Hmm. Well, really I was only trying to get my name under the pervasive headline of "In the Loop," but I'm not so hot with the blogger. For many reasons.
But I can talk about a book because I DO know how to read. I'm unsure as to how appealing this particular review may be for the male readers, as it has to do with kitchens. Yet since returning from Japan, I've been cooking incessantly for my family, reaping the benefits of things like an oven after two years with only a sad little dorm fridge and two-burner stove. Granted I had access to many culinary delights unknown to this land (mirin, ponzu, iro iro na kinoko), cooking for one is just no fun so lately it's been a festival of many tasty treats and some flops retired soon after their debut.
The other day, I was feeding my very bored and confused brain some ideas for dinner by skimming through the various cookbooks and food publications that clutter up our house. Gourmet, with its haughtiness and horrific advertisement spread wasn't cutting it and Cook's Illustrated seemed to have developed a meaty love affair for the grilling months. In all honesty, my search was not desirous of a step-by-step recipe as much as only some ideas with which I could create a meal of my own workings.
My eye then fatefully fell upon a clean white binding with simple print professing the knowledge of "How to Eat," written by Vogue food editor Nigella Lawson. It seemed a little naive, just to delve into such literature after 10 odd years of feeding myself, but the lady on the back cover was very pretty and alluring. I trusted her with my food and some of my time.
At first, I admit it was a bit rough to understand the layout of the book. With eight sections spanning everything from cooking in advance to weekend lunch to feeding babies, this wasn't necessarily a quick, catch-all kind of reference. Instead, it seemed as though Ms. Lawson had sat down and written an entire philosophy on food and then, given common themes, did her best to guide the reader as best she could. Nevertheless, this is not a fault, and with an altered approach to reading the pages, one can gather a wealth of knowledge on creating a practical and delicious kitchen.
With no pot on the burner, I sat down and read through the first section, entitled "Basics, etc." My eyebrows sat up at the idea of making my own salad dressings and everyday sauces, such as mayonaise. Some exotic fruits, like quinces, rhubarb, damsons and seville oranges sounded lovely, and easy recipes followed thereafter. In fact, throughout the book you will find a dusting of delicious how-tos for every palate.
I, however, was especially enraptured by the eight pages dedicated to helping one organize a refrigerator, freezer and 'larder' (she is British). Her suggestions prompted me to jump out of my chair and clean out the entire fridge before my mother could come in and start to fret about the 3 month-old, molding red pepper being 'wasted.'
Yes, Ms. Lawson has written a fantastic book for those who perhaps need a little inspiration in the kitchen. By spelling out the basics, even the hairiest brute could fix up a choucroute garnie or passion fruit fool. Her language is enlighting, as well, warmly written with wonderful thoughts not only on how to cook, but how we should think about food in our everyday lives. A read so good, I decided to reproduce my favorite recipe here:
Pea, Mint and Avocado Salad
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon good white wine vinegar
fat pinch caster sugar
bunch of mint
1 1/2 kilogram peas in pod (approx. 500g. podded weight)
assorted salad leaves
2 chicory heads
3 ripe avocados
First make the dressing: put the oil and vinegar and a pinch of sugar into a large bowl and then put a decent handful of chopped mint. Stir well so all is amalgamated. Cook the podded peas for a short amount of time in salted boiling water, just so that they're ready, but not soft. Taste after 2 minutes and the keep tasting. Pour peas in colander and then straight away into the bowl of dressing and let steep for an hour or up to a day.
Just before serving, stir in about a packetful of mixed salad, the chicory, which has been separated into its leaves, and the avocado, which should be cut into bite-sized chunky slices. You may need to drizzle a bit more oil in after the tasting. Serve this on a big plate. Sprinkle with more chopped mint.