Authors: Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp
Published: Adams Media; Nov. 2010
Synopsis: Have you ever wished you could enjoy an Italian dinner with Frances Mayes? Or swap recipes with Jacquelyn Mitchard? It's all possible in this unique cookbook that features recipes drawn from the works of today's bestselling authors, along with intimate insights that help bring their most beloved books to life. With more than 100 dishes and drinks created by fifty of today's brightest writers, this cookbook will become a feast for your mind--and your soul!
My Take: Ok, there is pretty much no way this cookbook won't appeal to a bibliophile who enjoys cooking! I mean, it has everything we could want right? A laundry list of popular authors talking about their writing and their cooking and then giving you some of their favorite recipes! I was thrilled to get a chance to flip through this book and trying to decide which author's recipes I wanted to try first was really difficult. Many of the recipes sounded incredibly yummy. Did I want to go by recipe alone or by beloved author?
The cookbook is organized alphabetically by author's last name. Each author is given a head shot, their key, recognizable works and then discusses what inspires their writing, what they want readers to know about them, what readers frequently ask, what authors have influenced their writing and this is all before we even get to their favorite recipes! If any of your favorite authors are in this book you are probably going to want to check this book out. For me, I had many favorites. To name but a few they included: Elizabeth Berg, Sarah Blake, Jennifer Haigh, Joanne Harris, Elinor Lipman, and Lisa See!
Now, in order to truly test a cookbook's worthiness I had to try a recipe. I flipped through multiple times, hemming and hahhing and finally decided to cook a recipe from Joanne Harris. In my pre-blogging days I had read almost her entire back catalog, Chocolat being one of my all time favorite books (and movies!) so I thought her Lentil and Toulouse Sausage Casserole was worth a try! Here's what I didn't realize: It would end up being tasty but it would be a lot harder for me to source ingredients than originally expected. Oh well! Notes below.
Lentil and Toulouse Sausage Casserole
Makes 6 servings
11 ounces lentils, preferably green lentilles du Puy*
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled, and chopped
3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste
3 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 cups read wine (I used white - it tasted fine!)
2 cups water
6 Toulouse or other favorite cooked sausages (1-1/2 pounds) (I used chicken sausages)
Large bunch of flat leaf parsley
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1. Place lentils in a large bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Soak overnight. Drain and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole; add the onions, celery, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf. Mix and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat, add the lentils and red wine, stir well, and pour in enough water to cover (about two cups). Place the sausages on top, cover and bake until the lentils are tender, approximately 30-50 minutes.
4. Stir in the parsley and season with the salt and pepper to taste before serving.
We both enjoyed the results but I am not sure I would make it again because, well, see note below!
*There was a note in the cookbook that said that these were "small green lentils with tender skin" and that "you can find them in gourmet or speciality stores." So here's the thing. Yes, I live in San Francisco, prized for being a 'foodie' kind of town but I know myself. If I go to Whole Foods merely for some gourmet lentils (and seriously just saying that makes me roll my eyes a little bit) I will walk out with a whole cart full of other crap that I don't need because Whole Foods is like some sort of expensive vortex where everything looks delicious and tells me that I need it now! So instead I went to my ghetto Safeway and picked out some normal lentils, let's call them beans. Now, I didn't pick out my favorite beans, because I knew those would taste bad in a French casserole (read refried) but I am not a bean connoisseur. I looked at all of the bags of beans and scratched my head and then picked out Great White Northern Beans. I soaked them overnight (a vague time frame if I ever read one) which was 12 hours and they looked no different then they did when I started and I cooked them in the recipe for double the amount of time it called for and they were still hard as a rock. Yes, we ate them anyway and yes we lived to tell the tell and yes, I will continue to shop at ghetto Safeway because you know what? I don't need to become a lentil connoisseur. That's not the kind of girl I am!
Here's my one fault with the cookbook, and for me it is a big one. I do need my recipes to have photos! I want to know what I am cooking, what it is supposed to look like. I need to know that what I am producing is right. Call me a perfectionist but that is what I need in a cookbook, but other than that, I love this cookbook and will be trying another recipe soon!
Cover Lust: Honestly, the title is certainly catchy but the cover design leaves something to be desired. Not very eye-catching.