Due to the ongoing pandemic and limited library service, this month the group members challenged each other to try to cook something new, difficult, or out of our comfort zone. Those present approached the situation from many different vantage points.
One member chose to make a Chocolate Biscuit Cake for her husband’s birthday. The recipe had been recommended by her sister, and apparently is a favorite of Prince Harry and Meghan. It was easy to make and delicious and consisted of not much more than rich tea biscuits (remember, this means “cookies” to us) that she found at Wegmans – the McVitie’s brand. The only caveat was that the cake needs to chill for two days. Click here for a similar recipe to try.
Another member cooked from both the “Boston Globe” and the “Moosewood Cookbook.” From the former came grilled eggplant planks with harissa (courtesy of Trader Joe’s). From the latter came a traditional tabbouleh recipe that featured tomatoes, feta, mint, and parsley. The recipe is available online, allows for many permutations, and chickpeas were added in the second day. Spaghetti carbonara was another offering by this cook, and her trick was to mix the cheese and eggs together before adding to the spaghetti. This cook’s final experiment was rice pudding from scratch. She made it with medium grain rice, but it was too chewy, and she suggested using long grain rice for the next try.
Another person in the group took the “Chopped” approach and decided to see how many ways she could use blueberries, and surprisingly, there were more savory offerings than sweet. They included lemon blueberry whoopie pies with a cream cheese filling, a blueberry balsamic dressing that was good, but turned things like hard boiled eggs a disconcerting purple, chicken with a blueberry sauce, and then repurposed/enhanced salad dressing which was poured over a pork tenderloin.
This chef also followed the helpful hint of keeping fresh ginger in the fridge by preserving it in vodka. Another member stated that she peels, chops, and freezes fresh ginger with good results.
An almond milk drinker in the group issued herself a challenge to make soy milk from scratch. This was a labor intensive process that produced mediocre taste results. One must get the husks off of the dry soy beans first, and the mediocre taste was likely due to the lack of added sweeteners that usually go into commercial products. This same pioneer-style chef then chose to find a use for the leftover soybean pulp, and found that you could make okara (soy bean pulp) hummus, and vegan crab cakes. She made the latter, and they came out well.
Another member, who is sharing cooking responsibilities with her 24 year old son, who happens to be caught home during this pandemic, made a broccoli soufflé (which stayed fluffy), and Beef Wellington for the first time. The latter was from “The Joy of Cooking,” and she also made the liver pate/mushroom spread that coats the beef from scratch. Since this chef knows her weaknesses, she didn’t attempt to make the puff pastry from scratch; the Wellington was delicious. The son made pasta from scratch twice, and has become the master of the brined, spatchcocked and grilled whole chicken.
Our last member made socca, which is a Genoan street food, but in this case, served as a chickpea pancake crust for pizza. It is made from chickpea flour, EVOO, water, and salt. After it sits, it is spread in a cast iron pan and placed under the broiler till it gets firm, and then toppings are added, and it is then cooked longer. The recipe used included summer squash which is abundant in gardens now.
Here is a sample picture of socca and the link.
In the world of miscellany, one member mentioned the usefulness of her Wifi smart meat thermometer – www.meater.com. Another member cited the usefulness of “the Bug Bite Thing” – www.bugbitething.com, since many of us are spending more pandemic time outside. Thai on the Fly was mentioned as a place that does takeout easily and well. Finally, a member had been drawn in by this cookbook title and had purchased it: Procrastibaking: 100 recipes for getting nothing done in the most delicious way possible by Erin Gardner. -(This title is also available for download from Overdrive, the library’s downloadable book service)
Join us next month on Friday, July 31st at 11 AM as we explore African-American cuisine. As we try to make sense of a world where systemic racism is the norm, one way that we can understand the roots of it is to educate ourselves. The library has a list of resources available to do this https://www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/category/reading-room/page/2/ but our Bibliobites group wanted to dig a little deeper. Reading about Black food history and customs, cooking some African American recipes and celebrating Black food culture will be the focus for July. To help in your exploration, there is an Epicurious list here: https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/a-reading-list-for-learning-about-race-and-food-article
Another virtual resource, that is always available with your library card is Hoopla – use https://www.hoopladigital.com/genre/917231993 for a link to a search of soul food and this one https://www.hoopladigital.com/genre/917231859 for a link to cooking from the Southern States – you have to pick and choose in this last search, as some are simply Southern cooking and not African American cooking. Let us know what you find in your cooking journey and join us for our next Zoom meeting – contact Becky Herrmann to get the meeting link! Enjoy!
Special thanks to Maggie Marshall for taking notes this past month!