Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Yes, Chef

Book groups are great. You read books you might never have chosen yourself. You discuss them and hopefully learn a lot of new things about life, about love, about what makes people do the things they do. 

My book group is all that and more. Because we're a "foodie friends book group" we talk about the book while eating food we prepared, based on the theme of that month's book.

Our latest selection was "Yes, Chef," a memoir by Marcus Samuelsson. It's a heartfelt book that speaks not just about the tenacity and hard work it takes to make it to the top of the ladder in the culinary world, but also to loyalty, friendship, and love of family.

Many of you readers know that Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and adopted and raised by a Swedish couple. He eventually catapulted to culinary fame as executive chef at New York City's Aquavit, and was honored with a coveted James Beard award. He now owns and runs Red Rooster in Harlem, a restaurant that celebrates the roots of American food, while fusing Swedish cuisine and flavors from Ethiopia. 

In short, there were a diverse set of interesting recipes on his website we could choose from in putting together our menu for the evening. I've written out only one recipe at the end of this post, but click on any of the underlined words next to the photos below for the others.

We started out with appetizers -- cheese and crackers brought by Lolly, a member of our group. I made Samuelsson's recipe for deviled eggs, similar to the one I've used for years, but with an extra "kick" from a generous dose of cayenne pepper. Flowers are optional, but if it's Springtime, I can't resist decorating with the sweet look of edible pansies. 

Smoked salmon is de rigeur when discussing a Swedish-born chef and Polly brought along this inviting platter to go with the gin and tonics.

Our hostess Rosalie outdid herself with her beautiful table settings, the perfect wines and these Szechuan-roasted Cornish hens.

I couldn't stop eating these flavorful marinated eggplant made by Claire.

 I also rounded out the side dishes with this  green bean salad, again given some extra heat with chili peppers (and a decorative touch with chive blossoms). 

Desserts are never left out with this group either. Lee contributed this delightful meyer lemon tart.

And though the photo isn't exactly cover-worthy (the drawback of using only iPhone photos for this blog entry), this chocolate rum cake that Emilia made was delicious. Add a little whipped cream too, to gild the lily.

Want to start your own foodie book group, or just looking for more suggestions of food-related books? Click here on a "Books for Foodies" post I wrote a long while back. I'm due to update it but if you haven't read any of these, it's a good place to get you started.

And if you're a writer (or wanna-be writer) who has a good story to tell all your own, but need help in crafting it, please sign up for our writing retreat in beautiful Lake Como, Italy. Writing in the morning in this dreamy locale, followed by afternoon excursions and time to relax and do whatever you want. Registration will be closing in a couple of weeks, so hurry and sign up now for Italy, In Other Words.

Vegan Green Bean Salad 

printable recipe here

by Aine Carlin

From Marcus Samuelsson's website

(Note - I found that the lemon and olive oil wasn't nearly enough to dress the beans, so added triple the amount of lemon juice and olive oil.)

1 pack organic green beans
4 spring onions/scallions
1/2 red chilli
(I used a red cherry pepper)
2/3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp chopped capers
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper


  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Wash and trim the green beans. Blanch the green beans for a few minutes until just tender – careful not to overcook as they’ll lose their color and go horribly floppy. Immediately drain and place in a pan of iced water or alternatively run under a very cold tap for a minute or two.

  2. Finely slice the garlic and chili (don’t bother to remove seeds). Set aside. Chop the scallions into medium to thick pieces.

  3. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan/skillet and add the spring onions, chili and garlic and lightly fry for about a minute to two minutes. Season, take off the heat and allow to cool.

  4. Halve the green beans by slicing diagonally and transfer to a large bowl, season and grate over lemon zest.

  5. Roughly chop the capers and finely chop the flat leaf parsley and add to bowl along with the spring onion mix ensuring to pour over any remaining oil.

  6. Squeeze over lemon juice, season and lightly toss until all the greens are coated.

  7. Refrigerate for later or eat immediately. Would make a beautiful accompaniment to most meals but also delightful on its own.

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