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.

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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.

Also, this is my July selection for the Girlxoxo Monthly Motif Challenge. It’s a non-traditional “vacation read” but as I love foodie books, this was perfect for me.

More info!

Ruth Reichl
Ruth on Twitter
Gourmet

Happy Reading!

Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King {The featured selection of Cook the Books}

feastofSorrowThis book is the featured selection at Cook the Books for December/January. Thank you Debra for choosing this one….I was completely engaged with this story. Food, drink, historical content, political maneuvering, joy and yes….sorrow.

Be prepared to be intoxicated with vivid descriptions of lavish meals and the preparation for wickedly decadent parties.  I enjoy historical fiction as it gives me appetite (pun intended) to learn more about the real characters.

Your heart will go out to Thrasius, the slave purchased  for an astronomical sum to become head chef for Marcus Apicus.  The story is told from his point of view and I found it very interesting, especially the depictions of real life characters such as Apicus, Apicata, Pliny, Sejanus and Drusus.

Apicus was maniacal in his quest to become Caesar’s culinary adviser and the journey to secure his dream was amazing.  I will try and find more books about him.  He didn’t realize wealth alone wouldn’t pave the way.

The actual rendering of Marcus Apicus surprised me a bit as I envisioned Gerard Butler while reading the book.  What visual came to mind as Apicus was losing his temper or sweet talking the guests?  It was Butler for me. Totally.

The treason and infidelities committed in this book makes for a good plot.  I was simultaneously fascinated and saddened to see innocents drawn in, suffering undeserved consequences. The ending chapters were indeed horrifying but I can’t give away the plot.  It all comes together and I could have read more.

With so many meals to choose from you can’t go wrong, although I was never tempted to have fried flamingo tongues or hyacinth bulbs. Spinach Pie did sound like a winner. So that was made in addition to a shrimp paella served with liberal amounts of white wine and homemade bread. (photos above)

The treat, the decadent addition to the table for us, is a cheese we’ve never had called Jasper Hill Harbison.  It’s a soft ripened cheese wrapped in strips of spruce cambium.  See it below?  It’s actual spruce wrapping.  The most unique cheese we have ever had and whoa….so delicious.   Instead of using a knife I used a mini spatula to dip into the cheese for spreading.  Maybe they made something like this in ancient Roman times, using tree bark. It’s wonderful.

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You have until January 31, 2018 to read and review if you’d care to hook up. I recommend this historical accounting of Apicus and ancient Rome.  Click HERE for the link to Cook the Books.

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

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin

Apprentice
This is one of the most engaging memoirs I have read in a long time. I didn’t know anything about Jacques Pepin’s personal life, his childhood or training in the culinary industry. After reading this book I know so much about him and enjoyed each and every chapter. The funniest story, ok it was a little gross too, was about the calf’s heads. Actually there were many amusing stories in this book so it’s hard to pick just one.

Sometimes memoirs can be dry, a bit on the boring side. Not this one. I found myself reading some passages aloud to my husband.

As a child he worked in his mother’s restaurants and loved the hectic pace. His younger brother Bichon was the same way while older brother Roland felt it was slavery. As Jacques moved to an apprentice position in his first real job you learned how the new kid was “initiated” by running a fool’s errand for the chef.

He was sent off to a neighboring restaurant to get a heavy kitchen appliance where it had supposedly been loaned. Oh no, they had loaned it to another restaurant and so, off he ran. He was sent on to other places until he secured the item, making his way back across the village with a heavy load strapped to his back. It was just a load of bricks but it showed the drive and initiative of the young apprentice.

As he gained more experience he moved to larger restaurants and more responsibility. Learning to cook by observing and making a dish over and over and over was the teaching method. No recipes, no measurements.

The most surprising thing to me was he was in on the ground floor of Howard Johnson’s restaurants learning to reproduce good quality food that would be consistent in any of the HJ restaurants. He turned down a chance to work as a white house chef under the Kennedy administration to pursue his initial (American) career at HoJos. The standards were higher back then and you didn’t get sub-quality foods. That changed over the years, particularly after Howard Deering Johnson died. Subsequent owners concerned themselves with cutting costs at the expensive of good dining.

Reading about the differences in French and American cultures as seen through young Pepin’s eyes was interesting. Can you imagine being mocked for asking a question in a college class?

That was another good chapter where Pepin saw a startling difference between the two nations. Showing up for a dinner and patiently awaiting the bread and wine to arrive, only to realize the American hosts were tucking into their roast beef, potatoes and carrots without a thought of wine. Many more examples are detailed and I don’t want to ruin some of these stories for anyone who has not read the book.

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You’ll meet Pierre Franey, Craig Claiborne and Julia Child in this book and hear of their good times and business involvements. You’ll learn about hunting wild mushrooms, his military service, working for de Gaulle and his first experiences arriving in America.

Recipes follow each chapter so there are many to select and drool over. French cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Any of the French cookbooks I own call for absolute simplicity and this is what Pepin delivers.

Semi-Dry Tomatoes and Mozzarella Salad

1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes (about 6) cut lengthwise into halves
¾ teaspoon salt
10 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch slices
2 tablespoons drained capers
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon grated lemon rind
About 1 cup loose basil leaves

Method

Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Arrange tomato halves cut side up on the sheet and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the salt on top. Bake 4 hours. For a shortcut you can heat the oven up to 400 F and put the tomatoes in then turn off the oven. I do this as an overnight method sometimes.

Now remove tomatoes from the oven and place in a serving bowl. Let them cool then add mozzarella, capers, remaining salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and lemon rind. Mix gently to combine.

Drop basil leaves into boiling water and cook about 10 seconds. Drain and cool under cold running water. Press basil between your palms to remove most of the water, then chop finely. Add to salad and toss well.

Let’s have a toast to Jacques Pepin!

I am cross posting to my foodie blog, Squirrel Head Manor.

Adding my review to Goodreads, Words and Peace French Book Challenge 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.

Words And Peace

The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp.

The featured book at Cook the Books is The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp.

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What an informative book and my goodness, it covers so much of our food revolution! What more could you ask for regarding selection of chefs and foodie personalities? To go over all the remarkable men and women in the industry and their significant contributions would be a pale rehash of what David Kamp created with this book. A compendium of stories I could flip open and go back to time and again. This isn’t a book that will be making it’s way to the used book store for trade.

Mr. Kamp is a wonderful storyteller and I certainly had vivid images of some scenes he painted. Particularly of Claiborne 🙂

With so many of my favorites such as Bourdain, Child, Beard, etc it was an open field to select one and make an inspired dish. As I haven’t visited my Francophile side in a bit, I decided on Julia Child.

Chicken Marsala from our American chef Julia.  Image

This is cross posted to Squirrel Head Manor blog for an event at Cook the Books.

Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor

Happy Reading!