Cherry Iced Tea, Strawberry Lemonade? It sounds like summer around here! Another scorcher of a day has made me thirsty. This strawberry lemonade is a snap to make and can be enjoyed either with vodka or without or still or bubbly. I went sans vodka and still today, in this heat, the vodka would knock me out! I am playing around with another editing program that will allow me to insert text into my photos more easily. I am hoping to add a little feature for the summer concerning what to do with the veggies you may get in your CSA, and want to insert text labeling the veggies into the photos (a suggestion of my brilliant sister). I have not figured out this other editing program yet, but hopefully will soon, so bear with me.
I have had a hard time finding the time to sit down and write my book reviews lately! A big part of the reason is that I am having a bit of a tech overload - I finally got an iphone (I have used a blackberry for years and still do for work) and then a couple of days later I decided I needed an ipad too. As a result, I have been distracted by apps, apps and more apps - the exact reason I resisted getting an ipad for so long - I didn't want it to take away from my reading time! Oh well. I have put the ipad and iphone aside this evening so I can finally write about The Kitchen House, which I read in a three day frenzy a few weeks ago. If you are looking for an engrossing book that will really engage you, The Kitchen House is it. The book follows the story of a young (white) Irish girl who becomes an indentured servant on a Virginia plantation circa 1791. She lives with the slaves who work in the "Big House"of the plantation owner, the Pyke family, works with the slaves and becomes part of their family. A white girl who will eventually gain her freedom living amongst slaves is clearly a situation that will cause drama and strife and the book chronicles the troubles of the Irish girl, Lavinia, the slaves of the Pyke plantation and the dysfunctional, destructive Pyke family itself. Once I got into the book, it was hard to put down - it is filled with dramatic turns and moments where the characters make such bad decisions you find yourself screaming at the book. The cornbread above was an easy choice for a dish - even though this book is called The Kitchen House, in light of the extreme poor conditions slaves were forced to endure, food was not plentiful. But good food was celebrated, and this simple cornbread is surely something that Belle, the cook and Lavinia's surrogate mother, would have made. I have heard The Kitchen House compared a lot to The Help, I see the similarities and will speak more about this after the jump.
My original plan this week was to make an old fashioned muddled with fresh cherries rather than the fluorescent kind, but with the steaming hot weather in Boston, I needed a cocktail that was more refreshing! I decided on a bourbon spiked iced tea, mixed with a muddled cherries and cherry syrup. This came together quickly after a long day at work and cooled me down quicker than my hulking air conditioner. Bourbon and cherries are a great combination, and I brewed a very strong PG Tips tea to make the iced tea portion, so the bourbon was kind of hidden in this drink, which of course can be dangerous! If you are not a drinker, you should absolutely still make this iced tea anyway and don't add the bourbon, and do it quickly while it is still cherry season!
Here is a great, easy recipe for Rhubarb that is a little different than the typical strawberry rhubarb concoctions (not that I don't love those, I will be posting some hand pies of that ilk soon!) If you are out west or down South, perhaps rhubarb season has already passed you by, but we are still in the midst of it here in the Northeast, though I will say as a general matter I have seen less rhubarb around this year.
This "fool" is basically a rich vanilla custard, lightened with whipped cream and then swirled with sugar poached rhubarb and the delicious syrup that sugar poaching rhubarb produces. That syrup is incredibly versatile, and next time I make this I will make more rhubarb than I need so I can play around with the syrup - it would be great in a cocktail or non-alcoholic refresher, great with yogurt or ice cream, even pancakes! Rhubarb season is so short, it makes sense to make at least one dish where the rhubarb, tangy just slightly sweet, is the star.
When you read a book set in Tuscany, it is difficult to choose one dish to make! While food is certainly not the focus of Olaf Olafsson's Restoration, I could not resit making a few simple, fresh and hearty Tuscan dishes this week. The book is set on at a Tuscan villa and farm owned by a British expat - Alice, and her Italian husband during World War Two. As Italy became a battle zone, Alice turned the villa into a hospital of sorts, and then a school and home for refugee children from the north. One day, a mysterious Icelandic woman, Kristin, shows up at the villa severely injured from a train bombing. Kristin is a struggling artist and has a connection to Alice that Alice is unaware of. The book alternates between two stories - Alice's and Kristin's. Alice's story is about life on the farm, her grief the loss of her young son, her careless affair, and the difficulties in her relationship with her husband Claudio. Kristin's story is about art, about her struggle to become an artist, her obsessive love affair with her boss, and about a dangerous forgery. To me, Kristin's story was much more engaging and believable while Alice's story, told through diary entries that are written as a letter to her missing husband, were cliche and less interesting, perhaps because I found Alice kind of boring and unlikable. More about the book and the Tuscan feast after the jump.
This post and little cake should go into the category of cooking inspired by ingredients that are on sale at Whole Foods. For a few weeks now, blackberries have been on sale for something like 2 packages for 3 bucks, and when it comes to summer fruit, I cannot turn down a deal like that! (Consequently in coming days you will see the ubiquitous spring rhubarb post, strawberry post, and cherry post - though there were no deals to be had on those cherries). Once I bought the blackberries I knew I wanted to put them into a rich yellow pound cake. I took a Martha Stewart recipe for a blueberry cake and adapted that and also added some cornmeal, to give it a nuttier flavor. The cake turned out wonderfully and is it is a very versatile snacking cake - it feels appropriate at breakfast, an afternoon snack, and for dessert. I used sour cream in this because I had some extra from the borscht I made recently, but Greek yogurt would also work great (though I would recommend at least low fat if not full fat). Besides switching the fat, this would work with so many fruits, including all the wonderful berries etc... that are coming soon to a farmers market near you. The other great thing I discovered about this cake was by accident. I had just poured the batter into the pan and was sliding into the oven when my date for the evening showed up unexpectedly early. I ended up taking it out of the oven, covering it with plastic and shoving it in the fridge since I would not be able to bake it until the next day. I was sure it would be ruined, but I just let the cake come up to room temperature and then baked it as I had planned and it was perfect. So this would be great to put together the night before you want to serve it at brunch if you want to serve it warm right out of the oven.
Jan-Phillipp Sendker's The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a poetic, mythical novel about a women's search for her father after he disappears from their Manhattan life and her returns to his birthplace, Burma. This novel was first published in German in 2002, which I didn't know when I ordered the book. I don't usually like to read translations because I feel like I will be missing something, that I won't be reading the real thing. I was blown away by the beautiful and lyrical storytelling of this book - whoever did the translation did an exceptional job. Most of the book tells a fairy tale of a love story between Tin Win, a blind Burmese boy, and Mi Mi a Burmese girl with a deformed leg. It seems impossible that Tin Win, who started out in a small rural Burmese town, ended up as a successful entertainment lawyer in New York. But he did, and one day he left his family, including his grown daughter Julia, also a lawyer, and disappeared. Julia heads to Burma to find him, and this is where she discovers the real story of her father's first 20 years. Since the majority of the action takes place in Burma, I was excited to find some Burmese recipes on the internet. In the book, the only real mention of Burmese food is various curries and rice. There is not a lot out there in the States about Burmese food, likely because it's political situation has made it so difficult to travel there over the past few years. One of my favorite cookbook authors (Naomi Duguid) is coming out with a Burmese cookbook this fall. For now I googled around and came upon a recipe in a San Francisco newspaper for a Burmese fish curry. It is made with salmon which of course they don't have in Burma, but the sauce is hopefully at least a little authentic.
I have been in a bit of a cocktail rut - lacking inspiration, I have just skipped cocktail posts lately. That all ended yesterday when Dale Degroff's The Craft of Cocktail arrived in my mailbox. A few folks have recommended this book to me once I started posting cocktails. It is like an inspired Joy of Cooking for drinks - every classic cocktail is in here, and many variations too. It is organized alphabetically, rather than by type of drink or type of alcohol, and the drinks include both very fancy classy stuff and some cheesy classics (can't wait to make a "Suffering Bastard" which I remember reading on Chinese food menus as a kid!) When I started flipping through the book yesterday I became overwhelmed, there are 200 pages of cocktail recipes in here! I decided to go with something that I have enjoyed at restaurants, that is a little unusual and cool but not too hipster (that is another great thing about the book, although I like the movement for ultra homemade, special, farm to glass cocktails, this book is more about cocktails you would get a beautiful hotel bar rather than served in an ironic bar in Brooklyn). Without further ado, I give the Aviation - just three ingredients and a perfect slow sipped cocktail to get your summer going.