Friday, July 13, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "Take Big Bites" by Linda Ellerbee

Linda Ellerbee is a journalist first, then a producer and author.  As such, she sees the world with her eyes wide open – from the big picture beauty of Santorini Island from her bedroom window, to the focused caviar bites on Malcolm Forbes’ yacht.  The title of the book says it all “Take Big Bites – Adventures Around the World and Across the Table.”  She is at once charming, irreverent, funny and completely engaging. 

Weaved throughout the book are very real tales of her childhood in 1950’s Texas, her hippy days in the ‘60’s, her long-lasting childhood friendships, her divorces and then, finally, successful marriage, her parenting experiences, her experience with breast cancer, and the challenges of travel.  She takes us from her home town in Texas to Italy, Turkey, Paris, Bolivia, France, and the list goes on. 

An almost minor thread throughout the book is the food she ate.  She shares the recipes, all of which sound delicious and appear very easy to make.  The major thread throughout the book is the message in the life she has led, and that is to “take big bites,” to live life completely, and to never hold back.  That focus makes this a very, very readable book!

I won’t tell the story behind this recipe… It’s a good one! 

SUPER FRESH COLD CREAM-OF-TOMATO WATERMELON SOUP.  Makes 2 quarts, more or less.  “Follow the recipe below or buy the tomato soup at a good takeaway market.  For homemade soup, I use canned tomatoes.  So shoot me.  Everything else is fresh”  L. Ellberbee.
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes (preferably Italian) and their liquid
1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
4 large shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth (if using canned broth, don’t add salt until the very end; you may not need any)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and cayenne to taste
1 quart chopped, seeded watermelon
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 lime
Fresh mint, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 450º.  Spread the tomatoes on a nonstick cookie sheet, reserving their liquid.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Bake 30 minutes.  Peel off the tomatoes and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Heat the butter in a saucepan on low.  Add the shallots and tomato paste.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened.  Add the flour and whisk until everything is combined.  Whisk in the chicken stock, the juice from the tomato cans, and the roasted tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender.  Add salt and cayenne to taste.
  3. Stir in the cream.  Let it sit until it’s room temperature and then put in the refrigerator to chill.
  4. When the soup is chilled (overnight works best), put it in the blender, in batches, with the seeded watermelon chunks.
  5. Serve the soup cold.  Thin the sour cream with lime juice and water until it is the consistency of heavy cream and then drizzle it in ribbons over the top of the soup.  Scatter chopped mint over the whole bowl.

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