Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

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Radishes with butter and sea salt, grilled lamb sausages, smoky eggplant and flatbread. Some of those delectable images are a far cry from what my own childhood dinner table offered.

WARNING: Some Spoilers 🙂

Reading this memoir by Gabrielle Hamilton, a fellow Pennsylvanian, was a treat. The first few chapters, where she talks about crossing the state lines between Jersey and PA could have been written by one of my childhood pals. For me, growing up in the tri-state area running between Pennsylvania, Delaware and Jersey (not to mention how close Maryland was for us) this portion of the memoir spoke to me…….so much, that I Googled an image of Gabrielle to be sure I didn’t grow up with her.

There are just so many chapters in this book that I enjoyed that it’s hard to tack one down as a favorite. Her unconventional upbringing by a French ex-ballet dancer mother and good ol’ Pennsylvanian craftsman were a treat to read. I will admit to wanting to know more about her brothers whom she did not write about very much. Except Todd…and even then, she didn’t share much. Her sister played a bigger role in Gabrielle’s life and evidently still does.

When her parents started the road toward divorce and mom moved out – young teenager Gabrielle and her brother Simon were abandoned at the family home/farm. Dad disappeared, wallowing in grief over his broken marriage. Simon also disappeared and Gabrielle made do …living on the canned goods and eggs and anything she found at her home to survive. Lying about her age to get a job at a restaurant (been there, done that) she had her first taste of the food industry.

Moving way on in the book, when she was in college working on her Masters degree, she landed back into the catering business to supplement her income while finishing her coursework. That is when she met Misty and realizing way later on ….. Misty was her mentor. Unbeknownst to both of them….but nonetheless true. They worked together in the catering kitchen preparing cold smoked chicken with apricot glaze and sirloin tips in molasses black-pepper sauce ….quietly moving through the prep, cooking, set ups in comfortable silences many times. But getting to know Misty in her natural environment awakened something in Gabrielle.

“My resolve to start a new kitchen-free life was further weakening in the direct warmth of Misty’s home style of cooking, her bumpy misshapen tomatoes ripening on her back steps, her cabbages shredded and broken down with salt and vinegar, her hunks of pork swimming in smoky, deep, earthy juices. Unwittingly, she was un-tethering me from my ten-pound knife kit, propane torches and ring molds and showing me that what I had been doing these past twenty years – and what I had come to think of as cooking – was just the impressive fourteen-ring string of a twelve-year old exhaling her first lungfuls of a Marlboro.

“Nothing more than tricks of the trade. She was waking me, in her nearly monosyllabic way, out of a dark and decades-long amnesia.”

When Gabrielle walked through the wreckage of what would become her restaurant, Prune, she had images of her childhood and hoped to share some of the important ones with future patrons. “I might serve walnuts from the Perigord and a small perfect tangerine so that the restaurant patrons could also sit at their table after the meal and squeeze the citrus peel into the candle flame to make fragrant blue and yellow sparks as I had done on my mother’s lap as a child.”

So by dusk that evening, she decided to have a second look around the property.

She gets energized just thinking about cooking in her restaurant:

Every time I step in front of those burners, in that egregiously tight space, less than 12 inches between the wall I am backed up against and the burning stove top in front of me, I feel like we are two boxers—me and the heat—meeting in the center of the ring to tap gloves.”

Then there’s the story line involving her dating life with an Italian doctor, Dr. Michele Fuortes, a teacher and researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College. Fuortes was wooing the 35 year old chef-owner of Prune hoping to persuade her to marry him for US citizenship. As this courtship heats up, Gabrielle is still living with her girlfriend and still working her ass off at Prune. They had an unconventional courtship and marriage.

Some of my favorite chapters were her interactions with her mother-in-law Alda. It was clear Alda was beloved by her Italian family and Gabrielle fell in love with her too. Even without the fluency in Italian she could see, by actions, how the people coming to see Alda held her in great esteem with respect and kindness. As she studied her mother-in-law, and cooked beside her (cooking being a common language of its own) Gabrielle knew she needed to teach her young sons, Marco and Leone, about their Italian side. About kindness and respect. “Somehow, July with Alda and the Fuortes family has become the most important and anticipated month of my year.

I was between a few meals which I was inspired to prepare after reading this book. But ultimately it came down to the love and shared experiences between Gabrielle and Alda. – a rich meaty eggplant dish with the appropriate accompaniments.

If you enjoyed Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, I think you’ll devour this book. It was hard to put down.

Links for more on Gabrielle Hamilton:
Prune
Ode To Joy: A Trip to Alda’s Kitchen
Star Chef’s Article

Linking up with Cook the Books hosted by Simona Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking series and Heather for July Foodie Reads. 

cookthebooks    2019 Foodies Read

The Lost Family by Jenna Blum #TheLostFamilySupperClub

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I am honored to have been invited to the Lost Family Virtual Supper Club hosted at the Book Club Cookbook site.

This is the first time I have participated with a virtual supper party and I’m thrilled to see some other food bloggers I know on the guest list.   Jenna Blum is a new author for me and I can say, after diving into this page-turner, I am now hungry for the menus included as well as Blum’s other publications.

Jenna describes her book this way: “The Lost Family is a novel about a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor named Peter Rashkin, who emigrates to New York, starts a restaurant, and falls in love—only to find his new American family haunted by the wife and daughters he lost during the war.

The story starts in the 1960’s and spans roughly 30 years. It’s about love, loss, understanding and forgiveness.  Peter Rashkin, the handsome owner and chef at Masha’s restaurant is the star of the story.  He is a man haunted by his past, torn between the ghosts of his old family and his new family.  While the other story lines focus more on June and Elspeth’s point of view Peter is indeed the main character. There is wonderful imagery in this novel, you feel like you are sitting in on the conversations.

There are so many passages that feature food, drink and menus that I can’t list them all. Well, I could but then I may not post prior to this fabulous book being released on June 5, 2018 – so let me just say there is plenty of culinary inspiration.

A cold gin martini with a few Queen olives will start me off here.  No recipe needed.

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I loved this particular passage:

In every time of trouble in his life, large or small, Peter had gravitated to the kitchen. During his childhood, in flight from his father’s bullying or his mother’s disdain, Peter had sought the large square room in the back of the house where Hilde let him stir soup, roll dough and – most excitingly, and provided he held the knife just as she showed him – chop vegetables. During his teens Peter’s sole act of rebellion had been to apply for a job as Adlon commis instead of clerking in the family law firm.”

“Food is essentially the same. Julienning carrots or chiffonading basil was the same in Skokie or Berlin. A rutabaga was a rutabaga. Vegetables, meat and technique had no language. The kitchen, any kitchen, was Peter’s home.” (pp. 134-135)

I thought about Peter as he chopped vegetables and herbs, as rolled dough to make bread, losing himself in the kitchen environment.  Relaxing and creating.  Personally I find making bread therapeutic.  I love the process of making bread, the slow kneading of the dough and creation of something  everyone loves to see gracing the table. Hot, fresh bread. Yes.

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Herbed Bubble Bread

3 – 3 ½ c flour
2 T sugar
1.5 t salt
1.25 oz yeast (1 pkg)
1 ¼ c milk
2 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 c melted butter or margarine
2 T Parmesan
1 T sesame seeds
1 teaspoon each of garlic salt, paprika, parsley, rosemary &  thyme

Lightly grease a 2 quart deep round casserole. In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

In small saucepan heat milk and vegetable oil until very warm (120 -130 F).  Add egg and warm liquid to flour mixture. With electric mixer beat 3 minutes at medium speed.

With wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 1-2 minutes.

Place dough in warm greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes.

Punch down dough. Pinch off walnut-size balls of dough and dip in melted butter. Place in prepared casserole forming one layer.  Combine cheese, seeds, garlic salt, paprika, and herbs. Sprinkle half over layer of bubbles.

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Make a second layer of buttered bubbles; pour remaining butter over bubbles, sprinkle with remaining seasoning mixture.  Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, until the “bubbles” almost reach top of casserole, 30 – 45 minutes.

Just before rising time is up, preheat oven to 400 F. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; loosen from pan with spatula and remove. Serve warm.

A labor of love

This book will be released on June 5, 2018. Many thanks for this advanced reader’s copy!  Please check out what others have brought to the party.

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More Info Here!
Twitter
The Book Club Cookbook site
Instagram
Pinterest

I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and Heather for the June Foodies Read.

WeekendCooking   2018FoodieRead

*Disclosure: I  received an advance reading copy of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum, the Book Club Cookbook and Harper Collins so I was able to participate with the  #TheLostFamilySupperClub party.

Power Plates (Photos so stunning you could lick the page!) and Fluff, a sticky sweet story

I had some book mail recently – that’s always a cool thing to get home and find books in the mailbox!  I received a copy of Power Plates cookbook and a copy of Fluff, a historical narrative on …Fluff 🙂

powerPlatesPower Plates!  I seriously plan to make something from this book if I can actually put it to use instead of staring at the pages.  Eye candy for the foodie lover for sure!  The photos are stunning and each bowl meal looks so great, you could almost lick the page!

That sounded gross, didn’t it?  But it’s so true!  Vibrant colors, artfully and deliciously displayed and a variety that will please an adventurous eater.  Cusines from around the globe are represented with Indian, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Asian and more.

If you are into healthy eating you will adore this book.  What should I make first?  Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup with Smoky Roasted Chickpeas or a warm tofu chopped salad?  The salmon bowls appeal to me greatly (I love salmon)

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Here are some tacos that’s high on my list to try. Not my photo, I grabbed it shamelessly from amazon HERE, so there is the credit where credit is due.

Not all the meals in this books are bowl meals, you have some for the stove top, oven, blender….but I love the idea of a bowl meal.

Fluff

Fluff !  This book has such detailed research and old photos.  You can tell a lot of hard work went into this narrative.  I remember coming home from school and getting a Fluffernutter sandwich.  This brought back memories of when I was kid growing up near Philadelphia.  Believe it or not, simpler times.  There are so many old photographs and historical info recorded.  This is great for a history buff or those who love Fluff.

More Info

*I received Power Plates from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

The American Table Cookbook

Last week I arrived home from work and awaiting me book mail! How great is that to come home to a new cookbook. This is courtesy of the Book Club Cookbook and Skyhorse Publishing.  Thank you much!

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As you can see from the table of contents there is much to choose from.  I wanted to start with the bread section but the simple roasted potatoes won out.   Comfort foods rule when the temperatures dip into the 20’s so chowder was another welcome addition to the lunch menu.

I’m sure there will be many more recipes I can share from this book in the future.  It’s not ideal for vegetarians (and certainly not vegan diets)  but adaptions may be made to suit your taste.

Oven Roasted Garlic Potatoes

1 pound red potatoes, sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBs olive oil
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven to 450 F. In large dish, combine all ingredients. Place in oven and roast 45 minutes or until crisp. Before serving toss the ingredients to combine the oils and herbs.

How simple is that? The chowder is a variation of ones I have made before so I won’t repeat that recipe here.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series.

Food Processor Perfection – Vegetable Gratin

gratin5 You just can’t go wrong with America’s Test Kitchen. Any recipe I’ve tried from ATK has come out perfectly. When I saw this cookbook focusing on using the food processor I had to try it.

Actually, I had this book checked out of the library a while back and waited to post this.  I don’t know why.  Then I thought about not posting it as some folks are in the middle of extreme winter weather where you can’t get a decent tomato or zucchini.   But it is summer in the southern hemisphere so I thought, why not.  (That’s a shout out Carole’s Chatter 🙂 And I would still make this in winter with hothouse tomatoes because its a comfort food (for me).

Anyway…….first recipe I tried was a Summer Vegetable Gratin with lots of juicy tomatoes, crisp zucchini, sliced onions and garlic.  Obviously there is cheese and the merging of these ingredients makes for a fabulous side dish or vegetarian main dish.  It also makes for a messy kitchen but I assure you it’s worth it.

This was meant to last as two side dishes but we almost devoured the entire thing in one sitting.  We served this with grilled fish.

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Recipe follows and I will warn you, it’s a bit time consuming but you can cut back on the time with some of the prep.  I gave the recipe as printed in the book but obviously you can make your own adjustments. Enjoy!

Vegetable Gratin

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound yellow squash, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin pole to pole (about 3 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 large slice white sandwich bread, torn into quarters ( I used 1 cup of Panko one time and a slice of my French bread another time)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup) (I used onions once and shallots the next time.  made no difference)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside. Midway through prep start heating your oven to 400 F.

Toss zucchini and squash slices with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; transfer to colander set over bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.

Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, remaining salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened  (15 minutes). Set onions aside.

Combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in small bowl. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish. Arrange caramelized onions in even layer over squash. Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of onions. Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake in a 400 degree oven until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown on edges, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. (You should have about 1 cup crumbs). Combine bread crumbs, remaining tablespoon oil, Parmesan, and shallots in medium bowl. Remove baking dish from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake gratin until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and let sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

It’s a bit time consuming but it’s delicious. Totally worth it.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and January Foodies Read at Spirit Blog.

2018FoodieRead

 

Nourished left me flat

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Foodie type memoirs are one of my favorites so I was very interested to read about Huber’s travels and recipes. Sadly this book left me a little flat. The recipes weren’t especially inspiring rather simple efforts that I toss together. Okay, I will say the gnocchi with mushrooms and lobster wasn’t pedestrian but overall…(shrugs shoulders) Meh.

I want to say something positive that I liked about this book and that’s the beginning when she adds squash to the soup when in Guatemala.  The old women saw her preparing it and said the “kids won’t like the vegetables.”  But they do, they whoop and fist pump the air and say squash is delicious!

Perhaps an unfair comparison but Anthony Bourdain and Bill Buford wrote very engaging foodie books and I thought this may be along the same lines, therefore I requested it from the Blogging for Books program.  I’m happy I didn’t pay for it.

The underlying hype near the end of the book was to check out her website and that was a bit of a turnoff.

I’m not certain how the author has the financial wherewithal to up and chase dreams in other countries until she gets bored but I think most of us would like to have a shot at that dream.  Thing is I would stay a while and experience the culture instead of rocketing off to another part of the globe.

Author Bio

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program and was not compensated in any form for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

The Cottage Kitchen: Cozy Cooking in the English Countryside

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This is a lovely book, filled with homemade recipes and arranged by season. The introduction reads as a letter, very personal and warm. Each section, separated by the four seasons, has a forward where the author explains her feelings, her homesickness and insecurities about starting a life in England and the comfort foods she prepares. She’s Swedish and while she’s traveled the world for business, settling down where she’s without family or friends left her feeling adrift.

You will find good recipes in this book, many of those from her mother, and advice from her mother as well. The photography is outstanding. I absolutely love her dog and all the photos he appears in. Mr. Whiskey is rescue dog and he certainly brings personality to Marte’s life as well as the photos.

I took a few liberties with the potato soup recipe and can highly recommend making it. I even made homemade croutons! This is a hearty, rich and filling soup. Perfect for a cold day.  Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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*I received a copy of this cookbook from the Blogging for Books program. All opinions and comments are my own and I was not compensated.

Adding my review to Goodreads and linking with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series and Joy’s British Isles Friday.
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