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Pesto Perfect

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Have any of you been following this New Adult controversy in publishing? Basically, some self-published authors developed this new category of books dealing with main characters aged 18-25-ish. They aren’t teenagers, but they aren’t totally grownups either. Instead of first kisses, they’re navigating first real jobs, student loans, “real” relationships. The publishing industry poo-poo-d for several weeks that it wasn’t a real thing, that it was romance lite, or YA with sex, etc. Then those self-published authors became best-sellers and agents and editors started scrambling to sign New Adult writers. Ha HA!

This is a really elaborate lead-up explaining why I wasn’t particularly expecting to love this book. I was initially as skeptical as anyone. But I so, so did love it. Picture Perfect, by Alessandra Thomas, is the epitome of what New Adult should be. It’s sweet, sexy, and most of all, completely real.

It’s the story of Cat, a fashion design major and model who gains 60 pounds recovering from a nasty accident. Suddenly, people look at her differently. Her boyfriend blows her off, most of her friends have moved on while she was recuperating, and her beloved clothes don’t fit anymore. I doubt there is a girl alive who can’t identify with Cat’s self-consciousness; her constant fear that she isn’t good or pretty enough. She wants those cheese sticks, but are people judging her? Diet Coke instead, please.

Then she meets Nate, who turns out to be dealing with issues of his own. Before that gets thorny, though, they have a marvelous honeymoon period. One of the things they most love to do is try new foods together. Nat’s biggest claim to fame in the kitchen is a masterful pesto sauce. This one would make him proud.

The really nice thing about a good pesto recipe is that it’s totally customizable. Not enough basil? Sub spinach. Too broke for pine nuts? Walnuts. Vegan? Trade the parm for nutritional yeast and the cream for coconut milk. This is the kind of recipe every college student should have in their repertoire.

Pesto Perfect

2 (packed) cups basil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c toasted pine nuts
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 c grated Parmesan
1/4 c EVOO
1/2 c cream

8 oz pasta (I like a fusilli, so the pesto really sticks in the ridges.)

This recipe is so preposterously simple, it barely has directions.

Boil pasta according to package directions. Put pesto ingredients in food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine pesto and pasta. Say “picture perfect pesto pasta” five times fast. There, now you’ve earned some wine to go along with it!

Serves 2-4, depending how hungry you are.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Splintered Trout ala Wonderland

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Guys, I really don’t know where to start with this one. It’s SO GOOD, and I don’t want to give anything away. I guess I could start with the basics- Splintered, by A.G. Howard, is a dark, twisted homage to Lewis Carroll.

The book opens with Alyssa, Alice Liddell’s great-great-great granddaughter, explaining why her art is made of dead bugs. Because when she kills them, they stop speaking to her. All the women in her family have gone mad, and it always starts like this. Poor Alyssa just wants to make art, and skateboard, and hang out with her totes adorbs neighbor Jeb.

Naturally, the fates conspire to dump her into Wonderland. Although in this story, it’s more like Horrorland. I can’t say enough about this creepy, icky translation of the classic novel- it’s phenomenal. And the Caterpillar… GAH. Read this book, guys!!!

There are a couple marvelous food scenes in the book, but I took my inspiration from the Feast of Beasts. The first course is a live goldfish that Alyssa accidentally spills her apple-cinnamon wine on in her disgust. In the interest of less flippiness on your plate, I went with a cooked trout. If you’re after more authenticity, I bet the sauce would be super tasty on salmon sashimi.

Splintered Trout ala Wonderland

2 large fillets of rainbow trout
3/4 c apple juice or cider (100%)
1 Tb butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Lightly salt the fish fillets. Heat the apple juice in a shallow pan until simmering. Add the fish, and poach for 2-3 minutes, or barely cooked through. Remove the fish and turn the heat up to high.

Seriously, watch it the whole time, reductions can go awry in no time at all! Reduce the juice to about 3 Tb, turn off the heat, add the butter and cinnamon.

Spoon over the fish. Serves you and one romantic netherling- neighbor! I meant neighbor! (No I didn’t. Team Morpheus!)

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Ever Angel Wings

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Ever has been in love with her best friend Frankie since she can remember. They spend every day together, hang out on the weekends, and her parents love him, so that’s great. The part where he’s a ghost because Frankie died 2 years ago, that part’s less great.

Ever is the first of Jessa Russo’s paranormal trilogy. Because just dealing with her unrequited love for a dead guy isn’t enough, Ever also has to contend with her feelings for the mysterious hot guy who moves into Frankie’s old house. And by mysterious, I mean PLOT TWISTS! But no spoilers here.

Did I mention Hot Neighbor Toby has a giant angel wing tattoo? Between that and the Frankie situation, I was inspired to make Angel Wings for this one. If your grocer is out of angels, you can use chicken though. It’s cheaper.

Ever Angel Wings

Wings

6 chicken wings
1 big slice angel food cake
1 egg
1 Tb heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt

Angel Sauce

2 Tb butter
1 minced clove garlic
1/4 c grated Parmesan
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tb heavy cream

Set your oven to broil, and slice up the angel food cake into a few pieces. Oh so carefully toast them in the oven until they are golden brown. Toss them in a food processor and turn them into angel crumbs. Put them in a bowl. Turn the oven down to 400.

In another bowl, mix your egg, cream, and salt. Dip the wings first in the egg mix, then in the angel crumbs, and transfer to a foil-lined and oil-sprayed baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once.

While they cook, combine all your sauce ingredients in a little saucepan and gently heat. I just left mine on the “melt” setting for the entire 25 minutes. Top your angel wings with angel sauce and enjoy, you little devil, you.

Serves 2-3 lovesick teenagers.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Salad of the Gods

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So when a book takes place in Greece, you just know the food will be good, don’t you? Children of the Gods, by the (gorgeous and talented) Tristina Wright does not disappoint. There’s cheese and olives and fruit and grape rolls… Oh! There’s also a plot. I get carried away sometimes.

In a semi-steampunk alternate universe where the descendants of Titans and Olympians obey strict racial segregation, a young couple from opposite sides fall in love. Lucas and Pandora will do anything for each other- and according to the prophecy of the Gorgons, that will be tested.

Lucas’s mother works to abolish segregation, his best friend and Pandora’s father are both avowed racial purists. Drama! Kissing! Fighting! But then- olive salad, and wine-soaked fruit. I used strawberries (frozen, obvi) because Lucas thinks Pandora smells of them.

Salad of the Gods

1 orange
1 lemon
1/3 c nice olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tb crumbled feta
1 lb assorted olives, capers, pepperoncinis

2 Tb honey
2 Tb white wine
1 lb fruit of your choice

Peel strips of rind off the lemon and orange and place in a bowl with the olive oil, oregano, and pepper. Let it infuse for 2 hours.

Prepare thy fruit bath- mix the honey and wine with the juice of the orange, and the juice of HALF the lemon. Squeeze the other half into your olive marinade. Toss the fruit on in and let it macerate overnight in the fridge.

Pull the strips of peel out of the oil and discard. Add the olives and feta, stir, and let marinate overnight at room temperature.

Serve with crusty bread, to dip in the leftover oil, and wine.

Tristina’s lovely book has not been published yet, so don’t head to the bookstore looking for it right away!

On that note, I can also tell you that “Heat Rising” by Elizabeth Otto, which we made pizza for last year, has been renamed “The Blood of Isis” and will be released in June! Hooray!

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Macaroni Forger

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Hello, readers and eaters! I took quite the holiday break, eh? Over my blogging vacation, I went wheat-free. So, from here on out, there will be less bread up in here. Luckily, my beloved pasta can be wheat-free, so, without further ado-

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro, is a book very artist should read. Every art historian as well. I do mean amateur, as well as professional- there is so much food for thought (see what I did there) in this book. I found myself repeatedly setting the book down to google images, ideas, and equipment. It was like taking a class in advanced oil technique, only with a suspenseful subplot, which none of my college classes ever have.

The plot centers around a disgraced but tremendously talented painter, Claire. She has a History with the art world that has reduced her to living illegally in her tiny studio, spending her afternoons at a bar she can’t afford to drink in.

When a very attractive, successful dealer offers her a deal that will end in a triumphant comeback, she takes it. Her end of the bargain is to copy a Degas, which will be passed off as an original to a foreign buyer. The first catch is that the original she is working from is stolen. The second catch is that Claire begins to suspect the “original” is itself a forgery. Intrigue and twists ensue.

Claire, when making her first dinner date with Attractive Dealer, tells him she normally eats mac and cheese. To be cute, he makes her a gourmet version for their first evening together, with herbs, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes.

The Macaroni Forger

1 lb macaroni
2 12 oz cans evaporated milk
4 Tb butter
2 lb assorted grated cheeses
(I used Brie, Parmesan, and white cheddar.)
4 oz cubed cream cheese
1 egg

8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 cup red wine
1 heirloom tomato
1 stalk fresh rosemary

Hm, I misordered those. Put the last four ingredients in a small pot and allow to simmer whilst you prepare the noodles.

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the macaroni 2 minutes less than the directed time. Drain it and return to the pot. Add the milk and butter to the pot as well. Add the cheeses a bit at a time until melted.

Remove from heat, and cool for a few moments until you can add the egg without scrambling it. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into a 9 x 13 and bake for 1/2 hour. Top with mushrooms, which you have kept separate in case you have guests like Ashleigh Nelson, who flout excellent taste in favor of childhood prejudices.

Serve with more wine and a salad.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Diviners Killer Cocktail

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Evie O’Neill is way too big-time for small-town Zenith Ohio. She likes gin, and despite the Prohibition, has no trouble finding it. She likes flapper fashion and boys and dancing. Only, her parents, along with most of the town, are not impressed. When her punishment for a drunken accusation is to go stay with an uncle in New York City, well, Evie thinks this is the beginning of a swell new adventure.

Libba Bray’s The Diviners is chock full of adventure. From her very first mugging to her friendship with a real live Ziegfeld girl to getting her name in the newspaper, Evie is really living! It’s not all giggle water and the Charleston, though. Turns out Uncle Will owns a decaying museum of the occult and supernatural. He is called in to help solve a murder, and Evie tags along.

When she sees the dead girl, Evie realizes her secret gift of psychically “reading” objects could help solve the crime. Except Evie isn’t the only one in New York with special powers. And not everyone uses their powers for good.

The Killer’s Cocktail is swilled at fashionable parties as a way of thumbing one’s nose at the policy’s warnings about a murderer at large. I used a Canadian whiskey, as many New Yorkers would have during prohibition. You are welcome to use any sparkling wine as a topper, from Champagne to Prosecco. I used canned tart pie cherries in water as to not over sweeten the drink. If you prefer maraschinos, have at it.

Diviners Killer Cocktail

1 shot whiskey
1/2 shot triple sec
Splash orange juice
6 canned cherries
Sparkling wine

In a shaker, combine the first four ingredients and shake it like crazy. Alternatively, you could muddle them in your glass, but it will be cloudy. Strain into the stemware of your choice, and top with sparkling wine.

I didn’t think of it in time, but this would be a perfect drink to add a sugar rim to your glass.

Serves one, if you can stop with one!

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Betsy-Tacy-Onion

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I have always been a reader, so naturally I grew up with Anne of Green Gables. About a year ago I re-read the first book. You know? Anne Shirley was kind of annoying. Actually, really annoying. It was kind of crushing, to lose that bit of childhood joy.

Then my beloved Aunt Kathie came to my rescue- the entire Betsy-Tacy series. There are ten of them, not nearly enough! You guys, Betsy Ray is the most delightful heroine… I can’t really say “since” anyone, she predates most of them. Why, oh why didn’t I own these as a kid? (Really, mom. Why?)

I won’t attempt to summarize all ten books, since they span a good twenty years. The series follows Betsy, her best friend Tacy, and their third musketeer Tib from age five through marriage. “Lots of things will happen,” says Betsy when they meet. And they do.

One of the more charming Ray Family Traditions is called Sunday Night Lunch. Basically, Mrs. Ray gets the evening off from cooking and Mr. Ray makes sandwiches. What a glorious idea, I thought, and read on (these books are as long on descriptive food scenes as any Little House book) through cold roast chicken, pot roast… Onions. Onion sandwiches. The most popular offering of all, apparently.

I was as disgusted as you are. I couldn’t stop thinking about how gross that was. All that thinking inevitably led to curiosity, and here we are! I made onion sandwiches. I still think I would prefer the beef, but I have to say, they aren’t bad at all! Munch on one of these while enjoying Betsy-Tacy, and I guarantee you’ll forget all about that little twit Anne.

Betsy-Tacy-Onion

4 Challah, or brioche rolls
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 c white vinegar
Butter
Salt and pepper

Slice the onion into 1/4″ rings, and marinate in the vinegar at least a few hours, or overnight. Butter the rolls, and add the onion. Season every inch carefully- Betsy swears that is her father’s secret to the perfect sandwich.

I had seconds the next day with the addition of a tomato slice, and liked it even better. I suspect trading out the butter for mayonnaise could be even more delicious, but the Ray’s would not approve.

Serve with pickles, olives, coffee, and fudge.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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