This term’s Cook the Book choice was the School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister chosen and hosted by lovely Rachel of Crispy Cook. I have to admit that when I started reading it, I wasn’t sure I would be in the mindset to read a book, let alone finish it.
You see, the last 6 weeks I have been sleep training my lovely daughter (i.e. teaching her to fall asleep on her own) and for those of you that have no babies who might be thinking it is easy, well it isn’t. It has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done (and I do have a PhD from Oxford, thank you), as it does involve a lot of crying, even when using gentler methods as I did (no Cry-It-Out). This coupled with severe hormone fluctuations, meant that I was not the happiest person around.
Anyway, I reluctantly started reading the book and soon it became was one of the things I was looking forward to every evening, after putting the baby to bed. It was well written, engaging and compassionate. I wanted to meet every single one of the characters and talk to them. I tried to imagine what the food described would taste like and really wished I had Lillian around to cook my blues away.
As in other books we have read so far (i.e. The Last Chinese Chef) food is approached as therapeutic for the soul. The main character Lillian, a feisty cook and restaurant owner, hosts a cooking class every Monday. Each of the students carries a heavy emotional load, as do most people, and Lillian simply and gracefully tries to unburden them, using each of the characters as well as the ingredients for inspiration.
Although I loved all the chapters/characters, when it came down to deciding what to cook, I had to find a dish which would be easily consumed in hot weather, and would not require me being in the kitchen all day over the stove. I finally settled for the stuffed turkey breast that Lillian prepared for Antonia, an Italian student living in the States, and the Thanksgiving dinner. I loved how she made something so Italian and yet so compatible with the Thanksgiving traditions, trying to prove that one can always make a “foreign” holiday their own.
I made minor adjustments to the recipe, omitting the dried cranberries, as it is not an ingredient I can find here in Greece, and substituting it with lemon rind which would bring the zest to the dish. I bought some really wonderful wild-boar pancetta for the stuffing and served the dish with my favourite balsamic roast vegetables.
The final result was a very fragrant, succulent dish, bursting with the flavours of rosemary, garlic and lemon. The slightly oilier vegetables suited the fat-free meat really well and we also enjoyed the dish cold the next day.
In the spirit of the book I will not give you a recipe, but if you really feel like making this dish you can find a recipe on the author’s website.