Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
What's Cooking? Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy by Lidia Matticchio Basthianich... A Review & Recipe!
A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes
A cookbook can be just a list of ingredients and ways to prepare them, or it can be a much richer experience, an exploration of tastes and textures that can make our mouths water. Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, who is well known for her wonderful Italian cooking and sharing that knowledge on her public television show, has a new cookbook! And Lidia's newest cookbook, Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy, is the kind of cookbook that is not only a feast for the taste buds, but a feast for the heart as well. Lidia invites us along to explore little-known parts of Italy and the wonderful foods and recipes that come from them. The recipes are divided by the region of Italy they are from, such as Lombardy, Liguria, & Umbria, and Lidia introduces us to each region with the people and flavors that are rooted there. She writes snippets of history, such as how Apples have been a major product of Va id Non since the Middle Ages and how an 1856 nursery list listed 193 apple varieties and now there are over 8000! And at the end of each chapter Lidia gives us further places to explore in the region we are cooking in, such as the wonderfully romantic city of Sirmione in the region of Lombardy, or the antique shops in the Navigli quarter of Milan. Her passion for cooking is infectious, even in the the way she describes the food , " Just a small amount of saffron can imbue extra-virgin olive oil with the spice's captivating perfume and distinctive flavor", the recipes are easy to understand with thorough directions, even down to the recommended equipment to prepare it with, and with 175 recipes there is plenty of great cooking for everyone! Definitely a nice variety of recipes. Everything I have made from Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy has been delicious! And with permission from the publisher, Alfred A Knopf, I am able to share one of the recipes from Lidia's new cookbook that was a BIG hit in my house! Baked Penne & Mushrooms! I've also included Lidia's intro to the recipe. Here it is... (along with a couple photos of my cooking)
Baked Penne & Mushrooms (Pasticcio di Penne alla Valdostana) ©Lidia cooks from the Heart of Italy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)
The marvelous melting qualities of authentic fontina are particularly evident in baked pasta dishes such as this delicious pasticcio. When it is in the oven with penne (or other tubular or concave pastas, like ziti, rigatoni, or shells), the molten cheese oozes around each peice of pasta and is caught in all of its nooks and crannies. The cheese on top of the pasticcio melts and then becomes crusty and carmelized.
Recommended Equipment: A large pot for cooking the penne; a heavy-bottomed skillet or saute pan, 12 inch diameter or larger; a 3 quart baking dish, 9 x 13 inches, of shallow casserole of similar size.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces fontina from Valle d’Aosta (or Italian Fontal)
1 cup freshly grated Granda Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano - plus more for passing
4 tablespoons soft butter
1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms - (such as porcini, shiitake, cremini, and common white mushrooms) cleaned and sliced.
1 cup half and half
1 pound penne
1 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Fill the pasta pot with 6 quarts of water, add Tablespoon salt, and heat to a boil. Shred the fontina through the larger holes of a hand grater, and toss the shreds with 1/2 cup of the grana (grated parmigiano-reggiano).
Put 3 Tablespoons of the butter in the big skillet, and set it over med.-high heat.When the butter begins to bubble, drop in the mushroom slices, stir with the butter, season with 1 teaspoon salt, and spread the mushrooms out to cover the pan bottom. Let the mushrooms heat, without stirring, until they release their liquid and it comes to a boil. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occaionally,as they shrivel and the liquid rapidly evaporates. When the skillet bottom is completely dry, sitr the half and half into the mushrooms, and continue stirring as the sauce comes to a boil. Cook it rapidly for a minute or two to thicken slightly, then keep it warm over very low heat.
Meanwhile, stir the penne into the boiling pasta water and cook until barely al dente. Ladle a cup of the pasta cooking water into the mushroom sauce and stir. Drain the pasta briefly, and drop into the cream and mushroom sauce. Toss the penne until all are nicely coated, then sprinkle over them the remaining 1/2 cup of grana (not mixed with fontina) and the chopped parsley. Toss to blend.
Coat the bottom and sides of the baking dish (13 x 9 or 3 quart) with the last tablespoon of butter. Empty the skillet into the dish, spreading the penne and sauce to fill the dish completely in a uniform layer. Smooth the top, sprinkle the mixed fontina-grana evenly all over.
Set the dish in the oven, and bake 20 - 25 minutes, until the cheese topping is crusty and deep golden brown and the sauce is bubbling up at the edges. Set the hot baking dish on a trivet at the table, and serve family-style. ©Lidia cooks from the Heart of Italy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)
This is a great cookbook! If you make this recipe, let me know what you think! Learn more about Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, her tv show, recipes and books at Lidia's website Lidia's Italy. In the meantime enjoy her recipe! Thank you to Caitlin of FSB Associates and Alfred A. Knopf for a copy of Lydia Cooks From The Heart of Italy to review!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation...
Seth Grahame-Smith is a genius! How he seamlessly blended the historical facts surrounding Abraham Lincoln and his life growing up with the fictional history & superstitions surrounding Vampires is amazing! Seth had to be careful writing the story because Abe Lincoln and his life is so well known, but he has made Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter actually seem realistic. With absolute respect for Abraham Lincoln, Seth Grahame-Smith tells the story of the humble beginnings of Mr. Lincoln, being born on "an unseasonably mild" Sunday in February in a one room cabin in Kentucky, and follows his life, and the developing American frontier, until his assassination in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. In between "the pages" of the story, we float down the Mississippi with Abe as a young man, learn about his Baptist upbringing that taught him that slavery was wrong, watch him gain proficiency in using his axe (very helpful with Vampires), and watch him fall in love. We meet Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen Douglas, Dred Scott, and witness the start of the Civil War. Vampires have a funny way of being part of all this history, and we soon learn that looks can be deceiving...
It's important to note, these vampires in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter are not the semi-sweet kind you'll find in the Twilight series, these vampires are vicious... with the exception of Henry Sturges, who was begrudgingly made into a vampire long ago, befriends Abe, and helps him seek revenge on the "unnatural" souls who have caused him so much pain.
I listened to the unabridged audiobook narrated by the soothing voice of Scott Holst. Scott does a wonderful job of setting the mood with his pitch perfect delivery of the story. His voice captured my attention and the story grabbed it. The accompanying music played at the start of the discs and the ending of each disc did a nice job of setting the tone for the particular part of the story. And at the end of the audiobook, there is a wonderful interview with the author! PLUS, a bonus PDF of "historical photographic documents", which are strangely vampirish in nature!
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is like Anne Rice writing like Mark Twain with a heavy dose of David McCullough. Of course it's all Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and if you like historical fiction, you have to listen to this! It's Fact, Fiction & a lot of Fun! Hours of great narration and a great story to match! Listen to an excerpt of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and judge for yourself! *Warning, this is a vampire story, so there is a bit of blood & gore.
This audiobook is unabridged, 9 CD's, and approximately 10 listening hours! I want to thank Anna from Hachette Books Group for sending along the audiobook for me to review! Thanks Anna I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it!
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The Sunday Salon... Week in review, Books now in Paperback, and The Orange Prize for Fiction nominees!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
The Cradle by Patrick Somerville opens with a very pregnant Marissa describing "the cradle" that she was rocked in as a child, that was supposedly from the Civil War, and went missing after her mother abandoned the family when Marissa was 15, and a mysterious break-in occurred shortly there after. Marissa asks her husband Matt to find it. She wants the cradle for her baby, just as she had it as a baby. It is important to her... he wouldn't understand because he was an orphan... What this means is finding Marissa's mother, even though Marissa has no idea where she is... Matt is a hero to her, he's pretty good at finding keys, why should a cradle be so different?
The next chapter fast forwards 10 years to another family, Rene Owen and her husband Bill, dealing with their 19 year old son going off to war. Rene is desperate not to have her son go off to war. The reason is a deep down pain, a lost love in another war many years before, and a secret that she's kept hidden just as long.
How Patrick Somerville weaves these two stories together is what is magical. When I started reading The Cradle, I thought I was in for a light read. What I got was a deceptively complicated story, that surprised and delighted me. When Matt makes the simple gesture of humoring his wife and trying to find the cradle, little does he know that he's going on quite an adventure that will take him all the way to Antarctica! As he follows the trail of the cradle, he stumbles upon long kept secrets of Marissa's family, which stir his own childhood memories and dormant feelings. Rene Owen's story alternates with Matt and his search for "the cradle", and in doing so the anticipation of each story grows. Hints of a connection are sprinkled in both story lines and there are no earth shattering revelations, but that is what makes the story special- the seamless connection you find at the end. Along the way, the author challenges the reader to think about what being a family means, what being a parent means, and what value a human life holds. The characters are believable, the writing is good, and the story innocently captures your attention. Thought-provoking and at times heartbreaking, The Cradle by Patrick Somerville is a very satisfying read in a mere 200 pages. The search may have started out for the cradle, but everyone finds something different at the end of the story. One thing we all find at the end is hope...
The Cradle would make a great reading group pick. There is definitely great material for a discussion! Here's the Reading Group Guide for The Cradle. You can learn more about Patrick Somerville by visiting his website, and Patrick also has a wonderful essay about how the story for The Cradle came about at Hachette Book Group. I want to also thank Valerie of Hachette Book Group for sending me a copy of The Cradle for review!
Courtesy of Hachette Book Group I also have 3 copies of The Cradle by Patrick Somerville to give away! Here's how to enter...
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
I heard a little chatter about this book, Jenniemae & James by Brooke Newman, and for Memoir Monday thought I would highlight what appears to be an interesting true story of an illiterate African American maid and her brilliant mathematician employer. But as with most friendships, the bond that they shared was not based on their race or how much education they had, but from a common interest and their mutual affection for one another. The Maid was Jennimae Harrington, the mathematician was James Newman, and the book is written by his daughter Brooke...
Here's what the Publisher had to say about Jenniemae & James: "James Newman was a brilliant mathematician, the man who introduced the mathematical concept “googol” and “googolplex” (aka “google” and “googleplex”) to the world, and a friend of Einstein’s. He was also a notorious philanderer with an insatiable appetite for women and fast cars, a man who challenged intellectual and emotional limits, and a man of excess who oftentimes fell victim to his own anxiety.
Jenniemae Harrington was an uneducated, illiterate African American maid from Alabama who began working for the Newman family in 1948—and who, despite her devout Christianity, played the illegal, underground lottery called “policy,” which she won with astonishing frequency. Though highly implausible, these two dissimilar individuals developed a deep and loyal friendship, largely because of their common love of numbers and their quick wits.
Theirs was a friendship that endured even during an era when segregation still prevailed. For James, Jenniemae provided a particular ease and shared sense of irreverent humor that he found difficult to duplicate with his beautiful, intelligent, and artistic wife, Ruth. And when the Newman home was darkened by the tensions of the political climate during the Cold War, or by James’s affairs, or by Ruth’s bouts of depression, it was Jenniemae who maintained the point of gravity, caring for the family’s children when their parents were often lost in their own worlds.
From Jenniemae’s perspective, James offered more than just a steady income. He became an unlikely and loyal friend. He taught her to read, and he drove her to and from his upscale suburban house and her home in the impoverished section of Washington, D.C. (and sometimes, much to her chagrin, in his Rolls-Royce), after she had been raped by a white bus driver. Intrigued by her uncanny wins at the lottery, James even installed a second telephone line in the house so that Jenniemae could keep track of her bets—a decision that raised a few eyebrows at the time.
It is this extraordinary relationship that the Newmans’ daughter, Brooke, reveals in Jenniemae & James, as she elegantly weaves together the story of two very distinct and different people who each had a significant impact on her upbringing. In doing so, she also paints a vivid political and cultural picture of the time—when the world was terrified by the possibility of nuclear war; when America was reeling from the McCarthy hearings; when technological advances like televisions, satellites, and interstate highways were changing the country; when America was just beginning to venture into Vietnam; and when African Americans were still considered second-class citizens with limited rights, before the explosion of racial tensions in the early 1960s. "
This sounds like a wonderful heartfelt story of an unlikely friendship that is filled with the history of the civil rights era. I think it's an interesting perspective coming from Newman's daughters' observations. This is definitely on my TBR list! Has anyone read this yet?! If so, would love to read your thoughts here!