Ally


If you've been over to my cottage lately, you'll notice my coffee table, dining table and nightstand are piled high with books. Books, books, books everywhere. I love books. I always have, even as a kid I would get ecstatic when the school sent us home with those book order sheets from Scholastic (remember those?). I'm sure my parents used to cringe when they saw those- I was a quick reader and I always wanted a ton of books. Even now as an adult, I love to order books online, peruse the stacks at the library and most of all linger in bookstores. There's something about print media that engages me, that digital media just lacks. I'm not sure if it's the tactile sensation of holding the book or the musty smell of the pages but there's a biblio-euphoria that comes with reading books for me. And currently, I'm a bit inundated. I've got books I need to read for book club, books I've been needing to read for a few months now on specific subjects (like "Slaying Excel Dragons"- Ugh!) and my favorite category- food books. The majority of the books in my home right now are cookbooks, culinary essays and food memoirs. Are you surprised? ;)
The five food books on my nightstand right now that I'm steadily making my way through are:
1. Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival by June Feiss Hersh - if you read this one, keep a box of tissues close by!
2. My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss
3. My Year of Meats by Ruth I. Ozeki
4. The Saucier's Apprentice by Bob Spitz
5. Encore Provence by Peter Mayle


Photo Source: ParisForBreakfast


What's on your reading list? Any good food stories or cookbooks you'd recommend? I'd love to hear your suggestions.
My top three favorite food books of all time that I'd recommend are:
1. Kitchen Confidential  by Anthony Bourdain. Although Bourdain has watered himself down over the years this memoir is still one of my favorites, a pre-commercialized Bourdain if you will. It also reminds me of the days when I worked in the restaurant industry- being in the weeds and all stressed out, putting up with insane customers and of course coming to work hungover after partying with coworker all night.
2. Any of Ruth Reichl's first three books (Tender to the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples or Garlic and Sapphires). All brilliantly written. Reichl has a writing style that just reaches you out and brings you into her warm kitchen and eclectic world.
3. The Sharper the Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. A great story about starting over. Could you just pack up and move to Paris and pursue a diploma from the world famous Le Cordon Bleu? Flinn did and shares her frustrations, joys and tribulations. She also does a fantastic job of painting images of the French farmers' markets and storekeepers she encounters. I found this a much better read then the popular "Julie and Julia," which had me snoozing in some chapters.
Now you didn't think I'd leave you hanging without a recipe, did you? How about a recipe for a nice bowl of hot soup? I made this spicy Thai soup the other night and it hit the spot. It's richly flavored without being overly heavy and it's simple to throw together (giving you more time to snuggle down and read a book). And if you want to make the dish a bit heartier, you can throw in some boneless cubed chicken meat or serve it over rice.

Spicy Thai Soup

Ingredients

2 (14 oz) cans lite coconut milk
1 (14 oz) can chicken stock
4 stalks fresh lemongrass (bottom 2/3rds only, remove tough outer leaves)
9 slices of peeled ginger (cut in 1/4 inch thick round)
4 kaffir leaves, hand torn
3 birds-eye chilies, lightly pounded and sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons sliced cilantro
2 teaspoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts (drained and rinsed)
1 (14 oz) can baby corn (drained and rinsed), sliced in half
3.5 ounces fresh shimeji mushrooms
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned


Instructions
1. Cut off the hard, dry bottom portion of the lemongrass and the top leaves. Bruise the stem by thwacking it with a heavy knife or meat mallet. Peel off the tough outer leaves. Cut into 1-inch long pieces.
2. In a stock pot over medium heat, add coconut milk, stock, sliced ginger, torn kaffir leaves, sliced chilies and lemongrass. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Stirring occasionally.
3. Reduce to a simmer. Let it cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Add fish sauce, lime juice, sliced cilantro, red curry paste, brown sugar, garlic and soy sauce. Again bring to a boil for 1 minute then return to a simmer.
5. Add rinsed artichoke hearts, baby corn, fresh shimeji mushrooms and julienned carrots. Simmer for about 15 minutes. The vegetables will become tender.
6. Remove kaffir leaves, ginger rounds and lemongrass stalks.
7. Ladle into warm bowls. You can garnish the top with roughly chopped fresh basil or cilantro leaves (optional).
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