Monday, March 28, 2011

“An Embarrassment of Mangoes” the Cook the Books Roundup!

It seemed that everyone enjoyed “An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude” and relished sailing away to the Caribbean on the Receta with Ann Vanderhoof and her husband Steve, soaking up a little island life–no matter what the weather in their location! Fun times were had cooking up some delicious Caribbean-inspired fare too. Our tour guide and author Ann will be reading through the posts and picking her favorite interpretation of the book, so let’s see the posts and dishes she will have to choose from.
Foodycat says, “March in Hertfordshire is worlds away from the Caribbean. Wrapped up in several thick layers of clothes, listening to the rain on the conservatory roof, it was almost impossible to imagine the blue sky and sunshine Ann Vanderhoof describes in the current Cook the Books book club selection, An Embarrassment of Mangoes.” Foodycat made a delicious meal, starting off with a Mango Daiquiri before some hearty “Shark and Bake” Sandwiches with “Shadow Benny Sauce”and a batch of Fried Plantains, making the best of local ingredients she can get in the not so tropical U.K. Foodycat says, “It may not look much like Trinidad outside, but we still had our little taste of the Caribbean.
My CTB co-host Rachel, The Crispy Cook also found respite from the winter weather in the book and says, “Long distance sailing holds no appeal for my hobbity self, but I was glad to have this vicarious vacation in a dust jacket while foot upon foot of snow and other variants of frozen precipitation visited my home pretty much every couple of days these many long winter weeks. It was nice to imagine myself basking in sunshine, sipping a rum punch and bopping to soca, that combination of soul and calypso music that screams “party time!” Rachel chose the enticing Dingis’s Curried Lobster and she whipped up a batch, using the lobster shells for a flavorful Lobster Rice as a base and ending dinner with the tropical Mango Crisp which she says “had a great zing from some chopped crystallized ginger.”
Claudia at Honey From Rock enjoyed the book which reminded her of her own sailing away phase that didn’t quite pan out like Ann’s. Claudia says, “Adventures as well as fruit. What an inspiring, envy provoking, and darn good read!” Claudia also was enamored of Dingis’s Curried Lobster which she says was “Fresh and intensely flavored, almost salsa like, we liked it very much. In fact, planning for more as soon as possible. It was perfectly accompanied by my favorite blend of brown, wild and white basmati rice, along with some Island Breadfruit Salad, and Guava Chutney.
About the book Glennis from Can’tbelieveweate Weblog says, “We follow the couple from one harbor to the next as they explore their ports, meet the locals and learn about the local foods.  Ann tells it like it is…there’s no sugar coating her trepidations, or rain on her delights.  I hadn’t gotten far into the book at all when I started craving conch.  Now, how I’m going to satisfy THAT yen, I have no idea!  LOL!” Instead she created a Caribbean dinner with Five Spice Roasted Chicken, Coconut Rice, and Tangy Pineapple Salad; “Everything came together very nicely.  The rice is so mildly seasoned!  A bit of onion, curry, and the unctuous smooth taste of coconut milk.  This was a perfect backdrop for the spiced chicken.  The glaze for the chicken was just about good enough to lick the plate over, and the rice helped soak up every drop” If that wasn’t enough she followed up with a tangy-sweet Lime and Coconut Pie to finish a wonderful meal. (BTW: She still wants conch!) ;-)

Over at Kahakai Kitchen I was most taken by the recipe for Papaya-Banana Muffinsin the book because although papayas are plentiful year-round here, I rarely cook with them. I found the muffins extremely  moist, with great flavor–like a more complex banana bread. They were excellent on their own but even better with a spread of tangyPineapple Cream Cheese. Although I live on  an island  and was not suffering the effects of a cold winter, being a land-lubber (boats make me a bit claustraphobic and sea-sick), I enjoyed adventuring vicariously on the Recta through Ann’s descriptive prose from the comfort of my couch and kitchen!

Eliot from Eliot’s Eats recalled being swept away on another sailboat as an adolescent through a childhood favorite book “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham. Since that book made her want to escape, she was “worried” Vanderhoof’s book would do the same. Instead she was inspired to make an island-worthy Fish Taco Salad with Mango Salsa and says, “If nothing else,  Anne and Steve made use reevaluate a bit.  I don’t think we will be quitting our jobs anytime soon, but we are viewing things in a different light. And who knows, someday we may open that garden shop/bookstore/pottery studio/food truck combo!In the meantime, we will sit on our patio, dream our little dreams, and dine alfresco with a cold island beer.  Here is a little recipe that was inspired by the book (we developed it  from a fish taco dish). This is a great summer meal!

Simona from briciole is more comfortable in the water than sailing on top of it, but she related to the book in her beautifully heartfelt post, through her diving trips to some of Vanderhoof’s ports of call saying, “Besides sailors, divers also enjoy visiting the Caribbean. A little piece of my heart is in that part of the world, on Little Cayman, the smallest of the Cayman Islands. We visited it the first time during our honeymoon and have returned every year ever since.” It inspired her to make a cool and creamy Mango Sorbet, “This is a really nice sorbetto, very easy to make and a with a clean, fresh flavor. I serve the sorbet fresh out of the ice cream machine and freeze what is left over.”

Jessica from The Literary Foodie was tempted by the book, saying “Besides the fact that I stuffed my life, cat and husband into the car to move across the country with no actual plan set up I am not normally an overly adventurous person.  I like security and plans.  So, the fact that Ann Vanderhoof’s memoir “An Embarrassment of Mangoes”, seriously had me contemplating the merits of learning how to sail just so Rob and I could go live on a sailboat all over the Caribbean is a pretty good testament to how inspired I was by this book.  If I had not already made my move, this probably would have pushed me over the edge.” Spying papaya at the market, she chose the Luperon Papaya Salsaand served it over Swordfish alongside Bahamian Peas ‘n’ Rice and washed it down with Steve’s ‘Ti Punch for a delicious Caribbean dinner.
Finally we have Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies liked how descriptive the book was and says, “Vanderhoof has a publishing background with Cottage Life Magazine, and chronicled their adventures wonderfully. From her own reluctance to being a full-time sailor, the trials and tribulations of life as first-time “cruisers” and the joy of discovery along the way, Ann includes us all. Reading the book is a mini-vacation in itself, and will have you longing for turquoise waters and pristine sands and, of course, an embarrassment of mangoes. For our bookclub dish I baked up a version of Ann’s Mango Crisp, and, if I close my eyes, I can pretend I am on a tropical island and not in minus 13 degree weather in Canadian so-called Spring.
Thanks to everyone who joined in this round. I’ll be turning things over to our author, Ann Vanderhoof to choose her favorite post so  stay tuned this week to see who will win our coveted Cook the Books winners badge for this round. Not an easy decision with all these delicious dishes and wonderful posts! While you are waiting you might want to get started finding and reading our next selection, “Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes” by Elizabeth Bard, which will be hosted by Johanna of Food Junkie not Junk Food. I’ll be back soon with our results! ;-)