Yes, I am a day late for our Cook the Books October/November Selection: Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson and hosted by Simona of briciole. I could give you plenty of excuses but it's mostly work, life and just not spending much time in the kitchen. Also, and I'll address this later--the food inspiration wasn't strong in this book, so I finally made something that I was craving, Pasta e Fagioli and Bread with Pesto to dip into it.
Gerald Samper, an effete English snob, has his own private hilltop in Tuscany where he whiles away his time working as a ghostwriter for celebrities and inventing wholly original culinary concoctions––including ice cream made with garlic and the bitter, herb-based liqueur known as Fernet Branca. But Gerald’s idyll is about to be shattered by the arrival of Marta, on the run from a crime-riddled former Soviet republic, as a series of misunderstandings brings this odd couple into ever closer and more disastrous proximity . . .
This was quite the quirky book and one that would not have been on my radar without Simona and Cook the Books. At times very funny, at times a little annoying (mainly Gerald, but occasionally Marta) and never once did it make me crave food--which I guess was the satirical point of it. At least I am hoping that the many recipes using otter and cat were a joke. I think you have to be a fan of farce, especially British farce and humor to fully appreciate it. Gerald, a British biography writer, is such a priss and Marta, a Eastern European composer so very down to earth, yet mysterious, and these neighbors don't get a long, or think much of each other. Gerald is always perfecting crazy recipes with the above mentioned ingredients, and there is copious amounts of Fernet Branca, an herby liqueur that I have never tried, but that Gerald and Marta seem to think each other drinks to excess. There are Italian directors and British boy bands and lots of misunderstandings and adventures. Overall, an amusing romp, it kept me reading it to see what would happen, but I probably wouldn't revisit it or look for the two other books featuring Gerald.
As stated before, not a lot of craveable food was in the pages with the exception of some Florentine cookies and a dish of cold eggplant with pesto that sounded delicious. Gerald seems to try to come up with the most obscure and disgusting dishes he could work on "perfecting."
For my bookish dish, I had some leftover Thanksgiving turkey legs and I wanted a soup with pasta and beans--so of course pasta e fagioli, and then I put the pesto from the eggplant dish onto some French bread with a little dusting of parmesan. Simple (and edible, thank you) comfort food.
Simple Turkey Pasta e Fagioli
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4 to 6)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp each dried oregano and dried basil + two bay leaves
6 cups vegetable stock + extra if desired
1 can diced tomatoes + juice
2 cups cooked or canned beans (I used borlotti from the import section of my local grocery store)
the meat from one large cooked turkey drumstick, finely chopped, optional
1 heaping cup elbow macaroni or other small pasta
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put the oil in a large, soup pot over medium heat. When hot, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it softens and starts to turn brown, about 15 minutes.
Add the garlic and dried herbs and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, then add the stock and the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring every now and then, about 20 minutes.
Add the beans, turkey meat if using, and the pasta, and adjust the heat once again so the mixture simmers. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference with salt and pepper. Serve, garnished with pesto bread slices on top.
Notes/Results: Just a simple, homey and meaty soup that hit the spot for a week spent with a stuffy nose. For the pesto bread, I just toasted French bread slices and spread them with store-bought pesto and then sprinkled finely grated parmesan cheese on top. There are very tasty dipped into the soup. I would make both again.
So, yes, the deadline for this round of Cook the Books was yesterday, but if you want to join in the next one, I will be hosting our December/January round with the novel, Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicki Zimmerman here at Kahakai Kitchen.