The recommendations and the recipes were flying fast and furious at the August Bibliobites meeting. Everyone seemed inspired by summer’s bountiful produce to try new things, as well as new variations on old favorites. We did not read a specific title; each person checked out a book from our collection that related to the theme. Among the recommended cookbooks:
Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop: Though the book had no pictures, it had lots of good recipes. In particular P. raved about the Sicilian Cauliflower, braised with tomatoes, onions, and raisins.
Asian Vegetables by Sarah Deseran: T. enjoyed shopping for Asian greens at the Lowell Farmers’ Market. She’d never seen most of these items before, but took along her book as a guide to what to purchase. One favorite was jap chae, a Korean noodle dish made with sweet potato noodles. She also tried a water spinach dish which contained shrimp paste, a highly fragrant ingredient! The photographs in this book were especially appreciated, as they enable the newbie to buy and use unfamiliar produce with more confidence.
River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. G. loved many of the recipes in this book, and brought in a sample for us to try: Beet Ice Cream! This was an intensely purple concoction of beets, chocolate, and cream. Even beet haters would have loved it!
Taste of Home Farm Fresh Favorites by Sara Lancaster; Go Fresh: a Heart-Healthy Cookbook by American Heart Association; Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells. Though L. admitted she’s not that big on vegetables, she changed her mind after trying recipes from all three books! The Taste of Home book won points for its lavish illustrations and nutrition info for each recipe, and Vegetable Harvest had great tips on cooking with vegetables. L. enjoyed the AHA book’s spaghetti sauce (with turkey sausage) recipe, as well as a simple saute of corn, onions, and red pepper. L. also brought us a sample of a nontraditional zucchini bread she had tried: not too sweet, with nuts and dried fruit. A great twist on an old favorite!
Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes For the Single Cook by Joe Yonan; One World Vegetarian Cookbook by Troth Wells. D. was in an eggplant frame of mind, and tried the eggplant parm from Joe Yonan’s book, which made tidy little stacks of eggplant, cheese, and sauce. The eggplant was roasted, rather than breaded and fried, a time- and calorie-saver. From the One World book she made ratatouille, which she had eaten but never made before. Some of the ratatouille wound up in the freezer, so we’ll stay tuned to see how it is in a few months.
One member (another D.!) tried some vegetable recipes from her book of traditional Greek recipes. One she enjoyed is called toulou, a layered dish of potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, tomato sauce, garlic, and parsley. Like a lasagna, all the ingredients must be cooked before baking, which made it time-consuming. However the recipe makes a large panful, and is so delicious it’s worth the effort.
Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook by Myra Goodman. C. brought in a recipe she especially enjoyed from this book, Black Bean and Corn Salad, which she served as a salsa-like dip with tortilla chips. It was delicious! This book has an extensive collection of recipes using both vegetables and fruits. Though produce is the focus, there are chapters devoted to main dishes both vegetarian and carnivorous. Many beautiful photographs complement the text.
If you like to cook (and eat!) there isn’t much that’s more fun than visiting a food-related business. Many companies have become destinations in and of themselves, where you can tour the production area, sample what’s being made, and buy items to take home. Smaller producers, in particular, tend to have limited distribution; so the only way to try and buy is to visit them. But this makes for lots of fun field trips! Not all the places listed below give tours, and some of them are large companies with many locations– but all are enjoyable places to spend a few hours or a day. What’s your favorite food destination? Let us know!
Parlee Farms, Tyngsboro MA: parleefarms.com. Pick all kinds of fruit at this beautiful farm in Tyngsboro, shop at the farmstand, feed the goats, and enjoy apple crisp or other seasonal treats. Great for kids and families. During busy times (which is most times!) fields or orchards can get picked out, so check the website before you go; they update daily.
HMart, Burlington MA: hmart.com. Truly a unique grocery experience! You can buy 12 kinds of kimchi, pork belly three ways, 4 types of bok choy, and innumerable snack foods that you’ve never seen before. Many labels are only printed in Korean, which leads to interesting experiments. There’s a bakery on-site and a food court where you can indulge your bibimbap or Korean barbecue cravings. Warning: don’t go on the weekends– it’s crazy crowded!
Wegman’s, Northborough, MA: wegmans.com Visit the largest supermarket in New England and find out what all the fuss is about. Rochester-based Wegman’s has an almost cult following; customers sigh over their favorite products and rave about their store brand. Awesome cheese department, extensive prepared foods, grass-fed and organic meats at decent prices. The store has an espresso bar and cafe. Wegman’s will open in Burlington MA in October, if you don’t want to make the trek to Northborough. Also best avoided on the weekends.
Nashoba Valley Winery, Bolton MA: nashobawinery.com. Though they now make wine from grapes too, this winery got its start making wine from other fruits: apples, pears, cranberries, blueberries, and more. They produce wines in a variety of styles and have branched out into beers as well. You can tour the winery and attend a tasting ($6.00 for 5 samples), browse in the extensive shop, and picnic on the apple-orchard grounds. You can also pick your own fruit: peaches, apples, pears, and more. There is a restaurant on the premises, J’s, serving lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Tuscan Market, Salem NH: tuscanbrands.com/market Get a taste of Italy only 35 minutes from Chelmsford! Tuscan Market features cheeses, salamis, bread, pasta, wine, cookies, olive oil….you get the idea! Many items are made in-house and are available frozen. There is a cafe and espresso bar on the premises. The market’s sister enterprise, Tuscan Kitchen, is located across the parking lot and is a full-service restaurant. Though reviews of the restaurant are mixed, the market gets an unequivocal thumbs-up.
Penzey’s Spices, Arlington MA: penzeys.com. Any spice you can think of (and some you can’t!) can be seen and sniffed at this small shop on Mass. Ave. They are known for their high quality and diverse inventory; they also create an extensive array of spice blends. Their online store is convenient if you don’t feel like a road trip.
Stonewall Kitchen, York, ME: stonewallkitchen.com. The flagship store of Stonewall Kitchen is a little more than an hour away from Chelmsford. The complex of buildings contains the production facility, cooking school, and store with cafe. Have breakfast or lunch on the terrace outside, then sample your way through jams, mustards, sauces, and dips. The large shop also carries kitchenware and gift-y items. If you’re feeling flush, sign up for a “class” at the cooking school– professional chefs demo a meal while you sit back, watch them work, and enjoy the results of their labors. If you’re not up for the drive, SK now has a store at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua.
When Pigs Fly, Kittery ME: sendbread.com. Just a few miles south of Stonewall Kitchen is the headquarters of When Pigs Fly. In the bakery shop, sample any and all of their flavorful breads before you buy, and if you love them all, don’t despair– they freeze well! Attached to the store is a large bar/restaurant serving a long list of craft beers and a delicious, eclectic menu. It’s always a really tough choice deciding whether to eat here or at Stonewall Kitchen. When Pigs Fly has a slight edge because it has table service and an extensive bar– and it’s fun to watch the cooks shoving pizzas into the wood-fired oven.
King Arthur Flour, Norwich VT: kingarthurflour.com. The King Arthur Flour company has been going strong since 1790. It’s an employee-owned, family-run company, and their dedication shows. The thrice-expanded store now features a cafe, bakery, shop, and classrooms for demos and baking classes. If you’re a baker, your heart will skip a beat checking out the incredible array of ingredients and cookware they have available in the store. You can also pick up fresh-baked bread while watching the bakers make more, and enjoy coffee and a snack while you contemplate your purchases. Norwich is an easy 2-hour ride from Chelmsford; if you don’t want to make the trip you can order anything online.
At our last Bibliobites meeting someone mentioned buying decaffeinated coffee beans.
How do they decafinate the whole bean? How does this effect the flavor of the coffee?
At the Chelmsford Farmers Market on Thursday I bought ground cherries aka husk cherries. They have a papery husk like a tomatillo.
They were sweet to eat raw. Are there ways to use them in cooking? What kind of a fruit/vegetable is it?
Not a story but a question on how to provide a comment for August on other books on Vegetables.
I wanted to recommend two cookbooks from the owner of Earthbound Farm Organic. The book titles both by Myra Goodman are “Food to Live By” and “The Earth-Bound Cook”. She and her husband own Earthbound Farm Organic in California. The first book I originally checked out from the library and bought it and then Amazon recommended the second when it was published.
Not all the recipes are for vegetables. One of my favorite to take to a pot luck in the summer is the Corn and Black Bean Salad.
We thought summer might be a good time to explore the thrill of the grill, so this month found us knee-deep in smoke boxes, rubs, and hot fires! People found the book visually pleasing (with lots of drool-worthy photos) and well laid out. Our experienced grillers were motivated to try new techniques, such as using a smoke box. Newbies found lots of helpful tips, including charts to let us know “When is it Done?” and “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor.” Most people strongly agreed with the basic (but often ignored) tip to let grilled meats rest after cooking.
Recipes that the group tried and liked included:
p. 117 Tuscan rosemary-smoked whole chicken – a first attempt at using wood chips turned out great. Tip -Remember to read the recipe all the way through before starting to get the timing right.
p. 128 Peruvian chicken
p. 159 Italian sausage hoagies – “Delicious”
p. 182 Grilled strip steaks – were very good and the garlic aioli sauce was highly recommended
p. 199 Pimento cheese-bacon burgers – we all got to try a sample of the pimento cheese – YUM
p. 241 – Grilled tuna with caramelized onions – a quick dish with a very good relish
Non-grillers focused on the excellent sides. Top marks were given to:
p. 54 Grilled asparagus with figs and cabrales – a tasty side for a steak or burger
p. 57 Guasacaca – guacamole with texture and an attitude
p. 90 Grilled peppers with feta and dill – delicious,not too spicy and can be made ahead
p. 91 New potato-corn chowder salad – mixed reviews- you need to like the tang of a German potato salad to appreciate this one.
p. 99 Brown sugar-rum grilled sweet potatoes – very tasty
Join us next month as we enjoy the bounty of summer vegetables – check out the book display near the Reader Services Desk, and come to the next session on August 29th at 11 AM.
June’s Bibliobites title was The Summer Shack Cookbook by Jasper White. Reviews were decidedly mixed! People mentioned that they liked some of the recipes they tried, but not enough to make them again. Some participants also said they already had recipes they loved for some of the classic fish dishes in the book (for example, baked scrod or fried fish). One person took the trouble to make the dried-cod fishcakes—a time consuming recipe that she felt wasn’t ultimately any better than fishcakes made with fresh cod. But a worthwhile attempt with a historically important ingredient (try reading Mark Kurlansky’s fascinating The Cod’s Tale for more information on the economics of dried cod from the 17th-20th century. This is a children’s title; for a longer treatment of the same subject, by the same author, see Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World). One person mentioned that the book’s sides were excellent, specifically a green bean and blue cheese salad; she also gave a thumbs-up to a basic vinaigrette and a soy-ginger sauce. We thought many of the desserts sounded summery and delicious—cobblers, pies, and the like—though no one had tried them out.
One deficiency noted was the lack of photographs; there were some, but not enough for most people. The recipes themselves were easy enough to follow; in fact some were amazingly simple. White points out, and participants verified from their own experience, that the quality of the fish is the most important factor in the success of a dish. This book seems worth a read for an overview of seafood in general, with many simple, classic New England recipes. But no one in the group was ready to run out and buy a copy. Sorry Jasper!
May’s Bibliobites group read Garlic and Sapphires by bestselling author and former New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl.
Everyone said they loved the book and many revisited her two memoirs – Tender at the Bone and Comfort me with Apples. Some even went on to read her new fiction title Delicious – published in May.
It was great fun to read about little-known and soon to be discovered restaurant gems in the Big Apple along with tidbits about famed restaurants such as Daniel’s and Tavern on the Green – Many of us were fascinated by the NY food scene where restaurant critics are celebrities and recognized on sight. Reichl’s undercover disguises and her zany methods to remain undetected added to the fun as she chronicled her dining adventures in the city for us. We were all drooling over the food descriptions and eager to test our new-found critic’s eyes as we tackled our “homework” visiting both new and familiar restaurants. Some of us stayed in the area, others ventured as far as Maine to sample the culinary fare. We heard a variety of opinions as we ate our way across New England — some glowing, some so-so and some positively negative. But one thing was crystal clear from the discussions – this Bibliobites group likes to eat! And we like to talk about what we eat too!
Group members visited and reviewed the following restaurants:
Good for Lunch:
110 Grill - Chelmsford
Family Affair Restaurant & Catering located at The American Textile History Museum in Lowell
Family and Comfort Food
Aldo’s Café – Stoneham
Bonefish Grill – Burlington
Centro – Lowell
Evviva Cucina – Westford
Not Your Average Joes - Acton
Red Heat Tavern – Wilmington
Bison County Bar and Grill – Waltham
Fishbones – Chelmsford
Margaritas – Nashua
Out to Dinner
80 Thoreau - Concord
Earth at Hidden Pond- Kennebunkport, ME
Season 52 – Burlington
Sportello – Boston
Some of the group members’ restaurant reviews are available in the comments section. Do you have some restaurant suggestions or comments? Add them in the comment section. – Bon Appetit!
Barbara just sent out an email about the next meeting and noted the time for Friday May 30th at 10am. all other meetings on Fridays have been at 11am; is this a change or just was the wrong time noted?
April’s Bibliobites group focused on the Italian-inspired cooking of Nigella Lawson. Lawson is homegrown chef with no formal training. She has worked as an English journalist, broadcaster, television personality, and food writer. She is known for her flirtatious way of presenting recipes and has affectionately been dubbed the “Queen of food porn.” Our group members had a chance to look at two of her cookbooks: Nigellissima and Nigella Kitchen
Of the two books Nigellissima was by far the favorite, as it was more conversational, the recipes were straightforward and the photographs were appealing. Yet those great full page photographs did not inspire us to immediately begin cooking. Many shared that if it hadn’t been for the book club they would have moved on to a different cookbook. When we did try a recipe though, we were often pleased. After our group shared their experiences, others were inspired to check the book out again to try new recipes. Nigella Lawson intentionally crafted simple recipes to accommodate a busy lifestyle. Her friendly writing style and her practical cooking hints empowered the cooks to adjust a recipe when needed or desired. Once we got cooking we found many recipes that were keepers.
Not as many tried cooking from Nigella Kitchen as it was a larger text-filled compendium of recipes without the great photographs. It was difficult to get inspired by this book.
Here are comments on the recipes we tried from Nigellissima:
Pork Loin with Parma ham & oregano – pg 62 Very good cold
Meatzza – pg 72 Nigella posted that this was the most requested recipe from the book and it was a favorite in our group also.
Roast chicken with bell peppers and olives – pg96 Excellent
Tagliata for two – pg 70 “This only took 15 minutes and was really, really good.”
Shortcut Sausage Meatballs pg. 75 – Simple but not inspiring. Tasted better on the second day.
Curly edged pasta with lamb ragu – pg 9 –Pasta was expensive but good. Well-Liked.
Farro risotto with mushrooms – pg 44-47 (2 tried) Very good – a lot easier to make than regular risotto. It does not require constant attention and the farro has a nice nutty flavor.
Gnocchi Gratin – pg 131 – Some felt it was heavy – others suggested gnocchi is best when it is fresh
Quick Calabrian lasagna – pg 16 Liked a lot – but it is an unusual lasagna – using the strained tomatoes gave it a fresher taste.
Mini macaroni & cheese All’Italiana – p.15 Made with a twist on the traditional roux- grated cheese is mixed with constarch and then whisked into chicken broth. A real time-saver.
Do not make ahead – as the pasta will absorb all the liquid – and you will have to reconstitute with scalded milk or cream…
Broccolini with parmesan & lemon – pg 123 – Simple but tasty
Green pasta with blue cheese – pg 10 Very good
Gorgonzola &cannellini dip with a tricolore flourish – pg. 200 – This was fine but not one that we would repeat.
Sicilian cauliflower salad – pg 124 (2 liked)
Spinach baked with ricotta and nutmeg pg 115 – Mixed reviews – one person liked it a lot and even ate leftovers cold ( like a quiche ) — another found it bland.
Roast red onions with basil pg. 112 – Onions were tasty but the amount of basil was overwhelming.
Parmesan shortbreads – pg. 204 – Very buttery with a nice bite of Parmesan – but heavy on the calories…
Chocolate olive cake – pg 186 – Two people brought this for sampling. Some thought it needed something else. Suggestions were: raspberry sauce, coffee in lieu of water in the recipe- and of course everything is better with ice cream. Others thought it was good as is – not too sweet and very satisfying chocolate ending.
Yogurt Carton Cake – pg 182 – Yum! A big hit. Good for children – it has a lovely texture, almost velvety because of the cornstarch – you can really taste the lemon zest. Would be a great base for strawberry shortcake.
Recipes tried from Nigella Kitchen were:
Butternut, arugula and pine nut salad. — Pg 94 –A nice side salad for a meat meal. Nigella suggests leaving the peel on – our recommendation is that it would have been better without.
Chicken with Greek herb sauce – pg 102. The chicken is a simple cut up roasted chicken. The Greek sauce (Tzatziki) is excellent and a recipe keeper.
Irish oaten rolls – pg 86. – Quick and easy – baked for 15 minutes. Froze well and makes a great snack on the go.
Swedish summer cake – pg 264
Places to find more about Nigella Lawson and her recipes on the web::
Pinterest pins: https://www.pinterest.com/nigellalawson/ you can access some of the recipes mentioned above by following links from Nigella Lawson’s Pinterest site.