Category Archives: Book Lists

Favorite Summer Cookbooks #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

Summer zoomed past with nary a Weekend Cooking post from me, so even though it’s fall now, I wanted to tell you about some of the cookbooks I cooked from (or wanted to cook from) this summer. We’re in the midst of a tropical heat wave as I write this, so it still feels like summer here in New England!

Two of the cookbooks are by mother-daughter team Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw. Linda Greenlaw is famous for being the country’s only female swordfish boat captain (She wrote The Hungry Ocean: A Swordfish Captain’s Journey) and has written several memoirs and started more recently to write mysteries. Martha Greenlaw also sounds like a captain, although she runs a different kind of tight ship – her kitchen.

The Maine Summers Cookbook
by Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw
Avery, 2011

book cover image

Recipes from a Very Small Island
by Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw
Hyperion, 2005

book cover image

These two were our main/Maine cookbook club selections this month, and they were universally liked. The funny and moving stories they contained of life in Maine  – especially on Isle au Haut, tiny island off the coast, where they are now permanent residents – made several cookbook club members go looking for Linda Greenlaw’s memoirs. I borrowed these from the library, but there were a lot of recipes I still want to make, especially after tasting a dozen different recipes at cookbook club.

As an example of Linda Greenlaw’s humorous writing, here’s a brief excerpt from the section on clambakes (she’s not a fan) titled The Beginner’s Guide to Clambakes or How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Lobster:

In preparation for a clambake, the following will be needed: lobsters, clams, corn on the cob, butter, hot dogs, marshmallows, two huge galvanized washtubs – one for the corn and one for the shellfish – firewood, several cases of beer, and as many ill-behaved children as you can find.

The first, and perhaps most critical, step toward a successful clambake is choosing the right location. Theories vary on this, but in my experience it is proper to choose a spot along the beach that is most uncomfortable. Make sure that your selected site meets at least two of the following criteria:

  1. There is absolutely nowhere to sit down.

  2. The beach is comprised of round rocks that shift when stepped on to ensure poor footing.

  3. There are sheer, jagged cliffs in the area for children to play on.

The recipe I made was simple and delicious – Smoked Salmon Spread with (Wasabi) Rice Crackers. It came from The Maine Summers Cookbook: Recipes for Delicious, Sun-Filled Days. It called for smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, minced red onion, and lemon juice. It’s a great gluten-free appetizer – for people who like smoked salmon, anyway – and can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to two weeks, which makes it a good party recipe.

The real hit of the night, though, was the Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Brie Galette, followed closely by the Wicked Good Lobster and Black Bean Chili (not pictured.) I used a blue plate for my salmon spread and crackers contribution, thinking it looked so Maine, but didn’t notice until dessert that everything had slid to one side! #presentationfail

My personal favorite of the night was the Key Lime Rum Cake. One of the best-tasting cakes I’ve ever had! More lime flavor than rum.

All of the above recipes came from The Maine Summers Cookbook, but the cookbook club prize for most impressive recipe (if we gave out prizes) would have to go to Crab Madeleines with Citrus Tartar Sauce from Recipes from a Very Small Island.

The next one on my list is by Liz Barbour, a New England chef who has done two cooking demos at our library.

cover image

Beautifully Delicious
by Liz Barbour
Photographs and design by Celeste Guidice
Creative Feast, 2017

Beautifully Delicious: Cooking with Herbs and Edible Flowers seems expensive if you look at price vs. number of pages (only 56) but the gorgeous color photography (what you’re paying for) is truly an integral part of the book. There are step-by-step photos of many of the recipes, as well as of the end results. The book is also packed with hints and recipe variations, so even though it seems short, there’s a lot there!

Because of the edible flowers and recipes like Honeydew Cilantro Salad (Liz made this for us at the library – delicious!) and Sparkling Basil Lemonade, I think of Beautifully Delicious as a summer cookbook, but most of the recipes don’t actually require edible flowers and fresh herbs and produce are available year-round. I made the Butternut Squash with Arugula and Sage and could easily see it (or its variation, Butternut Spinach Salad) as a fall recipe. The recipes are simple and don’t require the talents of a chef to prepare.

Beautifully Delicious is formatted as a high-quality ring binder with pages that turn easily and stay open at any point in the book. You can sample Liz’s recipes on her blog, but I believe the recipes in the cookbook aren’t available online – for obvious reasons!

I didn’t get to make many recipes from this last one on my favorite summer cookbooks list, but there’s always next summer!

Summer Cocktails
by María Del Mar Sacasa
Quirk Books, 2015

cover image

I have other cocktail books which I also don’t get to use often enough, but being someone who likes to know the proper season for things, I liked having so many light, summertime drinks collected for me in one place.

I borrowed Summer Cocktails from the library, also, but it’s going on my birthday/Christmas present wish list. The pictures are pretty; the text is entertaining; and the book opens up and lies flat. If I owned this book, it would be a keeper!

P.S. My birthday’s coming up next month and I just found out that there’s a Winter Cocktails book, too!

cover image

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Glass Houses and Readalikes for Louise Penny

cover image of Glass Houses audiobookGlass Houses by Louise Penny is #13 in the Armand Gamache series, and the books have become enormously popular. I’d like to think I was an early adopter, but #1 came out in 2006, and I can’t say for sure I’ve been pushing these books for 11 years!

If you haven’t heard of Louise Penny, you must not avoid anything that even remotely resembles crime fiction. She was even on CBS Morning America last month:

https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/louise-penny-on-her-new-inspector-gamache-novel-glass-houses/

Glass Houses might be a hard one to jump into the series with, because the series is so far along, but I think the book succeeds both as a stand-alone title and in moving the characters forward in the series. The author does very well bringing in enough backstory for new readers (or to remind regular readers of the series) to grasp the personalities and motivations of the main characters and the essential peacefulness of the village of Three Pines, which manages to remain undisturbed despite the disturbing number of violent murders that happen there!

In an interview recorded with the audiobooks’ new narrator, Robert Bathurst, at the end of Glass Houses, Louise Penny says her books aren’t crime fiction. With the main character the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, the police department for the whole of the province, and with a murder mystery at the center of just about every book, it seems like plain old genre prejudice to claim the books aren’t “crime fiction”.  But they definitely do fall at the literary end of the crime fiction spectrum, with themes for each book and thematic explorations of ethics and morality running throughout the series.

With characters who grow and change over the course of the series; the author’s fondness for word play and her often poetic language; and the rigorous intellectual, philosophical, moral, and cultured scaffolding every story is mounted on, these books will probably not appeal to readers looking for a straightforward murder mystery.

I’ve tried before on this blog to come up with a list of authors to try if you like Louise Penny, and I still think Jane Langton’s Homer and Mary Kelly mysteries are the closest match for style. But here is a list of other books that might hit the spot while fans of Louise Penny-style literary crime fiction (Shhh, don’t tell the author I said crime fiction!) wait for next year’s Armand Gamache book.

(I’ve listened to all of the Armand Gamache books on audio, as I do most of my crime fiction, so all of the books on this list are also recommended as audiobooks.)

Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next series
Less serious and with fantasy elements, the word play and humor of these books might appeal to readers who find the banter of the residents of Three Pines one of the best parts of this series.

Jane Langton
Homer and Mary Kelly series
The author imbues her mysteries with history and culture with deftness and humor. The marriage of Homer and Mary Kelly is reminiscent of the Armand and Rene Marie Gamache partnership.

G.M. Malliet
Max Tudor series
Classic village mysteries with a handsome, unmarried vicar in the lead role, these stories have the wit and ironic self-regard seen in the lighter books in the Armand Gamache series.

Inger Ash Wolfe
Hazel Micallef series
Darker in tone than even the darkest of the Armand Gamache books, the Hazel Micallef books may appeal to readers looking for literary crime fiction with realistic characters set in Canada.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5-1-17 #IMWAYR

Meme badge

Happy Monday and Happy May Day! I was #saturdaylibrarian this week, but on my Friday off I read a whole book. It was very short. I read it because I’m trying to…

Well, you can tell by the title, can’t you? Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight is a humorous self-help book that follows the author’s best-selling satire (which I haven’t read) of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I listened to on audio):

According to the author, people can be divided up into three categories, as far as getting their sh*t together goes. Never mind “introvert” or “extrovert”. After reading this book, you will identify as either an Alvin, a Theodore, or a Simon. (For an explanation of these categories, click here.) Unfortunately, despite being a pretty good imitation of a Simon at work, (planning and staying on top of things), I’m probably more of an Alvin when I’m at home. (I married a Simon, though, so, collectively speaking, our sh*t is together.)

I was jealous of everyone who participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon this weekend, but it looked like everyone had fun! I did more dancing than reading this weekend, but doing a Dewey’s Readathon is something that would be on my Book Blogger Bucket List if I were more of a Simon and HAD a Book Blogger Bucket List.

On a serious note, I finished reading Disaster Falls, a memoir about a family tragedy by Stephane Gerson, this morning and plan to write a separate post about it.

At work I’m reading The Hate U Give, the best-selling young adult novel by Angie Thomas, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The title comes from Tupac Shakur’s definition of the meaning of “THUG LIFE”: The Hate U Give Little Infants F–ks Everybody. Very good and I may need to bring it home to finish it because it’s getting pretty heavy for lunchtime reading.

This week I also expect to finish reading This Is Not Over by Holly Brown –a Girl on the Train-ish type of psychological thriller – which will be good to recommend to readers who are addicted to these first-person narratives of privileged white women and their self-destructive behavior, but I’m getting impatient to have it be over.

On audio, I’m listening to Long Live the King by Fay Weldon, the second in the Habits of the House trilogy, which I accidentally am listening to out of order (#3, #1, and now #2). This trilogy about English gentry and their servants and relatives who do not inherit would be great to recommend to anyone who is still suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal.

Now I need to hurry or I won’t be early to work today and will fail at one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

Check out the other posts linked up at Book Date for more reading updates, and please tell me something you’re reading this week in the comments!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are, and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

Save

Save