Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

I marvel at how far cookbooks have come. Gone are the days of the dense, featureless tomes of my childhood kitchen. Now, instead, we have lively, colorful, engaging albums of recipes, food, stories and photographs with helpful tips and how-tos, with shopping advice and substitutions, food pairings, meal suggestions and wine tips. And because the world has become so accessible, we're able to explore and sample regional and international foods like never before. Cooking is fun again, interesting, and delicious. My current obsession is all things Paris, so of course My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz is a must for my foodie bookshelf. May I just say we've been eating very well at my house lately? Hubs and I have been diving into these recipes with gusto.

To wit...

Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil, pg 53. This is delicious even without the Rosemary oil, and who knew it would be so easy to make? We had it on crackers or as a spread on sandwiches.

Celery Root Salad, pg 105. This is crunchy and tangy and creamy like coleslaw but without being too cabbage-y. We had it with roast chicken and it was delicious.

 Celery Root Soup , pg106. A good springtime soup! This also has leeks and is deliciously light and mild. The crumbled ham chips on top are a yummy contrast. It also calls for a dollop of creamed horseradish to stir in, which I omitted because I really just wanted the taste of the celery, leeks and ham.

Duck Terrine with Figs, pg113. Oh man. This right here? This is unbelievable. It takes some prep work, yes, but the end result is a delicate deliciousness I never thought could possibly come from my humble kitchen. Put a dab on crackers or spread (crumble) on a sandwich like David does, with pickles and mustard.

French Onion Soup, pg 117. A hearty meal in itself, this. Since I don't own oven-proof bowls (I love the set David shows in several of his soup and casserole pictures, but alas) I had to assemble the bread and cheese right into the pot I cooked the soup in and then set the whole thing in the oven to brown before ladling out the portions. It's still delicious and hearty, although my portion here was not quite as cheesy as everyone else's. 

Carrot Salad, pg 123. This makes a nice accompaniment to lamb, along with... 

...Couscous Salad, pg237. This, in fact, was so good we ate it for days with a various assortment of meats and vegetables.

Buckwheat Polenta with Braised Greens, Sausage and Poached Eggs. pg158. We made this for dinner, but with all the lovely textures and flavors going on here, you could make it a substantial brunch as well. 

Chicken Lady Chicken, pg173. The name? You'll have to read the story behind it. The only thing we changed was grilling it instead of frying it on a cast-iron frying pan and it was still the most flavorful, moist and tender chicken ever to emerge from my kitchen.

I'd say we got off to a pretty decent start, here. There are a hundred or so recipes throughout so I have lots more to look forward to. And let's not forget dessert. I understand the French know a thing or two about sweet and buttery confections. But that will have to be a whole other post. Stay tuned.

Check out David's website for all things Paris, cooking, food and life. It's the next best thing to being there.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A book, being a physical object, engenders a certain respect that zipping electrons cannot. Because you cannot turn a book off, because you have to hold it in your hands, because a book sits there, waiting for you, whether you think you want it or not, because of all these things, a book is a friend. It's not just the contents, but the physical being of a book that is there for you always and unconditionally.
~Mo Williams

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reading and our inner selves

I think people are often quite unaware of their inner selves, their other selves, their imaginative selves, the selves that aren’t on show in the world. It’s something you grow out of from childhood onwards, losing possession of yourself, really. I think literature is one of the best ways back into that. You are hypnotized as soon as you get into a book that particularly works for you, whether it’s fiction or a poem. You find that your defenses drop, and as soon as that happens, an imaginative reality can take over because you are no longer censoring your own perceptions, your own awareness of the world.
~Jeanette Winterson, The Art of Fiction No. 150 
I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means.
~Joan Didion

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Run by Ann Patchett

This was only so-so for me. I listened to it as an audiobook and found the narrator to be all wrong. I also had a huge problem with all the backstory. The book itself only takes place in a 24hr period and yet we keep getting looped back into these people's former lives, being brought up to speed with who they are now and why they're doing/thinking/feeling All The Things. It got to the point I was sure I had missed a chapter or some important scene because, huh? how did we suddenly get here? What just happened? Ugh. I don't know. I'm not a fan of randomly stitched together chapters. The premise of the story is good, though: adoption, multiracial families, and setting an example of a greater responsibility towards the people in one's community. I could see the stars aligning towards a pretty predictable end by the middle of the book but was compelled to continue just to confirm my predictions. And, ehn, yes, sure, the ending is good, exceeding my expectations, even. I just couldn't get around the clunky patchwork of chapters.

(back cover)
Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard cares about is his ability to keep his children - all his children - safe. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dreaming of France

Oh golly.

THIS is where I'm dreaming about being right now. Shakespeare and Co. in Paris is such an old, creaky, hip and storied place that I can't imagine anyone with a bookish bent not wanting to spend some serious time here. My trip to Paris three years ago only planted an obsession itch that I am trying to relieve with books and cooking and, very possibly, another trip.

For more Dreaming of France links, visit Paulita at An Accidental Blog.

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

~Virginia Woolf

Reading in an Open Window
by Clementine Helene Dufau 

[So looking forward to opening my windows. Soon. Very soon.]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reading Notes

It seems I've been on the same books for months: Run by Ann Patchett on my iPod and The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann in paperback. Admittedly I did have a couple of diversions with other books and the necessities of life in the mean time, but still. It's been ages since I started these two and I'm beginning to feel like they'll never end. Having said that, though, I'm actually quite enjoying Thomas Mann; I've never read him before and I'm finding him (at least with this book) to be a wonderful mixture of deep thought and lighthearted wit all set in the most lovely 1930s Swiss Alps hotel/spa setting. The writing, although enjoyable, is quite dense and requires a fair bit of quiet concentration. But the delight factor is right up there with Tolstoy. It's the kind of book (author?) that grows on you unawares and then, boom, you're hooked. I love that. And I love it especially since I picked three other Thomas Mann books at a charity book sale last fall without knowing a thing about him except that he was, apparently, a famous name in literature. I have a weakness for notable authors which prompts me to hoard their books. I know. I KNOW! A terrible affliction, alas.

Anywhoo. Run, not so much. Normally I like Ann Patchett, but this book? This book is taking truly forever. I've been listening to it for...decades. It never advances and never ends. I just can't. It's an okay enough story for me to see it through, which for me -who abandons books at will- is saying something. But honestly, at barely 300 pages it feels like I'm listening to a 1,000 page obituary. The story takes place in a 24 hour period but goes off on countless tangents with a narrator that is all wrong. I'm not enjoying listening to this book at all. I keep thinking this will surely be the last disk and then, no, there's still another three to go. It was okay at first, but for the love of god, WRAP IT UP ALREADY. 

What else is in my sights? Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. Coming out April 1st, this book looks awesome. Reading the synopsis puts me in mind of Joseph Boyden and Cormac McCarthy. Hold my calls and don't expect me to surface again until every last page is read. I'm that excited.

Okay, well. That's about it from my side of the desk. I hope everyone is well and finding some joy in their books. Read on.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I never appreciated 'positive heros' in literature. They are almost always cliches, copies of copies, until the model is exhausted. I prefer perplexity, doubt, uncertainty, not just because it provides a more 'productive' literary raw material, but because that is the way we humans really are.

~Jose Saramago