Thursday, November 30, 2023

Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup for Cook The Books October/November Pick: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

It's Cook the Books time again and for October/November, we read The City Baker's Guide to Country Louise Miller, hosted by Claudia of Honey From Rock. It's a foodie/baked goods-friendly novel, although I don't bake and chose to make a warming Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup as my book-inspired dish. 

Publisher's Blurb:

When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.
With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.
But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even bet

  • Publisher: ‎Penguin Books; 
  • Paperback: 352 pages

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed this story as books where starting over in a small town/community or starting over, in general, are my jam, especially where food is involved. I do admit to not liking Olivia much when the book started, but she grew on me as the story continued. The town of Guthrie with all its quirky residents and small-town politics grew on me as well. Although I fear I could never warm up there--the blood things after 22+ years in a tropical climate, the book definitely made me want to go for an extended visit. And Salty the dog was perhaps my favorite character. In the end, it's a good rom-com that had me smiling and tearing up a few times and a good story to cozy up with. 

There is food galore in the book from apple pie (there's the contest of course) to muffins and scones, cookies (macaroons, butter cookies, sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, and pecan sandies) to locally-made cheeses, and all manner of breads. There were desserts aplenty, but also a harvest dinner with corn consommé, a fancy salad, prime rib, mushroom risotto, popovers, a cheese course, and even a Thanksgiving dinner. I was going to do the riff on the risotto as it's a favorite and then I switched to a corn soup (heartier than consommé), but at the end of the day, I was craving a simple potato soup, so that's what I made..Is it in the book? Not at all. Would I have wanted it if I was staying in a sugaring house in Vermont in the fall and winter? Absolutely!

Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup
By Deb,  Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 4 Large Servings)

2 Tbsp butter

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp celery seeds

½ teaspoon thyme

1.5 lb potatoes of your choice, cubed

2 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup whole milk or milk of choice

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 bag (8oz-ish) baby spinach washed & chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and celery and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic and herbs, and cook for an extra minute or two, until the onion is coated and smells good. Stir in the cubed potatoes and broth, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and flour in a cup. When potatoes are tender, add the flour and milk slurry and stir until the liquid in the pot comes back up to a simmer and starts to thicken (it should take about 2-3 minutes).

Add the spinach to the pot and cook stirring for about 3-4 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper, adjusting the seasoning to your liking. 

Serve hot and enjoy!

Notes/Results: Sometimes it's the really simple things in life that taste the best and this soup is an example of that. Heartly, creamy, warming, and delicious, it was perfect for our starting to get a bit cooler at night, weather. I only wish I'd made a bigger batch. 

The deadline for this round is today (surprise, surprise) but if you like food and books, and foodie books, join us for December/January, when we'll be reading I’m hosting for December/January when Debra of Eliot's Eats is hosting with Undercooked: How I Let Food Become My Life Navigator and How Maybe That’s a Dumb Way to Live by Dan Ahdoot.