21 September 2019

Weekend Cooking: The Forest Feast: Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson

Review of The Forest Feast: Mediterranean by Erin GleesonWhen The Forest Feast: Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson (Abrams, Sept. 17) appeared on my doorstep (thanks to the Abrams Dinner Party), I think I let out a huge Woop! I learned about the Forest Feast last year, when another member of the Abrams Dinner Party shared a black pepper shortbread recipe from one of Gleeson’s earlier cookbooks.

That recipe was so easy and so delicious, I immediately went to the Forest Feast website to explore some more. While there, I signed up for Gleeson’s newsletter. Then I ordered two of her cookbooks. I guess you could say I’m a fan.

The first thing you’ll notice when you open a Gleeson cookbook, is just how absolutely gorgeous it is. Each page is a work of art, with photos, drawings, interesting fonts, and beautiful colors (see the scans; click to enlarge). The second thing is that the vast majority of the recipes are what I would call “simple perfection,” meaning they are easy to make, pretty to look at, and incredibly yummy.

Review of The Forest Feast: Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson

The Forest Feast: Mediterranean is the result of a three-month journey Gleeson took with her husband and young sons. They traveled from Spain to France and to Italy and then went west to Portugal, before flying from Madrid home to California. They stayed in some places for a month and others for a week, and spent a lot of time exploring, photographing, and tasting and eating.

The recipes in The Forest Feast: Mediterranean are adapted from the food the Gleesons discovered on their trip. As Erin says, “the recipes . . . are inspired by the local dishes and ingredients we saw”; they are not necessarily authentic. I say, authentic shmawthentic: the flavors are spot-on.

Another aspect of the this cookbook I appreciate is that all the ingredients are readily available, even in my small town. Pasta, vegetables, fruits, and grains form the foundation of the dishes Gleeson created. No need to order special spices or exotic sauces; just pop down to your regular grocery.

Review of The Forest Feast: Mediterranean by Erin GleesonI’ve had very few cookbooks over the years that beg me to make pretty much every single recipe found within the covers, and Forest Feast: Mediterranean is now in that elite club. I truly want to try all the snacks, salads, side dishes, and pastas as well as the cocktails and desserts.
  • Avocado and Bean Salad • Farro–Cucumber Salad
  • Onion and Fig Tartines • Portobello Empanadas
  • Gnocchi and Cauliflower Casserole • Spaghetti with Chard and Garlic
  • Parmesan-Crusted Tomatoes • Herbes de Provence Winter Vegetables
The pasta dish shown above at the right (my photo) was inspired by Gleeson’s Lemony Pasta Fagioli recipe, which was presented as a simple side dish. I doubled the orecchiette and added some blanched kale to turn it into a main dish that lasted two nights. One of the secrets to this recipe is the blanched and sautéed very thin lemon slices. Seriously delicious.

Recommendation: In case you couldn’t tell, I wholeheartedly recommend this cookbook to everyone—experienced and relatively new cooks alike. The recipes are all vegetarian (not vegan), but omnivores need not shy away. I promise I haven’t finished with Erin Gleeson’s Forest Feast: Mediterranean: I bet we eat at least one dish from this cookbook every single week for many months to come. Meal planning just got dead easy.

Review of The Forest Feast: Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson

As proof for how easy it is to re-create Gleenson’s Forest Feast: Mediterranean dishes, see my photo of the following sweet potato recipe. [Note from BFR: I liked the leftovers cold with lunch.]

Sweet Potatoes with Feta Dressing
Serves 4
  1. Review of The Forest Feast: Mediterranean by Erin GleesonCube 4 medium sweet potatoes (no need to peel) & lay out on a baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  2. Roast at 425°F (220°C) for 30 min or until fork-tender.
  3. For the dressing, use an immersion blender to combine 2 tablespoons milk, ⅓ cup (50 g) crumbled feta, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons rice vinegar & a pinch of nutmeg.
  4. Drizzle potatoes with the desired amount of dressing & sprinkle with chopped scallions. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Recipe and scans are used here in the context of a review and as part of the Abrams Dinner Party. 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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20 September 2019

8 Books to Read This Month

When it comes to books, I’m so often the kid in the candy store: I want one of this and two of those and, oh, and don’t forget a handful of them. Naturally, I can’t read every book that captures my attention or imagination. All is not lost, though, because I can still share my book love with you.

That brings us to today’s roundup, which is a random collection of books I've placed on my reading list. The titles here—all published this month—were chosen because you may have missed them in big buzz about some of our favorite authors (like Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman).

Although I am unlikely to get to the entire list before September 30, each book is still very much on my radar. If you read any of these before I do, I’ll be sure to pay attention to your thoughts, reactions, or reviews.

reivew of Wildhood by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn BowersWildhood by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers (Scribner, Sept. 17). Humans aren’t the only animals who experience great change as they mature from puberty to adulthood. In this well-researched book, an evolutionary biologist and science journalist team up to talk about what it’s like to be a teenager for a variety of animals, from penguins to whales, from wolves to humans. No matter the species, young adults share universal struggles as they learn key lessons for becoming successful adults, such as finding a good mate, feeding oneself, and staying safe. Audiobook: Narrated by Robin Miles (Simon & Schuster Audio; 10 hr, 23 min). Digital copy provided by the publisher.

review of The Sisters of Summit Avenue by Lynn Cullen The Sisters of Summit Avenue by Lynn Cullen (Gallery, Sept. 10). Set during the Depression, this is the story of two estranged sisters and what happens when their mother attempts to orchestrate a long overdue reconciliation. Long-held jealousies and misunderstandings divide the sisters, while their mother struggles with her own issues. Accurate 1930s cultural details provide the backdrop for this story of a family fractured by betrayals and secrets. Audiobook: Narrated by Madeleine Maby (Simon & Schuster Audio; 9 hr). Digital and audio copies provided by the publisher.

review of Inheritance by Evelyn ToyntonInheritance by Evelyn Toynton (Other Press, Sept. 17). After her husband’s sudden death, Annie, a lifelong Anglophile, escapes to London, where she meets a new love, who eventually takes her home to his family’s Devonshire estate. There, Annie’s romantic views of British country life are shattered after she witnesses the family’s drama, guilt plays, and mutual manipulation. Set in the 1980s, the novel explores relationships and families. Audiobook: no information. Print copy provided by the publisher.

review of The Other End of the Line by Andrea Camilleri The Other End of the Line by Andrea Camilleri (trans. Stephen Sartarelli; Penguin Books, Sept. 3). I love this fun mystery series set in Sicily; the books are part police procedural and part cozy. In this installment, Inspector Montalbano is trying to keep the peace both along the docks as the island prepares for an influx of refuges and at home by agreeing to buy a new suit for an upcoming wedding. The two worlds collide in a grizzly murder, which Montalbano solves in his signature unorthodox manner. Sadly, Camilleri died this past July, which means this is likely my last visit with Montalbano. Audiobook: Narrated by Grover Gardner (Blackstone Audio; 7 hr, 13 min). Print copy provided by the publisher.

review of Song for a New Day by Sarah PinskerSong for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker (Berkley, Sept. 10). In this take of the world after one too many terrorist attacks and deadly diseases, the government has forbidden any kind of public gathering, including concerts, sporting events, and even a night out at the pub. What happens when musicians flout the law to perform live and people who grew up in isolation risk everything to listen? Themes of humanity, the arts, virtual reality, and defiance. Audiobook: Narrated by Dylan Moore and Nicol Zanzarella (Penguin Audio; 12 hr, 31 min) Print copy provided by the publisher.

review of Verify by Joelle CharbonneauVerify by Joelle Charbonneau (HarperTeen, Sept. 24). This mashup of mystery and dystopian fiction takes place in a cleaned-up, safe Chicago where everyone and everything is environmentally responsible and the government keeps order. Meri trusts her world and the facts she grew up with until, while trying to understand her mother’s recent death, she uncovers an alternate truth and history that leaves her confused and far less naive. Familiar dystopian plot lines (a resistance, a controlling government, banned books) won’t stop me from giving this a try. Audiobook: Narrated by Caitlin Kelly (HarperAudio; 9 hr, 38 min) Audio copy provided by the publisher.

review of The Siege of Troy by Theodor KallifatidesThe Siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides (trans. Marlaine Delargy; Other Press, Sept. 10). This retelling of the Iliad is set in Greece during the bombings of World War II. A village schoolteacher tries to distract her students from their current circumstances—hiding in a cave to wait out the attack—by recounting the Greek classic, focusing on the human elements more than the interventions of the gods. The bloodiness of war, death, and soldiers' homesickness and fear were a part of ancient Greece just as much as the Greece of the last century and, of course for all people at war at all time periods. Audiobook: Narrated by Kate Mulligan and Armando Durán (Blackstone; 5 hr, 24 min) Print copy provided by the publisher.

review of A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. WeymouthA Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth (HarperTeen, Sept. 10). This stand-alone dark, historical fantasy, mixed with mystery, is set in an alternative England. Returning home after a long exile (caused by her father’s misdeeds), Violet finds her family’s great house in disrepair and the magic that keeps their people and lands flourishing in decline. Mourning everything that was dear to her and fearing for the fate of her estate, Violet vows to restore her realm to its former glory, no matter the cost. Audiobook: Narrated by Fiona Hardingham (HarperAudio; 10 hr, 29 min) Audio copy provided by the publisher

What books are still on your reading list for September?

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18 September 2019

Wordless Wednesday 541

Asters, 2019

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

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16 September 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Reading across the Genres

book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsOh happy day! I'm now officially back to a human-level workload. I met all my crazy deadlines last week and now I'm looking forward to having more time to read blogs and, especially, to read books. Yay!

I spent the weekend doing some baking (sandwich / toast bread and banana bread) and catching up with the household chores. I even did a little fun shopping.

We finally started the second season of Mindhunter, and it's just as good as we remembered. We often make Saturday a movie night, but this week, we ended up reading and listening to music instead. It was relaxing and just what I needed.

Here's what I listened to and read last week.

review of Elin Hilderbrand's What Happens in ParadiseI couldn't resist listening to Elin Hilderbrand's What Happens in Paradise (Little, Brown, Oct. 8). This is the second book in Hiderbrand's Paradise series, which is set on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The story revolves mostly around the Steele family, a few months after Russell, the father/husband, was killed in a helicopter accident. Irene is still reeling from her sudden widowhood and because she had no idea her husband had a secret life in the islands: not only a much younger mistress but also a tween daughter. The only good news is that Irene's husband left her a wealthy woman . . . or did he? It turns out Russell's business may not have been on the up and up. Sons Cash and Baker have their own woes: Cash's outdoor supply store is going under and Baker's wife is leaving him for a woman. Independently, all three decide to relocate to Russell's St. John luxury villa and think about a fresh start. In Hilderbrand's signature style, the story involves family and romantic relationships with broader themes stirred into the mix. In this case, the novel deals with sleazy business dealings, tax havens, secrets, and ethics. I loved getting to know the Steele family and their friends in St. John. As always with Hilderbrand, I felt the relationships and characters were realistic, and I'm fully invested in what happens next. But ARGH, I hate waiting until next fall to find out whether the Steeles find lasting happiness.

The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 9 hr, 47 min) was read by Erin Bennett, who (as I've said before) is *the* voice of Elin Hilderbrand. I love the way Bennett picks up on Hilderbrand's style and tempo. She also creates great characterizations and never tips us off when someone is hiding secrets. Can't wait for next fall. (digital and audio copies provided by the publisher)

review of Renia's Diary by Renia SpiegelRenia's Diary (St. Martin's Press, Sept. 24) by Renia Spiegel and her sister, Elizabeth Bellak, is one of those rare things: a Holocaust diary that reveals the daily life of a young girl in Russian-occupied Poland. The diary starts out with typical 15-year-old thoughts about school and gossipy comments about classmates. After Poland is divided between Germany and Russia, Renia's thoughts turn to her mother, who is living in the German side -- almost daily she writes about how much she misses her mother as she tries to cope with everyday teenage issues (school, girls, boys) in an increasingly dangerous environment. Reina and her family are Jewish, but not particularly religious. She hopes God will protect her, but she never mentions going to the synagogue and only rarely acknowledges a holiday. Her diary is filled with poems she writes for various occasions and to express her deep feelings. Life gradually changes as food and goods become more scarce, the Germans come, and Jews are put under more and more restrictions. Finally, she is to be sent to the ghetto, and Jews without work permits will be likely be sent away to camps. Reina, 18 years old by then, hands her diary over to her longtime boyfriend. He hides Reina and his parents with friends and smuggles Reina's little sister into the city, where she is eventually taken to Warsaw to be reunited with her mother. Reina and the elderly couple were not so lucky. Decades after the war, the boyfriend tracks Elizabeth and her mother down in New York and returns the diary, where it remained hidden to the world until relatively recently. It's a hard read, but important. I read a digital galley and thus missed the photographs, though many are shown on the Smithsonian website. Never forget--especially in the current political climate. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

review of The Swallows by Lisa LutzThe Swallows by Lisa Lutz (Ballantine; Aug. 13) is set in a New England boarding school and addresses the #MeToo movement and sexual bullying. When new teacher Alex Witt asks her creative writing students to fill out an anonymous Q&A about themselves (what do you like, what do you hate, who are you), she learns about something called the Darkroom, which turns out to be a secret website created by the academy's male students. The site includes inappropriate photographs of female classmates and the running scores for a contest the girls don't know they're participating in: who gives the best blow jobs. Although the Darkroom and contest are not all that secret, the faculty seems to have a boys will be boys attitude. Alex is having none of it and so begins to help a couple of the girls who are determined to shut the boys down. The story is told from a variety of viewpoints and includes a couple of other plot lines. Lutz has written a timely book, and I hope it makes at least some young adults think twice about their behavior. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio, 11 hr) read by a Abby Elliot, Lisa Flanagan, Ari Fliakos, Michael Crouch and Johnny Heller. The performances were spot-on and captured the different emotional reactions of the students and faculty. More on the audiobook at AudioFile magazine. (audio copy for a freelance assignment)

review of Cat Science Unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-ToppenCat Science Unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen (photos by Matthew Rakola) is a National Geographic Kids book (Aug. 27) that helps kids (and adults) learn more about their furry feline friends through easy in-home experiments and activities. The book is illustrated with photographs of kids and and their pets, and I'm happy to report that the book features a diverse group of young scientists. The activities help us learn about cat health, senses, predatory behavior, and intelligence. The activities are easy, fun, and inexpensive to do. For example, kids can test their pet's hearing and purring by using a smartphone. The photos, fonts, and colors are engaging, and I can't wait to try some of these tests with my niece's cats. Fun and informative for cat lovers of all ages. Below is an example spread from the book--click to enlarge. (print copy provided by the publisher)

review of Cat Science Unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

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14 September 2019

Weekend Cooking: The Abrams Dinner Party: 2019-2020

I'm so excited to announce today that I've been invited to be a member of the Abrams Dinner Party for another year. As you well know, I love pretty much all the cookbooks and food / beverage books that Abrams publishes each year.

If you're new here, you might not know what it means to have a place at the Abrams Dinner Party. Here's the 411:

Thanks to the wonderful people at Abrams, I will receive a copy of each book in their entire food and drink catalog for their current fall season and upcoming winter, and spring seasons, so I can share the goodness found inside those book covers with you.

 I won't necessarily be posting a detailed review of every book, but each one will be featured here, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, and/or on Litsy. I have permission to share scans of photographs and recipes from the books and to share tips and tricks and anything I think would be fun to write about. I'm looking forward to another year of learning, cooking, and discovery.

So how does this affect my opinions and reviews of the books I receive through the Abrams Dinner Party Program? Don't worry, I'm not getting paid, and I fully intend to provide you with my honest opinion of any book I review. Because of FTC rules, whenever I write about an Abrams Dinner Party book or post a photo on any social media platform, I am required (by law) to disclose my association with Abrams. I've decided to use the hashtag #ad because it's small and unobtrusive.

Remember: #ad means I received the book because I'm a member of the Abrams Dinner Party program. Again, I'm not getting paid and I will always give you my true opinion.


This week I got my first batch of books for the fall season. I haven't had much time to look through any of them yet, but I can tell you right now I'm thrilled to see food writing and memoir along with the straight-up cookbooks. I love learning about food and drink as much as I love cooking and baking. In the coming weeks, you'll be learning a lot more about every one of the books shown here, but I thought I'd give you a little sneak peek.

We have a cider book, a food history, a food memoir, a cookbook written by one of my all-time favorite technique authors (and copyedited by a long-time virtual friend of mine), and a vegetarian book of one of my favorite cuisines. These all are already winners for me. I'm seriously so incredibly thrilled to explore each and every title, I can hardly contain myself.

Oh, and I have to throw out a little teaser: the artwork and photographs in these books are super-duper. I mean, I just want to sit down and look at the pictures in at least three of these books.

So, buckle down and get ready. I'm planning on reviewing the first of these books next Saturday!

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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