Monday, September 12, 2005

Souvenir Significant Cookbooks - Chapter 2

Writing about "significant" cookbooks (my last post) was easy. They’re the ones that practically fall off the bookshelves and march right into the kitchen all by themselves – or at least over to the couch for inspiration just before holidays or just after that trip to the market (when I can’t resist produce not on my list because they are just too beautiful to leave behind).

While I was looking for the “significant” ones, which to me, mean most used or useful, I noticed many I never or hardly ever use. They seem to fall into two categories:
1. Souvenirs from favorite romantic weekends with my honey; and

2. “Why did I buy this?” Usually because I didn’t follow the golden rule. You know the one that says “you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry”. Well the same applies to going browsing in the cookbook section of a bookstore.

So I thought I’d share a few of my souvenir books over the next few days.

The Inn on the Twenty is a wonderful, romantic, quaint, charming, magical (you can fill in a million similar adjectives, they all would fit) inn and restaurant in Niagara Wine Country. Anna and Michael Olson are the heart of the restaurant. Their dishes highlight local seasonal fare brilliantly. We stayed there over an Autumn weekend last year to escape the frenetic pace of “Business Toronto” - to watch the leaves change colors as we meandered along the Twenty Mile Creek, to browse in the local craft stores on Main Street, Jordan (right next to the Inn on the Twenty restaurant), relax by the fireplace in our room which is furnished with antiques, and (saving the best for last) eat the best brunch you can ever imagine. Don't get me wrong - dinner is just as delicious.

Before you even taste anything, there is a visual delight both indoors and out. Pots of fresh herbs abound, on counters and tables, seemingly at random, hugging baskets of freshly baked breads, rolls, muffins and platters of cheeses. The fragrance is intoxicating. The panoramic view of the Niagara Escarpment with its brilliant foliage takes your breath away. And the food…..words escape me.

Naturally I had to buy the book Inn on the Twenty Cookbook, before we left. Unfortunately, like holes dug in the sand too close to the shore, crazy "normal" life came on strong once we got home and the book sat unnoticed on the shelf. In flipping through it for this exercise, I earmarked at least 10 dishes I must try soon: mushroom “cappuccino” bisque, roast parsnip soup, (it needs to be a little colder than the 33 degrees C/90 degrees F it is today), cider vinegar grilled chicken, rack of lamb in mustard crust to name a few. Stain factor 0 (about to change)

Here’s one recipe I did try:

Lime Roasted Sweet Potatoes (the margin now says “heavenly”)
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Roasting time: 25-35 minutes

Serves 6


3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
Juice of 3-4 limes (depending on size)
Salt & pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C.

2. Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. Using a slotted spoon, place the sweet potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides). Sprinkle with a little of the marinade and roast for 25-35 minutes. Toss occasionally and add a little more “juice” as needed until the sweet potatoes are tender.

4. Garnish with a little thyme and freshly ground pepper.

It’s finger- licking good. I served it with pan grilled tilapia - a recipe I got from a local restaurant we go to (not frequently enough, though) called The Boulevard Café, serving Peruvian dishes. It’s been around for at least 25 years and never loses its appeal. The place is always packed. They were the first to have a patio in that neighborhood that has heating lamps so the season is extended well into the Fall. My honey is not really a fish fan but he loves the tilapia served here. I love everything but usually end up with a grilled lamb dish. But I digress…since he loved to eat tilapia there, I called for the recipe and they were so amenable. Not only did they give it to me, they remembered the request the next time we went and asked how it turned out. So I thought I’d share my version of that as well. Too bad THEY don’t have a cookbook!!! I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Pan Grilled Tilapia

Prep time: 5 minutes
Grill time: 5-10 minutes (depending on size of the fillets)
Serves 2


2 large tilapia fillets
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp dried oregano (my addition)
1 clove garlic, crushed
Cayenne pepper (to taste)
Cilantro, chopped for garnish

1. Lightly oil a grill pan (regular fry pan works too)

2. Heat the pan and add rinsed and dried fillets, sprinkle with lime juice, garlic, oregano and cayenne. Cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes or until the flesh turns white around the edges and looks golden underneath

3. Turn the fish, sprinkle more oregano and cayenne. Just remember, it packs quite a punch, so……Cook for another 3 minutes or until the fish flakes but does not dry out.

4. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

We usually eat it with rice and salad, but tonight we just scarfed it down with the sweet potatoes. The heat of the fish and the sweetness of the potatoes made a perfect marriage.

Stay tuned for the next edition of the “souvenir” books.


Ed said...

Excellent. I've been slack and worse, I left out two key books from my posts so far - a vintage Elizabeth David Italian Food and the definitive Thai cookery book from an Aussie chef. Maybe they both deserve their own entries. I think its great to see how people really use their books.

Joe said...

I see what you mean! We had very similar dinners. I love sweet potatoes so I will have to try these too!

Joycelyn said...

hi ruth, i laughed out loud when i read this post...i can totally identify...when i flip through books i haven't touched in ages, looking at them with fresh eyes, i invariably earmark recipes that i kick myself for not having "discovered" sooner! lovely post, as always...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! So nice to find "new" discoveries amongst "old" treasures :)

Those sweet potatoes sound delicious!

Ruth Daniels said...

Ed Charles, I too, love reading about how others use their books. It's the voyeur in me.

J, I also find reading other people's posts a trigger to check out old books on my shelf.

Joe & Joey, the sweet potatoes have become a new staple - everyone keeps asking for them.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Ruth Daniels said...

Skat, don't you just love it when someone mentions something so simple yet so "outside our own way" of doing things.

Shauna said...

I adore lime. So the sound of lime-roasted potatoes sounds fantastic now, now that the weather is turning and it's definitely fall.

By the way, as always, I love your generous spirit in sharing these insights with us.