Summer Reading

strawberries creme fraiche book

Market-Fresh Strawberries & Home-Made Crème Fraîche


In case you’d like a taste of what I’m reading, here are two samples from a book I purchased yesterday.

“I do believe, against all the odds, that cream will be with us for a long time yet, despite its well-known high cholesterol content. After all, who in their heart of hearts would want to be without crème brûlée, the best vanilla ice cream, or clotted cream on a scone with strawberry jam?”

“Crème fraîche The only sort of cream to be found in Europe. It is a shock the first time you try it because of its sharp taste. ‘Oh, it’s off,’ people cry. I have never discovered the reason why this cream has been deliberately soured, but for something so rich, it is curiously refreshing and particularly good with chocolate things. I don’t like cooking with it; it separates more easily than any cream I know.”

Roast Chicken and Other Stories

by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham

A newspaper clipping left between the first few pages of the book give a good explanation of the difference between an American cookbook and one you might find in Britain. In addition to pointing out that American cookbooks are big, heavy, and “include several dozen profound-looking photographs”, the review accuses Americans of “glamour, swagger [and] religious uplift”.  In contrast, the British author of Roast Chicken and Other Stories, Simon Hopkinson, shares personal favorites in a simple and pleasant manner.

In his introduction, the author admits that he is not a novelist. You can tell that he isn’t a professional recipe-writer, either. Last night I was chuckling out loud at the way he explained some instructions. His work is fun to read because you can tell that he likes to cook and that he enjoys eating good food.

As I looked at the titles of various chapters listed in the Table of Contents, I see there are more than a few ingredients that will probably not make it into my kitchen: brains, hake, squab, sweetbreads, tripe… but it won’t hurt to store some of the information in my head.

I look forward to dipping into this book from time to time over the next few summer months, and perhaps even trying some of the recipes that don’t require turning on the oven.





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Rummy Eggnog & Buttery Root Beer

Some holiday treats are quite good bought from the store. Others are best homemade.  Two of my coworkers were pleased with Aldi’s gourmet stollen that I gave to them as gifts. Maybe because I’m not really a fan of marzipan, stollen isn’t high on my list of Christmas foods, though. The price of the stollen was quite reasonable, especially considering the cost of marzipan, almonds, and dried fruit–not to mention the value of one’s time around Christmas.

One of our friends gave us a gift bag with two bottles of gourmet soda on Christmas night. Although it isn’t Rowling’s butter beer, Olde Philadelphia root beer definitely has buttery characteristics. Thanks Waggoners! A special thanks to Sharon, too, for the H.P. tie (Joel says he wouldn’t mind getting one every Christmas.).

rootbeer and tie.JPG

Eggnog can be tricky. Many of the cartons that you find at your local grocery store are overloaded with nutmeg. If you decide to make your own, you either have to risk salmonella poisoning or figure out how to cook the eggs without ending up with a curdled beverage…although you can put it in the blender and/or pass the lumpy liquid through a fine sieve if your texture isn’t as smooth as you would like.

Here is the recipe I tried this week:


1 1/3c milk

2 cloves

1/8 t vanilla

¼ t cinnamon


4 egg yolks

½ c sugar


Rum flavoring

1 1/3 c half & half

¾ t vanilla

1/8 t nutmeg


Combine first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture over lowest heat for 5 minutes, eventually bringing it to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is fluffy.

Add a little bit of the hot milk mixture to the eggs to balance the temperature. Gradually combine the two mixtures. Heat them over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until it thickens. Do not boil the mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the rum flavoring, half & half, vanilla, and nutmeg.  Add the hot mixture to this. Pour the liquid into a container that has a lid, and put it in the fridge to cool overnight.  This made 4 servings for us.



And to all of you who have been wondering how the mincemeat turned out?

The bottled stuff is probably more satisfying, even though the price tag can seem high. My filling wasn’t as rich as I expected…but maybe I’m remebering chess pie?



Categories: Beverages, Books, Dessert, Desserts, Food and drink | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasting: Olive Oil

I woke with a slight headache after sleeping with wet hair and an open window. IMG_2792A dull grey light showed the empty desktops in the next room. The furniture hadn’t all been put back into place after our rearranging for guests, although my husband had washed and I had dried and put away the stacks of dishes. In the kitchen the blossoms on two bunches of tulips—one white and the other pale pink—had begun to open. The strong pattern of the blue shamrocks on the white porcelain pitcher somehow complimented the delicate colors.

IMG_2791A.S., a friend, had brought them on Friday evening along with some thinly sliced salami and a bottle of peppery extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joes.  K. and M., our upstairs neighbors, had carried down a bowl of popcorn, a plate with almond crackers and white cheese, and a bottle of truffle-flavored olive oil. A. and J., the final guests—a cellist and a young philosopher from church and the seminary, contributed scones, a loaf of Italian bread, a container of gourmet mixed olives, and a small clear glass bottle of pesto-flavored olive oil from a local shop.

As we continue to work at developing friendships, I think back on fine evenings with friends in Minnesota. Our group, “Gravitas”, will never be replaced, but it is no wrong to try to start something similar here in Pennsylvania. Here, rather than topics relating to theology, visual art, music, or literature, our theme is tasting: food. Each guest brings a different variety of the specified product for the month. We try to describe the appearance, the aroma, flavor, texture, and finish. Individual’s observations are penciled onto grids before being shared with the group. Next, we enjoy foods that pair well with the product to create a meal. A variety of desserts served with small cups of hot tea complete the experience. This time we had a basket of red grapes, and a plate with dark chocolate, swirled macaroons, chewy chocolate chip cookies, and sugar-sprinkled miniature scones.  When we were done trying to choose adjectives that described each olive oil, the conversation shifted to tastes in other areas. Although we didn’t all agree on answers to some questions that came up, there was much thinking out loud. At the end of the evening we knew each other better and had questions on which to continue meditating.





Categories: Books, Food and drink, Organizations, sauces & condiments, Science, Tasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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