Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal

indiaVibrant India is clearly a labor of love. What I liked were family photos and the writing giving the background for the author’s passion for cooking. The old photos of her grandparents and parents were great.

The recipes are clearly written with uncomplicated cooking instructions and ingredients which aren’t hard to find. Don’t you hate it when recipes require specialty items that are either very expensive or extremely hard to locate?

Lentils – I love them!  They are a staple in our pantry so I was happy to see many recipes which feature lentils.  I have also enjoyed learning about the difference in Southern Indian cuisine and the Northern style.

Recently, well… within the last several years…. I have renewed my love of Indian food. We have been to several local restaurants and while I have enjoyed the meals immensely, this book will allow me to learn to cook this cuisine at home.

A beauty of a cookbook if you enjoy Indian food. The title is so appropriate as the word vibrant bursts out in photos and passion.

vibrant

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

The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner is a quick read with twists and turns you don’t see coming.

Mostly set in an expensive restaurant in Holland, sections of the book and storytelling are broken up by courses of a meal; starting with appetizer and moving along with dinner, dessert and digestive for the ending. Four people meet for a dinner in an upscale, hard-to-get-a-reservation kinda place. In the beginning I found Paul and Claire Lohman likeable and was quite amused by Paul’s observations regarding his brother and sister-in-law. The brother is Serge Lohman; a political figure running to be the next Prime Minister of Holland. Serge’s wife, Babette, is a compliant and shallow wife and dinner partner.

Paul Lohman is the narrator and early on you understand how irritated he is by his brother. What Paul remembers is the brother he grew up with who wolfed his food, was dismissed from the dinner table for farting and belching – not the adult public image people see now. To the public, to those who didn’t grow up with Serge, he is a the charismatic polished candidate for prime minister. He’s the guy who poses for family photos with his two children and is adopted African son; the guy who gets right in at a restaurant with a 3 month reservation wait time and the man who wants to champion the rights of the working people of Holland.

Midway through the book as you glean a sharper picture of the personalities as told through flashbacks. At the center of the developing drama are three male teenaged children of both couples. Something criminal, a horribly despicable episode is captured on video on one son’s cell phone. The facts aren’t revealed at first and you dance between the dinner conversation and the flashbacks.

It’s unsettling. I found this book to be disturbing with an unresolved ending. There were some events that needed further explanation. That’s just my opinion.
Personally there was only one character I liked by the end. Don’t want to give spoilers so I won’t go into my thoughts on some of the events and lack of explanation or resolution.

Food was mentioned quite a bit. Here are some passages:

Clearly in the beginning Paul and Claire didn’t want to go to the restaurant and meet Serge:
“The alternative would be to head straight for home, with at the very most a little detour past the video shop for a DVD, which we could then watch on the TV in the bedroom, lying on our roomy double bed: a glass of wine, some crackers, a few types of cheese to go with and a perfect evening would be complete.
I would let Claire choose the film, even though it meant it was bound to be some costume drama. Pride and Prejudice, A Room with a View or Murder on the Orient Express.”

(This was the early part of the book where I still liked the characters.)

“These are Greek olives from Peloponnese, lightly doused in first-pressing, extra virgin olive oil from Sardinia, and polished off with rosemary from…….”

“The crayfish are dressed in a vinaigrette of tarragon and baby green onions and these chantrelles are from Vosges”

“The lamb’s-neck sweetbread has been marinated in Sardinian olive oil and is served with arugula,’ said the manager, who had by now arrived at Claire’s plate and was pointing with his pinky at two minuscule pieces of meat. “The sun-dried tomatoes come from Bulgaria” Warm goat’s cheese with pine nuts and walnut shavings.

My inclination is to prepare a wine and cheese tray for this book. The reasoning is, I still liked the people at the beginning of the book when this was mentioned…but I think for today, I will just post the review.

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

More on the author

A Good Food Day by Marco Canora

goodfood The beginning of a new year always brings on promises and goals to eat better and get more exercise.

Let’s face it, many of my fellow Americans are not in the best shape. Yes, there are many who care about their weight, health and appearance but a stroll around your local shopping center reveals many obese and well…unflattering figures.

In a society where you can grab a full “meal” at McDonalds (insert the name of any fast food joint) for only $5 an argument has been made that “we can eat cheaper this way instead of spending lots of money on fresh foods and healthier fare.” This statement has been has been repeated to me a few times and usually from individuals who are flat broke. It’s true, fresh fruit and vegetables are more expensive than these “meal deals” or prepackaged convenience foods. In the long run your health (and waistline) suffers with too much processed foods.

Stepping off my soap box now to talk to you about a new cookbook: A Good Food Day: Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great by Marco Canora

As I mentioned earlier, many of us plan to eat better, start educating ourselves and persevere with quality meal plans. This is a book where Canora relays his story and how he transformed his meal plans and habits to lead a heathier life. He eats waaaay better than we do, what I mean is he is more dedicated to a completely natural regime of meal plans and foods and sticks with it. I admire that and will be incorporating many of his recipes into our meal rotations.

Most of the ingredients are easy to find, lots that are already in my pantry already, but there are some which you’ll need to go to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Earthfare. The section for snack foods is very useful to me as I get hungry during my day at work. It’s so easy to get the munchies so having a heathy alternative saves me from the usual array of sweets people tend to bring in. My will power can only hold out so long!

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Not everyone is a fan of popcorn but if you are, the Cacio E Pepe Popcorn is excellent. A bit of oil, pecorino cheese (I used Parmesan) and fresh black pepper.

The braised chicken thighs with garlic, lemon and olives is a winner with me. I added cherry tomatoes for color.

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More info on this book below:

Author’s website
Random House Publishing
Hardcover: 272 pages with great quality and nice photos.

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

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. 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. For more information, see the welcome post.

Trendy Tyler Florence with a Retro Looking Cookbook

Tyler This newest cookbook by Tyler Florence has a cool retro look. It’s basically a notebook style with a great elastic strap to hold the book closed or to mark a page.

Remember getting those type notebooks for school? Composition books, that’s what they were called. I love the style of this book. There are notes written on the sides of the recipes so it reminds me a working kitchen diary. There isn’t too much bling going on so you aren’t distracted from the main focal point – the photos and recipes.

Great photography and layout. The front cover features a photo of Tyler sporting some facial hair and glasses. While it’s a cookbook and one would not normally comment on the physical appearance of the chef I have to say it’s an eye catching photo. Not the usual clean cut image as if he’s a catalogue model. Like I said, nothing to do with his cooking or recipes.

120 recipes packed into this book features some old classics vamped up as well as new dishes. I am looking forward to trying his version of Shrimp and Grits Risotto, Pork Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa Verde, and California Avocado Eggs Benedict.

Overall this is a trendy cookbook that makes a good collection piece for fans of Tyler Florence. I wouldn’t recommend it to the beginner in the kitchen. Lots of good recipes but some are a wee more complicated than your basic recipes.

Salad Nicoise Carpaccio (adapted to cook eggs in ramekins) saves time and dishes by combining on one baking sheet.

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

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series. Also hooking up with Trish at Love, Laughter & Insanity for her cookbook challenge.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. 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. For more information, see the welcome post.

NPH – Trying to be funny, it falls short

NPH Neil Patrick Harris has been entertaining us on screen since he starred as Doogie Howser. He’s a funny guy so when I saw this book I was intrigued. After reading a bit and jumping to a few of his fictional alternative futures I found myself bored. It’s not a memoir or autobiography.

It would behoove anyone considering purchasing this book to explore the local library instead of putting out money for this one. If you’re a fan of this style then it might be for you. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, as the saying goes.

It’s meant to be funny but after a while the technique wore thin and I found it less and less amusing. Yes, I get it’s a “choose your adventure” sort of book but I found the fictional accounting of an abusive childhood with a drug addict mother very crass.

He writes well, but the book does jump around (probably intentionally) and that makes it hard to read. If you want to know more about NPH this isn’t the book you should purchase. Trying to be funny it falls short.

It does include drink recipes.

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

A welcome addition to any bookshelf: One Pot by Martha Stewart

1POT This is cookbook I know I will be pulling off the shelf on a regular basis. I like the way the recipes are separated by the type of “pot” you need for cooking. By that I mean the recipes are divided by slow cooker, roasting pan, Dutch oven, pressure cooker and stock pot rather than the traditional layout of appetizers, meat, sides, etc.

If I am in the mood to use the slow cooker then I can turn to that section and find a recipe. There is a description of all the baking pots, pans, anything you may need to complete a meal from this book.

An added bonus is each section has a One Pot Four Ways recipe. For a roasted chicken there are four different ways to prepare it. Each “pot” has one of those type recipes.

We like Arroz con Pollo quite a bit and I happened to have a bag of Valencia rice in the pantry so this is the first recipe I tried.

arroz

This recipe was spot on in ease and the estimated time to prepare. Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor. There are many recipes I plan to make from this book. I can recommend this cookbook without reservations – great addition to my bookshelf!

More info HERE about the publisher and other Martha Stewart books.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Three Cheers for Eat by Nigel Slater

EAT I don’t know if this will be one of my favorite Nigel Slater books yet as I haven’t had time to delve into the entire volume. I do know I’m loving it so far.

It’s rather hard to beat The Kitchen Diaries, for me anyway, but this book Eat will give it a run for it’s money.

How wonderful it would be to follow Nigel around for a few months and learn some of his methods. Gardening is the challenge for me and he has such lovely gardens, but I digress. If you are looking for a cookbook with a traditional format then this may not be for you. He writes in a smooth flow embedding recipes into the conversation. For me, I love it as I am a fan of Nigel’s writing.

What I liked

Well, just about everything ! The writing style, the simplicity of the recipes, his focus on nutrition and the variations you can try with each recipe.

The cloth cover is lovely but I will worry about stains. The size is compact enough to be tossed into a bag when we travel so I’ll have a reference book for my temporary kitchen.

What I didn’t like

It’s a conundrum when addressing the cloth cover of this book. It reminds me of cookbooks from 40+ years ago I would find in my grandmother’s home. As I mentioned above, my concern is when I am cooking my hands get oily or stained with juices. I don’t want to mar this gorgeous book but it is bound to happen sooner or later.

This (below) looks like the European version. I like that cover better:

eatNi

So many recipes to try but I was lucky enough to have a friend who lives in England share a few from her copy. Eat wasn’t available in the US until very recently.

I have made Marmalade Chicken and Pork and Figs so far. Next up will be a pasta dish with cream, mushrooms and bacon – Yum!

More Info
Author Bio

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

This is part of the British Books Challenge hosted at Feeling Fictional.