Category Archives: Weekend Cooking

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

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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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Recipes from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl: Cookbook Club #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

Something I’ve always thought would be fun would be a cookbook club where everyone would try a recipe from a cookbook, bring it to the meeting, and the group would talk about the good and bad of the cookbook, the recipes we tried, and the recipes we still wanted to try.

So I got the Good Taste Cookbook Club started at my library last September, and it’s going strong! Except for meeting every other month instead of monthly, it’s just like any other library book club, except that the books we read are cookbooks. Oh, and we also eat extremely well at every meeting!

book coverMy Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl was the January selection. It’s a combination memoir/cookbook that the longtime restaurant critic ended up writing after Gourmet – the magazine she had edited for ten years – was suddenly shut down, with everyone on staff laid off. Its format, design, and recipe layout are unusual for a cookbook (e.g. loose, conversational-style, sometimes inexact, instructions; ingredient lists divided into “Shopping List” and “Staples”; personal notes woven into the recipe directions) which some of the group didn’t care for, but others enjoyed.

“For the past six months, cooking had been my lifeline, and I was grateful for everything I had learned in the kitchen. Most cookbooks, I thought as I reached for an orange and began to squeeze it for juice, are in search of perfection, an attempt to constantly re-create the same good dishes. But you’re not a chef in your own kitchen, trying to please paying guests. You’re a traveler, following your own path, seeking adventure. I wanted to write about the fun of cooking, encourage people to take risks. Alone in the kitchen you are simply a cook, free to do anything you want. If it doesn’t work out – well, there’s always another meal” – My Kitchen Year

I made Lemon Panna Cotta for my contribution to the meeting, which was a very simple recipe from My Kitchen Year, having just three ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, and three lemons. As an example of the inexact directions, the recipe calls for the juice and zest of three lemons, but doesn’t tell you approximately how much juice and zest you should end up with. So I wondered if I had it right as I mixed the lemon juice and zest together and plopped it all into the hot cream, but the recipe worked – simple as it was! Even people who don’t particularly care for lemon desserts raved about it.

I put the Lemon Panna Cotta into plastic shot glasses for individual servings, with the remaining amount filling two ramekins. During the meeting, we discovered that it would probably be best kept refrigerated right up until serving time, because it got a little soupy in the bottom of the shot glasses. (The thinner layers in the ramekins seemed to stay firm, though.)

Lemon Panna Cotta in shot glass-sized servings
Lemon Panna Cotta just after being poured into the ramekin

I also wanted to try the recipe for Food Cart Curry Chicken before the cookbook club met, but didn’t have time, so my personal chef (aka Mr. BaystateRA) kindly made it for me. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was delicious! Mr. B. complained about grinding spices when we had ground spices in the spice cabinet already, but I think the extra work – his, that is – was definitely worth it, for the flavor explosion.)

served in the pans

I’ve read many of Ruth Reichl’s other books, including the novel she also worked on during this year of unemployment (Delicious!). My Kitchen Year is divided into seasons – Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer – and chronicles her time spent in two residences, a New York City apartment and a country home, upstate.

My Kitchen Year happened to resonate with me, personally, because I had an unexpected six months of unemployment starting in the late fall of last year, which caused me to reevaluate my career and how I spent my time. Like Ruth Reichl, who found so much comfort in the kitchen during her year at home while looking for new employment, I did more cooking than usual during those months and also found it soothing. Although, unlike Ruth Reichl, I didn’t write a book (much less a cookbook AND a novel) during my time of unemployment, I discovered that preparing healthful meals can be as relaxing as baking, and got a lot more creative with salads, so I count that as an overall plus.

Now, settled happily into my new job, I’ve been finding less time to cook and had also been going to the gym less often, but thanks to New Year’s resolutions and the encouragement of Joy Weese Moll’s Readers’ Workouts, I’m getting back into a gym routine and have now finally gotten back to Weekend Cooking with Beth Fish Reads!

At our meeting to talk about My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, we sampled:

  • Anchovy Bread
  • Tuscan Bean Soup
  • Perfect Pound Cake
  • Banana Bread
  • Applesauce
  • Khao Man Gai (Thai Chicken Rice)
  • Beef, Wine and Onion Stew
  • Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel
  • Lemon Panna Cotta
  • New York Cheesecake
  • Bison Chili
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chicken Pate
  • Potatoes au Gratin
  • Custard in a Crust (Quiche)
  • Pickled Red Onions

Click to enlarge the pictures:

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.My

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Punching Up Packed Lunches #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

The upside of being unemployed–lunch at home with my work-from-home husband.

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After several months of being unemployed, I have recently gone back to working in a library, and so have started bringing packed lunches again. I am lucky to have a husband who often packs lunch for me, complete with unexpected little treats!

The lunches my husband packs for me to eat at work are a balm to my soul.

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But I do try to pack my own lunch at least a couple of times a week, so I checked out this article right away when it came into my email inbox from Refinery29:

11 Things People Who Pack Their Lunches Always Do

The ideas in the slide show reflect different approaches and eating/cooking styles; depending on your level of willingness to plan ahead, spend money, etc., only some may seem worth a try to you. Some of them I occasionally do already, such as  immediately portioning out and putting away a lunch-sized serving for the next day of whatever we’re having for dinner. Tip #9 from Senior Health Editor Amelia Harnish was my favorite, “Pack a fun snack”:

The secret to bringing your own lunch every day for real is making a lunch you actually like eating — something that’s healthy and makes you feel full and satisfied and happy —but it also has to be easy to make. I usually go with a salad with plenty of protein and a “surprise” ingredient, which is mandatory.

Sometimes I top my salad with sweet potato fries; sometimes it’s the chicken I didn’t finish at dinner the night before. Sometimes I add salsa and also pack chips, or it’s even weirder, like a scoop of leftover Indian food. I also build in other treats: cheese sticks, chips, Oreos, whatever you want. Lunch dessert is important. — Amelia Harnish, Senior Health Editor

I’ve been on a salad kick for the last couple of months, and have already been making plain garden salads more interesting with toppings like rice salad, hard-boiled eggs, assorted cheeses, seasoned/dressed canned beans, capers, toasted sunflower seeds, and slivers of sundried tomatoes. Also adding torn leaves of basil, parsley, and/or mint to the mixed greens, and always remembering to pack a little bottle of homemade salad dressing!

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But after reading Tip #9, I tried putting leftover Chinese food on salad greens for lunch, and it was pretty good!

Lunchtime! Just starting Tuesday Nights in 1980, but have heard good things about it!

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The other day I finally thought of returning the favor and made a salad for my husband’s lunch (He works from home.) when I made my own in the morning!

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Some of our best recent salad efforts:

Don’t forget fruit salads!

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.