positive reinforcement

Sometimes a book gets to you at just the right time.  You know how when you were a kid, you'd sometimes read a book that was just beyond you, and it could or would ruin a story, or an author, for years?  Sometimes forever?  I had that a lot as a kid who's reading skills were often farther advanced than her emotional age.

The same thing happens to me now with cookbooks, or just books about food.  At the right moment, inspiration (I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle at the beginning of August, I think, right as the preservation season was kicking in).  At the wrong moment, lots of internal eye-rolling and a setting-aside to return to perhaps later, or maybe never.  Same goes with teaching skills and techniques, some click with us, and some don't.

So anyway, I'm rambling, but this week's library book is An Everlasting Meal:  Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler (who also, by the way, wrote the article I mentioned about Thanksgiving leftovers, funny how that works out).  And I can see how this book, at an earlier stage of learning how to cook, might be frustrating.  But this winter, in the lulls of short, dark days, it is in tune with my mood and my food cravings, telling me my instincts for improvised comfort foods and stretched leftovers are on the right track.  It's not a book for following exact rules or measuring ingredients, it's about following the flow of ingredients and time and techniques into a matrix that becomes a meal, or three.

Last weekend there was a lot of baking going on, due to a dying furnace and a cold house.  I made a big batch of pitas, and cooked up a pot of chickpeas for hummus, and there were extras of both.  Tonight I stewed up a few pieces of chicken, making a broth, and made Chicken Fatteh.  This is a middle eastern dish, I've had it a few times at a local restaurant.  It's perfect for leftovers, even though I made the broth tonight it would be super fast with pantry stock and some cooked meat or vegetables. 

Fatteh is one of those classic cross-cultural dishes--you can see versions of it in American stuffing or English bread pudding, panzanella, chilaquiles.  Anyway, this version is basically a layered dish:  toasted pieces of pita on the bottom, with stock poured over to soften.  Add a layer of chickpeas and chicken, a little more stock, and then cover and put in the oven until warmed through, 20 minutes or so. 

After it comes out, pour a wisked yogurt on top:  flavored with garlic and mint.  Add some toasted nuts--I used walnuts here, but pine nuts are more authentic--and maybe a little parsley for color. 

Best yet, I have a quart and a half of stock remaining, which lends itself to the weekend's meals.  I see soup, a browsing of winter vegetables, and more bread baking.  A meandering path ahead of meals, one leading to another.

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  1. Msy I ask what it is about this particular book, S? Is it she gives you tips, or is it more a lifestyle-adoption book? (listen, I am not trying to pigeonhole so much as it's hit my radar too and I am as ever deciding what needs to go to the interlibrary loan vs the buy-me category.) I have personally worked very very hard to figure out how to cook for 3 and just three, no leftovers at all, even though I know the inherent recyclability of leftovers. So, I guess I have more than a nodding curiosity toward the subject and would like your input.

  2. I would say for me it's more an enjoyable read by someone who writes well and philosophically is on the same page. And it's not so much about the recycling of leftovers but cooking with the week ahead in mind (something I know you do already).

    For me, definitely a library option--I generally own books only if they are good references, and this isn't really that. It IS the kind of book you might pass around though, so would be good to purchase in that case.


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