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Reading – Bread Is Gold by Massimo Bottura – 8 in a series

February 5th, 2018 No comments

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Reading – Bread Is Gold by Massimo Bottura – 8 in a series

Reading - Bread Is Gold by Massimo Bottura - 8 in a series

Food waste is a huge issue in today’s world. Millions of people go hungry every day and yet thousands of tons of food goes into trash heaps at the same time. World famous chef, Massimo Bottura had a unique idea of how to address this issue and chose the Milan Expo of 2015 to create The Refettorio Ambrosiano. During the 6 months of the Expo, other famous chefs would cook lunch and dinner for school kids and the homeless using mainly the supplies donated to them from other events and restaurants in the city. Chefs didn’t know what supplies they might have available until they arrived and then strove to create something useful, simple and yet, special for those meals.

For me, I am often intimated by chef-level food in the real world. I have understand why people are attracted to the new, the special, the dangerous, but I prefer more down-to-earth fare. This is exactly what these chefs created during their meals. Sure, they dressed up the dishes, but at their heart these dishes were about constraints, simplicity and food as love. It is mainly the constraints that seem to drive the chefs to a higher level, as with many artistic forms. Having too much, too many, too special anything often leads us to be lazy and superficial in our art. Cooking (and painting writing and drawing) within constraints forces us to be creative, more thoughtful and more unique than we might think possible.

There are a host of amazing recipes here and just as many ideas on how to use kitchen scraps, leftovers, slightly damaged or out of date fruit and vegetables — just like what you might find in your own home. I know that there are nights when our own dinner is driven by what needs to be used or finished or saved so it doesn’t end up in the trash or the compost pile. I will need to check out his book from the library again so I can go back and collect all the recipes I want to try. There were simply too many to absorb on first reading. Along with the recipes are the excellent essays of each chef’s experience in the kitchen, what they made and how they made it.

** My version of this book was available as an eBook from the Los Angeles Public Library

Reading - Bread Is Gold by Massimo Bottura - 8 in a series

Reading - Bread Is Gold by Massimo Bottura - 8 in a series

From Amazon.com…

Massimo Bottura, the world’s best chef, prepares extraordinary meals from ordinary and sometimes ‘wasted’ ingredients inspiring home chefs to eat well while living well.

‘These dishes could change the way we feed the world, because they can be cooked by anyone, anywhere, on any budget. To feed the planet, first you have to fight the waste’, Massimo Bottura

Bread is Gold is the first book to take a holistic look at the subject of food waste, presenting recipes for three-course meals from 45 of the world’s top chefs, including Daniel Humm, Mario Batali, René Redzepi, Alain Ducasse, Joan Roca, Enrique Olvera, Ferran & Albert Adrià and Virgilio Martínez. These recipes, which number more than 150, turn everyday ingredients into inspiring dishes that are delicious, economical, and easy to make.

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library.
Check it out! † Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

Categories: Baking, Books, Cooking, Food Tags:

Reading – Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt – 7 in a series

February 1st, 2018 Comments off

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Reading – Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt – 7 in a series

Reading - Mozart's Starling Hardcover by Lyanda Lynn Haupt - 7 in a series

It all started with a starling. The story goes that Mozart, walking about Vienna, came across a starling that could sing a melody from one of his, soon to be famous, compositions. So taken was he by this bird that he bought it and installed it in his home for the next 3 years. This story intrigued author Lyanda Lynn Haupt so much that she decided to adopt her own starling chick to better understand this story. This led to a book that encompasses Mozart, history, music, animal behaviors, natural history, linguistics, science, pets, and home.

I never expected to be taken on such a wide ranging trip with Mozart’s Starling, but it quickly pulled me in and through the various personal stories and sidebars into all the topics mentioned above. For me, this is a nearly perfect book. It has a theme that runs throughout, but within that theme it runs here and there engaging a little bit of this and little bit of that, tickling my need for variety and giving me a host of conversation items for any upcoming party. 

After reading, I now know more about Mozart’s music and history, the invasive nature of starlings in North America, how a pet can become part of a family, the different styles of language/song among birds and much more. I think you’ll find Mozart’s Starling and interesting read, too.

** My version of this book was available as an eBook from the Los Angeles Public Library

From Amazon.com…

On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling in a Viennese shop who sang an improvised version of the theme from his Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major. Sensing a kindred spirit in the plucky young bird, Mozart bought him and took him home to be a family pet. For three years, the starling lived with Mozart, influencing his work and serving as his companion, distraction, consolation, and muse.

Two centuries later, starlings are reviled by even the most compassionate conservationists. A nonnative, invasive species, they invade sensitive habitats, outcompete local birds for nest sites and food, and decimate crops. A seasoned birder and naturalist, Lyanda Lynn Haupt is well versed in the difficult and often strained relationships these birds have with other species and the environment. But after rescuing a baby starling of her own, Haupt found herself enchanted by the same intelligence and playful spirit that had so charmed her favorite composer.

In Mozart’s Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely and remarkable bond between one of history’s most cherished composers and one of earth’s most common birds. The intertwined stories of Mozart’s beloved pet and Haupt’s own starling provide an unexpected window into human-animal friendships, music, the secret world of starlings, and the nature of creative inspiration. A blend of natural history, biography, and memoir, Mozart’s Starling is a tour de force that awakens a surprising new awareness of our place in the world.

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library.
Check it out! † Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

Reading – Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimble – 6 in a series

January 25th, 2018 Comments off

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Reading – Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimble – 6 in a series

 

You may know Christopher Kimball from his time at America’s Test Kitchen on PBS. He brings his same precision and dedication to Milk Street, his new, individual, company and cooking school. For the most part, Milk Street is about simple, international foods, brought home to out American kitchens and done very, very well. In an effort to help the reader find success with these recipes, they are clearly laid out in great detail with hints and tips and times clearly shown. Kimball and his staff have obviously tested these recipes again and again and want to help you succeed in making them.

Scattered throughout are sections detailing tips like why oil us better for cooking omelets and scrambled eggs, why carbon steel pans might be a home cook’s best friend and how to steam cook with a foil-parchment packet.

Along with this are excellent recipes, many of which I have marked for future “testing” in my own kitchen. Some of my favorites include:

  • Curry Braised Eggs
  • Spanish Spice-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Bites (Pinchos Morunos)
  • Caramelized Pork with Orange and Sage
  • Cracked Potatoes with Vermouth, Coriander, Fennel
  • Whipped Cream Biscuits

** My version of this book was available as an eBook from the Los Angeles Public Library

From Amazon.com…

For more than twenty-five years, Christopher Kimball has promised home cooks that his recipes would work. Now, with his team of cooks and editors at Milk Street, he promises that a new approach in the kitchen can elevate the quality of your cooking far beyond anything you thought possible.

Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, the first cookbook connected to Milk Street’s public television show, delivers more than 125 new recipes arranged by type of dish: from grains and salads, to a new way to scramble eggs, to simple dinners and twenty-first-century desserts.

At Milk Street, there are no long lists of hard-to-find ingredients, strange cookware, or all-day methods. Skillet-charred Brussels sprouts, Japanese fried chicken, rum-soaked chocolate cake, Thai-style coleslaw, and Mexican chicken soup all deliver big flavors and textures without your having to learn a new culinary language.

These recipes are more than just good recipes. They teach a simpler, bolder, healthier way to cook that will change your cooking forever. And cooking will become an act of pure pleasure, not a chore.

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

Categories: Baking, Books, Cooking, Food, Recipe Tags:

Reading – The Wildcrafted Cocktail: Make Your Own Foraged Syrups, Bitters, Infusions, and Garnishes by Ellen Zachos – 5 in a series

January 19th, 2018 Comments off

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Reading – The Wildcrafted Cocktail: Make Your Own Foraged Syrups, Bitters, Infusions, and Garnishes by Ellen Zachos – 5 in a series

 Reading - The Wildcrafted Cocktail: Make Your Own Foraged Syrups, Bitters, Infusions, and Garnishes by Ellen Zachos - 5 in a series

I know what you’re thinking…”Another cocktail book?!?!” Well, this is just the order I completed them in, not some evil scheme to get your drunk on a weeknight. (LAUGH)

The Wildcrafted Cocktail is certainly an extremely niche book. It is few people who go out into the woods and forage the ingredients for their cocktails, yet I still enjoyed the book greatly. It was wonderful to read about all the unique ingredients you might find in your own backyard. Still, I for myself I would be a bit leery gathering plants without a bit more knowledge, and confidence, that I wasn’t poisoning myself in the process. You might want to combine this book on a really good book on backyard foraging like Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat, to assist you in your search. Such detailed information is far beyond the scope of The Wildcrafted Cocktail, but very necessary to be successful.

That said, there was also some great, general information on cocktails including some history of cocktails,

“What is a cocktail? The first mention of a cocktail as an alcoholic beverage dates from 1806, when it was defined as a drink composed of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters.”

and the difference between the several types of simple syrup that are used behind a well-stocked bar, 

“The difference among these syrups is not only the degree of sweetness but also the mouthfeel. A rich syrup (twice as much sugar as water) is much silkier than a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water). A light syrup (twice as much water as sugar) is lighter and thinner on the tongue. Simple syrups are the most versatile and most commonly called for behind the bar.”

The Wildcrafted Cocktail is certainly worthwhile if only to expand your thinking about foraged ingredients and cocktails in general. Who knows? You might even have some ingredients in your very own garden that could find their way into your glass.

** My version of this book was available as an eBook from the Los Angeles Public Library

From Amazon.com…

Meet the natural lovechild of the popular local-foods movement and craft cocktail scene. It’s here to show you just how easy it is to make delicious, one-of-a-kind mixed drinks with common flowers, berries, roots, and leaves that you can find along roadsides or in your backyard. Foraging expert Ellen Zachos gets the party started with recipes for more than 50 garnishes, syrups, infusions, juices, and bitters, including Quick Pickled Daylily Buds, Rose Hip Syrup, and Chanterelle-infused Rum. You’ll then incorporate your handcrafted components into 45 surprising and delightful cocktails, such as Stinger in the Rye, Don’t Sass Me, and Tree-tini. 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

Reading – 3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon by Robert Simonson – 4 in a series

January 16th, 2018 Comments off

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Reading – 3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon by Robert Simonson – 4 in a series

Reading - 3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon by 	Robert Simonson - 4 in a series

This has to be the yummiest book I have read in a long time. I have never been someone to keep a fully stocked bar, but with this book, it isn’t required. With a bit of whiskey, some Italian Amaro and a variety of sweeteners, I was on my way to a wonderful new world of cocktails.I found myself sampling regularly as I worked my way through both classic and modern, reinvigorated, versions as well as learning much more than I ever knew about the world of cocktails. The Old-Fashioned has caught my eye recently as I always had ingredients on hand and wanted a way of dressing up my everyday whiskey selections. 3-Ingredient Cocktails took me far beyond that, though and gave me a through — and tasty — education.

I could see using this book as the basis for a great party. Each guest brings the spirit or ingredient of their choice, you provide glassware, bar tools, and ice and let the fun commence. Hmm, some of my friends should be expecting an invite any day now. (LAUGH)

Highly Recommended

** My version of this book was available as an eBook from the Los Angeles Public Library

From Amazon.com…

 

3-Ingredient Cocktails is a concise history of the best classic cocktails, and a curated collection of the best three-ingredient cocktails of the modern era. Organized by style of drink and variations, the book features 75 delicious recipes for cocktails both classic (Japanese Cocktail, Bee’s Knees, Harvey Wallbanger) and contemporary (Remember the Alimony, Little Italy, La Perla), in addition to fun narrative asides and beautiful full-color photography.

 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

 

Categories: Books, Drinks, Food Tags:

Reading – Chemistry: A Novel by Weike Wong – 3 in a series

January 10th, 2018 Comments off

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Reading – Chemistry: A Novel by Weike Wong – 3 in a series

Chemistry book

A slice-of-life novel from worlds which are relatively unknown to me — China and New York City. A Chinese-America Ph.D in Chemistry candidate struggles with work, relationships and the burden of Chinese parents who expect nothing but the absolute best from her — and nothing but what they want and require. Her relationship falls apart, as does her career and she spends the entire novel being indecisive – waffling over this and that — but perhaps she can find a way through to the next phase in her life. 

It can be sad to read of someone so lost in their life, but the novel is littered with Chinese proverbs, geeky chemistry jokes, and small portions of life that bring her joy. As the husband of someone who achieved their own Ph.D, the struggle and the challenges seem quite real and understandable.

From Amazon.com…

  • Named a Notable Work of Fiction in 2017 by The Washington Post and one of PBS NewsHour’s 5 Books from 2017
  • An NPR Best Book of 2017
  • National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree

“Chemistry starts as a charming confection and then proceeds to add on layers of emotional depth and complexity with every page. It is to Wang’s great credit that she manages to infuse such seriousness with so much light. I loved this novel.” —Ann Patchett

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

Categories: Books Tags:

Reading – Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry – 2 in a series

December 30th, 2017 Comments off

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry – 2 in a series

Reading - Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry - 2 in a series

While there are a few familiar recipes from my own pasta repertoire here, there are also a host of new recipes that I have already added to my “To Try” list. We are a half-Italian family by both blood and culture, so pasta is an important part of our diet and something we enjoy immensely. While I have some go-to recipes we make every month or so, it is always great to add a few new ones to the rotation.

Here are some of my favorites from Back Pocket Pasta…

  • Buttery Basil Pesto with Linguine
  • Sicilian Escarole and Sausage
  • Creamy Zucchini and Sausage
  • Easter Ham Carbonara (Just like the author, we always have plenty of leftovers)
  • Pretty “Parslied” Spaghetti
  • Tuscan Kale “Caesar” Pasta
  • Fusilli Alfredo (with NO cream, as it should be (LAUGH))
  • ..and many more!

From Amazon.com…

As much a mindset as it is a cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta shows how a well-stocked kitchen and a few seasonal ingredients can be the driving force behind delicious, simply prepared meals. Pantry staples—a handful of items to help you up your dinner game—give you a head start come 6pm, so you can start cooking in your head on the way home from work. For instance, if you know that you have a tin of anchovies, a hunk of parmesan, and panko bread crumbs, you can pick up fresh kale to make Tuscan Kale “Caesar” Pasta. Or if you have capers, red pepper flakes, and a lemon, you can make Linguine with Quick Chili Oil. With genius flavor combinations, a gorgeous photograph for every recipe, and a smart guide to easy-drinking cocktails and wine, Back Pocket Pasta will inspire you to cook better meals faster. 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

Categories: Books, Cooking, Drinks, Food, Italy-Sicily Tags:

19 The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 27th, 2017 Comments off

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19 The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello

I was doing some research for my wife’s next book today and came across this book as a source. While I had only planned on mining it for the information I needed, I found myself reading entire sections. It is an amazing history of the agricultural side of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello as a vast agricultural research center, long before anything so called was even imagined. Not everything was successful, of course, and the book lays out all the failures along with the successes.

We visited Monticello many, many years ago (October 1994, according to my notes on the back of the prints) and visiting it again, through the pages of this book, reminded me of how striking the home, the gardens and the farmland all were.

Photos from our trip to Monticello in 1994

Monticello 1

Monticello 2

Monticello 3

Monticello 4

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs

Categories: Books, Garden, Gift Guide Tags:

17 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 23rd, 2017 Comments off

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17 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

I first read Bird by Bird a long time ago and often recommend it to people who have a desire to write. After talking with a friend about the book recently, I thought it time to revisit and re-read the book and see what new things I might take away from it.

Unlike Big Magic, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, Bird by Bird is more of a traditional book on writing — offering direct advice, exercises and support to help you write and write better. That said, Lamott has a great way of interjecting the realities of being a writer along with a strong dose of humor to help you cope with the ups, downs, sideways and convolutions of writing a being a writer.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

On the concrete side of the writing equation, Lamott details her advice on writing using “Short Assignments” — committing to only a few hundred words detailing a particular character or scene. Just enough to get your writing — something — which can often be the most difficult part of any project.

Next is allowing yourself to write, in her words, “Shitty First Drafts. This is Lamott’s way of saying that sometimes you just have to write. We can all get tied up in trying to make every word we write perfect — the first time. Almost anyone who has ever written will tell you that this is a sure road to madness, writer’s block and worse.

An entire essay on Perfectionism follows to give some reasons and some tools to combat it and continue writing, no matter how bad you might think your project is right now.

Lamott then follows with chapters on other important aspects of writing including Set Design, Plot, Dialogue and more.

Part II of Bird by Bird, The Writing Frame of Mind is a series of in-depth essays on “Looking Around” or how better to see the world around you and use it in your writing, “The Moral Point of View” which explains how it is very difficult to complete any writing project that you don’t care passionately about — at least in some small way. You have to have the thread that drives you through your project. Something important you want to say. There is also an important section on “Jealousy” that I think is required reading for any writer. Jealousy is something we must all learn to deal with if we want to have a happy life and a successful (or at least, fun) writing career. Otherwise the “green-eyed dragon” will gobble you up with a moment’s thought.

In Part III, an essay on “Calling Around” explains how important it is for a writer to find sources for their writing — those people who can call on with specific information about world’s you may not move in, but still want to use as a setting in your writing. Lamott also details why it is so very important to find a trusted friend to read your early drafts and how you may go about finding them. Writing groups might be one solution and Lamott shares her thoughts on how important a good (and functional) group like this might be for you.

Part IV deals with the nasty bits of being a “professional”, “published” writer. It isn’t an easy life and there are a few things you need to know before you head down that road. It can be unforgiving. It can be crushing to your ego. It can also be exhilarating and dramatic and a host of other feelings.

I read Bird by Bird essay by essay in most cases. Taking time to think and digest the lesson in each section before moving on. You might also turn to (or return to) individual sections were you need a bit more support and a bit more thinking to use the lessons in your own writing.

After this re-read of Bird by Bird, I still think this is one of the foremost books for writers of all levels, but especially for those just beginning their writing journey. There is a lot of great advice, guidance, and truth in this book that can benefit everyone.

 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs

Categories: Books, Creativity, Education, Gift Guide, Writing Tags:

15 The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 20th, 2017 Comments off

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15 The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz

15 The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** This book is available from the LA Public Library in print and ebook format

There comes a time in every cook’s life when you start to move beyond simply following recipes and begin to experiment more and more within those recipes. After that, more advanced cooks will reach for the next level — the graduate level, if you will. It is books like The Spice Companion that become part of your graduate food studies. Instead of dealing in the generalities of a specific cuisine or specific dishes, you go into the details of specific ingredients in your food. You dive deeper into more and more detailed levels of knowledge, so that, at the end, you emerge with a deeper understanding of how those ingredients come together in a recipe. With this deep knowledge, you can begin to create our own unique recipes.

The Spice Companion begins with some extensive and excellent information on the author’s personal spice philosophy, the history and origin of various spices, and how to source, blend and store spices. At its heart, though, The Spice Companion is an amazing reference book for spices of all types. A few random flips through the largest part of the book turned up spices I knew — like cinnamon and cloves — spices I had heard of but never used — like za’atar and wasabi — and spices entirely unknown to me — like Urda chiles and Sansho.

The detailed spice sections are amazing in their depth and include a photo and/or drawing of each spice, a description of its flavor and aroma, it’s geographic origin, its harvest season, which parts of the plant are used — like leaves, stems, seed pods, etc –, and an extensive About section that provides even more information about typical uses and dishes that can be made with the spice.

The author then uses a graphical icon-based system to show which dishes might use this spice, other spices that can be paired with it, recipes for spice blends with this ingredient and finally, a recipe that uses this spice blend. Wow! It is almost overwhelming.

There is so much information to be found within the pages of The Spice Companion. I can foresee reading in a random fashion, jumping from one spice to another, but also then revisiting it later for a full cover-to-cover read to deeply enhance my spice, blends and overall food knowledge. This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices

This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices. It is the equivalent of a writer having a great dictionary or encyclopedia at hand when they work. There are times when you simply NEED to look something up and The Spice Companion would be a great place to turn.

Categories: Books, Cooking, Food, Gift Guide Tags:
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