17 October 2020

Weekend Cooking: The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry

Review of The Full Plate by Ayesha CurryOne of my new favorite cookbooks from this fall is The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry, which I received as part of the Voracious Ambassadors Program. The idea behind this cookbook is easy, flavorful recipes that have wide appeal, are easy to adapt, and can be made in under an hour. I work from home and love to cook, but that doesn't mean I want to slave in the kitchen on a regular basis.

Curry's new cookbook is perfect for busy weeks and for those evenings when the more-elaborate meal I had planned is just not gonna happen. In my dishwasher-less house, I also appreciate that most of the recipes in The Full Plate require minimal pots and thus end in speedy evening cleanup.

You'll find a variety of flavors in The Full Plate, including tropical, Italian, Mexican, and American Southern. The vast majority of the recipes use ordinary ingredients you'll be able to find no matter where you live, and many of the pantry items are probably already in your kitchen.

<a href="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-oJnWD0B9s7M/X4oOgKzRlBI/AAAAAAAAfJQ/Dnw7WGWNt3Q91WOL3BTAN1haAURjHkhUQCLcBGAsYHQ/s750/FullPlate.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img alt="Review of The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry" border="0" data-original-height="750" data-original-width="594" height="320" src="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-oJnWD0B9s7M/X4oOgKzRlBI/AAAAAAAAfJQ/Dnw7WGWNt3Q91WOL3BTAN1haAURjHkhUQCLcBGAsYHQ/w253-h320/FullPlate.JPG" title="The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry" width="253" /></a><br />Here are some of the recipes I've already made: The sheet pan sausage dinner, a riff on the classic county fair sausage sandwich, was super quick and perfect after an active day outside (see my photo). The quinoa salad, with avocado, feta, and cilantro, made a satisfying couple of lunches. The spiced-rubbed chicken with chickpeas and tomatoes was super easy and really tasty. The lamb pasta bake, which could be made with any ground meat, is one of Mr. BFR's new favorite dinners (see scan from the cookbook). The flank steak sandwiches with blue cheese and quick pickled red onions was a great fall dinner on the deck (we grilled the steak instead of cooking it on the stove top).

Here are some recipes I have marked to try: chicken Parmesan burgers; citrus-glazed salmon; shrimp fajitas; paprika chicken; beet, walnut, and goat cheese salad; and roasted pears with a vanilla caramel sauce. For dessert, I'd like to give her version of rice pudding a try, and there are also a few cocktail recipes that caught my eye.

The recipes directions are clearly written and should be accessible to almost all levels of cooks. Every recipe I've tried has turned out perfectly and was indeed completed in under an hour. One thing I look for in a cookbook is well-seasoned dishes; The Full Plate doesn't disappoint. No bland dinners here.

<a href="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-oJnWD0B9s7M/X4oOgKzRlBI/AAAAAAAAfJQ/Dnw7WGWNt3Q91WOL3BTAN1haAURjHkhUQCLcBGAsYHQ/s750/FullPlate.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 0; margin-right: 1em;"><img alt="Review of The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry" border="0" data-original-height="750" data-original-width="594" height="320" src="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-oJnWD0B9s7M/X4oOgKzRlBI/AAAAAAAAfJQ/Dnw7WGWNt3Q91WOL3BTAN1haAURjHkhUQCLcBGAsYHQ/w253-h320/FullPlate.JPG" title="The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry" width="253" /></a><br />The recipe introductions offer serving suggestions and variations and give you sense of Curry's personality. The full page photos of the finished dishes will make your mouth water, and the photos of Curry's family keep the book down to earth.

Recommendation: Put Ayesha Curry's The Full Plate on your buy list or gift list. I know I'll be turning to it often, whether to make a recipe exactly as written or for a good idea when I can't think of what to make. One caveat, the recipes are meat and fish heavy, so vegetarians should borrow before buying.

For what to expect in The Full Plate, visit Ayesha Curry's website and browse her recipes. It looks like the site hasn't been updated in a while, but you can still get an idea of Curry's style.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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10 October 2020

Weekend Cooking: Pie for Everyone by Petra Paredez

Review of Pie for Everyone by Petra ParedezI'm not quite sure why, but fall 2020 is turning out to be the season of the pie cookbook. I'm not kidding, I have at least four cookbooks devoted to pie baking in my review queue. Fortunately, we love pie, and I'm not going to have a problem baking one or several from each book over the coming weeks.

Now before you go wondering about all that sugar and butter, I have two things to say: (1) Hey, it's fruit, right? and (2) Not all pies are sweet.

Today's pie cookbook is Petra (Petee) Paredez's Pie for Everyone, which I received as part of the Abrams Dinner Party review program. As the subtitle says, this book includes "recipes and stories from Petee's Pie," one of the best pie shops in New York City. The cover gives you hint of what you'll find inside.

More than just a cookbook, Pie for Everyone is a resource for baking basics, like stocking up on equipment, tips and tricks for choosing ingredients, how to measure, three methods for making crust, and even a bit of history. I love the gorgeous photos found throughout the cookbook. Although most of them show the finished pies, I also like beauty shots of ingredients and especially the photos that show step-by-step processes (for example for piping on a topping). Features introduce us to farmers, provide information about foraging, and tell us stories related to pies.

Pie for Everyone has recipes for making baked fruit pies, chilled pies, custard pies, and nut pies. Paredez recommends which crusts and toppings to use for the different pies and also gives us storage information, so we know if we can make a pie ahead or if we have to refrigerate the leftovers.

Review of Pie for Everyone by Petra ParedezI made the Sweet Potato Pie, which was an easy and pleasant change from pumpkin. I have the Autumn Pear Pie marked to try and am curious about Paredez's Cheesecake, which Mr. BFR requested. My new favorite pie is the Lemon Chess Pie. So easy to make (see recipe below) and so amazingly good.

Not up for dessert? No worries, Paredez includes a chapter of recipes for savory pies (think: chicken pot pie) and quiches. I made the Meat and Potato Pie, which we both loved. I also plan to bake the Chile Verde Pork Pie and Tomato Ricotta Pie.

I'm already looking forward to spring so I can start baking my way through the berry season, into the stone fruits, and then back to apple and pear. Have rolling pin, will bake pie!

Recommendation: Based on the three pies I made, I'm a fan of Petra Paredez's Pie for Everyone. Next time I'm in New York, I hope I have time to visit Petee's Cafe in Brooklyn or Petee's Pie on the Lower East Side. My only problem will be deciding which pie to order!

Lemon Chess Pie
Note: I added 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds to my filling before baking (the variation to this recipe) and then topped it with whipped cream before serving. And, no, I didn't crimp my crust.

Review of Pie for Everyone by Petra ParedezOne 9-inch (23-cm) pie

  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra-fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 2-3 lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 6 tablespoons (80g) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 bottom crust in pie pan, crimped
Preheat the oven to 400F (205C).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cornmeal, and salt. Whisk in the lemon zest and juice, vanilla, buttermilk, eggs, and egg yolk until smooth. Add the melted butter and whisk until well integrated.

Place the crust-filled pie pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling, making sure to scrape the entire contents from the sides of the bowl into the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F (175C) and bake for 40 minutes more, or until the center is puffed up and the top of the pie is golden.

Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and allow the pie to cool completely before slicing. Serve at room temperature. The pie will keep for up to 1 week at room temperature.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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03 October 2020

Weekend Cooking: The United States of Cocktails by Brian Bartels

Review of The United States of Cocktails by Brian BartelsIf you follow me on Instagram then you already know how much fun I've been having with Brian Bartels's The United States of Cocktails, which I received as part of the Abrams Dinner Party. We've made four cocktails so far and have really liked each one.

As you might guess from the title, the book is organized by state. Bartels introduces each state with a little history of its bars; its people, inventions, or events that have affected drinking in America; and little-known facts (cleverly called "Bar Snacks"). What follows are short descriptions of the state's iconic bars, beverages, spirits, and so on and then at least two recipes for cocktails either invented in that state or otherwise associated with it.

The big question among the Abrams Dinner Party members, was this: How are you planning on approaching The United States of Cocktails? Some ideas are to to start with the state you were born in, the state you currently live in, the states you hope to visit someday, and the states you love to visit. I picked drinks based on spirits I already owned, though we've also made note of the gaps in our liquor cabinet and plan to fill in over the coming months. It'd be fun to serve guests a cocktail that reflected something special in their lives (memorable vacation, college).

Review of The United States of CocktailsWe made the Willie Stargell--after all, we live in Pennsylvania (though Mr. BFR is not a Pirates fan, having grown up in the Philadelphia area). We also tried the Screaming Viking (from North Carolina), the Aquavit Bloody Mary (from Minnesota, see recipe below), and Colorado's Blackberry Sage Smash. We have several more cocktails marked to try, just as soon as I track down some missing ingredients (like liqueurs and orange bitters).

Although we're mostly wine drinkers, sometimes it's fun to shake up or stir a new cocktail. Brian Bartels's collection of drinks is a great resource for those of us who enjoy a well-balanced adult beverage. The United States of Cocktails gets two thumbs up from me.

Bartels Bloody Mary Mix
Review of The United States of CocktailsMakes about 32 ounces

  • 24 ounces tomato juice (I used Campbell's)
  • 2 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 ounces Tabasco chipotle sauce
  • 1 tablespoon steak sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
Combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive container. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Aquavit Bloody Mary
1 drink
  • 1 1/2 ounces aquavit (or gin, tequila, or mezcal)
  • 4 to 5 ounces Bartels Bloody Mary Mix
  • Garnishes: celery stick, lemon wedge, and olive or pickle
Combine spirit and mix in a chilled pint glass with ice, briefly stir, and add the garnishes.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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28 September 2020

18 Books; Or What I've Read This Month

Time for another round of my thoughts on the books I've read over last few weeks. I discuss them here in the order in which I read them. See my GoodReads shelf for longer reviews of some of these titles.

18 Books to Read Right Now
  • Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald (Grove Press, Aug. 2020). Macdonald's new collection of essays interweaves everyday issues (allergies, migraines, Brexit) with her experiences with and in nature -- especially birds. You don't have to read these pieces in order, but I urge you to read them all; I didn't find any weak links. For Macdonald's performance of this book, see AFM.
  • Death of an Honest Man by M. C. Beaton (Grand Central Publishing; Feb. 2018). Sob! This was the last entry in the Hamish Macbeth cozy mystery series, which ended on Beaton's death. Fortunately, the book concludes on a satisfying note, and I'd like to think Hamish is still solving mysteries in his beloved Highlands countryside. Graeme Malcolm finished out the series in style (Hachette Audio; 5 hr, 23 min).
  • Unvarnished by Eric Alperin with Deborah Stoll (Harper Wave; June 2020). I listened to this because it was billed as the Kitchen Confidential of the bar world. While it does give us a peak behind the scenes, it wasn't quite as eye-opening. Still, it kept my interest and I loved the fact that the audiobook came with a PDF of recipes and information. If you're hesitant to listen to an author-read book, don't be in this case (HarperAudio; 6 hr, 29 min). Alperin has a theater background, which served him well here. He has an expressive and engaging delivery. (copied from my GoodReads review)
18 Books to Read Right Now
  • Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Tor, Aug. 4). This is the second entry in the Locked Tomb trilogy, and doesn't work as a standalone. Although the book started out a little confusing, the dual time-period narrative and Harrow's challenges soon came together and sucked me right in. The books are a kind of mashup of sci-fi, fantasy, and light horror and introduce a unique world, giving God or a god a voice. Moria Quirk's performance of the audiobook (Recorded Books; 19 hr, 51 min) is terrific, especially her pacing. I hope she's on board for the final book in the trilogy.
  • The Guest List by Lucy Foley (William Morrow; June 2020). I picked this up because I loved Foley's The Hunting Party. Although I liked this mystery -- set on an island off the coast of Ireland -- it didn't have the fresh feel of her earlier book. The story is told from multiple view points and involves a murder that takes place during a high-profile wedding reception. The plotting was well done, with several possible villains and motives. The audiobook (Harper Audio; 10 hr, 22 min) was read by Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens, and Rich Keeble. The cast blended well, with no poor performances.
  • Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Sept. 29). This first in the Scholomance series is set in a school for the magically gifted. Graduation has nothing to do with grades all to do with staying alive, difficult thanks to the deadly monsters that permeate the institution. Our hero is El, a loner who realizes she'll need allies if she's to live to see graduation day. World building, secrets, mysteries, and tentative friendships and romances offset the action and danger. The book ends on a delicious cliff-hanger. Audiobook narrator Anisha Dadia captures El's personality and did a good job with timing (Random House Audio; 10 hr, 59 min). I noticed a few awkward pauses, but nothing that would prevent me from listening to the next book.
18 Books to Read Right Now
  • The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Little, Brown BYR; Sept. 1). This was a fun mystery, thriller, romance mash-up about how high schooler Avery goes from sleeping in her car one day to inheriting billions from a stranger the next. The catch to the inheritance? She must live in the dead man's rambling mansion (along with the shafted relatives) for a solid year, solving puzzles along the way. Good characters and interactions between characters. Action, puzzles, mean girls, paparazzi, and a cliff-hanger ending have me wanting the next book now! Audiobook narrator Christie Moreau tapped into Avery's emotional journey (Hachette Audio; 10 hr, 45 min).
  • The Shooting at Chateau Rock by Martin Walker (Knopf; May 2020). I listened to this 13th in a series set in the French countryside and featuring Chief of Police Bruno. The book was a pleasant blend of police procedural and cozy, with its many reference to French culture, food, and wine. I liked this well enough to consider starting the series from the beginning. See AFM for my audiobook thoughts.
  • Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown; Oct. 6). This book finishes Hilderbrand's fall-release St. John trilogy, which is all about how the Steele family copes with learning that their father/husband led a double life. I loved the twists and surprises in this installment and am happy Hilderbrand left a few plot points open to our imagination. Narrator Erin Bennett is the perfect match to Hilderbrand's style and pacing (Hachette Audio; 11 hr, 29 min).
18 Books to Read Right Now
  • The Guards by Ken Bruen (Minotaur; 2004). Since finishing the Hamish Macbeth books, I was looking for another series that consisted of engaging but short audiobooks and thought of Bruen's Jack Taylor series set in Galway. I've read several of the books, but not all and not in order, but liked them all. The books are dark, but not without humor and feature a dismissed cop turned private detective. In his first case, Jack is tasked with determining the truth about a young woman's death by supposed suicide. Along the way, he confronts his own demons. Narrator Gerry O'Brien creates an Irish atmosphere and nails the tone of the series (ISIS Audio; 4 hr, 37 min) Personal collection.
  • The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha VĂ©rant (Berkley; Sept. 8). A light romance for foodies. I'm not much of a romance reader, but I enjoyed the family themes and Sophie Valroux's journey to trusting her talents. When Sophie is fired from her job in a high-profile New York City restaurant she returns to France to help out her grandmother. Drama in the kitchen she is tasked to run and a reconnection with a childhood sweetheart drive the plot. The book includes Sophie's recipes. (copied from my GoodReads review)
  • One by One by Ruth Ware (Gallery; Sept. 8). I'm not sure if it was the book itself or the fact that I've listened to several closed-room-type mysteries lately, but this wasn't Ware at her strongest. The mystery is set in the French Alps at an exclusive chalet rented out by tech company for a staff retreat. The story is told from two viewpoints (the chalet host and one of the guests), and is meant to keep us guessing. Unfortunately, I had the general idea (but not the details) figured out very early on. Narrator Imogen Church's performance, with good pacing and emotional depth, kept me invested in the thriller (Simon & Schuster Audio; 13 hr, 8 min).
18 Books to Read Right Now
  • National Geographic Kids U.S. Atlas 2020 (Sept. 8). This colorful atlas presents each U.S. state and territory in map form, accompanied by fabulous photographs, straightforward statistics, and some little-known or eye-opening facts. National Geographic includes several pages of national information as well. Perfect for homeschooling and supplementing distance learning as well for any curious child or adult.
  • National Geographic Kids Almanac 2021 (May 2020). Thanks to National Geographic, your curious kids will find hours of enjoyment between the covers of their 2021 almanac. Colorful graphics and National Geographic's signature awesome photographs make this book pop. Besides fun facts and useful information divided into 11 broad categories (space, technology, history, geography, and so on), the almanac includes games, quizzes, and experiments. Perfect for gift-giving and to have on hand for supplementing home and distant learning. (copied from my GoodReads review)
  • How to Astronaut by Terry Virts (Workman, Sept. 15). I loved this collection of short pieces of what it's like to become and be an astronaut. Virt covers just about everything from training to spacewalking, including space-time food and entertainment. He also address those topics that you've always wanted to know about but were afraid to ask, like bathroom issues and sex. The essays are entertaining, fun, and informative.
18 Books to Read Right Now
  • Smash It! by Francina Simone (Inkyard; Sept. 22). This first in a new series is about Liv, a Black teenager who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Liv decides it's time to stop living life in the shadow of her two best friends (both male) and form some new friendships and pursue romance. Liv is a likeable character who has diverse friends and sometimes makes poor choices. Although I didn't think the consequences of all of Liv's actions were realistic, the general theme of the book was solid. See AFM for my audiobook review.
  • Skyhunter by Marie Lu (Roaring Brook Press; Sept. 29). Lu's newest series is a mix of fantasy and dystopian and deals with a variety of issues besides just good verus evil, such as genetic engineering, reanimating the dead, loyalty, friendship, and family. Our hero is a refugee who is a soldier fighting to keep her new country free from a hostile invasion. Lots of action and great characters. The unabridged audiobook is read by Natalie Naudus (Macmillian Audiop 11 hr, 58 min), who does a terrific job differentiating among characters, using both vocal variations and emphasizing personality quirks. Her pacing was spot on. Don't miss the author and narrator conversation at the end of the audiobook.
  • Children of Ash and Elm by Neil Price (Basic; Aug. 2020). My favorite way to read history is to alternate between print and audio, which is what I did with this well-researched and entirely accessible history of the Vikings. Using the archaeological record, literature, and firsthand accounts, Price tells the story of the rise and fall of the Vikings, who have captured our imaginations for centuries. This book tackles all aspects of Viking life: sexuality, family, religion, food, exploration, politics, raiding, and more. This is an excellent summary of what we know about the Viking world. The print book includes photos and maps. The audiobook was brilliantly read by Samuel Roukin, who is expressive and engaged in the material; I was especially impressed with his pronunciations of Old Norse and other languages.
Note: Thanks to the publishers for the review copies (digital, print, and/or audio). Special thanks to Libro.fm for several of the audio listening copies. "AFM" means you can find my audiobook review over on the AudioFile magazine website or in the print copy of the magazine.

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26 September 2020

Weekend Cooking: 99 Things I Love to Eat, Illustrated by AnneliesDraws

Review of 99 Things I Love to EatI'm going to be brutally honest here: At first glance, I was only meh about the book I'm going to review today. But once I got into it and started thinking about it, I fell in love. So I ask you to take a moment to hear me out, because you too might be drawn in.

99 Things I love to Eat, illustrated by AnneliesDraws and published by Abrams Noterie (and given to me as part of the Abrams Dinner Party) is, as the subtitle says, "A Journal for Meals & Memories." The journal is set up as 99 prompts to help you record your food-related experiences, memories, bucket lists, and preferences. Some of the pages offer a blank space for you to draw or record your thoughts, as in #9: My Favorite After-School Snack. Others consist of lists, as in #13: My Favorite . . . , which then prompts you to fill in the blank after the words candy, pizza, cheese, and so on. Still others consist of checklists, such as #61: Classic Cocktails; you check off the ones you've tried and make note of the ones you still need to try.

I've already started filling out my journal, starting with the easier pages (such as #72: Where I Like to Shop for Food). As I looked through 99 Things I Love to Eat all I could think of is how much I wished my mother and my grandmothers were still alive. I would have LOVED to have gone through this book and recorded their favorite childhood snack, their most memorable meal, their favorite birthday cake. If you have elderly parents or grandparents, or if you're interested in family history, I urge you to set some food-related memories down in writing now! This book is a great guide.

Review of 99 Things I Love to Eat

On the other end of the spectrum, it could be fun to go through this journal with a child (or let your kid fill it out solo), perhaps one who is just about to get their own apartment, is newly engaged, or is moving in with their sweetheart. One of the other members of the Abrams Dinner Party is filling in some of the pages with copies of old family photos. What a super idea!

Recommendation: 99 Things I Love to Eat would make a great gift for the upcoming holiday season, but I think it's the perfect foodie memory keeper for any time of the year. Fill it out alone or with a loved one. Add it to your family history archives. This journal is a total winner for me.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2020. All rights reserved.

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