KING SOLOMON’S TABLE by Joan Nathan

July 10, 2017

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A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World

Joan Nathan is the queen of Jewish cookbooks, and her latest is terrific. Be sure to read the introduction, a history of Jewish food that is completely fascinating, as well as a short but clear explanation of Jewish dietary laws, kashrut. The recipes included are all kosher, including substitutions as needed, although there is a caveat to check with your rabbi if you are not sure.

The forward is written by Alice Waters, so that was also a must read for me.

The book is divided as follows:

Pantry
Morning
Starters
Salads
Soups and Their Dumplings
Breads
Grains and Such
Vegetables
Fish
Poultry
Meat
Sweets

There is also an excellent index and bibliography.

The recipes have basis in many countries, even some I never thought of as especially Jewish, like Mexico and Sri Lanka. All are interesting, some are trendy (Shakshuka, anyone?) and some are classic, like Matzo Brei, Chopped Liver, and Apple Kuchen (cake). But it’s the unusual that really drew me to this cookbook, starting with Ferrara Haroset with Chestnuts, Pine Nuts, Pears and Dried Fruits from Rome. We liked this so much at Passover I used it again as a filling for Hamentaschen, and it worked beautifully. I would never have thought of using tahina in cookies, but Tahina Cookies made a believer out of me – if you like Halvah or Mexican Wedding Cookies, try these cookies.

I was partial to a lot of the Italian Jewish recipes, like Tagliolini colla Crosta, Crusty Pasta with a Bolognese Sauce that has pine nuts, ground almonds and raisins in it and Roman Ricotta Cheese Crostata with Cherries or Chocolate. The Spinach-Feta Burekas is Bulgarian, but is called Buricchi by Italian Jews, and Borek by Ottomans and Balkan Jews. It is a laminated dough filled with spinach and feta, and reminded me of the Greek Spanikopita. I have never attempted a laminated dough and probably will substitute filo dough here.

The Roast Turkey with Challah-Chestnut-Cranberry Stuffing is as delicious as it sounds – I cut the recipe in half and used it for a stuffed turkey breast and it worked really well. Yuca Latkes with Cilantro Cream, Sweet Plantain Guava Kugel and Green Chile Relelleno Latkes all have Hispanic origins, sometimes by way of Miami!

The final recipe in the book is Libyan Saefra, King Solomon’s Cake, which Nathan believes predates baklava and is believed to be an aphrodisiac. This is a filled cake, and the filling is a spiced date mixture. The ingredients are very unusual but not hard to find – Cream of Wheat and semolina are used instead of flour, for example.

All of the recipes include their origin stories, some are longer than others but all are interesting. You can see the research and the love that went into this cookbook.

7/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KING SOLOMON’S TABLE by Joan Nathan. Knopf (April 4, 2017). ISBN 978-0385351140. 416p.


A CHILD’S FIRST BOOK OF TRUMP by Michael Ian Black

June 30, 2017

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Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

Not sure how I missed this when it came out last year, but I found it now. Put out by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, it is much more parody than children’s book. I thought I might enjoy a little political levity while stressing out about politics but I am too far gone for this book to reach me.

WARNING: if you are a fan of the “dotty old racist”* in the White House, then this is not the book for you.

*Thank you, Jon Lovett, for this. Listen to “Lovett or Leave It, a week in review recorded in front of a live audience. It’s great,” a podcast from Crooked Media.

From the publisher:

What do you do when you spot a wild Trump in the election season? New York Times bestselling author and comedian Michael Ian Black has some sage advice for children (and all the rest of us who are scratching our heads in disbelief) in this perfectly timely parody picture book intended for adults that would be hysterical if it wasn’t so true.

The beasty is called an American Trump.
Its skin is bright orange, its figure is plump.
Its fur so complex you might get enveloped.
Its hands though are, sadly, underdeveloped. 

The Trump is a curious creature, very often spotted in the wild, but confounding to our youngest citizens. A business mogul, reality TV host, and now…political candidate? Kids (and let’s be honest many adults) might have difficulty discerning just what this thing that’s been dominating news coverage this election cycle is. Could he actually be real? Are those…words coming out of his mouth? Why are his hands so tiny? And perhaps most importantly, what on earth do you do when you encounter an American Trump?

With his signature wit and a classic picture book style, comedian Michael Ian Black introduces those unfamiliar with the Americus Trumpus to his distinguishing features and his mystifying campaign for world domination…sorry…President of the United States.

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6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A CHILD’S FIRST BOOK OF TRUMP by Michael Ian Black. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (July 5, 2016). ISBN 978-1481488006. 32p.

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THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin

June 25, 2017

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Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks

Last year I heard an interview with this author on NPR and she was fascinating. The book sounded really interesting, but I never did get around to looking at it.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Florida Library Association’s annual conference this year. The opening keynote speaker was Toni Tipton-Martin, and once again, she was completely mesmerizing. I didn’t want to put this on the back burner again so as soon as I got back to the library, I checked out her book.

When someone researches then writes a book that they are passionate about, it shows on every page, as is the case here. Martin has a collected hundreds of African American cookbooks over a number of years, and puts that collection to good use, sharing info from 150 cookbooks, dating back to 1827.  The New York Times review stated,

“The Jemima Code” is no ordinary book. It’s a heaping helping, a long overdue acknowledgment of African-Americans who have toiled in this field since the country’s beginnings.

All I can add is that it is truly inspiring and despite the sometimes scholastic tone, very readable and interesting. I kept this book for four weeks, taking my time going through it. There is a lot of information to digest here, and there are some interesting recipes as well. It is laid out chronologically, starting with Nineteenth Century Cookbooks including Mrs. Malina Russell’s “A Domestic Cookbook: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen” (1866) then moving through about twenty-five years in each chapter. Some of the cookbooks included:

How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, by George W. Carver (1925)

Cookbook “Work and Serve the Home,” compiled by Mamie Cook, chairman of Ways and Means Department, New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (1928)

A Date with a Dish: A Cook Book of American Negro Recipes by Freda De Knight (1948)

Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: From Chicken n’ Ribs to Buttermilk Biscuits and Blackeyed Peas – A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes from Manhattan’s Most Spirited Chef, by Princess Pamela (1969)

The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis* (1976)
*Top Chef, season 14, started out in Charleston, SC. This was the first time I ever heard of Edna Lewis, who was called the “Julia Child” of Southern cooking.

The Presley Family Cookbook by Vester Presley (Elvis’s uncle) and Nancy Rooks (Presley family maid and cook since 1967) (1980)

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From the publisher:

Winner, James Beard Foundation Book Award, 2016
Art of Eating Prize, 2015
BCALA Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, 2016

Women of African descent have contributed to America’s food culture for centuries, but their rich and varied involvement is still overshadowed by the demeaning stereotype of an illiterate “Aunt Jemima” who cooked mostly by natural instinct. To discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially Southern, cuisine, Toni Tipton-Martin has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind.

The Jemima Code presents more than 150 black cookbooks that range from a rare 1827 house servant’s manual, the first book published by an African American in the trade, to modern classics by authors such as Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The books are arranged chronologically and illustrated with photos of their covers; many also display selected interior pages, including recipes. Tipton-Martin provides notes on the authors and their contributions and the significance of each book, while her chapter introductions summarize the cultural history reflected in the books that follow. These cookbooks offer firsthand evidence that African Americans cooked creative masterpieces from meager provisions, educated young chefs, operated food businesses, and nourished the African American community through the long struggle for human rights. The Jemima Code transforms America’s most maligned kitchen servant into an inspirational and powerful model of culinary wisdom and cultural authority.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin. University of Texas Press (September 15, 2015).  ISBN 978-0292745483.  264p.

 


APPETITES: A COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain

June 15, 2017

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with Laurie Woolever

As a long time Bourdain fan, both of his books – Kitchen Confidential is a classic and started a whole new trend in tell-all kitchen memoirs – and his TV shows, and even his mysteries, I was really curious to see what sort of cookbook he would put out. Would everything be Vietnamese or at least Asian inspired? Would I have to shop online for esoteric ingredients? Would I have to eat blazingly hot food studded with a variety of chiles? The answers: not all but certainly a strong Asian influence abounds, some esoteric ingredients, and occasional overuse of chiles, which appears to be an occupational hazard among celebrity chefs (not sure about local chefs.)

All that said, this is a terrific cookbook. The chapters:

Breakfast
Fight
Salads
Soups
Sandwiches
Party
Hamburger Rules
Pasta
Fish and Seafood
Birds
Thanksgiving
Meat
Side Dishes
Dessert
Stocks, Sauces and Dressings

Yes, there are definitely things I will never make, no matter how delicious Bourdain swears the food to be. I recently purchased gojuchang paste, a Korean red pepper paste, and there are a few recipes in this book that uses it. But nothing that also didn’t call for several other chiles or ingredients I didn’t have. I kept going back to one of the recipes, “Budae Jjigae,” a Korean army stew that Bourdain says is based on the legend that it is made from “scourged army PX canned goods during wartime.”  We are talking hot dogs, Spam, canned baked beans, packaged Ramen noodles – those are the easy ingredients – then other things like kombu, dried anchovies, godhugaru, cheongju etc. but frankly it was the Spam that put me off more than anything else.

All that said, there are a lot of good basic recipes, like scrambled eggs and omelets, and interesting salads like “Do Chua Salad with Herbs, Scallions, Sprouts, and Egg” that is sure to be a summer staple at my house. I loved several of the soup recipes, especially the Cream of Tomato, New England Clam Chowder and Black Bean Soup.

The recipe for Linguine with White Clam Sauce is amazing, the best I’ve ever made and pretty simple, relying on 5 dozen clams for unbelievable flavor. A quick work night dinner of Spaghetti with Garlic, Anchovies and Parsley is quick, easy and delicious.

Some of the side dishes are really good, classic dishes like Candied Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. The Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame is another really easy dish, flavored with tahini, white miso and toasted white sesame seeds, an unusual dish that I will be making often.

The Osso Bucco (yes, there are several Italian dishes represented) looks really good, I’m planning on making it for a special occasion quite soon. I made a variation of his Veal Milanese; instead of using cutlets I used veal rib chops pounded out and they were incredible – so simple and so good.

The Thanksgiving chapter is a revelation and definitely will be in use this November. This is lifechanging, from scheduling to turkeys to gravy and everything else.

Shall we talk desserts? Bourdain opens that chapter (and I use the term loosely) by saying, “Fuck dessert,” then recommending some cheeses. And that’s it.

Which brings me to the voice. Bourdain’s voice is so prevalent throughout this book I could hear him in my head as I read. Recipes, as is the fashion of the day, all have little introductory stories, one which caused me to wonder if he wrote it while dissolving his marriage or after (see Veal Milanese.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the photographs by Bobby Fisher. They are extraordinary, not just of the dishes and ingredients which are always, always interesting – none of the perfect fake food look here. But beyond the food there are pictures that made me laugh out loud – Bourdain blowdrying a chicken (really!) and Eric Ripert, sausage gravy dribbling down his face.

I love this book and hope you will, too.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

APPETITES: A COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain. Ecco; First edition (October 25, 2016). ISBN 978-0062409959. 304p.


THEFT BY FINDING by David Sedaris

June 13, 2017

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Diaries (1977-2002)

A few years ago, David Sedaris was the closing speaker at the Public Library Association Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was lucky enough to attend, and got to briefly meet one of my favorite authors. But even better than just shaking his hand was listening to him speak. He is one of a very few authors that when they go on book tour, you have to purchase tickets to see him and let me tell you, totally worth it!

He read a bit from his book that was out then, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, which I had read and enjoyed. He spoke for a bit but then the rest of his talk, at least what I recall, was him reading from his diaries. He had a few thousand librarians laughing so hard they were crying, and I was one of them.

So when I heard this book was coming out, I was overjoyed. And this is only part 1.

Sedaris is a prodigious journaler. He has been keeping journals for most of his life and when I say keeping them, I mean not just writing but storing them so he has plenty to draw from. In fact, maybe too many. He has over 150 diaries, filled on both sides of the page with his tiny writing. He had to go through all of them to hone it down to these books. And, I’m sorry to say, some things get lost along the way.

If you’re a long time fan you won’t miss the stuff that’s missing because you’ve probably heard it before. If you are new to Sedaris, you may want to start elsewhere. Holidays on Ice is a particular favorite of mine (especially with the Santa cover if you can find it.) I especially love his audio books and if you can afford it, get the The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set. Many an airline ride has pleasantly passed quickly listening to him read his own work.

Sedaris is an observer of life. He spent his early adulthood wandering the country, working odd jobs and dining at an IHOP nightly. He meets a lot of quirky people along the way and it is these observations, usually completely on the mark, that are the hallmark of his humor. Pay close attention or the punchlines will go rushing past you – I had to stop several times and reread a line or two. Push on through early adulthood to read about his first stint on NPR talking about being a Macy’s elf at Christmas (which is replayed annually) some jokes, recipes, and lots more. A sure bet for fans.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THEFT BY FINDING by David Sedaris. Little, Brown and Company (May 30, 2017). ISBN 978-0316154727. 528p.

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Win THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK by Mary Kay Andrews!

May 4, 2017

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Easy, Breezy Recipes with a Southern Accent

I love Mary Kay’s novels and I know she’s one of the great Southern cooks, so I was thrilled to learn she was working on a cookbook. It turned out to be a cookbook to treasure!

Make sure you read this entire post – find out how to win your own copy, there’s a recipe for you to try,  a list of places you can meet Mary Kay, and of course, my review.

From the publisher:

You don’t have to own a beach house to enjoy Mary Kay Andrews’ recipes. All you need is an appetite for delicious, casual dishes, cooked with the best fresh, local ingredients and presented with the breezy flair that make Mary Kay Andrews’ novels a summertime favorite at the beach.

From an early spring dinner of cherry balsamic-glazed pork medallions and bacon-kissed Brussels sprouts to Fourth of July buttermilk-brined fried chicken, potato salad, and pudding parfaits to her New Year’s Day Open House menu of roast oysters, home-cured gravlax, grits ‘n’ greens casserole, and lemon-cream cheese pound cake, this cookbook will supply ideas for menus and recipes designed to put you in a permanently carefree, coastal state of mind all year long.

I’ve been following Mary Kay on Facebook for years, and she shares a lot of recipes and pictures of her beautiful food. To have it all gathered together (with lots more) is a real gift. The paper is quite nice and the pictures are inspirational.

The book is divided into meals/holidays:

 The chapters:

Summer Solstice Dinner
Low Country Boil
Fourth of July Dinner
Lazy Weekend Brunch
Beach Picnic
Book Bash Cocktail Party
After a Day at the Beach
Catch of the Day
Full Moon Party
Game Day Dinner
Souper Supper
Thanksgiving at the Beach
Christmas Brunch
New Year’s Day Open House
Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Dinner
Easter Lunch
Epilogue: And Then There Were Biscuits

The “Summer Solstice” is the first chapter and a fantastic beginning. I’ve been making “Beyond the Grave Chicken Salad” since I read about it in Little Bitty Lies. I’m pretty sure that a good southern gal like Mary Kay most likely uses Duke mayo, but I’m a Hellman’s girl and it works beautifully. I tried the “Tomato Pie” a few weeks ago when I got an overwhelming pile of heirloom tomatoes from my CSA, and it was to die for! If you live anywhere besides Florida, you are coming into tomato season so try and remember to make this. Pimento cheese has become a trend, and I’ve made a few different recipes so I had to try Mary Kay’s “Ritualistic Pimento Cheese.” It made a killer grilled cheese sandwich.

The “Low Country Boil” has some great recipes, and again my CSA to the rescue for Fried Okra Cakes. Like Mary Kay, I’m not a big okra fan but this dish made a convert out of me. I have to try the “Peach and Berry Cobbler” soon, Florida peaches are starting to come in and berries are already here. The “Fourth of July” recipes include “Edna’s Potato Salad” which is a simple recipe and a real crowd pleaser. The “Lazy Weekend Brunch” has a terrific recipe for “Pig Candy” – really! It’s candied bacon with a healthy dash of cayenne and some dry mustard that makes it really stand out.

The “Book Bash Cocktail Party” includes a great recipe for “Smoked Trout Dip.” We love any kind of smoked fish dip and this is a real standout with fresh dill, chives, and some prepared horseradish. The “Marinated Beef Tenderloin with Fig Onion Jam” is another winner – that jam is to die for! I haven’t attempted the “Dark Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake Bites,” (they sound too dangerous to have at home) so the next office pot luck will be the recipient of these goodies. The “Full Moon Party” includes a super easy recipe for “Cheesy Beer Bread,” and in my house any recipe with cheese is a sure thing. I am waiting for our next backyard cookout to try “Boy Howdy Baked Beans” with maple bacon and bourbon – Yum! I could go on for days but I will end here with the classic, Southern “Shrimp and Grits” from the “Christmas Brunch” chapter and let me tell you, this is simply divine and a true Christmas gift. Follow that up with a “Coconut-Rum Fruit Salad,” (although I will not buy jarred citrus – I live in Florida, it’s probably illegal here!) for a light, slightly boozy dessert.

Now for that promised recipe!

 
Downloadable version of this recipe: Mary Kay Andrews Recipe

To win a copy of THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK by Mary Kay Andrews PLUS the new paperback edition of The Weekendersplease send an email to contest@gmail.com with “BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK” as the subject.

You must include your U.S. street address in your email.

All entries must be received by May 14, 2017. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. Your books will be sent by the publicist.

One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MARY KAY ANDREWS is the New York Times bestselling author of 24 novels, including The WeekendersBeach Town, Save the Date, Ladies’ Night, Spring Fever, Summer Rental, The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. A former features writer for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she finds an outlet for her passion for cooking, entertaining, and decorating with vintage finds at the homes she shares in Atlanta and Tybee Island, Georgia, with her husband, Tom, and their two grown children, Katie and Andy, as well as grandchildren Molly and Griffin. THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK is her first cookbook.

Connect with MKA online here:

Meet Mary Kay!

Savannah, GA | May 4, 11:30am| Savannah Golf Club w/ E Shavers Booksellers
Savannah, GA | May 4, 5:30pm | Brice Hotel w/ E Shavers Booksellers
Charleston, SC | May 5 | High Cotton Author Series w/ Blue Bicycle Books
Atlanta, GA | May 6 | Food that Rocks w/ Bookmiser
Houston, TX | May 8 | Murder by the Book
Fairhope, AL | May 9 | Page & Palette
New Orleans, LA | May 10 | Octavia Books
Red Bank, NJ | May 11, 12pm | AAUW Luncheon, Molly Pitcher Inn
Sea Bright, NJ | May 11, 7pm | Ama w/ River Road Books
Richmond, VA | May 12 | Berkley Hotel w/ Fountain Bookstore
Atlanta, GA | May 13 | Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Showhouse, Eagle Eye Book Shop
Chapel Hill, NC | May 14 | Southern Seasons
Raleigh, NC | May 15 | Quail Ridge
Winston-Salem, NC | May 16, 1pm | Clemmons Library w/ Bookmarks
Greensboro, NC | May 16, 7pm | Greensboro Library w/ Bookmarks
Greenville, SC | May 17 | Fiction Addiction
Newberry, SC | May 18 | Library Benefit Luncheon w/ Books on Main
Florence, SC | May 18, 6pm | Florence County Library w/ Books-a-Million
Pawleys Island, SC | May 19 | Litchfield Books
Tybee Island, GA | May 20 | Seaside Sisters
Savannah, GA | May 22 | Hadassah Fundraiser
Birmingham, AL | May 23 | Piggy Wiggly w/ Alabama Booksmith
Birmingham, AL | May 23 | Alabama Booksmith
Destin, FL | May 25 | Barnes & Noble Crystal City
Destin, FL | May 25 | Emerald Beach House
Rehoboth Beach, DE | May 27 | Browseabout Books
Bethany Beach, DE | May 27 | Bethany Beach Books
Manteo, NC | May 28 | Duck’s Cottage
Cleveland, OH | May 30 | A Cook And a Book
Cleveland, OH | May 30 Cuyahoga County Public Library
Boonsboro, MD | June 3 | Turn The Page Bookstore
Macon, GA | June 17 | Design, Wine and Dine

 


DINNER by Melissa Clark

April 21, 2017

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Changing the Game

Eric Wolfinger, Photographer

As promised (in my review of Sheet Pan) here is a review of Melissa Clark’s latest. No thanks to Clarkson Potter, who failed me on this one, but thanks to my library, who did not. Got it!

FYI, if you are not familiar, Melissa Clark is a food columnist (“A Good Appetite”) for the New York Times. She contributes lots of recipes, too, many of which I’ve made. (See her recipes here.) She is a working mom and apparently understands that not all of us want to come home from work and spend hours in the kitchen to get dinner on the table. Nor do we want take out every night. So here she offers us a terrific compromise – easy dinners, often in one pan. I like it!

This is a big, heavy book with over 200 recipes but it is also a beautiful book with lovely photos. The heft is from high quality paper, and when you are cooking out of a cookbook in the kitchen, shit sometimes goes flying and lands on said book. It’s always nice to know that if that happens, the book will still be usable, albeit a little less pretty.  (No worries, library lovers – I don’t drag library books into the kitchen, I know how messy I am.) The chapters:

Introduction & Ingredients to Keep on Hand
Chicken
Meat: Pork, Beef, Veal, Lamb, Duck & Turkey
The Grind
Fish & Seafood
Eggs
Pasta & Noodles
Tofu (& a Touch of Seitan)
Beans, Legumes & Vegetable Dinners
Rice, Farro, Quinoa & Other Grains
Pizzas & Pies
Soups
Salads That Mean It
Dips, Spreads & Go-Withs

I don’t know about you but the first thing I noticed after perusing the table of contents was that there was no desserts chapter. Which is fine. I never make dessert on a weeknight. Fresh fruit is always available and sugar-free Fudgsicles is as fancy as it gets at my house.

The ubiquitous pantry list is available in “Ingredients to Keep on Hand” and it is a practical list. Included are the usual suspects, olive oil, garlic, various vinegars, mustard, and so forth, plus a bunch of things I rarely have like Sichuan peppercorns, pomegranate molasses, preserved  lemons and Indian pickles. On the other hand I was delighted to see za’atar included. Za’Atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend. This was a recent acquisition for me that I got for a Passover recipe and I was wondering where else I would use it. The only recipe I could find in the index was for Za’Atar Chicken with Lemon Yogurt, so guess I’ll be making that soon. And she also tells you how to make it yourself if you don’t want to buy it. Also I’m wondering why she considers it a pantry staple if it’s only used in one recipe out of 200. Or maybe it’s just a crappy index?

So to chicken. There is a two page spread on how to roast a chicken and it’s got some great advice, like choosing a good bird, preferably organic and air chilled, whatever that is. She also explains how to spatchcock or splay a bird. These instructions are followed by several roast chicken recipes. One of the nice things about roasting a whole chicken is that it’s usually quick prep and then just hanging out waiting for dinner. Plus the delicious smell fills the kitchen and gets everyone hungry. Except my husband, who hates chicken. There are lots of other chicken recipes besides the whole roast chicken, so no worries if you have boneless breasts you’re wanting to cook up or some thighs. Melissa’s got you covered.

There are a variety of meat recipes, some of which give you the option of selecting the cut you want, like Peachy Pork or Veal, you decide. The Grind refers to ground meat, like Chorizo Pork Burgers, Kibbe-Style Lamb Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt and Thai Lettuce Wraps. There are some interesting fish recipes, like Vietnamese Caramel Salmon (sweet and spicy, always a fave,) a really good recipe for Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage, Jalapeno, and Lime Slaw, and a Shrimp Banh Mi that you make in your food processor, which works for me.

Eggs gets its own chapter including the basics of frying, boiling, scrambling, poaching, etc. including how to poach an egg in the microwave. If you haven’t turned your family on to “breakfast for dinner” you should. Super easy and my family loves it. Try Spanish Tortilla with Serrano Ham (or sub whatever ham you like.) I love that while the instructions call for two pans, she explains how one pan will work just fine. The Asparagus Frittata with Ricotta and Chives is delicious, just add some good bread and maybe a salad and dinner is done. I’m dying to try the Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby, after Passover ends I guess – how can I resist, “a giant gougère-style cheese puff meets Yorkshire pudding, with a crisp outer crust and a soft, cheesy, custardy interior.” I can’t.

The pasta chapter has some good recipes like Cacio e Pepe with Asparagus and Peas, Fettucine with Spicy Anchovy Bread Crumbs and Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Almonds, although I subbed some purple broccoli I had gotten from my CSA. I’ve never cooked with tofu (yes, I admit it) but I am determined to learn. My son’s girlfriend is mostly vegetarian and I’d like to make something besides pasta and veggies when they visit. Sweet and Sour Tofu with Corn (and cherry tomatoes, it is beautiful) may be my first attempt. Or Crispy Tofu with Ginger and Spicy Greens – crispy means deep fried and deep fried generally means delicious. There are some interesting legume and veggie recipes as well, like Smashed White Bean Toasts with Roasted Asparagus and Sumac, Asparagus Carbonara and more delicious fried goodies like Fried Halloumi with Spicy Brussels Sprouts.

There are lots more recipes, I haven’t even touched on soups, pizza, salads, etc. (although I can tell you Rustic Shrimp Bisque is going to make an appearance the next cool day we have.) I like this cookbook a lot. I have made many of Melissa’s recipes over the years and she has become a go to for me. Highly recommended.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DINNER by Melissa Clark. Clarkson Potter (March 7, 2017). ISBN 978-0553448238. 400p.


TOGETHER IS BETTER by Simon Sinek

April 15, 2017

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A Little Book of Inspiration

I don’t generally read inspirational books, and I rarely read business books but I make an exception for Simon Sinek.

Sinek was the closing speaker at a conference I attended a few years ago and he just blew me away. Since then, I’ve watched his TED talks and occasionally check in at his YouTube page. Whatever he has to say, I’m willing to listen. He has several books as well, and this is his latest.

It’s a tiny little book, cleverly illustrated in the style of classic children’s literature that was reminiscent of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel or Caps for Sale. The theme of togetherness is one that is predominant in business today, and the idea that teamwork is best that has been scientifically proven (check out Margaret Hefferman’s TED talk, Forget the Pecking Order at Work – fascinating stuff.)

Sinek offers lots of pithy thoughts, some with further explanations at the back of the book. My favorites:

Bad teams work in the same place. Good teams work together.

Leaders give us the chance to try and fail, then give us another chance to try and succeed.

Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan (a variation of the oldie but goodie, “man plans and God laughs.”)

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.

This is probably not going to change your life but it may give you fresh perspective on a day you really need it. Enjoy!

Bonus: Simon Sinek (public speaker and author of START WITH WHY: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action) dissects the United Airlines controversy.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TOGETHER IS BETTER by Simon Sinek. Portfolio (September 13, 2016). ISBN 978-1591847854. 160p.


REVOLUTION FOR DUMMIES by Bassem Youssef

April 10, 2017

Laughing through the Arab Spring

If a book has a blurb from Jon Stewart , and the author is known as the “The Jon Stewart of the Arabic World” I have no choice but to read the book. So I did.

I first learned about Bassem Youssef while watching Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. And I was intrigued. A few weeks later, I stumbled across the book at my library and grabbed it.

I like learning about different cultures, and I don’t know a whole lot about Egypt. I did have a co-worker from Egypt (who has since been promoted and moved to another branch of the library) and we talked on occasion about her family and her life in Egypt and here, so I have some understanding, at least of how her family lives. But she is no revolutionary, and Youssef is. So I was happy to read a very interesting point of view from a very funny Egyptian voice.

While I appreciate his humor, the Egyptian government did not. He was threatened and arrested but eventually fled Egypt and landed in California. Youssef is not just a comedian; his first career was as a heart surgeon. Besides not knowing much about life in Egypt, I know even less about their politics. Comedy is not especially welcome by an oppressive regime, and that was not a surprise. But Youssef’s life has been extraordinary so far, brutal at times, sad for sure, but his writing style, his satire, is laugh out loud funny.

 

From the publisher:

“Hilarious and Heartbreaking. Comedy shouldn’t take courage, but it made an exception for Bassem.” –Jon Stewart

“The Jon Stewart of the Arabic World”—the creator of The Program, the most popular television show in Egypt’s history—chronicles his transformation from heart surgeon to political satirist, and offers crucial insight into the Arab Spring, the Egyptian Revolution, and the turmoil roiling the modern Middle East, all of which inspired the documentary about his life, Tickling Giants.

Bassem Youssef’s incendiary satirical news program, Al-Bernameg (The Program), chronicled the events of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and the rise of Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi. Youssef not only captured his nation’s dissent but stamped it with his own brand of humorous political criticism, in which the Egyptian government became the prime laughing stock.

So potent were Youssef’s skits, jokes, and commentary, the authoritarian government accused him of insulting the Egyptian presidency and Islam. After a six-hour long police interrogation, Youssef was released. While his case was eventually dismissed, his television show was terminated, and Youssef, fearful for his safety, fled his homeland.

In Revolution for Dummies, Youssef recounts his life and offers hysterical riffs on the hypocrisy, instability, and corruption that has long animated Egyptian politics. From the attempted cover-up of the violent clashes in Tahrir Square to the government’s announcement that it had created the world’s first “AIDS cure” machine, to the conviction of officials that Youssef was a CIA operative—recruited by Jon Stewart—to bring down the country through sarcasm. There’s much more—and it’s all insanely true.

Interweaving the dramatic and inspiring stories of the development of his popular television show and his rise as the most contentious funny-man in Egypt, Youssef’s humorous, fast-paced takes on dictatorship, revolution, and the unforeseeable destiny of democracy in the Modern Middle East offers much needed hope and more than a few healing laughs. A documentary about his life, Tickling Giants, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, and is now scheduled for major release.

Something to look forward to.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

REVOLUTION FOR DUMMIES by Bassem Youssef. Dey Street Books (March 21, 2017). ISBN 978-0062446893. 304p.


A COLONY IN A NATION by Chris Hayes

April 6, 2017

Click to purchase

I don’t read a lot of political books. I do watch a lot (too much) TV news, and I read a lot of newspapers; usually the “fake” kind like MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and other Pulitzer Prize winners. And I listen to podcasts like Pod Save America from the hilariously named “Crooked Media,” and I watch the late night shows that help me laugh about what’s going on in this country and keep me from leaping off the ledge. (Feel free to comment as you like, the comments have to be approved. By me.)

So, Chris Hayes. I love him on MSNBC, he’s smart and quick and rarely loses his cool, something I truly admire (and wish I was better at.) So when I heard he wrote a book, I was “all in.”

This is a book about racism in America and yes, a white guy can write about it. And he does a really good job. The title refers to what Hayes considers the racial divide in this country, specifically in our criminal justice system. He believes that white Americans are treated as citizens, with civil rights and respect, while minorities are treated as colonists, where their civil rights are nonexistent and they basically live in a police state. He makes his point by tracing American history from the 1960’s civil rights era through today, and while it is disturbing, Hayes writes well, making his point clearly and succinctly. I found this book very upsetting, but I knew that going in.

From the publisher:

New York Times best-selling author and Emmy Award–winning news anchor Chris Hayes argues that there are really two Americas: a Colony and a Nation.

America likes to tell itself that it inhabits a postracial world, yet nearly every empirical measure—wealth, unemployment, incarceration, school segregation—reveals that racial inequality has barely improved since 1968, when Richard Nixon became our first “law and order” president. With the clarity and originality that distinguished his prescient bestseller, Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes upends our national conversation on policing and democracy in a book of wide-ranging historical, social, and political analysis.

Hayes contends our country has fractured in two: the Colony and the Nation. In the Nation, we venerate the law. In the Colony, we obsess over order, fear trumps civil rights, and aggressive policing resembles occupation. A Colony in a Nation explains how a country founded on justice now looks like something uncomfortably close to a police state. How and why did Americans build a system where conditions in Ferguson and West Baltimore mirror those that sparked the American Revolution?

A Colony in a Nation examines the surge in crime that began in the 1960s and peaked in the 1990s, and the unprecedented decline that followed. Drawing on close-hand reporting at flashpoints of racial conflict, as well as deeply personal experiences with policing, Hayes explores cultural touchstones, from the influential “broken windows” theory to the “squeegee men” of late-1980s Manhattan, to show how fear causes us to make dangerous and unfortunate choices, both in our society and at the personal level. With great empathy, he seeks to understand the challenges of policing communities haunted by the omnipresent threat of guns. Most important, he shows that a more democratic and sympathetic justice system already exists—in a place we least suspect.

A Colony in a Nation is an essential book—searing and insightful—that will reframe our thinking about law and order in the years to come.

If you care about making America great “again,” or just care about how American citizens are treated in our criminal justice system, pick up this book. It is a most worthwhile read.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A COLONY IN A NATION by Chris Hayes. W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 21, 2017). ISBN 978-0393254228. 256p.