Monday, June 24, 2013


You may know Anthony Bourdain from seeing his television series, No Reservations, or from reading his groundbreaking book "Kitchen Confidential," which opened our eyes to what goes on in restaurant kitchens.  Personally, I had no idea that he has also written books of fiction, including his first novel, "Bone in the Throat."   I was excited to read the book since the story takes place in a restaurant and I was curious how Bourdain would cover food and restaurant issues in the story.  This is what we're told on the back cover:

"All is not well at the Dreadnought Grill.  The chef's got a drug habit, the owner's been set up by the FBI and in the midst of this, Tommy, the sous-chef is just trying to do his job.  As depraved as it is hilarious, Anthony Bourdain's first novel is spiced with foul-mouthed Feds, drugged-up savvy and salty mob speak.  With a cast of unforgettables - like the hitman who covers himself with clingfilm to avoid leaving fingerprints - Bone in the Throat has a plot with more twists than a plate of spaghetti."

Unfortunately, on a number of fronts the book was disappointing.  First, the story line was thin and it appeared that the excessive verbiage was inserted to simply expand the book;  it would have made a better short story than a novel.  Second, the sections covering food topics simply didn't fit the flow of the story with long passages on everything from beurre blanc sauce, to details on a chef's coat, to a specially-ordered chef's knife.   I kept telling myself to go ahead and scan paragraphs rather than spending time reading the book but I kept hoping that things would pick up.  Third, there was very little tension in the story since the ending was entirely predictable after a few chapters.  Finally, the slang and cursing in the dialogue were monotonous.

Although this was a fast read, I cannot recommend that you spend any time reading this book.  Since this was Bourdain's first attempt at writing a novel, I am hopeful that his subsequent novels are better reads.

Friday, June 7, 2013


With this cool weather, and an abundance of rhubarb, it is the perfect time to bake.  Continuing with the "rhubarb" theme, I decided to make a recipe from another cookbook on rhubarb, The Joy of Rhubarb by Theresa Millang.   Ms. Millang is originally from Louisiana but moved to Minnesota via marriage.  She has written a number of cookbooks, including The Great Minnesota Hotdish.  Thus, this cookbook, like the one by Kim Ode I referred to in my last post, also has Minnesota roots.

I have made a number of recipes from this cookbook but my favorite is this recipe for Streusel Rhubarb Squares.

*  1 cup all-purpose flour
*  1/3 cup powdered sugar
*  1/3 cup butter, no substitution
*  1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
*  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
*  1/2 teaspoon salt
*  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*  1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*  2 eggs, slightly beaten
*  3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces  (Fresh or frozen rhubarb may be used, but do not thaw if using frozen.)
*  3/4 cup all-purpose flour
*  1/2 cup granulated sugar
*  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*  1/3 cup butter, no substitution
Preheat oven to 350º.  For the crust, mix flour and sugar in a bowl; cut in butter.  Press into an ungreased 8-9" square baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes; cool.
For the filling, mix sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, eggs and rhubarb in a bowl.  Pour over cooled crust.
For the topping, mix flour, sugar and cinnamon in another bowl; cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over filling.  Bake 50 - 55 minutes.   

The bottom crust has been made and I begin making the topping.

Stir together all topping ingredients.

Then pour over the baked, cooled crust.

Tip:  I keep a measuring cup for 1 cup in my flour jar, and a measuring cup for 1/2 cap in my sugar jar.  It saves dishes and is so convenient!

I use this tool to "cut" butter into my other ingredients.

The topping was sprinkled over the rhubarb mixture.

Out of the oven and tasted a.s.a.p.!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

RHUBARB CRISP from "Rhubarb Renaissance" by Kim Ode

A few weeks ago a friend and I went to a talk and book signing by Kim Ode, a local food writer and cook.  Kim has just written a new book Rhubarb Renaissance, published just in time for rhubarb harvest.  Her focus in the book is not simply on rhubarb desserts but, also, on rhubarb "savories."  How do these recipes sound:  Baked Camembert with Rhubarb Compote; Crostini with Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Rhubarb Chutney; Spicy Chicken Breasts with Creamy Rhubarb Sauce; Halibut Skewers with Mango-Rhubarb Salsa; or Pork Loin Chops with Rhubarb Stuffing?  Interesting, huh?  I had to buy the book!

I have two "Chipman's Red" rhubarb plants that put out a lot of rhubarb.  Looking for something sweet, fast and easy, I turned to the book for Rhubarb Crisp.  I couldn't just follow the recipe, though!

*  4 cups rhubarb, cut in 1-inch pieces
*  1/3 cup currents
*  Zest of one orange
*  1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
*  1/2 cup granulated sugar
*  1 teaspoon cinnamon
*  1 cup packed brown sugar
*  1 cup old-fashioned (not quick-cooking) oats
*  Pinch of salt
*  8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350º.  Toss rhubarb, currents and orange zest with 2 tablespoons flour and granulated sugar, then spread evenly in an ungreased 9x9-inch glass pan.  In a medium bowl, mix remaining 1 cup flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, oats, and salt, and then work in the butter with your fingers until the mixture looks crumbly.  Spread over the rhubarb and bake for 45 minutes.

Tip:  Use a glass baking dish.  Metal ones can become pitted.

Tip:  Serve with ice cream.