A Posse of Outlaw Cooks Heads for the Roundup

24 01 2012

Our December/January book selection here at Cook the Books was John and Matt Lewis Thorne’s collection of essays, Outlaw Cook, a book your host has found very good reading indeed and was delighted to share with this merry band of blogging cooks. Though some of our regular book club participants found their holiday schedules were too crammed for reading (the horror!) and others found the book difficult to obtain in time for our deadline, an intrepid posse of outlaw cooks wrote up reviews of various chapters in the book and I think they were all marvelous.

First up is a new Cook the Books entrant, Julie of Cookbook Fetish, who was taken with Thorne’s review of artist Claude Monet’s cooking journals.  She enjoyed our featured authors’ “bubbling loquaciousness” and delved further into research about Monet’s culinary interests and Belle Epoque continental cuisine. She was inspired to cook up a Chicken Chasseur. As she notes, “the recipe turned out wonderful, meat sliding from the bone slathered in a buttery mushroomy tomato sauce.”  Welcome to Cook the Books, Julie!


Next we have Eliot’s Eats thoughtful post about various components of the Thorne food philosophy, (“one couldn’t have too many recipes”, and that cooking and experimenting with recipes is a way of enriching one’s life more so than the finished product). She particularly enjoyed the essay about the traditional English plowman’s lunch and incorporated three of the main ingredients, brew, onion, and cheese into a quick bread. As the English would say, Brilliant!


As an avid garlic eater and gardener,  Rachel, The Crispy Cook,  was taken with the chapter on exploration varieties of garlic soup.  I made an herb-infused garlic broth that was wonderfully restorative after a day out shoveling and battling the winter elements.


Simona of Briciole, enjoyed ruminating over the Outlaw Cook chapter on Ful Medames, the popular Egyptian fava bean dish. She made use of some lovely-looking locally grown dried favas and mixed them with green lentils, olive oil, and plenty of aromatics to create a great variation on this traditional recipe.  An Egyptian Plowman’s Lunch below?

My fellow Cook the Books founder and co-host, Deb, of Kahakai Kitchen, enjoyed discovering Thorne’s writing and described our featured book as one “to be savored, tucked into before bed, or revisited when a spark of inspiration is needed.”  She  was sparked up to whip up some Ful Medames, paired with a Cucumber, Lemon and Dill soup from the Outlaw Cook chapter “Soup without Stock”.

Our other CTB cofounder and cohost, Johanna of the Athens, Greece-based blog Food Junkie, Not Junk Food, enjoyed our featured book and was in agreement that “we should not be enslaved by recipes or food writers, but try to find our own voice in cooking”.  Johanna riffed away in the kitchen and produced a portabella mushroom pasta that was a tremendous hit with her husband. I would concur.

Our final submission is from Honey from Rock, Claudia’s Hawaiian blog. She enjoyed the book and notes that “There is so much here to inspire, encourage and challenge all of us who love to cook and to eat good food”. She loved the chapters on breadbaking, (be sure to check out a photo of her gorgeous outdoor bread oven back at her post), but ultimately settled on the chapter about Italian cooking before the tomato was introduced from the New World, entitled “Acetaria”. Thus inspired, Claudia made a sumptuous looking pan of Lasagna Cacciatora.

What a wonderful banquet of posts! I am sure that our guest judge, John Thorne, will enjoy reading our comments about the book and be interested to see what we all did as outlaws in our own kitchens. I’ll be back soon to announce the winner of this round of Cook the Books after Mr. Thorne gets back to me, but in the meantime you can all hunt down copies of Roald Dahl’s classic book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to get your juices flowing for the next installment in our book club reading.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: A Cook the Books Roundup

26 07 2011

Summer in the northern hemisphere is prime gardening season and it is also a great time to loll about with a novel in hand, so reading Sarah Addison Allen’s novel, Garden Spells, seemed to hit just the right chords with the participants in this round of Cook the Books. Most readers really got into using flowers and herbs in our cooking and using food ingredients to invoke certain reactions and I think we all had a lot of fun reading and cooking and writing this time around.

We have a couple of first time CTB entrants, and I would like to extend a hearty welcome to them. The more the merrier in these interpretations of our selected foodie book selections and so first off I will present our newbies to you all:

Elizabeth is the force behind The Law Student’s Cookbook, which chronicles her adventures in her California kitchen when she is not reading constitutional law textbooks.  She notes that the main character in our book, Claire, the caterer, made up a batch of cinnamon rolls in one chapter and Elizabeth knew that Claire probably would have thrown in some of her garden herbs for flavoring and magical attributes so she spiked her batch of cinnamon rolls with Lemon Verbena.

Also joining us for the first time at Cook the Books is Danielle, The Growing Foodie, who revels in her love for reading and cooking.   She made up a batch of Fresh Mint Ice Cream with Chocolate Rose Topping and served this sassy and romantic dessert to her favorite Boston bachelor.

Another welcome is extended to Maria from A Platter of Figs, who made a delicious looking Lemon Lavender Bread. Maria loved learning about the alchemy of food and herbs in this novel and sought to brighten up the clarifying effects of the lavender with the lemon in this moist and fragrant tea bread.

We can all thank Heather the Girlichef for the nudge to pick this great novel for our June/July CTB selection.  (Thanks Heather!)  For her re-reading of Garden Spells, Heather was inspired to make a technicolor Fruit and Grains Salad with Edible Flowers and Strawberry Vinaigrette. You can also check out an earlier post Heather wrote about this book and cooking with marigolds. Spectacular!

A Voluptuous Veal Piccata was on Arlene’s dinner table over at the Food of Love.  Arlene notes that capers have long been noted for their aphrodisiac powers and so she liberally added them to her dish. A tasty and sexy looking offering indeed. I think Claire would approve.

English transplant Foodycat showed off a lovely photo of her own backyard apple tree in her blog post -unlike the tree in our featured novel, it does not fling apples or show people ominous events in their lives- and used her own rosebush petals to crystallise and garnish her Rosewater and Lime Pannacotta.

Rose geraniums are in the garden and on the menu at Texas-based Eliot’s Eats, in the form of Rose Geranium Sugar Cookies.  Eliot was inspired by a passage in Garden Spells about Claire’s magical Rose Geranium Wine, which has mystical powers of remembrance for those who imbibe.

Can’tbelieveweate’s weblog was captivated by the idea of using ingredients to achieve an emotional result and was transported into her own garden to use mint flowers for the first time in her “delightfully bright” Zucchini Carpaccio. Pass the fork!

At The Crispy Cook, I was taken with the character of Evanelle, Claire’s cousin who has the gift of providing people with strange little gifts which they will find the need for after a short time. I also learned that Bachelor Buttons, which are gorgeous little cobalt blue flowers, are edible, so I used them to garnish a simple summer salad of garden lettuce, radishes and raw asparagus.

There are more edible flowers in the post and recipe from Simona of Briciole, who used chive blossoms and sprigs of flowering lemon thyme in a rye bread recipe that was a great success.

Of my two fellow Cook the Books founders and co-hosts, Deb, of Kahakai Kitchen, enjoyed her rereading of this book and used some of the herbs she grows in her Honolulu garden to make a fragrant and luscious sounding Lemon Verbena Creme Brulee.  Just be careful when caramelizing the tops of your desserts if you use a kitchen torch, as Deb knowingly advises!

While on holiday, the other CTB cofounder and cohost, Johanna of the Athens, Greece-based blog Food Junkie, Not Junk Food, enjoyed our featured book and found it captivating.  She was inspired to make an old favorite with a new twist, Spaghetti and Meatballs with a splash of cumin, oregano and cinnamon. Sounds like a great variation!

Our final submission is from Honey from Rock, Claudia’s Hawaiian blog. She enjoyed “this little gem of a novel” and was pleasantly surprised to learn that chive blossoms are edible. She used the white flowers of her own garden-grown garlic chives and some dill to garnish a cold Russian/Estonian style borscht. Look at those gorgeous colors!

And now our guest judge, Jenna, of Literature and a Lens, is going to review these posts to pick a winner that strikes her fancy, so stay tuned to see who wins the fabulous Cook the Books Winner badge for her blog.  Thanks again to Heather, the Girlichef for recommending this great read and to Sarah Addison Allen for writing it!