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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Foodie's Bookshelf

Foodie's Bookshelf

As mentioned in this post, I recently acquired Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte. I am working my way through some of the recipes that look do-able (Hesser's previous book had lovely prose but looked way too fussy to cook from).

One I tried was the green beans and tomatoes. For one pound beans (and 3 good tomatoes), the recipe said 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon Dijon, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, salt, pepper. I had a lot of my viniagrette made up so I used that instead. It was much better the second time when I didn't use quite so much of it. I also learned the second time that the beans look better if you follow Hesser's instructions to put the beans in water that is boiling and cook them for 4 minutes only. Duh. But that's a "live and learn" thing. It is so simple, and so good, that I will be doing it often. It's good with fresh basil added to the dressing, too. Yum. Next one I want to try is the green beans with walnut oil. I have been on a green bean kick lately.

One of the things she said in that book that brought me up flat was that she, unlike her mother and grandmother and assorted in-laws, did not have a repetory of recipes. That made me do a VERY tiny superior dance because I do actually have one these days. Only a tiny dance though, as I did not when I was the age Hesser was.

The other note from the Foodie's Bookshelf, which I was contemplating even before Deb asked her questions about cookbooks (I already know I'm not completely in bad shape, as there are people on RFC with thousands), is that I had an almost chance encounter with the delightful book Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. The protagonist, Ruth, is an extremely talented home baker who both imagines herself "inside the cake" when she gets stressed and does a lot of stress baking at 3 am when, in short order, her husband loses his job and both her divorced and feuding parents are living with her. I could, of course, totally relate to the stress-cooking part, but part of the genius of this book is that it's not story-line-with-recipes, the baking really is part of the character development. Ruth and her cakes have flair. They have genius. They have soul. And the family pulls itself back together again, including a really sweet development where the snotty teenager becomes her mother's best cheerleader and marketing guru.

I did want to eat cake after that. (Maybe I will try the chocolate dump-it cake from Hesser's book.)

From a food point of view, I was pleased that it wasn't death by chocolate; the author chose very interesting cakes, recipes from some of the best in the business.


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