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52 Books: Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman

4 Jan

Book #1 from my 2014 goal to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks:

i love a good cover

i love a good cover

Another wonderful recommendation from the good folks at Book Larder in Seattle WA (which you should definitely check out next time you’re in the Pacific North West – if only for their amazing and affordable lunchtime cooking classes – genius idea!).

Anyway, back to Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman: if you are a foodie and/or a writer and/or a person who loves good writing and good eating, you will love this book. As her longer title explains, this is a “love story of comfort, desire, and the art of simple cooking.” Altman, a self-professed fancifier of food – the more complicatedly prepared and precariously perched on the plate, the better – falls in love with a fellow foodie and “simple is better” cook who shows her the beauty of uncomplicated food to be shared simply with loved ones.

She mixes in reminiscences of her family and their relationship to eating and cooking, as well as the often fraught dance between two people who have lived long and separately who then want to create a life together. Set mainly in NYC and rural Connecticut, it talks lovingly about the Manhattan food scene as well as the process of acclimating to a less urban hometown, where fresh baked bagels, authentic Chinese food and not-immediately-frozen fish can be hard to come by.

There are recipes as well, very delicious looking ones that I have yet to try, but these two looked the most immediately accessible and delicious to me: “Yellow Split Pea Soup with Ham” and “Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine.”

A great first read for 2014, and an exciting start to my 2014 goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks.

Happy Reading!

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Endorsement Monday: Cooking Classes at PREP Kitchen Essentials

22 Jan

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is take a cooking class. I’ve talked about it, I’ve researched the classes, I even put it on my 101 Things list. And now I can say that I’m a proud cooking class graduate!

CityBoy was roped into this fantasy, being that I found an awesome French-themed class just in time for someone’s birthday (yes, I gave my husband a birthday gift that I would have wanted – don’t judge me).

PREP Cooking Essentials is a clean, modern kitchen store in Seal Beach with a great cooking program. They’re even have “Learn to Cook” and professional chef’s classes!

I signed us up for “December in Paris,” which harkened us back to our recent anniversary trip to Paris. Chef Elizabeth Whitt is a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who is down-to-earth, very knowledgeable and passionate about food and teaching.

we're all ears, Chef!

we’re all ears, Chef!

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The Logic of Two Ovens…or a Thanksgiving Cooking Manifesto

24 Nov

It’s 8:00am and I’m awake in bed, trying to plot out in my coffee-deprived brain how to most efficiently stage my Thanksgiving cooking. I do this every year (at least the years when I’m responsible for more than one dish) and it strikes me that today, of all days, two ovens is a must-have.

I’m as disturbed (and secretly exhilarated) by American excess, our multi-colored and advertising-drenched aisles of toothpastes and dental floss (whitening, tartar control, pro-enamel, sensitive gums, etc.), the unending shelves of cereal for the sugar junkies and health nuts alike, the thrumming rows of frozen vegetables, microwave meals and bagel pizzas.

But two ovens? Man, you won’t know how much you covet them until a day like today. And I’m not even cooking a turkey this year. Reheating a cooked one for several hours – yes. But starting from scratch – no. Nonetheless, Turkey Day requires copious preparation, the will of a field army general, and the absolute confidence to kick people the hell out of your kitchen (this means you, CityBoy, get your own damn kitchen).

Our motley assortment of serving dishes prepped and ready to go

So far, my Thanksgiving day cooking consist of:

Eggplant caponata (done and chilling in the fridge)

Sweet potato casserole (prepped and ready to go into the oven for 30 minutes)

Mashed potatoes

Roasted Brussel sprouts

Green beans pancetta

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Turkey Leftovers = Pot Pie Heaven

20 Jan

[Be forewarned: this should have been posted sometime soon after Thanksgiving, but I’m a lazy slob, so here it is. Pretend it’s November 27th.]

At first I thought I was going to make some funky turkey soup with olio nuovo (the latest thing in olive oil supposedly) with my turkey leftovers. But then Giada interceded, with a perfectly timed Day-After-Thanksgiving appearance on the Today Show. The poor thing had to deal with the twin horror show that is Hoda and Kathie Lee, but she managed to impress upon this amateur cook how easy it would be to turn Thanksgiving leftovers into individual pot pies.

Which gave me a reason to pick up these totally cute mini soup crocks at my local Crate & Barrel.

All ready for pot pie goodness

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