Pre-review: It just arrived and I've already tagged three dozen things I want to make immediately (I tried to limit myself in the dessert section as EPre-review: It just arrived and I've already tagged three dozen things I want to make immediately (I tried to limit myself in the dessert section as EVERYTHING looks amazing).
For overall quality of the recipes herein: 4 stars For approachability and accessibility: 3 stars For images and formatting: 3 stars
This isn't a cookbook for the beginning chef. Many of the recipes are advanced, most of them require extra preparation time, and a great deal of them use ingredients that aren't easily accessible.
That said (and probably because of some of those reasons), I really enjoyed working my way through Ottolenghi.
I started with Roast potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes with lemon and sage, and having no luck finding Jerusalem artichokes (though my grocery store has put them on order now and will be swimming in Jerusalem artichokes with no one else who will buy them!), I left them out of the recipe... which translated to a standard, but still delicious, roast potato recipe. I pressed on.
The cookbook requires several ingredients which I don't usually buy, but, because there is a great deal of repetition between recipes, I didn't feel like I was left with a product that I wouldn't ever use again: Sunflower oil, hazelnuts, Muscavado sugar are a few examples. (Additional advise: If you decide to work through these recipes, buy a big bag of sweet potatoes as they are used several times!) :)
Most of the recipes are ideal as delicious vegetarian meals. In truth, I wasn't blown away by anything in the meat section.
I'm not yet finished with the recipes I initially marked, and there are many more that I intend to add in very soon. There are a few that I've already made twice and will probably become staples.
*** Quick summary:
Cucumber and poppyseed salad - a quick green addition for a meal. Sweet and vinegary. Made this twice.
Haricots vert and snow peas with hazelnut and orange - loved this! Made it twice.
Grilled broccoli with chile and garlic - Husband really liked it, I thought it was fine.
Roasted butternut squash with burnt eggplant and pomegranate molasses - I adored the squash (especially with all the toasted seeds and nuts), but the eggplant spread was not to my (or anyone else's) liking.
Roast potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes with lemon and sage - missing the artichokes, so otherwise a standard potato dish.
Roasted sweet potato with pecan and maple - I used this as one of our Thanksgiving sides and thought it was lovely. A wonderful dish for autumn.
Danielle's sweet potato gratin - Despite the instructions not to use a pale sweet potato, I did (because I didn't read ahead before I went shopping!) and used the pale ones anyway. It was fantastic! I made it a second time with a mixture of red and pale sweet potatoes and loved it as well. A super easy dish, that looks beautiful at the table.
Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey - meh.
Turkey and corn meatballs with roasted pepper sauce - I thought this was adequate, but (surprisingly) my kids loved it. The roasted pepper sauce was the star... and would probably work well for other dishes... or possibly on its own as a soup.
Organic salmon with red pepper and hazelnut salsa - We are somewhat picky about our salmon, but this simple dish was fantastic. I made it twice.
Seared tuna with pistachio crust and papaya salsa - I was especially anticipating great results with this one, and was left disappointed. 1. I had a vague recollection of trying papaya once when I was traveling through Central America, and recalled it not being as sweet as I had thought it would be. It's a beautiful fruit. You cut into the flesh, and the variegated pink set off by the black, caviar-looking, seeds is gorgeous. It tastes like smelly feet, though. Now with the previous memory recalled, I googled it: "What should papaya taste like?" and immediately saw comments about smelly feet (and worse!). According to some people, it should be sweet, but so far, I'm two for two with papaya tasting like feet. 2. I skipped the papaya and made a mostly mango salsa. 3. The method in this book requires the tuna to be way more cooked than I like in my sushi-grade tuna. Tuna should be seared and pink. This process took too long and overcooked it. I may try again and do it my own way (sans papaya and much cooking).
"Pizza" with feta, tomato, and olives - nothing special.
Sweet potato galettes - I adored these! They are amazingly beautiful and so delicious... especially as they come to room temperature. The chile and the goat cheese and the sweet potato play so well together. I intend to use these to impress guests who come for dinner in autumn.
Cheddar and caraway cheese straws - made these as an after-school-snack when some of the kids had friends over. They ate them up and raved. (I thought the caraway might set them off, but they didn't notice.)
Ruth's mayonnaise - Wonderful! I love unique aiolis and this was so easy, I think I may never buy store mayo again. This one has quite a lot of garlic, and we left out the cilantro for our purposes. It makes a lot... It might be worth sharing with a neighbor, even though it lasts for two weeks in the fridge.
Apple and olive oil cake with maple icing - This wasn't well received the night I made it (I wasn't overly excited about it either). The next day, after school, I encouraged my kids just to have another slice. My daughter happily ate it. When I tossed the rest that evening, she was furious. "I LOVED that cake!" Huh.
Caramel and macadamia cheesecake - This was fantastic. And even better the next day. (I loved that the caramel looked like it was solid and then you cut it... and maybe it's the reaction of body heat or something... but it just melts in your mouth. This, contrasted with the crunchy caramelized macadamia nuts! The base cheesecake itself is an easy recipe and would work well even by itself.
Pistachio and rose water meringues - I was very excited about these. I've used lavender in cookies and cakes before, so why not roses!? I had to special order the rose water. No one liked them... especially after my husband said it was like eating his grandmother's soap. (I thought they were unique and might work for a women's tea or something. Advise: Halve the batch (at least!), and make them as small bites. And only use one teaspoon (or less) of the rose water.
Though I've ony given it an average rating, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Malala's story. I am very interested in the work for girl's educatio3.5 stars
Though I've ony given it an average rating, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Malala's story. I am very interested in the work for girl's education going on in the Middle East (and even still have positive feelings towards Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools despite the controversy surrounding it). Those who promote education (especially for girls) in the face of terror are heroic and do more for diplomacy than any ambassador.
The syntax is a bit choppy and at times redundant. I'm not sure how much of a hand she had in the writing, but her voice comes through clearly. It might have been better quality in third person, but then I don't think it would have had the same impact. The complicated politics of the area were better explained in her simplistic terms and gave me a cleaner understanding of something with which I have previously struggled.
At times I wondered if Malala could, indeed, be so precocious. Clearly her enlightened father fostered and cultivated her abilities. But her faithful and positive attitude seem to come naturally. She is extraordinary.
(Because of this, there were slight moments when I wondered if she were believable. We have a Pakistani friend who relates that feelings for Malala in Pakistan are not favorable; that she has done a disservice to the country. I can't help but think that someone calling attention to this issue can only be a good thing.)
A few notables:
I was especially intrigued with Swat and the ancient Buddha statues around the area (and was incensed by the Taliban's destruction of them!)
I was sorry to see that the Twilight series had made its way into the hearts and minds of young Pakistani girls....more
I understand that the title of the book is a major hint that the emphasis of this story will focus on the reproductive lives of the women in the Holy Land. Honestly, though, I tired of the sexual content. I would guess (hope) that these women had other things to discuss in their daily lives. Perhaps not.
I'll take a break from "biblical fiction" and look for writings with historical backing and less drama....more
Based strictly on writing and plot development, probably only 3 stars.
Ms. Perry is a decent writer. Her characters are well-developed though outrageouBased strictly on writing and plot development, probably only 3 stars.
Ms. Perry is a decent writer. Her characters are well-developed though outrageously anachronistic. And while the plot was quite contrived, I found myself hooked and enjoying the momentum. It may have helped that I was traveling in many the places she described and thus had a better sense of the imagery: Constantinople (Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople), Rome, Messina, Naples, etc.
If nothing more, the greatest compliment I can give her is that by reading this novel, I have a greater desire to learn more about the history and non-fictional characters of which she based the story....more
I actually only thought this was mediocre at best until Lady Montagu reached Constantinople (for which descriptions, I'll admit, were really the onlyI actually only thought this was mediocre at best until Lady Montagu reached Constantinople (for which descriptions, I'll admit, were really the only reason I was reading it in the first place), and then I truly enjoyed some of her observations.
I had to remind myself, however, that this epistolary style is actually non-fiction and, once I did this, saw what an extraordinary life Mary lived. Her experiences for a woman of that time were singular, and it didn't hurt that her friends were the upper-echelons of society; Voltaire applauds her letters and Alexander Pope and she send poetry and plot ideas back and forth. The historical information here is meager, but one does catch a glimmer of what life was for a woman traveling to "heathen" lands during the 18th Century.
Below are some favorite excerpts.
Regarding Islam: "He assured me that if I understood Arabic I should be very well pleased with reading the Alcoran [The Qur'an], which is so far from the nonsense we charge it with that 'tis the purest morality delivered in the very best language (p. 63)."
"...I begin with telling you that you have a true notion of the Alcoran, concerning which the Greek priests ... have invented out of their own heads a thousand ridiculous stories in order to decry the law of Mohammed; to run it down, I say, without any examination, or as much as letting the people read it, being afraid that if once they begin to sift the defects of the Alcoran they might not stop there but proceed to make use of their judgement about their own legends and fictions (p. 109)."
Regarding Women’s Rights: "'Tis very easy to see they [Turkish ladies] have more liberty than we have, no woman, of what rank so ever being permitted to go in the streets without two muslins, one that covers her face all but her eyes and another that hides the whole dress of her head, and hangs half way down her back and their shapes are also wholly concealed by a thing they call a ferace which no woman of any sort appears without... You may guess then how effectually this disguises them, that there is no distinguishing the great lady from her slave and 'tis impossible for the most jealous husband to know his wife when he meets her, and no man dare either touch or follow a woman in the street (p. 71)."
“…Turkish ladies…are, perhaps, freer than any ladies in the universe, and are the only women in the world that lead a life of uninterrupted pleasure, exempt from cares, their whole time being spent in visiting, bathing or the agreeable amusement of spending money and inventing new fashions… (p. 134). (Note: The Bridal Bathing scene was especially fun reading, but is too much to write down here. See pp. 134-135).
"You won't know what to make of this speech, but in this country it is more despicable to be married and not fruitful than it is with us to be fruitful before marriage (p. 107)."
"...I assure you 'tis certainly false...that Mohammed excludes women from any share in a future happy state. He was too much a gentleman and loved the fair sex too well to use them so barbarously. On the contrary he promises a very fine paradise to the Turkish women. He says indeed that this paradise will be a separate place from that of their husbands. But I fancy the most part of them won't like it the worse for that, and that the regret of this separation will not render their paradise the less agreeable (pp. 109-10)." I had to snicker at this one!
Regarding the introduction of the smallpox immunization: "The smallpox, so fatal and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of engrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women who make it their business to perform the operation. Every autumn in the month of September when the great heat is abated, people send one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the smallpox. They make parties for this purpose and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of smallpox, and asks what veins you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch) and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle, and after binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell, and in this manner opens four or five veins...Then the fever begins to seize them and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. they have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark, and in eight days time they are as well as before their illness... Every year thousands undergo this operation... (p. 81)."
I can't believe I am the first to read (perhaps not to read for I bought the book secondhand!) and review this beautiful book.
Ms. Thayne allows naWow.
I can't believe I am the first to read (perhaps not to read for I bought the book secondhand!) and review this beautiful book.
Ms. Thayne allows narrative prose to share space with lyric verse in a show and tell manner of her experiences traveling through the Holy Land. Her description alone would be enough to delight, but then she counter-balances it with a poignant piece of poetry to emphasize what she just introduced. One of her qualities in writing (which I prefer!) is that she doesn't explain everything. Some of her allusions are mysteries except, I'm sure, to a few intimates and I like being let in (almost)on the joke.
I loved the entirety of What Is It to Be a Woman Here?, A Bedouin Lullaby, and On the Mount of Beatitudes. In addition, there were several little gems hidden within the poems.
Here are my favorite excerpts:
from For David [David] "sent Goliath a stone farewell."
from Having Shopped "You take your loaf of unwrapped anything, pay your pound and compare the price with what you couldn't get at home."
From Massada "Charged with triumphant carnage, perverse, the particles of a private holocaust wound the stones to keep the gusts of life unsullied over the Dead Sea."
From The Question of Old Trees "The olive trees alone would make this holy ground. In their shadowy reaches and rootings they were awake to the intimate sojourner, his peace fugitive even before the incalculable fraud."
From Elsa Epstein, Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar "You detail this post card world where the sweat of the brow provides the garden that Eve ate her way out of."
Even the whimsy of Ossuary is instilled with depth:
Ossuary (Where the bones come shiny!) Sticks and stones can cover bones When stacked by ageless art.
And shovels bring up everything
But flesh and breath and heart.
Emma Lou Thayne writes as if she does not intend to share and, therefore, we are able to receive her thoughts unmuddled by public opinion, fresh and clear as if we were seeing through her eyes. Her honesty is that of a child, her instinct of a mother, but her voice is of a righteous woman seeking communication with her God.
"If that land is holy, it is not because of the antiquity in its rubble, the blood in its crevices, the voices in its icons or shrines - nor even the stark beauty of its redemption. It must be holy for furnishing a private encounter with the whirlwind..."
*I also learned an interesting little fact: "The long strips of goat hair that make the tent are woven, one new strip a year, by the wife whose tent it will always be. When dry, the goat's hair is porous, admits the wind to cool and clear; when wet, it closes like knit fingers to keep out the storm."
While the story itself was good (though predictable), the writing was sub-par. While I wouldn't expect the author to offer us antiquated dialogue forWhile the story itself was good (though predictable), the writing was sub-par. While I wouldn't expect the author to offer us antiquated dialogue for these pre-Christian era adolescents, this felt like a script ripped from a Disney Channel special....more
I approached the Qur'an as if it were a holy book and found that it was.
I discovered so many similarities in the writings of the Qur'an with those ofI approached the Qur'an as if it were a holy book and found that it was.
I discovered so many similarities in the writings of the Qur'an with those of my scripture. Yes, Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but His miraculous birth is mentioned frequently in its pages as are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah and Job among others. The Old Testament is considered scripture as are portions of the Gospels. The true followers are taught to be honest, chaste, charitable, and to act without hypocrisy. There were so many times where I could find a complementary verse from my scriptures to go with a sura.
The word Islam means "complete devotion to God." I find this meaning wonderful and wish that more people understood. (I asked a Muslim friend of mine if I, being completely devoted to God, could be considered "islamic" (with a lower case i)in the loosest sense of the word. She conceded that I could.)
If I could read The Qur'an in Arabic I probably would have given it five stars. I'm sure that English does it no credit and this was "a new translation" simplified for easier reading. I wouldn't give five stars to the new translations for the Bible either. Something is lost when we modernize ancient scripture.
Conversely the translator's introduction was outstanding!
*Every time my husband caught me reading he would ask if I had come to the part with the 72 Virgins in Paradise. I always responded, "no." In fact, I NEVER came to that part. It doesn't exist.
(Once, later, while I was studying with several colored pencils and was marking favorite passages, my husband asked if I had come to the part that condemned the person who defiled the Qur'an by writing in it. I looked up wide-eyed and momentarily worried about my spiritual welfare.)...more
I found this continuation of Greg Mortenson's efforts to be far superior to his original narrative (which I liked). He is truly inspiring(4 1/2 stars)
I found this continuation of Greg Mortenson's efforts to be far superior to his original narrative (which I liked). He is truly inspiring and has left an inheritance with the people in Afghanistan and Pakistan that can increase as it reaches the hearts of those willing to work towards growth for their people.
From this book, I gained a greater understanding of the issues that plague Afghanistan (and the region) and a strong desire to see peace and hope reach these people.
I repeat from my review of Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson is truly deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Utilizing delightful tongue-in-cheek vignettes, Ms. Dumas cleverly weaves misunderstandings and sometimes tactless treatment by others with3 1/2 stars
Utilizing delightful tongue-in-cheek vignettes, Ms. Dumas cleverly weaves misunderstandings and sometimes tactless treatment by others with her fervent desire to immerse herself in American culture. Her stories are presented spontaneously, "family-style," with her endearing, yet altogether infuriating, father taking center stage.
With wit and grace, she shows that we are, none of us, so different that we can't relate. I found understanding in the characterization of the engineer-type father, who uses duct-tape as a cure-all.
For me, also, it gave glimpses into lives of several dear Iranian friends with whom I grew up whose families were affected by the Iranian revolution.
With frequent allusions back to stories she had already shared, Firoozeh Dumas charms and allows the reader to feel as though her anecdotes are being shared over a finished meal and a full tummy and with a hope that the evening won't end too soon....more
While the writing style is strictly explanatory, the story itself was so interesting that I had a hard time putting it down (and I was reading it in EWhile the writing style is strictly explanatory, the story itself was so interesting that I had a hard time putting it down (and I was reading it in Europe, with plenty of distractions).
Mortenson's story is apropos to the current events (but then, when isn't it mayhem in the Middle East?). I found myself very inspired... and wanting to help... but not to the extent that he did. (I think I'll donate to the pencil fund.)
Greg Mortenson deserves a Noble Peace Prize....more