Sunday, June 3, 2012

Books and Food

Books and Food, Food and Books and then some more. That has been my last two weeks. I've been preparing for two lectures on Ellen Emlen's Cookbook last week, picking things from the garden, eating from my abundant farm share, and making books to ship to Korea next week for the Seoul International Book Fair. Books and Food - all the nourishment you could ever need!

On Wednesday I spoke at the Free Library to a very enthusiastic audience. Afterwards I was told about the Two Fat Ladies - the English Cooking show. I can't believe I've never heard of them! What a riot they are! But inspiring too. I spent the weekend watching episodes. Definitely my new favorite show. In honor of them, the Ellen Emlen events from this week and making new books, I took a crack at Ellen's Chicken Balls for Soup on page 147 this evening. It's the recipe directly under the famous cherry bread.                                
The Two Fat Ladies like their gadgets so I thought I'd haul out the meat grinder form either my mother or my grandmother.
 The recipes is so simple. 50/50 meat to bread ratio, little nutmeg and some chopped onion. Could there be an easier recipe? It's perfect for whatever amount of meat you have on hand! So after trying to force out some meat from the grinder and everything kept coming out the wrong end - I gave up and went to the old 21st Century stand by - 
Hooray for Cuisinart! The mixture was chopped lickety-split. In the mean time I had my home made chicken broth bubbling on the stove. When the mixture was finished I just dropped it by the teaspoon full into the broth. They cook very quickly - and with one chicken breast look at how many dumplings there are!
My farm share gave us a lovely bok choi head and there is nothing better than tossing some of that chopped into the soup at the last minute. It stays quite crunchy but has hardly any flavor of its own, so its more for color and texture (not to mention nutrition) that I add it to my soups.
I say -  isn't that lovely? and Yes you should read that with a nice throaty English accent.
At the last minute I added a bit of lime to the dish - just a wedge squeezed in. It brightens the flavor so much - perfect.
Ellen Emlen's cookbook was much on my mind this past week. As I mentioned, I spoke twice, Wednesday at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and then Friday we partnered with the Union League and their fabulous chef took on the daunting task of making a five course meal for 45 people. I spoke there - a much abbreviated speech - but that couldn't be helped. And of course I neglected to bring my camera. Something I am still regretting. The meal was unbelievable! And the best part was that the things I have cooked - tasted the same as the way he cooked them! That must mean I am doing something right. 
The Menu
Cocktails: Regant's Punch, Anchovy Toast, Pickled Oysters, and chicken salad

1st Course
Savory Clam Soup with Parsley

2nd Course
Veal Patis with Leafy Greens and Vinaigrette Dressing

Parmesan and Herb Crusted Lamb Chops with Stuffed Eggplant, Onion Ragout 

Cherry Bread with Vanilla Ice Cream

What occurred to me is that the reason the food is so good is that the recipes are simple. Very simple. Oh, of course there are some complicated ones - but the everyday cooking had to be relatively easy, tasty, and a little bit fool proof. What if it didn't work? There was no pizza delivery in 1860! And it's in the simplicity - the relatively low number of ingredients that make it so delicious - it tastes clean - you get all the flavors - there's nothing hiding something else.  There were lots of oohs and aaahs, from my table at least - and the lamb chops just sort of melted in the mouth. (Aunt Lois - these are the broiled chops we made when you and Aunt Alice were here to visit!)

In the mean time - other things are getting done at the house. Andrew patched up the side of the house really nicely! I got the exact match on the paint - ya think? I'm so happy about that. He's also been filling all of the holes on the porch with filler and then will probably stain the wood soon so that it is all one color - and then I can't believe it - it might be mostly done! 
And my other neighbors? All 15, 000 of them? They still mind their own business. But when I bumped into Matt at work he said they were producing honey like crazy and he might be able to harvest at the end of June! Sounds great to me! 

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