Book Review: A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches

Tyler Kord is the chef of the No. 7 Sub restaurants in New York and author of A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches.

The New York Times said I might be “the Willy Wonka of submarine sandwiches,” but I prefer “Sandwich Batman”.

Kord comes off as an irreverent sort of guy, but the sandwiches look delicious. The text in the cookbook includes quips, sarcasm, and notes from the editor left in for humor. The writing is a bit sophomoric, but the real content are the recipes, right? (How much value do you place in non-ingredient bits of a cookbook?)

The sandwiches are definitely more creative than what you can get at Subway, and so are their names (“The Battle on Pork Chop Hill”, “Lazaro’s Revenge”). They’re divided by what the main component is — you are probably thinking this means what meat but one section is dedicated to broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and another to muchim, a Korean brining/seasoning mix.

Included are directions for how to make a great but simple main component (how to make your own chorizo sausage, roast a chicken, and anything else needed) as well as recipes for sauces and sides that you might want with your sandwich — chips, salads, coleslaw, etc.

Overall, I think these sandwiches are very inspiring and require a bit more work than your usual ham and cheese. The book is also pleasantly well-organized, and I appreciated the extra recipes at the end. I would recommend this book to adventurous sandwich-lovers. Below is the recipe I am most looking forward to trying (though there are many close seconds).

This is a Chicken Sandwich
Makes 4 of the best sandwiches you ever had

  • 1/2 cup Special Sauce
  • 4 kaiser rolls, split in half
  • 2 cups shredded Roasted Chicken
  • 4 large slices Fried Eggplant
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 4 thick slices
  • 2 loosely packed cups of arugula

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

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1Q84 – a list of meals

The plain descriptions Murakami uses to show the fairly mundane details about the characters’ lives are very comforting to me. He tells us their routines, the inventory of their closets, the ingredients in their meals. The meals are often described as simple; many strike me as quite lonely. Some meals are both, and very few are neither. At any rate, I have attempted to catalog what I think is a pretty complete list of meals across all three books and rank them in order of simplicity.

“the most famous French restaurant in the city”

“Have you decided?” she asked.
“Pretty much,” Ayumi said.
“So what are you going to order?”
“I’ll have the mussels, the three-onion salad, and the Bordeaux-braised Iwate veal stew. How about you?”
“I’d like the lentil soup, the warm spring green salad, and the parchment-baked monkfish with polenta. Not much of a match for a red wine, but it’s free, so I can’t complain.”
“Mind sharing a little?”
“Not at all,” Aomame saiad. “And if you don’t mind, let’s share the deep-fried shrimp to start.”

the dowager and I differ on what is simple

“A simple meal is all I can offer you, if that’s all right,” the dowager said.

The dinner consisted of boiled white asparagus, salad Nicoise, a crabmeat omelet, and rolls and butter, nothing more.

“Sorry, but these simple things are all I can make,” says Tengo, who uses the word simple lightly

Tengo washed the rice, put it in the cooker, and turned on the switch. He used the time until the rice was ready to make miso soup with wakame seaweed and green onions, grill a sun-dried mackerel, take some tofu out of the refrigerator and flavor it with ginger, grate a chunk of daikon radish, and reheat some leftover boiled vegetables. To go with the rice, he set out some pickled turnip slices and a few pickled plums.

if you think this is a repetitve meal, you should know what I eat for breakfast every day

Breakfast was exactly the same every day – dried horse mackerel and fried eggs, a quartered tomato, seasoned dries seaweed, miso soup with shijimi clams, and rice – but for some reason it tasted wonderful every morning.

Tengo makes “nothing special”

Grilling a dried mackerel and grating a daikon radish. Making a miso soup with littlenecks and green onions to eat with tofu. Dousing cucumber slices and wakame seaweed with vinegar. Ending up with rice and nappa pickles.

I decided to look up wakame at this point

Listening to tracks like “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Lady Jane,” he made rice pilaf using ham and mushrooms and brown rice, and miso soup with tofu and wakame. He boiled cauliflower and favored it with curry sauce he prepared. He made a green bean and onion salad.

this sounds less nice when you know it is hospital food

Tengo had a salad, cooked vegetables, and miso soup with asari clams and scallions, washed down with hot hojicha tea.

Tengo is good with knives

Tengo chopped a lot of ginger to a fine consistency. Then he sliced some celery and mushrooms into nice-sized pieces. The Chinese parsley, too, he chopped up finely. He peeled the shrimp and washed them at the sink. … When the edamame were finished boiling, he drained them in a colander and left them to cool. Next he warmed a large frying pan and dribbled in some sesame oil and spread it over the bottom. He slowly fried the chopped ginger over a low flame.

that’s all

The waiter came for their orders. Fuka-Eri still had her coat on. She ordered a salad and bread. “That’s all,” she said, returning the menu to the waiter.

[Tengo] ordered seafood linguine and decided to join Fuka-Eri in a glass of white wine.

curry and pie

Once the film had been processed and printed, he went to a nearby chain restaurant and looked through them in chronological order while eating a meal of chicken curry. … He called the waitress over and asked her about the day’s dessert. Peach pie, she replied. Ushikawa ordered a piece and a refill of coffee.

Ushikawa buys noodles

Then he went to a soba noodle shop and ordered a bowl of soba noodles with tempura. It had been a while since he had a hot meal. He savored the tempura noodles and drank down the last drop of broth.

beer and barbecue

The three nurses ate and drank a lot, and Tengo couldn’t keep up. As they got livelier, he sat beside them, quietly eating a moderate amount of grilled meat and sipping his draft beer so he didn’t get drunk.

breakfast foods for dinner

He drank some tomato juice from the fridge, boiled water, ground coffee beans and made coffee, toasted a slice of bread. He set the timer and cooked a soft-boiled egg.

Tengo gets more on my level

Tengo was hungry, so he fried some eggs and ate them with the cauliflower. He made some toast and drank two mugs of coffee.

I think the portable stove makes it sadder

He heated a can of chicken soup over a portable stove and carefully sipped it with a spoon. He ate two cold rolls, then polished off an apple, peel and all.

definitely the saddest meal

He opened a tin of corned beef, spread some on a roll, and ate it, standing up in the kitchen. He drank a container of lukewarm canned coffee. Nothing had any taste.

Tamaru’s “simple dishes”

They were simple cucumber and cheese sandwiches on brown bread, but were subtly flavored.

more wakame but a pretty lame dinner 

At five thirty he made a simple dinner. … He made a tomato and wakame salad and ate a slice of toast.

snacks that I too can make

Feeling a little hungry, she took out some Camembert, cut a wedge, and ate it with crackers. When the cheese was half gone, she washed a stalk of celery, spread it with mayonnaise, and munched it whole.

a sad description of breakfast but at least he enjoys his lunch

The next morning, after a breakfast of cheese and crackers washed down by instant coffee. … Before noon he went to the discount store near the station and bought a small electric space heater. He then went to the same noodle place he had been to before, opened his newspaper, and ate an order of hot tempura soba.

like… airplane food?

He brought my meals on a tray and then took them away when I was finished. They used paper plates and flimsy plastic knives, forks, and spoons. The food they brought was ordinary prepared food in silver foil packages – not very good, but not so bad you wouldn’t eat it.

a spartan lunch

Lunch was usually a green salad and fruit.

sometimes sandwiches

Occasionally he would have a light sandwich, but usually he ate nothing.

a hot breakfast

As he ate his hot breakfast and drank tea, Tengo went over the events of the previous night.

a plain breakfast

She made herself a pot of coffee, toasted some bread, and boiled an egg.

a simple breakfast

She got up every day at six thirty and had a simple breakfast.

 

In conclusion, I have learned that all characters (perhaps except Tamaru) have much higher standards for their food than I do.

Book Review: Food with Friends

Food with Friends: the art of simple gatherings is a recipe book by Leela Cyd, who is a self-proclaimed “food, lifestyle and travel photographer and storyteller.” As can be imagined, the photos are beautiful. In the introduction, Leela states that she emphasizes “food that looks and tastes good.” It shows in the photos. I would argue she is bigger on style than substance. (How many flower petals do you really need to eat?)

book

The book has a touch of whimsy throughout from the ingredients to the garnishes to the table settings. The love she has for her life shows through in the writing. The collection of recipes are nicely eclectic (South Indian Kesari Bhath, Socca Cakes, Matcha Egg Cream, Challah Bread) as a result of her travels and include a lot of dishes and ingredients that I’ve never experienced. The dishes are unique, beautifully presented, and will probably delight any dinner guests.

The general flaws of the book are few; it leans heavily to sweets (not such a bad thing) and the chapters are arbitrary, why put Hazelnut Tea Cake with Plums under “potlucks & picnics” instead of “teatime”or “desserts”?

This book is as much about lifestyles as it is about food. I think I would have liked the book much better if I didn’t read any of the non-recipe texts. The very distinctive feeling I get from this book is that it is not actually food for friends so much as for people who are active on social media in whom you delight in evoking jealousy by presenting some over-garnished side dish. You say loudly how simple it was to throw together while everyone else tries to find the best light for their Instagram photos.

Bottom line: If you’re a good friend, I make you bacon and various potato dishes and burritos over-stuffed with good things. If you’re a frenemy, I’ll give you the Warm Olives and Spa Water.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review

Book Review: The Basque Book

The Basque Book: a love letter in recipes from the kitchen of Txikito is a beautiful cookbook and guide to Basque food. When I chose the book, I had no idea what Basque food looked like, and I had a fun time finding out. book

The book is by Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero, the chefs of the restaurant Txikito based in NYC. The love Alexandra, who writes the introduction, and Eder have for really sharing the roots of their food come through in the book. They take time to explain what ‘the basics’ look like in Basque cuisine (how to cook an egg four ways, how to make your own mayonnaise, and many other stock items), how to put together a coherent meal using recipes they provide, and plenty of other information and anecdotes that go beyond the recipe.

The photos are really beautiful, the writing is meaningful, and the recipes range from pretty easy three-ingredient (albeit maybe more exotic ingredients than you can find at your chain grocery store) recipes to half-day endeavors within each division. While I am still not sure I could explain Basque cuisine to a friend, I do think I learned enough to know it doesn’t really suit my tastes (I’m not really into olives or anchovies or seafood in general…) but it was a wonderful journey regardless.

The book is available from the publishers here. Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review

1Q84 – the Willow house

The dowager in Murakami’s 1Q84 is a very poised and elegant lady whose business acumen has served her well. She lives in what I imagine to be a beautiful and tasteful estate called ‘the Willow House,’ though her home is really more of a mansion. I mean, it has an attached glass house just for hosting rare butterflies, a mirrored room for ballet, and a sunroom that doubles as a massage room. Through the protagonist, Aomame, we catch glimpses of other rooms and outdoor spaces in the house. Each setting seems sparsely furnished yet luxurious. After all, in urban Japan, space is a luxury.

I ran across a house on curbed that I think would be a great Willow House (if it were set in Napa Valley). It is a midcentury home built in 1962 by the architect William Thomas Brooks, and is called the Petal House 🙂 There are a lot more pictures on the curbed link and a nice description of the grounds and some architectural highlights on zillow.

willowhouse1.jpg

willowhouse3willowhouse6willowhouse7willowhouse10willowhouse11

 

Book Review: The Water-Saving Garden

cover

The Water-Saving Garden is a great book that is equally inspiring and technically helpful. The author, Pam Penick, is a garden designer and blogger who lives in Texas and so, as you can imagine, has a lot of experience creating gardens in water-scarce climates. As someone who works in the water resource management field, I think it is wonderful to see a book address the importance of smart landscaping and understanding your water source and usage.

The book is best for DIYers, for those who are ready and willing to put thought and effort into their gardens. I would say it is also good for people who are generally interested in creating a smarter garden but have not given it a lot of thought. This book will give you a lot of big-picture ideas as well as concrete examples. It made me eager to plan a garden even though I live in an apartment with zero outdoor space. A great pro of this book is that it really asks you to think of what you have, in terms of rainfall and temperature, native plant life, lot size and slope, and shows you how you can create a manageable and unique garden design that benefits rather than suffers from your natural environment.

It is divided into five somewhat thematic chapters. The first includes many case studies of thoughtful garden designs. The second chapter addresses water in many ways – how to save it, how to irrigate efficiently, how to create landscapes that move rainwater in a beneficial way. It is full of technical details and even explanations of some basic soil and fluid mechanics that reminded me of some of the design projects I did as an undergraduate in environmental engineering! I would say there’s a lot of good information in this book. The other chapters address plants, how to choose, when to plant, etc, and include a particularly whimsical section on how plants can evoke the idea of water.

The only cons I found about this book are that (1) I feel like the book would benefit from some more panoramic photos, aerial views, or even sketches of the garden layout and plans and (2) there are many tidbits of information but they feel spread out and at times unorganized. The book does not do well being read from page 1 to page 230 but probably works better if you pick the headers or chapter titles that you are most interested in at the time.

A final perk for me was that now I notice a lot of the techniques mentioned in the book being implemented all around me in southern California, and I really appreciate the homeowners and landscapers who made the decision to plant a less thirsty garden. 🙂

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review; for those interested, you can buy the book here.

Running in the Family – A Sinhalese meal

We are having a formal dinner. String hoppers, meat curry, egg rulang, papadams, potato curry. Alice’s date chutney, seeni sambol, mallung and brinjals and iced water. All the dishes are on the table and a good part of the meal is spent passing them around to each other. It is my favorite meal – anything that has string hoppers and egg rulang I eat with a lascivious hunger. For dessert there is buffalo curd and jaggery sauce – a sweet honey made from coconut, like maple syrup but with a smokey taste. – Ondaatje

For my last Running in the Family post, I wanted to explore Sinhalese food since I truthfully didn’t recognize half the foods in the above passage.

While hoppers are like thin, crispy pancakes of rice flour and coconut milk made in a bowl-shape (which look really incredibly delicious), string hoppers or idyyappam are steamed and springy in texture. Their name is fairly evident once you’ve compared the two types of hoppers.

 

Egg rulang is a scramble of eggs and sliced onions. Papadums I have actually had before but never learned the name of! They are thin and disc-shaped, typically made from a black gram flour or a variety of other materials like lentil, chickpea, or rice flours. A typical variety I’ve had include ground black pepper and garlic.

Now, I’m not sure what Alice’s date chutney is like, but this chutney recipe is sweet and tangy with ginger and red chili spices.

chutney

Seeni sambol is a sweet caramelized onion relish that, like what I’ve been learning about Sri Lankan food, comes with a punch of spices.

Mallung, also called mallum, is a dry dish of cooked chopped greens and coconut. One version with kale is shown below. Brinjals are what we know as eggplants!

Finally for dessert, a buffalo curd with jaggery sauce is like a yogurt and honey mix.

Here is an excellent introductory article to Sri Lankan food. More egg hoppers! They look so good.