Since we last met, some of you have told me that my last post made you want to cook again, and some of the books mentioned have made it onto your library accounts.
I won’t lie: as a writer and a librarian, these words make my heart sing.
I’ve been busy and lazy for the past month. Busy and lazy, you ask? Well, when you work a job from 9:30 to 6, sometimes you just want to spend the evening reading. So I’ve worked my way through Devil Bones, Bones to Ashes, and Fatal Voyage, all by my favorite forensic anthropologist turned bestselling author, Kathy Reichs. As a children’s librarian, I know that children read two reading levels below their optimal reading level for recreation, nothing wrong with that. Summer is a children’s librarian’s busiest season, so I doubt I’ll start reading Anna Karenina anytime soon. I’ve re-read both Devil Bones and Fatal Voyage. In fact, I’ve probably read Devil Bones more than twice, since I own it and it often lives in my car. I require a book when I eat out alone, and more than once, Devil Bones been my dinner companion.
While I like a good mystery, I read the Temperance Brennan books by Kathy Reichs for character, not plot. Our love interest is usually Andrew Ryan, a Canadian detective, but sometimes Pete Brennan, an American lawyer and Tempe’s estranged husband. Temperance is a recovering alcoholic, mostly comfortable with the crazy life she leads, living sometimes in Charlotte, North Carolina and sometimes in Quebec. I enjoy learning about the geographical particulars of these two locations. I keep reading the books to keep up with where Tempe is in her life. Will she and Ryan get together for good? Will she and Pete finalize their divorce? I’ve also grown attached to Tempe’s pets, a cat named Birdie and a bird named Charlie.
Besides lazing around with books, I’ve increased my kitchen repertoire. I now make a decent vinaigrette (the secret is the olive oil/vinegar ratio) on a weekly basis, and I bought a fancy (read: expensive) chef’s knife at Sur la Table. I used it last night for the first time and it cuts like a dream. It cuts so well that I didn’t even mind the humid heat in my third floor walkup as I boiled water for pasta and cut peppers, celery, radishes and onions.
I picked up some cookbooks and books on budgeting on a recent visit to the Carnegie Library — Squirrel Hill, where I picked up Poor Girl Gourmet. The author, Amy McCoy, worked as a freelance broadcast producer until the economy tanked in 2008. After an introduction to cooking and how to save money buying house brands (but good house brands, like Whole Food’s 365 Everyday Value), Amy starts you off with instructions for making 8 cups of vegetable stock for soup, which you can then freeze. Amy clearly has not seen my apartment-size freezer. But I’m determined to change my eating and cooking ways, so I’m sure I’ll try my hand at vegetable stock soon. I started my collection of vegetable scraps last night.
In another effort to work in the kitchen and economize, I have started making coffee in a French Press. I was going to buy an Aeropress, which was featured on CBSThisMorning last Monday morning, but as I was flipping through books (again, at Squirrel Hill), the author of Bitches on a Budget recommended buying a French Press.
My first cup was, well, strong. But I got the hang of it, after watching many YouTube videos.
Suzi’s Summer Pasta Salad
(based on Betty Crocker’s boxed Suddenly Salads, but with fewer chemicals.)
1 pepper (yellow, red, orange)
1 stalk of celery
1 small onion
1 cup vinaigrette
Salt/pepper to taste
1 ½ cups Greek yogurt (1 single serve container)
1 can tuna (optional)
½ lb. Fusilli pasta
Start the water for the pasta. Follow the directions on the box, which will probably read something like this: in a big pot, boil lots of water to a rolling boil. Then add the pasta, cover, cook until the pot almost boils over, and then uncover, cooking for about 11 more minutes. Drain.
While this is happening: cut the vegetables into small pieces.
The pasta takes the longest, so while you are in the kitchen, do a load of dishes in your sink, or recycle some junk mail.
Once you’ve drained the pasta, pour some cold water on it. You don’t technically want to rinse the pasta, but you do want it to be cold, since you are adding cold ingredients. Put everything in a bowl and mix. Don’t add the vinaigrette all at once; once you add the yogurt, there is a point where you’re adding too much liquid. However, if you are not eating this right away, it’s okay to add a little more vinaigrette, as the vinaigrette will soak into the pasta while being stored in the refrigerator.
I packed this for lunch today and cut up a radish for garnish and some additional crunch.