There are few forces in this world like a true Southern grandmother. Nickole Brown has written a lyric biography of her own in her second collection, Fanny Says. Brown blends descriptions of the immensely wise, brazen and sailor-mouthed Fanny with ruminations on both the power of memory and the Kentucky culture that influenced them both. The editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson, the fabric of Brown's poems share threads of his deeply honest and personal reporting, but Fanny Says proves that she's a literary heavyweight in a class of her own.
Don’t carry a purse but a pocketbook, and underneath
don’t wear a bra and panties
but a push-up Frederick’s of Hollywood brassiere
and a pair of bloomers—nylon, always white, pulled up
as far as bloomers can possibly go.
For your shoes, two options: should you need to go shopping
or get your pressure checked, lace up a pair of white Keds.
Otherwise, it’s house shoes, dust-pink slippers
curled from the dryer into tiny, warm cups for your feet.
What are you reading this week?
It's one of the most special times of the (literary) year, readers! And no fooling—we're officially kicking off National Poetry Month, which celebrates poets and poetry all April long. This year's striking poster is by the very talented Roz Chast, a 2014 National Book Award Finalist for her graphic memoir, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, and features text by former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand.
Check out our poetry feature from our April print edition for the scoop on three new collections to get you into the spirit of things, and look out for more web-exclusive Poetry Month posts, interviews and features coming soon.
So, how many poetry fans do we have out there? How are you planning to celebrate, and which collections are you looking forward to reading?
My two favorite food groups are coffee and cake, so clearly baking Lorraine Pascal's Simply Coffee, Vanilla & Walnut Cake has jumped straight to the top of my weekend priorities. Find this and a wealth of, ahem, a bit healthier recipes in her new cookbook, Everyday Easy.
Simply Coffee, Vanilla & Walnut Cake
One of the first cakes I ever ate was a simple coffee-flavored cake. No bells, no whistles, nothing fancy, simply coffee cake with a rich coffee buttercream. I have, however, played around with the recipe a bit and added whole wheat flour, which gives a tasty, nutty dimension to the sponge cake. But if you don’t have whole wheat flour in the cupboard, then just make this up with all-purpose flour instead for an equally appetizing cake.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Time baking in the oven: approximately 25 minutes
Equipment: Kettle, two ¾ x 8-inch round cake (springform) or tart pans with removable bottoms,
large baking sheet, mug, 2 large bowls, pastry brush, wire rack, fine sieve
++Preheat the oven to 350°F, and put the kettle on to boil (with just a small amount of water). Grease the bottom of two cake or tart pans with butter and line with baking parchment. Set them on a large baking sheet and set aside.
++First make the sponge cake. Put the coffee powder into a mug, using 1 tablespoon for a subtle coffee flavor or 3 tablespoons if you want to be awake for quite some time! For me, 3 is just right. Then add 1 tablespoon of hot water from the kettle for every tablespoon of coffee and mix until smooth. Finely chop half of the walnuts and set aside.
++Put the flours into a large bowl along with the sugar and baking powder and mix a bit to combine. Then add the butter, eggs, vanilla extract, prepared coffee and chopped walnuts (reserving the halves for decoration). Beat it hard until smooth and well combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans and then pop them in the oven for around 25 minutes.
++About 5 minutes before the cake is ready, put the kettle on again for the coffee syrup. Spoon the coffee powder into the mug with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of hot water from the kettle. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
++Check that the cakes are ready. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. Return to the oven for another 5 or so minutes if not. Once ready, remove from the oven and brush liberally with the coffee sugar syrup to give a wonderfully soft sponge. Then leave the cakes for a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Carefully remove from the pans, peel off the paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
++Cooling should take about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the buttercream. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter and beat hard until light and fluffy. Blend the coffee powder in the mug with 1 tablespoon of hot water from the kettle and stir into the buttercream.
++Once the cakes have cooled, put one layer on a cake stand or serving plate and slather the top liberally with half of the buttercream. It will be a good thick layer. Place the other cake layer on top and slather the remaining buttercream over. Arrange the remaining walnuts on top. Totally yum.
Sometimes you just need a little bit of homemade sweetness . . . and sometimes you just want a whole pie all to yourself. Try your hand at this delightful and distinctly Southern recipe for Orange Buttermilk Pie from Savannah bakers Cheryl and Griffith Day's new cookbook, Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love. We won't judge you if you don't feel like sharing.
Orange Buttermilk Pie
I created this pie in the middle of the winter, when clementines and satsuma oranges are in season. The flavor is simple and pure, and you can use any oranges that you like. Buttermilk is the key ingredient, so use the good stuff you can sometimes find in farmers’ markets if possible. I count on the old-fashioned buttermilk that we get from our friends at Southern Swiss Dairy to give this pie the old-timey flavor I recall from childhood.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the baked pie shell on a baking sheet.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well to combine. Add the flour, orange zest, orange juice, and salt and mix until well blended. With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The mixture will look curdled at this point, but don’t worry. If using a stand mixer, transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.
In the clean mixer bowl, using the whisk attachment (or in a medium mixing bowl, using clean beaters), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Give the buttermilk mixture a quick stir just to make sure that it is well blended, then add a small amount of the egg whites and fold in. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until completely incorporated.
Pour the filling into the baked piecrust. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the filling is golden and puffed up at the edges and the center no longer looks wet but still wobbles slightly; it will continue to set as it cools. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours.
Serve the pie at room temperature or chilled, with the whipped cream. Garnish with segments of orange, if you’d like. The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day or refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Crispy, breaded chicken tenders are one of the ultimate comfort foods, but unfortunately the fried varieties are packed with fat and calories. British celebrity chef Lorraine Pascale understands this conundrum all too well, and her new cookbook Everyday Easy makes healthy recipes a priority, while offering creative ways to slash calories on just a few cheat meals. Try these oven-baked Crispy, Crunchy Chicken Strips with Honey Mustard Dip the next time you get a craving.
Crispy, Crunchy Chicken Strips with Honey Mustard Dip
Being a tactile person at heart, eating food with my fingers is pure luxury for me. I have a favorite surf-and-turf restaurant I frequent with the family and I regularly order their crispy chicken tenders for a starter. The piquant honey mustard dip has me getting right on in there with a spoon and eating up every last morsel.
Time from start to finish:
Equipment: Baking tray, 2 wide, shallow bowls, small bowl
Honey mustard dip
++Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a baking tray with oil and set aside. I like to do this quickly with a spray oil.
++Crack the eggs into a wide, shallow bowl and beat lightly to bring together. Put the breadcrumbs (or polenta) and mustard powder into another wide, shallow bowl. Pick the leaves from the parsley or thyme and then finely chop them before tossing with the breadcrumbs and some salt and pepper.
++Cut each chicken breast lengthwise into three strips. Dip each piece into the egg, shaking off the excess, and then into the breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Arrange on the baking tray as you go. I tend to get in a sticky mess with this as the egg on my hands becomes coated with breadcrumbs, but the end result is so worth it.
++Bake in the oven for around 12 minutes, turning each piece of chicken over halfway through.
++Meanwhile, to make the dip, put the mayonnaise into a small bowl with the whole grain mustard and honey and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
++Cut the limes into quarters and add the juice of one piece to the dip, squeeze by squeeze, tasting as you go until you are happy. The lime lifts the dip’s flavors a little and gives a nice balance. Spoon the dip into a small serving bowl and place in the center of a large plate.
++Remove the chicken from the oven. When cooked, it should be piping hot in the center and crispy and golden brown on the outside.
++Arrange the chicken around the dip on a plate and serve with the remaining lime wedges.
It's the middle of winter, and Francis Falbo is depressed, despondent and he hasn't changed out of his long johns and blue terrycloth bathrobe—the "uniform of a Life in Default"—for nine days. In the wake of his mother's death and his recent divorce, 30-something Francis has taken refuge in his father's creaky Victorian in his hometown of Pollard, Illinois. He could write some songs about all of this, except his moderately successful rock band, the Third Policeman, has also fallen apart. But as he slowly starts to venture outside his attic room, he comes to know his increasingly offbeat tenants and becomes more entangled and invested in their complicated lives than he ever expected.
I am also now sporting a beard, and have developed a very real anxiety about it smelling gamey, like a wet squirrel or coon. Beard pong can be and acute social/hygienic problem and when I encounter my tenants at the front porch mailboxes or in the basement laundry room I make an effort to keep at least an arm's length between us. Though I twiddle and stroke the beard compulsively, in fact I don't know what it looks like, as I've been doing my best to avoid mirrors and reflective surfaces of any kind out of fear of what I'm liable to see staring back at me. I'm starting to imagine the beleaguered Civil War soldier. Or the banished indie record store warlock. Or a derelict from the northeast United States. Like one of those Olympia, Washington, societal dropouts who eat only frosted Pop-Tarts, living out a Nineties grunge fantasy. The beard mangy and random with riptides and lots of wiry rogue strands.
The word wayward comes to mind.
But I'm a musician, so doesn't this fact make my current state okay?
What are you reading today?
Quinoa is a satisfying and healthy alternative when you're craving a big bowl of pasta. Try this Quinoa Salad with Feta, Pomegranate and Pistachio from our February Top Pick in cookbooks, The Tucci Table, for a quick and filling meal or side dish that won't cost you extra time at the gym.
Quinoa Salad with Feta, Pomegranate and Pistachio
Felicity introduced me to this healthy alternative to pasta and bread—the staples of the Tucci family diet. Quinoa is a fantastic base to which so many other flavors can be added, like dates, avocado or grilled halloumi cheese. Nutty, delicious and good for you, this quinoa salad blends the sharpness of the feta, the sweetness of the pomegranate and the crunch of the nuts. It can be served as a side or a main.
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side
1. Soak the quinoa in cold water to remove its bitterness. Each brand is different, so check the instructions on the package. Then rinse it thoroughly.
2. Bring 3 to 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The quinoa is done when the germ separates from the seed. It should have a little bite to it, too. Strain if necessary. Dress with the olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool.
3. Gently mix the pomegranate seeds, pistachios or pine nuts and scallions into the quinoa. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Place the mixture in a serving dish and place the feta cheese on top. Scatter the last 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds over the top, gently break up the feta, and serve.
This is delicious served with some sliced blood oranges dressed with extra virgin olive oil.
In need of a hearty, healthy meal you can whip up in just a few minutes after work? Molly Gilbert has you covered with this recipe for 'Quick Chicken & Baby Broccoli with Spicy Peanut Sauce' from her new cookbook, Sheet Pan Suppers.
Quick Chicken & Baby Broccoli with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Peanut sauce is like the chocolate sauce of dinnertime. I’m pretty sure I’d eat my shoe if it were covered in enough of it. This satay-inspired dish pairs my beloved peanut sauce with thinly sliced chicken and baby broccoli charred under the broiler. The whole dish cooks in only about 10 minutes but results in juicy chicken, tender broccolini and thick, bubbly sauce. It’s addicting. Keep it away from your shoes.
I’ve seen packaged thin-cut chicken breasts or cutlets at some grocery stores, but you can easily make your own by slicing a regular chicken breast in half horizontally to create two thin-cut pieces.
1. Preheat the oven to broil, with a rack 4 inches from the heat. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or mist it with cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the brown sugar, peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, vinegar, water and lime juice in a medium-size bowl until smooth. Set aside ¼ cup of the peanut sauce for serving.
3. Rub the broccolini and chicken with the remaining peanut sauce to thickly coat, and arrange them in a tight single layer on the prepared pan. Broil, keeping a close eye on the pan to prevent burning, and flipping the chicken halfway through, until the chicken is just cooked through, the broccolini is well charred and the sauce is bubbly and deeply browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Serve the chicken and broccolini hot from the oven with the reserved dipping sauce alongside.
Excerpted from Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert. Copyright © 2014 by Molly Gilbert. Excerpted with permission by Workman Publishing. Read our review of this book.
Following the opening weekend of Fifty Shades of Grey, we're busy thinking about which book to film adaptations we're most excited to see next! Here's a list of the biggest books coming to screens this Spring.
Next up in theaters is a hilarious and all-too-honest adaptation of YA hit The Duff by Kody Keplinger. Coming to screens on February 20, the cast includes Parenthood star Mae Whitman as Bianca Piper, the awkward "designated ugly fat friend" who is often overshadowed by her traditionally beautiful, skinny best friends . . . until she meets Wesley Rush at a party.
Headed to the screen on March 13 is the adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea. Directed by Ron Howard and sporting an all-star cast that inlcudes Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and Ben Wishaw, this terrifying and true account of the sinking of a New England whaling ship in 1820 is sure to be one of the year's biggest films. The attacker, an enraged sperm whale, and the aftermath later served as inspiration for Herman Melville's classic novel, Moby Dick.
The sequel to Veronica Roth's best-selling YA novel Divergent is coming to theaters March 20. Starring Shailene Woodley—whom you may recognize from other hit film adaptations such as The Decendents and The Fault in Our Stars—as Tris Prior, Insurgent is sure to deliver plenty of heart-stopping sci-fi action as her life in a dystopian Chicago is further shaken by an escalating war between her society's factions.
Fans have been waiting a while for Ron Rash's historical Appalachian epic Serena to make its screen debut, but the film finally has a solid release date of March 27. Starring the highly-lauded acting pair of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as George and Serena Pemberton, this film is sure to deliver smoldering romance and a shocking quest for revenge.
What could be better suited for a big-screen treatment than an edge-of-your-seat murder mystery set in Stalin's Russia? Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 hits theaters April 17, with Tom Hardy at the helm as civil servant Leo Demidov who is doggedly investigating a serial killer. The problem is, how is Leo supposed to get to the bottom of an investigation of a crime Stalin refuses to admit even exists in his perfect society?
When was the last time you heard of a more perfect casting than Carrie Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, the brilliant and independent heroine of Thomas Hardy's classic romance, Far From the Madding Crowd? The lush and beautifully directed film will be in theaters May 1. Prepare to have your box of tissues at the ready!
What do you think, readers? Which adaptations are you most excited to see in theaters?
You may know celebrated actor Stanley Tucci from his roles in The Lovely Bones and Road to Perdition, but he is also quite a formidable and knowledgable home cook! Co-authored with his wife Felicity Blunt, his second cookbook, The Tucci Table, is a "comfortable, easy-to-approach" guide to an array of Italian, American and British dishes.
Serves 4 to 6
This is a combination of my mother's eggplant Parmigiana and a French tian. With the addition of the potato, this makes a great vegetarian main course or a single side dish that combines a starch and a vegetable.
1. Preheat the broiler to medium-high.
2. Spread the eggplant, potato (if using), and zucchini slices on individual baking sheets, one for each ingredient, coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt. Then place them under the broiler until they start to color, 3 to 5 minutes. This will evaporate some of their water so that they don’t go soggy in the final dish.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
4. Combine the bread crumbs, half of the chopped herbs, half of the grated cheese and a dash of salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
5. Combine the remaining herb mixture, grated cheese, all of the garlic and a dash of salt and pepper in another bowl.
6. Coat the bottom and sides of a rectangular baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
7. From one short side of the dish, stack the eggplant, zucchini, potato (if using), and tomatoes so that they stand upright on edge against one another. Sprinkle a little of the chopped herb, garlic and cheese mixture in between some of the layers as you work your way across the baking dish.
8. When completed, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the bread-crumb mixture.
9. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Check it just before the end of the baking time. If it looks a little dry, drizzle with a little extra olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature, not hot.