Root Down

10 Nov

When I’m stressed out, I buy books.

And so, on the day before my surgery, I found myself in the cookbook section of the Strand.

I was looking for a copy of Nigel Slater’s Appetite to give as a going away present to an aspiring home cook, but what I was finding was a mountain of books I wanted.  There was I Know How to Cook, Momofuku and Ad Hoc at Home; Jim Lahey‘s new bread book, Judith Jones‘ treatise on the pleasures of cooking for one, the surreal world of Heston Blumenthal and no Nigel.

So, I grabbed a classic Jamie Oliver tome for my co-worker, and, just for good measure, The Veselka Cookbook (complete with a recipe for my beloved Christmas borscht!) and for absolutely no reason (other than I’m a sucker for puffy book covers), Stephane Reynaud’s French Feasts for me.

On Friday, Isaac made us a beautiful pureed cauliflower soup while I lazed on the couch, trying to purge the anesthesia from my body as quickly as possible.  By Saturday morning, I was ready to get up and go again (I think they give you something when you have surgery to make you feel energetic and happy the day after), so we wandered down to the Tucker Square greenmarket.

The plan was to roast the last of the wee tiny beets and bitty little carrots from the garden, but we needed to supplement them with something.  So I grabbed a butternut squash, an acorn squash, a bouquet of sage, rosemary and thyme and a smoked duck breast.

Here’s where I divulge to you an embarrassing secret:

I have barely cracked the cover of French Feasts yet.  I think I’ve made it about 60 pages in. I’ve seen the soups and the chapter on interesting bits and not much past that.  The book is so engaging and witty and amusing and beautiful that I can only take it in small doses.  I read three pages and I’m starving.

So, I can’t say that our roasted vege and smoked duck salad was directly inspired by the book (in fact, I think it probably owes more to this post (We even have similar bowls. Target, Carol?) and the roasted vegetable salad at Frankies Sputino which is so delicious I can’t believe I’ve never written about it before), but I think it’s spirit informed our dinner.  I mean, honestly, would any good American girl decide, on her own, to combine herby roasted vegetables, delicate soft lettuces, pan-crisped applewood-smoked duck breast, a drizzle of really good, really old balsamic vinegar, wispy flakes of sea salt and a duck fat-fried egg on her own without being under the direct influence of someone French?

And so, if you find yourself already caught up in the winter vegetable doldrums, run out to your nearest bookstore and grab Veselka to help you with your beet blues and French Feasts for everything else.  Because, really, everyone deserves a little duck fat at this time of year.


11 Responses to “Root Down”

  1. Lucy November 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    Hey Ann, best wishes for a happy recovery – It was heartening to read that you were feeling well after your surgery.

  2. Nathalie November 11, 2009 at 3:06 am #

    Hi Ann, great to hear you’re out and about already. The Reynaud book is great. I borrowed it from my library a while ago. I was sorry I didn’t find it sooner as it would have been a great, though not disinterested, present to offer my sister when she left home. He has another one on terrines but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it. All the best

  3. Christina November 11, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    Okay, I’m putting this book on my wishlist now.

    Hey lady, I don’t know how you do it, making beautiful food and photographs while you’re recovering, but you manage to do both amazingly well.

    Feel better. Heal quickly.

  4. ann November 13, 2009 at 8:00 am #

    Lucy — Thank you! It’s so wonderful to hear you and your little man are doing well too. We’re lucky people.

    Nath — I’m so intrigued by his Terrines book. But I’m worried it would convince me to eat more terrines, which would be a bad thing for my diet :-)

    Christina — It’s really a lovely book. I don’t know how I do it either, I just felt this very real compulsion to get out and make pretty photos to share with you all. I suppose some would consider it a sickness, I think its lovely :-)

    • Nath November 20, 2009 at 3:47 am #

      Hi Ann, hope you’re well. I thought you might be interested in these two (erm yes, I am a Guardian reader!). The first two are rather inoffensive if you can stick to one slice There’s only two of us so I haven’t got round to making them to be honest. All the best

      • ann November 20, 2009 at 6:42 am #

        Nath — Hi and thanks! Now, I’m curious, I think the Guardian is pretty amazing (or at least what I see of it from the web). Is there a certain “type” of person in the UK that’s stereotyped as reading the Guardian? I’m curious … The recipes are wonderful! I really wish smoked haddock was easier to find in the US, it sounds dreamy!

  5. Christine November 13, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    So, you want to move to Philadelphia, right? and be my neighbor? And maybe I could bring over lemon poundcake with cranberries and you could make this? Yes? Good.

    So glad you’re feeling better.

  6. Cupcake November 17, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    The anxiety of a future surgery is now behind you. What a relief and what a perfect post this is. I too love a good bookstore and hope that hard bounds never die. It’s funny — I too feel the same about things that affect me — I can only take it in small doses even though it gives me great pleasure, such as the French Feasts cookbook does for you.

  7. ann November 18, 2009 at 7:11 am #

    Christine — Ha! I’ve lived in Philly before, and if you can promise me that if I eat a Reading Terminal pretzel everyday and not die of butter-overload, I’ll totally move back and be your neighbor :-)

    Cupcake — Well, hello there! Thanks for all the kind words. I really appreciate them. I’m glad you like the site so much, that makes me happy.

  8. Nath November 21, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    Hi Ann, I have just read your latest post. Beautiful head shot of the filly. You’re right, there is a stereotypical Guardian reader, bookish leftie kind of sums it up to which you can add positive or negative adjectives depending on your point of view! I only mentioned it because Nigel Slater writes for the Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper. On the subject of cookbooks, I saw a very tempting one this afternoon, Marcus Wareing’s latest (he’s meant to be one of the best chefs in England at the moment). Hope you have a great weekend.

  9. ann November 30, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    Nath — Ah, I suspected as much. The Guardian sounds like the Brit equivalent of the New York Times. I think I’d be a Guardian reader :-)

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