Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Bon Appetit...à la cuisine de Ross
Looking for something unique to make my brother, his boyfriend, and myself for dinner on Sunday night, I muddled through the culinary cuisine magazine, Bon Appetit, while hunkered over multiple glasses of Sweet-and-Low iced tea at Cup of Joe last Friday afternoon. Keep in mind that a typical dinner for myself is a boiled, then grilled, chicken breast or pork chop alongside an assortment of vegetables: nothing fancy, mostly bland, and definitely simple - what can I say, other than I don't mind the natural flavor of meat and garden foods. Also bare in mind that my brother, on the other hand, is studying culinary arts, is a self-taught wine connoisseur, and is currently serving at the swanky Chandler's restaurant in downtown Boise. Needless to say, I'm always mortified to cook for him.
Ultimately ending up dismayed and overwhelmed at the complexity and plethora of recipes in the magazine, I decided to close my eyes, and the magazine, randomly re-open both and make the meal that was printed on the page before me. (After all, random selection such as this has bode well for me in making big decisions like choosing graduate schools, housing, and vehicles - why shouldn't it work for a simple meal)? BIG MISTAKE! The recipe I opened the magazine was Wild Game Hen with Wheat Berries and Pecans.
WTF is a wheat berry? Do I really want to venture the unknown territory of Leeks? How would I ever dismantle (not too mention, put back together) our barbequer - as the recipe required for smoking the once-wild hens - for this meal? Must I really buy a $25 bottle of iced wine when I only need two tablespoons...I mean, really?
At this point, I turned my frustration at the lunacy of this recipe to creativity...and here is what I concocted:
Chicken with Huckleberries and Pecans (Wild Game Hen with Wheat Berries and Pecans...Ross-style)
5 Cups Water, luke warm
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 Cup Iodized Salt
4 Chicken Breasts
1 Cup Pecan Halves
1 Cup of your favorite Mushroom
1 Pint Huckleberries
8 Slices Bacon, fried, with drippings
1/2 Grape Tomatoes, halfed and de-seeded
Place chicken breasts in 13x9, glass baking dish.
Combine lukewarm water, brown sugar, and salt; stir until dissolved; pour over chicken, ensuring tops of chicken breasts are water-covered - add more water if necessary.
Throw in pecans, mushrooms, and huckleberries; cover with foil and let marinate in the fridge for eight or so hours.
Eight hours later...
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pull the glass dish of goodies out of the fridge; remove Huckleberries and set aside; re-cover dish with foil and bake chicken, water, pecan and mushroom concoction for an hour and a half.
An hour into baking, fry and chop bacon, keeping the drippings warm in a large skillet.
Remove from oven the mushrooms, pecans, and one cup of the water mixture and place in the skillet of chopped bacon and it's drippings. Add to the skillet the 1/4 cup of cider, huckleberries, and tomatoes, and simmer for ten minutes. (If you would like, as I did, thicken the simmering liquids with some flour or cornstarch).
Once chicken breasts are done, place 1/2 breast on plate (that really is an adequate serving); surround/cover with mushrooms, pecans, huckleberries, tomatoes, and bacon pieces; drizzle thickened sauce over the breast and garnishings. I served the meal with asparagus and homemade bread.
All in all, my brother was impressed, saying that it was really good and even asked for the recipe. Unfortunately his chocolate cupcakes didn't turn out - they were a little dry: silly boy used powdered, rather than granulated, sugar in the batter. I had to giggle a little...you know, the culinary artist biffing up simple cupcake batter:)
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The following conversation just happened...
Whitney: Well, let me just say that pigeons are not as efficient as texts.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The book request that I get most often though, and love getting the most is when I have people ask for Julia Child's actual cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The idea that someone has been inspired by either the books or the movie to try their own hand at cooking makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside.
Seeing the culinary awakening of others makes me remember my own foray into the world of gourmet. I was also inspired by a book, but not one of the above. It was a compilation of 5 previously published books: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster (my personal favorite), How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets. Together, these books are: The Art of Eating by M. F. K. Fisher.
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was actually a friend of Julia Child's, in fact Julia once said of her,
"Mary Frances has the extraordinary ability to make the ordinary seem rich and wonderful. Her dignity comes from her absolute insistence on appreciating life as it comes to her."
I couldn't agree more. Where Julia Child was a Gourmet and a chef, Mary called herself a Gourmand: someone who takes great pleasure in food. She's basically a glutton with discerning taste. Reading these books opened my eyes, my world, and my palate. Her prose is beautiful and littered with recipes and stories both hilarious and tragic.
Ms. Fisher was my Julia Child. She took me from a life of prepackaged, frozen food, to a life where I can whip up an exotic four course meal just for fun, or I can head down to the Bittercreek Alehouse and really appreciate, gush over even, the goat cheese and local honeycomb. So, seeing other people scanning the hallowed pages of Julia's cookbook, beginning their own culinary journey is ridiculously fun to be a part of. Cheers!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
We love it when things work the way we think they do...
So, yesterday I was doing a book buy. A monster of a book buy. This lady brought in a TUB of mass market romances that she had basically inherited from her sister-in-law the week before. She explained to me, without pretenses, that even if she was "a reader," she wouldn't read this pile of rubbish, so she wanted to see how much cash she could get out of it. To each their own.
It took me about twenty minutes to sort through the colossal stack, and decided what we needed and what there just wasn't any room for on our shelves. As I walked over to tell her the amount I could give her, I sensed a bit of disappointment as she saw that I was only taking about a dozen of the hundred-gazillion that she brought in. Prefacing with an apology, I explained to her how the "value" of mass market-sized books works. Mid-sentence she interrupted to let me know that she understands how the book world utilizes mass markets because she deals in returns at [insert big box bookstore here.]
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Voting for Best of Boise 2009 is taking place right now!
While you're there, you should vote our sister company, All About Games, for Best Local Store and make sure to suggest that next year's ballot include a Best Game Store category!
VOTING ENDS AUGUST 28th!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Cover to Cover
While surfing the interwebs with Whitney, we randomly started talking about songs that are based on works of literature. There have been an INSANE number of artists who used books as their musical muse. Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to it:
Some of the surprisingly well read groups are Iron Maiden, The Police, Led Zeppelin, and David Bowie. Well, David Bowie just has a crush on George Orwell. I would like to share with you some of our favorites.
One of my favorite poems is Kubla Kahn (A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea...."
A really great band (Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich) wrote a song based on it called "Kubla Khan". There's even, randomly, a whip used as a musical instrument in this song. Pure awesome.
Another fabulous book-song is "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush (obviously based on the Bronte novel of the same name). A former roommate of mine showed this to me, and I was simply flabbergasted. Kate Bush is something else entirely, but her choreography definitely captures the tragic (one might say melodramatic) passion of the novel.
My all-time FAVORITE book related song has to be "Weapon of Choice" by Fatboy Slim. And not just because the music video has Christopher Walken dancing in it, but that certainly helps. You have to be kind of a geek to pick this up, but the lyrics of this song are based on the Dune books by Frank Herbert.
"Walk without rhythm, it won't attract the worm
Walk without rhythm, and it won't attract the worm
Walk without rhythm, and it won't attract the worm
if you walk without rhythm (uh), you never learn, yeah
Don't be shocked by the tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice"
Thanks for joining us in this strange musical journey of literary gems, I hope you enjoyed it. :)
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Stumbling Upon Awesome Books On Accident
For some reason, this summer has not really presented itself with as many awesome books as I anticipated it would, so I've been randomly grabbing books off the shelves to see what I can find. Thinking back on it, some of the greatest books I've ever read I have picked up either on accident, or begrudgingly were forced into my hands. It always makes me think at the end of a really good book that I shouldn't judge books so quickly. So, without much discrimination, here are the books that I've found in the last month that I felt iffy about, but in the end LOVED.
When it comes to staff picks here at the bookshop, each of us has a list of twenty five books that we absolutely can't live without. I recently added The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett to my list of books that need to always be in the store. The last time I went home to California I stopped in at a local bookshop to see what was new and cool, and I headed to the teen section to find some treasures. I found this book and put it on my list of things to look at when I got home, and then I totally forgot about it. Then, last week when I was doing returns, The Ghost's Child was on my list of books to send back, so I took it home and read it instead of sending it away. Let me just preface with, "OH...MY...GOSH!" It's kind of like a fable for older teens, but was so amazingly written that I think it also deserves a spot in adult literature as well. Sonya Hartnett crafts the story of Maddy's whirlwind quest to find the most beautiful thing in the world, and once she finds it, the actions she takes to preserve what's she's found. Seriously, SUCH AN ASTONISHINGLY WELL-CRAFTED MASTERPIECE!
This is another gem I found while doing returns, this time in the kids' literature section, in the last couple of weeks. The cover really misrepresents how cool Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Littman is. Justine Silver is an average eleven-going-on-twelve-year-old Catholic girl, other than the fact that she's really Jewish. After Jussy decides to give up being Jewish for Lent, her Bubbe (the Yiddish word for grandmother) has a stroke, which Jussy takes as a sign that God is punishing her for betraying her heritage. What follows is the classic tale of trying to figure out what you want to believe and who you want to be as you're dealing the everyday pressures of growing up.
I picked up Mark Harris's Grave Matters so I would have another title to talk about while we were down at the Idaho Green Expo, and...wow. It's really interesting to see just how detrimental to the environment a "traditional" burial really is. In each chapter Mark Harris outlines a different type of post-death option, as well as how each one impacts the ecosystem, your family's pocket book, and your body. This book is not for the squeamish, simply because of the fact that he doesn't waste any time getting down to the gory details of embalming and other processes that occur in the funeral industry.