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)
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.
"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."
"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!)."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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!"
"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