Saturday, December 17, 2011

Want to be an Outlaw in Your Own Kitchen?

I am hereby announcing our formal kick-off  for the next round of Cook the Books.  I (Rachel, The Crispy Cook) will be your host and hope you all will enjoy reading John and Matt Lewis Thorne’s book “Outlaw Cook” as much as I have.  My friend Myra has been a fan of  Thorne’s food writing for many years and when I finally got my hands on a copy of “Outlaw Cook” last year it went right to the top of my teetering bedside pile. I have been reading and re-reading bits of this collection of food writing ever since and am so pleased to share it with you all in our online book club.
John Thorne has graciously agreed to serve as our Guest Judge for this round, which will end January 23, 2012.  From now until then, anyone is welcome to join in the fun by reading the book and then posting up your thoughts about it and any dish (or two) that you may be inspired to cook up. Let me know that your post is live by leaving a comment below or by sending me an email at oldsaratogabooks AT gmail dOTcom.
I hope that everyone finds some time to relax and read during this busy holiday season.
-Rachel, The Crispy Cook
(Extra Crispy this time of year!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Hello everyone!
We have a winner for CTB “Harlot’s Sauce”. Below you will find Patricia’s email:
Dear Cook the Books Book Club:
Many thanks ─ many, many ─ for choosing Harlot’s Sauce as one of your selections. I was honored. I truly delighted in reading all the comments about the book. They were all carefully thought out and well-expressed, and the range of opinions was very educational to me as the author.  Most importantly I soooo enjoyed the recipes. Yum. Some were very creative responses to the story. I’ll have you know I tried each one, and they were all so good that I posted every one of them, along with your blogs and the pages on which the recipes can be found on my author website. If you’d like to see that, they are at this page below:

This is a subpage of the “About Patricia” tab called “Recipes by Me and My Readers.” A number of readers have sent me recipes and photos of their own versions of  pasta puttanesca, and I’d have them all up on my site at one time or another. But at no time has any group come up with such varied and unique recipes inspired by this book. That’s why picking a winner for this was extremely difficult.

I loved Foodycat’s “Tisane” for digestive problems, and laughed at her descriptions of food as punishment, as manipulation and control, because she was absolutely correct, and it’s the first time it’s ever been pointed out in a review. Vital part of the story, that.  Anyway, since the old Patricia spent so many years with an upset stomach, boy, oh boy, I surely could have used a good tisane back in those days.

Or at least, a great deal of Kahakai Deb’s ouzo sorbet.

The play by Deb on my drunken evening spent with the flying cockroaches by making that ouzo sorbet was terrific, I thought, as was Eliot’s and Ann’s idea of pizza because of the fact that Patricia and Gregori bonded over pizza.  Jo’s idea to make a version of moussaka made by Greeks from Istanbul celebrated the blending of cultures theme that’s discussed throughout the story and I thought her idea was also brilliant. Also, I’d never tasted this dish, so I was anxious to try it. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. 

A point of interest for some of you might be that the original version of Harlot’s Sauce had much more description of Greek life in it, and a great deal more about food in it, along with a number of recipes, one of which was a version of lasagna that I made just for my Greek husband because, as you know, he didn’t like the Italian tomato sauce. It was much like a combination of traditional lasagna and a Greek pastichio. He loved it, my grandmother’s husband (Grandpa Sal II) loved it, but my sister hated it, and was rather miffed that I even dared call it “lasagna.”  (Time for that tisane again.) However, when the book went to the publisher most of the food stories, the Greek life stories and the recipes were edited out so the book wouldn’t be as long, and I always thought that was shame. But the editors saw this book as mostly a women’s empowerment story and therefore perceived those stories and recipes as “filler.” In fact, this is the first group that seemed to enjoy those parts of the book more than the main idea which was the character’s development as an individual, and I’m thrilled about that, because frankly, those were the parts of the past I most enjoyed writing about . Perhaps now I’ll put some of those combo recipes that were unique to my life back them on my website, since you’ve all inspired me again.

So which recipe to pick as a winner? Let me tell you ─ this was tough. I focused on the recipes that had some real creative thought put into them based on things taken from the story. Both versions of the pizza intrigued me, because they were created just because of the story, but as it was pointed out by both Food Junkie Jo and my son, Niko, (who at 24, now knows how to cook very well, FYI ─ you should taste his salmon pasta with vodka cream sauce sometime) the hummus is really not Greek. So that left the pizza puttanesca at first place. For me, it was because it was a new take on the recipe for which the book is named, which is usually only used for pasta.  And let me not forget the fact that it’s  because it was also delicious.

But then, there were those beans. Hmmm. That cook wondered if I still hated beans. Well, frankly, they’re usually just not to my liking. (Except for cold fava blended with olive oil. That is just amazing.)  Everyone in my family said it wouldn’t be fair not to try making the beans according to Simone’s recipe, just to see if I’d like them. So, though we didn’t get the exact beans Briciole made, they were close enough. My son cooked the beans for us,  and ─ my goodness ─ were those beans marvelous. I’m not sure if it was the thyme that did it or the type of bean we used but either way, I have a new appreciation for legumes. A miracle.

So we have a tie for first place: Pizza puttanesca and Christmas lima beans, with ouzo sorbet in second place. Yes, I know I was supposed to choose only one. It couldn’t happen.
Jo says no one really wins any prizes other than the mention of ‘Winner’ on their food blogs, but I would love to offer to anyone who participated one of my other two books, The Diva Doctrine or Tales From the House Band. If you think you’d like a copy of either of those, please send me an email and I’ll be happy to mail it out to you. I’m sorry to say that neither have any food in them.

Once again, many thanks for reading and cooking, Harlot’s Sauce. I hope our paths cross again.

Warm regards and best wishes for happy holidays,

Congratulations to our winners and thank you again Patricia for your offer, I will definitely take you up on it!
Have a great holiday everyone!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Harlot’s Sauce Roundup

Hello everyone!
First of all thank you all for participating in another round of Cook the Books. I know that many of you had mixed feelings about the book, as I did, but I guess true stories can sometimes be difficult to read.
I would also like to thank you for your kind words about my shoulder. Apparently it is a genetic defect and the other one will soon be giving me trouble as well. Pilates has really helped, I highly recommend it for any myo-sceletic problems.
Now, down to business: below you will see everyone’s entries. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did and soon we will have a winner, chosen by Patricia herself.
1. Eliot of Eliot’s Eats  made Greek Pizza . Eliot in her post gives a very in-depth review of Harlot’s Sauce, with all the pros and cons, happy and unhappy moments. Since the book has few insights about Greek food, Eliot decided to make a pizza, the dish which brought Gregori and Patricia together. Her pizza is delicious and Greek-inspired, although I will point here that hummus, albeit really tasty,  in not Greek at all, as many people might think, but Middle Eastern.
2. Alicia of Foodycat made tisane, a fragrant warm infusion “good for the digestion, soothing for the soul”. Alicia points out that “This is not a book of lavish feasts bringing families together….” it is “all food as a weapon, lacking joy”. I actually think that the lack of joy towards food reflects Patricia’s complicated psychological state, rather than anything else.
3. Ann of La buona Cucina being Italian-American many things connecting her with the book and Patricia herself. Ann loved the book and she admits that the recipe for the spicy tomato sauce is now her family’s favourite. Instead of cooking something Greek, she opted for an Italian dish and made  a spicy Pizza alla Puttanesca. How Italian of her!
4. Danielle of The Growing Foodie, another Italian-American, strongly connected to the book, not only because of her cultural heritage, but also because she and her boyfriend are going through a rough patch lately. She really appreciated Patricia’s writing  and notes “[Patricia]writes her book in hindsight which allows you to look deeply into her life in a unique way.  For instance, there are many times where you can tell looking back allows her to tell a story more comically (like getting caught nude on a Greek beach) than it was at the time. Danielle made a delicious baklava, which will hopefully sweeten her life bit.
5. Simona of  Briciole,  being of Italian origin herself, really enjoyed the book, especially the way it so successfully describes the importance offigura:  “It’s a fundamental tenet of education in an Italian family: you are supposed to always fare una bella figura (literally, to cut a fine figure, in the sense of making a good impression), which then reflects well upon your family. The worst thing that can happen is fare una butta figura (literally, to cut a poor figure, in the sense of making a bad impression), which of course embarrasses the whole family”. During a trip to her homeland she brought back monete del Papa Christmas Lima Beans , which she cooked with some onion and thyme. Delicious! 
6. Deb of Kahakai Kitchen liked the book but admits that she wanted “to grab her [Patricia] and shake her for some of her choices”. She also points out something most of us noticed that food didn’t feature that much in the book.  However, being the cook that she is, Deb decided that a trendy Ouzo Sorbet would fit the bill perfectly. What a refreshing ending to a dinner!
7. Although Rachel of Crispy Cook  enjoyed many things in the book, such as the translations of various Greek words and expressions, the Orthodox rituals, and the comparisons of American and Greek attitudes towards children, stray dogs, and education, sometimes she found it hard to follow the story, since it was mostly about a failed marriage and less about Greek cuisine. Rachel decided to cook  Greek Fisherman’s Stew, “fit for a Harlot or Fisherman or whomever shows up at your table”.
8. Finally, I,  Jo of Food Junkie not Junk Food,  made beef stew in tomato sauce with a smoked aubergine puree AKA Hünkar Beğendi , a classic Ottoman dish, which was part of the cooking repertoire of the Greeks in Istanbul. If you like moussaka, I suggest you give it a try, it is really delicious!