I always say that three makes a trend — or two in a pinch. So, these three new books tell me that books based on blogs are officially a hot new trend.
There are a lot of bad things about the Internet, but a lot of great things too, and the 1000awesomethings website is one of the best. Neil Pasricha started a blog (which at last count had 15 million hits), about life’s mundane-yet-often-uplifting perks. He wrote them down and accompanied them with short, personal stories, many of which are hilarious. I’m guessing that after a million or so hits, the publishing world took note, because now Pasricha’s got a new book called The Book of Awesome (2010 Penguin).
And you know what? It really is. I’m mentioning it here because it’s got a bunch of food-related entries, such as “Talking about how much the meal you’re eating at home would cost in a restaurant,” “Really, really old Tupperware,” “Bakery air” and “Perfectly popped microwave popcorn.” But it’s the page-long tales that really make this book sing. I laughed out loud on a café patio when I cracked the spine for the first time. I usually never laugh out loud at books — I’m very discerning — and especially not in public.
Next up is Orangette’s book, A Homemade Life (2009 Simon & Schuster). I probably don’t need to tell you about one of the Internet’s most popular and successful food bloggers, Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. Hers is the fairytale story of an early adopter. She launched Orangette in 2004, met her husband through her blog, secured a regular food column in Bon Appetit magazine based on her lovely writing voice, photos and recipes, opened a restaurant with her husband, and then launched a bestselling cookbook. In other words, I hate her. (Kidding!) Her book, like her blog, offers much inspiration through stories and excellent recipes. Many of the dishes boast modern twists, such as banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger, or little corn cakes with bacon, tomato and avocado. Yum.
Finally, Poor Girl Gourmet (2010 Andrews McMeel Publishing), which just landed on my desk last week. This book is clean and easy to follow, with a scattering of colour photos of say, the brown sugar chocolate chip cookies you’re definitely going to make, as well as their estimated food cost (the recipe makes 24 cookies for $5 or less, or 13 cents a cookie — in US pennies). It's based on the blog, poorgirlgourmet.blogspot.com, which writer and food lover Amy McCoy created once the recession hit and her freelance work dried up.
It’s about making good food for less; basics like soups and salads and entrées composed of chicken thighs and pasta, from honey balsamic chicken thighs to butternut squash ravioli in a maple cream sauce. There’s also a desserts chapter and useful info about value wines. So, who is this book aimed at (besides chicken thigh and pasta lovers)? The ingredients lists are short, while the recipe methods are long, so every last detail is accounted for with no missteps. I think it’s a great book for beginner cooks with gourmet tastes. Especially those who like to entertain but aren’t exactly rolling in the dough — though the butterhorns recipe, a great depression-era suppertime roll, could help with that (at 13 cents per butterhorn).
For now though, here’s a cheap and cheerful chicken dish from Poor Girl Gourmet for tonight’s dinner:
Estimated cost for four: $6.67
4 chicken legs, approximately 3/4 lb. each
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tbsp fresh
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 lb. good quality olives, such as Kalamata or Castelvetrano, unpitted
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Step 2: In a large baking dish or lasagna pan, arrange the chicken legs in a single layer, skin side up. Using a basting brush or your hands — your hands are the best tools you have, remember — lightly coat the skin with the olive oil. Sprinkle the legs with thyme, and season them with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Scatter the olives around the chicken such that they have their own space in which to live. It is okay if a few olives reside in the fold of a leg, but you do want to try to get the majority of them onto their own space in the baking dish so that they are marinated with the chicken fat as they cook.
Step 4: Roast the chicken until the skin is crispy and juices run clear when the legs are pierced, 55 minutes to 1 hour. Serve each leg with 1/4 of the olives per person, even to the olive haters, for they need to taste and then find themselves transformed to olive lovers, or at least roasted olive lovers. Be certain to remind your dinner companions that the olives are not pitted, so that no one loses a tooth. That’s no way to start a meal, or inspire a love of roasted olives.
For more great websites and blogs, see our Food Sites We Like page.