A Homemade Life: Foodie Book Club Post

>> Tuesday, May 4, 2010

*Warning* this post is being written through a fog of cough/cold medication and may be subject to run-on sentences and incoherent babbling. Ahem.

After gnawing through the gristle of "The Nasty Bits" for (never home)maker's Foodie Book Club, it was a welcome respite to dip into the tender sweetness of "A Homemade Life."

Molly Wizenberg's book based on her blog, Orangette, delves lightly into her parent's backgrounds, her childhood, her time abroad, her beloved father's death and ends with the story of how she met and fell in love with her husband while creating the blog that these stories are culled from.  Like many blog-cum-books, this isn't heavy material. Sometimes it can feel a bit superficial as one story jumps headlong into the next but these stories are chronological and there is a loose narrative thread based around the themes of food, cooking and finding one's passions.

Molly's writing is lovely. It is lyrical yet not overly flowery or verbose as some food-based books tend to be. She uses her words wisely and well and that helps the scents and tastes float off the page.

This book is filled with enticing recipes. Before even finishing the book, I had to make Molly's stewed prunes. The way she described them made it impossible to resist and they were just as delicious as promised (even if I did take a little license with the cinnamon.)
I was lucky enough to get to meet Molly, she had a reading in LA two days after I started the book. I got to hear her read from the book and answer audience questions at Skylight Books while this cat roamed around inspecting everybody.
She was very funny and warm (Molly, not the cat. Are cats ever funny and warm?) and it was inspiring to hear her talk about going from a hobbyist blogger to a  bona fide writer with a column at Bon Apetit.

Molly's book made me want to cook. It was just what I needed after Anthony Bourdain's book made me want to punch someone and a month of illness and exhaustion made me want to sleep forever. If you have any inclination toward the kitchen, I recommend this book and Molly's blog.
Here is a recipe from her book and another from her blog. Both are absolutely delicious and unexpected. I hope you'll try them!

Stewed Prunes with Citrus (and cinnamon, if you like)
adapted from "A Homemade Life"

*I know, prunes can seem scary. They're all wrinkly and brown and they call to mind less than savory side-effects but if you look past those minor details and remember that they are really just dried plums, it's easy to understand how they can be so flavorful, soft and comforting. Be brave, make these and you'll see what I mean!
- 1 small orange or tangerine or 1/2 small orange and 1/2 lemon (I used a Cutie clementine)
- 1 lb quality pitted prunes
- 1 cinnamon stick (I left this out)
- water

Cut the orange in half from stem to tip, then slice it very thinly, peel and all.
 Remove seeds as you go. Put the orange slices in a medium saucepan with the prunes and the cinnamon stick, if using. Add just enough water to cover.  Place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, adjusting so the water barely trembles, for 30 - 45 minutes, or until the prunes are tender, the orange slices are soft and glassy, and the liquid in the pan is slightly syrupy.
 Remove the cinnamon stick, cool slightly and serve. Or let the prunes cool to room temperature and then store them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
Serve over greek yogurt with honey or ice cream or oatmeal or anything!

Braised Rhubarb
adapted from Orangette
*Oh my goodness, do I love rhubarb. Growing up, we had bushels of it growing right in our backyard, nowadays I have to venture out the the farmer's market (woe is me!) The color when you cook it is like an 8-year-old-Picky-G's idea of heaven. It is PINK, man. PINK. It has the most subtle flavor and the vanilla and white wine in this recipe play it up to utter perfection. Don't fear the rhubarb.

For the wine here, I used my personal favorite, King Shag Sauvignon Blanc from Trader Joe's.

2 lb. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths
½ cup sugar
½ cup crisp white wine
1 vanilla bean, split
Set a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the rhubarb in a Dutch oven or other deep oven-safe pot.
Add the sugar, wine, and vanilla bean, and stir to mix. I threw in the vanilla pod to give it a but more vanilla oomph.
Bake (uncovered) for about 30 minutes, or until very tender, giving the pot a gentle stir about midway through to ensure that the rhubarb cooks evenly.
Remove the vanilla pod and serve warm or cold, by itself or over something creamy. 
Also, makes a delicious fool, combined with freshly whipped cream, parfait style


L-Burt May 4, 2010 at 11:23:00 AM PDT  

The prunes do scare me, because they are prunes, but I just might have to give them a shot now.

I made the rhubarb too and loved it. In fact, I was considering making it again today!

Amie May 4, 2010 at 12:19:00 PM PDT  

Yes, I was very happy to read this after Anthony Bourdain's book too! What a great change of pace...
I made the banana bread from her book last night for the post that I hope to get to later was pretty good, but I probably wouldn't make it again.

Oh, and to answer your question: YES, cats can be funny and warm. Well, funny...rarely warm. They are only really warm when you catch them in the middle of a nap, and they will let you pet them for days.

the red bungalow May 4, 2010 at 11:36:00 PM PDT  

If I may be so bold to say: I think those prunes look fabulous. :) Especially topped over ice cream or something creamy and delicious.

I've been reading everyone's reviews and I'm so unbelievably awed by those of you who have already tried out some of the recipes. Kudos to you. I've been flagging the pages and hoping to make a few (including this one now) once I'm done living out of a hotel for the next couple of weeks. I think those macaroons are on the top of my list too! :)

Bre @

Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker May 5, 2010 at 12:23:00 PM PDT  

No WAY! You got to meet her?!?!?!??!? That's absolutely AMAZING! And your photos looks delish.

Callie @ The Picky Gourmet May 12, 2010 at 10:44:00 AM PDT  

Prunes are just plums with wrinkles. They are like candy in this recipe.

Ashley- I felt so lucky to meet her, what crazy timing. She was cute, I really want to make a trip up to Seattle and eat at her restaurant!

Stacy (Little Blue Hen) May 12, 2010 at 11:54:00 PM PDT  

Absolutely agree that I wanted to get into the kitchen once I finished the book (because I didn't want to put the book down to start cooking). I'm so glad you posted the recipes with the review -- I wanted to make something from it, but it was already 3 days overdue. Oops.

That's awesome that you met her, too!

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