All posts filed under “Books of the Cook

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Eating with the Pilgrims

Calvin Trillin Eating with the PilgrimsI was thrilled when I found out we were moving to Berlin last fall—going back to the country I had idolized during my family’s stint living here in the late 90s sounded incredible. But there were a few key things I was sad to leave behind in New York: my great friends, our new apartment, some of our favorite haunts, and, of course, the food book club I had started earlier in the year.

Luckily for me, Berlin has its own food-focused group of readers, thanks to the incredible Dialogue Books. Founded by British expat Sharmaine Lovegrove, Dialogue is an online literary space and a brick-and-mortar English-language book shop. Unfortunately I missed the February meeting last week, due to my scatterbrained scheduling, but I did manage to read the book, Calvin Trillin’s Eating with the Pilgrims and Other Pieces.

Trillin sets a pretty high standard when it comes to food writing—he’s been documenting travel and culinary adventure for the New Yorker since 1963—so it’s kind of surprising I hadn’t managed to read any of his books yet. Saying I was eager to dig into this one is putting it lightly, and it helps that it’s an easy read. A collection of essays, Eating with the Pilgrims is full of Trillin’s witty and thoughtful commentary on food. The title essay lays out his well-reasoned argument for changing the central dish of Thanksgiving to spaghetti carbonara (including a funny explanation of how Native American’s brought the Italian staple to that first pilgrim meal); while “The Magic Bagel” is a great investigative search for a long lost NYC bagel delight. The 12 essays cover regional specialities, historical insights, and Trillin’s musing on America’s appetite. It’s a great book for anyone looking for a quick, witty bite to read.

And although I was a little bummed to miss the book club and opportunity to talk about Trillin’s funny prose, I’m all the more excited to read, and attend the meeting for next month’s pick.

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Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Catalan Sausage Tortilla

Spanish Tortilla

They say never judge a book by its cover, but when I stumbled upon Allegra McEvedy’s Bought, Borrowed & Stolen a few weeks ago, I could tell just by the bright turquoise cover and gold detailing I would like the cookbook. Flipping through the pages of her honest, heart-warming photography and stories, my feelings were confirmed. The book is more a journal of her travels then anything else, with notes and memories jotted down from the past 20 years of trips she’s taken, and as I mentioned on Friday, traveling can be vastly inspirational.

Bought, Borrowed & Stolen

Crafted around the theme of her culinary knife collection, and the blades she has bought or borrowed across Europe, Asia, and America, it’s a book that’s easy to just sit down and read. And her traveling stories come with recipes, the “stolen” element, for everything from a Japanese Rising Sun Salad or Brazilian Seafood Stew to Pumpkin Doughnuts from New York City. McEvedy is British and the recipes are written in her a conversational locals tone—many of the terms and ingredients are specifically geared for her hometown audience. (“Knock up the glaze by melting the butter in the milk and whisking in the icing sugar…”) She’s also a popular chef abroad, and this collection of recipes is certainly meant for a more advanced cook who is quick thinking on their toes—her methods are often more suggestion rather then tried and true specifics.

None the less, when flipping through the beautiful book of adventures it’s hard not to head straight into the kitchen to cook up a worldy feast (or book a plane ticket straight to Thailand!). This simple yet delicious Spanish frittata called out to me, because it’s one of my sister’s go-to recipes and she’s currently traveling in Spain. The sweet onions and spicy sausage make the perfect breakfast, and paired with a simple salad, it’s also a filling lunch.

Spanish Tortilla

Catalan Sausage Tortilla, adapted from Bought, Borrowed & Stolen
Servings: 8 – 10 slices
3-4 red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8 or 9 eggs, beaten and seasoned
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
Pinch dried oregano
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 340°F.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil with the potatoes in it and cover. Simmer for about eight minutes until the potato pieces are just cooked, then drain.

In a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, fry the sausages in the oil until lightly browned. Remove using a slotted spoon and reserve.

Reduce heat to medium-low and fry the onions in the same pan, stirring regularly as you don’t want too much color on them.

As the onions begin to soften, after about 10 minutes, stir in the garlic. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the sausages and potatoes. Stir to combine, then turn off heat.

Pour the eggs into the pan; all the solids should be covered by egg, so you might need to add another egg, depending on the size of your pan.

Arrange the tomatoes on the top, pushing down gently with a knife. Season with salt, pepper and, oregano.

Place pan into the oven and check after 25 to 30 minutes. Eggs should be set around the edges, and just slightly runny in the middle. Serve tomato-side up.

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rEATers: The Dirty Life

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

The Dirty Life has been by far the favorite for our food book club rEATers. Kristin Kimball’s story carries you away, making farm life seem equally endearing and exotic. Kimball doesn’t leave out any of the hardship of farm life—the book is an honest portrait of the dedication it takes to work the land—but it is also filled with sweeping scenes of life, neighbors, and love, along with the tastes of fresh Jersey milk, sweet sap straight from the trees, and pungent garlic, earthy pigeon, and bright tomatoes. It’s enough to make you want to start your own farm.

Kimball begins the book as a journalist living in New York, meeting her future farmer husband on assignment. A bit lost, she joins in on the farm work, and quickly falls in love, with her husband and the life. The book spans their experience of finding and taming land of their own—from raising a dairy cow and finding a team of horses to planning a farm that can provide a full diet, complete with sugar, grains, meats, and vegetables, for their customers. Their end product, Essex Farm, in northeastern New York, is one of the only farms that provides this kind of holistic approach. Along the way they each struggle through the demands of the farm, of each other, and of their own attitudes in life, Kimball’s city mentality and her husband’s frugality. But together they grow, and create a place they love. Kimball’s writing is gracious, detailed, and warm—you are included in every moment of the first year of their farm life.

After reading Four Fish a few months ago, I was inspired to look into what CSA options—or Community Supported Agriculture—Brooklyn offered. Although both fish CSA pick-ups were too far for us, we joined Partners Trace, for vegetables and flowers, and High Point, a meat CSA. So we’ve had meat, vegetables, and flowers straight from a farm all summer. (And Partners Trace recently started working with a fish partner!)

Partners Trace Community Supported Agriculture

Our Monday produce and flower pick-up from Partners Trace Farm CSA

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