16 February 2019

Weekend Cooking: The Good Food by Daniel Halpern and Julie Strand

Review of The Good Food by Daniel Halpern and Julie StrandI'm one of those cooks who remembers the pre-internet days of trying to hunt down recipes with global flavors. If you didn't start putting together a massive cookbook collection, you simply wouldn't have access to Persian stews or Asian soups or Mideastern salads.

In the mid-1980s, Daniel Halpern and Julie Strand's The Good Food: A Cookbook of Soups, Stews, and Pastas (reissued by Ecco in January 2019) was a godsend, even if you had to go to a specialty market (or grow your own) to find fresh cilantro. In the 21st century, every imaginable recipe is available with the click of mouse or a tap on a screen, and even small towns like mine carry international ingredients at the general supermarket.

Despite the wonders of Pinterest, I found The Good Food to be full of appealing recipes for the kinds of meals I love--soups, stews, pastas, salads, and spreads. This book celebrates foods from around the world that say, Come into my kitchen. Sit at my table. Stay a while. It's just the kind of cookbook I bought in the 80s, and it's likely I even owned a copy (before my big cookbook purge of several years ago).

The recipes range from basic stocks to the more complex, and I'm truly drawn to many of the comforting dishes. The cookbook includes cold soups (curried zucchini) and hot soups (corn chowder), familiar stews (jambalaya) and new ones (saag gosht), and simple pastas (olive oil, garlic, and parsley) and fancy ones (poached salmon and creamy vinaigrette). Plus there's a chapter on accompaniments (chutneys, salads).

To be honest, if you're all about up-to-the-minute trends and a zillion fashion photos, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you're interested in classic, solid, stood-the-test-of-time recipes for the types of dinners that welcome home family and friends, then The Good Food is your cookbook. Be aware that Halpern and Strand do not shy away from cream and butter and have a heavy bent for meats, fish, and fowl.

None of that bothers me, and I'm glad to have a digital copy (thanks to Ecco) in my collection. The following simple pasta dish is on deck for this coming week.

Baked Fusilli with Cheese Parsley, and Scallions
Serves 8
A variation on the classic American macaroni and cheese, this make a fine Sunday night supper when followed by a green salad. We prefer the texture of the fusilli, and it catches the bits of parsley, scallion, and cheese.

  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup minced scallions, with 1 inch of the green
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 1/2 pounds white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
In a kettle, bring 5 quarts water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt and the vegetable oil. Add the fusilli, stir, and cook until not quite al dente. Drain thoroughly.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly and then stir in the milk. Add the parsley, scallions, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the fusilli and toss. Fold in the cheddar.

With 1/2 tablespoon of the butter, coat a shallow rectangular baking dish, about 14 x 9 x 2 inches. Spoon the fusilli mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan and the bread crumbs over the top and dot with the remaining butter.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the top is browned and the fusilli is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

International Freebie!

If you'd like a PDF copy of the cookbook that accompanies Crystal King's The Chef's Secret (see my post from Monday), either comment on this post or link up your own foodie post and then fill out this form. Everyone who provides his or her email after commenting or participating will get a copy. Fun fact: I adapted one of my grandmother's recipes for the book!

I'll delete your email from the Google form after I send you your cookbook.
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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15 February 2019

4 New Books for YA Readers (Not a Fantasy in Sight)

Do you think all young adult fiction is fantasy? Sometimes it can feel that way, but in truth young readers are very much interested in contemporary issues, mystery, and even some romance. Today's round-up offers suggestions to please more down-to-earth readers, of any age. Don't be put off by the audience; you just might find a beloved book or author among the titles originally written for youthful readers. Harry Potter, anyone?

Give Me Thrills and Chills

  • A Danger to Herself and Others; FollowingA Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel (Sourcebooks Fire, Feb. 5): Hannah doesn't want to spend her senior year under psychological observation and confinement. She insists she had nothing to do with her BFF's accidental fall from a high window. No one believes Hannah, until she gets a roommate at the mental institution. At first Hannah's circumstances improve, but soon her perception of reality seems to unravel, and she wonders who she can trust. Themes: friendship, mental health.
  • Following by Jeffry W. Johnston (Sourcebooks Fire, Feb. 5): Alden wants to be an investigator and often practices by tailing his classmates and making observations. Alden thinks what he's doing is harmless, until he witnesses a boy murder his girlfriend--but then the girl shows up again a few days later. What did Alden really see and who will believe him? Themes: telling the truth, loss, parenting, friendship.
Contemporary Life
  • Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee; No One Here Is LonelyRayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner (Crown BYR, Feb. 26): Best friends Josie and Delia make the most of their out-of-school hours by hosting a Friday-night local cable TV show that features horror movies and fright-night fun. As graduation from high schools nears, Josie is hoping to pursue a career in television, while Delia is left with many fewer choices. When they see a chance to take their show to a wider audience, they jump on it, but will the end of their road trip fulfill their dreams? Themes: friendship, family, depression, socioeconomic issues, dreams.
  • No One Here Is Lonely by Sarah Everett (Knopf BYR, Feb. 5): Summer after senior year, Eden finds herself at loose ends. Her best friend has drifted onto her own path, the boy she was crushing on died in a car accident a few weeks earlier, and her siblings seem so self-assured. Eden withdraws into herself, pretending life hasn't changed, but as summer progresses will she be able to resist the call of new possibilities? Themes: friendship, grief, finding one's self, maturing

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12 February 2019

Today's Read: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King

Review of The Chef's Secret by Crystal KingImagine you were the apprentice to the Vatican chef and then inherited all of his recipes and other writings as well as his position. You would think your future was secure, but in sixteenth-century Rome, no one was safe from plotting and rivals and everyone had secrets. This is what Giovanni discovers after his uncle and mentor, the great chef Bartolomeo Scappi, dies in Rome on April 14, 1577.

Word traveled fast at the Vaticano, even during the darkness of night. Within an hour of Bartolomeo Scappi's passing, serving women from all over the palazzo had come to the chef's bedside, crying for the man they had loved and respected. They keened and wept, tearing at their hair, their skin and clothing, their wails filling the gilded halls. Franceso Reinoso, the Vaticano scalco, ordered the staff to bring candles, and soon they filled the room with their glow, lighting up the shadows and illuminating the faces of the mourners. As papal steward, Franceso always kept things in order, even when his best friend was before him on the bier.
The Chef's Secret by Crystal King (Atria, February 12, 2019, p. 1 [ARC])

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Late 1500s, Italy, especially Rome
  • Circumstances: After Bartolomeo Scappi, chef to the popes, dies, his nephew and apprentice, Giovanni, inherits everything, but he is told he must burn Scappi's personal journal and letters, without reading them or revealing their contents. Of course, Giovanni cannot help but look, and once he breaks his uncle's encryption, he learns of Bartolomeo's hidden life. The book is told along two time lines—Bartolomeo's and Giovanni's—and both are filled with family infighting, mystery, secrets, politics, murder, jealousy, and romance. The book is ripe with period details, individuals from history, and lots of social and political intrigue. Throughout the novel, of course, are wonderful descriptions of food and menus and the distinctive flavors of Renaissance Italy.
  • Genre: historical fiction, foodie
  • Themes: family, secrets, romance, food, Vatican and Roman politics
  • Something to know: Bartolomeo Scappi was a real person. He was indeed a famous Renaissance chef who cooked for the popes and who wrote a popular cookbook. Not much is known about him, but I enjoyed King's vision of Bartolomeo's rise to fame.
  • Recommendation: Perfect for readers who like Vatican politics, Renaissance Italy, the history of food and cooking, and historical fiction
  • Meet the author: Visit King's website to learn more about her, Bartolomeo, and 16th-century food and cooking.
  • Exciting Extra: Crystal King put together a PDF cookbook with more than two dozen recipes inspired by The Chef's Secret. Some are adaptations of ancient recipes and some are modern dishes that would easily fit in one of Bartolomeo's menus. I was thrilled when Crystal asked me to contribute a recipe, and I had fun coming up with the perfect dish (hint: it's a dessert). I am giving away a PDF copy of the cookbook to every person who participates in my Weekend Cooking link-up on February 16 or 23 or who leaves a comment on one of those posts (I'll include a form that you can fill out in those posts). Open internationally. I hope to see you there!
  • Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Crystal King for the advanced reader copy of The Chef's Secret and for the opportunity to contribute to the accompanying cookbook.

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11 February 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 7 Short Book Reviews

6 reviews from Beth Fish ReadsHappy Monday! I hope that everyone is ready to face the week, whether you're working, vacationing, or somewhere in between. I'm grateful to have a regular workweek ahead of me and am hoping to have the time to catch up on reading, straighten the house, and relax with some pleasure reading (or listening)

Since I last wrote about the books I'm reading, we've gone through the polar vortex, had some crazy warm days, fierce winds, and now we're on the brink of another snow storm. Starting Sunday night and heading on to Tuesday, we could see another foot or so of snow as well as an accumulation of ice. Have I mentioned lately that I'm so, so glad I work from home?

I missed last week's short story, but I read one over the weekend. I've been reading the first story in each collection, but at the end of February, I think I'll take a different tack and start reading the title story instead.

Here's what I read over the last two weeks. Many of them are audiobooks, because that's what I turn to when I busy editing.

Review of At the Wolf's Table by Rosella PostorinoAt the Wolf's Table by Rosella Postorino, translated from the Italian by Leah Janeczko (Flatiron, January 29). This is a totally different take on the World War II story (at least for me) and was inspired by a true story. In 1943, Hitler was headquartered at the Wolfshanze (the Wolf's Lair), where he had a personal chef prepare his meals. Hitler's fear of poisoning ran deep, so he forced 10 local, German women to eat three meals a day at his country home. After they ate, they remained under SS guard for about an hour, to see if anyone got sick or died. Rosa Sauer, is one of the tasters. She is living with her in-laws, whom she barely knows, while her husband is fighting in the German army. The food tasters don't know each other before their assignment, but they soon develop uneasy friendships: some are proud to be Nazis, others (like Rosa) are not, but try to do what they must to survive. Some of the SS men are strict, others begin to ease up. No one is really safe. Because Rosa tells the story, we know she lives, but what we don't know is how or why. I was really interested what becoming tasters did to the women: they all lived with a constant fear of dying, and for the women like Rosa there was the further dilemma of being forced to protect Hitler while not believing in anything he was doing. Can Rosa ever have peace with herself; does she in fact really survive to have a full life? Even if you think you've read everything about World War II, you should give Postorino's novel a try. This would make a great book club pick because there is so much to think about. I don't want to give away what happens to Rosa, but I think about her choices, her interactions with the other people involved in the cooking and tasting, her relationship with her husband and his family, how we should think about her, and what her postwar life is like. This novel is all the stronger because it is based on the confessions of one of the real-life food tasters. (copy provided by the publisher)

Review of Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah BirdDaughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird (St. Martin's Press, September 4, 2018). In one of those odd quirks, I ended up reading another book based on a true story of a woman in wartime, this time the American Civil War. Cathy Williams was born into slavery in the Deep South and "freed" by Union General Philip Sheridan, who needed an assistant for his camp cook. Cathy worked for Sheridan, learning to survive in a world of white men, all the while missing her mother who told her stories of Africa and the gods and her own mother, who was a queen. After the war, there were few opportunities for a black woman who wanted to escape the hate and violence of the defeated South, so Cathy disguised herself as a man and enlisted into the army under the name William Cathay. She thus became the first woman to ever serve in the peacetime U.S. Army. As a member of the cavalry, she and her fellow buffalo soldiers went west to fight the Indians and open the land up to (mostly white) settlers. Cathy's story is not a fairy tale: she misses her family, she is terrified of being found out and raped, she almost dies in the southwest desert, and she mourns the death of those she loved. I had never heard of Cathy Williams nor had I read much about the buffalo soldiers. Don't pass this by because you think you're not all that interested in the Civil War and the settling of the American West. This is the true story of a brave woman who tried to find a way to survive in a changing world. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Macmillan Audio; 16 hr, 31 min) brilliantly read by Bahni Turpin. Turpin's expressive performance brings Cathy Williams's story alive. The audiobook also includes an interview with the author. (copy provided for a freelance assignment)

Review of From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya MenonFrom Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon (Simon Pulse, May 22, 2018). This is a fun story about Twinkle Mehr, an Indian American, who dreams of becoming a filmmaker but thinks she has a million strikes against her. She lives in Colorado Springs, her parents can't afford to buy her good equipment and won't be able to pay for an expensive out-of-state college, and she's not a member of the popular group at school. To make things worse, her best friend is suddenly social climbing and the guy she's crushing on is not returning the feelings. When Sahil Roy--the twin brother of Twinkle's crush--offers her a chance to make a film for a local festival, Twinkle thinks all her dreams will come true. Not only will she be able to make a real movie but she'll have a chance to catch the eye of the cool kids. The novel is told through Twinkle's diary entries, with a few sections from Sahil's perspective, and is somewhat more than a cute contemporary teen rom-com. Twinkle's home life is difficult (for example, her mother suffers from depression) and she has many life lessons to learn about love and friendship and the dream of fame. I always enjoy Menon's take on Desi teen life. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 9 hr, 32 min) read by Soneela Nankani and Vikas Adam. Both Nankani and Adam did a fine job tapping into their inner teen, though Nankani occasionally went over the top with her emotions. Still, a decent audiobook. (digital and audio copies provided by the publisher)

Review of The Chessmen by Peter MayThe Chessmen by Peter May (Quercus, February 3, 2015): I finally finished up the Lewis trilogy by May. I don't have a lot new to say about this entry, but I love May's writing and I love how the island of Lewis (in the Outer Hebrides) is as much a part of the story as what happens to the characters. In this final Fin Macleod story, the ex-detective discovers a dead body in a private plane, which was exposed after a bog break drains a loch. His involvement with the cold case has links to his teenage years and one of his best lifelong friends. Meanwhile, Fin's personal life is not going as smoothly as it could, and he's feeling directionless since he returned to the island to restore his family's croft. The ending of this book was satisfying, though I was happy to see that the door has been left ajar, so maybe May will write more about Fin in the future (or maybe he's already done so; I need to check that out). If you want to try May but don't want to commit to a trilogy, check out his standalone novels. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 10 hr, 1 min) read by Peter Forbes. I love his skill with the several needed accents and much appreciate hearing the proper pronunciation of the Gaelic. (print and audio copies provided by the publisher)

Review of The Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea CamillerThe Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea Camilleri, translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli (Penguin Books, February 5): This is the latest installment  in the wonderful Montalbano mystery series set in Sicily. Detective Montalbano doesn't like paperwork, loves to eat, and is the man you want on the case. In this outing, Montalbano is tasked with figuring out why two woman, both of whom work for banks, were kidnapped but then let go several hours later unharmed and untouched. Before the detective can get far with this case, another women is kidnapped, but she is found naked and injured. Meanwhile, there's an arson, a possible Mafia hit, and a missing person. As Montalbano works through all these strange occurrences, he wonders if any of them are linked. I love Montalbano's personality, the dynamics between the police detective and his staff, the wisecracking dialogue, and the undercurrent of the Sicilian Mafia. Although this series is long (I think this is the 23rd installment), you can probably jump in anywhere and not feel lost. Each book is a single case; though, as with all series, there are recurring characters who develop through time. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Blackstone Audio; 6 hr, 15 min) read by the wonderful Grover Gardner. I love Gardner's characterizations and how easily he handles the humor and quick dialogue. If you're an audiobook fan, this series should be listened to instead of read in print. (audio copy provided for a freelance assignment)

Review of Renegade Women in Film & TV by Elizabeth WeitzmanRenegade Women in Film & TV by Elizabeth Weitzman (Clarkson Potter, February 5). As I wrote on Friday, this book contains dozens of short biographies of women involved in making movies and television shows. Each woman was a ground-breaker on some level and on both sides of the camera. This is a book to enjoy over the course of a few days, reading a couple of biographies at a time. I really enjoyed meeting new (to me) women, such as Gertrude Berg, who was one of the early television creators and who paved the way for many of the family sitcoms that have formed the foundation of prime-time television. Each biography is accompanied by either a short interview or a pithy quote: "I want to be identified with the body of filmmakers, not just women. What will really  help women is if they show up everywhere" -- Shirley Clarke (1919-1997), filmmaker. Don't miss the beautiful portraits of each woman by Austen Claire Clements. I love the art! The book ends with a bibliography and with a list of must-see movies and television. (review copy provided by the publisher)

Review of This Is Not a Love Song by Brendan Mathews"Heroes of the Revolution" by Brendan Mathews from This Is Not a Love Song (Little, Brown, February 5). This story is about two participants in a three-month fellowship program in the Chicago area for foreign journalists: Edina from Bosnia and Vitas from Lithuania. On an apple-picking group outing organized by an American graduate student, Edina and Vitas (both middle-aged) have a moment to talk and get to know each other while walking through the orchard. At the end of the day, young Kristen, who has a crush on Vitas, tells a story from her carefree teen years, which prompts Edina to tell her own story--not so carefree in the war zone of Sarajevo. Vitas also has a story to tell, and we are left with the striking difference between the innocence of American youth and those who must deal with the horrors that people can inflict on others. I'll definitely be reading more of Mathews's stories. (digital copy provided by the publisher.

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09 February 2019

Weekend Cooking: Farro Waldorf Salad

Farro Wladorf Salad from Food NetworkHappy Saturday (or Sunday for my friends on the other side of the world). I don't know how this week got away from me. I had a heavy workload so I mainly cooked tried-and-true, no recipe required meals: pasta with meat sauce, split pea soup, chicken and rice in the slow cooker.

I didn't even have time to go through a new cookbook or read a new foodie-heavy book. But all is not lost when it comes to today's post--I'm sharing a great recipe!

If you've been following along over the years, then you know I'm always looking for good lunch ideas. Yes, we can eat leftovers from dinner, but I'm often looking for non-sandwich lunches that don't need to be heated up. My husband is often away for lunch and almost never has access to a microwave.

This week's hit recipe came as a surprise. I was looking through a digital edition of this month's Food Network Magazine, and came across the following farro salad. I immediately thought, Lunch! I thought it looked good but I wasn't expecting it to be so amazingly delicious. We both loved it.

The good news is that with Trader Joe's 10-minute farro, I was able to put this salad together in a snap. And because I used powdered (and reconstituted) buttermilk for the dressing, I wasn't stuck with a bottle of leftovers. The main thing I did differently was to use regular raisins. I thought I had golden raisins in the house, but I didn't, so just went for black ones.

The recipe says this makes enough for 4 to 6 and I think that's accurate. We each had it for lunch for three days (6 servings) and it held up beautifully. This would be nice for a potluck or a summer cookout too. (photo scanned from the magazine)

Farro Waldorf Salad
Serves 4 to 6

  • Farro Wladorf Salad from Food Network1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 scallion sliced [I used 3]
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill [I used 2]
  • 2 apples chopped
  • 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
  • 3 stalks celery, plus 1 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
Cook farro as the label directs, then spread on a baking sheet and let cool.

Make the dressing: whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, scallion, and dill in a large bowl.

Add the apples, grapes, celery, walnuts, raisins, and farro to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley and celery leaves.

NOTE: I'm sharing this recipe with the Souper Sunday round-up at Deb's Kahakai Kitchen -- a great place to share soup and salad and sandwich recipes.
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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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2019. All rights reserved.



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