'Tis the season to be fancypants. Our Top Pick in Cookbooks for December, Sweet by Valerie Gordon, is the ideal guide to the most gorgeous and delicious sweet treats of the season. Writes Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt, "Sophisticated, grown-up winners, all; you can’t go wrong."
Gelée sounds so much more sophisticated and elegant than the word “gelatin.” We all grew up with the packaged variety in those electric colors with flavors like orange and lime. Dispel that notion of gelatin; this version is far more delicious and impressive. Use your favorite Champagne or sparkling wine.
2. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup water and the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.
3. Add the gelatin to the sugar syrup, stirring until it has dissolved. Pour into a large pitcher. Pour the Champagne into the pitcher and stir with a long spoon.
4. Pour the gelée into glasses or small glass bowls and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, until set.
The gelée can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
Adding strawberries, sliced if large, and raspberries, is a delicious way to vary this recipe. Add the berries to the glasses before refrigerating the gelée. If you add berries, it is best to serve the gelées the day they are made, as the berries can darken and break down, and the effect will not be as pretty.
Pamela Clare's Striking Distance is our Top Pick in Romance for November! The story involves a broadcast journalist, Laura, recovering in Denver after enduring 18 months as a terrorist hostage while on assignment in the Middle East, and Javier, one of the Navy Seals from the very team that rescued her. Our Romance columnist calls it "a steamy story filled with action, intriguing twists and an unexpected emotional wallop."
We caught up with Pamela Clare in a 7 questions interview and asked her what she loves about writing romance:
I really love the happy endings I get to create for my characters—something I wasn’t able to do as an investigative journalist. I can start with problems that exist in the real world, truly terrible situations, and I can make them better by the end, ensuring that the hero and heroine get their reward and giving the villain what he or she deserves.
The season of gift books is upon us, and if you've got a foodie on your list, Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt recommends Daniel Boulud's Daniel: My French Cuisine above all other cookbooks this year. Now to find someone with enough culinary talents to take on recipes like this one . . .
Barley-Mustard Crust (makes extra)
For the Barley-Mustard Crust
Best suited to armchair savoring, Daniel Boulud's Daniel: My French Cuisine is a gorgeous cookbook, our Top Pick in Cookbooks for November and one of the best gourmet gifts of the season. With recipes from Boulud’s famed New York restaurant, Daniel will inspire the most intrepid of cooks.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting
With delicious recipes like this one, London restaurateurs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's cookbook Ottolenghi is likely to stir up a "rapturous feeding frenzy" similar to the one inspired by their award-winning, trend-setting cookbook Jerusalem. Ottolenghi is our Top Pick in Cookbooks for October!
To prepare the cauliflower, trim off any leaves and use a small knife ?to divide the cauliflower into little florets. Add them to a large pan ?of boiling salted water and simmer for 15 minutes, until very soft. Drain into a colander.
While the cauliflower is cooking, put the flour, chopped parsley, garlic, shallots, eggs, spices, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk together well to make a batter. When the mixture is smooth and homogenous, add the warm cauliflower. Mix to break down the cauliflower into ?the batter.
Pour the sunflower oil into a wide pan to a depth of 2?3 inch / 1.5 cm and place over high heat. When it is very hot, carefully spoon in generous portions of the cauliflower mixture, 3 tablespoons per fritter. Take care with the hot oil! Space the fritters apart with a fish slicer, making sure they are not overcrowded. Fry in small batches, controlling the oil temperature so the fritters cook but don’t burn. ?They should take 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Remove from the pan and drain well on a few layers of paper towels. Serve with the sauce on the side.
Jhumpa Lahiri is back with her second novel, The Lowland. Her debut, The Namesake, earned her plenty of critical praise, and expectations for The Lowland have been quite high. Lahiri has more than met those with this "intricately plotted, melancholy family drama" that has since been shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
The novel follows two brothers, Subhash and Udayan Mitra, as they grow to lead two very different lives and encounter conflict that drives a wedge between them. A story spanning decades and two continents, The Lowland explores the power of family and memory with Lahiri's "elegant, gently understated prose."
Watch the trailer below and learn more about this Top Pick for October!
Have you checked out The Lowland yet?
Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, brings us a new comic book-inspired adventure with Flora & Ulysses.
Flora Belle Buckman is a very observant 10-year-old who is also a bit of a cynic, but her life is drastically changed when her neighbor accidentally sucks up a squirrel in her fancy new vacuum. After Flora gives the poor squirrel CPR, he somehow wakes up with superpowers—he’s strong, he can fly and he can even write poetry. Flora names him Ulysses, and they form a fast friendship while getting into all sorts of silly hijinks.
Flora & Ulysses is a heartfelt story for young readers that finds a perfect balance between fun and sophistication. K.G. Campbell’s black and white pencil illustrations are just a fantastic accompaniment, and the comic-book style action sequences couldn’t be a better fit. This story is sure to melt the heart of anyone's inner cynic.
Watch the fun trailer below:
Holy Bagumba, readers! Are you reading this highly anticipated Children's Top Pick yet? (If not, you can enter this week's book giveaway to win a copy!)
Ottolenghi is our Top Pick in Cookbooks for October! Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt promises that these sunny, bold Middle Eastern recipes, packed with Mediterranean and Californian influences, "will make even the most jaded cook jump for culinary joy."
serves 6 to 8
Preheat the oven to 325°F / 170°C. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.
Put the oil and superfine sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a whisk if you don’t have a mixer). Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Beat the oil, sugar, and vanilla together, then gradually add the eggs. The mix should be smooth and thick at this stage. Mix in the diced apples, raisins, and lemon zest, then lightly fold in the sifted dry ingredients.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl, either by hand or with a mixer, until they have a soft meringue consistency. Fold them into the batter in 2 additions, trying to maintain as much air as possible.
Pour the batter into the lined pan, level it with an icing spatula, and place in the oven. Bake for 1½ hours, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.
Once the cake is completely cold, you can assemble it. Remove from the pan and use a large serrated knife to cut it in half horizontally. ?You should end up with 2 similar disks. If the cake is very domed, ?you might need to shave a bit off the top half to level it.
To make the icing, beat together the butter, muscovado sugar, and maple syrup until light and airy. You can do this by hand, or, preferably, in a mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the cream cheese and beat until the icing is totally smooth.
Using the icing spatula, spread a layer of icing 3/8 inch / 1 cm thick ?over the bottom half of the cake. Carefully place the top half on it. Spoon the rest of the icing on top and use the icing spatula to create a wavelike or any other pattern. Dust it with confectioners’ sugar, if you like.
Raghavan Iyer's new cookbook, Indian Cooking Unfolded, is our Top Pick in Cookbooks! Each of these 100 recipes uses 10 ingredients or fewer, all of which you can find at your everyday market. There's no better way to learn to cook Indian food at home!
Makes 12 cakes; serves 6
2. hile the potatoes are cooking, place the onion, cilantro, mint, and chiles in the bowl of a food processor. Using the pulsing action, mince the blend to create an earthy, pungent mix that has a strong minty aroma. Letting the processor run constantly instead of using quick pulses will break down the onion into a watery mess that will create excess liquid.
3. Once the potatoes are fall-apart ten- der, drain them in a colander and place them in a medium-size bowl. Mash them well. Wet the bread slices with warm tap water, then squeeze them tight to remove all excess water. Add the mass to the pota- toes. Scrape the minced onion–mint medley over this mélange and sprinkle the salt and turmeric on top. Using your hand, squeeze the mixture to break apart the damp bread into smaller pieces, making sure you incor- porate all of it into the potatoes to make a bumpy-feeling dough. It will be sun-yellow and speckled with green herbs.
4. Coat the dough with the 2 tablespoons of oil. Form the dough into a thick log. Cut it in half lengthwise and cut each half into 6 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball about the size of a golf ball and press it gently between your palms to flatten it into a patty that is about 3 inches in diameter and 1?2 inch thick.
5. Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels. Pour oil to a depth of 1?8 to 1?4 inch into a large skillet (preferably nonstick or cast iron). Heat the oil over medium heat until it appears to shimmer. Place 6 of the patties in the skillet and panfry until the bottoms are golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. (You are cooking only 6 because you don’t want to overcrowd the skillet and get greasy results.) Turn the patties over and cook them until the second side is nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the patties to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining 6 patties.
6. Serve the potato cakes warm.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Doubleday • $26.95 • ISBN 9780385536776
On sale August 13, 2013
Hanya Yanagihara's The People in the Trees is one of our August issue's best debut novels of the year, perfect for fans of Donna Tartt, Ann Patchett and Barbara Kingsolver. Our reviewer was practically beside herself with praise, saying, "Novels like these are reminders not only of why we read, but also of just how vital and downright magical storytelling can be."
But if I'm totally honest, I picked this one up because I wanted to read about people eating magical turtles.
And there are definitely people eating turtles here, but fortunately for me, all the other stuff is true, too. Norton Perina, a scientist who has recently fallen from grace, recounts in these fictional memoirs an extraordinary journey into a remote Micronesian island where the meat of a turtle called the opa'ivu'eke may hold the key to eternal youth—but it comes with a terrible price.
The vivid and grotesque descriptions of setting, the engrossing science and the incredible imagination of this story are all enough to earn this book a spot among the best debuts of the year. What makes it one of the best books of the year, period, is its maturity in characterization. To take a man who has lost everything, who has been cast out from society and who may incite disgust in the reader, and allow him to represent himself in his own words defines Yanagihara as a uniquely talented storyteller. It takes compassion to be without judgment.
Check out our Q&A with Yanagihara and read her guest post about the true story behind her debut novel. Then enjoy this excerpt from The People in the Trees:
Looking back on it now, of course, I realize how extraordinary those first few days were, before I became immune to the awes of the jungle and even grew to despise them. One day—it must have been our third or fourth—I was trudging uphill as usual, looking around me, listening to the conversations of birds and animals and insects, feeling the floor beneath me gently buckling and heaving with unseen layers of worms and beetles as I placed my feet upon them; it could feel like treading on the wet innards of a large dozing beast. And then there was for a moment Uva at my side—he normally walked far ahead of me, in a pack with Fa'a and Tu, darting forward and back to assure Tallent that all was safe—holding his hand out before him, signaling me to stop. Then, quickly and gracefully, he sprang toward a nearby tree, indistinguishable from all others, thick and dark and branchless, and scrabbled up it quickly, turning his wide feet inward to cup its thorny bark. When he was about ten feet or so up, he looked down at me and held out his hand again, palm down—wait. I nodded. And then he continued to climb, vanishing into the canopy of the forest.
When he came down, he was slower, and clutching something in his hand. He leapt down the last five feet or so and came over to me, uncurling his fingers. In his palm was something trembling and silky and the bright, delicious pale gold of apples; in the gloom of the jungle it looked like light itself. Uva nudged the thing with a finger and it turned over, and I could see it was a monkey of some sort, though no monkey I had ever seen before; it was only a few inches larger than one of the mice I had once been tasked with killing, and its face was a wrinkled black heart, its features pinched together but its eyes large and as blankly blue as a blind kitten's. It had tiny, perfectly formed hands, one of which was gripping its tail, which it had wrapped around itself and which was flamboyantly furred, its hair hanging like a fringe.
"Vuaka," said Uva, pointing at the creature.
"Vuaka," I repeated, and reached out to touch it. Under its fur I could feel its heart beating, so fast it was almost a purr.
"Vuaka," said Uva again, and then made as if to eat it, solemnly patting his stomach.
The People in the Trees is one of my favorite debuts of the year, but First Fiction Month has highlighted plenty of other great debuts!