Book Review and Cooking Party! Chloe Flavor by Chloe Coscarelli

Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan by Chloe Coscarelli

I’m branching out a bit! I’ve never reviewed a cookbook before, but after receiving this review copy, I think I might have a new favorite review format! If there’s anything I like nearly as much as reading, it’s cooking (and my dogs…and the cat…and the husband, I guess).

Now, husband and I were vegan for many years. Though now a days we are inching closer to the vegetarian end of the scale, most of my home cooking is still vegan (I just can’t keep eggs in my house guys…gross). I’m always looking for new recipes, and I’m well aware of my tendency to fall into a cooking rut, especially with a physically and mentally draining day job. So I flipped through the book, picked out my test run, got a bottle of wine and time on a quiet Sunday, and proceeded to tackle– Burnt Garlic Un-Fried Rice.

Okay here me out. I love asian-inspired dishes. They tend to translate to vegan/vegetarian more easily than a lot of western (and especially American) dishes. They’re usually full of flavor, and I can make them spicy as fuck! Add that to the fact that husband and I are both big fans of garlic (seriously, I make a roasted garlic bread that has 8 bulbs of garlic in the dough), and you have an irresistible recipe.

The recipe calls for 20 cloves of garlic…I may have cranked that up a notch

So. Much. Garlic.

The tofu is this recipe is pressed, then crumbled into a scrambled egg consistency. People, especially if you’re new to the world of tofu, I can’t stress his enough: press the shit out of your tofu! The more moisture you get out of it before cooking, the better the end result is going to be! After years of wrestling with paper towels and balancing weights, I finally got myself a tofu press. Best investment I’ve made! They’re super cheap on Amazon, and they do the job quickly and easily! Go get one now!

Anyways, the tofu is crumbled, then sauteed in a pan with oil, coriander, curry powder, and tumeric. I added cayenne pepper as well, because I have a problem. With the spices and the heat, your tofu will go from this

To this

Take that pan of deliciousness off the heat and begin to burn most of the garlic by heating over oil and patiently stirring (not my forte)

The burned garlic (which smells like it should top a bagel…So good!) Heads over to the paper towels to drain.

Then, using the now delightfully garlicky oil, sautee the onion until tender. Once the onion has softened, add the ginger, cashews, lime juice, and rice (I used brown jasmine). I used my big (huge…just really large) cast iron wok for this part, because it cooks ever so nice and the large size means even I have a hard time sloshing food over the sides.

Almost a meal…

Once all that lovely goodness is cooked through (I had to add more oil a few times), dump in the tofufrom before, and the remainder of the chopped garlic. I (bad lady that I am) added more cayenne at this point. Let everything heat up and the flavors meld for a few minutes and serve!

Noms!

Delicious! The whole thing took maybe an hour, including cooking the rice and peeling and chopping all the garlic. The “burnt” garlic has a wonderfully mild taste, and even with the unburned garlic added at the end, the garlic flavor was not overwhelming.

The rest of the recipes in the book look equally as fascinating. Also nice, most call for ingredients that are generally easy to find in the grocery store, which is always the tricky part about specialty cooking. Additionally, many recipes include easy ways to convert the meal to be gluten free, a nice touch. So confirmed vegans and veggies will find many appealing recipes in this book, but omnivores will find stuff to enjoy as well

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King
I’m really on an Ancient Rome kick. After reading Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George, I went looking for something juicy to follow up. I was not disappointed by Crystal King’s debut historical fiction.

The story follows the slave Thrasius, bought by the disgustingly rich Roman aristocrat Apicius to run his kitchen. Apicius is an already famous gourmand, and he wants to climb to the top of Roman culinary society by becoming an advisor to the Roman Emperor. Willing to go to any expense and any excess to achieve his goal, the book follows Thrasius and Apicius across a sweep of decades.

King has done a masterful job in her debut work. As with any book about Ancient Rome, the drama is high and the casual violence and cruelty is breathtaking.  The world occupied by Thrasius and Apicus is vividly wrought, with a great deal of attention paid to historical accuracy. While Thrasius and his fellow slaves are fictional (identities of Roman slaves are understandably shrouded in the historical record), Apicius and his family (and other high-born Romans in this book) were all real people. Apicius himself is credited with the creation of a series of cookbooks, some of which still survive today.

King carefully crafts her major characters, giving them a multifaceted existence which lends complexity and humanity to the story. King also does a wonderful job weaving a number of disparate historical threads together into a coherent story. The span of decades allows the reader to watch as the characters grow and develop.

Any fan of historical fiction will enjoy this book. King has a wonderful (and rare) talent for blending the historical and fictional aspects of the book together, providing needed background without sacrificing pace. This is a fine drama, and should appeal to a wide variety of tastes.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.