Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are You Ready to Untangle Your Chopsticks and Get Started on Some Japanese Cooking?

I wanted to officially announce the start of our next round here at Cook the Books.  I will be hosting this round and have selected Victoria Abbott Riccardi’s book “Untangling my Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto“, about her time in Japan, where she scratched the surface of learning about the art of tea kaiseki.  Kaiseki is the highly stylized cooking that accompanies the Japanese green tea ceremony and there is much to learn about presentation, garnishing, ingredients and the aesthetics of this ethereal cooking style and about traditional and modern Japanese culture in Riccardi’s wonderful book.
Ms. Riccardi has also agreed to serve as our guest judge of our upcoming posts about her book, so I am delighted to announce that as well.  If you have any questions for our esteemed author about her book please either leave a comment below or contact me by email at oldsaratogabooks (at) gmail (dot) com and I will be happy to relay them to her.
In the meantime, please find some time during this hectic holiday and end-of-the-year season to put your feet up and curl up with this great foodie memoir.  Remember, the deadline to post your Cook the Books post is Friday,  January 28, 2011.  We love to have new members come join us.  No registration or anything fancy is required other than buying (you can buy a signed copy of the book at the author’s website) or borrowing a copy of our featured book, and then blogging up your thoughts and culinary inspirations, with a link back to this Cook the Books blog.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Announcing the winner of CTB “Heat”

Hello everyone,
It is snowing really hard outside my window (Athens, Greece). We went from 20 degrees to -5  in one day and it just feels really strange. It is the prefect weather to read and write though, so no complaints. Anyway, I think the voting went really well and I was glad to see that people really had their favourites. Below are the three posts that got your attention:


Second  place

Third place

Congratulations to the girls and thank you all so much for participating. Our next host will be Rachel from  The Crispy Cook who has chosen a really sensational book for us to read, Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojurn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbot Riccardi.
Deadline to read and post your entry for this selection is Friday, January 28th
In the meantime:


Monday, December 6, 2010

Cook the Books “Heat” roundup

Hello everyone!
First of all thank you for participating in this round of Cook the Books. I was happy to see that you mostly enjoyed the book and you cooked absolutely wonderful dishes. I actually think that this was the most comfort food-oriented CTB I have seen so far. I have to agree with many of you who think that Mario Batali is a bit creepy and that Bil Buford is just not Bourdain, at least not in the way he tells the story of professional cooking/ I think he just doesn’t have the same zest for life and that greatly reflects on his writing. I also wondered throughout the book, how his wife did not divorce him. I mean, if my husband became so obsessed with something and suddenly disappeared from the house every night, left everything to go to Italy and apprentice with a butcher, I would be deeply disturbed.
Anyway, before I start presenting you with all the goodies people made, I need to make a special announcement. You know how every time we have a guest judge, wither the writer or someone worthy enough to do the job. Well, this time will be very different, as the judge will be US! Each one of the participants should email me (jdimopoulos AT foodjunkie DOT eu ) with the three favourite posts and why they liked them. The one which will receive the most votes will be our winner. You can vote for yourself if you want to, but you can’t vote for me, as I am the host.
Ok so here we go:


1. Tina from Life in the slow lane at Squirrel Head Manor, found Batali scary, but loved the book: Heat is a good read, lots of interetsing insight from a kitchen slave’s point of view, lots of good quotes and it’s entertaining.
She decided to prepare simple lasagna, inspired by Buford’s description of the kicthen:
Early on Buford states he was captivated by the kitchen’s smells and by midmorning, when many things had been prepared…all was cooked in quick succession. The waves of smell, like sounds of music, lamb, chocolate, tripe, octopus, huckleberries and then the comforting chemistry of veal, pork and milk as someone prepared a Bolognese.
2. Joanne from Eats Well with Others has a thing for:  mildly attractive, slightly insane, totally in-your-face chefs. Bad boys that cook. I can understand that about Bourdain, but  Batali? She actually calls him “an italian stallion“! Oh, dear.  She doesn’t care for Buford though:
Although I thought the book was an interesting read, I never really felt like I connected with Buford.  In all honesty, I thought he was a bit frivolous and self-involved.  Especially when he did things like decide on a whim to travel to Italy to learn how to make pasta without a thought for his wife or his career.  Reckless.  And unnecessary.
Joanne prepared pumpkin ravioli with sage and toasted hazelnuts for CTB. They were a huge hit with her friends, mainly because the filling was not so sweet due to teh presence of balsamic vinegar.
3. Some more home made filled pasta came from Glennis ofCantbelieveweeat who prepared yam-filled ravioli with sage butter using left over yams from Thanksgiving. Glennis, like me, had chosen Heat as one of her first ever foodie books to read and really enjoyed it the second time around too:
I thoroughly devoured it the first time, so this time I was able to savor it a little more in a different way.  While Bill ricochets from one culinary adventure to another in search of his own culinary niche, studying, soaking up knowledge like pasta takes up sauce, I kept getting pulled back to one thing…”The egg is very important.”
Glennis used to have her own hens and knows a thing or two about eggs. I will have to agree that especially when making pasta, the egg is of great importance, as there are so little ingredients involved. It is a pity that the filling did not turn out as well as she would have liked it to, since the yams were Asian and slightly dry, but i find that her ravioli look really good! 
4. Natashya from Living in the kitchen with puppies went the other way with pasta and prepared home made orechiette:
For my book-inspired dish I decided to make pasta. One that I had never made before. Orecchiette, little ears. I found a Batali recipe and sat down to make them. It took me 2½ hours, and the first batch of the little ears were rather irregular in size, but by the second I had the hang of it. Bill’s right, you only learn by repetition. And lots of it.
For her finished dish, she grilled hot Italian sausages and peppers, drizzled everything with olive oil and topped her pasta with loads of freshly ground parmesan. What a feast!
5. Andreas from Delta Kitchen , the only man of this round’s CTB, decided to try his luck with a very manly recipe of  home made Bratwurst, but the kitchen gods were not on his side:
To avoid the hassle of filling the ground meat into casings, I wanted to make some cevapcici-like fingerlings and wrap them into caulk fat. Sounded like a good enough plan, but unfortunately I ran into diffculties from the get-go. First, the nozzle of the (new and not-that-cheap) hand-cranked meat grinder was so low, I couldn’t use an ice bath but had to catch the meat in a glass casserole. Then the suction cup on the bottom of the meat grinder gave in, which made grinding meat really hard and very time-consuming work. Due to the slow going the fat and meat (predictably) warmed up and began to clog the die. After going through maybe 200 gram of the 1.25 kg total (I used a half-batch of the recipe given below.) I decided to form the ground meat into a fingerling, skip the wrapping in caulk fat and just fry it.
He used the sausage meat to make some bolognese style sauce with which he topped freshly boiled spaghetti. I think that it all turned out well in the end. 
6. Beth Anne from the Seventh Level of Boredom admits that she doesn’t like Mario Batali very much,  but she would love to share a meal with him. He is actually no 27. on her Bucket list!  She also didn’t love the book, but did enjoy the stories about Mario himself. However, she could never watch his show and here’s why:
Now, unfortunately, with my new found appreciation for Mario, I’m still never going to be able to watch his show. Why? Because I’ll never see him the same way again. Maybe if he wore long pants. But with those shorts…and the orange clogs….I’ll only ever have one image of Mario burned into my brain. And that, my friends, is his calves.
No, Mario doesn’t raise cattle (as far as I know). I mean his beefy, hairy CALVES. You know, the part of his legs that rests just below his shorts and above his signature orange clogs? Yes, THOSE calves.
Despite that image Beth-Anne was actually INSPIRED  by Mario’s calves (and is not the only one) and so she made Mario Buco (ossobuco). The meat turned buttery soft, the hubby loved it, and that ugly image of Mario’s calves was transformed for ever!
7. Our newcomer Nicole from Cocoa and Coriander is half Italian half French. She loves Mario Batali’s  loyalty to all things Italian, but:
I find his disdain for all things French unwarranted and uncomfortable.
Nicole decided to bring the two cooking traditions together, so she made hand rolled fresh pasta, but she teamed it with a very French sauce ofApple and Roasted Butternut Squash. It was her first attempt to making fresh pasta and she admits she would not do it again without the use of a machine. I totally agree with that, despite what Italian’s might think about machine rolled pasta. It just makes things so much easier!
8. Kelly from It’s a Food Life really enjoyed the book:
I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Buford’s telling of his experiences in various professional kitchens, particularly the tales of Mario Batali’s kitchen in his three-star restaurant, Babbo.  Based on my limited professional kitchen experience, I found his account to be entirely believable. Although most of my restaurant experience has been from the other side of the heat lamp as a server, I have witnessed first hand the ginormous egos that take up most of the room in these kitchens already lacking in space.
Twelve years ago, Kelly had the opportunity to work as a cook in a professional kitchen in a Greek bistro, under a very macho Greek man (oh, my, do I know what those are like…) who was a close friend of hers. She could not stand the heat so she left his kitchen, realising that the life of a cook is not for her.
Kelly also made hand rolled pasta which she teamed with a basic Tomato sauce :
Throughout the book it is said over and over again that a good pasta dish is about the pasta, not the sauce.  So I decided I would make fresh pasta for the first time and then at Mr. Batali’s suggestion, top it off with just a basic tomato sauce in order to let the pasta take center stage.
9. Simone of Briciole was a great fan of Buford long before he wrote Heat and enjoyed parts of the book, but not those were Batali was described:
My favorite parts of the book are those where he describes himself dealing with the tasks he is given, like when he browns ribs and burns himself with hot oil (pages 72-73). Less interesting, in my opinion, are the parts where he talks about Mario Batali and other mercurial characters.
Simone decided to make purple potato gniocchi following a mild obsession of hers. She tried several types of potatoes and ways of cooking them before finding the perfect balance between the three ingredients needed: potatoes, flour and saltShe gives many tips and tricks about this beautiful dish and If you love gniocchi you should definitely read her post!
10. Alicia, a.k.a. Foodycat was not convinced from Buford’s writing:
What was Buford doing? If he was writing a biography of Mario Batali, it was superficial. If he was going for a guts-&-all kitchen exposé, he just isn’t Bourdain. If it was supposed to be a bildungsroman of his growth into cooking, well, he didn’t give enough of himself to make me feel the journey. He spends too much time hiding in the shadow of (somewhat tediously) larger than life characters for me to really be that interested when he finally steps out into the sun.
Since meat greatly features in the book, Alicia made Spaghetti Bolognese. But not just any bolognese, a magnificent gamey one, with three types of meat and chicken  livers. What a treat that must have been to eat!
11. Claudia of Honey from Rock really enjoyed Buford’s book:
I truly admire Buford’s incredible verisimilitude in reporting.  To go through learning all the steps, from hours, months of mundane prep work, to apprenticing at the stations for pasta, grill work and plating, not to mention, of course, enduring the intense heat (physically and emotionally) back there in the kitchen, including real abuse from some of the chefs.  His book could have alternatively been titled, Life on the Line.  It sounded like hell to me.  Not anywhere I’d want to be.  Though, I’m glad he did, so we could read about it.
She also admits that she doesn’t enjoy the pressure of cooking for many people and would rather dress up and go to a restaurant instead ! Since Claudia, owned the Babbo cookbook already, she was actually inspired byHeat to start cooking from it and made braised short ribs, gremolata and polenta. Apparently, hubby loved the ribs so much he expects them on his plate once a week!
12. Cook the Books co-founder and our next CTB host,  Rachel from  The Crispy Cook found the book extremely entertaining, but was intrugues not so much by Mario himslefthan by Marco Pierre White and Jo Bastianich:
Joe is the laconic scion of the Bastianich restaurant empire and Batali’s business partner. He knows food and wine and how to keep the finances afloat in the Batali restaurant galaxy. He does not wax poetic about the glamour of restaurant life, having had to clean out the grease traps, pull bay leaves out of choking throats and sweep up piles of post-exterminator insect detritus in the family restaurant.
Marco Pierre White is an even more outrageous, larger-than-life character than Batali, who endured a four-month stint as White’s kitchen slave in London before quitting in a fit of pique. White is so very foul-mouthed, so mean, so physically intimidating, as described by Buford, that even when the two meet, over a frightfully proper traditional roast grouse meal at White’s newest restaurant acquisition, he works himself into an increasingly cold fury ruminating on every bit of the dish that is overdone or incorrectly prepared.
Rachel decided to make a very elegant appetizer, Mario Batali’s Goats Cheese truffles with pepperonata. I was actually really taken by this recipe as I have never tasted blanched arugula before. Will definitely try it soon!
13. Our other lovely co-founder, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen says about the book:
The book is eye-opening and slightly discomforting. “Bad Boy Chef” works well for Anthony Bourdain, but with Mario Batali it seems strange and slightly creepy. ;-) I did enjoy this book, although for exposing the back of house of the restaurant world, Bourdain still gets my vote for #1.
Deb was also inspired by Mario’s calves and cooked an Osso Buco with toasted pine nut gremolata and Polenta con Parmigiano.
For my dish, I went with inspiration from two sources–my heart and Mario Batali’s calves. Osso buco is one of my very favorite dishes ever, and British mega-chef (and another kitchen bad boy) Marco Pierre White had a colorful description of Batali, who worked as White’s kitchen slave in the early days of his career. From the book: “I will never forget him,” White said, when I met him in London. “He has f*#@king (that’s my edit it’s a PG blog folks!), big calves, doesn’t he? He should donate them to the kitchen when he dies. They’ll make a great osso buco. If he walked in today, and I only saw those calves, I’d know it was Mario.”

14.  I  (foodjunkie) also decided to make a Bolognese based on Mario Batali’s recipe. I was just recovering from a cold and needed something satisfying and yummy. Bolognese is very similar  to a Greek dish, “makaronia me kima” (pasta with mince), but due to its richer nature it tastes very  different.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can you feel the HEAT??

I just realised today that i should have made this announcement a month ago, but i didn’t. Oh, well! I am sure that most of you know that we are currently reading Bill Buford’s Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
Buford left his job as an acclaimed writer and editor at The New Yorker to apprentice in the kitchen of Mario Batali’sBabbo restaurant, and the book follows his adventures there as well as on his journey to Italy to discover the secrets to pasta-making and pig slaughtering.
The deadline is December 3rd, so you have plenty of time to read and cook this truly exceptional book.
When you are ready please e-mail your submissions to:
I am really looking forward to this challenge!

Yours truly,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And the Winner Is… Our Cook the Books Winner for “Climbing the Mango Trees”

Our judge for this round of CTB, fellow foodie and blogger Ann Luke from Split Pear-sonality  – A Cooking Journeyhas carefully read and drooled over all of the wonderful entries inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s “Climbing the Mango Trees” and has selected a winner–in her own words below.
First of all, many thanks for inviting me to be a guest judge for your Cook the Books club. I’m honored  to have been invited to the virtual party and it never ceases to amaze me how so many of us from far flung places can get to connect with each other through blogging and the Internet.
While I cannot claim to be a complete Indian food expert, I have eaten a good share of it growing up and wanted to advocate how there are many other different flavors and types of food from India as a result of the different ethnic, religious and geographical regions that make up the sub-continent.
Many people have an exposure to Indian restaurant food which typically profiles the food of Northern India/Pakistan, which was a point well noted by Foodycat in her book review. Typical restaurant curries are usually non-vegetarian and Moghul-era influenced with rich, cream based gravies. This, however, is not the typical fare eaten on a daily basis at many Indian homes.
Jaffrey has done a quite a commendable job translating curries away from typical restaurant fare to the regular home kitchen and she is one of the pioneers among Indian cookbook authors. However, I hope the Cook the Book Club members, who if they have truly been intrigued by Indian cooking after reading Climbing the Mango Trees, will take the opportunity to try and savour regional delicacies from India like the Portuguese influenced foods of Goa, or the Syrian Christian and Muslim delicacies of the state of Kerala, to the spicy seafood preparations from Bengal or the traditional South Indian vegan thalis of Tamil Nadu.
It goes without saying that I had a difficult time coming up with one winner for this event, everyone brought their own fantastic representation of the book to the dining table and I had a great time virtually savoring the entries.
There were also those of you who wrote about your own personal experiences coming from a different culture to the US and looking at your classmates lunchboxes to see the different foods they had brought, to those of you who successfully used locally sourced ingredients or foreign cheese that may have never been used before in an Indian dish.
To round up, I picked Kelly of It’s A Food Life as the winner for her humorous account of going shopping at an Indian store (oh dear, what are you going to do with that twenty pound bag of flour?!) and her fantastic recreation of a complete Indian meal – Rotis, Raita, Rice, a vegetable dish, a legume dish and a protein dish. Her meal of –Rotis, Cucumber Raita, Basmati Rice with Dill and Cardamom. South Indian Style Stir-Fried Green Beans, Chickpeas Cooked in Tea, and Salmon with Mustard Seed and Coriander is a veritable medley of flavors and textures and a great representation of an Indian feast, something I could easily see a family or group of acquaintances sitting down to for a special dinner. Aside from complex spices, Indian cooking can also be fairly labor intensive with its typical spice grinding, roasting, pan-frying, gravy-making and baking steps. One of my major gripes with all this activity is the overflowing kitchen sink that you end up with, which luckily can be blissfully forgotten when you reward yourself with the actual food! So hats off to you Kelly, I do not even want to imagine what a hive of activity your kitchen must have been for you to churn out this number of dishes!
I also wanted to send a special mention to Foodycat for her equally elaborate and full course meal of mutton and spinach curryspiced cauliflower cheese, dhal andnaan. Again, this must have been a lot of effort to put together all these dishes and they all made for great menu choices for a complete Indian meal.
Finally, I wanted to also give a shout-out to Heather of Girlichef for the eloquent way in which she recounted the book. Her description of what a monsoon may entail was beautiful and lilting. And to top it all off, she made monsoon inspired jelebis which while not from Jaffrey’s book itself, are a common and well-loved but very-rarely-attempted-at-home sweet!
Thank you all for letting me be a part of your Book Club this month! Here’s to more splendid books and the untold inspirations that await us.
So congratulations to Kelly who wins her second Cook the Book challenge! (Kelly, along with Heather of girlichef and Joanne of Eats Well With Others) won for “The School of Essential Ingredients,” our last CTB selection). Kelly can proudly fly the coveted Cook the Books Winners Badge two times on her blog now! ;-) Congrats also to Foodycat and girlichef, our runners up for this round. And of course, many, many thanks to Ann for being such a wonderful judge!
I now pass the hosting torch on to Johanna of Food Junkie not Junk Food as we explore life behind the scenes in Mario Batali’s kitchen in “Heat” by Bill Buford.
Happy reading, cooking & eating! (Don’t forget to check out our next three book choiceshere!)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Announcing Our Next 3 Cook the Books Picks!

Aloha Cook the Booksters!
We will have the announcement of our winner from “Climbing the Mango Trees” very soon, but before I announce that exciting news and pass the hosting torch over to Johanna for our entertaining  October-November selection: “Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany” by Bill Buford, we thought we should let you know our next six months of book choices. We have another three wonderful books to read, be inspired by and cook from, and we are excited to share them!
Cook the Book Selection: December-January 2010
First up from Rachel, The Crispy Cook, we have an excellent choice to tuck into when you need to calm down from the holiday hustle and bustle and move into January;Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojurn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbot Riccardi. “Untangling My Chopsticks” recounts the American author’s year spent in Japan, learning about the art of kaiseki. Kaiseki is the traditional and highly ritualized series of foods to accompany green tea ceremonies and involves a series of small dishes of exquisitely prepared and garnished foods. Rachel says, “I have read Riccardi’s book and want to delve into it again and bone up on Japanese cooking.“  We will able be able to find our zen happy place with this beautifully written memoir.
Deadline to read and post your entry for this selection is Friday, January 28th
Cook the Books Selection: February-March 2011
For me, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, and my selection, we will sail away to the tropics, with “An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude” by Ann Vanderhoof. In the mid 1990′s Vanderhoof and her husband rented out their house and set sail for the Caribbean in a 42-foot sailboat to chase their dreams. During their two-year adventure, they visited sixteen countries and ate their way through all of them, so this book is a fun foodie-travelogue–with plenty of recipes for the delicious island-style food and drink they enjoyed sprinkled in. Crack open the rum, crank up the Bob Marley and get ready to chase your winter doldrums away with some Caribbean spice.
Deadline to read and post your entry for this selection is Friday, March 25th
Cook the Books Selection: April-May 2011
Finally we head for Paris with francophile Johanna from Food Junkie not Junk Food and her pick of “Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes” by Elizabeth Bard. In Paris for a weekend visit. Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again. “Lunch in Paris” is Bard’s memoir, the story of a young American woman who fell in love not only with a man but with a whole culture. Through learning to cook French recipes, shopping in open air markets and battling bad-tempered butchers she discovers the beauty of a city and explores the secrets of the French psyche. Speckled with sexy recipes and a passionate love story in the world’s most romantic city, Lunch in Paris is sure to make your heart beat a little faster. Ahh…Paris in the spring….
Deadline to read and post your entry for this selection is Friday, May 27th
So there you go, our next three selections and your reading list for the next six months! We hope that you join us in reading these great foodie books, cooking and eating some wonderful food inspired by them and of course sharing it all with good friends.
Your hosts,
Deb, Rachel & Jo
Note: If you are new to Cook the Books, welcome! We are a bi-monthly virtual book club, reading great food-related books and cooking and posting dishes inspired by them. Anyone is welcome to join our group. If you have any questions, you can find the details here, or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Round Up of Delectable Indian Dishes

If ever there was a time to wish for a real potluck for our talented Cook The Books members, it would be after seeing all the delicious Indian food dishes that were inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s “Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India.” With every post that came in, my mouth watered just a that much more! If only we really could sample each others cooking and enjoy a fabulous meal… I was happy to see and hear how many of you enjoyed Jaffrey’s tales of her childhood and especially the descriptions and recipes for some of the wonderful food she enjoyed growing up. Whether you chose a recipe from the book, adapted a family favorite, sourced one of Jaffrey’s numerous cookbooks, or searched the web, you were inspired to create some amazing dishes. It is my pleasure to round them up, and get the tissues ready for more drooling! ;-)
An early entry came from Wanda from Poppyseeds and Tiger Lilies joining in her first cook the Book’s event and making Jaffrey’s Cheese Vali Gobi. Wanda says, “I remember my own childhood as a newcomer to this country, bringing my lunch to school where it was different from the lunches of my friends. Like Jaffrey, I thought their lunches were much more interesting than mine. I loved reading about the spices and flavors detailed in this book. I wanted to make one of her very own recipes rather than developing one of my own.I was particularly drawn to the cauliflower dish. … I especially loved it reheated the second day when the flavors had mellowed and blended.  When I make it again, I’ll prepare it the day before and reheat it for a meal.
Rachel, The Crispy Cook and one of my CTB co-hosts, used home-grown beans to make her dish  from Jaffrey’s “An Invitation to Indian Cooking.” Rachel says, “I found the perfect recipe to make: Green Beans with Onion Paste, which really deserves a much more glamorous name as it is redolent of so many spices. The beans are infused with so many levels of flavor as they slow cook in their tomato and onion gravy and it makes a hearty vegetarian meal over rice. Try it over basmati rice for extra fabulousness. I have made the recipe twice now to rave reviews from my family. It is a slow food dish, requiring a good bit of time in the slicing of the beans, the sauteeing of the onion paste and spices, and then a bit of simmering, but the result is exquisite.
Andreas from Delta Kitchen chose to adapt one of the many delicious recipes from“Climbing the Mango Trees” for his entry, selecting Jaffrey’s Potatoes with Tomatoes, full of exotic, warming spices. Andreas says, “For the current edition of Cook the Books Club I chose yet another dish featuring tomatoes. Visually it’s a bit uh.. unpretentious, but it makes up for this on the taste side.
Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies chose a recipe from Jaffrey’s “World Vegetarian” to soothe a sick hubby and says, “India is a milky country” Madhur Jaffrey… They also know a thing or two about cooling the body. Which is a good thing as I have one body at home with a cold and fever. To soothe his heated and parched throat, and in celebration of her autobiography Climbing the Mango Trees, this month’s Cook the Books bookclub selection, I made Madhur Jaffrey’s Kelay ki Lassis. Sweet banana lassi. Cool, sweet, and nourishing.”
Claudia from Honey From Rock chose a recipe from the book, Meatballs (Kofta) in Curry and a Potato Tamarind Raita from an old cookbook she owns. Claudia says, “The meatball curry turned out to be a good illustration of the one disadvantage of even great cookbooks, and learning by doing. Some things you can pick up by watching, which just don’t communicate in a recipe. … Now, doing that as prescribed, makes for a very runny curry.  Perhaps it is supposed to be.  Who knows?  The chef was not there to question. The taste was fantastic and full of spicy flavors, but next time I will know to adjust for what is perhaps a Western liking for more thickened sauces.
And about the raita, “This dish makes a tangy, sweet adjunct to the spicy meatballs and crisp green and white salad.
Foodycat made a bevy of delicious recipes for her entry and says, “This is what inspired the dishes I cooked. I made mutton and spinach curry following Ms Jaffrey’s recipe (very different from the one I usually make) which she describes as being like the curries her Muslim school friends had brought for lunch. I made her grandmother’s delicious spiced cauliflower cheese. I made dhal (she says that at a pinch you can substitute Mexican black beans for the whole urad dal. It really isn’t a great substitution and not one I would repeat). And I made naan. Delicious, homely food with a history. You can’t really ask more of a dinner; a fascinating story with wonderful recipes, you definitely can’t ask more of a memoir.
Simona from Briciole knew immediately what she wanted to make, saying “It’s that as soon as I read the title, Grandmother’s Cauliflower with Cheese (Cheese Vali Gobi), I knew I would make it, because I like cauliflower and I am always looking for recipes where i can use my homemade cheese (formaggio fatto in casa). As you can see in the photo of the dish, I used some white and some purple cauliflower, so the dish was quite colorful (both cauliflower and peppers were acquired at our farmers’ market). I don’t know how different my rendition is from the dish mentioned in the book. What I know is that I loved what came out of my oven and will certainly make it again. In fact, I already have some peppers in the fridge that I have roasted with the idea of adding them to my next realization of this recipe.
Joanne from Eats Well With Others chose the Chicken Cooked in a Yogurt-Almond Sauce (Murgh Korma) from the book and says, “The thing that I find hardest about cooking Indian food is finding an authentic recipe.  One that is not Westernized and completely altered to suit our maladapted American palates. This is where Jaffrey comes in.  Her reverence of her culture is so great and made so obvious in the book that I am sure the recipes she offers are no less than the real McCoy. And after tasting this Murgh Korma.  You will be too.  Never have I created a dish that is so rich in flavor, so spot on, so intensely delicious that you just.  Can’t.  Stop.  Eating it.  Whole chicken pieces stewed with a creamy yogurt sauce that, although rich in texture, is actually quite light.
Heather of girlichef went for a sweet treat making the squiggly Jalebis along with someGaram Chai. Heather says, “I can imagine how perfectly a cold glass of milk tasted alongside the jalebis in the heat, but I was craving another treat mentioned in the book…one that I’ve only ever ordered from coffee houses…or tasted from a weak, boxed blend.  I definitely wanted a cup of homemade chai alongside my jalebis… I made the chai a day in advance, and then re-heated a cup to eat with my jalebis once they were hot and ready.  I also tried it with a cold cup of chai, which was equally good…but a whole ‘nother taste sensation.”
My other wonderful co-host Johanna of Food Junkie not Junk Food, although a a big fan of Jaffrey’s writing was enamored of the chicken dish in the book and says, “The recipes at the back of Climbing the Mango Trees looked really enticing, and I decided to try thechicken curry, as it is a staple in every Indian restaurant. I was intrigued by the use of whole spices instead of the more common powdered “masala” and since I had all the ingredients at hand I set off to bring Delhi into my kitchen. Thickened by yoghurt, onions, and garlic, this curry is relatively light in calories, although it feels and looks substantial. It made the whole kitchen smell delicious and tasted completely different from what I used to have in England.
Kelly from It’s a Food Life found that she didn’t have servants or could order in food from her kitchen so she made up for it by cooking an entire Indian feast–Rotis, Cucumber Raita, Basmati Rice with Dill and Cardamom. South Indian Style Stir-Fried Green Beans, Chickpeas Cooked in Tea, and Salmon with Mustard Seed and Coriander. She says, “I find it quite ironic that Madhur Jaffrey has made such a success out of cooking and did not learn to cook until she had left home.  Her mother taught her to cook by “air mail” when she found herself longing for the tastes of home and had no kitchen or servants to order her food from.  She had to do it herself if she wanted to eat in the manner which she was accustomed. I tried to order some food from my “kitchen” but nobody listened so I had to do it myself.
Finally over at Kahakai Kitchen, I made a simple dinner from one of my several Jaffrey cookbooks, “Quick & Easy Indian Cooking“–Fish Fillets in a Curry Sauce, Simply Roasted Tomatoes and Rice with Peas and Dill. Everything went together easily and tasted delicious. I used a local opah, (moon fish), which was moist and delicious, local tomatoes and fresh dill from my garden. Great flavors and a healthy meal that even my visiting Mom enjoyed.
What an incredible array of yummy dishes! Thanks to everyone who joined in this round of CTB.
For our judge for this round, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend and fellow blogger Ann from Split Pear-sonality  – A Cooking Journeyjoining us from Texas. Ann is a member of  another great virtual foodie book club, This Book Makes Me Cook. Since her group read “Climbing The Mango Trees” back in January, we thought it would be fun to have her judge our take on this foodie memoir. Ann cooks a variety of International cuisines at her site, and  knows her Indian food so we can expect that she will use her discerning eye and passion for good food to pick a deserving winner of the coveted Cook the Books Winners Badge! ;-) Go by Ann’s blog and read her Climbing The Mango Trees” book club post and her funny story about spending Hurricane Ike, copying the recipes out of Jaffrey’s book! Then take a gander at her version of Cheese Vali Gobitoo.
We’ll have our winner posted at the end of the week (and we will get our next three book picks posted too!) before I turn things over to Jo with our next selection, Bill Buford’s “Heat.”
Hope you are enjoying your week!