Monthly Archives: October 2009

A Rummaging Read: Uglies, Pretties, Specials

For several years now I’ve scanned the Young Adult displays in my local Barnes and Noble and dismissed Scott Westerfield’s Uglies Trilogy.  Mainly because of the covers.  The striking images always made me think of Gossip Girl (a show I’ve never seen but have likewise written off because of a thirty-second promo).  This resemblance caused me to relegate Westerfield’s work to the category of fluffy teen novels.

This was clearly a mistake.  Last week, I devoured these three books and was impressed with Westerfield’s story-telling and world-building, not to mention his ability to write well from a young woman’s point of view.  He tackles the difficult task of weaving serious issues into his futuristic world without coming across as heavy-handed or preachy.  And the true mark of a good book: scenes from the story flash into my head days after I’ve finished reading.

For those who’ve read the series, the accompanying recipe will come as no surprise.  Spaghetti Bolognese.  You’ll have to settle for it fresh, as dehydrating food is way beyond my capabilities (or interests).  A small confession: I haven’t actually made this recipe.  The long list of ingredients and the complexity of it might have clued you in to that fact.  But, since it has received rave reviews from the Food Network, and it is also marked as an “easy” recipe, I just might add it to the menu for next week.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground veal
  • 1/2 pound pork sausage, removed from the casings, or ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock or broth
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and sausages, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the cream, butter, and parsley, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and toss to blend. Divide among pasta bowls and serve with the cheese passed tableside. (Alternatively, toss only the desired portion of pasta with a bit of the sauce at a time in a serving bowl, reserving the remainder for another meal.)

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A Rummaging Read: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I really can’t do the trilogy justice or pinpoint one specific recipe from the books, although a quick google search revealed that there are many people out there doing just this.  If you want to try your hand at Lembas Bread or other tasty treats from Tolkein’s world, you’re in good company.

I first read the trilogy in middle school.  I remember sitting through lunch poring over the books (yes, I was that girl), and, as I’ve shared before, went so far as to tuck an old keyring on a chain under my uniform jumper.  Clearly, I didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of Ringbearing, but my ring let me live in the world for a little while.  And made classes bearable.

At any rate, whenever I was lost in the pages of Middle Earth, I’d welcome the nights my mom made stew for dinner.  Somehow, that always felt extra-questish.  A good dish of stew, a hunk of cheddar, and my faux Ring temporarily satisfied my desire to be part of an Important Happening along with Frodo and all the others.  So, in the hopes that you, too, will join the fellowship, I copy this recipe straight out of the pages of the family cookbook:

Beef Burgundy Stew

2 lbs. Sirloin – cut into generous cubes

2 tsp. oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 large carrots, chopped

1 lb. small mushrooms, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup chopped celery

1 red or yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. thyme

2 cups dry red wine (burgundy)

In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic.  Add the meat and cook through.  Add pepper and celery.  Pour into baking dish and add remaining ingredients.  Bake at 325 degrees for three hours.

Serve with crusty, fresh baked bread and some aged cheese.  Happy questing!

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