Book Discussions

Food Question

Decaffeinated Coffee Beans

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?

Ground Cherries

ground cherries
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?

How do I add other book recommendations for August

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.


Bibliobites in July: Barbecue Addiction by Bobby Flay






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.










Book Discussion – The Summer Shack Cookbook by Jasper White


Summer Shack



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!

BIBLIOBITES IN MAY – Eating and writing!

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

Specialty Restaurants
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!



Time of Meeting on May 30

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?

Book Discussion – Nigella Lawson

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 twoNigellissima 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: you can access some of the recipes mentioned above by following links from Nigella Lawson’s Pinterest site.

Question about kids in the kitchen

chopchop  QUESTION: What are some suggestions for kids who like to cook?

  My son 11 soon to be 12 is an excellent cook! Very adventurous you might say. Fearless about eating or cooking new things.  He is frustrated with the lack of healthy cooking sites geared towards kids like him.  Any suggestions for websites, books, or YouTube type “channels”?

  Things he’s made, on his own: crockpot sweet & sour chicken, Chinese dinner (bok choy, peapods, tofu/chicken, onions, garlic etc., and rice), peanut butter, endless smoothies, salad(s), baked items, homemade dressings, beef jerkey, tunafish delish!, bread, fish, etc.
Thank you for your thoughts/comments.

ANSWERS: Andrea and Debbie both answered this question.  Be sure to read to the end.

Dear Mom-B,
It’s great that your son is so interested in cooking and is an adventurous eater! There are an overwhelming number of excellent cookbooks, websites, and food blogs, and it can take some time to find the ones that really speak to you. Since I work in the Children’s department, I looked through our collection to find some titles that may be of interest. Try:
Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen. This book, written by the founder of the Moosewood restaurant, contains healthy , delicious vegetarian recipes.
There’s a Chef In My Soup. Celebrity chef Emeril LaGasse has written  a fun collection of recipes from appetizers to desserts for kids.
Sweet Eats by
Rose Dunnington, a mouthwatering collection of baked treats to make at home.
The Math Chef
by Joan D’Amico reminds us that cooking is a math activity, but mostly is about making good stuff to eat!
Funny Food by Bill and Claire Wurtzel, while not a cookbook per se, will give you some creative ideas on putting some personality into your breakfast, and the photos will definitely make you smile!

I like to bake, so one website I enjoy is King Arthur Flour. There’s lots of great recipes and loads of information about baking. King Arthur is based in Norwich, VT and the store there makes for a fun little road trip (about 2 hours from Chelmsford). I also highly recommend Cooks Illustrated, but….content is not free. You can become a member for $34.95/year. Cook’s provides obsessively detailed information about food and cooking, along with videos, online cooking lessons, equipment tests and reviews, and of course recipes.

Debbie found these great resources:

Some good books at our library are:
Real food real fast, Sam Stern, J641.5/Ster
ChopChop, The Kids’ Guide to cooking real food with your Family, Sally Sampson, J641.5/Sam
Honest Pretzels : and 64 other amazing recipes for cooks ages 8 and up , Molly Katzen, J641.5/Katz

We also have the magazine, ChopChop, in the Children’s Section. It’s a fun cooking magazine for kids.

Other recommended cookbooks available through interlibrary loan are;
Mayo Clinic Kids’ Cookbook, Mayo Clinic
One World Kids Cookbook, Sean Mendez
Superfood Smoothies, Julie Morris

Some websites that you may want to look at:
Kids Health Recipes and cooking
Food Network – family and Kids
Cooking with Kids
Two websites from PBS: Kitchen Explorers and Hey Kids Lets Cook

YouTube videos:
Kids can Cook YouTube Channel

Cooking Shows:
Food Network has a Kid-oriented cooking show, called Rachael Vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off and Fox Network has MasterChef Junior.

Happy cooking.

Question about Pre-fermenting bread

QUESTION:  I am confused about the difference between a biga, a poolish and a pate fermentee – how are they used in baking bread and are they easy for the home cook to try?

ANSWER by Debbie:
This was a very interesting question to research. Thank you for asking.  A wide array of methods to help jump-start your bread’s rising (fermentation) process fall under the heading of preferments , something that happens before the first major fermenting (rising) of your bread dough.

Poolish (often attributed to Polish origin) and biga are overnight starters, both utilizing domestic yeast (as well as wild). Poolish is a wet starter, made from flour, water, and a touch of yeast (about 1/16 teaspoon).

A biga- the Italian name for a starter, can be either wet or dry. Like the poolish, it begins with flour, water, and a tiny bit of yeast. It can develop overnight , or for up to three days.

A pate fermentee is fermented relatively slowly, so it has time to develop a complex flavor that comes through in the bread.

Although biga serves the same basic purpose as poolish or pate fermentee, it differs in a couple of important ways from the French-style starters. Flour milled from wheat grown in northern Italy contained less protein and developed less gluten during kneading than French flour. To build doughs that would be able to rise into breads with structural integrity, Italian bakers had to use a very firm, dry starter, biga. Biga ferments for a long time, allowing the protein in the flour to develop as much strength as possible. Italian bakers used to use a high proportion of biga (up to 90 percent) in their dough to give their breads strength and structure as well as to raise them. Poolish or pate fermentee is typically no more than 45 percent of dough recipes.

For the home cook, how do you know which, if any, of these preferments to use? When you’re just getting started, rely on your recipe; if it calls for a particular preferment, use it. Once you’ve become acquainted with the various types, use the one that fits your schedule, and that you feel produces the best flavor and texture in your bread.

Sources :
The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion 641.815/King
Baking – 350 recipes and techniques, 1500 photographs, one baking education, James Peterson, 641.815/Pete
Local Breads, Daniel Leader, 641.815/Lead
Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson, 641.815/Robe