Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Homemade Life


Some time ago I discovered Orangette, a blog full of the stuff I love: stories about food and life. To my delight it turned out that the writer, Molly Wizenberg, had also written a book with a title that makes me want to grab a cuppa, curl up on the sofa and read, read, read until the cows come home - in the evening of course; unfortunately I never have time for such decadence during the day. 

A Homemade Life is both a cookbook and a memoir, and to my mind that is the perfect combination. At the beginning of the book Molly** tells us:

"That's why this book is called A Homemade Life. Because, in a sense, that's what we're building - you, me, all of us who like to stir and whisk - in the kitchen and at the table. In the simple acts of cooking and eating, we are creating and continuing the stories that are our lives." (p.6)

Molly is a candid writer, not afraid to bear all. We read about her heartbreaks, her future husband (whom she met through her blog!) and the life and death of her beloved father, to whom the book is dedicated. All of life's highs and lows are of course soothed through cooking and eating - food made from scratch to nourish both stomach and soul. But please don't get the idea that this book is sentimental in any way; Molly's wit and self-deprecating humour keep A Homemade Life from ever becoming sappy or too soppy.

I particularly like Molly's outspokenness. Take her opinion of 'secret recipes,' for example. She feels the whole idea of it is quite ridiculous. All recipes, after all, are derived from other recipes; they never just appear fully and perfectly formed by themselves - besides which, recipes are made to be shared and altered, and are hence dynamic by nature. And that's just the way it should be. Amen to that.

Needless to say, I have ordered her second book Delancey: a man, a woman, a restaurant, a marriage and can't wait for it to arrive.
 
**Convention tells us to use a writer's last name, but in this case I feel that would sound unnaturally formal


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In celebration of A Homemade Life I wanted to cook something from it. Normally I would choose to bake something (if there are indeed cooks and bakers, I am definitely a baker by nature) but since I had a lot of veg lying around waiting to be used, I thought I would choose to cook. What better way to use all that veg, I thought, than to make Ratatouille. As you may know by now, I always adapt recipes to suit my own taste or, in this case, the contents of my  store cupboard. I made it last night and although my children initially eyed the mound of veg with suspicion, they agreed in the end that it was, well, quite nice. Thankfully I can live with quite nice. Especially since M and I thought it was delish. Please forgive me for not taking any photos of the result. To be honest, I was so hungry I just couldn't bring myself to run upstairs to find my camera, which I now regret.

What follows is a combination of two recipes: Molly's and mine. As ratatouille is quite a bit of work - what with all the cutting, chopping, slicing, dicing and seeding - I like to make a big batch so we can eat some the next day too, when the flavours have had time to melt together and the whole thing is tastier than ever.  Like Molly, I prefer to roast the aubergine in the oven first as I fear that just cooking them would leave them too rubbery.


Ratatouille 
adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
2 aubergines/eggplants, sliced into rounds
2 courgettes/zucchinis, sliced into half-moons
2 bunches of scallions, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tins of whole peeled tomatoes, drained in a colander
1 teaspoon salt
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
olive oil

  • preheat the oven 200 degrees Celsius
  • first, get all the cutting, chopping, slicing, dicing and seeding done
  • line two oven trays with baking paper; place aubergine slices on both trays and, with a pastry brush, coat each slice on both sides with a little oil
  • place trays in the oven; bake each side for 10-15 minutes then set aside
  • while the aubergine is in the oven, take a deep skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil and cook the courgette for about 10 minutes until soft; remove from pan and set aside
  • add more oil to the pan if necessary, cook the spring onion for about 3 minutes, then add the bell peppers and garlic and cook until the bell peppers are soft
  • add tomatoes, salt, thyme and bay leaves and stir thoroughly to combine; then add the aubergines and courgettes, stirring well to combine; 
  • check seasoning
  • finally, let the whole thing simmer for 20 minutes on low heat
  • serve with a chunk of bread, potatoes or on its own
  • yields about 6 servings

And.... don't forget to check out what everyone else is reading over at The Year in Books...




31 comments:

  1. I read this book several years ago and found it absolutely enchanting. It has found a spot on my Favourite Books shelf! X

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    1. Yes, enchanting is the right word for some parts - especially because she takes us from Oklahoma to Paris and back.

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  2. Sounds wonderful, I'll keep my eyes peeled. I think I need to keep my camera round my neck as I'm always losing it x

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    1. Same here! Either that or the battery is flat.

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  3. I must be the only person who didn't get on with this book (I told you I was a party-pooper). I found the endless stuff about how wonderful her husband was too much but I do agree with her about recipes.

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    1. I found it quite endearing, but I can see how it might be a tad too sweet for some.

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  4. I haven't tried the book yet but I enjoy her blog very much. This recipe sounds really good, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes, I enjoy her blog too. Good writing, good recipes.

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  5. Haven't heard of her, nor of her book... But it's never too late to explore new stuff ! If that recipe is representative for the rest of the book, then it's worth a look !!

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    1. I stumbled across her blog through a link on another blog. In that respect the internet is fascinating.

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  6. I loved the sound of this book when I first came across it, and bought a copy, although it was OK, I wasn't wowed by it, but I can't remember why, so now I shall get it off my shelves to find out why it didn't agree with me!

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    1. Perhaps it was what annoyed Sue too. Molly also has a cocky style of writing that might not appeal to everyone, but I found that her ability to laugh at herself balanced things out.

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  7. mmmm I love ratatouille, even though my brother always called it rats stew. I've never roasted the aubergines first, will have to try that x

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    1. I will pass that on to my kids - I'm sure they will love calling it rat's stew!

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  8. What a beautiful cover. I will note that book down and try to get it from the library.

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  9. Sounds like an interesting read, I do like cookery books with a bit more substance/words. I used to love ratatouille but it contains so many ingredients I cannot eat that mine would be more than an adaptation!

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    1. I would be very interested to know what kinds of vegetables you can't eat. I'm very interested in things to do with food and the effects on our health and finding all sorts of alternatives.

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  10. Sounds like a lovely book. I love your recipes. I'm trying the spinach and goat cheese pasties this week.

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    1. Your compliment means a lot to me, Doris. Including the recipes is very important to me. I came to cooking and baking late in life and discovered a real love for it. I find baking in particular soothing and inspiring. Good luck with the pasties - I would love to know how you got on :-)

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  11. It sounds like a wonderful book, I hope that you enjoy the second one just as much! xx

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    1. I hope so too and will of course let you know what I think of it :-)

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  12. Like sustainablemum my love of ratatouille has been moderated by the anti-inflammatory diet that I follow, but I'm still fascinated by the book :)

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    1. I'm very interested in this anit-inflammatory diet and will be sure to look up information about it. I gather all those nightshades are the problem...?

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  13. I have not read this book, or indeed Molly's blog. I might explore the blog first and then maybe move on to the book. I love cooking and I love reading but bizarrely, I am not fond of books that mix cooking with story telling. Having said that, I am always happy to revise my opinion and might just push my reading boundaries a little. Cx

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  14. This book sounds right up my street will have to check it out - her version of ratatouille is slightly different but I'm sure is equally delicious.

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    1. Now you've got me very curious about your version :-)

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  15. I have just put this book on my amazon wishlist. It sounds great. I love A Year Of Books. Such a great idea.
    Leanne xx

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    1. Yes it's lovely, isn't it. I hope A Year Of Books continues next year.

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  16. Another one for my Amazon wish list too!

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    1. Ah, those Amazon wish lists. I have one that's miles long ;-)

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