Cold Borscht with Chive Blossoms and Dill for Cook the Books Club

Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen, our current Cook the Books Club selection, is another CTB pick in the tradition of food as magic, such as The Last Chinese Chef and Like Water for Chocolate.  I am a sucker for a bit of the miraculous in life, and, this little gem of a novel certainly cast it's spell.  I went right out and read every one of her other books, after finishing it.  Got to love a book that mixes up a spellbinding plot with romance and good food.

Allen's story line about a magically gifted Southern family was unique enough to hold my interest, and her characters were well conceived, not at all predictable, but flawed, believable yet sympathetic human beings, who struggle with the emotional baggage we all carry, grow and come out changed for the better.  Even the apple tree had personality.

There was plenty to inspire our culinary interest as well.  My first thought was to do stuffed zucchini flowers, but the snails got all of the starts we put out.  I should cook them, the little devils.  But her mention of chive blossoms was a revelation.  I'd had no idea you could eat the flowers, or that they would be so delicious, carrying a more assertive jolt of the chive flavor.  I will never pass up that opportunity again.  Mine are garlic chives, sometimes called Chinese chives, and have white flowers, rather than the lavender blooms of standard chives.

I thought how lovely they would look floating on a bowl of chilled beet soup.  In the Russian/Estonian/etc. tradition with dill and cucumber, it would be perfect for our summer weather.  And, anyone with hurt feelings at dinner might be soothed.  Also the dill helps digestion and was thought to ward off any evil eyes lurking about, as per my Rodale's Encyclopedia of Herbs.


Tamale Pie with Cacao Sprinkles and Pina Colada Sorbet

Pineapples are making their presence known around here, so we'll be making jam and sorbet and upside down cake, salsa, but best of all is just fresh, sweet and juicy.  If it gets to be overwhelming, I make wine.  These are Hawaii's select White Pineapples - on top of the pineapple charts, ambrosia really.  I have quite a few planted, in borders, around trees and in their own patch.  Every time I pull off a top, it gets planted somewhere, so over the years the numbers keep increasing.

I thought a Pina Colada Sorbet would be just the perfect dessert Sunday after my Tamale Pie.  Coconut cream, pineapple juice, some agave nectar and a bit of rum.  Outstanding really, it was light, refreshing, and tasted just like a Pina Colada.


Grilled Brats with Sauerkraut and Apples on Egg Noodles

We Daring Chefs were busy this month whipping up homemade noodles.  Mine were fun.  First I did Fazzoletti with Pesto and fresh corn.  However, not being all that happy with the result (my pesto was a flop), went on to this dish.  It is definitely something you can do with any extra brats you grilled on the week-end.

 Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

I have come to the conclusion, after this noodle experience, that you want to make your pasta early in the week, or the day.  As I did with the second batch.  Then, after freezing or chilling, when you are not in the middle of  your dinner prep,  the pasta is just a part of your mise en place.  A done deal...almost.

I made the Fazzoletti right along with the rest of my dinner, and it does jam things a bit.  The remainder of the batch waited until early the next day, when I rolled out some wide tagliatelle for the Brats with Apples dish.  I used a classic egg noodle recipe, though 1/4 cup of the flour was whole wheat spelt.


Fried Green Tomatoes and Salad of Arugula, Avocado, BBQ Chicken Slices and Gorgonzola

I didn't even get everything in that title.  This salad also had romaine and radishes.  Altogether a nice combination, especially with the side of Fried Green Tomatoes.  I loved that movie, and have been (in the back of my mind - the food file) wanting to give them a try ever since.  So, humming along the produce aisle the other day, I came upon the fruit and veggie guy unloading tomatoes into a bin, and there were these green ones in with the ripe reds.  Why would anyone pick tomatoes that green, unless for this dish?  Tell me that.  Tomatoes should ripen on the vine, shouldn't they?  Am I naive?  At any rate,  you now have the back story on my supper.  I'm sure you all were curious.

As for our salad,  I had  left-over Teriyaki Chicken, since Bob has been Barbecuing almost every weekend, some fresh arugula and Gorgonzola, which sounded like the perfect accompaniment for our fried side.  You do not need to buy prepared barbecue sauce.  I am going to divulge my secret Teriyaki Chicken recipe here (this is almost a staple in Hawaii).  We'll start with that.  Cooked chicken is not all that photogenic however, so just imagine the scent and flavors coming off your grill.  Unbeatable really.