Between the day I announced the 38th edition of Novel Food and today, the world we live in has changed. One of the side effects of the sheltering in place, something a lot of us are doing now, is a renewed attention towards indoor activities, like reading and cooking. It is therefore a pleasure for me to contribute a set of suggestions for both.
A group of book-loving food bloggers has contributed posts, each describing a work of written words and the dish that the reading inspired. You are invited to join me on a literary/culinary tour. For each contribution, I offer a small bite to whet your appetite: follow the link to read the details of the written word and dish each participant describes. We hope you'll be inspired.
"The amount of food in this book is staggering... There’s so many herbs and spices, Persian food, Italian food and Irish food, I just couldn’t keep up... I really wanted to try the red lentil soup (that lead so many people into the cafe) or the pomegranate soup of the title. I had, however, about over-souped The Hubs recently so I decided on a sweeter recipe: Elephant Ears... They were interesting. I did not roll mine thin enough so they were more doughy (read donut) than a thinly fried treat. We did enjoy the flavor (but, again, the rosewater became more pronounced a day later)."
Reading The Blue Zones Kitchen by Dan Buettner
inspired Debra to prepare a Minestrone
"I’ve been intrigued by the whole Blue Zones phenomenon for a while now... these are areas where the life expectancy and health is above that found in the rest of the world. Their longevity experiences do go beyond food though. In these areas—Sardinia; Okinawa; Loma Linda; Ikaria, Greece; and the Costa Rican Peninsula of Nicoya—it’s the entire lifestyle and sense of community... They walk where they need to go and grow what they need to eat—'their surroundings nudge them into the right behaviors' (19)... It was definitely soup weather so I tried one of three hearty minestrone recipes from the Sardinian section."
Reading Saint Louis Days, Saint Louis Nights by the Junior League of Saint Louis
inspired Debra to prepare a Linguine artichoke prosciutto
"I started collecting [Junior League cookbooks] in my twenties after mom bought one from Iowa. I loved the menus and the entertaining slant to each of them. From then on, I would try to pick up a Junior League cookbook in whatever city we were in. I picked up Saint Louis Day, Saint Louis Nights when I had to be the accompanying administrator on a band trip... This recipe sounded like the perfect dish for a Saturday night dinner... a delicious pasta that comes together pretty quickly."
and Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes by Jeanne Kelley
inspired a Carrot Salad with Olives
"I had the occasion to meet Kelley during my brief and anticlimactic appearance at a Cooking Light cook-off in 2009... I’ve made a few recipes, but the most recent one was a riff on a carrot salad. We had company here for lunch and I needed something quick and easy with ingredients I had on hand. (I certainly wasn’t running back to the grocery store with the hoarders!)... There’s also a brief primer on starting a backyard flock (for blue eggs) and designing an edible garden (for yellow tomatoes)."
"I'm thrilled when I come across a new book series (new to me anyway) that is absolutely terrific, full of fascinating history, great characters, a mystery to be solved, well written and even with some humor and romance... [like the] Sister Fidelma Mysteries. She is... an Irish advocate and judge who is called upon to investigate a tricky and politically sensitive murder, while on an assignment in Rome... Oatcakes are mentioned in the series, as well as porridge, however, it was the oatcakes that caught my fancy (which I remember mainly from the first book as this second one takes place in Rome). I decided to make a version based on my standard scones recipe, using ground oats in place of half the flour, with the addition of raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. "
"I loved all the food content, the descriptions of the way that Marjan in particular nurtured those around her through her food. I liked that there were a number of recipes included in the book, and enjoyed the almost magical realism feel to it, focusing on the power of food to change the way that you are feeling. I guess I would call it magical realism lite for want of a better term... Overall, it's a readable book, without being amazing... I chose to top my cake with Turkish Delight Easter eggs rather than rose petals."
and enjoyed Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
"The novel involves time travel... Food is not really a central theme in this mind-bending and often beautifully written book. (Well, perhaps it’s not mind-bending for everyone. But anything that involves time travel tends to hurt my head.) There are repeated mentions of lemon tarts and grilled cheese sandwiches though. I do love both of those things. But I have a weak spot for grilled cheese sandwiches. I always have... The sandwiches were perfect. Every bite savoured. None wasted."
"Author Mehran writes about lentil soup: 'Red lentil soup, although quite seductive in scent, is as simple to make as its name suggests. In the recipe book filed away in her head, Marjan aways made sure to place particular emphasis on this soup's spices. Cumin added the aroma of afternoon lovemaking to the mixture for instance'. Now that's quite a statement... I cut this recipe in half from what was published in the book... This was totally enough to feed more than a few people."
"It’s the second in the Paul Stuart Series... After a bout of food poisoning, he finds himself drawn into the challenge of turning the restaurant into the Second-Best restaurant in France. One new dish that goes on the menu is Griotte Cherry Clafoutis. Griotte cherries are simply canned/jarred sour morello cherries, available at Trader Joe’s. It doesn’t take much time or effort to create this delicious dessert, and having the jar of cherries in the pantry means it can be put together and baked in no time at all."
"I was particularly intrigued by the description of 'a good apple khoresh, a stew made from tart apples, chicken and split peas' (page 60 of the hardback edition), but while I was searching for a recipe for that, I read about Kuku Sabzi, a kind of herb frittata traditionally prepared for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year that is celebrated on the spring equinox... The idea is that you can use greens and herbs you like and have available. A different combination means a different flavor, so this is a recipe that can be repeated without becoming boring."
Simona also read Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor
and prepared a Chia pudding with blueberries
"Reading descriptions of the landscape was one of the book's attractions. I also liked how the three connected stories unfolded chapter by chapter... While I was reading the book, my husband and I had dinner at a restaurant that offered chia pudding as dessert. Tasting a spoonful reminded me that I like chia pudding... I decided to work some more on my own version. Also around the same time I enjoyed eating fresh blueberries, so I knew whatever I made would have blueberries."
My special "thank you!" to the event's contributors: I hope you enjoyed participating as I do hosting the event.
You will find a link to this roundup and to those of all the earlier editions on this page. If you are looking for additional reading suggestions, head over to the Cook the Books Club website. For the February-March edition, which I am hosting, we are reading Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. For the April-May edition we will read Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman.
The next edition of Novel Food will be in the summer: stay tuned for the announcement. In the meantime, take good care of yourself, your loved ones and your fellow citizens by observing health officials' instructions, read good books (maybe with the next Novel Food in mind), cook good dishes, and savor life's flow in its myriad expressions.