Tuesday, December 6, 2022

December/January Selection: Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies

Hello Friends, 

I am hoping December finds you all well, and ready for another round of Cook the Books. I went through my TBR, both e-books and print, and felt myself called to Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman (June 9, 2020) for our December/January selection

From the Publisher: 

An unlikely friendship between two stubborn, lonely souls anchors this big-hearted book and dares us all to ask for more. 

When her life falls apart on the eve of her 40th birthday, Kate Parker finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily's tongue is as sharp as her mind, but she's fed up with pretty much everything. 

Having no patience for Kate's choices in life or love, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book...of sorts. Thought for Food: an unintentionally funny 1950s cookbook high on enthusiasm, featuring menus for anything life can throw at the "easily dismayed," such as: 

  • Breakfast with a Hangover 

  • Tea for a Crotchety Aunt 

  • Dinner for a Charming Stranger

As she and Cecily break out of their ruts, Kate will learn far more than recipes. 

I like my books light and a bit heartwarming this time of year, and this one seemed like a good pick plus, I have owned the Kindle copy for a couple of years now, so it's high time to read it! And finally, who can resist a blurb like: 

Since our virtual foodie book club is full of exceptional ladies, I look forward to seeing what marvelous dishes this novel inspires us to make!


Kahakai Kitchen

Deadline for contributing your post: Tuesday, January 31, 2023.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Cooking with Fernet Branca: The Roundup

It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club October-November edition for which we read Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson. 
As I've done in the past, I will present our club members' contributions as a menu. I will start with cocktails, seeing as the title 'character' of the novel is a liqueur. 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 Cooking with Fernet Branca-Inspired Menu 

Hanky Panky Cocktail  
Whisper in the Dark 

Parfait with Blackberry Jam  

Chicken Liver Paté   

Turkey Pasta e Fagioli and Pesto Bread

Radicchio and lettuce leaf salad with carrot micro greens and persimmon 

Apple Crumble 

Fernet-Branca Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the menu.

"I thought Fernet Branca was going to be a person!!!!  Imagine my surprise when I learned that Fernet Branca wasn't a chef but an Italian Liqueur.  I private messaged my friend Cam right away.  I was laughing so hard at myself that I could barely type... I was, however, inspired to explore Fernet Branca, learning that it is a bitter liqueur used in Italy as a digestif. I also found several recipes for cocktails using Fernet Branca. I do like bitter and often enjoy Compari so I decided to create a cocktail...  delicious!!  ."

"Anytime a book claims to be 'hilarious', I roll my eyes and prepare for the worst. Imagine my surprise when this one actually was funny. I even chuckled...out loud!... Gerald gag-inducing recipes are made hilarious by his misplaced confidence... Finally I found the Whisper in the Dark and this one was a winner... The bitterness of the espresso is just what the drink needed to tame down the bitterness of the Fernet-Branca, while mint brought out the surprising mintiness of the spirit. Finally, the sweetness from the Irish Cream and simple syrup were the perfect finishing touch."

"I found nothing to be culinarily inspired by except kasha, a rustic fiber-rich dish Marta feeds to Gerald after one of his near death experiences... Marta also receives some blackberry kompot from her infamous family in a care package. To celebrate my finishing of  this novel in the early morning, I decided to have some yogurt with oatmeal (my homage to kasha) topped with blackberry jam. Of course, Gerald would have added some anchovies to it... If I’d had more time, I would have made my own buckwheat granola or real kasha.  But, I had zero time... This recipe is simple but delicious."

Claudia of Honey from Rock prepared Chicken Liver Paté

"I had many actual laugh out loud moments going through this humorous and satirical novel, usually due to the unexpected, totally deadpan delivery... I forget now where I saw a reference (in this book?) to Fernet Branca and chicken livers, but pursuing that thread, found a  recipe from The Washington Post for one. That sent me on a search for Chicken Liver Paté, which seemed more doable and could easily incorporate said Branca in place of other spirits... I'm saving the bulk of it for a wedding party next month, but had a few delicious samples, of course."

"I made something that I was craving, Pasta e Fagioli and Bread with Pesto to dip into it... I think you have to be a fan of farce, especially British farce and humor to fully appreciate the book]... Overall, an amusing romp, it kept me reading it to see what would happen... I had some leftover Thanksgiving turkey legs and I wanted a soup with pasta and beans--so of course pasta e fagioli, and then I put the pesto from the eggplant dish onto some French bread with a little dusting of parmesan. Simple (and edible, thank you) comfort food."

"The story and the events are somewhat outlandish and hilarious. The protagonists, Gerald and Marta, whose voice and perspective we hear in turn, keep the reader's attention and so does their turf war... The inspiration for my salad came not from Gerald's creations, but from a connection I made between bitter liqueur and its digestive properties, and bitter greens, like beloved radicchio."

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats baked an Apple Crumble

"The quirky narrative chronicling the adventures of a lost soul living in Tuscany highlights the Italian bitter made with 27 herbs and roots whose aggressive flavor mimics bitter black licorice. It's referenced throughout the book including dishes made with it... I took inspiration from the author's musings in the narrative, particularly one referencing tennis which caught my eye... OK, the narrator Gerald wasn't being particularly complimentary to apples, but indeed the connection to apples had been made and I decided on an Apple Crumble as the dish to prepare to honor this book."

"Satire! Fine. Still, this is one of the strangest books I've read in a long time... I had a bottle of Fernet-Branca on my shelf, so I sipped while I read this strange book... It's an amaro, a bitter alcohol that is served as a digestif. But it originated in the mid-nineteenth century by an herbalist in Milan who marketed it as a cure for worms, cholera, and even menstrual cramps... It's distilled, blended, and aged in oak barrels for a year... Since I definitely was not about to attempt any of Gerald's recipes, I thought I would use it as an extract in a cookie. It was subtle enough to be intriguing. "
"This is a book about food... it is just not food that many people would choose to eat. There are so many examples of disgusting sounding food, but a lot of it is based off of normal recipes... I ended up deciding on making something that I have never made before... I don't have a ready supply of pigeon's eggs to try and recreate an acorn mavlisi so instead, I have made florentines. I did recall that I have seen them made on Great British Bakeoff at least once, so this is Mary Berry's recipe."

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 December 2022-January 2-23 edition in which we are reading the novel Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole