Monthly Archives

November 2016

book review, recipe

The Nix + Norwegian Fish Stew

With my ambitious yearly goal to read between 48 and 52 books (depending on the year), I don’t usually take the time to read books that are longer than 500 pages. Too many times I have found myself slogging through a book I didn’t particularly enjoy just to get through it and move on to the next. I thought The Nix would be one of those books, but I’m glad I was wrong.

The Nix Book Cover

Nathan Hill’s lengthy debut novel – coming in at 628 pages – was suggested as the latest selection for one of my book clubs. We even gave ourselves extra time to read it, meeting again after 2 months instead of the usual 1-ish, which really just gave me more time to stall. Luckily, a well-placed work trip to California gave me ample time to catch up and fully dive in to a book I really enjoyed.

The Nix is all over the place – but in a good way. Hill takes you from 2011 to 1988 to 1968 and back again. You’ll see the world from the eyes of both minor and major characters, and while the reasons aren’t always clear, it definitely comes together at the end.

In 2011, Faye finds herself in a bit of a predicament – one that lands her all over the news and opens up a long-lost connection to her son Samuel, who she abandoned decades earlier. For reasons even he is still trying to figure out, Samuel begins to explore his mother’s past to uncover the truth. On her own journey, Faye sets out to face the haunting folktales of her youth.

What Samuel finds is not only surprising, but life-changing, too. Later, on a trip to her family’s native Norway, Faye also learns about her father’s past, which she confronts over a hot bowl of fish stew and some crusty bread.

I found a recipe on Saveur’s website for Fiskesuppe, or a Norwegian Cod Vegetable Chowder, similar to the one Faye eats during her illuminating trip. It made the perfect meal for a cold fall evening, hearty and delicious. But, full disclosure, my apartment smelled like fish stew for days!

There are a lot of vegetables in this stew, so I suggest you start by prepping them all. I sorted them into two bowls so that they would be easy to add to the pot at the right time.

Heat the butter over medium-high heat until melted. The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons, but I would recommend 4 (or half of a stick). When cooking down the vegetables, the amount of butter was just a bit more than you needed, and trust me, it will make for more appetizing-looking leftovers. Add your first bowl of vegetables (garlic, celery, onions, peppers and leeks) and season with salt and pepper.

After those cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until soft, add your second bowl of vegetables (carrots, parsnips, celery root and potatoes) along with the milk, cream and fish stock – I was only able to find seafood stock at the grocery store – and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. While the stew was cooking here, I prepped my cod, cutting it into bite-size pieces (mine were probably closer to an inch, rather than the recommended 2-inches). I also used this time to chop my fresh herbs.

After 25 minutes, add the cod and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes or until it’s cooked through. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice (I used a half lemon, but check the flavor and add more to taste), dill and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

As in The Nix, I served it with some crusty bread.

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Norwegian Cod and Root Vegetable Chowder (Fiskesuppe)

  • Servings: 6-8
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From: Saveur.com

Ingredients

  • 6 TBS unsalted butter [I recommend 4 TBS]
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped [I minced mine]
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small leek, sliced ¼” thick
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
  • 4 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 cups fish stock
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1½ TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 lb. boneless, skinless cod fillet, cut into 2″ pieces [or bite-size]
  • ⅓ cup dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Juice of ½ – 1 lemon
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, celery, onions, peppers, and leeks, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add carrots, parsnips, celeriac, potatoes, stock, milk, cream, and Worcestershire; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Add cod, and continue to cook, stirring gently, until fish is cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Stir in dill, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Serve with bread.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Hopefuls + All-American Apple Pie

Thankfully, election season is over. I think we can all agree it was a long one – no matter who you backed. The Hopefuls was another book I’ve had on hold for a while (it came out over the summer), and I finally got my turn with it. When I first saw the notification, a political book was the last thing I wanted to read, but somehow, the library knows exactly when to send me what I need.

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Yes, most of the characters are politicians or work with/for them, and yes, it talks about the actual government (circa 2012), but The Hopefuls isn’t exactly a “political book.” At its heart, Jennifer Close’s novel is about relationships and learning to grow together. I actually found it to be a pleasant escape from the current state of politics.

Shortly after Obama’s re-election, Beth, an unemployed magazine writer, joins her husband Matt in Washington D.C., where he is taking on a new government role. At first, she struggles to adjust and hates everything about the capital city. However, when she and Matt become friends with a fellow White House staffer Jimmy and his wife, her whole outlook changes.

Beth becomes fast friends with Southern belle Ash, and the couples become nearly inseparable. As dynamic duo Matt and Jimmy take on new political opportunities, the four of them are led in directions none of them expected.

One of the more memorable scenes in the book takes place at a new cycling studio, the United States of Spinning. It is so decorated in stars and stripes and red, white and blue that Beth finds it dizzying. From the presidential portraits on the walls to the patriotic music selections, you cannot escape the fact that you are smack dab in the middle of the capital of the United States of America.

So, what recipe could possibly be more appropriate to represent The Hopefuls than an all-American apple pie? I’ll tell you what: The Best Apple Pie Ever.    

I didn’t end up making my own crust this time, but you can easily use the recipe from my pumpkin pie (double it to have enough for a lattice top) or take a shortcut and buy some refrigerated crust like I did.

Start with 8 small Granny Smith apples.

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I used a newly purchased (if slightly dysfunctional) apple peeler machine to peel all of them, and it worked mostly well. After they were peeled, I cored and sliced them. Do your best to get them about the same thickness, but I personally like a little variety in texture after they’re baked down.

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While the oven preheats to 425 degrees F, melt a stick of butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. (It doesn’t specify, and I usually use unsalted butter for baking recipes, but I opted to use salted butter here since there was no additional salt in the recipe.) Add the flour to the melted butter and mix well. Mine didn’t form a “paste” but it got quite thick. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil (for one minute) before reducing the heat and simmering for another minute.

It will form a delicious caramel-y syrup. Use about ¾ of this to coat the apples, by gently stirring/tossing them in their large bowl. (The original recipe recommends using ⅔ of the mixture, but I felt like I had a little too much when it came to the top.)

Pour the coated apples into the bottom pie crust, mounding it a little towards the center. Cover with your lattice top (or whichever top you prefer; I happen to prefer lattice, despite my inexperience). Brush the remainder of the caramel-y mixture over the top of the crust.

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Before it goes in the oven, lightly spray some aluminum foil with baking spray so it doesn’t stick to the pie. Place the pie dish on a cookie sheet and bake it for 10-12 minutes at 425 degrees F. Then, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake it for an additional 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the apples are soft. Mine baked longer, about 65 or 70 minutes, so that I could get the right color on the crust and the apples were baked through to my liking.

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Wait as long as you can for it to cool and then cut it up to share. 🙂 This pie would make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving celebration, or whenever you have a hankering for some delicious apple pie.

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The Best Apple Pie Ever

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients

  • 2 refrigerated pie crusts (1 package), or 2 batches of homemade crust
  • 7 to 8 small granny smith apples, peeled, sliced, and cored
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Place the peeled, cored, and sliced apples in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425F.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the 3 tbsp of flour and mix well, forming a paste. Add the water, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla and mix well. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to a simmer for an additional minute.
  4. Remove from heat and reserve about 1/3 cup of filling for pie crust. Add remaining filling to apples. Toss well.
  5. Pour apples into prepared pie crust, mounding slightly. Top with second pie crust (lattice design, etc). Brush the remaining 1/3 cup caramel filling over the crust.
  6. Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil. I lightly spray the foil so it does not stick to the pie. Place the pie on top of a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) and bake at 425F for 10-12 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 50 minutes (remove the foil the last 10 minutes to let the crust brown), or until done. The pie is done when the crust is golden-brown and the apples are soft when pierced with a fork.
  7. Allow the pie to cool before serving. Enjoy!