Saturday, February 6, 2016

Our February-March Cook the Book Pick

The Unprejudiced Palate: Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life, by Angelo Pellegrini (1948)

 What did America look like to an immigrant Italian child? How did this child applied his philosophy of life, rooted in Italy, to his new home in Seattle? In this book, the first he published, Pellegrini tells his story but also the way he sees life and in particular the way he approaches growing, making and eating food (and wine too).

I am also Italian and an immigrant to the US, though, differently from Pellegrini, I arrived here as an adult. Still, I read with interest his impressions of the New World and his thoughts on what he experienced. 

Pellegrini’s prose is pleasant and precise (in his “day job” he was an English professor), with the affectionate intensity typical of Italians when they talk about things that are dear to them. He was not part of any school of thought nor did he follow any fashion: with grace and kindness, he told things as he saw them and as he did them. When you read something in the book that sounds familiar, remember that he wrote it over 65 years ago.

I hope you will enjoy this food writing classic and will be inspired by it.

Note: As this book was originally published decades ago, it exists in various editions, the most recent of which is part of Random House's Modern Library Food series (the ebook is also available). I have the 1984 edition, which has an afterword by MFK Fisher, describing the rather inauspicious beginning of her acquaintance, and later friendship, with Pellegrini. 

Submissions for this round of Cook The Books are due by end-of-the-day Thursday, March 31, 2016. Anyone can join by reading the current selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents and writing about it. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at: simosite AT mac DOT com. 

New to Cook the Books? Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post. 

Simona, of Briciole

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Place at the Table Round-Up

Thanks to all that participated for the December/January round of Cook the Books.   I appreciate your dedication, especially during this busy time of year.  Hopefully by now you have all caught your breath from the holiday season.

A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White was my choice for this round.  I loved most of the characters in the book, including some of the minor ones like Meemaw and Gus.   I wanted to hang out at Cafe Andres especially during the time this book was set---the 1980s. Would I have glimpsed a sighting of Truman Capote or Chuck Close?  I wanted to befriend Bobby and offer him some comfort during all of the losses he experiences.  I wanted to cook in Alice's apartment as she prepared for Christmas.  I wanted to sweep in and rescue Amelia from her horrible existence (albeit a self-imposed one) with Cam.  I was rooting for them all.

Let's see what all the other members thought?  (In order of posting dates.)

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures was the first to post up.   Amy was skeptical about the book at the beginning but soon was pulled in by Bobby and Alice.  Amelia?  Not so much.  I found Amy's dish truly inspired, combining two of Bobby's Southern-inspired creations for Cafe Andres:  Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Topping.

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm was most definitely next up posting on December 18.   I was very remiss and left Wendy out of the original post.   Please, please, please check out her most delicious looking and sounding Oatmeal Carmelitas.    She took her inspiration from the first part of the book during Bobby's childhood. Wendy writes,  "I decided on my recipe very early in the story that takes place during the 1970's.  One of the main character's, Bobby, and two of his friends are playing a game during which they start talking about Oatmeal Caramelitas.  Bobby tells them " They're good.  Buttery and a little salty with chocolate chips and a layer of gooey caramel.  You're really missing out if you've never had one."  

I don't think I've ever had one.   You have talked me into it!   (Again, Wendy, I apologize profusely!!!!)

Next up was Claudia from Honey from Rock.  She presents Duck Purloo.  Although the plot stumbled along too much for Claudia's taste, she did present a delicious sounding dish, inspired by Bobby's Duck with Olives from Cafe Andres.   "Purloo is a dish which lends itself to endless improvisation with ingredients, in that it includes rice, vegetables, meat, poultry, or various shellfish, sometimes shrimp and smoked sausage.  Mine, of course, had the duck and I added olives along with various vegetables.  A total improv, though based loosely on the recipe in Gourmet Today."

Deb at Kahakai Kitchen found it hard to get into the book.  Granted the "Prologue" does not make for the most cheerful reading.  "Once I got into the book and especially the story of Bobby, a young gay man growing up in Georgia who moves to New York and becomes a chef, I found that I really enjoyed it. Much of the story is told by Bobby, with two other characters--Alice, a well-known African-American chef modeled after the famous Edna Lewis, and Amelia, a woman facing the breakup of her marriage."   I appreciate that Deb brought up the Edna Lewis angle.   She found lots of food inspiration but landed on that famous Chocolate Mousse from Cafe Andres as an inspiration for Creamy (Vegan) Chocolate Mousse.

Believe it or not, I was not the last one to post!  I was inspired by the decade and the seminal publication of The Silver Palate Cookbook.   The cookbook and the gourmet food shop from whence it came were pretty famous during the 1980s.   The Silver Palate is mentioned no less than four times in the novel.  The first reference is when Sebastian pulls out the book to make Bloody Marys for a brunch at his parents apartment as they meet Bobby for the first time.  I pulled my copy off the shelf and found the exact recipe Sebastian uses:  A Good & Spicy Bloody Mary.

Cathy from Delaware Girl Eats decided to follow the seasonal cooking of Chef Alice.  Cathy writes, "I agree with this philosophy about cooking and indeed try to only serve seasonal dishes unless my longing for strawberries outweighs my aversion to getting them from the grocery store imported from Florida or California."  She presented a simple and delicious recipe for Roasted Kabocha Squash.  

Terri from Our Good Life was up next.  I was so glad to see that someone made banana pudding.   Terri put her own spin on it and instead of pound cake (which is what Bobby used at the restaurant), she created Banana Pudding with Toasted Angel Food Cake.  Genius, right?  Terri was also taken with the life of the two chefs, Bobby and Alice.  "What foodie doesn't yearn to own their own restaurant?  I certainly do, although I know my own limitations. That's what inspired my own recipe for this month's Cook the Books Club:  Banana Pudding with Toasted Angel Food Cake."

Simona at briciole rounds out the posts with hand-made orecchiette.  Simona is known for her homemade pastas!  She writes:  "Food plays an important role in the novel, which revolves in part around a restaurant in New York City. Except for the bread mentioned in a few places, none of the dishes described inspired me (challah made with delayed fermentation has been part of my repertoire for years). Then I thought: if I were to work in a restaurant kitchen and could decide what to put on the menu, like Bobby does in the novel, what would I do? The answer came easily: handmade pasta—known shapes, like orecchiette, lesser known ones, plus shapes I invented."   There is a great tutorial on her site if you need help shaping these "little ears."

Thanks to everyone who participated.  Please join us in the next round when The Unprejudiced Palate: Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life by Angelo Pellegrini (1948) will be featured:    
What did America look like to an immigrant Italian child? How did this child applied his philosophy of life, rooted in Italy, to his new home in Seattle? In this book, the first he published, Pellegrini tells his story but also the way he sees life and in particular the way he approaches growing, making and eating food (and wine too).
Pellegrini’s prose is pleasant and precise (in his “day job” he was an English professor), with the affectionate intensity typical of Italians when they talk about things that are dear to them.He was not part of any school of thought nor did he follow any fashion: with grace and kindness, he told things as he saw them and as he did them.
Simona of Briciole will be hosting this round.  Look for her announcement post here soon.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our December/January 2015 Cook the Book Pick: A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White

Do you like a good traditional pound cake recipe and inspired Southern cuisine?   

Do you like a novel with Southern charm (and that Southern Gothic element as well)? 

What about a good quirky character ensemble?

Susan Rebecca White's novel, A Place at the Table, combines all of these elements.   The novel's prologue describes a disturbing scene in Emancipation, North Carolina during the late 20s, but the bulk of the novel takes place during the 80s and 90s in Georgia, Connecticut and New York City.  How does a character from an era of lynchings and fear intertwine with more modern characters trying to make their way in NYC?

You will enjoy  finding out the answer and following the three main characters of Alice, Bobby, and Amelia as they all make their way to find peace with themselves and the world around them.

I, however, will be waiting for a "replacement" copy of this novel.  I originally bought this novel on a bargain rack somewhere, read the majority of it and decided that I had to choose it for a CTB selection.  Then, guests were coming for Thanksgiving, we decided to recarpet a guest bedroom, and I had to move all my books from one room to another.   I promptly lost my copy in the black hole that is my "library."  I ordered a replacement used copy that should be arriving any day so I can finish A Place at the Table and find out the answers to the above questions as well.

Anyone is welcome to join in.   Simply create a dish inspired by the book and post about it.   Then, email me ( on or before January 31, 2016.   Please include your name, your blog's name, the name of your dish and a photo (or allow me to pull a photo from your website). 

Happy Holidays!

---Debra, Eliot's Eats 

"The Hundred-Foot Journey" Round-Up

What do you get when you take the exotic spices of India and combine them with classic French cooking and a whole lotta drama and cultural clashing? You get The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. For our October/November read, Cook the Books joined forces with Food 'N Flix for an optional crossover event, hosted by me (Deb of Kahakai Kitchen) on the CTB side and Camilla of Culinary Adventures With Camilla, the host for December's Food 'N Flix.  

Participants could read the book as usual, or read the book and watch the film inspired by it, and then make a dish inspired by either or both. There were mixed feelings about the book, some loved it, some didn't. Many of our book and movie combo participants liked the movie more than the book. But, one thing everyone agreed on is that it inspired some really delicious dishes.

For our CTB roundup, I am breaking down the entries into the ones inspired by just the book and then those who took the optional book and film challenge. The lovely Camilla will be rounding up both the movie-only and the movie and book combo entries for Food 'N Flix on her site. Besides viewing the entries and visiting everyone's posts here, please go check out Camilla's round-up (find it here) as well--to see what dishes the film inspired.

Book-Inspired Entries:

Crossover-event co-host Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla was first in with her book-inspired dish. Camilla re-read the book on a beach "staycation" and found that "reading it again, with a focus on the food instead of the story, it was quite enjoyable. His prose is rich and luscious. Just ignore the potholes in the plot." Camilla and her son made Sungta ani Bende Kodi (a 'slightly nontraditional' Prawn with Okra Curry). She says, "We wanted to use seafood and I had okra and eggplant. So, this is blended recipe based on something traditional and some pantry-based additions. We thoroughly enjoyed the tang of tamarind mixed with the sweet creaminess of coconut.

My fellow Hawaiian Islands blogger, Claudia of Honey From Rock took inspiration from Hassan's "first sensation of life ... the smell of machli ka salan, a spicy fish curry, rising through the floorboards to the cot in my parents' room above the restaurant." For her Machli Ka Salan adaptation, Claudia says, "I used Hawaiian opah or moonfish, but you can use any firm white fleshed fish for the curry that is locally available. I added the fish head to my curry for more depth of flavor and richness. You can omit it or remove it before serving. ... I served the stew with a side of cucumber salad in kefir dressing, some salted lemon preserve and guava chutney.  The flavors of India come through so enticingly in this dish, it's just incredible. Love a good spicy curry."

Next up is CTb co-host Deborah from Eliot's Eats who thought the movie version more enjoyable, finding the book "a bit dark and depressing." Having made an Indian-inspired dish for the film, Deborah decided to make a classic French dish, saying "I am celebrating the other cuisine featured in both the film and the novel with Boeuf Bourginon. Boeuf Bourginon is mentioned in the final pages of the novel as it is being compared to a similar Indian dish. ... This dish has become a recent holiday tradition for us. We were first served this recipe at an extend family Christmas party last December. It was so good, we decided to beg for the recipe and we made it for our more immediate family on Christmas Eve."

Cook the Books co-host Simona of briciole liked the book up through the midpoint and found the setting in the French Alps most interesting, inspiring her to make homemade Crozets--a style of pasta from the region. Simona says, "The book has a lot of dishes in it, but what intrigued me was the location of the French village where the protagonist's family moves, the Jura, so I did some research on French mountain cuisine and read about crozets, a type of pasta typical of Savoie (which is south of Jura) traditionally made "from wheat flour, buckwheat or a mixture of both." ... Traditionally this pasta is used to make gratins and I was planning to do something along those lines, but an unwelcome cold requiring chicken soup therapy for my husband sent the crozets into hot chicken broth."

Combination Book and Movie-Inspired Entries:

Our first joint book and movie entry came from Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures. Amy was not a fan of either the book or film--giving up on the book partway into the story (a rarity for her) and then enjoying the movie up until about halfway through, as the focus began to shift from the family opening the restaurant in Lumière. Still, she says, "Happily enough for me, I was able to find food inspirations in both the book and the movie.  In both, there is the opportunity to focus on French, Indian, or fusion cuisine. ...I decided to push myself way out of my comfort zone and try my hand at (probably not very authentic) Indian food." Wendy made Chicken Tikka Masala, which she served with rice and homemade Chapati and found that "the recipe was a huge success! The entire family loved it and since it was a crockpot recipe, it was super easy, too!"


Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm enjoyed both the book and the movie saying about the book, "...there was certainly tons of food inspiration from Indian to English to France to Fusion when Hassan starts connecting the two cultures. Hassan also decides to start cooking cleaner and locally, earning him the coveted 3rd Michelin star. All of this, of course, comes at a price but you will have to read the book if you want to know what that cost was." For her dish she chose a variation of "...Beef Bourguinon a la Hassan created for the movie by Chef Floyd Cardoz. This is the first French dish that Hassan gives to his father in the film after leaving their restaurant to work for Madame Malory.  It was a very touching scene with some humor included when he tried to have his younger siblings try it."

It is a pleasure to have one of my favorite Food 'N Flix peeps, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, join us for the first time at Cook The Books for this special crossover event. Evelyne says, "I have mixed feelings on both the book and the film. The first half of the book – when in India and in small town France – is such a wonderful read. The second half in Paris I though was terrible. I know I am not alone as I read this with a book club and everyone agreed. The movie makers thankfully felt the same way and basically skipped most of the Paris story. The movie also took a lot (and I mean a lot) of creative license when compared to the book. In the end I think I preferred the movie for its entertainment value and to see the gorgeous food I read about. There was no lack of inspiration for sure when picking a dish to make. But my Carrot Curry Canelés recipe is not featured in any way, I also took a lot of creative license for my inspiration."

Liking the book, the film and the combination event, Terri of Our Good Life says, "This month Food 'N Flix and Cook the Books combined forces to do one book/movie pick. The one they picked, The Hundred Foot Journey, was such a great combination. For me, the book and movie were vitally different, which makes for interesting conversation at your book club!" For her book and film inspiration Terri chose Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus and says, "I chose to do a simple but classic French vegetable preparation, which is asparagus and bacon. ... The asparagus retains a nice crunch and is seasoned with the salt in the bacon. No added fat is needed. If you want to impress, try this dish!."

Finally at Kahakai Kitchen, the movie appealed to me more than the book as it brought the story and the food to life so well (and I adore Helen Mirren!) ;-) My plan to do two separate dishes and posts got lost in the mire of work deadlines and the holiday shuffle, so in the spirit of both the book and movie, I took a classic French soup and added some touches inspired by some of my favorite Indian cuisine ingredients--This fusion Potage Parmentier with Cilantro Pistou and Curried Naan Croutons. The tangy and sightly spicy cilantro pesto and the (totally addicting) crispy-fried curry croutons really livened up a simple potato and leek soup.  


A big mahalo (thank you) to Camilla for co-hosting the crossover and to everyone who joined in either reading the book, watching the film, or doing both! 

If you missed out on this round of Cook the Books and you love food, books, and foodie books, consider joining us for our December/January selection: A Place at the Table, by Susan Rebecca White--hosted by Debra, of Eliot's Eats.

And, side note--if you like your films to be inspired by foodie fiction, join our friends over at Food 'N Flix where the December film pick is The Jane Austen Book Club, hosted by Kimberly at Coffee and Casseroles and inspired by the 2004 novel by Karen Joy Fowler. As with Cook the Books, Food 'N Flix is open to everyone!

Aloha and have a safe and joyful holiday season!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Our October/November 2015 Cook the Books Pick: "The Hundred-Foot Journey" by Richard C. Morais (+ Optional November Food 'N Flix Movie Tie-In)

I read all manner and genre of books but my favorites are the ones that sweep me away to different places, cultures, and foods. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais doubly takes me away, combining the curries and spices of Mumbai with traditional French cooking in a small village in the French Alps. It took several recommendations and a viewing of the movie to push me to read this book--and to choose it for our Cook the Books: October/November selection--as nothing is more fun than having some wonderful friends along on a culinary reading journey. 

The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of Hassan Haji and his family, who leave India after a family tragedy and end up settling in the small village of Lumière, France. They open a noisy family-style Indian restaurant just 100-feet across the road from the fancy and renowned restaurant of Madame Mallory. The 100-feet is at first a huge cultural divide between the Haji family and the prickly Mme. Mallory, but it inspires Hassan to learn French cooking before making his way to Paris to seek his success as a chef.

Another reason I chose The Hundred-Foot Journey was finding out that long-time CTB participant Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is hosting November's round of the monthly foodie movie event Food 'N Flix, and she selected the movie version of The Hundred-Foot Journey. (You can find her invite here.) We thought it would be a fun opportunity to pair up book and film for those of you interested in combining your book and movie worlds. 

Of course, it's strictly optional to do both events and how you do it (a combined post or two separate posts) is up to you!

If you want to join in the crossover fun:
  • Read the book and watch the film, make a dish inspired by both, and post it by our joint event deadline of Monday, November 30th
  • If you have one post for both the movie and book, email both Deb & Camilla ( & with your entry and let us know that you are doing the combined event.
  • Or, if you prefer to make two separate dishes and have a post for each event--one inspired by the book and one inspired by the movie, send each of your entries to the event's respective host. (Send your Cook the Books posts to & your Food 'N Flix posts to by Monday, November 30th. 
  • I will be rounding up crossover posts and Cook the Books only posts here on the CTB site & Camilla will be rounding up crossover posts and Food 'N Flix only posts on her blog shortly after the joint deadline.

Again, watching the film and joining in Food 'N Flix is optional, so if you just want to read the book, that's perfectly OK--just send your CTB entry to me by Monday, November 30th.
Makes sense?! If not, feel free to email me or leave a comment on this post with your questions. 

We look forward to seeing what The Hundred-Foot Journey inspires you to create!


Kahakai Kitchen