2/15/2018

Family Tree and A Sweetheart Dinner

An engrossing, romantic novel, packed full of good food ideas.  What more could you ask for a Valentine's Day read? Family Tree, by Susan Wiggs is all of that and more.  It's about Annie, an independent minded cook, with vision and ambition.  However the career push takes her away from her home, her roots and from the love of her life.  I loved this book.

From the Publishers:

"Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge....Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past."

2/08/2018

Chocolate Liqueur via Sous-Vide or Not


Happy Valentine's Day!  At the back of Lisa Q. Fetterman's Sous-Vide at Home book, I noticed she was making her own bitters and liqueurs and it occurred to me that my cacao nibs would make a lovely home-crafted Creme de Cacao. Some research pulled up a number of articles on the subject: Supercall has a good recipe, for which you don't need a sous-vide appliance.  Then there's Making cacao nib infused liquor, and a great lesson on video for using sous vide to infuse cocktails.

1/29/2018

Polenta with Garlicky Greens and Poached Egg for SPQR


 This has been a TRULY Roman season for me.  First there was Feast of Sorrows, for our Cook the Books Club, then I read Pompeii by Robert Harris, a very interesting and enjoyable book, which I didn't review however, and now The Year of Confusion by John Maddox Roberts. All accompanied by my various ancient Roman cooking experiments, with some help from the excellent little handbook on that subject, Cooking Apicius, Roman recipes for Today by Sally Grainger.

 This novel (which stands alone fine) is in Roberts' series of mysteries, entitled SPQR*, in which the investigator, is a Senator in the years 45-46 BC.  The reason for it being the year of confusion, is partly due to Julius Caesar's decision to change the old calendar out for a new one.  Yes, the Julian calendar.  General unrest as a result, political scheming and various murders, connected with Cleopatra who is present in Rome with her own complications and agenda.  A well developed tale, entertaining characters, and fascinating history, with a helpful glossary of relevant terms at the back. Can't wait to read more in this series.

1/24/2018

Cooking for Picasso, A Daube de Boeuf Provencal


I must say, Cooking for Picasso, by Camille Aubray, was a particularly enjoyable novel.  As Margaret Atwood says, "A tasty blend of romance, mystery and French cooking.  There's Picasso exposed, the French Rivera, food, passion and love, difficulties overcome by terrific characters.  What more could you ask? 

 From the Publishers:
"This captivating novel is inspired by a little-known interlude in the artist’s life.
The French Riviera, spring 1936: It’s off-season in the lovely seaside village of Juan-les-Pins, where seventeen-year-old Ondine cooks with her mother in the kitchen of their family-owned Café Paradis. A mysterious new patron who’s slipped out of Paris and is traveling under a different name has made an unusual request—to have his lunch served to him at the nearby villa he’s secretly rented, where he wishes to remain incognito.
Pablo Picasso is at a momentous crossroads in his personal and professional life—and for him, art and women are always entwined. The spirited Ondine, chafing under her family’s authority and nursing a broken heart, is just beginning to discover her own talents and appetites. Her encounter with Picasso will continue to affect her life for many decades onward, as the great artist and the talented young chef each pursue their own passions and destiny.

1/19/2018

Sous Vide at Home, a Salad and Ahi alla Pesto


Sous Vide  - the device and a book -  my Christmas present to myself.  Cheers!! Fun with a new appliance.  At least it takes up very little room when not in use.  I did try McGivering this technique, without too much success a number of years ago.  There are now amazing  and inexpensive tools for doing sous vide at home, like the restaurants do it.  The handy tool clamps onto a large pot of water, circulating and heating it to an exact temperature, programmed to cook for the set time. You probably know all this, but it was only recently brought to my attention.  Sous-Vide at Home, by Lisa Q. Fetterman, is the bomb!.

So far I've done the poached eggs, beets marinated in various good things and ahi in pesto.  Looking forward to making duck confit without loads of duck fat, tempering chocolate and infusing liqueurs.

1/12/2018

Cooking Roman for Feast of Sorrow


We at Cook the Books Club have been reading Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King.  This, our current bimonthly selection is being hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  Ms. King has written an excellent novel for anyone interested in ancient Roman history, food or just some fascinating reading.  It's a fictional memoir, based on the life of an individual, historical gourmet, Marcus Gavius Apicius, even though not much is really known about him, and his imagined head chef, a slave named Thrasius.  It begins in 1 BCE, the 26th year of Augustus Caesar's reign. The author has certainly done her research, everything rings true, often horrifyingly so. 

From the publishers:
"Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

12/07/2017

"This Must Be the Place" for Brutti-Boni


Just finished This Must Be the Place, a novel by Maggie O'Farrell.  She certainly knows how to spin an intriguing story or two.  Or three, or four.  They kept coming, interconnected, and at different dates, and places, leaping back and forth between 1986 and 2016, with the various characters, though most were a recurring group.  I found it a bit confusing, and was continually shuffling around in the book to figure things out and understand what was going on.  Still O'Farrell keeps us fascinated throughout.  She is such a good writer.  I've read a number of her novels at this point and loved them all.   From the Publisher:

"Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse.

But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children, and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?"


12/05/2017

First Chapter - First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

I'm doing something new today - First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, which is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where bloggers post the first paragraph(s) or introduction of a book they are currently reading or planning to read sometime soon.


I have noticed some stunning beginnings in my reading years, though the books don't always live up to them. My contribution today is This Must be the Place, by Maggie O'Farrell.  I'm just into the second chapter, but it's quite good so far.

11/29/2017

Lamb in Cotes-Du-Rhone for Cook the Books


 I have enjoyed all of the books by Martin Walker, in his series featuring Bruno, Chief of Police.  The Patriarch, is our current selection for Cook the Books Club.  However, a disclaimer here - many of us, myself included, like to start reading books written in a series at the beginning, as further along, the returning characters have undergone some previous development.  I suppose authors don't like to repeat themselves too much.  So, you may want to go back and read the first first.

In this novel Bruno is invited to the chateau of a boyhood hero, a popular leader in the French Resistance, for a lavish birthday celebration.  Of course a murder ensues and our village police chief gets involved.  It looks to be an accident, but Bruno thinks otherwise.  Family secrets and tragedy are exposed.  Also causing trouble in the region, an animal rights activist is protecting deer without any means of keeping them safe, outraging local hunters. 

For this, as in his earlier novels, the food and wine descriptions were plentiful and tempting, however the only difficulty was in narrowing it down to what might be available, or in tune with the season.  I decided to go with a take-off from one of Chief Bruno's very first mentions, a roast of lamb marinated in wine with herbs.  Not being able to secure the Monbazillac, I went with a nice, earthy red Cotes-Du-Rhone from Saint Cosme instead, and made a braise of  lamb shoulder stew chunks.