By Melony Carey
Food by the Book
It’s already May and time to start preparing a list of summertime reading by the pool, river or lake that won’t be too intellectually taxing. Two for the mystery buffs to consider are “Reconstructing Amelia” by newcomer Kimberly McCreight (Harper Perennial) and “The Collector of Dying Breaths” by M.J. Rose (Simon and Schuster).
In “Reconstructing Amelia” McCreight explores the themes of privileged teens, working mothers, and secret political maneuvers set among New York City’s competitive social set. Hard-working litigation lawyer Kate Baron is in shock at the supposed suicide of her 15-year-old daughter, Amelia, who has jumped from the roof of her posh private school, Grace Hall. When an anonymous text comes that says, “Amelia didn’t jump,” Kate sets about finding the truth to her daughter’s death via text messages, a research paper on Virginia Woolf, and a self-search through her own past. McCreight’s novel has been compared to Gillian Flynn’s sensational hit, “Gone Girl.” The movie version of “Reconstructing Amelia” will star Nicole Kidman in the role of Kate.
Gothic thriller fans will delight in M.J. Rose’s sixth novel, “The Collector of Dying Breaths.” Linking the past with the present, Rose creates a heady mystery centered on Rene le Florentin, the perfumer to Catherine de Medici in sixteenth century Florence. Fast forward to the present where renowned mythologist Jac L’Etoile is researching Florentin’s manuscripts. She uncovers references to an elixir of immortality concocted from the dying breaths Florentin supposedly collected. Jac enlists the help of her former love interest, Griffin North, a linguist who had begun translating Florentin’s recipe at the request of an eccentric heiress who would use the formula for her own ends. Based on the real Florentin, Renato Bianco, who worked on so-called “inheritance powders” for would-be kings, Rose has deftly created a thriller-cum-historical novel that is as scintillating as the most coveted perfumes.
Concoct your own early summer menu with the following recipes. Fond memories of food, family and friends are the legacies we want to leave behind. Enjoy.
4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat and serve with a substantial bread to sop up juices.
To serve Chicken Marbella cold for a picnic, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.
Source: The Silver Palate Cookbook.
4 cups prepared white rice
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cups fresh green beans, cooked
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup prepared vinaigrette (see below)
1/4 cup pimento, garnish
Combine first five ingredients and toss with vinaigrette. Place in clear glass bowl and garnish with pimento. Refrigerate until serving.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or Japanese rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Ground fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Whisk all ingredients together until well blended.
Source: The Picnic Gourmet.
WHITE CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 oz. white chocolate
6 oz. butter
1 1/2 cups sugar plus 1/4 cup
4 eggs separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
8 oz. mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
1 pint strawberries, washed, trimmed and cut into fourths
Sprinkle strawberries with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt; set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix and sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Melt white chocolate in microwave 30 seconds until soft; set aside. Cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl. Stir a little butter/sugar mixture into chocolate to combine then add back into the bowl and mix well. Slowly add egg yolks one at a time, reserving whites in a small bowl. Mix in vanilla. Alternate adding flour with buttermilk, ending with flour mixture. Beat egg whites until frothy then slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff meringue peaks form. Add into batter in thirds. Bake in a greased 9x9 inch baking pan 20 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Combine 2 tablespoons lemon curd with mascarpone until smooth. Adjust taste by adding more lemon curd as desired. Chill strawberries and lemon mascarpone until ready to serve. Top a square of cake with strawberries and lemon mascarpone.
Adapted from The Local Palate magazine, May 2014.