Summer food reads

I can’t go on vacation without a book tucked into my bags.  Even the most exotic destination requires a good read for the plane or those odd hours between excursions and dinner.

Since I can’t go for long without thinking about my next meal, either, a food book is always a great choice. This year, my nominees for the best summer food reads include a new look at the life of M.F.K. Fisher, a beautifully written chef memoir, and an inspiring diary of gardening and cooking from one of Britain’s best food writers.

“An Extravagant Hunger,” by Anne Zimmerman (Counterpoint, 2011) and “Blood, Bones & Butter,” by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House, 2011) are portable enough to carry in a beach bag.  They’re fascinating stories of lives shaped by food, cooking and a hunger for love and meaning.

“Tender,” by Nigel Slater (Ten Speed Press, 2011) is fairly bulky and better suited for a week or two at a country cottage, preferably with a farmers market nearby.  It practically demands that you get into the kitchen and cook after reading Slater’s loving descriptions of his London vegetable patch and the dishes he prepares from his produce. Continue reading Summer food reads

Blenheims are back

Once upon a time, the Blenheim apricot reigned supreme in the sprawling orchards of Santa Clara Valley.  Today, however, apricot trees have been displaced by suburbs and production of this fragile, intensely flavored fruit is so small it has been included in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste alongside New Town Pippin apples and Sun Crest peaches.

Large commercial growers in other areas can’t be bothered with such a delicate variety of fruit.  The amber skin is tissue thin, bruises easily and freckles with sunburn. The season is over in the blink of an eye.

Yet the flavor is exquisite, with undertones of honey balanced by a delightful touch of acid. The soft, ripe flesh is so juicy, it drips down your chin as you eat. Continue reading Blenheims are back

Classic salad hard to beat


When the weather is hot and the produce is gorgeous, there’s nothing I like better for dinner than a freshly composed Salade Nicoise.  It’s a French classic, simple, flavorful and substantial enough to make a one dish meal.

The traditional version from Nice on the Cote d’Azur is built around  high quality tuna canned in olive oil, the slender green beans known as haricots verte and a lively vinaigrette.  Potatoes are not included and the vegetables are never cooked. Continue reading Classic salad hard to beat