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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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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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The Soufflé of Fortune

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Clearly I don’t know as much I ought to about the Borgia’s, because Michael Ennis’s Malice of Fortune just blew my mind. The real history of a mysterious death is entwined with a rash of horrific murders of women.

Naturally, the only people who can solve crimes of this magnitude are Machiavelli and Da Vinci, accompanied by a blackmailed courtesan. That makes this sound a little silly, but Ennis pulls it off. Damiana, the courtesan, was sleeping with the Duke of Gandia, the Pope’s favorite son. She is suspected of the murder, and hopes to clear her name with the help of Machiavelli, who is acting as the Florentine ambassador to Rome.

Still with me? Da Vinci in this case acts as a forensic scientist of sorts. In the mix there is also plenty of witchcraft and statecraft, war and rape and pillage. In short, it’s everything you’d want in historical fiction.

There wasn’t quite as much lavish papal feasting as I’d hoped, but Italian food is as sexy during the Renaissance as it is now. There’s an excellent scene involving Damiata sensually eating Parmesan and salami. If I’d recommended a deli plate to go with this book, though, I’d lose every follower but my husband. So even though no one in Pope Alexander VI’s Rome was eating soufflés, enjoy! Damiata describes the candied pine nuts early on in the book. They provide a crunchy-sweet counterpoint to the rich egg-and-cheese mixture.

The Soufflé of Fortune

1/4 c pine nuts
1 Tb sugar (white, not brown)

2 Tb butter (more for ramekins)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb flour
1 1/3 c milk
3/4 c Parmesan, grated
4 eggs, separated

In a small skillet, heat the nuts and sugar together until a caramel forms. Watch it carefully, those damn nuts are too expensive to burn! Remove to a small plate to cool.

Heat the oven to 400, and butter 4 small ramekins. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the garlic. When the butter is sizzley, add the flour and whisk like crazy. After about 1 minute, add the milk and turn up the heat. Whisk, still crazily, until the milk boils and everything thickens. Take the pan off the heat, whisk in the Parmesan, and transfer to a large bowl to cool down.

While that’s cooling, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. When the bechamel is cool-ish, whisk in the egg YOLKS. Then use a spatula to fold in 1/3 of the whites. Once that’s done, it should be pretty easy to fold the rest in while keeping things fluffy.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins. Put the ramekins on a cookie sheet, they will pouf like crazy and some might overflow. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden.

Divide pine nuts between soufflés. Serve 4 with salami, olives, and plenty of Sangiovese.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Dovekeepers Stew

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There is no surprise to the ending of Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers. For one thing, it’s a fictional portrayal of the all-too-true events at Masada. Even if you, like me, were unfamiliar with the setting, the first line of the jacket copy gives fair warning- juuuuust about everybody dies at the end.

The story is told in four parts, each from the point of view of a different woman as she makes her way towards the Jewish stronghold of Masada in hopes of escaping the Romans. Yael is a lioness, the despised daughter of a famed Sicarii assassin. Revka was a baker’s wife, before she discovered what she was capable of alone. Aziza is a warrior princess, and Shirah, her mother, is a renowned sorceress.

Each of their stories intertwine, as the women all end up working together to care for the doves of Masada. The fates that have been written in the Book of Life unfold in Hoffman’s beautiful prose. You would think, with the foreshadowing- can you even call it foreshadowing? It’s more like… Well, I haven’t invented a word yet. Anyways, despite the grim subject matter, the book somehow manages not to be sad.

Rather, this is an extraordinary story of female strength in a time we don’t tend to think of encouraging that. There is also a lot of really neat stuff about magic in ancient Judaism. But best of all- oh my Lord, the food. Almonds and lentils, wild onions and asparagus, olives and honey. If it weren’t for all the goat milk, I could have been such a happy ancient Isrealite.

This dish is based on one of the first described in the book. It manages the difficult feat of being both light and hearty at once. Leave out the game hen for a vegan meal- no one will miss the meat. And whatever you do, use good olives!

The Dovekeeper’s Stew

1 Cornish game hen
1 tsp sage

1/2 c olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 c chopped olives
5 dried figs, chopped
1 Tb mint
2 bay leaves
2 c lentils
1/4 c barley
2 quarts water

An hour before you start the stew, sprinkle the game hen with the sage, salt, and pepper. Roast it at 375 for an hour. Let it cool while you start the onions.

Combine the onions, olives, and olive oil in a heavy soup pot, and let them slowly cook down over medium heat for 30 minutes. Pull the meat of the game hen, and set aside. Add the bones to the pot. Add the rest of the the ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Add reserved meat and simmer for another 15 minutes. Season liberally.

Serve with sliced cold cucumber and feta cheese. Serves a stronghold.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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In Noodlesville

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I’m not going to write out the first paragraph of Jo Ann Beard’s In Zanesville for you, but it might be my new favorite intro. I re-read it at least four times before moving on, just giggling to myself. In Zanesville accomplishes the rare feat of being told from the point of view of a 14 year old girl while still being an entirely adult book. In fact, I’m not sure most young adults would be as amused as I was. It rings almost TOO true.

In the book, the main character (whose name you can figure out by paying close attention!) and her best friend Felicia navigate the sticky world of freshman year in 1970- something. There is babysitting, boys, obnoxious siblings, and popularity to be dealt with. This is difficult enough, but both our heroine and her best friend have a few home issues as well. Being as entirely self-centered as most teenagers are, they are typically more concerned with the food situation than anything else.

Felicia’s mom always makes junk food from packages, and this is seriously irritating to the main character. She wants that. Instead, HER mom makes homemade noodles and yells when they aren’t properly appreciated. There is also a scene involving a butcher relative presenting the family with an unconventional dinner that our recipe harks back to.

A couple notes on the recipe: I used a pasta roller, but a rolling pin and a pizza cutter work just fine. I also chose to use pork jowl in this recipe because a., the reason above, and b., it is just as tasty as pork belly at a fraction of the cost. My Farmer’s Market meat guy actually just gives them to me. I am positive any day now he will discover what I am getting away with.

In Noodlesville

2 cups flour
3 eggs

1 pork jowl (can sub shoulder)
1 onion, sliced
1 apple, diced
1 sprig rosemary
1 Tb fennel
2 Tb salt
1 beer (lager)
1 tomato, diced

Start with the pork. I used a slow cooker, but you can use a Dutch oven. Lay the onions along the bottom of your cooking vessel, and place the pork on top. Add the apple, salt, and herbs. Pour the beer in. Fill the bottle up with water. Pour that in too. Simmer for 6 hours.

Remove the lid, but don’t turn down the heat. Grab a potato masher. Smush the pork. It will fall apart and become pulled pork with zero effort on your part. Add the tomato. Let the liquid reduce, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. When it starts to thicken, turn the heat to low.

The pasta is outrageously easy. Stick the flour and eggs in a food processor. Process until a clump forms. Wrap it in Saran wrap for 15 minutes to rest. Roll it out and cut it into any shape your heart desires. Boil for 2 minutes, drain, and toss with the pork.

Serves 4-6. Make Jello for dessert, and enjoy a beer.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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