Wings for two, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, and partying

 Attempt #1

Attempt #1

The time has finally come for me to post my long-delayed review of what has become one of my favorite books of the year, I'll Be Gone in the Dark. First, I was going to post it with the espresso brownies. Theme: what keeps you up at night. But then we started watching The Haunting of Hill House and between that show and this book, I wasn't sleeping at all. So I started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and put this book aside for a few days. A few days turned into a few weeks, I got too many requests not to post the brownie recipe solo, and here we are, pairing this FINALLY completed book with a recipe for chicken wings

 The final pairing

The final pairing

These chicken wings, by the way, are not a bad consolation prize as far as recipes go. Between them (made with some delightful massaman curry from my friends at Savory Spice) and the vegetarian buffalo chickpea dip recipe that’s going out to newsletter subscribers tomorrow and will be live to all you non-subscribers next week, you’ve got the start of a party.

If we can return to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark for a moment, though, I just want to emphasize that it didn’t take me so long to read this book because it’s bad. Rather, the opposite. This book rocked my world. It was happy, sad, terrifying, thrilling, and absolutely addictive. I could barely bring myself to put it down, even while it was turning me into an insomniac. It's more than just true crime, which is exactly what everyone says about it, but it is! I really, really think that everyone should read it, and not just because I want people to talk about it with. I want you to read it because I think you’ll love it. And because you’ll want somebody to discuss with too. Fair, I think.

Peanut butter cookies, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and why cookie exchanges are the best

Before you even consider the fact that I stuffed my face yesterday with all manner of wonderful foods, I’ve been in a really, really sugar-focused mood lately. Like, give me cookies or give me death! (Although, to be honest, I’d also accept brownies.) And since one of my co-workers was celebrating the big 4-0 and specifically requested peanut butter cookies, I decided to double the recipe and treat myself.

The recipe that I’ve used for ages, from Land o’ Lakes, is great, but since aging into the next phase of my metabolism, I’ve modified it to include a bit of whole wheat pastry flour (health, am I right?). Then, I threw some chocolate ganache on it for kicks. And elegance. You know what I mean. Anyway, peanut butter cookies!

I finally finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks while I was eating raw cookie dough, and it was quite a read. So emotional, informative, and well-written. Check out the review, grab another cookie, and get reading.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and peanut butter cookies

And speaking of cookies, am I the only one interested in doing an old-fashioned cookie exchange? You know, the ones where everyone brings a bunch of cookies and then you take home a nice box of every kind of cookie you can imagine. Does this not sound like best party you’d ever go to? Okay, so let me know if you want in. I’m doing two this year: one in Chicago and one around the country. One in person, one not. YOU CAN PARTICIPATE NO MATTER WHAT. It’s amazing.

Autumn salad, Black Klansman, and fall fun

Ah, fall. The rainy, dreary, basic time of year wherein people grow scarves out of their necks, consume more pumpkin than they probably should, and get in your face about being registered to vote.

If you nodded your head and sighed while you read that last sentence, I have mixed news for you: the good is that you’re not only getting the typical recipe and book rec today, but a movie rec as well! Wow! Three for the price of one (two?)! The potentially less good news is that I’m going to join the ranks of people who get in your face about voting.

So, let’s intersperse the voting rant with fun things! Starting with #1: it’s my mom’s birthday today! She’s the best, and I know that you probably don’t know her, but if you did, you would think she’s the best too. If you want to give her a birthday shout out, head over to Twitter, where she lurks as @hollys_momma (Holly is our dog, okay?). Cool. Thanks!

Okay, here’s where you can find out where you should vote. Here’s where you can read up on the issues and the candidates. Here’s where you can find out how to help at a polling place to make democracy happen. Here’s where you can learn about what to do if you’re turned away at the polls.

Anyway, SALAD, am I right?! It’s almost that sad time of year when salads lose their spark (aka fresh veggies), so nab this recipe now, nail it, and then figure out how to swap out the tomatoes for sweet potatoes or carrots or whatever else floats your boat. That way, you’ll have something delicious to look forward to this winter diet.

Also of note and worth recommending are both the book Black Klansman and the movie it inspired, Blackklansman. They’re both good, so you should see it AND read it. You’ll love it, I promise.

Black Klansman and Autumn Salad

Bacon fat brussels sprouts, The Third Plate, and nerding out

Remember that book I talked about last week? The non-fiction one that I couldn’t wait to put down Mr. Penumbra to read? Yeah. This is it.

The Third Plate and Bacon Fat Brussels Sprouts

Dan Barber, chef and restaurateur, is not a few face to me. And probably, if you’re reading this blog, he’s not new to you either. After being featured in one of my all-time favorite Netflix shows, Chef’s Table, Barber became more of a household name in a very small category: chefs focused on the future of food and what we can do to make our eating more sustainable at a fine dining level.

This book is all of that and more. And, coincidentally, did a lot in terms of making him seem less like a jerk and more like a hero, in my opinion. He travels the world to explore what it means to be responsible eaters and discovers more problems than solutions, which is both unfortunate and motivating. Anyway. Go read the review, and you can decide how nerdy you want to get with this.

Speaking of nerding out, let’s talk about how many versions of brussels sprouts I’ve made before finally getting to this recipe, which I think (actually, I know) is a total winner. Even the non-brussels sprouts converts (hi, Uncle Dave and Papa) will have a hard time turning them down when after they’ve been roasted in bacon fat.

Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Pane Vino, and Meeting Phil

A couple of weeks ago while I was trolling through Instagram instead of putting up a post here (heh heh oops), I found a Chicago Food Bowl event that centered around my current TV obsession, Netflix's Somebody Feed PhilIt was free. It was a screening of the Dublin episode. And I freaked out. (Below is me being totally starstruck and Colin looking totally normal.)

 What is wrong with my face? PHIL.

What is wrong with my face? PHIL.

Colin and I have been loving Phil Rosenthal's food and travel show (previously called I'll Have What Phil's Having when it aired on PBS). When we started it on a whim, I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that made the show so magical, but as a now-seasoned viewer, let me tell you all about it. It's a food and travel show, sure, but at its core, it’s really about human connections and why they’re important in today’s climate (both political and weather-wise, am I right?). It’s amazing. I love it. Everyone should watch it.

One of the reasons I love it is that food has indeed served as the great connector in my life too. I often joke with people that if it weren't for my chicken parmesan recipe, I wouldn't have any friends from college. I'm ~mostly~ joking about that, but there's definitely a connection between the people for whom I made chicken parmesan freshman year and the people I'm in touch with from college. It’s something that I cook that is more than just a recipe: it’s a reminder of cooking for the people I would come to count as my best friends. Sniff.

Someday, I'll give away that recipe, but today is not that day. Today is a day to celebrate the beautiful emoji vegetable we all love and its glorious fate as eggplant parmesan. And also, the Italian cooking culture from whence it came, as beautifully described by Matt Goulding in Pasta Pane Vino. Go forth in red wine and eggplant.

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Just so much butter: summer berry galette and Butter: A Rich History

Today's post is all about my favorite ingredient: butter. 

I love butter. Not margarine. Not Oleo. Butter. Why do you think we went to Ireland? The butter. Why do you think I go to the store so often? Butter. Why do you think I force myself to run as often as I do? You guessed it: butter (also, bread, but that's for another post). I feel almost as passionate about butter as I do about salt, and for those of you who know me, you know what a statement that is for me to make. 

For Christmas, Colin bought my mom a book called Butter: A Rich History, and I immediately began plotting to steal it from her at the first chance I got. And then, last time I was home, I did, even though she wasn't finished reading it. Mom, if you're reading this, don't worry, I'll deliver it the next time I see you and then we can talk about butter. ANYWAY, this gem of a book was every bit as buttery, wonderful, and smart as I thought it would be. Case closed.

Butter: A Rich History and Summer Berry Galette

Like any good book about butter, cooking, or an ingredient, this one has a hefty recipe section at the back, filled with recipes that highlight and illustrate the magical properties of butter. I knew that if I didn't blog this book with a recipe involving at least a stick of butter, there would be questions about my integrity as a blogger, so here we are: more galette. This time, with a vodka-y riff on Alison Roman's pie crust recipe and summer berries, it's a summery sister to our savory friend from this winter. And it's good. Real good. So run off, grab some berries, and rejoice in butter. Which is how I'm going to sign off every post from now on.

Sourdough, Show Your Work!, and Serious Things

Sourdough from Scratch

The fabled sourdough starter recipe has at last been posted, and it's a doozy. It's the longest recipe I've ever posted on Page & Plate, while also arguably the simplest, as it clocks in at two ingredients (three, if you count the five grapes). It's something I'm really proud of and will overhype if I'm not careful, so go check it out here if you can't possibly bring yourself to sit through three more paragraphs of this post. 

Originally, I had plans to post this recipe alongside the book Heat by Bill Buford. The photo shoot was done, the book was scheduled to be my night read for the week, and the recipe was ready. But then I started reading. As you may or may know, the book details Buford's experiences in befriending and then working for Mario Batali, who you definitely know as being recently accused of sexual assault by many women as a part of the #metoo movement. 

I think I got about 60 pages in before I realized that this book was going to be one of the few I couldn't finish. You read my reviews. You know that I'm pretty easy to please as a reader. For me to not finish a book, there was a problem. And in this case, the problem was the now-infamous Batali behavior that is written into Heat as a laughable, not-a-big-deal part of working for and being around Batali. I was really, really taken aback and disappointed that this behavior was portrayed the way it is in the book, as a joke, a laughing matter, an aside to Batali's success story. So I stopped reading it. I thought about posting the bread recipe by itself to make a statement, but I decided on something else. 

Instead, I'm posting this recipe with a beautiful, inspiring, empowering book: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. I loved how jazzed this book made me and how anti-BS it was. But I especially loved how I got to share it with a dynamite group of ladies called the Society of Lady Artists and Entrepreneurs (SLAE) that I've been hanging out with here in Chicago. We're all pursuing different arts, mediums, and passions, and when we come together, it's anyone's guess what we'll end up talking about, but one thing is for sure: we all leave the table empowered and inspired, in part because of stuff we share with each other like this book from Kleon (who also runs an awesome newsletter here). If you're in Chicago, and you're looking for some inspo in the #slae part of your life, hit us up on Instagram at @societyoflae

Okay. Rant over. GO BREAD AND SHOW YOUR WORK!

Sourdough and Show Your Work

Which is more addicting: this tahini tea cake or Idiophone by Amy Fusselman?

The title of this blog post is a trick question because I honestly cannot figure out the answer. HAH. Got you! Got me? AH. I don't know! Which, by the way, is a great problem to have. And it means you should really bake this tea cake and pre-order this book

 WHAT A POWER COUPLE. 

WHAT A POWER COUPLE. 

I mean, Idiophone (out in July from Coffeehouse Press!) was SO unexpected and wonderfully weird and artsy that I expected not to like it, but I actually REALLY loved it. I couldn't put it down. I finished it in about an hour. No, it's not super long, but still. An hour. On the train! While people were talking and being generally distracted. I think that really says something. 

And this bread. Cake. Whatever. Man. I took a bite and was underwhelmed. Then I took another one, and I was like "wow, this isn't nearly as bad as that first bite," and now here I am like half a loaf later, and I don't know if I like it, but I can't stop eating it and I definitely haven't brought any to work to share. I don't know, you guys! Help! Do I hate it? Do I love it? Am I just really, really selfish? Help a blogger out, make the cake, and leave a comment with your verdict.

Coffee House Press provided a copy of Idiophone to Page & Plate, LLC for the purposes of this independent review.

Sausage and Fennel Risotto, The Forger's Spell, and Friendly Motivation

In case you've missed the crazy Instagramming or my real-life-in-person rants, I'm in a book club, and I am very into it, for most of the reasons you would expect (books, wine, food, friends) and a few that you wouldn't. "What things I wouldn't expect?" you ask. Glad you asked! Here's a blog post about it.

 Our book club is better than yours.

Our book club is better than yours.

Something special happens when you have people pushing you to think harder about something you thought you believed. Obviously, this is usually about the book (check out the Fates & Furies post to see just how contentious things get), but sometimes, it makes you consider other non-book club items in the same kind of light. 

"Examples?" you ask. Glad you asked! Allow me to present you with a dish and a book that I was motivated to think harder about as a result of people in my life: sausage and fennel risotto and The Forger's Spell. Food first, shall we? 

Fennel is a vegetable that I believed was impossible to make well unless you were a chef in a very expensive French restaurant. And even then, I secretly wondered if it could really be that good. I mean ... notes of licorice? In a vegetable? I don't even like that in candy. But it turns out (upon discussion with a fellow cook) that I was really just a little hesitant about cooking it because I didn't know how to cut it. I googled it, the internet presented me with an answer, and now I'm funky for fennel (t-shirts coming soon to a store near you). Boom. Done.

Also on the list of things that I had to be gently coerced into loving is non-fiction, which I believe many of you know by now, is not a genre I spend a lot of time exploring. But after about two years of gentle reminders from my mother about how good The Forger's Spell was, I finally picked it up and devoured it like she promised I would. 

End of story: join a book club, have your view challenged, cook fennel. 

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Chocolate Mousse, Bread, Wine, Chocolate, and Cooking Love

The absolute first thing I did when I moved into the new place was set up the kitchen. This was partially because about 80% of the boxes were filled with kitchen things and thus needed to be unpacked so I could actually get to the other boxes and partially because the kitchen is the center of my home. 

 Pre-demolition

Pre-demolition

No, not literally. It's actually all the way at the back of the house, meaning Daily gets a lot of miles on those paws playing fetch while I'm cooking. But figuratively, yes, dead center, bulls-eye. It's where I cook, think, make grocery lists, talk on the phone, wonder if I've killed my plants, do laundry, creep out the back window to watch the alley like I'm a member of the neighborhood watch -- you get it. If I'm home, I'm probably in the kitchen. 

So after my kitchen was set up, I made the recipe at the center of my love of cooking: my grandmother's recipe for chocolate mousse. This indulgent dessert takes time, a little labor, and lots of whisking, and, as proven time after time, it's totally worth it. Chocolate is my comfort food, and chocolate mousse is the comfort food of all comfort foods (also the cholesterol of all foods forever, but hey, I'll worry about that the next time I bring myself to make a doctor's appointment). 

It seemed appropriate to start off a new house's worth of cooking with one of the first recipes I remember treasuring, and it seemed appropriate that I should pair it with a book about comforting and indulging foods we're drawn to and why we should worry about them: Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love

So here you go, internet. This is my grandma's recipe, and it will knock your socks off. (The book might too, by the way.)

 The mousse goddess herself

The mousse goddess herself

Cookies, Born a Crime, and Other Things Made Possible By My Mom

Beyond having cooking utensils of all sorts and sizes that she gifts to me so I can experiment my way around the kitchen and continue shouting into the blog-void (see my post on the cookie press), my mother also has very good taste in very specific genres, namely very specific non-fiction books. She also has a kitchen that is clearing rapidly as mine expands. 

 Here is my mom with our adorable tiny puppy.

Here is my mom with our adorable tiny puppy.

Given that this is a genre that I struggle to pick up and engage with, I rely on her suggestions to vary my tastes. (And for a great many other things, including but not limited to: am I dying because my stomach hurts, are my front teeth discolored, how do I get cat vomit out of an antique rug, and am I dying because my head hurts.) She knows what she likes, and she's gotten really good at knowing what we'll like as well, expanding our bookshelves with selections from all of our wonderful local bookstores, including The Book Cellar. She's knocked it out of the park in the past with books like The Boys in the Boat, When Breath Becomes Air, and (featured this week) Born a Crime

I loved this book for many reasons, but especially because his love for his mother shines through. It's touching to read about their relationship, from the bantering to the challenges they've endured, and it makes you want to grab a cookie you made with your mom's cookie press, give her a call, and make sure that the cramp you have in your leg isn't deep vein thrombosis. 

Ciabatta, Cooked, and Lessons Learned

Before I even get started here, I just want to let everyone know that yes, I will again be talking about Michael Pollan (who Colin has decided I now worship) and The Great British Bake Off, which I have officially finished and now yearn to be watching as soon as my eyes open. 

 If she could speak, she would be saying "Please stop baking and go to bed so I can sleep, you crazy woman."

If she could speak, she would be saying "Please stop baking and go to bed so I can sleep, you crazy woman."

In order to prolong my rapid consumption of season four (praise Netflix), I started watching the Master Class companion episodes from season one. (Yes, Colin was away and yes, this was at midnight after I had tried and failed to make caramel like six times.) Just as my kitten was falling asleep on my lap, Paul Hollywood started making ciabatta, and I was struck with the realization that this was the perfect recipe to marry my obsession to my other obsession in possibly the first ever officially named case of obception (work with me, here).

Armed with a personal how-to lesson, a recipe I had to convert to cups from grams because I'm not posh, and a 10 pound bag of a Michael Pollan-approved whole wheat flour, I decided that I would wait until the next day to try the recipe. But when I did, it was worth it.

Pumpkin Maple Spice Cake, In Defense of Food, and Thanks

I'm going to keep it short and simple this week. I'm thankful that I got to spend my Thanksgiving with the people I love doing what I love (cooking and baking, not least of all this pumpkin maple spice cake), and I'm thankful that I was able to unplug, slow down, and relax, even while reading the slightly depressing In Defense of FoodI'm also thankful that my uncle eventually told me where he hilariously hid the kale salad I brought to dinner and that now I can listen to instrumental Christmas music at work without hiding my true self. 

 This is the last pumpkin that will cross my lips until next September.

This is the last pumpkin that will cross my lips until next September.

Also that we're over pumpkin. Because we are, right?

Cranberry Orange Cake and Other Things I Feel Blasé About

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There's a bookstore in the Loop called Open Books, and if you live and Chicago and haven't been there, I'm offended by you. Open Books is part used bookstore, part social venture, and part place to abandon the laundry basket you used to haul 25 pounds of books down to donate, and it is heavenly. Decorated with bright colors and kid-friendly wall-hangings, it doesn't look like a place where you'd be able to find serious books, but judge this bookstore not by its cover, because they have an incredibly large and varying selection and the knowledgeable staff to guide you through it. 

On the Day We Left the Laundry Basket There*, I had finished my usual round around the shelves when I ventured up to the new books section (a rare move, because usually by this point, I'm trying to talk myself OUT of buying more books). I found a simple looking book called Hope in the Dark and bought it on a whim. It seems like a time where everyone should take any sort of hope they can get, right? When I finally got around to reading the book, though, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. And now, after finishing it, I'm still not sure how I feel. Luckily, the French have a word for that: blasé. Blasé all day. 

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So I turned to baking. As I think everyone has picked up on so far, I'm on a baking binge. And when Colin's mom left behind a mini-shopping bag full of cranberries and we (kind of) accidentally took it home, I had to do something. I dug up a recipe for a cranberry orange cake, made a few changes, and forced everyone I live and work with to taste test it (people love me). Though I was unimpressed (blasé again), everyone else loved it. So I decided to shut up about feeling blasé and move on with my life. The end. 

 

*It is still there. Adieu, laundry basket.

Fall Feels Good

 Yes, she got treats for this. Don't worry.

Yes, she got treats for this. Don't worry.

I love summer as much as anyone else, but every year when fall rolls around, I feel like heaving a huge sigh of relief. Thank god we can all get over rosé cocktails. Thank god we can all move on from watermelon in salad. Thank god we can all stop shaving our thighs. Thank god we can put pumpkin with everything (including cats). Thank god it's time to get nice and fat for winter.

I'm kidding about half of those things. (But which half...?) I'm not kidding when I tell you that I spent a crazy amount of money at the Lincoln Park farmers' market last weekend because there is no time of year in which the produce is more beautiful and tempting than this time during which we are living right now, ladies and gents. There are mounds of squash everywhere. Kale like you wouldn't believe. Apples out-the-wazoo. It looks like an elementary play about Thanksgiving on some kind of multiplier steroid, and I LOVE IT.

This time of the year is prime for doing things that make you feel good. Eating lots of food and having an excuse to do so? Check. Hanging out on the couch and watching all of the movies you didn't go see over the summer now that they're on Amazon? Check. (And yes, that includes Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales because I have no shame.) Having an extra beer because hey, it's fall, the temperature is dropping, and you need a beer jacket. Check. And guess what? That's exactly why you'll make this soup (as soon as the weather cools down) and read this book. It'll make you feel good.

Fast + Easy = Feasy

Once upon a time, in an algebra class that I hated with all of my heart, my teacher would give us shortcuts to use and tell us "It's fast. It's easy. It's feasy." While that proved false for every math problem I ever tried to solve, I kept the catchphrase for future reference. 

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Tonight is a night for feasy if there ever was one, and lucky for me, Jamie Oliver came to the rescue. Oh, what's that? You haven't heard of Jamie Oliver, world's most adorable healthy eating advocate who not only boasts the most gorgeous family ever to grace the United Kingdom but the accent to go with that title? You're unfamiliar with his YouTube channel of pure delight and his colorful cookbooks? You've never seen him use spices the way Indiana Jones uses a whip? Oh. That's fine.

Actually NO IT'S NOT. Jamie (if I may) is one of my personal favorite chefs, and not just because I once got his cookbook Happy Days with the Naked Chef as a birthday present from a friend's mom. His mission to share healthy and easy-to-prepare food with families all over the world is near and dear to my heart, and the contagious happiness he brings to food is absolutely magical. Check him out if you haven't done so, and in the meantime, check out our dinner, inspired by one of his five-ingredient recipes that I, of course, over-complicated with no less than six additional ones.

I've been desperate for something easy to read as well as cook lately, but the latest book to come in from the library was seemingly anything but: Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, by Norman Ohler and Shaun Whiteside. My friends, I cannot tell you how wrong I was, because I ran through this book faster than any other one this year. Curious as to why? Well, go find out.