Monday, April 8, 2013

Inspector Montalbano Uncovers the Mystery of the Winning Post!

Our wonderful guest judges, Lavonne and David Neff of The Neff Review thoughtfully reviewed the submissions for this latest round of Cook the Books, in which we savored Andrea Camilleri's "The Shape of Water". Here's what Lavonne had to say:

"Both of us enjoyed the Camilleri books we’ve read, but we still have quite a few left to go. We got waylaid by Donna Leon’s 22-book series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. She’s one of our very favorite mystery writers, and her descriptions of the culinary creations of Paola Falier, Brunetti’s wife, would drive you all to your kitchens. But given the absence of a Paola in Inspector Montalbano’s life (and his own reluctance to do more in the kitchen than open the refrigerator), you’ve all done wonderfully well to come up with food he would love.

I love the idea of an international book club, with hosts from (left to right) Hawaii, California, Indiana, and New York, and other participants this month from Australia, Hawaii, Vancouver, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and the U.K. On the other hand, food is best whenprepared and eaten with friends—and kudos to Marla and Louise who got together in person to make delicious looking arancini.

Claudia’s adaptation to the “current trend of stacking things” is right up my alley. One of my blog posts last year, “Make It Modular,” puts “stacking things” in chart form. I’m going to try your recipe, Claudia. Alicia, I love the way you used leftovers in your pasta. I often say my refrigerator is my best cookbook. And the cat’s mother’s acquacotta maremmana looks enticing—did you choose “cooked water” to go with the title?

Thanks to Heather(and Ana) for càlia e simenza, which looks better than trail mix any day and is easy to make, to Simona for cookies that I’ll bake as soon as I figure out where to buy baker’s ammonia, and to Debra for a dish that I think best exemplifies Inspector Montalbano’s approach to food. I too love food that can “be served up without any problem,” especially if garlic is involved. Ana, how appropriate to choose pasta alla puttanesca—and is there a pasta in the style of corrupt politicians too? And Rachel, the pollo e pomodori looks delightful.

(By the way, my go-to Italian cookbook is Trattoria by Patricia Wells. I’ve never had one of her recipes go wrong. Friday evening I fixed two of her recipes, petti di pollo alla salvia (sautéed chicken breasts with fresh sage) and risotto al limone—but I digress. They aren’t even remotely Sicilian.)

Well, David and I read all of your blog posts and then read them all again, and as we ate leftover risotto (“As they ate, they spoke of eating, as always happens in Italy”) we talked about what we most liked. Since we found it hard to decide, I asked him one question: “Which recipe do you want me to make for dinner tomorrow night?” He didn’t hesitate: he wanted sciuscieddu, though he didn’t try to pronounce it: egg and bread crumb soup.We both thought Deb wrote an excellent review of the book, both its plot and its food, and she bravely not only researched Sicilian food but even adapted English-language recipes to be truer to the Sicilian original. A bonus for us is that the recipe can be made vegetarian (we call ourselves part-time vegetarians). So the winner is Deb of Kahakai Kitchen—but really, you’re all winners, and so are we, with all these good new recipes to try. Now go make more of that Sicilian food and invite the neighbors over to share it!

P.S. Deb, do you think it would hurt to cook the garlic a little before adding it to the dumplings? And is there a wine you’d recommend to complement the soup?"

Hats off to our winner, Deb, and a big thank you to our delightful guest judges!

And now, to pass the torch to our CTB winner and current Host of the next CTB round. Hope you are all enjoying our next book, "The Color of Tea", by Hannah Tunnicliffe.

-Rachel, The Crispy Cook

Sciucieddu Update:

Lavonne made a batch of Deb's award-winning soup and here's what she had to say:

"It's delicious! Just before serving, I added the juice of one lemon, which I think made it even better. Oh, and if it really bothers Deb that her dumplings fell apart, tell her to keep the broth just at or just below boiling, and to let the dumplings cook in it for at least 5 minutes. Then they turn into little meatballs."

Looks scrumptious~!


Heather S-G said...

Congrats Deb!! And thanks so much to our wonderful judges this round :)

Alicia Foodycat said...

Well done Deb! Thanks judges!

Bettina Douglas said...

Thank you to the judges. And yes, acquacotta was an irresitable word play on the title.

What great dishes were shared. Thank you CTB team

Claudia said...

Kudos Deb! I've got to try that soup as well. Thanks also to our judges, for their time and thoughtful comments.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Oh Wow!!! This was unexpected but delightful. I thought this day would never come--when I can finally put that "winner's badge" on my blog lol! ;-) I am very honored to be selected by the judges among such incredible entries.

Thank you David and Lavonne! In answer to your questions--yes, cooking the garlic a bit would I think only enhance the dish. For the wine, I will have to think on that a bit but, I would say definitely something crisp, white and refreshing would compliment it nicely.

Thanks Rachel for a great pick and wonderful job hosting. I'll be back very soon with The Color of Tea kick-off post and exciting judging announcement!

Debra Eliotseats said...

Excellent job, Deb!!! That recipe would be perfect today. It is freezing here!!!!

Simona Carini said...

Congratulations, Deb!
And thanks to our judges for their their thoughts.

As an aside, I also enjoy Donna Leon's novels and have written about them in one of my Novel Food posts.

LaVonne Neff said...

Thanks to all of you! I just blogged about Cook the Books and am going to see if I can figure out how to use html tags to link to it here. It's at
The Neff Review.

LaVonne Neff said...

Hey, it worked! Except for the weird spacing.

Peter Rozovsky said...

One of my favorite food-related passages in Camilleri is this, from The Terracotta Dog:

Niccolò Zito, newsman from the Free Channel and a true friend, tried to rescue him from the quicksand in which he was drowning.

"Inspector, with your permission," said Zito. "You said you met Tano on your way back from Fiacca, where you'd been invited to eat a tabisca with friends. Is that correct?"


"What is a tabisca?"

They'd eaten tabisca many times together. Zito was simply tossing him a life preserver. Montalbano seized it. Suddenly confident and precise, the inspector went into a detailed description of that extraordinary, multiflavored Italian pizza.

When will you or one of your readers tell us how to make a tabisca?
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Heather S-G said...

Oh boy, that sounds like a challenge... and I have a hard time resisting a challenge.

Peter Rozovsky said...

And I'm curious about the make-up of a tabisca.

Simona Carini said...

Peter, I think I looked it up when I read the book, but I did it again to answer your question. It is a kind of focaccia. From the couple of recipes I saw, the dough is made with durum wheat flour. The topping of the tabisca from Sciacca (Fiacca in the book) includes tomatoes, cheese, onions, etc. (hence it is multiflavored). However, I have seen a page related to the festival of tabisca ca ricotta, which is a focaccia stuffed with fresh ricotta (now, I would love to try this), so it looks like there are at least a couple of different types of tabisca. I wish it were easy to go over to Sicily and find out.