Cooking for Mr. Latte; A Foodlover's Courtship, With Recipes is probably the closest thing to a 'summer Foodie beach book' that I can think of. Written by Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the New York Times, the book follows the courtship of the author and her beau (writer Tad Friend - the titular Mr. Latte) with relevant recipes included. The author is a fine writer, and although I found her somewhat saccharine spin on things to be a little too sweet at times (how could someone who worked the line in so many kitchens still be so... prissy?), I really enjoyed the book overall. My favorite parts of the book were the ecclectic assortment of recipes at the end of every chapter, all respectfully presented with notes from the author (or the friend or family member who was the source of the recipe).
Although much of the book's 'action' revolves around stories about the progression of the author's relationship with Mr Latte (dubbed 'Mr. Latte' for his uncouth habit of ordering a latte after dinner - for shame!), lots of the chapters branch out to focus on dinner parties with friends and family, as well as foodie get-togethers and dining experiences. Although the author's passion for good food comes through every step of the way, by the end of the book I was very sure of several things.
1) I never want to be a foodie, live with a foodie, or eat marathon meals with professional foodies. I like food. I enjoy quality food prepared well. I think I would be an extremely boring person if my life revolved around my meals, and I think I would rather kebob my eyeballs with skewers than talk about the merits of a single dish for hours and hours.
2) I would never want to prepare food for a food writer or food critic - my hat is off to all Amanda Hesser's friends who rose to the challenge.
3) Even food writers goof up too, and I appreciated all the honest accounts of dishes gone awry that the author herself couldn't make come together. I also liked the fact that almost every time she cooked for anyone else, she expressed fear about her dishes not coming out. Given I also feel panicked that my skills will fail me when put on the spot, I connected with the author when she shared her own 'performance anxieties.'
4) I loved that for all her food snobbery, the author included many much-loved recipes from friends or family that definitely couldn't be classified as pretentious or elitist (old family recipes that eschew butter in favor of Crisco, for instance).
5) I'm definitely copying a bunch of the recipes out of the book to try later; probably the highest compliment you could pay to a book like this!
Note to mass transit readers: because the book was written in installments for the New York Times Magazine, the short chapters are great for reading on a train or bus on the way to work! This is not a book that will change your life or your approach to food; it might inspire a couple good meals, though! A nice light summer-feeling read.
I have been on a kick of reading cookbooks. Eventhough I am unemployed I have purchased at least 5 new cookbooks this summer alone. My housemate looks at me like I am a real freak, and for what, reading a cookbook from cover to cover.
So far I have two favorites, the first one made me want to be Italian, to travel to Italy and speak the language. I wished to trade in my little jewish grandma for a little Italian grandma. The book is called, In Nonna's Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy's Grandmothers, by Carol Field. This cookbook has Biographical information about the various grandmothers whose recipes have gone into the book. Lots of fun.
The second one I just picked up and started reading, is, How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking, by Nigella Lawson. There are so many things in there to try.
Over this past week I have made two recipes from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. The first was there Finnish Rye Bread.
I have never been good with baking breads, but this one was simple and came out surprisingly well.
1 1/2 cups rye flour
2 cups white bread flour
1 package rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
put the dry ingredients into a bowl and slowly add the water, mixing with your handds or a wooden spoon, until you've got a messy but vaguely cohesive lump of dough. Add a tablespoon full of melted butter and mix just to incorporate it. Start kneading, either by hand or with a doug hook, until the dough comes together smoothly to form a dense ball, adding more water or flour ( use the white flour if more is needed) as necessary.
Use some more of the melted butter to grease a bowl and turn the dough ball in it so that the top is oily (and wont therefore dry out), then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a cold plave overnight, or for an hour or so someplace warm.
When the dough's doubled in size punch it down. Giving a few good kneads, and then form into a round loaf. Set the loaf on a baking sheet, cover with a tea towel, and leave to get puffy for about 30 minutes, during which time preheat the oven to 375F. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the loaf is cooked through. It should sound hollow when you rap it on its underside, and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter and leave on a wire rack to cool.
Well I left my loaf of bread to rise for a few hours in a warm place, punched it down kneaded it, waited an hour or so for it to get puffy again and baked it. It smelled wonderful while it cooked. When I took it out and brushed it with butter I nearly dove in. why brush the butter when I can dip the hot bread into it. I let it cool enough to handle and cut a piece off. I was disappointed, the dough was moist and felt undercooked. I hoped it was just that it was hot.
I let it cool completely and put it in a plastic ziplock bag. This afternoon I took it out, sliced off a piece and put it in the toaster oven. It was wonderful, a light but dense bread. What I truely consider a country bread. I heated mine up, but a little butter on it, and opened a can of Shari Anne's Organic Tomato and Garlic soup. heaven....