15 June 2019

Weekend Cooking: Tasting Table by Geoff Bartakovics and Todd Coleman

Review of Tasting Table Cooking with Friends CookbookHave you heard of the Tasting Table website? I hadn't until I received a copy of their new cookbook Tasting Table Cooking with Friends by Geoff Bartakovics and Todd Coleman (Flatiron, May 7) to review.

The book is organized by menus that will take you through the seasons and help you celebrate the every day as well the holidays and special events. The idea is that each guest can bring a different dish to the party or you and your friends can cook together in the same space.

As the authors say, the "dishes [within a specific menu] don't require the same tools or appliances at the same time," which makes sharing the kitchen with others easy. Of course, you as the host could make all the food yourself. It just depends on your skills and comfort with team-tag cooking.

Each menu includes adult beverages, appetizers, sides, a main, and a dessert. The introduction to each menu indicates the size of the dinner party, which varies from 6 to 10 guests (I think). To make it even easier to accommodate cooks of different experience, each recipe comes with a skill level rating, so you can assign dishes without stressing anyone out.

Review of Tasting Table Cooking with Friends CookbookI've made several of the recipes from Tasting Table and all came out just fine, and I'm looking forward to trying them again. We made the pan bagnat (see scan from the book; with olive tapenade, pepperoncini, and tuna), we ate Mediterranean chickpea pasta salad for lunches (yum), made rye-thyme lemonade (so refreshing), served baked oatmeal with blackberries for Mother's Day (we used blueberries), and gobbled up the slow-cooked Filipino adobo (pork, sesame oil, garlic).

Several more recipes are marked to try, like grilled chicken thighs in green sauce, chocolate cardamom cake, and chorizo nachos.

As you might have noticed, I've mentioned specific dishes, not menus. That's because I'm not a good match for menu cookbooks. I own quite a few of these cookbooks, but I rarely actually make the suggested dinners from appetizers to desserts. On the other hand, I've discovered many a dish that I've served over and over from such cookbooks.

If you're unsure of what to serve with what, a cookbook like Tasting Table could be a godsend. It could also come in handy for family gatherings, reunions with good friends, and at shared vacation rentals.

Review of Tasting Table Cooking with Friends CookbookThe menus range from drinks and snacks to cookouts, dinner and a movie, festive feasts, and formal occasions. The recipes are fresh and reflect new millennium tastes (as the subtitle implies: "Recipes for Modern Entertaining"), but be warned that the dinners are meat heavy. Only one menu is specifically for vegetarians, though each one does include vegetable dishes.

For an idea of what the Tasting Table is all about, you can check out their website. My strong recommendation is to find a copy Tasting Table by Geoff Bartakovics and Todd Coleman at your library. I'm very happy to own the cookbook because I've had great success with the recipes, but I'm not quite sure a menu cookbook is for everyone.

When I served the following recipe to Mr. BFR, he tasted it and then said, "This salad is spring in a bowl." I couldn't agree more.

Crispy Snow Peas with Radishes, Feta, and Tahini Dressing
Serves 6 to 8
Skill level 2

  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black peper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound snow peas, trimmed, strings removed, and halved
  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled 
In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, honey, garlic, 1 tablespoon water, and season with salt and pepper. While whisking, drizzle in the oil and whisk to combine.

Add the snow peas, radishes, and scallions to the bowl with the tahini dressing. Toss to coat. Add the feta cheese and gently mix to combine. Serve.

NOTE: Scans and recipe are used in the context of a review. All rights remain with the original copyright holders.
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.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.

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14 June 2019

Starting from Page 1: Which June Book Is for You?

It's been a really long time since I've done a Starting from Page 1 post (as in a few years), but so many of my June books have great opening sentences, I just had to revisit this feature.

Today I share the opening lines from 9 general fiction books published this month. All of them caught my eye, and I'm not quite sure which to read first. (Okay, that's a little bit of a lie, because I think I know what I'll be reading next. Can you guess?)

Just for fun, I'm giving you the bare minimum information for each title. Based only on the first lines, which ones are calling your name?

What to read in June 2019
FKA USA by Reed King (Flatiron); dystopian; humor; comp'd to everything from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to Wizard of Oz!
" 'There,' Jared Lee, the first of my two and a half friends, pointed past the stubby line of waste-treatment plants. 'Right there. See? Refugees.' "
How Could She by Lauren Mechling (Viking); set in New York and Toronto; 21st-century issues
"Geraldine considered her grapefruit."
Lifelines by Heidi Diehl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); set in Oregon & Germany; family, relationships, motherhood
"Louise was a passenger in her own car."
What to read in June 2019
The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen (Gallery); comp'd to two of my favorite books: Deep End of the Ocean & Map of the World
"It was one of those things that never should have happened--the kind you turn over, splay open with pins, and examine at intervals for the rest of your life because it will never, ever cease to matter."
A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards (Mira); sisters; buried past; redemption
"What do alligators dream about?"
The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore (William Morrow); a beach read set on Block Island
" 'It was disconcerting, to see a man cry like that,' said Bridget Fletcher"
What to read in June 2019
The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (Ecco); mathematics; family history & secrets
"There is nothing as intriguing as a locked door."
This Is Home by Lisa Duffy (Atria); set in Boston; coming of age
"The year I turned ten, my father shot the aboveground pool in our backyard with his police-issued pistol."
The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney (Park Row); aging; friendship; maintaining independence
" 'Miller,' Joel whispered across the space between their two beds. 'Why aren’t you dead yet?' "

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12 June 2019

Wordless Wednesday 534

Colorado Wildflowers, 2019

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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08 June 2019

Weekend Cooking: Maacher Jhol (Movie)

review of Maacher JholAs you know, I love a good foodie movie, especially one that has some depth. Maacher Jhol (2017; written and directed by Pratim D. Gupta) hit all my buttons.

A famous Paris chef is called back to his native India when his mother falls ill. Dev hasn't been back home for over a decade, when he left his engineering job and arranged marriage--without his father's blessing--to enter the Cordon Bleu to learn to cook.

After years of hard work, Dev (played by Ritwick Chakraborty) owns several restaurants and is a celebrity chef. His success in France, however, came at the expense of lots of unfinished business back home, which he must face upon his return.

On one level Maacher Jhol is a light family drama, but on other levels it's a commentary on Bengali culture, feminist issues, and marriage. Oh and there are some incredible scenes of Dev making several variations of fish curry.

The movie also stars Paoli Dam, Mamata Shankar, and Arjun Chakraborty. I thought the acting was believable, and I loved the street scenes in Paris and the open market in India.

One thing to know is that the movie is subtitled. You'll hear French, English, and Bengali and perhaps other Indian languages as well. I'm not always a fan of subtitles, but I had no issues with this movie. All in all I liked the food references and the empowering message.

Here's the trailer.

Maacher Jhol is currently streaming on Netflix.
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.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.

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07 June 2019

3 Recommended Books + Travel Reading

I've had a crazy spring. Between travel, my lace workshop, and the holiday, I feel as if I haven't worked a full workweek since mid-April. It's all a lot of fun, but I'm really ready to just say no to squeezing five days' worth of work into only three or four.

On Monday, I shared my thoughts on some of the audiobooks I've listened to lately. Today are brief musings on some of the print and digital books I've read or am still reading.

Review of How Not to Die Alone by Richard RoperHow Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper (Putnam, May 28): I'm a huge fan of quirky premises and characters, so I pretty much knew I'd really enjoy this novel. Andrew works for the government, trying to track down the next of kin when a person dies alone without any obvious clues to friends or family. He's a loner and is mostly okay with that. There's only one hitch: his work colleagues think he's a happily married man with two kids. Even that's okay . . . until he meets the new employee, that is. Peggy reawakens Andrew's ability to connect with others, but how will he be able to reveal all his secrets? Fun and different with characters that are easy to root for or boo at. (print copy provided by the publisher)

Review of Time Museum Volume 2 by Matthew LouxTime Museum Volume 2 by Matthew Loux (First Second, June 11): This is the second entry in the Time Museum series starring a group of kids who work at a natural history museum. This isn't your usual museum though, it's a portal to different worlds and different time periods. Each member of the youthful squad has a unique skill, and together they manage to get out of scrapes. In this installment they are sent to the French court of 1778, where they have to correct a glitch in time. The fun starts when the squad is given a new instructor--none other than Richard Nixon. The series is geared to a middle grade audience and is filled with action, humor, good art, a recurring bad guy, and (a little) young love. The time loop theme was sometimes hard to follow, but I still liked the story and artwork and seeing how the kids are maturing and learning to work as a team. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

review of The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast by Andrew BlumThe Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast by Andrew Blum (Ecco; June 25): I've always been interested in the weather and forecasting, and since moving to same county that houses AccuWeather's headquarters, my interest has only increased over the years. I've been reading this book slowly (a chapter every few days) and haven't finished yet. I've learned a lot about the history of forecasting, the science of meteorology, and the technology that drives them. The weather is one area in which countries throughout the world freely share knowledge and data. Blum visits weather stations, talks to weather experts, and tells us about the art and science behind the daily forecast. Try to imagine living in the days before the telegraph or telephone, when major storms could hit at any time, giving you absolutely no warning or time to prepare. Fascinating stuff. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

Books on my phone and tabletAnd here's what I've loaded onto my phone for listening and onto my tablet for reading as I get ready for yet another trip.

  • The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton (Picador, June 11): a kind of coming-of-age story set in Australia. This is my first Winton novel, and I have high hopes for this book, which has won much praise. (print review copy)
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen, May 7): The author, the food aspects, and the message to trust one's talents all call to me. Also part of #WeNeedDiverseBooks (digital review copy)
  • Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Knopf, May 14): This is a totally new setting (Kamchatka) for me and promises to be a combo thriller and community story. (audiobook freelance assignment)
  • Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear (Gallery; March 5): Now that I know I like science fiction, I thought I give this much, much, much praised first in a new space opera series a try. (audiobook review copy)

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