Monday, August 20, 2012

Our August-September 2012 Cook the Books Selection: Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

At Kahakai Kitchen, I (Deb), became enamored of a little book of food essays,Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin, a couple of years ago. The book still sits on my nightstand, ready to be delved into whenever the mood strikes me, so it gives me great pleasure to select it for the August-September 2012 round of Cook the Books. “Home Cooking” is a small and wonderful collection of stories and memories about food, interspersed  with recipes. This past May, The James Beard Awards added Home Cooking to their Cookbook Hall of Fame.
Laurie Colwin was the author of five books, as well as a prolific food writer and a contributor to Gourmet and other magazines, who died unexpectedly and tragically young, in 1992 of a heart attack at age 48. Colwin wrote in a casual, warm style and with such a sparkling sense of humor–laughing about herself and her experiences–both good and bad in the kitchen. If you haven’t experienced her before, I think you will fall a little bit in love with her writing. It’s a short book so if you are feeling extra ambitious, feel free to read her follow-up More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, as well

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 
― Laurie Colwin

I’ll be back soon to announce our judge for this round. To join in the fun, all you need to do is beg, buy, or borrow a copy of Home Cooking, cook something up inspired by the book and then blog about it by Monday, September 24th. You can leave a comment below to let me know that you have written your post or email me at

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our Guest Judge Author Laura Childs Picks our Winner and Has a Surprise Announcement

Our June/July book selection here at Cook the Books was the first installment in author Laura Childs’ Tea Shop mystery series, Death by Darjeeling.  All of the submissions in our roundup (see previous post) showed a wide variety of explorations with different varieties of teas, tea table goodies and even a visit to a tea plantation in Hawaii!
Our featured author, Laura Childs, was also kind enough to serve as our Guest Judge to pick a winning post. Our Cook the Books winner will receive a blog badge AND a signed hardcover copy of Childs’ latest Tea Shop mystery, Agony of the Leaves. I will quote Ms. Childs’ to announce the winner:
“What an amazing assortment of recipes!  Reading through them – seeing the photos – was so inspiring that I wanted to dash into my own kitchen and get creative.
That said, I have to admit that I was super impressed with the Mint Tea Shortbread and Earl Grey Brownies with Lavender Ganache from Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  I think that’s our winner for a copy of AGONY OF THE LEAVES.
Many thanks to all who participated and for inviting me to be your guest judge – it was so much fun!
All my best,
Laura Childs
P.S.  If it’s possible to get the recipes for some of the entries (or all of them) I would love to include a few in my next book which I will be starting soon and is tentatively titled PEKOE MOST POISON.  Of course, I would give full credit to the bakers!”
Congratulations Camilla! Send me your shipping address in an email (info aT oldsaratoga Booksdot Com) and I’ll ship the book right out to you. And if anyone who submitted a Cook the Books entry would like to take up Ms. Childs’ offer to include their recipes in her upcoming Tea Shop book, Pekoe Most Poison, leave a comment below or send me an email with your contact information and I’ll relay it to our delightful Guest Judge and Author.
Effusive thank yous to Laura Childs for being so generous with her time, for providing the extra winner’s prize and for her offer to include some of us in her next book project.
I will now turn over the hosting of Cook the Books to my buddy Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, as we read a great book of food essays, Home Cooking by the late Laurie Colwin.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Death by Darjeeling Tea Party Roundup

Welcome to our Cook the Books roundup for our current book selection, Death by Darjeeling. This mystery is the first in the long-running series by author Laura Childs, and introduces the reader to Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, South Carolina, and a cast of other interesting characters, including dapper master Tea Blender Drayton Conneley, the jowly and whipsmart Detective Burt  Tidwell and the excitable young Tea Shop baker Haley.
We received a lovely batch of interesting posts about the book, with book-inspired dishes included, so settle into your chair, pour yourself a steaming cup of Darjeeling, and get ready to tuck into our tea party below.
With the sweltering temperatures we’ve been having this summer, Heather the Girlichef has been producing many a frozen treat for her family. In celebration of our featured book she came up with a recipe for Creamy Earl Grey, Cardamom and Pistachio Popsicles.  (Earl Grey is also the name of Theodosia’s dog).  Heather is an avid fan of culinary mysteries and was delighted to dive into the Tea Shop series for her summer reading.
Culinary Adventures with Camilla brings two tea-flavored treats to our table, Mint Tea Shortbread and Earl Grey Brownies with Lavender Ganache.  She appreciated all the information about teas and infusions sprinkled throughout our featured title and realizes she has been oversteeping her teas.
Debra from Eliots Eats was charmed by our book. As she says in her post, “Who would not want to work in this tea shop and reside in this quirky city and be Theodosia’s best friend?” Debra made some Mango-Jalapeno Jelly (no doubt from her own garden peppers) and served it with cream cheese on crackers.
My fellow Cook the Books host, Deb, from Kahakai Kitchen in Hawaii, has the idea of someday owning her own bookshop/tea shop/cafe and really got creative with tea after she dove into our featured book. She brewed up some First Flush Darjeeling  and then had an afternoon tea with crustless sandwiches filled with Darjeeling Cashew Cream Cheese, followed by Lemony Darjeeling Granita.
Hopping over to another island in the Hawaiian chain, we have Claudia of Honey from Rock, who not only gives us her thoughts about the book and makes some sumptuous dishes, but takes us on a tour of a local tea plantation!  Her hosts at Tea Hawaii gave her many insights into the harvesting, brewing and cooking with tea leaves (fresh and dried) which she shares with us all in her post.  Also tucked into Claudia’s post are interesting recipes for Tea-Smoked Duck Breast, Fresh Tea Vinaigrette and Earl Grey Tea Cookies.
Our tea table is really groaning now, but there’s still room for some more. Check outCantbelieveweate’s experiments with Jasmine Pearl Green Tea and Earl Grey.  She was excited by all the great tea information imparted by our featured book and obtained a sampler of new tea varieties to play around with. Have a taste of her Earl Grey Smoked Salmon.
Alicia at Foodycat enjoyed our culinary whodunnit and wrote “I was just happy to float along on a cloud of tea-scented steam, enjoying the feeling of Charleston in “winter” (seems to be much like an English summer!) and wondering when our heroine would get a date with the charming-sounding lawyer.” She followed her reading up with a sampling of some Kenyan teas and then introduces us to “one of the pinnacles of the Australian baker’s art”, the Melting Moment, a crispy sort of cookie sandwich.
Finally, our little tea party concludes with a plate of crumpets from me, The Crispy Cook. I was always curious about these baked goodies from a lifetime of reading British murder mysteries, and they turned out great. I loved these airy, crispy “love children of the pancake and English muffin”, which, when split, show off their airy pockets, just waiting for butter and jam. Delicious!
Well, I am certainly full from feasting on this virtual tea party. I hope you all have enjoyed our reading and our tasting and will now send our roundup to our Guest Judge and Featured Author, Laura Childs for her consideration. In addition to our coveted Cook the Books winners blog badge, our winner will receive a signed copy of Childs’ latest Tea Shop mystery, “Agony of the Leaves”, so stay tuned.
As a reminder, our next two Cook the Books selections are Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking”, which will be hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen and “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron, which will be hosted by Johanna of Food Junkie, Not Junk Food.