast.
Fall has arrived and it is raining here today...all day.  The warmth of cinnamon and cardamon would be comforting as this cold wet weather drags into my bones.  After my husband's birthday dinner tonight, I plan to curl up with Samantha's book and select which dessert will be making an appearance at my table tomorrow.  Bowls are at the ready!

Cute anecdote: My sister and I were at lunch on Friday with one of my girlfriends (Jane).  Jane noted that my sister and I are like sugar and spice...Anna is the sugar because she is the sweet southern gal and I am the spice because I can cuss like a sailor.... 


Einkorn - Recipes for Nature's Original Wheat

I was a little nervous when I opened the package and saw that this book had arrived; I thought "am I even going to be able to find Einkorn wheat?".  Turns out, I can.  So I began reading this book and getting more excited by the minute.  The book currently looks like it has grown ears, I have so many little yellow and blue flags poking out from its pages.
The author is Italian so there are some wonderful Italian-inspired recipes.  All of the recipes appear to be easy peasy.  And I also think that any of these recipes may be able to be made with other wheat (which I have not yet tried).  
As I was just flipping through the pages, I came across another fantastic realization....I believe every recipe has a picture of the finished product!  How wonderful and how rare!!  (I hate when I am really fascinated with a recipe and want to see a picture and, alas, I am out of luck).  Truly, this cookbook is a little gem and once that I will cherish!


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. 



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. 


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!