Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Welcome to the weekend. Feel like shopping? I love buying books. Books are little promises of places you can go, times you can experience, and people you can get to know. I love them best when they’re cheap—we’re talking two or three bucks cheap. And I promise I won’t keep my discoveries from you.

As of earlier today, these ebooks at Amazon were marked down to $2 or $3 but act quickly if you want a bargain. Some may only be on sale a day or a week, you never know. If you’re in the browsing mood, check out last week’s ebook sales too—some of those books may still be on sale.

Book review:

One quick note before the list of ebook sales: I posted my first book review (trumpet sound!) this week, Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster. The lady’s maid in question worked for poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. If you’re a fan of Browning, check out Flush by Virginia Woolf in the fiction sales list below. He makes an appearance in Lady’s Maid too.

Lady's Maid by Margaret Forster book review

Cooking:

Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with Over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes by Deborah Madison ($2.99)

“In her latest cookbook, Deborah Madison, America’s leading authority on vegetarian cooking and author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, reveals the surprising relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs within the same botanical families, and how understanding these connections can help home cooks see everyday vegetables in new light…Destined to become the new standard reference for cooking vegetables…”

The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine by Erin French ($2.99)

“An entirely self-taught cook who used cookbooks to form her culinary education, she now helms her restaurant, The Lost Kitchen, in a historic mill in [Freedom, Maine], creating meals that draw locals and visitors from around the world to a dining room that feels like an extension of her home kitchen. The food has been called ‘brilliant in its simplicity and honesty’ by Food & Wine, and it is exactly this pure approach that makes Erin’s cooking so appealing—and so easy to embrace at home.”

Sausage Making: The Definitive Guide with Recipes by Ryan Farr ($2.99)

“At San Francisco’s 4505 Meats, butcher Ryan Farr takes the craft of sausage making to a whole new level with his fiery chorizo, maple-bacon breakfast links, smoky bratwurst, creamy boudin blanc, and best-ever all-natural hot dogs. Sausage Making is Farr’s master course for all skill levels, featuring an overview of tools and ingredients, step-by-step sausage-making instructions, more than 175 full-color technique photos, and 50 recipes for his favorite classic and contemporary links.”

Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant ($1.99)

Winner of the 2014 International Association of Culinary Association (IACP) Award for international cookbook: “this valuable work contains a vast body of culinary knowledge that can only be gained from an intimate attachment to the Italian way of life…a manual for proper cooking technique and the whys and wherefores of matching of pasta shapes to sauces.”

Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor by Peter Reinhart ($2.99)

“Beloved baking instructor Peter Reinhart…with his decades of experience crafting amazing artisanal breads, has made it his mission to create whole grain breads that are nothing short of incredible. And because his approach is also simpler and less labor intensive than conventional techniques, you’ll choose to make and eat these breads…Written in Reinhart’s famously clear style and accompanied by inspiring photographs, these recipes were perfected with the help of nearly 350 testers.”

ebooks on sale

Fiction:

Reminder: some of these books may only be on sale a few days so act quickly if you’re interested.

Flush by Virginia Woolf ($2.99)

An imaginative biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel: “Here Flush tells his story as well as the love story of Robert Browning and his wife, complete with horrid maids [Ed. note: What?!?], bullying fellow dogs, mysterious illnesses, and clandestine romance. Along the way, plenty of other topics are explored, including the barriers between man and animal, the miseries of London, and the oppression of women by ‘father and tyrants.’”

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

I read this years ago and loved it. “A modern classic…a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity and physics. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children…In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.”

Fallen Land by Taylor Brown ($2.99)

“This is American literature at its best, full of art and beauty and the exploration of all that is good and bad in the human spirit.” “Set in the final year of the Civil War, a young couple on horseback [is]…pursued relentlessly by a murderous slave hunter, tracking dogs, and ruthless ex-partisan rangers, the couple race through a beautiful but ruined land, surviving on food they glean from abandoned farms and the occasional kindness of strangers. In the end, as they intersect with the scorching destruction of Sherman’s March, the couple seek a safe haven where they can make a home and begin to rebuild their lives.”

Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy by Marie Vieux-Chauvet ($2.99)

Released in 1968 by the French publisher Gallimard, this novel was highly critical of Haiti’s oppressive Duvalier regime. Concerned about the reprisals the book could cause, the publisher withdrew it upon the author’s request, Vieux-Chauvet fled to New York in exile, and most of the remaining copies were destroyed. It became an underground classic and was released again in 2005—“an extraordinary, brave and graphic evocation of a country in turmoil.”

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury ($2.99)

“Masterful chronicles of Earth’s settlement of the fourth world from the sun…a classic work of twentieth-century literature whose extraordinary power and imagination remain undimmed by time’s passage.”

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon ($2.99)

“An Agatha Christie–style page-turner exploring the unsolved mystery of the 1937 Hindenburg explosion.” “A fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster.” “Lawhon evokes the airborne luxury of the ship—the meals, the cocktails, the smoking room, and the service—in such detail that you end up feeling a little sad that the stately flight of the Hindenberg marked the end of passenger travel by airship forever. A clever, dramatic presentation of a tragic historical event. Suspenseful and fun.”

Hotel Moscow by Talia Carner ($1.99)

“An American woman—the daughter of Holocaust survivors…travels to Russia shortly after the fall of communism, and finds herself embroiled in a perilous mafia conspiracy that could irrevocably destroy her life…as the uprising of the Russian parliament against President Boris Yeltsin turns Moscow into a volatile war zone…in a city where “capitalism” is still a dirty word, where neighbors spy on neighbors and the new economy is in the hands of a few dangerous men…an eye-opening portrait of post-communist Russia and a profound exploration of faith, family, and heritage.”

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay ($1.99)

Ballet and Russian history, click. “A famed ballerina’s jewelry auction in Boston reveals long-held secrets of love and family, friendship and rivalry, harkening back to Stalinist Russia.”

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman ($2.99)

I prefer novels to stories—I like to sink into a world—but everyone loves Gaiman. “In this new anthology, Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath.” “Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion.”

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray ($1.99)

“A compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources…the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph–a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.”

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs ($2.99)

“Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Revolution…the true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from passionate and tender beginnings of their romance to his fateful duel on the banks of the Hudson River.”

The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy ($2.99)

“When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers…She boldly embraces this calling after being told…she can’t bear children…Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child, moves to an old house and…the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance…Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.”

ebook sales

Ursula K. Le Guin

Nonfiction:

These books were on sale as of Saturday morning, but may not be on sale for long—act quickly.

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin ($2.99)

For the writers: “A revised and updated guide to the essentials of a writer’s craft, presented by a brilliant practitioner of the art…Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin’s own witty commentary and an exercise that the writer can do solo or in a group.”

Note: Le Guin died this past week. I’ve never read any of her work although she’s been on my list for a while. After I finish my book club read, I’ll start The Left Hand of Darkness. Some tributes to her this past week that give you a sense of the woman:

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon ($2.99)

“The authors make this unassuming, most studious woman come pulsing to life…[it] may be a playful project, but it asks to be read seriously.” “More than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg’s family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcends generational divides.”

The White Album: Essays by Joan Didion ($2.99)

“In this landmark essay collection, Joan Didion brilliantly interweaves her own “bad dreams” with those of a nation confronting the dark underside of 1960s counterculture…Didion captures the paranoia and absurdity of the era with her signature blend of irony and insight…a masterpiece of literary reportage and a fearless work of autobiography…Its power to electrify and inform remains undiminished nearly forty years after it was first published.”

Havana: A Subtropical Delirium by Mark Kurlansky ($1.99)

“Warmly rendered and rich with the insights of an observer intimate with his subject, this paean to the city of Havana is as engaging as it is timely.” “An affectionate, richly detailed, brief biography of a unique city.” “Invokes the Cuban capital as an occasion to discuss the country’s history, politics, food, architecture, music, religion and passion for baseball.”

The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr ($1.99)

The Liars’ Club took the world by storm and raised the art of the memoir to an entirely new level, bringing about a dramatic revival of the form…The New York Times bestselling, hilarious tale of Mary Karr’s hardscrabble Texas childhood.”

Nancy Wake by Peter FitzSimmons ($2.99)

“In the early 1930s, Nancy Wake was a young woman enjoying a bohemian life in Paris. By the end of the Second World War, she was the Gestapo’s most wanted person. As a young journalist, Nancy Wake witnessed a horrific scene of Nazi violence in a Viennese street. From that moment, she declared she would do everything in her power to rid Europe of the Nazis. What began as a courier job here and there became a highly successful escape network for Allied soldiers, perfectly camouflaged by Nancy’s high-society life in Marseille.”

On Living by Kerry Egan ($1.99)

“A hospice chaplain passes on wisdom on giving meaning to life, from those taking leave of it…This isn’t a book about dying—it’s a book about living.”

Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser ($1.99)

Considered one of the best biographies of Mary: “Here is her story, a queen who lost a throne for love, a monarch pampered and adored even as she was led to her beheading, the unforgettable woman who became a legend for all time.”

Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie ($2.99)

Critics say this is the best biography of Peter the Great. “Against the monumental canvas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Russia, unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great. He brought Russia from the darkness of its own Middle Ages into the Enlightenment and transformed it into the power that has its legacy in the Russia of our own century.”

You can see how I rated the books I’ve read recently on my Goodreads “Read” shelf.

Creative Commons photo of Ursula Le Guin from Oregon State University

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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cookbooks on sale and recipes

In case you need some dinner inspiration, here are a few recipes I made this past week and a few recipes I may try next week.

By the way, if you’re looking for my usual list of ebooks on sale, I’m publishing it on Saturday mornings in a separate post, On the Bookshelf.

Cookbooks on Sale

Before we get to recipes, let’s talk cookbooks. I know you can find recipes on Pinterest and the rest of the web, but I like reading cookbooks. And when ebooks are on sale at $2 or $3 a pop, why not indulge? When I find cookbook (ebook) bargains like these, I’ll share them here, but only the good ones. I am discerning.

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

Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with Over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes by Deborah Madison ($2.99)

Can’t wait to dig into this one. “In her latest cookbook, Deborah Madison, America’s leading authority on vegetarian cooking…reveals the surprising relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs within the same botanical families, and how understanding these connections can help home cooks see everyday vegetables in new light…Destined to become the new standard reference for cooking vegetables.”

The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine by Erin French ($2.99)

“An entirely self-taught cook who used cookbooks to form her culinary education, [French] now helms her restaurant, The Lost Kitchen…creating meals that draw locals and visitors from around the world to a dining room that feels like an extension of her home kitchen. The food has been called ‘brilliant in its simplicity and honesty’ by Food & Wine, and it is exactly this pure approach that makes Erin’s cooking so appealing—and so easy to embrace at home.”

Sausage Making: The Definitive Guide with Recipes by Ryan Farr ($2.99)

“At San Francisco’s 4505 Meats, butcher Ryan Farr takes the craft of sausage making to a whole new level with his fiery chorizo, maple-bacon breakfast links, smoky bratwurst, creamy boudin blanc, and best-ever all-natural hot dogs. Sausage Making is Farr’s master course for all skill levels, featuring an overview of tools and ingredients, step-by-step sausage-making instructions, more than 175 full-color technique photos, and 50 recipes for his favorite classic and contemporary links.”

Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant ($1.99)

Winner of the 2014 International Association of Culinary Association (IACP) Award for international cookbook: “this valuable work contains a vast body of culinary knowledge that can only be gained from an intimate attachment to the Italian way of life…a manual for proper cooking technique and the whys and wherefores of matching of pasta shapes to sauces.”

Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor by Peter Reinhart ($2.99)

“Beloved baking instructor Peter Reinhart…with his decades of experience crafting amazing artisanal breads, has made it his mission to create whole grain breads that are nothing short of incredible. And because his approach is also simpler and less labor intensive than conventional techniques, you’ll choose to make and eat these breads…Written in Reinhart’s famously clear style and accompanied by inspiring photographs, these recipes were perfected with the help of nearly 350 testers.”

cookbooks on sale and recipes

In the Kitchen

We’ve been eating a lot of leftovers here, but on Sunday I made a pretty darn tasty dinner: Braised Pork Loin with Prunes. I only wish the prunes were more emphatic. In the recipe I followed, you don’t butterfly the pork—which I think I’ll do next time—but instead you poke a hole through it with a long knife and push the prunes in—which is quite a messy chore. You only get a thin layer of prunes throughout the loin. I want more.

The pork was moist and the sauce was swoon-worthy. I substituted Marsala for the Armagnac—a wise choice. I’m thinking about making mashed potatoes this weekend just so we can pour the leftover sauce on top.

I made mashed sweet potatoes as a side. Here’s how I did it: cut sweet potatoes into 2” chunks, steam them until they’re soft, and then mash them with a mix of warm milk, melted butter, maple syrup, smoked paprika, and salt. So good. I ate a bowl for breakfast later in the week.

For the veggie: green beans. I sautéed a sliced small onion, sliced shiitake and cremini mushrooms, garlic, halved grape tomatoes, and then when that was all softened, I added the beans along with some chicken broth, and let them cook until the beans were just tender. You could use a shallot instead of an onion. You could start it all with some chopped bacon or add ham later. You could add fresh herbs—I love tarragon but Jim’s not such a fan.

Later in the week, I pulled some flounder out of the freezer and made this simple flounder with spiced bread crumbs. I hadn’t made this recipe in a while, I won’t make that mistake again. It’s so flavorful and quick to put together.

I also did a quick sauté of asparagus with leeks and garlic which I thought would go well with lemon pasta, and it did.

Do you have meal memories you can’t shake? One of mine is a lunch I had in North Beach (San Francisco) back when I was living in Sacramento. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant—it was Italian. I was by myself doing I don’t know what in the city although I always liked strolling through North Beach. I had the most divine pasta dish with lemon sauce. Bright, aromatic, silky, oh my god, so good. Last night’s was darn good, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t my dream pasta. The lemon flavor popped but maybe it needs more cream, or an egg yolk. I’ll have to explore some recipes and tweak it a bit.

cookbooks on sale and recipes

On the Menu

A jar of preserved lemons has been hanging out in my pantry (okay, in a bookcase in my office) for far too long. And, there’s a jar of some kind of green olives in there too. Here’s my recipe for tonight: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Preserved Lemon and Olives. I’ll sauté some collards and whip up some couscous for the sides.

I never made granola last weekend so that’s still on my to-do list.

On Sunday, I’ll see what kind of mood I’m in and choose one of these:

  • I never thought I’d make a recipe from Smithsonian magazine but I love making pizza and this Armenian spiced ground lamb pizza has been calling my name for a while. Flatbread, pizza, call it what you will.

Or, I might make something completely different.

I haven’t thought beyond Sunday. We haven’t had salmon all week so maybe this old favorite, Maple Walnut Salmon. Or, since we’re in citrus season, Roasted Salmon with Shallot-Grapefruit Sauce. Another tasty stand-by is Salmon with Citrus Pesto—we have some home harvested basil pesto in the freezer.

I’ll report back next week on what I ended up doing and what turned out well.

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

Ladie's Maid Margaret Foster book review

The drawing room at Casa Guidi in Florence where the Brownings live for several years with their lady’s maid

Book review: Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster

Four stars or five stars? I couldn’t decide. I ended up giving Lady’s Maid five stars because it’s stayed with me. Days after finishing, I keep thinking about Lilly Wilson—the protagonist. Plus, it’s given me a new perspective on life back in Victorian times—the 1840s or so until the turn of the century. For both these reasons, it merits five stars.

This was a book I looked forward to reading each night and had a hard time putting down. I found myself wrapped in the world of the mid-19th century—the same feeling I get when I read Jane Austen novels, although this book was published in 1991.

I know historical fiction has to take liberties with the facts and that’s okay with me to a point. An author can learn only so much from letters and other archival materials, so she gets to fill in the blanks. But I like being led back in time by someone who cares about facts, like a biographer. Lady’s Maid was written by Margaret Forster who also wrote a biography of the British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning—the other leading actress in the book’s cast.

Lilly Wilson arrives in the Barrett household in the 1840s to be the lady’s maid for the oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Lilly is known to all simply as Wilson as is the way when you’re in service. She’s a serious, capable, caring lady’s maid who ends up also being a nurse maid, dog walker and more for her mistress.

Miss Barrett is sickly and weak. For weeks on end she is confined to the sofa in her darkened bedroom, yet her reputation as a poet grows. Wilson is devoted to her mistress, and Barrett in turn is dependent upon Wilson’s care. She seems to enjoy Wilson’s quiet company, and Wilson slowly comes out of her shell.

When Barrett decides to elope with fellow poet Robert Browning, she takes Wilson into her confidence and then takes her along with them to Italy. Now we watch as Wilson transforms from a shy, fearful, change-wary lady’s maid to a confident woman who comes to love her life in Florence and her mistress Browning.

However, she’s more than a lady’s maid now. She still nurses her mistress when she becomes ill, which is often, but she’s also nanny to the Browning’s son, Pen—but at the same pay as when she started working for the poet.

Issues of class and money run through this book because the relationship between Wilson and her mistress, despite any loving feelings between the two, is defined by class, and, therefore, money. Wilson’s employment and security depend upon the Brownings, but she often deludes herself into believing they have a special relationship, unlike the relationships her fellow lady’s maids have with their employers.

Wilson mistakes the attention, appreciation, and tenderness of her mistress for something it’s not, something that’s not possible between their classes. Browning may love her maid but only in a way a maid can be loved. Wilson will always be a servant, always dependent upon others for her home and livelihood, her security in life. The Brownings have a warm family life, but Wilson is not expected to want the same for herself. The Brownings travel about Europe visiting friends and family, but not Wilson.

As a servant, Wilson’s not free to choose to live the way she wishes, and she’s not free to be a wife and mother, not if she wants to stay in service with the Brownings. She can plot and dream, but she’s not in a position to make those decisions, her freewill is limited by her station in life.

Because the book is from Wilson’s point of view, we only glimpse the Brownings’ world through her eyes, and we don’t see much. I’d love for someone to write a novel that takes on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s point of view so we can see what she thinks about the relationship with her lady’s maid. Even better, include excerpts of her poetry and her husband’s.

Many reviewers have come away from this book disgusted and disappointed with how the Brownings treated Wilson. But how else could they behave? Despite being poets, they are creatures of their time and class. They were raised to be entitled.

Some say the book is too long. Its length never bothered me. If you want to immerse yourself in the Victorian era and the life of a lady’s maid, and feel how class differences made all the difference, get yourself a copy.

Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster: ebook or paperback

A related book on sale now (as of January 26, 2018), but maybe not for long:

Flush by Virginia Woolf ($2.99)

An imaginative biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel: “Here Flush tells his story as well as the love story of Robert Browning and his wife, complete with horrid maids [Ed. note: What?!?], bullying fellow dogs, mysterious illnesses, and clandestine romance. Along the way, plenty of other topics are explored, including the barriers between man and animal, the miseries of London, and the oppression of women by ‘father and tyrants.’”

Lady's Maid by Margaret Forster book review

Top photo: drawing room at Casa Guidi—the Brownings’ home in Florence—via Wikimedia Commons. Bottom photo: excerpt of  Lady’s Maid book cover art.

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

Last week, as I was buying a few discounted ebooks on Amazon, I thought to myself: wouldn’t other people want to know these ebooks are on sale? Yes, they would, I replied. What smart ideas she has.

Lots of crappy books are on sale every day on Amazon. Well, I guess “crappy” is subjective. But amidst the dross you can find some really good books. My plan is to share what I find with you every week, maybe on Saturday mornings, we’ll see. But we all know that good intentions don’t always pan out so, warning, I may fall down on the job.

On the Bookshelf: Ebook Sales

As of earlier today, these ebooks were marked down but act quickly if you want a bargain. Check out last week’s ebook sale list too—some of those books may still be on sale.

Cooking:

Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid ($1.81)

I heard the author of a different Georgian cookbook interviewed on one of my cooking podcasts and the food sounded amazing, so I’m looking forward to reading this one.

ebooks on sale - Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin

Fiction:

Ulysses by James Joyce ($1.89)

I read War & Peace last year—and it was excellent, five stars—so why not tackle this one too. I held out for the Oxford World’s Classics edition to go on sale.

How to Read (and Love) James Joyce’s Ulysses: The Least You Need to Know by Kenneth Davis ($2.99)

But I’m no fool, I’m going to need help so I bought this too.

The best of Muriel Spark is on sale right now. One of Scotland’s finest writers, Spark achieved fame with the publication of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1961—which, unfortunately, isn’t on sale. Catch these $2.99 deals while they last.

Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie ($1.99)

“This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel follows two American academics in London—a young man and a middle-aged woman—as they each fall into unexpected romances.”

The History of the Siege of Lisbon by José Saramago ($2.99)

“A proofreader realizes his power to edit the truth on a whim, in a ‘brilliantly original’ novel by a Nobel Prize winner.”

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym ($2.99)

“Barbara Pym is the twentieth-century literary heiress to Jane Austen, praised by the Huffington Post as ‘the thinking girl’s romance writer.’” “Three lonely people come together in this poignant and witty novel of thwarted dreams, scandalous secrets, and star-crossed romance.”

Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear ($2.99)

Isn’t there a new Maisie Dobbs show on one of the networks or Netflix? Here’s a taste, the only one in the series on sale.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown ($1.99)

“Based loosely on the life of a real English witch finder named Matthew Hopkins, the story is narrated by his sister, Alice, who, pregnant, must return to her brother’s household in the village of Manningtree after the death of her husband in London. As Matthew’s ward, Alice can only watch as her brother’s behavior spirals into fanaticism and cruelty.”

A Trip to the Stars by Nicholas Christopher ($1.99)

“At a Manhattan planetarium in 1965, ten-year-old Enzo is whisked away from his adoptive aunt, Mala. His abductor turns out to be a relative: his great-uncle Junius Samax, a wealthy gambler who lives in a converted Las Vegas hotel surrounded by a priceless art collection. In Samax’s magical world, Enzo receives a unique education and pieces together the mystery of his mother’s life and the complicated history of his adoption.”

The Black Rose by Tananarive Due ($1.99)

Based on a true story: “Born to former slaves on a Louisiana plantation in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker rose from poverty and indignity to become America’s first black female millionaire.”

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton ($1.99)

“The unforgettable story of two outsiders—a lonely scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth—as they grapple with love, regret, and survival in a world transformed.”

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh ($1.99)

I read this one for book club and remember liking it. “The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience…for Victoria Jones…after a childhood spent in the foster-care system…she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life.”

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow ($1.99)

“This searing and heartwrenching portrait of a young biracial girl dealing with society’s ideas of race and class is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.”

An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King ($1.99)

“China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. ‘An Excess Male’ is one such leftover man’s quest for love and family under a state that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritarian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering.”

ebooks on sale - second-hand book seller in Paris

Nonfiction:

The New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement by Lindsey Tramuta ($2.99)

I heard this author on a cooking podcast and was happy to discover her book on sale. I miss Paris. Jim has no desire to go so I’ll probably visit again without him some day.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rimes ($1.99)

People love this book, so we’ll see. “The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life.”

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West ($2.99)

Named a best book of the year by many: “an uproarious memoir, a feminist rallying cry in a world that thinks gender politics are tedious and that women, especially feminists, can’t be funny.”

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala ($1.99)

One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year, the author lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in a tsunami in Sri Lanka.

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman ($1.99)

“A rich and revelatory memoir of a young woman reclaiming her courage in the stark landscapes of the north.”

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth by Wendy Simmons ($1.99)

“Wendy shares a glimpse of North Korea as it’s never been seen before. Even though it’s the scariest place on Earth, somehow Wendy forgot to check her sense of humor at the border.”

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston ($2.15)

“First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, [a] candid, funny, bold, and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.”

House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest by Craig Childs ($2.99)

We spend time most years hiking somewhere in the red rock country of Utah or Arizona—Anasazi land—and have been lucky enough to see their art and buildings, so I’m looking forward to reading this one.

Agony and Eloquence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and a World of Revolution by Daniel Mallock ($1.99)

“The story of the greatest friendship in American history and the revolutionary times in which it was made, ruined, and finally renewed.”

American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill ($1.99)

“Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome married into the British aristocracy in 1874, after a three-day romance. She became Lady Randolph Churchill, wife of a maverick politician and mother of the most famous British statesman of the century.”

When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys by Thomas Maier ($1.99)

A “history of the deeply entwined personal and public lives of the Churchills and the Kennedys and what their ‘special relationship’ meant for Great Britain and the United States.”

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship ($2.99)

An exploration of “the fascinating relationship between the two men who piloted the free world to victory in World War II.”

The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith ($1.99)

The story “of arguably the most influential member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, FDR’s de facto chief of staff, who has been misrepresented, mischaracterized, and overlooked throughout history…until now.”

The Women Who Wrote the War: The Riveting Saga of World War II’s Daredevil Women and Correspondents ($1.99)

A “portrait of Margaret Bourke-White, Martha Gellhorn, and over ninety other female reporters,” “many of whom left comfortable lives behind to chronicle events on the battlefields of Europe and Asia during the Second World War.”

You can see how I rated the books I’ve read recently on my Goodreads “Read” shelf.

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

 Photo of the Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin by David Iliff, Wikimedia Commons, license: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo of the bouquiniste, second-hand book seller, in Paris near the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Paris by Behn Lieu Song, Wikimedia Commons

We could make a new dish every night and we’d never run out of new recipes to try thanks to Pinterest—and the rest of the internet. Here’s a few that I made this past week in case you need a new idea, and a few I may try next week.

By the way, if you’re looking for my usual list of ebooks on sale, I’m publishing it from now on in a separate post, On the Bookshelf. Expect to see that Saturday morning.

In the Kitchen

Blood orange glazed salmon

You could make this easy recipe with regular oranges but blood oranges are in season right now so take advantage if your market has them. I was surprised that my Food Lion did. I reduced the sugar and increased the spices in the glaze. I made a whole side of salmon so we have lots of leftovers. Delicious.

Zest one of the oranges before you juice it for the glaze and add the zest to a sauté of asparagus, bell pepper and onion.

barramundi with leeks, fennel and tomatoes

Barramundi with Fennel, Leeks and Tomatoes

I realized while writing this that I don’t know anything about barramundi. It wasn’t one of the fish we served when I managed a McCormick & Schmick’s so I didn’t study it. Yes, I studied fish back then. Even wrote the “fish book” for the company.

Barramundi is a type of sustainable farmed sea bass native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific. My BJs package says:

“Australis Barramundi is a mild, buttery and delicious white fish that is versatile in adapting to a wide range of recipes. High in protein and low fat, it has half the calories of salmon. Plus, it has high levels of Omega-3, so it’s good for heart, skin and brain health.”

It’s tasty too. I adapted it to this striped bass recipe from The New York Times—added some orange bell pepper to the ragout. I served it with zucchini pesto and roasted root vegetables (turnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) tossed with rosemary, garlic slivers, sea salt, and dried thyme.

Banana Bread

Instead of making cinnamon rolls last weekend, I made banana bread instead. All that sugar scared me off, for now, I still plan to make them one of these cold cozy Saturdays.

Plus, I wanted to get rid of five bananas I had in the freezer, so I tried this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated—this link takes you to the recipe on Leite’s Culinaria since Cook’s Illustrated is a subscription site. Ooh, it’s good—an intense banana flavor. Next time, I’m going to substitute some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour because I love that sort of nutty flavor.

Garlic Parmesan Croutons

My other Saturday project was croutons. I had a staling loaf of anadama bread so I infused some melted butter and olive oil with garlic. Then I strained out the garlic and tossed the bread cubes with the butter/oil mixture and salt, pepper, and dried parsley, basil, and oregano. Halfway through baking I sprinkled Parmesan over it all. I packed my sheet pan too full so the croutons aren’t as crunchy as I’d like but they’re tasty.

bolognese sauce

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce

On Sunday, I made Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese recipe from The Classic Italian Cookbook—but you can find it at The New York Times. My copy is stained and buckled, but the page with this recipe is pristine, a sign that I’ve never made it before. They no longer sell the original cookbook. They combined it and another one of her books into Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Her version, Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style or Ragù, calls for the usual trinity—carrot, onion and celery—plus white wine, milk, and nutmeg. And, of course, tomatoes and ground beef. No garlic. Heavenly. And it better be after simmering in different stages for about six hours or so. I served it with tagliatelle. Roasted broccoli and garlic bread on the side. Ate leftovers for lunch and put half of it in the freezer.

On the Menu

I don’t have too many ideas yet. But I do think I’ll make gingerbread granola this weekend. The recipe I make is cobbled together from recipes on the Minimalist Baker and Cookie and Kate blogs.

Sunday night is one of my dinner duty nights. I might lighten it up this weekend with Cauliflower Pizzas with Chard and Olives. I have a reliable cauliflower pizza crust recipe already so I may use that instead of this one, we’ll see.

Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce is still on the menu for a weeknight.

I’ll report back next week on what I ended up doing and what turned out well.

Ragù photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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

I know I’m not the only obsessive reader out there so once a week I’m going to share a list of ebooks on sale for under $3. What I really mean is: I will try to do this once a week. Association Brain Food comes first but if I can spare the time, I’ll make this a regular thing too. This post will include classics, critically acclaimed books, and other books that look to me like good reads, but that’s not all.

First, let’s go in the kitchen. Every week (at least that’s the plan), I’ll tell you about especially delicious dishes I made in the past week and recipes I’m tempted to make in the near future.

In the Kitchen

Sweet Potato Noodles with Linguica and Veggies

I never jumped on the spiralizer bandwagon because I’m in the Alton Brown camp of not buying a unitasker unless it’s the best tool for the purpose and it’s something I’d use all the time, like a citrus reamer. But, when my parents asked me for Christmas present ideas, I relented and added an Oxo spiralizer to my wish list.

Sweet potatoes were at the top of my spiralizing list. I found a recipe that included linguica and adapted it to my taste. There’s nothing like linguica, I have five pounds more in my freezer. I added red bell pepper, broccoli, and thyme to the recipe. I was amazed how fast it was to spiralize three sweet potatoes. The flavor and texture combination was a knock out. It’s a keeper.

Chicken Shawarma

This one was even better. I’ve made this chicken shawarma recipe before but forgot how good it was. Just remember you need time to marinate the chicken. We had the leftovers again last night.

I served the chicken with some fried eggplant—hunt for Sam Sifton’s comment about that—and a side salad made with grape tomatoes, cucumber, sweet onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, flat leaf parsley, juice from half a lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I made a white sauce for me from Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice and garlic, and a red sauce for Jim from ketchup, red wine vinegar and red chili flakes.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Chop the squash into inch-sized pieces and toss with olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon and salt. If you have smoked paprika use that instead of regular paprika—I ran out (eek!) and hopefully will get a box of spices from The Spice House today. Or use whatever spices appeal to you, I mix it up all the time.

Winter Fruit Salad

Something possessed me in the store yesterday—ok, it was a sale—and I bought strawberries and blackberries from Mexico and blueberries from Chile. So much for seasonal eating. I roasted the strawberries because I was thinking they’d need the help. Then I combined them with the other berries and halved segments of a blood orange—that’s the winter part of this fruit salad. I squeezed out the juice in the orange carcass and tossed it all with some vanilla extract and maple sugar. And, of course, I whipped up some heavy whipping cream—no sugar needed there, the salad was sweet enough. Mmm mm.

winter fruit salad

On the Menu

Barramundi with Fennel, Leeks and Tomatoes

Tonight I’m making this dish but using barramundi instead of bass or mahi. I have some fennel in the refrigerator so I looked for a fish recipe to use it. I don’t always use the dill and I always add red or orange bell pepper. The sauce is like a vegetable ragout. I’ll serve it with zucchini pesto—pesto from the freezer and some roasted root vegetables I need to use (turnips, sweet and red-skinned potatoes).

Garlic Parmesan Croutons

I’ve got a drying out leftover loaf of Anadama Bread in my refrigerator. I made two loaves quite a while back so this one is perfect now for Garlic Parmesan Croutons. No recipe, just ingredients: butter and olive oil; garlic; dried basil, parsley, and oregano; salt, pepper, and Parmesan.

Cinnamon Rolls

This may not happen but if I’m in the mood on Saturday I’m going to make cinnamon rolls. I’ll store them overnight in the refrigerator and bake them on Sunday morning. Maybe. It’s not like we need the calories but the aroma will be worth the extra pounds.

Spaghetti Bolognese

It’s going to be chilly again on Sunday so it could be a perfect Spaghetti Bolognese night. The New York Times (NYT) adapted Marcella Hazan’s recipe and it looks pretty darn good to me, especially since I bought a few pounds of grass-fed ground beef at a deep discount this week. Maybe I’ll make a double batch.

More menu ideas

I can use up my other blood oranges on this recipe: Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce.

Two recipes from the Washington Post caught my eye:

Love the looks of these Cumin-Spiced Cauliflower Steaks.

I’ll report back next week on what turned out well.

cauliflower steaks

On the Bookshelf

As of Friday morning, these ebooks were marked down but act quickly if you want a bargain.

Cooking:

First, check out the prices on these excellent cookbooks by two celebrated chefs.

Fiction:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ($2.99) – 2014 National Book Award finalist, “an audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.”
  • The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak ($1.99) – I’m a historical fiction junkie: “the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.”
  • The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch ($1.99) – A photo of an Eastern European war orphan taken by an American photographer sets off a campaign to rescue her in a novel that “explores the treacherous, often violent borders between war and sex, love and art.”
  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry ($1.99) – A classic I haven’t read yet about “a fatal Day of the Dead in a small Mexican town and one man’s struggle against the forces threatening to destroy him.”
  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong ($2.99) – An iconic book I’ve never read: “the blockbuster novel of female freedom and empowerment that launched a sexual revolution.”
  • The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie ($1.99) – “An exuberant one-of-a-kind novel about love and family, war and nature, new money and old values.”
  • The Purchase by Linda Spalding ($2.99) – “A Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs are sorely tested.”

In the future, I’d like to tell you about the good books I’ve read but I’m not much of a book critic. Maybe I can develop that skill. In the meantime, you can see (I think) how I rated books on a scale of one to five on my Goodreads “Read” shelf.

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

This corn casserole is great in any season with fresh or frozen corn. Serve alongside Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes. It’s even good for breakfast.

mexican-corn-casserole

Here I am posting a corn recipe in the winter, what’s up with that? I know, I know, but I made this again the other night and it’s so good, I can’t put it off until fresh corn is back in season. And frozen corn is always in season at the supermarket so here you go.

The original recipe called for jarred Alfredo sauce. Sorry, but yuck. Call me a snob but I don’t like jarred sauces – too much sugar, not enough fresh-tasting flavor plus god only knows what else is in there.

Instead, I made a white sauce with Parmesan – close enough and easy enough. I also substituted feta cheese for cotija cheese. Next time I make this, I’ll add about 1/3 cup of diced red bell pepper to the onion for a pop of red in the final dish. I didn’t have any cilantro — a sprinkling of green would have been nice too.

Mexican Corn Casserole

You’ll need a large oven-safe pan, small saucepan

  • 2 tablespoons butter and/or olive oil
  • 2/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 cobs of fresh sweet corn (or 2-1/2 cups frozen corn)
  • 4 oz. can diced green chiles
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated feta cheese
  • Optional: feta cheese, chopped fresh cilantro and chili powder for garnish

Preheat oven to 400. In a large oven-safe pan, melt the butter (and/or heat up the oil) over medium-low heat. Cook the onion in butter for 5 minutes. While that’s cooking, cut fresh corn off the cob (or thaw frozen corn) and use the back of the knife to scrape out the milk. Once the onion is tender, add corn to the pan along with the green chiles. Cook another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Let the flour cook until it’s pasty and takes on some color, but don’t let it brown – that will take about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and continuing cooking for a few minutes or until the sauce thickens. Take off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Stir the white sauce, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and the feta cheese into the corn mixture. Smooth out the top and clean off the sides. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and just coloring on the top. When it’s done, if you wish, top with more feta cheese, cilantro and a sprinkling of chili powder.

Adapted from Mexican Street Corn Casserole, Lauren’s Latest.