Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: December ('12) - January ('13) Selection

A few years ago, I remember my son reading through the three books in The Hunger Games series.  He described the premise as a sort of post-apocalyptic story in which poor districts outlying a rich and extravagant capitol have to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 & 18 each year to fight to the death in a live television broadcast.  This is their punishment...their retribution...for an uprise against the capitol that happened many years ago.  I thought it sounded pretty intense, but seeing as it was written for teens...and I'm not a fan of censoring books...I waited to hear his updates.

And then my son told me that the film adaptation was coming to theaters.  I saw the previews...and teared up a bit...and knew I'd be the one going with him to see it.  I fell hard for the film.  And I immediately came home and dug out his books.  And plowed through all three in a manner of days.  I was officially hooked.  I'm happy that I saw the film adaptation before I read the books. Why? Well, because it's almost guaranteed that if I read the book first, I will loathe the movie.  But seeing the movie first allows me to separate the two and look at them as individual projects.  The thing is, this film was extremely well done.  Probably because the filmmakers included the author, Suzanne Collins, in the process of making the film.

It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the book(s) are fairly foodcentric.  From the humble hunting, fishing, foraging, baking, cheese making, and cooking of the poor outlying districts to the richness and extravagance of the meals provided in and by the Capitol, food played an integral part of the book.  Sadly, I though it was sort of grazed over (if you will) in the film.  Left on the backburner.

For this reason, I chose The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as a selection for Cook the Books Club AND Food 'n Flix.  That's right.  It's a special edition of both Cook the Books and Food 'n Flix.  We're joining forces over December and January to bring you The Hunger Games.  Of course, you are under no obligation to do both, we just thought that it would be a fun collaboration.  Read the book first and then watch the film.  Create a post for Cook the Books Club inspired by the book.  Create a post for Food 'n Flix inspired by the film, but use the book as reference and background for the food.  You can combine your two posts, if you're playing along with both.  But please don't let it scare you off if you don't want to watch the film - that part is optional for Cook the Books.

So, without further ado... "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor."

Once  your post is complete, please leave a link to it in the LINKY TOOL below.  Submissions are due by Tuesday, January 29th at noon EST.  I can't wait to see what inspires everybody this round!  An update on who our judge for this round will be posted once I figure that out...

This linky list is now closed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

For Nora Ephron's "Heartburn" we have a winner!

Our gracious judge, Laura Lippstone, founder and editor of Planet Lippstone, enjoyed reading all the posts in the roundup of the Cook the Books edition that just ended. This is what she wrote:

Somewhere in the middle of Heartburn, unlucky-in-love Rachel Samstat is ruminating about how all the signs of her bad marriages were right under her nose and she didn't see them.

What made her especially furious was something in her first marriage. Seems while she was having a miserable time judging what she considered among the lowest of the low in the food world -- the Pillsbury Bake-Off -- her husband was doing it with her best friend in a hotel. She didn't find out until later.

But I have no doubt Rachel's alter ego, Nora Ephron would have been wowed by this contest (from what I've read about her, she didn't impress easily). Such stunning, thoughtful entries! 

As much as I idolized Nora, I have to agree about the recipes in the book. They were as dull as a school lunch. Surprising, given that she was regarded as the ultimate foodie.

Just for fun, I'm pretending she's judging your contest too. So this isn't just about what I like, it's how she might react.

After much delicious deliberation (gotta say you guys really made it tough):

First Place: Debra at Eliot's Eats and her recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies

While this sentence was also mentioned by Tina at Squirrel Head Manor, Debra seized on it. In doing so, she seized on, IMO, one of the key ingredients in Heartburn: Rachel's love affair with New York:
I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.

I think out of everything in Heartburn, the Big Apple was Rachel's core. Even when she was in the basement, just thinking about returning to her beloved NYC gave her the will to pull herself out.

And the cookies! Nora apparently adored the Levain Bakery, home of these beauties. I think she would have also applauded your idea to use chopped chocolate in the knock-off recipe. That makes them look even larger than life! Are you sure they're not muffins?

Second Place: Heather of Girlichef for her Bacon Hash (both of the bacon hash entries looked great) [editor's note: Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made Bacon Hash as well]. In addition to being well-staged -- with the dish next to the recipe page -- I also savored Heather's writing.

It cracked me up when Heather thought about making something with capers, just to disprove Nora's famous axiom that "anything that tastes good with capers tastes even better without them." 

I also liked Heather's appreciation for another recurring theme in the book: comfort food. I like that she made one of Rachel/Nora's favorites -- bacon hash -- when she was feeling "shitty" herself and wanted something easy and soothing.

Honorable mention: Hearty thanks to Glennis of Can't Believe We Ate for going to all the trouble of raiding her hen's nest so she could make Heartburn's 4-Minute Eggs. City gal Rachel/Nora would have been gaga over that one.

And a shoutout to Alicia of Foodycat for noticing that one of Heartburn's most-hilarious lines popped up again in When Harry Met Sally: "Your basic nightmare" -- referring to any rival of the female persuasion who was "thin, pretty, big t--s ..."
Rachel used to get mad at her two-timing hubby Mark for stealing everyone's ideas and using them in his columns. I'm gonna do just that with these fabulous recipes -- add 'em to my repertoire! Thank you all for such a delicious time.

A big "thank you" to Laura for a thoughtful and engaging review, and congratulations to Debra, Heather and Glennis!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Nora Ephron's "Heartburn" Roundup

First came the announcement, then the reminder, then the deadline and now it's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' October-November 2012 edition for which we read Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983).

For each contribution, I will give you the official information (author, blog name and post title) and a brief quote from it — a tiny morsel that will entice you to follow the link and read the details not only of the dish prepared, but also of how the reading inspired the activity in the kitchen.

Now, please, make yourself comfortable, then follow me on a little literary / culinary journey.

Glennis of Can't Believe We Ate prepared the Four-minute Egg using eggs from her chickens

Heartburn is "amusing, in a dismal sort of way…heavily dramatic.  The best part of the book for me were the recipes…although I didn’t have the greatest of luck with the 3 minute-4 minute egg.  I kept getting a 5 minute egg.  *Ü* Without regard to that…here’s my journey…"

Heather of girlichef prepared Bacon Hash

"Another of Rachel's feeling blue foods...  Because really, how can you go wrong with crispy bacon and potatoes topped off with a runny yolk?  It is pure comfort food... Ephron manages to wind wacky, yet identifiable, emotions throughout a whole story in which nobody wins.  They just make decisions and go on living."

Alicia of Foodycat prepared a Coconut Cake whose inspiration comes from Ephron's movie When Harry Met Sally

"I didn't find any of the characters particularly sympathetic. Ephron managed to write a character based on herself without making herself particularly heroic or endearing... One element I did like was the occasional line that Ephron used in later work. A rival is described as "Your basic nightmare", which is also how one of Sally's rivals is described in When Harry Met Sally.

"I reviewed my underlinings and scribblings from my dog-eared copy of the novel. I found this sentence about New York: 'I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.' That would be it."

"Ephron's wit and dark humor are out full-force. There is plenty of food which serves as both consolation to Rachel and to recount the story and the history of her relationship and marriage to Mark. The food engaged me more than the characters did and the descriptions and recipes were the most enjoyable part of the book."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor prepared Bacon Hash, baked a loaf of bread and gives a famous recipe from the book: vinaigrette

"The realization her marriage is over and her acceptance of it comes at the end with the vinaigrette recipe. As Rachel put it, 'Even now, I cannot believe Mark would want to risk losing that vinaigrette. You just don't bump into vinaigrettes that good.' That must be why she saved the recipe for the end of the book. It was too good to leave. She was too good to leave."

"Dipping back into Heartburn was a nostalgic read: there was the nostalgia of seeing that great dust jacket art, the familiarity of sinking back into Ephron's words like having a cozy conversation with a great friend that one hasn't seen in a bunch of years, and nostalgia for the 1980s world that pervades its page."

Ana of Sweet Almond Tree prepared a Carrot Cake

"My advice? Add extra whipped cream if you’re throwing a Key lime pie at someone’s face... Love, cohabitation, marriage, all relationships, even friendships… they should be victim free. Easier said than done, but as Rachel Samstat says in Heartburn, when your dream dies, you are left 'with a choice: You can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.'"

Simona of briciole (your host) prepared Bean, Mushroom and Chard Soup

"In reading the story, I was more focused on thinking: what would I do if something like that happened to me? "That" means discovering that your husband is in love and having an affair with a woman you know, while you are pregnant with your second child and the first one is a toddler. When I am upset... I tend to cook dishes that are comforting to me, something hot and with lots of vegetables, often a soup."

A great Thank you! to everyone who joined in this edition of Cook the Books.

I believe all the submissions I have received are presented in the roundup. However, mishaps are part of life, so if you find anything missing or in need of amendment anywhere in the roundup, please do let me know.

We will give our judge Laura some time to read the posts and come up with her decision. Then, I’ll be back with the announcement of our winner of the coveted CTB "winner’s badge." And after thatm, I’ll turn things over to Heather for our next pick The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Arrivederci a presto!

Friday, November 23, 2012

October-November 2012 Cook the Books Selection Reminder and Judge Announcement

I hope everybody had a nice Thanksgiving. With the big November holiday behind us, I thought I would send out into the world a gentle reminder about our October-November selection and also announce the judge for this edition of Cook the Books.

As previously announced, we are currently reading Heartburn by Nora Ephron. The deadline for sharing with us your thoughts about the book and the recipe it inspired you to make is Monday, December 3.

And I have the pleasure to announce our judge: please, join me in welcoming Laura Lippstone who writes the travel blog Planet Lippstone and is also a contributor to The Huffington Post. She "has been traveling since her teens, when she would gaze at the ocean at the Jersey Shore and vow to discover what was beyond the horizon."

Recent entries in her blog describe her trip on the the Eastern & Oriental Express. It's a trip I will never take, so I enjoyed reading Laura's travel notes and impressions.

In the next ten days, make sure you finish reading Heartburn, if you have not already done so, and share with us your thoughts and your recipe. I will write the roundup shortly after the deadline and then Laura will do her judging.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our October-November 2012 Cook the Books Selection: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

As Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) announced recently, Cook the Books co-founder Joanna (Food Junkie Not Junk Food) has stepped out of her role of co-host, and Heather of girlichef and I (Simona of briciole) have stepped in. For my inaugural hosting, I am pleased to announce a book that had been on my to-read list for a while: Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983).

As you may know, American journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director Nora Ephron passed away a few months ago. When the sad news of her death became known, many articles were published celebrating her life and achievements, so readers who may have been only vaguely familiar with her work (maybe by having seen the movie When Harry Met Sally, which she wrote and produced, or Sleepless in Seattle, which she wrote and directed) became more aware of the wide span of her creative work.

In the novel Heartburn (loosely based on the author's marriage to famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein), Ephron tells the story of the unraveling of Rachel Samstat's second marriage after she discovers that her husband is in love and having an affair with another woman. Samstat is a successful cookbook author and her narrative is sprinkled with recipes. 

Ephron's sparkling style and humor propel the story forward until the last page. I won't reveal any more details about the novel (in particular about its ending), but will finish with a nice quote from the book:
Vera said: “Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?”
So I told her why.
Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.

I’ll be back soon to announce our judge for this round. To join the fun, all you need to do is obtain a copy of Heartburn, prepare a dish inspired by the book and then blog about it by Monday, December 3rd (please note the extended deadline to account for the Thanksgiving holiday in the US). You can leave a comment below to let me know that you have written your post or email me at simosite AT mac DOT com

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Announcements! Annoucements! (And Our Next 4 Books!)

It is hard to believe that Cooks The Books began four years ago this month! It all started when a few comments about how great a virtual foodie book club would be were traded about on the Foodie Blogroll and three book-devouring foodies; Rachel, The Crispy Cook, Joanna of Food Junkie Not Junk Food, and me (Deb at Kahakai Kitchen) formed a friendship and were off and running with a bi-monthly foodie book-inspired blogging event. Whether you joined us in the early days, or discovered us more recently, we value your participation and the sharing of thoughts and dishes inspired by the 24 books we have shared.

Rachel and I are very sad to announce that our co-host Joanna is stepping out of her hosting role at Cook The Books, needing to concentrate on her family and personal life right now. From the early days of setting up our CTB site and picking some really wonderful books to host, Jo will always be interwoven into the heart and soul of our group. We hope that she will pop in and visit us as she can in the future, and we thank her for all she has done to make this little blogging event a success.

As hard as it is to lose our good friend and co-founder Jo, we are very excited to introduce two new Cook The Books hosts—although they really don’t need much of an introduction as they have been among our long-time dedicated CTB participants. Please welcome Simona of briciole and Heather of girlichef, taking us from a trio to a quartet, starting this month, as Simona takes over the hosting duties for our current pick, Heartburn by Nora Ephron. (Note: We have extended the Heartburn deadline to Monday, December 3rd).  Both fabulous bloggers, Simona also hosts her own virtual book event, Novel Food if you can’t get enough of reading and cooking! Heather’s passion for books, film and food caused her to create the monthly Food ‘n Flix event which some of you participate in and which we will be tying into our December/January CTB round.

Without further ado, we have our next four book selections—taking us through July of 2013, giving you plenty of time to locate them or add them to your holiday wish list! We have a great assortment—a dystopian thriller blockbuster, a Sicilian murder mystery, a macaron and pastry filled novel set in Macau, and a classic book of foodie essays from an icon in the food world.

December 2012/January 2013

Heather of girlichef is leading us of with the thrill-a-minute mega-best seller, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, adding a fun optional opportunity to share some foodie book and film fun. She says, “Imagine if you will, a post-apocalyptic world in which the select few dress, eat, and live extravagantly.  The rest?  They hunt, forage, and farm to put foods in their bellies.  Also imagine having to send your child between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death, with only one winner, alongside 23 other children.  A tale of survival set in the Nation of Panem sometime in the future, this novel may have been written with a young audience in mind, but I think that people of all ages can (theoretically) relate.

*Special edition: This book was recently made into a film, and we will be announcing an optional feature this round - combine reading the book with watching the film-adaptation.  We will be joining forces with Food 'n Flix for an extended dose of The Hunger Games.” (Details to come but you can learn more about Food ‘n Flix here.)
The deadline for The Hunger Games is Monday, January 28th.

February/March 2013

Chasing those winter doldrums away, Rachel, The Crispy Cook takes us back to Sicily with her pick of The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri. Rachel says, “Our very first Cook the Books pick focused on Sicily (we read Lily Prior's novel "La Cucina" and I propose we return to the "scene of the crime" by reading the first book in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano mysteryseries by author Andrea Camilleri. "The Shape of Water" is the book and in it, the scrupulously honest Inspector searches to uncover the facts behind the death of an engineer that local bigwigs, including Montalbano's police chief, don't want investigated. However as the rear cover blurb on my copy of the book notes, "Picking his way through a labyrinth of high-comedy corruption, delicious meals, vendetta firepower, and carefully planted false clues, Montalbano can
be relied on, whatever the cost, to get to the heart of the matter
The deadline for The Shape of Water is Monday, March 23rd.

April/May 2013

From the Sicily and The Shape of Water, we journey to over China for The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe, hosted by me (Deb aKahakai Kitchen). I am just now immersing myself in this descriptive foodie novel about Grace Miller, an English expat moving with her Australian husband to the tiny island of Macau in China. A stranger in a strangle land, Grace, escaping the realities of the shattered dreams of her life, uses her passion for baking to open a café—serving coffee, tea and pretty-colored macarons to the women of Macu. There should be plenty of food and baking inspiration in this lovely book about boldly creating a new life and blossoming in a different place.
The deadline for The Color of Tea is Monday, May 27th.

June/July 2013

Back to Simona of briciole with a foodie classic, How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher. Simona says, “Where can I start to talk about M.F.K. Fisher? Probably the best way is to choose one of her books and invite you all to read it. This will give you a good sense of how wonderful she was as a writer. Of the books written by M.F.K. Fisher (1908-92) that I have so far read, my favorite is How to Cook a Wolf, which, I believe, illustrates well the qualities that make her writing enchanting. After spending three years in France with her first husband, she came back to the United States in 1932. Five years later she published her first book, Serve it Forth. In 1941 came Consider the Oyster, followed, in 1942, by How to Cook a Wolf, described by James Beard as “her brilliant approach to wartime economies for the table.”

Wartime brings special challenges to anybody trying to eat “with both grace and gusto.” Fisher refuses to allow all pleasures to disappear from the wartime table and provides advice and recipes that creatively make the best of what can be obtained and prepared at a time of tight budget and scarcity. As usual with Fisher’s books, the food at hand provides the springboard for reflections on topics ranging from the balanced diet to the choice of a drinking partner. Each chapter of How to Cook a Wolf presents Fisher’s thoughts on a topic: “How to Boil Water,” “How Not to Boil an Egg,” etc. Expounded principles are applied in recipes inserted in the text. The recipes are interesting (they include the aptly named War Cake, in which bacon grease can be used, “because of the spices that hide its taste”), though the main pleasure of reading the book is to listen to Fisher philosophize, muse, get passionate, gently satirize (herself first), and tell stories, where she describes people and events of her life.
The deadline for How to Cook a Wolf is Monday, July 29th.

And there you have it—our reading list for the next several months. Simona will be back shortly with a post  on our current October/November pick Heartburn. Until then, happy reading and cooking to you all!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our “Home Cooking” Winner!

There was so much wonderful home cooking happening for our Cook the Books August/September selection “Home Cooking” by Laurie Colwin, that our judge for this round; avid reader, book lover, blogger (at Year of Magical Reading and The Ultimate Bridesmaid Guide), J. Crew copy editor and free-lance book editor Caitlin Kenney, had a tough time choosing a winner. Caitlin was up for the challenge however, and without further ado, here is her announcement:
“Thanks again for the fun opportunity to judge Cook the Books! After much thought, I’m happy to announce the winner: Claudia of Honey From Rock!
One of my favorite quotes from Colwin regards how closely tied food is to friendship. She says:
“It is a fact of life that people give dinner parties, and when they invite you, you have to turn around and invite them back. Often they retaliate by inviting you again and you must then extend another invitation. Back and forth you go, like Ping-Pong balls, and what you end up with is called social life.”
I was happy to see that so many of the Cook the Books entrants shared their recipes with family and friends. I’m sure Colwin would approve. After reading through all the adventures with simple bread, fried chicken and wonderful lentil soup, I had to choose Claudia of Honey From Rock as the winner. It seemed like destiny since she already has Colwin’s most time-consuming and intriguing recipe—West Indian Black Cake—stewing away in preparation for the holidays. Colwin says that chicken salad “has a certain glamour about it,” and though I personally find it more homey than chic, I will admit that it’s a versatile and delicious dish. I love that Claudia chose to serve her friends the curried chicken salad that Colwin recommends for a ladies luncheon. It truly feels as if she brought a little moment of the book to life. Well done!
All best,

So congratulations to Claudia for your elegant Curried Chicken Salad on Watercress! (This makes her a four-time winner I believe!). Wear that winner’s badge proudly over at Honey From Rock.
A big mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you) to Caitlin Kenney for being a fabulous judge, and an open invitation for her to cook along with us any time she likes!
We will be back soon with our next book selection–Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn” plus our upcoming book picks and some exciting Cook the Books announcements.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen” Roundup

I am so glad that everyone enjoyed Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, the little treasure of food cooking essays by the late Laurie Colwin. We have some wonderful posts and recipes inspired by the book and I’ll get to those in a minute. First, I would like to introduce you to our judge for this Cook the Books round, fellow blogger and copy and book editor Caitlin Kenney. While searching for a perfect judge for this book, I stumbled across Caitlin’s review of Home Cooking on Goodreads and then found herblog and was struck by her passion for books and pestered her until she agreed to be our judge. (Actually she succumbed easily as she thought it would be fun!)
About Caitlin:  Caitlin Kenney is a copy editor at J.Crew and a freelance book editor. She has worked with a diverse group of authors on books ranging from YA fiction to adult history, pop culture, fashion and, of course, cookbooks. (On her first experience with recipe testing for a cookbook author, she quite badly bungled his pumpkin kugel.) She records her journeys through literature on her blog Year of Magical Reading [] and also dishes out bridesmaid advice and planning tips at The Ultimate Bridesmaid Guide [link:]. She lives in New York City and her kitchen is too small for her cooking ambition.
So welcome to Cook the Books Caitlin and a big thank you for agreeing to judge the fabulous Home Cooking-inspired creations our CTB participants came up with for this round!
First up,  Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla used her family vacation plane ride from San Jose to Seattle to work her way through the book. She enjoyed the writing and sentiments in the book and decided to do her own “Bread Baking Without Agony” and make a Baguette a la Home Cooking. Camilla says, “I baked the bread, with some adaptations, thinking that I could get breakfast and lunch out of the same loaf. But relentless requests for seconds – slices smeared with marscarpone and dotted with fresh raspberries – dashed those hopes. Thankfully it’s easy enough that I will definitely be making it again soon.
Glennis of Cant Believe We Ate… was first inspired to make roast beef after reading about it Home Cooking but it was the Fried Chicken that ultimately called to her. She says, “My family is particularly fond of my fried chicken, however, I’m usually willing to try a new technique.  I didn’t think there would be all that much difference. … One distinct difference I noticed between Ms. Colwin’s method and mine, is that she’s right…the crust on her chicken gets soft once it’s refrigerated.  Mine, however, doesn’t.  We still have crunchy chicken the following day, and if I let it cool really well before packing it into the fridge, it’s crunchy for a couple of days.  We enjoyed this batch of fried chicken with potato salad.   I’m not saying mine is better than hers…I’m saying it’s two different methods with two different outcomes, and one should expect two different results.”
Kaye from In Kaye’s Kitchen is a long-time fan of Home Cooking who was more than ready to reread the book with us. She says, “Just the excuse I needed! And it’s still a lovely book, rather like chatting with a good friend over a cup of tea in your own kitchen.” Kaye has been wanting to bake more bread so she tried Colwin’s One Simple Loaf and says, “This baked up into a lovely oblong loaf. We found the crust a bit tough, maybe because the temperature didn’t come down all that far for the second part of the baking. Nevertheless this is a very tasty bread that I’ll likely make again.”
Simona of briciole says about Home Cooking, “The style is sparkling, the voice fresh and engaging, and the book is a real pleasure to dive into.” Finding her cooking style to be very different from Colwin’s she finally decided on something they both like–homemade pasta, making this Fusilli al Ferro (Handmade Fusilli with Browned Butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano). Simonae says, “Ms. Colwin was open to trying new things to decide for herself whether she liked them or not. I am sure she would have been open to learn to make the pasta shapes with which I have been experimenting recently and she would have commented on her experience with the wit she shows throughout Home Cooking. So, to her I dedicate my last adventure in pasta making: fusilli al ferro. And based on the recipes in the book, I know she would have liked the burro e parmigiano dressing.
Foodycat says she had mixed emotions about the book–she thoroughly enjoyed every page of it, but was saddened to know that Colwin had passed away too soon. As for what to make she says, “It took me quite a while to decide what to make…  Then I saw Felicity Cloake use Laurie Colwin’s Fried Chicken recipe in her How to Cook Perfect… series, and decided that I would give it a go. My previous best endeavours with fried chicken have all been in seasoned flour, rather than batter or breadcrumbs, so I felt OK about that bit. What was a total departure for me was shallow frying, crowding the pan and covering it. … But you know what? I am a total convert. The chicken (I used bone-in chicken thighs) was tender and moist inside, with a really properly crunchy outside. And because for the majority of the cook time the lid is on the pan, the whole house doesn’t smell like frying.”
Claudia of Honey From Rock found the book to be lovely and says that it “reads like an extended, laid back conversation between a couple of good friends. You won’t agree with everything anyone says, but the dialogue is never boring.” After  wanting to try a lot of dishes from the book, she says,  “Finally, it was Curried Chicken Salad that came through for this occasion, inspired by a Birthday party.  Two friends were celebrating, with a Girls Day overnighter in an oceanfront B & B, to which another friend invited us. With Food.  Supplied by us.  Things we’d been wanting to try. Linda made a lunch of toasted, sprouted 7 grain bread, topped with pesto, tomatoes, cucumber and avocado. Just delicious.  For supper we had a yummy Tomato Pie, made by Nancy, which you can see above, and this Chicken Salad which I brought, surrounded by watercress.  Quite good if I do say so.
Debra of Eliot’s Eats found Home Cooking “humorous but melancholy. I kept thinking about Colwin’s sudden death at such a young age. Perhaps (not perhaps—most assuredly) it has something to do with an approaching birthday that inches me toward the age of forty-eight, the age of Colwin’s death.” Her husband’s travels had Debra eating alone and she took inspiration from Colwin’s Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant essay, saying, “When mom was visiting recently, she found a recipe in Sunset and said, “Let’s make this for breakfast!”   She had found “Caprese Skillet Eggs” in the August edition.    We made the recipe  and had them for breakfast served on some toasted English muffins.   Not only did it remind me of those long ago lost suppers with mom, but it was also very close to Colwin’s recipe for “Sauteed Vegetables and Poached Egg in One Pot.
Rachel, The Crispy Cook and fellow CTB host has had Home Cooking in her library for years and says, “Colwin was just a bewitching writer; she was witty, self-deprecating, passionate about the things she loved, and her descriptions of dinner parties (even the ones that went awry) are mouthwatering” For her dish, this colorful Cold Zucchini Salad, she says, “My zucchini salad was inspired by an essay in Home Cooking, entitled Red Peppers. In it, Colwin describes a favorite dish from an East Side restaurant that she didn’t get to often enough. It involved layers of sauteed zucchini slices and pimento strips garnished with olive oil, fresh garlic and lemon juice, which sounds great too.”
Finally, At Kahakai Kitchen I was happy to share what has become a favorite in my foodie book collection. Colwin’s writing really speaks to me–it’s comforting and relaxing much like a big bowl of soup. So, I took my inspiration from Colwin’s soup essay and made an adaptation of her Wonderful Lentil Soup (the recipe itself is actually from her second book: More Home Cooking). Colwin said “It was not until I was a teenager that I tasted lentil soup which became my lifetime companion. There have been periods of my life when I have lived on lentil soup…,” and this simple classic version would be easy to live on. Perfect for a rainy day.
Thanks to everyone who joined in this round of Cook the Books. We will give our judge Caitlin some time to deliberate and I’ll be back soon with the announcement of our winner of the coveted CTB “winner’s badge.”. Then, I’ll turn things over to Jo for our next pick Heartburn by Nora Ephron.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our August-September 2012 Cook the Books Selection: Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

At Kahakai Kitchen, I (Deb), became enamored of a little book of food essays,Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin, a couple of years ago. The book still sits on my nightstand, ready to be delved into whenever the mood strikes me, so it gives me great pleasure to select it for the August-September 2012 round of Cook the Books. “Home Cooking” is a small and wonderful collection of stories and memories about food, interspersed  with recipes. This past May, The James Beard Awards added Home Cooking to their Cookbook Hall of Fame.
Laurie Colwin was the author of five books, as well as a prolific food writer and a contributor to Gourmet and other magazines, who died unexpectedly and tragically young, in 1992 of a heart attack at age 48. Colwin wrote in a casual, warm style and with such a sparkling sense of humor–laughing about herself and her experiences–both good and bad in the kitchen. If you haven’t experienced her before, I think you will fall a little bit in love with her writing. It’s a short book so if you are feeling extra ambitious, feel free to read her follow-up More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, as well

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 
― Laurie Colwin

I’ll be back soon to announce our judge for this round. To join in the fun, all you need to do is beg, buy, or borrow a copy of Home Cooking, cook something up inspired by the book and then blog about it by Monday, September 24th. You can leave a comment below to let me know that you have written your post or email me at

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our Guest Judge Author Laura Childs Picks our Winner and Has a Surprise Announcement

Our June/July book selection here at Cook the Books was the first installment in author Laura Childs’ Tea Shop mystery series, Death by Darjeeling.  All of the submissions in our roundup (see previous post) showed a wide variety of explorations with different varieties of teas, tea table goodies and even a visit to a tea plantation in Hawaii!
Our featured author, Laura Childs, was also kind enough to serve as our Guest Judge to pick a winning post. Our Cook the Books winner will receive a blog badge AND a signed hardcover copy of Childs’ latest Tea Shop mystery, Agony of the Leaves. I will quote Ms. Childs’ to announce the winner:
“What an amazing assortment of recipes!  Reading through them – seeing the photos – was so inspiring that I wanted to dash into my own kitchen and get creative.
That said, I have to admit that I was super impressed with the Mint Tea Shortbread and Earl Grey Brownies with Lavender Ganache from Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  I think that’s our winner for a copy of AGONY OF THE LEAVES.
Many thanks to all who participated and for inviting me to be your guest judge – it was so much fun!
All my best,
Laura Childs
P.S.  If it’s possible to get the recipes for some of the entries (or all of them) I would love to include a few in my next book which I will be starting soon and is tentatively titled PEKOE MOST POISON.  Of course, I would give full credit to the bakers!”
Congratulations Camilla! Send me your shipping address in an email (info aT oldsaratoga Booksdot Com) and I’ll ship the book right out to you. And if anyone who submitted a Cook the Books entry would like to take up Ms. Childs’ offer to include their recipes in her upcoming Tea Shop book, Pekoe Most Poison, leave a comment below or send me an email with your contact information and I’ll relay it to our delightful Guest Judge and Author.
Effusive thank yous to Laura Childs for being so generous with her time, for providing the extra winner’s prize and for her offer to include some of us in her next book project.
I will now turn over the hosting of Cook the Books to my buddy Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, as we read a great book of food essays, Home Cooking by the late Laurie Colwin.