Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl {Cook the Books}

garlicSapThis is a second time around with this book but it was my first Ruth Reichl book several years back.  I liked it quite a bit; it’s always good to revisit an excellent foodie book. I’m usually attracted to books about food and restaurants, behind the scenes stuff and recipes included are a bonus. Ruth is the known for being an editor at Gourmet magazine and a food critic. If you are in the restaurant business then you know what the critics look like. You have their photo posted in the kitchen most likely so they will get the star treatment.

In Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth disguises her appearance so she will get a true impression of the food and service quality. There are many hilarious scenes where she can view what’s going on in the restaurant and the wait staff pay her no mind, as she is just another diner. The Windows of the World restaurant experience was well written – very funny.

It’s clear Ruth has a passion for food and shares this in her reviews of the food and service. Good memoir, I would certainly read another of Ruth’s books. After finishing this book I immediately copied half the recipes.

An excerpt: “Everyone makes a big to-do about roasting a chicken, and as a food professional I know I ought to believe that one way to tell a great cook is by his or her roasted chicken. But you know what? I think that’s all a lot of nonsense. Nothing is easier than roasting a chicken. ………It’s hard to ruin this.”

The roasted potatoes had my attention.  I sure do love potatoes. Tough choice on my carb favorites as the Carbonara was my next choice.

Ruth Reichl’s Roast chicken with potatoes, onions and garlic from the chapter A Frugal Repast For Betty.

potato

This is the June/July selection at Cook The Books hosted by Claudia at Honey from The Rock.
Check out the lineup and see more recipes inspired from this book.

More info!

Ruth Reichl
Ruth on Twitter
Gourmet

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

Thursday’s Children by Nicci French {Book 4 in the Frieda Klein series}

thursdayThursday’s Children is book #4 in the Frieda Klein series. This one moved slowly.  I’m glad it wasn’t my first acquaintance with Frieda Klein as I may have put the series on the back burner.  So, having read five books in this eight book series, I will still say the Sunday book is still by far the best.

Looking at the positives first, I will say I learned more about our elusive main character in this book than any of the others. It dragged a bit when she went back to her childhood home of Braxton and I think the story line could have been abbreviated.

I like how her friends gather to bring her nice meals, the support they show her, the wine, the mystery aspects of the story and the English setting.  Both London and the little rural town of Braxton.

My favorite supporting character is still Josef.  Hoping to see more of him in the next few books.  I felt very sorry for Frieda’s boyfriend and thought she was too cold with him.  Don’t want to reveal spoilers but I will be adding my thoughts on Goodreads where I can hide the spoilers.  I had it narrowed down to two characters as the main perpetrator but have to say I was actually surprised who the baddie turned out to be.

Side note on an unrelated documentary:   The musical group Thursday’s Children was focused on in the book, however, Thursday’s Children was also a documentary  about the Royal School for the Deaf in Margate, Kent.  It won an  Academy Award for the Best Documentary Short of 1954. The subject deals with hearing-handicapped children.  They learn what words are through exercises and games, practicing lip-reading and finally speech. Richard Burton was the narrator.

It doesn’t appear the name of the fictional band has any relation to the documentary.  There isn’t a mention or connection in the novel.

Food mentioned

Hot buttered tea cakes
Avocado, arugula, sun –dried tomatoes and hummus on focaccia bread.
A sandwich of goat cheese, tomato and salad leaves.
Butternut squash soup with rolls
Garlic- mushroom soup and eggplant and red pepper flan.
Oysters, scallops with bacon and risotto.

“Reuben cooked only four or five dishes and he served them in rotation.  Frieda had eaten them all, over and over again.  There was chili con carne, lasagna, baked potatoes with sour cream and grated cheese.  Tonight it was pasta with the pesto he bought from the local deli.”

“There was a bowl of thick red soup with dumplings, there was something wrapped in cabbage, large sausages, pickled fish, beetroot salad, chopped potatoes and unfamiliar kind of little mushroom, a huge wheel of bread, small pastries, a whole duck, pancakes………..”

Representative meal is a risotto with wild rice, herbs and bay scallops.  A glass of Chardonnay is a great pairing here.

risotto

Linking up with:

Heather for the May 2018 Foodies Read

Joy’s British Isles Friday

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French (with chicken & avocado tapas)

TuesdaysGone

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French:   This second book in the Frieda Klein series was better than Blue Monday (#1) in my opinion.  More character development and the mystery was more intriguing to me. The London based psychotherapist, Frieda Klein, reminds me loosely of the Jessica Fletcher character from TV series Murder, She Wrote.  Loosely, as I said, because when our main character is involved, a murder is going to take center stage.

I like Frieda even though she isn’t what one would describe as a warm personality.  Perhaps you have to be completely in control and compartmentalize your life if your profession is psychotherapist. Yet there are qualities about her personality that I admire.

We have a rousing start with unbalanced woman named Michelle serving tea and buns to a decaying corpse she has propped up on her sofa.  The police, specifically Inspector Mal Karlsson,  involve Frieda as the woman in question may be a murderer or know something about the murder of the man in her home as she dragged him home from an alleyway.  There isn’t any identification to be found but, in a series of improbable events, Frieda Klein is set on the path to discovering his identity.  Early on in the story we learn the man’s name is Robert Poole.  More mystery about that later but to mention it would reveal a spoiler so, enough said on that now.  “Robert” is indeed a fascinating character.

Robert Poole made people “feel attended to” which is something most of us want.  We like when someone listens to us, seems to care about what we are saying, our concerns and our interests.

TuesdayQuote

Characters from the previous book show up and as I mentioned, more character development in this book.  I have now read 3 of the 8 books in the series and look forward to the final installment when it’s published.  I think that’s called Day of the Dead.

Food is mentioned here and there.

Two whiskies and two packets of crisps.  He took a seat at the table and opened both packages. “I got salt and vinegar and cheese and onion.  I didn’t know which you liked.”
“Neither, really,” said Frieda.
“You probably don’t like pubs either,” said Karlsson.
“It’s better than the police station.”

  • Frieda and Reuben talking over the phone.  She asks him to put potatoes in the oven for baking so they can have those for dinner.  But he hadn’t put potatoes in the oven, he’d made a greasy, rich lasagna, garlic bread and a green salad.

Frieda on a date with Harry at a Pop-up restaurant:

“I am Inga,” said the woman, “And I am from Denmark. My husband Paul is from Morocco.  We cook together.  I will bring you wine and food and there is no choice. No allergies, no fads?”

They were served a plate of pickled fish with sour cream, smoked meats, yogurts, savory pastries and wine.

Evidently a pop-up restaurant serves a handful of people and they pop up in various locations, serve dinners and one day they relocate.

  • Josef bakes a honey cake with cinnamon and ginger.
  • A dinner party at Oliva’s place – Salmon fillets cooked in pastry, meringues for dessert, lots of wine.
  • Yvette hands out packets of sandwiches, ‘Cheese and celery for you, tuna and cucumber for you and chicken for me.”
  • Frieda and Chloe eat at a Tapas restaurant – They ordered squid, roasted bell peppers, a Spanish omelet and a plate of spring greens.

I had quite a bit of choice for my food inspiration and almost made lasagna, because it sounded so good. But I went with Tapas.

Chicken and Guacamole Tostadas for Tapas

Ingredients
1 ripe peeled avocado
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons finely chopped tomato
3 tablespoons minced fresh onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove of garlic minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 cups shredded skinless rotisserie chicken
¼ cups smoked paprika
8 (6 inch) tostada shells

Place avocado in small bowl; mash with a fork. Stir in 2 TB tomato, 1 TB onion, 1 TB juice, ¼ teaspoon salt and garlic.

Combine remaining 1 cup tomato, 2 TB onion, 1 TB lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt and cilantro. Toss well.

Combine chicken, remaining TB juice and paprika; toss well to combine. Spread about 1 TB guacamole over each tostada shell. Top with chicken mixture and about 2 TB salsa.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday Heather’s February Foodie Reads and Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series.

   BriFri-logo   2018FoodieRead

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.

gratin6

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

 

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

magpie

This is my first acquaintance with author Anthony Horowitz.  I can say that I will be seeking out more of his work and hope it’s as engaging as this book. How did I miss this guy when he has written so many successful English series such as Foyle’s War?

This murder mystery featuring fictional detective Atticus Pund was appealing on it’s own but wait……there is another story line and mystery about the publishing company for Alan Conway, author of the Atticus Pund books.

The book opens in present time with Susan Ryeland, editor for Conway’s books, telling the story.  She is given the last manuscript from Conway but the last few chapters are missing.  This will change Susan’s life and not for the better I can tell you.

You are immediately immersed into the ninth Atticus Pund book which is set in rural England, the time period is the 1950’s.  It’s such noir writing, reminds you of Agatha Christie with the sleuthing.

After a tragedy (spoiler so I can’t say here) we are back to Susan’s world in modern times visiting London and the rural English countryside.  The characters and motives from both stories are intertwined.  It’s a classic whodunit with some great twists.

I liked the mention of other books and movies throughout this story, some of which I book marked to request form the library.

A few food and drink references:
Champagne, fish and chips, sandwiches, Victoria Sponge cake, grilled sardines, salad and wine. Eggs and toast fingers. English breakfast with two eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and a fried slice. Homemade quiche and bean salad. Smoked salmon with salad and artisan bread. A bottle of wine, Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. Pub food and ales.

I wanted to make the Victoria Sponge cake but after our vacation, I think I better cut back on high caloric treats.  It’s for the best, really (I’m telling myself this).  So I went for a favorite, this passes for pub grub in my neck of the woods.

A grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich with all the trimmings. Lettuce, tomato, onions, lime on toasted Cuban bread. Served with black beans and rice and ale. Oh. Yeah.

sandwich

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday, Heather for the November Foodies Read, Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif Challenge and Deb’s Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen.

BriFri-logo  FullSizeRender (5)foodies20171252017-reading-challenge-sign-ups-1

The Cottage Kitchen: Cozy Cooking in the English Countryside

IMG_0544

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.

IMG_0547

*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.
BriFri-logo

Queso by The Homesick Texan Lisa Fain

queso

It’s been a while since Lisa Fain published The Homesick Texan Cookbook so I was delighted to see this new book Queso.  We are cheese loving people and this book has more than enough cheesy meal suggestions to keep us busy for a while.   There are more than 50 recipes and some appeal more than others but wow–  what a display of great photos and good advice.

For instance, I did not know Velvetta made a good Queso dip but that a block of American cheese gives a completely different texture and flavor.   The front part of this book explains about varieties of cheeses that work well and the types of chili peppers.  Very informative.  I spent more time there than I did flipping through the recipes ….at first.  The directions are so easy but I will say, she makes a prettier presentation than I did.  No matter, it was delicious.

For my representative dish we had our Queso served with white corn ships, black bean and rice, Maduras, sliced avocado, tomato and cheese quesadillas.  It was a fun meal, we dipped and picked up our quesadillas, only needing our forks for the Maduras, beans and rice.

Check out Lisa Fain’s site The Homesick Texan and definitely check out this Queso book. Fun reading, fun cooking and good food!  Check out the bookHERE at penguin Random House or at your favorite book store.

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.