Book Discussions


Book Discussion – Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

smittenThe second meeting of our two Bibliobites groups discussed Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman.


People in general enjoyed the book, and we were impressed with how many recipes people made from it.  Many seemed to enjoy the author’s way of writing (with the long head-notes), though some thought it was a bit much.  One complaint was that using a recipe involved a lot of page flipping—everyone wanted to have a recipe on a 2-page spread.  Some also thought the red typeface on some pages was difficult to read. Consensus seemed to be that the book could have been a bit better designed to be more user-friendly, but the food photographs were gorgeous.  Some people thought the recipes had too much butter or cream in them, and a few wished there had been nutrition information included.

Some recipes that people made and liked: Mushroom Bourguignon, Chocolate Silk Pie, Feta-Scallion Frittata, Grilled Emmentaler on Rye with Caramelized Onions, Squash Galette, Leek Fritters, Cinnamon toast French toast, Gingerbread spice Dutch baby, Whole wheat raspberry ricotta scones, Almond date breakfast bars, Short Ribs with Beer and Balsamic, Chocolate Chip Brioche, Mustard Milanese chicken, sesame spiced turkey meatballs, Mom’s apple cake, the French onion toasts  and the Fruit Crisp – (made with apples and pears instead of apricots.)

Recipes that were disliked: Whole Lemon Bars (hard to make, didn’t taste good), Broccoli Salad (OK but nothing to swoon over, similar to other broccoli salads).

The Pancetta, White bean and Swiss chard pot pies felt like they took all day to prepare. There was too much chopping but the crust was amazing – it dripped butter onto the pan and was more like eating a croissant than a pie crust. The filling was not worth the effort but the crust is definitely recommended.

The Rhubarb Hamantaschen was tried by one member, she used a berry jam instead of the rhubarb but felt that the dough was almost unusable till she and her son added another 4 tablespoons of butter to the dough.  The Buttered Popcorn cookies were addictive but not inspiring – they might be better with a drizzle of chocolate . One problem with the recipe was that it made too much popcorn. As it had the perfect proportion of butter and salt – one member had to eat the extra. L

One group discussed the value of having a good potato masher – some used food mills for great potatoes, some liked ricers and others liked a good old fashioned hand-masher. One member wished she could find a twisted wire kind that her grandmother had used  – they don’t seem to make that type anymore.  Could it perhaps have looked like this?
Potato Masher

We also talked about how useful an immersion blender is, safety using mandolins – and we remembered the precursor to the mandolin or food processor — the vego-matic.






Vegetarian dishes were creative and interesting –  we wondered if that was because Deb Perelman was a vegetarian for so long.

In a general discussion of websites that people liked to use to find recipes, the following were mentioned: King Arthur Flour –


and Cook’s Illustrated – ( a subscription is needed to have access to everything.)

Book Discussion -The Splendid Table’s: How to Eat Supper





Cooking and eating fans met this past week for the premiere of our evening and morning sessions of the Bibliobites Cookbook Club. The featured book “The Splendid Table’s How to Cook Supper” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift was enjoyed by all. The book is both a primer for weekday cooking – providing quick, delicious and nutritious recipes – and a commentary on how we eat, cook and shop these days.  Short essays and foodie tips are interspersed with easy-to-follow recipes, designed to inspire your weekday cooking without taking up a lot of your precious time. Our group members thought that the recipes and variations were interesting and a good jumping off point for creative cooking. Some thought recipes were too basic. Critiques of the book included frustration with the changing font size and colors -”I felt like the book was shouting at me, at times!” and a desire for the “Building the Library” – (additional cookbook suggestions) feature to be compiled at the end of the book.

Recipes that we tried included the Dark and Moist Gingerbread with Apples and Candied Ginger –(yummy – even when one chef forgot the egg), the Little French Fudge Cakes –(like a warm brownie, be careful not to over bake for that fudgy texture) – Pineapple-Ginger Sorbet (quick and delicious) and  Oven-roasted Chicken Cacciatora –  the original and lemon-oregano versions (a snap to put together and very flavorful.)

Our discussions ranged from how our supper menus have changed over time  – to what our favorite comfort foods are – to what we planned to make for supper that night. Members also shared the tips they gleaned from the cookbook and added a few suggestions of their own – these included:

  • Massage your kale to break up the fibrous texture
  • Prosciutto is not cooked but dried.
  • Olive oil doesn’t age like wine so buy it young
  • Small heads of radicchio are not early ones but old heads with the dead leaves peeled off
  • Soak raw onions in ice water for 20-30 minutes before using- they will cause less heartburn
  • To make frozen shrimp more flavorful and less mushy, cook a halved lime in water for 10 min, then add frozen  shrimp and bring to boil, remove from heat, partially cover for 15 minutes – shrimp will taste fresher
  • Instead of the flat of your knife, use a rock to smash garlic
  • Save all of your old parmesan-reggiano cheese rinds – freeze and add to spaghetti sauces and soups for more flavor
  • Salt beans at the end not during cooking otherwise they get mealy
  • It is best to heavily salt your pasta water so it tastes like the ocean  – do not salt after cooking – save a cup of the pasta water to thicken your pasta sauces
  • Brown eggs come from chickens with red earlobes, white eggs come from chickens with white earlobes – (raise your hand if you knew that chicken had earlobes…)
  • Opened tamarind concentrate lasts for a year in the fridge – no need to toss it after a few weeks.
  • Cacciatora is not the name of the chicken dish but the name of the “hunter’s salami” that you use in the recipe.
  • Store yeast and spices in the freezer for longer shelf life

Favorite recipes shared and unusual foods we would like to try:

Bakeries, Restaurants and Markets mentioned: 

Mirabella’s in Tewksbury –

Burton’s Grill –

Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, NH – (also an Italian market) –

Idylwilde Farms –

Global Flavors –

Food and Fashion   –

Sai Baba

Olive Tree Market –

M & H Oriental Food Supermarket, Summer Street, Chelmsford

Also worth exploring: – all things vinegar – specialty spices by jar or bulk – fresh local eggs - Local CSAs

The next meetings are February 27th at 7 PM and February 28th at 11 AM – February’s featured book is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman – pass the word along to your friends!


Book Review: Melt: the art of macaroni and cheese

meltcoverHave you read Melt: the art of macaroni and cheese, by Stephanie Stiavetti & Garrett McCord yet? It was recently added to the library’s collection, and here’s a review from the publisher:

A cookbook that reinvents the American classic, macaroni and cheese, with gourmet ingredients, handcrafted artisan cheeses, and unique flavor combinations.

MELT: THE ART OF MACARONI AND CHEESE is the first book to marry the American standard, macaroni and cheese, with handcrafted artisan cheeses and a wide array of pastas, producing dishes that are both classic and chic. Home cooks of all levels will be encouraged to incorporate fresh, simple ingredients into the everyday comfort food they know and love. Featuring such unexpected and delicious combinations as Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar with Avocado, Lime, and Shell Pasta; Drunken Goat, Fennel, Edamame, Mint, and Rotini; and Pumpkin Stuffed with Fontina, Italian Sausage, and Macaroni, MELT takes mac and cheese out of the box and elevates it to a level that will delight even the most sophisticated palates.

With gorgeous color photography throughout, MELT is a compendium of inventive recipes that will add a fresh twist to the family dinner or play a starring role at your next dinner party.