Saturday, June 4, 2022

June/July Selection: A Cook's tour - Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

We at Cook the Books Club are going on A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain.  I am pretty much looking forward to this trip along with Tony, and the rest of you, into some extreme adventures with food and travel.  Though, I must admit feeling a bit leery, as he is said to be pretty outrageous.  One of us recently admitted to living under a rock, and I agreed to dwelling in a similar place, having never heard of or seen video or film of or read books by either Stanley Tucci or Anthony Bourdain.   So, coming out from under the rock, I picked this book after reading a few reviews, because it sounded fun, entertaining and even informative.  Basically like something I wanted to read!

Bourdain shows himself to be one of the country's best food writers. His opinions are as strong as his language, and his tastes as infectious as his joy." -Sam Sifton, New York Times Book Review

The only thing "gonzo gastronome" and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, "What would be the perfect meal?," Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail, and in the process turns the notion of "perfection" inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks' Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America's boldest and bravest chef.

From Publisher's Weekly:
"...  Chef Anthony Bourdain, author of the bestselling Kitchen Confidential ... writes with humor and intelligence, describing meals of boudin noir and Vietnamese hot vin lon ("essentially a soft-boiled duck embryo") and 'fessing up to a few nights of over-indulgence ("I felt like I'd awakened under a collapsed building," he writes of a night in San Sebastian hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar). Goat's head soup, lemongrass tripe, and pork-blood cake all make appearances, as does less exotic fare, such as French fries and Mars bars (deep fried, but still). In between meals, Bourdain lets his readers in on the surprises and fears of a well-fed American voyaging to far-off, frugal places, where every part of an animal that can be eaten must be eaten, and the need to preserve food has fueled culinary innovation for centuries. He also reminds his audience of the connections between food and land and human toil, which, in these sterilized days of pre-wrapped sausages, is all too easy to forget."

What we do here at Cook the Books Club is to read a bi-monthly book selection, get inspired to cook something from it, post that inspiration and then voila, join in.  Deadline for contributing your post for this current selection is Sunday, July 31, 2022. New participants are always welcome. (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.)


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Taste: My Life Through Food, The Roundup

How did June get here so soon?! It's time for our roundup of our April/May Selection: Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

Mahalo friends for joining me in this read that seemed to well-liked by most of our group! I'll be recapping the entries in the order I received them, or as closely as possible.

First in was Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats who loves that "Tucci, actor, writer and all-around engaging screen personality, is a food obsessive like me, and his depictions made for very entertaining reading. He writes just like he speaks on film, and one can just hear his voice as the sentences roll off the page." She was inspired by Tucci's prose on Ragu, saying "Especially captivating are Tucci’s depictions of meals enjoyed by him over the years. Of Ragu, he says, “Ragu is eaten with fresh pasta, the reason being that the richness of the sauce needs a pasta of suitable shape and texture to absorb it properly.” Rather than make Tucci's recipe, Cathy made her grandmother's Abruzzo’s Pasta Alla Chitarra with Lamb Ragu, saying "Although in the book Tucci goes on to provide his family’s “famous” Ragu recipe, I’ve chosen to focus instead on grandmother’s take on the traditional sauce, and to provide her tutorial for the pasta chitarra as well. Enjoy!"

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm LOVED the book saying, "This memoir had me laughing out loud from the first page. I so enjoyed getting to know Stanley Tucci and really, really want to join him for dinner, drinks and conversation." Wendy chose a cocktail for her dish, his Perfect Negroni Up, saying, "Food inspiration comes easily while reading this memoir but, just in case you don't get bowled over by Stanley's food descriptions, there are numerous recipes interspersed throughout, starting with the cocktail that I am sharing with you today. ... As for the cocktail?  I did think it was pretty perfect. Of course, I love Campari and have an affinity for bitter."

Camilla of Culinary Cam enjoyed the book finding that "Tucci writes with candor and a wry humor in this intersection of food and life." Camilla added her own flair to that so popular zucchini pasta dish, making it a Tre Colori Spaghetti con Zucchine alla Nerano and saying, "Okay, his wasn't a three-colored pasta, but it's what I had. ... My recipe is slightly adapted, but still amazing. I will definitely be making this again as summer is approaching and that always brings a glut of zucchini!"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor said, "As soon as I started reading Taste it was clear there would be much food inspiration. Tucci had a way of describing his childhood which evoked so many memories of my own. The benefits of growing up in an Italian neighborhood were immense and I loved every bit of it.This book is humorous, engaging and sad in parts." For her inspiration Tina found that "There are many recipes included in this book and you'll be hungry as you read about his foodie experiences. ...So many wonderful recipes - here is the first one, Classic Carbonara."

Claudia of Honey From Rock said, "What an enjoyable read! And especially for us book foodies, with so many suggestions, memorable meals, recipes encountered in his full and sometimes even tragic life. I felt as though I had met and come to know the man, with his sense of humor, conversations on whatever was happening, and sometimes rather dogmatic views, as per the one on NOT EVER cutting your spaghetti. And, not combining the wrong pasta and sauce. I'm sure I do that on a regular basis. Occasionally even cut my spaghetti. OMG!'  For her dish she said, "There was absolutely so much inspiration here, every other page at least. What most appealed however, was a meal he's enjoyed a number of times at Lo Scoglio on the Amalfi coast. Spaghetti con Zucchini alla Nerano. I mean the way he raved, and the very simplicity of the dish itself.  Basically zucchini, basil, olive oil, salt, spaghetti and Parmigiana-Reggiano. And, of course, the secret ingredient, a dollop of butter, ferreted out by Stanley in the restaurant's kitchen."

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures felt that, "If I were to rate this book on the beginning (Mr Tucci's childhood) and the end (his battle with cancer), I would probably give it 4.5 stars. But then there's the middle bit. Parts were compelling, parts found Mr. Tucci's waxing on a bit, and parts had me full out rolling my eyes over the poor me celebrity bit. Regardless, it was an enjoyable read overall (especially his childhood.). There are several recipes added throughout, which also makes this a great foodie read!" For her dish, Amy made Tucci's Traditional 3-Ingredient Fettuccine Alfredo and said, "I was most intrigued by Mr. Tucci’s explanation of alfredo. Well, according to Mr Tucci, the American, cream-based version that is our favorite is apparently an abomination. A true alfredo is 3 ingredients only: pasta, butter, and parmesan. Say what?!? ... The verdict: it was good, but overall, we’d prefer the cream-based alfredo or the cheater parmesan noodles instead!"

Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader joined us this month and enjoyed the audiobook, saying, "From the opening paragraphs of this book, this was a delightful audio experience. Even now that I have the book sitting here, I can hear Tucci's voice as I flick through the pages and read various paragraphs." Her inspiration? "When I was thinking about which recipe to share for this post, there really was one that jumped at me and that was Spaghetti con Zucchine alla Nerano. There were two main reasons for this. One is the the way that Tucci waxed lyrically about it in both the book and in his TV series.  The second reason is that I love cooking with zucchini, or more precisely chopping zucchini. When I am chopping zucchini I feel as though I have some knife skills which is definitely not true."

Debra of Eliot's Eats said, "Reading Taste is like having your own personal conversations with Tucci.  His tales are honest, homey, and unpretentious (even when he’s talking about dining with Marcello Mostroianni or attending George Clooney’s wedding)." Debra was going to make a frittata but said she, "wanted something a little different to celebrate Taste" and so she made his Spaghetti with Lentils. She states, "I really like this recipe and it is a pretty easy one to prep. I used a full carrot and a full stalk of celery (although they were small ones). I also used the full recipe of marinara—just dumped it all in. A little parmesan and  basil to garnish and dinner was served. I’m sharing this with some vegetarian friends."

Ruth of @ruth44north (her Instagram account) joins us this round saying, "Thank you ladies for the inspiration! I discovered your blog recently ( why have I just found you !?!?) and happened to have Taste on my night table. You don’t have to ask me twice to recreate the amazing Timpano served in Big Night for which I’ve been drooling for a trusted recipe for over 30 years. Very worth the bit of prep; I halved the recipe since we are a two person household and it came out beautifully in a deep Lodge dutch oven dish. The key was giving the ragu time enough to develop; didn’t hurt that we still had garden tomatoes and sauce from last summer. Prepping ingredients a day ahead made the actual assembly fairly painless. while the Timpano baked it gave me time to revisit the honest, touching and delicious words of Mr. Tucci while relaxing in the hammock (Me, not Stanley Tucci. It also helped calm my nerves that were all a flutter with anxiety about whether I was going to be able to get the Timpano safely out of the pan) We of course had to watch the film again - it’s the recipe that keeps on giving!! Graci Mille Stanley Tucci and Cook the Books!!!"

Simona of briciole liked that, "The book included a couple of interesting sections, one pertaining the history of the highly enjoyable movie Big Night (1996), in which Tucci played the younger brother, Secondo. I didn't know that he had written the screenplay. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it." For her dish Simona made a Strawberry, Fava Bean, Fennel and Radish Salad, saying, "Reading the book in the run-up to the 16th anniversary of my little blog, made me think of all the recipes I have created for it. I decided to select a recipe from the early years and update it based on my current eating habits. The recipe I chose comes from a July 2008 post and features seasonal ingredients quite representative of Italian cuisine. The salad also happens to include the colors of the Italian flag (called tricolore): white, red and green (bianco, rosso e verde)."

Finally, in a move that might get me kicked out of Cook the Books, at Kahakai Kitchen, I ordered rather than cooked my dish. A blogging/cooking slump, compounded with a case of COVID that hit my asthma and has me hitting the energy wall every early afternoon, made the thought of cooking this weekend unbearable. I adored the book--both reading and listening to Stanley and ended up bringing in one of my favorite dishes Mushroom Risotto from a local cafe. Tucci mentions it as part of a quarantine menu and risotto in general a few times in the book. I didn't even have the energy to plate it, but I enjoyed it for two meals (on the couch of course!). I did include some mushroom risotto recipes that I did actually make in my post.  

Wow! Every Cook the Books round I think of how wonderful it would be to be able to taste everyone's book-inspired dishes, and I think this roundup is one of the most delicious. Thank you all for joining me!

I believe I posted all of the entries received from the comments and/or those sent by email, but if I missed anyone, please let me know. 

I will now turn things over to my fellow Hawaii Blogger, Claudia of Honey From Rock for our June/July selection, Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines.    

Happy Reading and Eating!

Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, April 10, 2022

April/May Selection: Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

I just watched Stanley Tucci's third TikTok video ever where he shows the Saturday lunch he was serving for a visit from his parents and daughter. It reinforces why I like him so much--he is a celebrity that I truly think would be fun to hang out with. It also served as a reminder that we are nine days into the month and I hadn't posted the announcement for our Cook the Books April/May selection, Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci.

From the Publisher:

Named a Notable Book of 2021 by NPR and The Washington Post From award-winning actor and food obsessive Stanley Tucci comes an intimate and charming memoir of life in and out of the kitchen. 

Stanley Tucci grew up in an Italian American family that spent every night around the kitchen table. He shared the magic of those meals with us in The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table, and now he takes us beyond the savory recipes and into the compelling stories behind them. 

Taste is a reflection on the intersection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about his growing up in Westchester, New York; preparing for and shooting the foodie films Big Night and Julie & Julia; falling in love over dinner; and teaming up with his wife to create meals for a multitude of children. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burned dishes, is as heartfelt and delicious as the last. 

Written with Stanley’s signature wry humor, Taste is for fans of Bill Buford, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Ruth Reichl—and anyone who knows the power of a home-cooked meal.  

I am looking forward to reading (and listening as I bought the audiobook) to Stanley's memoir with all of you and to see what delicious dishes it inspires us to make.

The deadline for contributing your post is Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

Leave a comment below with a link to your post and/or email me at

Anyone can participate in Cook the Books: just pick up a copy of the selection from your local bookstore or library, take inspiration from your reading, then cook and post the inspired dish. 

We look forward to having you read and cook along with us in this selection period and beyond. New participants are always welcome. (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.


Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Red Sparrow: The Roundup

It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club February-March 2022 edition for which we read Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews, a spy novel...

As I've done in the past, I will present our club members' contributions as a menu. For each, I will give you the official information (author, blog name and post title) and a quote from it — a taste: follow the link and read the author's take of the book and how the reading inspired the cooking. 

Cook the Books Club's Red Sparrow-Inspired Menu

Syrniki (Ukrainian Pancakes)

Main Course:
Pelmeni (Russian Dumplings)
Fettine a Stracotto (Italian Boeuf Bourguignon)
Rogan Josh (curried lamb in a rich tomato-based sauce)
Banosh (Ukrainian Polenta)
Soubise (Onion and Rice Casserole)

Salad with Sweet and Spicy Balsamic Vinaigrette
Red beet, carrot, apple and egg salad

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the menu.

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm prepared Syrniki (Ukrainian Pancakes)

"I found myself praying that the portrayals of Russian agents who risk everything to help our agents and agents from other countries protect the world from Putin is at least partially true... I was inspired by the Syrniki because of its Ukranian roots... These Ukrainian Pancakes are a wonderful way to start the day topped with powdered sugar and a schmear of jam but they would be equally as good as a start to a dinner party topped with smoked salmon or a dollop of caviar. They were delicious without any other toppings and as good cold a couple of hours later as they were warm."

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures made Pelmeni (Russian Dumplings)

"I persevered through the surprisingly predictable text only to be led into a partial resolution that leads into the sequel... Despite all this, I did have several food references written down to try... In the end, I settled on Pelmeni. In the novel, the two main characters are meeting an important higher-up and the Russian (Dominika) notes that in her culture, it is customary to make a dish to share when someone important comes over for a meeting. She makes Pelmeni and that’s what I made too... A lot of effort for one meal. But what a meal!  Pelmeni were adored by all (even if the kids passed on the sour cream!)."

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats prepared Fettine a Stracotto (Italian Boeuf Bourguignon)

"Who can forget Julia Child warbling on about making Boeuf Bourguignon in those old tv clips that are so endlessly replayed?... When I came across the recipe for Fettine a Stracotto..., I was struck by the similarities between the two. Both rely on the same main ingredients and both reflect peasant origins.  And, upon consideration, I actually prefer Italy’s take on this classic peasant comfort food... The search was instigated by the recipe “Jean Jacques Beef Stew Dijon” featured in the book... I have to confess that spy novels are not my cup of tea, but the pairing of spy thriller and recipes was too interesting to pass up along with the opportunity to link this to the Abruzzo rendition."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor prepared Rogan Josh 
(curried lamb in tomato-based sauce)

"I don't want to give spoilers in case you may read this book but let it be said, this book published in 2013 gives insight to Putin's cruelty. This is an unusual espionage book where meals are mentioned in the storyline. Most chapters end with a recipe.  For my inspiration on this book I made Rogan Josh [an Indian dish of curried meat, typically lamb, in a rich tomato-based sauce]. As I was short on time I used a jarred sauce... I spruced it up with parsley, warmed naan and hummus."

Claudia of Honey from Rock prepared Banosh (Ukrainian Polenta)

"I was unable to finish this book, couldn't identify with the lead characters at all, aside from pity, and would agree with one reviewer..., who said in part:'If this was a novel about old spies in suits, I’D BE SO HAPPY.'... After looking over various recipes from the Ukraine online, we are going with one of their national dishes, Banosh! Said to be of the most popular traditional Hutsul dishes, specifically from the Carpathians... We both enjoyed this version of polenta, and especially with the yummy toppings."

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen prepared Soubise (Onion and Rice Casserole)

"Some of the violence and misogyny is hard to take... I liked Dominika and Nate and some of the other characters and I kept reading. The food descriptions and abbreviated recipes were varied from different countries and cuisines beyond Russia... I ended up going with (Station Chief) Forsyth's Soubise, described as 'He knew one dish, a soubise, buttery braised rice and caramelized onions.' It was what I wanted most... OK, this is really good--really rich and REALLY good. It's creamy, buttery, decadent, and the sweet, caramelized onions and nutty Gruyere are an excellent match."

Debra of Eliot's Eats prepared a Salad with Sweet and Spicy Balsamic Vinaigrette

"If you’ve seen the film version, just know that the endings are totally different. On another note, the film is much darker than the novel... As Nate lunches with other CIA employees, there’s a simple salad dressing that just spoke to me... After reading this book of espionage, set in Russia with Putin as a character, I just wanted to make something simple... I agree with Nate’s description of this recipe: 'The dressing had a balsamic sweetness cut with Dijon and a hint of heat, unlike any vinaigrette he had ever tasted.' The salad I created had bits and pieces of things from the veggie drawer... Loved it!"

Simona of briciole (your host)
prepared Red beet, carrot, apple and egg salad

"I found the main characters in the novel interesting, in terms of how they end up doing what they do and also with respect to the question: how do they keep their humanity? How do they maintain friendships, marriages? Those relationships are rooted in trust, openness, sincerity, and yet the spy's main role is to dissimulate... A recipe for Estonian Beet Salad—Rosolje appears at the end of chapter 40... Various versions of this dish are typical of the larger Baltic region... The salad I made is a free interpretation."

A great Thank you! to everyone who joined in this edition of Cook the Books.

I believe all the submissions I have received are presented in the roundup. If you find anything missing or in need of amendment anywhere in the roundup, please do let me know.

And now, I’ll pass the baton to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen who is hosting the April-May edition in which we are reading the memoir Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

This is the moment you've been waiting for: the announcement of the next four selections of our book club. Drum roll, please!

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (October 2021) for the April / May 2022 edition

I adore Stanley Tucci! Ever since watching him in Big Night, I have been a fan of his acting and since seeing his show, Searching For Italy, and following him on Instagram, I have become a fan of his passion for good food and drink. I have been wanting to read Taste: My Life Through Food since it came out this past October and bought both the e-book and the audio book, thus sealing it as my choice for our April/May round of Cook the Books.  

From the Publisher:

Named a Notable Book of 2021 by NPR and The Washington Post From award-winning actor and food obsessive Stanley Tucci comes an intimate and charming memoir of life in and out of the kitchen. 

Stanley Tucci grew up in an Italian American family that spent every night around the kitchen table. He shared the magic of those meals with us in The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table, and now he takes us beyond the savory recipes and into the compelling stories behind them. 

Taste is a reflection on the intersection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about his growing up in Westchester, New York; preparing for and shooting the foodie films Big Night and Julie & Julia; falling in love over dinner; and teaming up with his wife to create meals for a multitude of children. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burned dishes, is as heartfelt and delicious as the last. 

Written with Stanley’s signature wry humor, Taste is for fans of Bill Buford, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Ruth Reichl—and anyone who knows the power of a home-cooked meal.  

I am excited to read Stanley's memoir with all of you and to see what delicious dishes it (and maybe his two cookbooks and television series) inspire!  

Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Deadline for contributing your post is Tuesday, May 31, 2022

For the June / July edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain (November 2002) [note that this is the paperback edition; others have the subtitle In Search of the Perfect Meal]

I've settled Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour based on the raves of others, having never read anything of his or even watched him on TV. Totally a Bourdain newbie here :)

From the Publisher:

The only thing "gonzo gastronome" and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, "What would be the perfect meal?," Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail, and in the process turns the notion of "perfection" inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks' Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America's boldest and bravest chef.
Fans of Bourdain will find much to love in revisiting this classic culinary and travel memoir.

Claudia, Honey From Rock

Deadline for contributing your post is Sunday, July 31, 2022

For the August / September 2022 edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This past summer, our local art museum hosted an exhibit of Salvador Dali’s illustrations for a 1969 edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I loved these panels of color and surrealistic images. I bought one of the copies of the book in the museum shop. I recently picked it up to read and spent an enjoyable afternoon spiraling down into Wonderland and deciphering Dali’s accompanying illustrations. Being that it is in the children literature genre, it was a quick read. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and realized I don’t think I had read it before even though it is a staple of Victorian literature and references to Alice’s adventures can be found everywhere from Walt Disney to Tim Burton. I was also surprised by the amount of culinary inspiration that I found within this slim volume. Some may be inspired by the “EAT ME” and “DRINK ME” scenes or the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Others may find inspiration in Alice’s mushroom eating wanderings. There actually are scholarly works written on the food and drink depicted in Wonderland if you want to dive deep. I also found this site interesting: Children's Literary Classics: An Alice in Wonderland Menu and Party Plan. I invite you to revisit this tale from your childhood and become inspired to create a culinary wonderland of your own. Pick whatever edition you want—a classic one or the Dali illustrated one (on the left in the collage above), 

Debra, Eliot's Eats

Deadline for contributing your post is Friday, September 30, 2022

To round up the list of selections, for the October / November 2022 edition Simona (briciole) chose the novel Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson (September 2005)

Right around the time when we started talking about our next selections, I read an article on The Guardian titled Top 10 cooks in fiction written by Annabel Abbs. Number 10 is Gerald Sampler, protagonist of the novel I chose:   
Gerald is a ghostwriter for C-list celebrities who likes inventing recipes. From his Tuscan hilltop he cooks with great gusto, using copious amounts of an Italian digestif called Fernet Branca. The plot is fast-paced but daft, the characters ludicrous but hilarious, and the recipes imaginative but ridiculous. Mussels in chocolate, garlic ice cream, a pie made from cat and kerosene, all doused in Fernet Branca, and described by one reviewer “lingering in the mind like poems”. This farce of a novel is a perfect reminder that no cook should take themselves too seriously.  
I'm looking forward to reading how Gerald uses Fernet Branca in the kitchen, since when I was growing up in Italy it was strictly drunk as a digestivo.  

Simona, briciole

Deadline for contributing your post: Wednesday, November 30, 2022.

Remember that membership in our book club is open to anyone and we hope you will join us by reading these selections and creating inspired recipes. For more information about participating, click here.  

As always, specific announcement posts can be found at Cook the Books at the beginning of each two-month period and the current selection is always shown on the right side of the homepage.

To recap:

April / May 2022: Taste by Stanley Tucci (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)

June / July 2022A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain (hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)

August / September 2022: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)

October / November 2022: Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson (hosted by Simona at briciole)

Happy reading and cooking!


Saturday, February 5, 2022

Midnight Chicken Round Up

Midnight Chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For) by Ella Risbridger was the feature work at Cook the Books for December/January.   You can read the announcement post here.

Risbridger's book is much more than just another cookbook.

This may have looked like a cookbook, but what it really is is an annotated list of things worth living for:  a manifesto of moments worth living for.  Dinner parties, and Saturday afternoons in the kitchen and lazy breakfasts, and picnics on the heath; evenings alone with a bowl of soup, or a heavy pot of clams for one.  The bright clean song of lime and salt, and the smoky hum of caramel-edged onions.  Soft goat’s cheese and crisp pastry.  A six-hour rag├╣ simmering on the stove, a glass of wine in your hand.  (277)

If you're like me, you will find yourself revisiting it often, not only for recipes but for wisdom.  

Let's see what the other readers thought about Midnight Chicken.  Please note that the round up is in no particular order.  

Cathy from Delaware Girl Eats found herself curling up with this book on a cold winter's day while looking for good and warming comfort food.  She was intrigued by Risbridger's “Saturday Afternoon Charred Leek Lasagna” (201-213).  Cathy quotes the author:
Lasagna can be party food, picnic food or leftovers, but most of all it is proper comfort food.  Done well, it’s both a joy to eat and a joy to cook.  It’s endlessly flexible lazy, lovely weekend cooking" (210).  So true!
She adapted the recipe to make Lasagna Rollups.  I love the vegetarian ingredients and flavors and Cathy's take on the original recipe.

Amy's Cooking Adventures rated the book 3 out of 5 stars. Because of Risbridger's honesty and candidness about her own trials and tribulations, it left Amy feeling a bit melancholy.
Overall, I felt myself wishing for a bit more. Often, I would be hooked into a story, wondering who exactly the Tall Man was to her (friend, boyfriend, husband?) or what happened with her relationship to her dad's entire side of the family. I'm looking forward to trying a recipe of two.

Amy did find a recipe.   Here's her Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup (slightly adapted with what she had on hand.)

Claudia (a fellow CTB co-host) from Honey from Rock created a mega post.  Claudia made four recipes from or inspired by Midnight Chicken:  Big Hearty Black Bean Soup (146), Trashy Ginger Chicken (102), Sourdough Black Russian Bread (inspired by Risbridger's Wicked Stepmother Black Bread) (75), and finally Carbonara for Caroline (151).
Claudia borrowed Midnight Chicken from her library but after these recipes she's buying it!  :)  You can read about her recipes here.

Wendy states that this is a great book for new outlooks in a new year.  She enjoyed the author's tone and voice:  "Ella Risbridger is from the other side of the pond and you can almost here her accent as you read her candid, friendly, relaxed stories that revolve around the recipes that she shares."   Wendy further identified with Risbridger's tale of finding strength in the kitchen and having a Tall Man to make things better.  

She has tons of other recipes earmarked to make.  I must try this chicken recipe as soon as I am able!

Welcome to Deb from Readerbuzz.   Deb made Aga Mamma's Milk Bread.
What a lovely loaf and Deb gives detailed directions with photos with this recipe.  She loved the book:  "What an amazing book this is! Ella Risbridger tells the story of her journey back into life through cooking and baking. I loved this memoir/cookbook/book about happiness."  Her favorite quote was also the one with which I opened this post. 

Simona (briciole) is another CTB co-host.  Her review includes the following:  
Risbridger talks about her life and about how cooking helped her in moments of particular difficulty. She is open about her mental health and her struggles. She lives in London and her shopping and cooking are influenced by the urban environment. She favors prepackaged vegetables, like cleaned and cut winter squash, and canned legumes and wonders who makes homemade puff pastry (I do). Her ingredients are British, like self-raising flour.

Simona was not inspired by any of the recipes but she was inspired by what the British refer to as beetroots and her farmers market bounty.   

If her Butternut Squash and Red Beet Soup is as delicious as this photo is beautiful, I'm sure it was a success.

Culinary Adventures with Camilla added another delicious bread offering:  Braided Challah Bread.  
Camilla also tried several recipes from the book as well but decided to feature something here that she had never attempted before---braiding bread.   She also points out why challah bread is featured in Midnight Chicken.  
Challah helped Risbridger grieve for her grandfather. 'Me, I grieved with bread. ...The rules of grief were written somewhere I couldn't see, but the rules of bread-making were clear. I don't know how to grieve, but I knew how to make bread. A six-strand challah bread: knead in anger, rise in grief, plait to find a pattern in it all.' (85-86)

Another CTB co-host, Deb from Kahakai Kitchen, posted up in the nick of time.  Deb's thoughts on this cookbook?

Midnight Chicken is a charming book in the vein of a cookbook/memoir which is my favorite kind. I enjoy cookbooks that don't just give me a recipe, but give me a story about that recipe--what inspired it, why it's a favorite, when they first cooked it, or how they enjoy it. Ella Risbridger does this well, and when accompanied with the beautiful watercolor illustrations by Elisa Cunningham, it makes for a pleasurable read to meander through. 
Deb was another reader that wasn't really inspired by any of the soup recipes but she followed Risbridger's lead and cooking style to make something comforting and easy:  Low Effort But Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup.

As for me, the host for this round, I enjoyed everything about this book, the honest voice, the tongue-in-cheek recipes, the illustrations.

My first foray into Midnight Chicken had me inspired to make the Maslen Bread (68-69) and Whiskey and Rye Blondies (254-255).  You can see my post here.

You MUST make these blondies.   

My book is totally full of post-it notes marking recipes I want to make.  I actually have made her Wildly Easy Hummus (with Za'atar) (114-15) and that Wicked Stepmother Bread (75-77).  Both recipes are amazing!

Thanks to everyone you participated and I can't wait for our next round and reading Red Sparrow. 

I hope everyone had a great start to 2022.  Here's to your health and happiness.