Friday, September 18, 2009

Cookish: What's for Dinner?

Talapia and Cous Cous

Talapia fillets
Creole Mustard
Salt and pepper
Canola or Vegetable oil
Chicken stock
Whole wheat (or regular) cous cous

This is a really simple meal, and it is really easy to keep all the ingredients on hand so you can make it whenever you need a quick, tasty supper. If your talapia fillets are frozen, defrost them. When they're defrosted, pat them dry. Meanwhile, put a couple tablespoons of oil in a skillet (enough to cover the bottom) and heat to medium-high heat. Put 1 cup of chicken stock OR 1 cup of water and a boullion cube into a small saucepan and turn on high heat to bring to a boil. Back to the fish. Brush the fish with a thin coating of creole mustard (or dijon, or whatever kind you like). Spread some cornmeal on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Coat the fish in the cornmeal--a light dusting. When the oil is hot, add the fish and fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and the fish is cooked through. When the stock comes to a boil, add a handful or two of frozen peas. Let it come back to a boil, stir in cous cous, cover, and let sit off the heat for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve the cous cous and fish with a salad, and you've got a quick, easy supper, that is very simple to scale up or down for the number of people you have for dinner. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bookish: The Prophecy of the Sisters

First, we need to talk about marketing campaigns. This book is REALLY being pushed by its publisher. They sent out packages to possible reviewers with puzzle pieces and a little cardboard book thingie that the pieces fit into, spelling out the prophecy from the book., just to get people thinking about the book before actually reading it. Then, about a week or two later, the actual book arrived. They also gave out ARCs at conferences. The ARC that came in the mail also had a dust jacket on it. That is almost unheard of, and very expensive. They are really putting some marketing $$$ behind this book, so you should hear a lot about it.

The book is about twins who are part of a long line of twins that are part of a prophecy and could bring about the end of the world. One twin is good, the other...not so good. Due to a trick in their delivery, they are each fulfilling the role in the prophecy contrary to their nature. The storyline is interesting, and there are sufficient creepy parts. Some plot points are very obvious, though, and the story does not always read like it is in the time period it is supposed to be set in.

The book did not make it obvious from the outset that this was not a self-contained story, but there is at least one more book, and I figure it is probably at least a trilogy. The lack of resolution was VERY annoying, but I guess the fact that I wanted to know what the ending would be points to the fact that the story was intruiging. Not the best thing I've read lately, but interesting enough.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Creamy Linguine
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch asparagus
1/2 box whole wheat linguine
olive oil
tarragon (optional)
1/2 cup cream
chicken stock

Saute mushrooms & onions over medium-high heat. Let the liquid in the mushrooms cook out and continue cooking until liquid cooks off. Don't add salt until after mushrooms are sauteed. When mushrooms are brown and liquid has cooked off, push them to the side, add some more oil (or butter) and a couple teaspoons of flour. Let flour cook for a minute, then add some chicken stock and stir. Add salt and pepper. Add asparagus and a couple pinches of dried tarragon (optional). As sauce thinkens, add some more stock, and then a couple of handsful of peas and the cream. Stir. Allow peas and asparagus to cook. Add some parmesean cheese. Taste for salt and pepper.

Boil about 1/2 box of linguini. Reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid before draining. Toss with sauce, loosening with pasta water or chicken stock as needed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bookish Review: Crazy for the storm

I picked up an ARC of this book at a convention and probably would not have read it otherwise. It was a bit slow to start and the lack of quotation marks drove me crazy. (Why do people think that is a good stylistic choice? Use quotation marks!)

The book is about Norman Ollestad. As a child, he was on a trip with his father and his father's girlfriend when their plane crashed in the mountains. He was the only one to survive. The book is even more so about Norman's unorthodox childhood and the way his parents raised him and how that enabled his survival. It certainly was an interesting way to grow up, on the beach in California, learning how to surf and ski and survive the occasional wrath of his mother's boyfriend.

So, the book was not bad, once you get past the no quotation marks. This book has been getting a lot of buzz, and has even been called one of the best books of the year. I do not agree with that, but it was interesting.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bookish Review: My Sister's Keeper

This is the first book I have read by Jodi Picoult (and no, I haven't seen the movie). I must say, Picoult is a very good writer. The story was compelling, and I had to force myself to put it down at night so I could get some sleep. The story revolves around a child who was genetically engineered by her parents to be a donor for her older sister, who has leukemia. Eventually, the younger daughter decides to sue her parents for the right to make her own medical decisions about her body, and possibly stop being a donor for her sister, who will likely die without her help.
There are lots of complex ethical questions raised in this story, in addition to the interesting famil dynamic. Having a sick child in the family has obviously put a strain on everyone and the middle child, a son, tries desperately to stand out by spiralling deeper and deeper into deviant behavior. Even the lawyer assigned to the case has issues he must work through.
The ending definitely has a twist, and I am still not sure how I felt about it, but I could not put the book down and will probably read something else by Picoult in the future. Recommended.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Corn chowder
4 ears of corn
1 small onion
1 carrot
2 large red potatoes
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
chicken stock

Chop up the onion and carrot and begin to sweat in a pan with some olive oil. (Alternatively, you can brown some bacon in the pan and cook the onion and carrot in the bacon drippings. Mmm...bacon.)

Cut the kernels off of the ears of corn. An easy way to do this and catch the kernels is to put a small bowl inside a larger bowl, rest the cob on top of the small bowl and cut down. You can also use a bundt pan to do this, sticking the cob in the middle, but I don't have a bundt pan.

Put the corn in with the onion and carrot and grate in the garlic. Add a small splash of stock to help the corn cook. Add salt and pepper

Meanwhile, put the corn cobs in a pot and cover with stock (or water). Boil for about 15 minutes, to get all the flavor from the cobs. I think it was 3-4 cups. I used some homemade stock I had in the freezer. This is really easy, honestly. The next time you get a rotisserie chicken or roast a chicken, save the bones. Put them in a pot with another water to cover. Add a carrot, celery (if you have it), an onion, a clove or two of garlic, some sal & pepper, thyme, oregano, bay leaves--basically whatever herbs you want, and then bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn it down and let it simmer for a couple of hours. Strain out all of the stuff and you've got some tasty stock on your hands. It takes almost no effort, just time, and you paid for the chicken--you might as well get everything out of it.

Back to the soup. Remove the cobs from the stock. At this point, I would add about half of the corn mixture and blend until smooth, then add the rest of the corn so the soup is chunky but not too chunky....except that my hand blender died on me, so all the corn went in as is.
Chop up the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and boil in the soup until tender. (Likewise, you could blend up the potatoes in the soup or leave them as chunks...or leave them out all together.) Once the potatoes are done, mix a bit of the broth with some cornstarch and then pour into the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil and let boil for a minute or two so the cornstarch can thicken the soup a bit. Take the soup off the heat and stir in about 1/4 cup of cream (again, this is optional, but I had cream on hand, so why not?)

There you go! You could easily add chicken, crab, crawfish, or shrimp to this. It would be tasty. You could also leave out the potatoes, add some chiles and perhaps some black beans and you'll have a tex-mex corn soup.