Anthony Bourdain. His death shattered me. He had gusto. Cook, writer, publisher, traveler and best dinner guest ever, I’m sure of it. My first introduction to this talented and fascinating man was his article in The New Yorker, Don’t Eat Before Reading This, back in 1999. Damn, has it been that long? A year later, Kitchen Confidential was published and I snapped it up right away.
Once he got on TV, I was hooked. He still makes me stay up longer than anyone else. I love his personality—as well as his brilliant, smart ass yet generous and curious attitude.
I can easily imagine working with him. A different kitchen at a different time. He’s the kind of chef I would have laughed with, vented at, and drank with after closing, a brother in arms.
Bourdain inspired me to go to Vietnam. I couldn’t decide where in Asia I wanted to go that year. While watching one of his Vietnam episodes, it dawned on me that I loved Vietnamese food more than any other Asian cuisine. If Vietnam was his favorite place, I had to go experience it too and what an experience it was.
Oh man. Rest in peace, brother, so sad you couldn’t find it here in this life. Thanks for reminding us about what really matters.
produce vendors in Halong Bay, Vietnam
In My Kitchen
We spent another weekend away so I’m struggling to get back on track with all the items on my personal to-do list. Last weekend we were in the mountains in Stone Mountain State Park and this weekend we were at the beach on Emerald Isle. Can’t complain.
Looking way back to last week—which seems like so long ago—I recall making bonito with roasted red bell pepper sauce early in the week. The recipe was made easier by a jar of roasted red bell peppers. I should have taken the fish off the pan earlier—I would have preferred the pieces a little underdone, oh well, live and learn.
On the side, baby bok choy and cabbage sautéed with spring onions and garlic scapes and sweet potatoes roasted with Turkish seasoning and sea salt. I’ve been buying Covington sweet potatoes lately and I think they’re my favorite although I’d have to do a blind tasting to know for sure.
When any of the packages in the organic/sustainable, or whatever it is, more expensive, meat section of our supermarket sport the “manager’s special” yellow deep-discount stickers, I snap them up for the freezer. I picked up a package of discounted jalapeno-cranberry-cheddar turkey burgers a while back to save for one of those nights when I’d have no time to cook.
One of those nights came last week. Because of book club, I moved one of my dinner duty nights to a gym class night so I took advantage of those burgers and they were good. We had leftover summer squash with carrot top pesto and leftover roasted sweet potatoes on the side.
We normally have book club at a restaurant but this time we met at someone’s house so we all brought a dish for dinner. I made tortellini pesto salad:
- 20 ounce package of cheese-filled tortellini
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup basil pesto
- Few handfuls of stemmed and julienned baby spinach
- 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
- 8 to 10 ounces of quartered fresh mozzarella cheese balls
- Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
On Friday night, Jim and I were sent to nirvana with sautéed soft shell crabs again. This time I dredged them in flour, then in egg mixed with some milk and hot sauce, then in cornmeal, and cooked them in a mix of butter and grapeseed oil. I believe soft shells are my favorite seafood. It’s a short season so I feel lucky to have had them twice this year. I’m hoping Locals Seafood can get their hands on some in the short season later this summer, otherwise I’ll eagerly await their return next year.
Saturday, after my morning class at the gym where I did something painful to the front of my left shoulder while doing a push up, we left for Emerald Isle. I’m so bummed about my shoulder because I’ll need to give it a rest and skip classes until it gets better. I’ll miss the sweating and exhaustion. Back to the boring machines for a while.
The guys manned the grill on Saturday night at the beach and made us NC flounder, shrimp and venison tenderloin plus hobo packs of new potatoes and rainbow carrots—and leftover tortellini pesto salad. Sitting outside, eating, laughing, hearing the surf and feeling the sea breeze—nothing much better.
Yesterday, on the way home from the beach, Jim and I drove up to Morehead City for lunch on the waterfront deck at Southern Salt. They served hushpuppies alongside our tasty adult beverages, then we split a fantastic appetizer: down east egg rolls stuffed with collards, pimento cheese and andouille sausage and served with a spicy reddish aioli sauce. I’d love to recreate those rolls at home. For the mains, we shared plates of crab cakes and fried oysters—so good. And filling, we didn’t even bother making dinner when we got home.
our view at lunch at Southern Salt
On My Menu
I was going to cook blueline tilefish last night but now plan to cook it tonight or tomorrow. I’ve only cooked tilefish once before—golden tilefish with a spiced parmesan and bread crumb topping—and remember thinking it was a delicious fish I wanted to try again. I still don’t know what I’ll do with it this time, maybe tilefish tacos if I find some ripe avocados and salsa verde in the store. I have cilantro and two baby cabbages that would be perfect for a simple slaw.
Whatever I end up doing, I’ll use those little cabbages in something and make a sauté of summer squash and broccoli stems.
Jen at the CSA was giving away some big boy zucchini and yellow squash so I picked up two to make zoodles. I’m considering this recipe for zucchini (zoodle) alfredo but would also add canned clams. People hate canned clams but they have their place. Yes, fresh is way better, no comparison, but pantry clams are handy, I’m a fan.
Friday night we’ll have fish or shellfish from Locals Seafood along with other CSA and farmers market goodies. I still have a spaghetti squash and a yellow cauliflower from last week’s market—plus blueberries and blackberries. Time to get my baking on!
I’ll report back next week on my kitchen fun.
eCookbooks and Food eBooks on Sale
Act quickly if any of these interest you, ebook deals last a day, a week, or sometimes longer. Click on the title to get to the Amazon deal. Blurbs are from Amazon unless otherwise credited.
The Book of Greens: A Cook’s Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress by Jenn Louis ($1.99)
Winner of the 2018 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Award for “Health & Special Diet” category and finalist for the 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Awards for “Vegetable-Focused Cooking” category.
For any home cook who is stuck in a “three-green rut”—who wants to cook healthy, delicious, vegetable-focused meals, but is tired of predictable salads with kale, lettuce, cabbage, and the other usual suspects—The Book of Greens has the solution. Chef Jenn Louis has compiled more than 175 recipes for simple, show-stopping fare, from snacks to soups to mains (and even breakfast and dessert) that will inspire you to reach for new greens at the farmers’ market, or use your old standbys in totally fresh ways. Organized alphabetically by green, each entry features information on seasonality, nutrition, and prep and storage tips.
Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World by Sam Kass ($2.99)
Sam Kass, former chef to the Obamas and White House food policy advisor, makes it easier to do a little better for your diet—and the environment—every day, through smart ways to think about shopping, setting up your kitchen so the healthy stuff comes to hand most naturally, and through 90 delicious, simple recipes.
Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan ($1.99)
For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams… An exhilarating, heartfelt memoir, Maman’s Homesick Pie is also a reminder of the women who encourage us to shine.
Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid ($2.99)
Winner of the James Beard Award for Best Book of the Year, International (2017), winner of the IACP Award for Best Cookbook of the Year in Culinary Travel (2017) and named a Best Cookbook of the Year by many papers.
Though the countries in the Persian culinary region are home to diverse religions, cultures, languages, and politics, they are linked by beguiling food traditions and a love for the fresh and the tart… Our ambassador to this tasty world is the incomparable Naomi Duguid, who for more than 20 years has been bringing us exceptional recipes and mesmerizing tales from regions seemingly beyond our reach. More than 125 recipes, framed with stories and photographs of people and places, introduce us to a culinary paradise where ancient legends and ruins rub shoulders with new beginnings—where a wealth of history and culinary traditions makes it a compelling place to read about for cooks and travelers and for anyone hankering to experience the food of a wider world.
Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook by Elisabeth Prueitt ($2.99)
A comprehensive cookbook with 200 recipes for the way people want to eat and bake at home today, with gluten-free options, from James Beard Award-winning and best-selling author Elisabeth Prueitt, cofounder of San Francisco’s acclaimed Tartine Bakery… As the family cook in her own household, Prueitt understands the challenge of making daily home cooking healthy, delicious, and enticing for all—without wearing out the cook. Through concise instruction Prueitt translates her expertise into home cooking that effortlessly adds variety and brings everyone to the table.
Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat ($2.99)
Move over, sushi. It’s time for gyoza, curry, tonkatsu, and furai. These icons of Japanese comfort food cooking are the hearty, flavor-packed, craveable dishes you’ll find in every kitchen and street corner hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Japan. In Japanese Soul Cooking, Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat introduce you to this irresistible, homey style of cooking… With foolproof instructions and step-by-step photographs, you’ll soon be knocking out chahan fried rice, mentaiko spaghetti, saikoro steak, and more for friends and family. Ono and Salat’s fascinating exploration of the surprising origins and global influences behind popular dishes is accompanied by rich location photography that captures the energy and essence of this food in everyday life, bringing beloved Japanese comfort food to Western home cooks for the first time.
Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill ($1.99)
Tasting Rome provides a complete picture of a place that many love, but few know completely. In sharing Rome’s celebrated dishes, street food innovations, and forgotten recipes, journalist Katie Parla and photographer Kristina Gill capture its unique character and reveal its truly evolved food culture—a culmination of 2000 years of history. Their recipes acknowledge the foundations of Roman cuisine and demonstrate how it has transitioned to the variations found today. You’ll delight in the expected classics… the fascinating but largely undocumented Sephardic Jewish cuisine… the authentic and tasty offal… and so much more. Studded with narrative features that capture the city’s history and gorgeous photography that highlights both the food and its hidden city, you’ll feel immediately inspired to start tasting Rome in your own kitchen.
Looking for more e-cookbook and ebook deals? Check out previous lists, some are still on sale.
Creative Commons licensed image by Don Lu (blackberries) via Unsplash.
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