Saturday, December 10, 2016

Heidi Swanson's Red Lentil Hummus

I didn't directly follow this week's I Heart Cooking Club theme, Expand Your Pantry, where we were to make a Heidi Swanson dish with new ingredients or ingredients we don't cook with often. I use red lentils and the other ingredients in the recipe pretty frequently, but what is new to me is making hummus out of lentils. Since we are nearing the holidays, I am always looking for simple and tasty dishes for parties and potlucks and Heidi's Red Lentil Hummus seemed like a good match.


Heidi says, "This hummus is smooth as buttercream, in part because red lentils are used in place of the more typical chickpeas. ... Red lentils lose much of their blush in the cooking process, but the resulting hummus is still a nice sight topped with chives and sesame."


Red Lentil Hummus
Recipe by Heidi Swanson, Near & Far Cookbook
(Makes About 3 Cups)

2 1/2 cups cooked red lentils (see Note)
2 medium cloves garlic
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup tahini
3/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt
2 to 3 Tbsp whey, kefir, or warm water
2 tsp black sesame seeds
extra-virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, minced chives to serve

Start by adding the cooked lentils and garlic to a food processor and pulsing for at least a minute, scraping the paste from the corners once or twice along the way.

Add the lemon juice, tahini, and sea salt. Blend again, another minute or so. Don’t skimp on the blending time, but stop if the beans form a doughy ball inside the processor. At this point start adding the whey a splash at a time. Blend, blend, blend, until the hummus is smooth and light, aerated and creamy.

Taste, and adjust to your liking—adding more lemon juice or salt, if needed. Serve topped with the black sesame seeds, and preferably, a good amount olive oil, a few drops of toasted sesame oil and lots of chives. Serve with veggies, crackers, bread or chips.

Note: Rinse 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils well and place in a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, roughly 15 minutes.


Notes/Results: The texture of this hummus is definitely ultra-creamy which I liked a lot. It didn't have quite as much flavor as my usual hummus and so I went back and added a some cumin, paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper and pumped up the amount of lemon juice. With those changes, it had the flavor I was looking for. A nice change to add to my humus repertoire and fun to try something new. With my flavor changes, I would happily make it again. 


This recipe is linked up at I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's Expand Your Pantry theme. You can see how everyone expanded their pantries bu checking out the picture links on the post.
 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Searching for John Hughes" by Jason Diamond, Served Up with Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
-Ferris Bueller's Day Off

So, take a minute and stop and look around this post because you won't want to miss today's TLC Book Tour review of Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know About Life, I Learned From Watching '80s Movies, a memoir by Jason Diamond. And you especially won't want to miss the recipe I have paired with this book, Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding.  


Publisher's Blurb:

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir.

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story.

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (Nov. 29, 2016)

"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all." 
-Andrew, The Breakfast Club

My Review: 

It's pretty impossible not to have been entertained, influenced, or both by the movies of John Hughes if you fall into the Generation X world and even if you are younger or older and don't immediately recognize the name, you are bound to recognize many of the titles from his teen films--Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Pretty in Pink and his many other movies such as Mr. Mom, National Lampoon's Vacation and Christmas Vacation, Uncle Buck, the Home Alone series, Miracle on 34th Street, 101 Dalmatians, Planes, Trains and Automobiles... the list goes on and on. I walked into my local coffee house carrying this book and my favorite barista asked me what it was about. As I explained it was the memoir of a writer who was trying to write a book about the filmmaker John Hughes, she wrinkled her (barely 21-year-old) nose and said, "I have no idea who that is!" It only took about three movie names for her to decide that she loved John Hughes's movies. But, as much as I could go on and on with my fondness for Hughes and his films over the years and I begin to quote good sections of them, this book is definitely not a Hughes biography--instead it's the coming-of-age story of writer/editor Jason Diamond, in which his obsession with Hughes's movies and the man behind them shaped his life

If you took time to read the Publisher's Blurb about the book, I want to object to the fact that they called this a "hilarious memoir." It has funny moments for sure but for me, Jason Diamond's story leans firmly to the poignant side rather than the funny. This guy had a pretty crappy childhood with two people who did not deserve to have children. His father was both physically and mentally abusive and although his mother did gain custody of him and stop the visits with his father, she was distant, refused to speak to him as punishment, and ended up moving away and leaving him virtually homeless and hanging out in diners all night or sleeping in friend's closets and on couches while he was in high school. Diamond used John Hughes movies as a way of escaping, relating to their suburban Chicago backdrops and tending to identify with the more quirky and misfit characters in the films. "I wanted to live in a John Hughes film. I wanted everything to turn out just right, and I wanted to feel as though no matter what, if my parents forgot my birthday or if a principal was trying to hold me back, that everything would be fine."  Ultimately his English teacher gives him a place to live and helps instill in him a love of books, reading, and writing. Later, Diamond leaves Chicago for New York, intending on becoming a writer and comes up with a plan to write a biography about Hughes, a process he spends years on that while not resulting in the book he planned, helps him sort and clarify his life and do some growing up. 

Although I signed up for this tour mainly for the John Hughes angle and the humor, I found myself pulled in and often deeply touched by Diamond's story. There are enough quotes, stories, and facts about John Hughes, his films and the complicated man that he was to keep me entertained, along with firmly rooting for Diamond to stop writing what was sounding like the worst biography ever and find his way. Even when bogged down with depression and struggling to get by, Diamond preservers and there is a good message in that. A great book if you grew up in the '80s and '90s and are a fan of John Hughes work, but also just a good, touching (but with some humor) and relatable memoir overall.
 
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Author Notes: Jason Diamond is the sports editor at Rollingstone.com and founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn. His work has been published by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Vulture, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Pitchfork, Esquire, Vice and many other outlets. He was born in Skokie, Illinois, but currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, his two cats and his dog named Max.

Find out more about Jason at his website, and connect with him on Instagram and Twitter.

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There is some food in Searching for John Hughes, including a depressed Jason Diamond teaching himself to cook from old cookbooks, but I found my inspiration for my book-inspired dish within the first dozen pages. When we first meet Diamond, he is the "cupcake bouncer" who guards the door and monitors the line at the Magnolia Bakery in New York. A Sex and the City episode in 2000, made the bakery a popular destination for visitors looking for cupcakes like Miranda and Carrie ate in a scene filmed in front of the store. Having stopped there myself for a brief SATC pilgrimage in 2008, and being pretty unimpressed with their cupcakes (sorry to any fans), when a branch opened in the Ala Moana Shopping Mall here, I felt no urgency to visit--but a friend gave me a container of their banana pudding and I will admit, it was damn good pudding!


The Magnolia Bakery banana pudding scene takes place when Diamond runs into an old classmate and makes up a lie about working there to write an article on cupcakes and why people wait in line for a cupcake they could easily make at home and he is feeling depressed and bitter about his life. 

"As I boarded the already crowded L train at its starting 8th Avenue stop, I looked down at the pint of banana pudding I'd taken with me and all I could think about was how if John Hughes had written this scene, things probably would have gone a lot differently. That was usually how I comforted myself, but it wasn't really working this time. I started spooning the banana pudding into my mouth as the train pulled out of the station. Within five minutes, thanks to a sudden stop and a passenger's bag hitting me at the same second, I was covered in the stuff. Best night ever."
-Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond


Turns out that the Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding recipe is in their cookbook and a bunch of places online and it pretty much is only 5 store-bought ingredients + water. It takes minimal effort and some chilling and setting time to get this popular bakery treat at home.  


Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding
From Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, via PopSugar.com
(Makes 12 Servings)

1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 (12-oz) box vanilla wafers
4 bananas, sliced

Mix together the water, pudding mix, and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight until it sets up.

Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Working in thirds, fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until well incorporated.

In a trifle bowl, layer vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and pudding mixture; continue until you've used up all the pudding mixture. Refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes before serving.


Notes/Results: This will win no awards in the healthy-eating department but it is quite delicious--light and creamy pudding, the vanilla wafers softening to a cake-like consistency and the bites of juicy, ripe bananas--you can see why its their top selling item. They even have a chocolate version, although I think the original appeals (slight banana pun intended) more. I looked up the prices online--at least here in Hawaii, a small serving is $3.75, medium $5.50, large $6.75, and single bowl that serves 10 is $38.00. So, making it at home is a bargain (even if heavy cream is expensive, like it is here), especially if you catch sales on the ingredients. I made a couple of individual portions and put the rest in a glass bowl/pitcher. I didn't top the larger bowl yet as I need to find it a home so it doesn't live on my hips. ;-) Someday maybe I will attempt a vegan version but heck, I will probably just make this recipe again when I need some pudding comfort and indulgence. 


I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

 
Note: A review copy of "Searching for John Hughes" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Onaga (Hawaiian Red Snapper) in Tomato-Fennel Broth for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was craving a fish soup this week and found local onanga (which is Hawaiian red snapper) on sale. Then it just came down to choosing a recipe. Mark Bittman had a variety of mix-and-match preparations for white fish in an article in The New York Times Magazine that I found on line. Although not technically soup, the Poached Fish in Tomato-Fennel Broth sounded soupy enough and being a big lover of fennel, it also sounded delicious. 


The bonus--it's a one-pan dish (just add rice or bread to sop up all the broth) that takes very little time and effort but looks fancy enough to serve to company. 


Onaga in Tomato-Fennel Broth
Adapted from Mark Bittman, via The New York Times Magazine
(Serves 4)

Put a large, deep skillet over medium heat; add 2 tablespoons olive oil, a chopped onion and 2 chopped fennel bulbs. Add fish (1 1/2 lbs of any white fish), a pinch of saffron, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 cup diced tomatoes (canned are fine) and a cup of water or broth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and turn off heat. Fish will be done in about 10 minutes. Garnish: Chopped fennel fronds.


Notes/Results: A great Bittman recipe, simple and fast to make and tastes delicious. I used fire-roasted tomatoes and a cup of vegetable broth instead of water and along with the fennel seeds and saffron, that helped add even more flavor. The fish was perfectly tender and juicy and I used my madoline for the onions and fennel so they made a great bed for the fish. This definitely filled all of my fish soup and fennel cravings and I would happily make it--or one of Bittman's other variations again.


I am linking this Mark Bittman recipe up at I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's Potluck theme--our chance to make any dish from any of our past or current IHCC chefs. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post. 

 
We have some good friends in the Souper Sundays kitchen who shared some delicious dishes last week--let's have a look!


Shaheen from Allotment2Kitchen made this colorful Beetroot, Horse Radish and Green Beans Pasta Salad and said, "I took inspiration from what was in my fridge: cooked beetroot and green beans and kitchen cupboards: horseradish powder and dried pasta and lunch was on the table in less than 30 minutes."



Melynda of Our Sunday Cafe shared three dishes this week: First this Terrific Turkey Soup with Lima Beans and Barley. She said, "It is more of a process really, one where you break bones, add water and simmer for 8-10 hours. After that, you strain the stock into a large stock pot to make soup on the stove.  Only then do I measure anything, but it is pretty basic and delicious. And like all soups freezes perfectly."


Next her Family Favorite Macaroni Salad, Melynda said, "Like most every other family, the macaroni salad we eat has evolved. I prefer a light dressing so that the individual components of the salad can shine through. This is a basic salad and can be adapted for your own family. The last time I made this salad, I used dried tortellini for the pasta, it was delicious!"


Finally, she made Julia's Caesar Over Mixed Greens and said, "Often when we enjoy a salad with our meals it is not a traditional salad in a recipe sort of way. For example, what you see over this platter of salad greens is a Caesar dressing, yet there are no croutons scattered over the greens, and it is more than just romaine lettuce."


Simona of Briciole shared Purgatory Bean Salad with Tahini Sauce and Asian Pear and said, "The small beans cook relatively quickly, are firm in texture and delicate in flavor. I dressed them with tahini sauce, something that would probably raise a few eyebrows in their homeland, where they are served dressed with the local olive oil. Some finely diced Asian pear offers a nice lightly sweet contrast to the earthy beans and the intense tahini.



Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brought Butternut Squash Soup Cooked Overnight in the Slow Cooker and said, "The only weird thing was I awoke at 3 a.m. and could smell that soup - the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and broth and nutmeg wafting up to the bedroom. Then I started wondering if I put enough broth in the crock. I didn't want it to dry up so I crept downstairs and hovered over the clear lid shining my flashlight beam into the crock. It looked ok, but I still stirred it just in case. It turned out well but I need to use more broth next time."



Finally here at Kahakai Kitchen, I made Bamia (Okra Stew) an Iraqi dish and a delicious mix of exotic flavors. I am learning to appreciate okra and all its slimy glory ;-) and this stew, served with rice and naan bread, was a great way to enjoy it. 

 
Mahalo to everyone who joined in this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:


  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional).


Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bamia (Okra Stew) for Cook the Books: "Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots"

Okra will probably never make my list of favorite foods but I am learning to appreciate it more and more. I like it especially when it is flavored with plenty of spices, like in this Bamia, a Middle Eastern okra stew. The recipe comes from Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots a novel by Jessica Soffer and our Cook the Books October/November pick, hosted by Simona of Briciole.


Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is an interesting book--on one hand I loved it for the food descriptions and imagery that filled it, but I also found myself very slow at working my way through it, as the story made me sad--there is so much loneliness, pain and loss captured in its pages. Lorca is a 14-year-old girl who is desperate to gain the love and attention of her very distant (to the point of being cruel) mother. Her mother is a chef and Lorca tries to show and earn love through food and cooking and caring for this cold woman. (Can you tell I desperately did not like this woman!?) Lorca deals with her pain and abandonment (her father, who her mother left back in New Hampshire is a piece of work as well) by cutting and other ways of self-harm and when she is discovered injuring herself in a school bathroom stall by a classmate and suspended, her mother decides to send her to boarding school. Lorca is desperate and hopes that by recreating, Masgouf, a special Iraqi fish dish from a restaurant that her mother declared was the most delicious food she had tasted, her mother will allow her to stay. Searching out the restaurant and recipe leads Lorca to Victoria, who along with her husband, owned the restaurant where Lorca's mother ate the Masgouf. Victoria is dealing with the very recent death of her husband and some big secrets from her past and she and Lorca are drawn together as Victoria teaches her how to make the dish and other Iraqi specialties.  


The book is full of food and food references, lovingly described by the author and I liked how these two women, generations apart, bonded over cooking and ingredients. I found the descriptions of the cutting and Lorca's emotional pain very difficult to read--at one moment I would be tempted by the descriptions of a dish and the next I would find my stomach turning with a description of the self-mutilation, which threw of the rhythm of the book for me. There were also some plot points and twists that didn't quite hold up for me and I wanted more from the ending. Still, I hold out hope that the title of the book (taken from an Arabic saying "Bukra fil mish mish") comes true and tomorrow, apricots may bloom for Lorca and Victoria.


In addition to many dishes, French, Iraqi, simple and complex, there are a handful of recipes in the book: Wild Mushroom Quiche with Wood Thyme Stem, Date Spread, Chicken in Half Mourning, the coveted Masgouf, and Bamia, the okra stew that Victoria teaches Lorca to make and feeds her and that Lorca gives to her friend Blot. Since I can buy locally-grown okra and I loved the combination of spices, I decided to make the Bamia and serve it with rice and some naan bread I had sitting about to soak up the flavorful tomato juices.
 

Bamia (Okra Stew)
Adapted from Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer
(Serves 2)

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 tsp garlic, grated
2 cups stewed tomatoes (I used 1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes)
3/4 tsp each: cardamom, curry powder, ground ginger
1/2 tsp each: paprika, red pepper flakes, celery seeds
1 1/2 lbs fresh okra, washed and chopped into inch-long pieces
lemon juice, salt, and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent and add garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add spices and tomatoes and continue cooking for five minutes, stirring consistently. Add the okra and cook for 12-15 minutes or until okra is soft, stirring very infrequently. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with long grain rice.


Notes/Results: Such delicious and exotic flavor from the mix of spices (curry, paprika, celery seed, cardamom, ground ginger and red pepper flakes) that it compensates for the natural sliminess of the okra. I did try to limit it as I could by not stirring it very much as it cooks but there is still a fair amount. It is less noticeable with the rice and I enjoyed both the serving I ate freshly made and the leftovers reheated. I also liked the brightness that the lemon juice added to the mix. Online there are several recipes for bamia with meat, but this recipe is vegan and when served with the rice and flatbread, it is a satisfying dish. I would make it again. 


Because it is a stew, I am linking my Bamia up to this week's Souper Sundays, hosted weekly here at Kahakai Kitchen. If you aren't familiar, Souper Sundays is my weekly soup tribute that includes sandwiches, and salads and is open to anyone and everyone who wants to share a soup, salad, or sandwich post that week. You can see the details for joining in on the current weekly post here--we would love to have you!

   
Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is my sixteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the November Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.  

 
The deadline for this Cook the Books round is today, November 30th and Simona will be rounding up the delicious entries at the CTB site shortly after. If you missed out on this round and like books, food, and foodie books, consider joining us for December/January  when I will be hosting with the foodie memoir, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home. Hope you join us!

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Grape, Olive, Pig" by Matt Goulding, Served with a Merienda of Toast with Olive Oil, Chocolate & Sea Salt

Are you hungry? Well you will be after checking out my review of the gorgeous and inspiring Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture by Matt Goulding. Accompanying my review is a merienda (afternoon snack) of Toast with Olive Oil, Chocolate & Sea Salt, along with sweet red wine and some Marcona almonds.


Publisher's Blurb:

The author of Rice, Noodle, Fish now celebrates the delectable and sensuous culture and cuisine of Spain with this beautifully illustrated food-driven travel guide filled with masterful narration, insider advice, and nearly 200 full-color photos.
 
Grape, Olive, Pig is a deeply personal exploration of Spain, a country where eating and living are inextricably linked. Crafted in the “refreshing” (Associated Press), “inspirational” (Publishers Weekly) and “impeccably observed” (Eater.com) style of the acclaimed Rice, Noodle, Fish, and written with the same evocative voice of the award-winning magazine Roads & Kingdoms, this magnificent gastronomic travel companion takes you through the key regions of Spain as you’ve never seen them before.
 
Matt Goulding introduces you to the sprawling culinary and geographical landscape of his adoptive home, and offers an intimate portrait of this multifaceted country, its remarkable people, and its complex history. Fall in love with Barcelona’s tiny tapas bars and modernist culinary temples. Explore the movable feast of small plates and late nights in Madrid. Join the three-thousand-year-old hunt for Bluefin tuna off the coast of Cadiz, then continue your seafood journey north to meet three sisters who risk their lives foraging the gooseneck barnacle, one of Spain’s most treasured ingredients. Delight in some of the world’s most innovative and avant-garde edible creations in San Sebastian, and then wash them down with cider from neighboring Asturias. Sample the world’s finest acorn-fed ham in Salamanca, share in the traditions of cave-dwelling shepherds in the mountains beyond Granada, and debate what constitutes truly authentic paella in Valencia.
 
Grape, Olive, Pig reveals hidden gems and enduring delicacies from across this extraordinary country, contextualizing each meal with the stories behind the food in a cultural narrative complemented by stunning color photography. Whether you’ve visited Spain or have only dreamed of bellying up to its tapas bars, Grape, Olive, Pig will wake your imagination, rouse your hunger, and capture your heart.

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper Wave/Anthony Bourdain (November 15, 2016)

My Review:

There are people who can tell you about a restaurant or dinner they went to and you think, "that sounds good." Then there are passionate food lovers who can describe what they saw, smelled, ate and tasted in such exquisite detail that you are convinced that you must have whatever it is that they are describing, or you simply cannot go on living. Matt Goulding is the second kind of person. There is no way to walk away from Grape, Olive, Pig without craving the food and drink of Spain and longing to be there. It is clear that Goulding is in love with Spain and his passion for the history, the people, and of course the food pour out of every page.

The book is set up mostly by geography, beginning in Barcelona where Goulding met, pursued and eventually won the heart of his wife. It meanders on through Salamanca, Valencia, Basque Country, Cadiz, Asturias, Galicia, Madrid and Granada. Within each region, he covers the specialties of the cuisine like jambon and cured meats, paella, and the pan con tomate, cheeses, wines, cocktail, tapas, and seafood; uncovering the details and origins of the food and drink and introducing the reader to the purveyors large and small, known and unknown. Along the way he throws in tips for things to know before you go, how to eat and drink like a Spaniard, the rules of a good tapas "crawl" and my favorite "Amazing Shit in the Middle of Nowhere." The fascinating stories and tempting food descriptions are accompanied by beautiful black and white photographs that capture the mood, people and food of Spain.

I initially signed up for this book tour thinking Grape, Olive, Pig was a cookbook and it definitely isn't--although if you love to cook it will have you looking online or running to your cookbook shelves, the library, or a bookstore for recipes to recreate the dishes you read about. Grape, Olive, Pig is a more of a travelogue, reference book and a bit of a love story to a country--capturing both the magic and the realities of travel. Spain was near the top of places I want to visit and this book may have just moved it to the top. (Having extensively visited Japan, I will definitely be checking out Goulding's first book Rice, Noodle, Fish as well). If you are planning a trip to Spain or just want to feel like you went there, add this book to your TBR pile--just don't read it on an empty stomach! 

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Author Notes: Matt Goulding is editor and cofounder of Roads & Kingdoms, the former food editor of Men’s Health, and the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling series Eat This, Not That! He is a James Beard Award winner and has also written for Harper’s Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Food & Wine Magazine, and Time magazine. He divides his time between the tapas bars of Barcelona and the barbecue pits of North Carolina.
 
Follow Matt on Twitter.

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Food Inspiration: 

There is nothing but food inspiration in Grape, Olive, Pig--all of it described in passionate detail from canned fish and seafood to the different cuts and types of meat from the Ibérico pig, to the delicious cheeses and the twists of crisp churros dipped in chocolate or little plates of patatas bravas or a simple slow-simmered pot of pork and beans. I don't think you can look at a page of this book without wanting to eat.


For a dish inspired by my reading, I decided to go with a merienda, an afternoon snack or light meal in the afternoon in Spain and other European countries. Goulding says a merienda might meal toast with olive oil and chocolate and since that has long been a favorite snack of mine ever since a trip to New York where I was served baguette with olive oil, chocolate and sea salt (see this post from early in my blog in 2008). Rounding out my merienda is a small glass of sweet Spanish red wine and a small bowl of Marcona almonds (with truffle salt from Trader Joes).


You don't really need a recipe for this one, but here is one from famous Spanish chef Ferran Adrià from Food & Wine.

Toasted Bread & Bittersweet Chocolate
Adapted from Ferran Adrià via Food&Wine.com
(Makes 4 Servings)

16 thin baguette slices  
4-oz bar of good bittersweet (or dark chocolate), cut into 16 pieces
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil  

coarse or flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat. 


Spread the baguette slices on a baking sheet and broil until toasted, about 30 seconds. 

Turn the slices over and set a square of chocolate on each one. Broil just until the bread is golden and the chocolate is beginning to melt--about 30 seconds. (Spread the chocolate evenly over the toast if desired.)

Transfer the chocolate toasts to plates and drizzle with the olive oil. Lightly sprinkle sea salt on the chocolate and serve right away.


Notes/Results: If you have never tried the combination of good dark or bittersweet chocolate, olive oil and sea salt, you must. It is delicious, rich and decadent. It went perfectly with the sweet red wine and salty Marcona almonds in this case. Because you are using a few ingredients, in a simple preparation, use the best ones you have or can find. I usually enjoy this treat as dessert, but I think I should make a chocolate toast merienda a habit! I will definitely make this again.


Grape, Olive, Pig is my fifteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the November Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.  


I'm also linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

 

Note: A review copy of "Grape, Olive, Pig" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.