Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Scampi Pasta for Cook the Books Dec/Jan Selection: Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

Even when I host the selection for Cook the Books, our bi-monthly virtual foodie book club, I still manage to be the last entry in! 

I selected the novel, Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman, for our because it had been hanging out on my Kindle TBR pile for ages and I thought the story of a friendship between two women, several decades apart in age, would be light and charming.

 Here's the blurb from the publisher:

An unlikely friendship between two stubborn, lonely souls anchors this big-hearted book and dares us all to ask for more. 

When her life falls apart on the eve of her 40th birthday, Kate Parker finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily's tongue is as sharp as her mind, but she's fed up with pretty much everything. 

Having no patience for Kate's choices in life or love, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book...of sorts. Thought for Food: an unintentionally funny 1950s cookbook high on enthusiasm, featuring menus for anything life can throw at the "easily dismayed," such as: 

  • Breakfast with a Hangover 

  • Tea for a Crotchety Aunt 

  • Dinner for a Charming Stranger

As she and Cecily break out of their ruts, Kate will learn far more than recipes. 

I will say that it took  me a while to get into the book. I found both Kate and Cecily to be annoying in different ways, but eventually both characters grew on me and I found myself rooting for Kate and understanding and liking Cecily. Although she was brusque and domineering, she had Kate's best interests at heart and pushed her toward better and happier life choices.

The cookbook snippets and menu titles were probably my favorite thing about the book. I would love to have a copy of Thought for Food: A Cookbook for Entertaining Occasions by Esther Shavin on my shelves. I just wish there had be some recipes included. 

Overall, once I got into the book, I enjoyed this story and friendship. It made me smile and it made me tear up. I am happy that it finally made it out of the bottomless pit of my TBR. 

There was plenty of food inspiration in the book, between the dishes Kate cooked and ideas in the cookbook. Ultimately, I wanted pasta and was at first going to make a carbonara. Then, although I should take points off because Kate cooked it as part of a meal for her useless boyfriend Nick, I got intrigued by the fried scampi that was part of "Dinner for the Man You Hope to Marry." I decided to just combine the scampi (non-fried) with buttery, garlicky noodles for one. I call it "A Quick But Indulgent Dinner When You are Tired as Hell."  Yes, I did throw it in a blow (bright yellow/gold to sorta match the cover of the book) and eat it on my couch with chopsticks because sometimes noodles eaten with chopsticks are just more fun. 

Quick and Easy Scampi Pasta for One (or Two If You Must)
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

About 1/2 lb pasta--I like linguine, dried or fresh
tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon coarsely-minced garlic
1/2 lb jumbo or colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used frozen easy peel extra jumbo 16-20)
sea salt  and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup white wine or chicken stock
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in water (salted like the sea) and according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, melt butter in a saucepan over medium high heat with the olive oil and add in the garlic and shrimp. Season with salt and  black pepper to taste. Stir continuously, turning shrimp until it just turns pink, about 2-3 minutes depending on the size of your shrimp

Pour in the white wine or chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Stir in lemon juice and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to coat with the butter. 

Top with parsley and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy immediately. 

Notes/Results: Butter, garlic, noodles, shrimp... need I say more? You could add capers or crushed red pepper flakes if you are inclined and up the amount of cheese (I didn't realize I was almost out). Excuse the bad photos, I came home from work tired as hell, tossed it together and ate it on the couch with chopsticks while I binge-watched the first four episodes of Poker Face on the Peacock channel which I think is going to be a new favorite. Like Columbo only with Natasha Lyonne.   

As this round is over, I will be rounding up the entries at the Cook the Books site in the next few days. If you missed this round and like food and books and foodie books, please join us for our February/March selection, The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan, hosted by my fellow Hawaii blogger, Claudia of Honey From Rock.