Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Maybe it was reading (and loving) The Heart’s Invisible Furies by Irish author John Boyne or transcribing my journal from a trip to Ireland long ago, but I’ve been in an Irish mood lately—just in time for St. Patrick’s weekend. If you want to get in the mood, earlier this week I published On My Irish Bookshelf—a collection of recommended ebooks (including several good cookbooks) on sale by Irish authors.

I’ve been listening to Celtic playlists on Spotify, stocking up on Guinness and Bailey’s, and planning Irish menus for tonight and Sunday. If you’re looking for dinner inspiration, here are some recipes I made this past week and a few I may try in the coming week.

By the way, on Saturday mornings I’m publishing my list of recommended fiction and non-fiction ebooks on sale in a separate post, On the Bookshelf. But since we’re in my virtual kitchen, I’ve included a list of great deals on e-cookbooks at the end of this post.

In My Kitchen

In my last post, I was telling you about the Home Chef gift card we received from Jim’s son and daughter-in-law. We had the second meal of the delivery, Chicken Fajitas, last Friday. After a busy day, I appreciated the little effort it took to throw dinner together. We started with a big homemade salad and skipped the usual vegetable. I added sliced avocado to the nicely spiced fajitas.

Would I try Home Chef again? Sure. I haven’t canceled my subscription although I’m skipping the next few weeks—you have to select “skip” otherwise they automatically send you two meals each week. It’s a good option for crazy weeks when I don’t have as much time to plan menus, shop and cook. But I do enjoy winding down while cooking and at $25/night, it’s a bit more than I’d like to spend for dinner so it would never become a regular thing. I might investigate other home delivery meal plans to find one that uses more sustainably sourced foods—no fish from China—but that would probably be even more expensive.

If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve had ingredient sourcing frustrations lately. Finally, last Friday I drove 20 minutes to Harris Teeter and found celery root, endive and fennel so I could make my long-awaited sides. I also found monkfish at a deep discount—poor man’s lobster!

Sunday night, I made Monkfish à l’Américaine, one of my favorite recipes. I first saw Boston chef Jasper White make it on an old Julia Child TV show, the one where she invited “master chefs” into her kitchen, and that’s the recipe I make. On the side, we had Braised Endive and Fennel Gratin with Cranberries, so good and worth the wait, and sautéed kale.

I made enough for leftovers on Tuesday. Last night, we had Pork Chops with Cranberry-Thyme Sauce, another kitchen regular. Every year, I stock up my freezer with bags of cranberries when they make their supermarket appearance in the fall just so I can enjoy dishes like this year-round.

On the side, we had Celery Root and Potato Mash. It’s been so long since I’ve cooked with celery root (aka celeriac) that I forgot how much celery flavor it brings to a dish. Duh, I know. Well worth seeking out. I did a 2:1 celery root/potato ratio. I added a few chopped garlic cloves to the water as the root veg were cooking, and stirred in butter, warm milk and chopped celery root leaves after mashing. I also roasted broccoli for our green side.

celery root - menu ideas and cookbooks on sale

On My Menu

Today, I’m getting my first Produce Box delivery. My regular CSA from Chickadee Farms doesn’t start until April and I’ve been jonesing for more fresh local produce than the limited selection at my every-other-Saturday farmer’s market. I decided to give Produce Box a try until the CSA starts and then, if I like it, use it to supplement our share. Plus, they offer more than produce—I’m getting local breakfast sausage and bagels delivered too. Do you know how hard it is for a Yankee to find a decent bagel around here?

Today’s work to-do list is ridiculous but I’m hoping to finish early so I can make Brown Soda Bread from Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food. I’m sticking with Dundon for the main too: Arthurstown Fish Chowder which includes shrimp, smoked salmon, cod, salmon and mussels. Yes, it is an Irish celebration! On the side, Colcannon which is basically a mash of greens (kale in my case), potatoes and scallions. I’m following the recipe in Colman Andrew’s The Country Cooking of Ireland. And, if I have time, and I should since this won’t take long, Pea Purée from Rachel’s Irish Family Food.

My plan for Sunday is ambitious starting with elements of an Irish breakfast: fried eggs, breakfast sausage (from the Produce Box), soda bread, Colcannon Cakes (another Colman Andrew recipe), and baked beans. Skipping the traditional blood and white puddings as well as the broiled tomatoes. I’ve got a few sad-looking apples I’m planning to sauté with cinnamon, maple sugar and butter which will go nicely on the side.

Our feast on Sunday night will include Shepherd’s Pie made with lamb, of course, love lamb. I’m referring to a Colman Andrew’s recipe and a recipe from The Irish Pub Cookbook to make this one. I’ve got a good recipe for a shepherd’s pie made with turkey and sweet potatoes if that’s more your thing. And the indulgence continues with Cabbage with Bacon and Cream from Rachel Allen’s cookbook.

No plans yet for the rest of the week except I’m counting on leftover pie. By this time I’ll have already used the kale and cabbage from my Produce Box delivery but will still have collards, broccoli rabe and rutabagas. I also ordered leeks (they’ll find a place), and Bibb lettuce and spinach for salads.

I’ll report back next week on what I end up making.

cabbage - menu ideas and cookbooks on sale

e-Cookbooks and Food Books on Sale

Caveat: Ebook sales like these sometimes only last a day or a week, so act quickly.

Check out my post, On My Irish Bookshelf, for a bunch of Irish cookbooks still on sale.

For a completely different direction…I don’t know anything about these cookbooks so you’re on your own, but at these prices, they’re worth the risk if you like cooking Thai, Chinese or Mexican.

Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen by Leela Punyaratabandhu ($1.99)

Pok – The Drinking Food of Thailand: A Cookbook by Andy Ricker ($2.99)

The Essential Wok Cookbook: A Simple Chinese Cookbook for Stir-Fry, Dim Sum and Other Restaurant Favorites by Naomi Imatome-Yun ($3.82)

Tacos: Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak ($1.99)

Tacolicious: Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails and More by Sara Deseran ($1.99)

Looking for more deals? Check out last week’s list to see if any of those are still on sale.

Creative Commons licensed images of celery root and cabbage in the field from Pixabay.

Amazon book links are affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission on any sales that result from clicking. Thank you.

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