Browsing Tag

sci-fi

book review, recipe

Dark Matter + Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo

Usually when I finish a novel that I really enjoyed and think Scott would like it, I recommend he read it too. He tends to be more of a non-fiction reader, so I choose pretty carefully. Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is one of those rare novels that Scott read first and then recommended to me.

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I love science fiction that grabs you from the start and has you rooting for something bigger (and usually stranger) than you ever imagined. This novel certainly fits the bill, and it’s one that everyone can relate to because, at its heart, it’s all about going home. After Jason Dessen is abducted, he finds himself in a situation he never would’ve imagined – one that calls into question all of the choices he has ever made.  

Since it’s a book that’s all about the plot, it’s hard to say too much without giving it away, so I won’t. It starts out simple but quickly gets complicated, pulling Jason into a twisty universe that will have you anxious to get to the end. If you loved The Martian (and I absolutely did!), you’ll love this.

Throughout Dark Matter, Jason is a bit untethered, guided only by his desperation to reunite with his family. His wife, Daniela, makes him a traditional Spanish dish once or twice a year that serves as a reminder of everything he’s missing. I didn’t have much to go on outside of “a bean stew made with an assortment of native legumes and meats. Chorizo, pancetta, black sausage.” So, I did some googling and found this recipe for a Hearty Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo.

With some minor tweaks (but still no black/blood sausage, thank you very much), Scott and I were ready to enjoy some of Daniela’s stew. First, I heated some olive oil in a medium pot and add the chopped pancetta, cooking until just crisp. Then I added the onion and minced garlic, cooking for a few more minutes until lightly browned.

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I stirred in the spices before adding the browned andouille chunks, white beans with their liquid and chicken broth. The whole stew got a few generous stirs and then I let it come up to a simmer.

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Once it simmered for about 25 minutes, I added the browned (slightly crispy) chorizo and cooked the stew for another 5 minutes or so. I didn’t need any additional salt and pepper, but check here and season as needed. I served it as The Dessens prefer it, with grated cheddar, chopped cilantro and a generous dollop of sour cream. A nice glass of Spanish red wine completed the meal.

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Hearty Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo

  • Servings: 6-8
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Adapted From: Whole Foods

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika, preferably Spanish
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1½ andouille sausage links, cut into chunks and then browned
  • 3 16-oz cans white beans, with their liquid
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4-5 oz. ground chorizo, cooked through until browned
  • Grated sharp cheddar, sour cream, cilantro (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oil and pancetta in a medium pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is just crisp. Add garlic and onions and cook until lightly browned.
  2. Stir in paprika, thyme, salt and pepper, then add andouille, beans/liquid and chicken broth. Simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Add chorizo and cook for 5 minutes more.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve with desired toppings. Grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro recommended.

book review, recipe

Sleeping Giants + Mini Cinnamon Rolls

Sleeping Giants was the first book I received as part of Book of the Month. I joined the club towards the end of June, primarily because I like books but also because I love getting mail and they were doing a summer promotion, which meant discounted books plus sunglasses plus a must-have tote bag. (Score!)

Anyway, I picked Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, which was selected as an option for July by Liberty Hardy of Book Riot. It was supposed to be The Martian (which I loved) meets World War Z, and Liberty’s description touted “action, science, adventure, romance, and intrigue,” so naturally I was excited to receive my copy.

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It was as page-turning as promised. Jumping from interview to interview, Neuvel weaves together a story of very dedicated (if not flawed) characters as they uncover and retrieve giant robot body parts across the globe. Together, the top secret team must decipher an unknown language and superior technology to determine how it works.

With every breakthrough, a new obstacle arises and questions remain. What is the robot’s purpose? Who left it here (and when)? Why are we finding it now? What should be done with it?

Neuvel’s interview style leaves very little room for much description beyond the immediate action of the story, and so food is barely mentioned in Sleeping Giants. In one instance, however, it makes an appearance; surprisingly, cinnamon rolls show up in a pivotal scene, with the potential to change one of the character’s outcomes.

While BOTM opted for cocktails when looking for a perfect food pairing – and to be fair, alcohol plays a more prominent role throughout the story – I went with the cinnamon rolls. Le Creme de la Crumb’s Mini Cinnamon Rolls may not seem like an obvious choice, but I disagree. Eating mini versions of regular food always has a way of making me feel just the littlest bit like a giant. (And now you can too!)

The best part about this recipe is that it’s easy and quick, especially for cinnamon rolls. (Most take at least twice as long in my experience.)

To get started, I let the yeast do it’s thing while I assembled the rest of my ingredients. After it was bubbling (a little over 5 minutes), I began incorporating the flour and salt, wishing I had a standing mixer but thankful at least for my new (and improved) hand mixer. Those dough hooks worked their magic and I ended up with a lovely little ball of dough.

dough

It hung out for about 10 more minutes, while I greased my muffin pans and whisked up the cinnamon mixture. Once I rolled it out, there was more than enough dough, which I dutifully cut into a 9 x 15 rectangle and covered in butter and cinnamon-sugar goodness.

topping

Then came some rolling and cutting (and a little re-rolling) until I formed these 24 little beauties.

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They baked. I whipped up the frosting. When the oven timer went off, I pulled a few out of the pans right away and drizzled on the frosting. I was hungry, and these looked delicious!

rolls

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: Yields 24
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From: Creme de la Crumb [Annotations from me]

Dough Ingredients

  • 1⅓ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, completely softened
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Frosting Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • milk

Directions


1. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease a muffin pan. Add water, yeast, and honey to the bowl of a stand mixer fitting with a dough hook and stir to combine. Allow to rest for 5 minutes (mixture will rise and foam).
2. Add flour and salt to bowl. Turn the mixer on low and allow to mix until ingredients come together, then increase mixing speed to medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and allow to rise for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
3. While dough is rising, prepare the filling by whisking together sugars in a bowl.
4. Use a floured rolling pin to roll dough into a 9×15 inch rectangle. Use a pizza cutter to trim off the sides if it isn’t perfectly rectangular. Spread softened butter over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over the butter.
5. Tightly roll one 15-inch side (the long side) of the dough toward the other 15-inch side to create a long log. Pinch the seam so it closes off the log. Use a very sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut the ends off and then to cut the log into 24 equal parts. Place each cinnamon roll in the greased muffin tins. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
6. While cinnamon rolls are baking, prepare the frosting. Cream together butter and cream cheese. Mix in the vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time [I ended up using 6 tablespoons] until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. When cinnamon rolls are finished baking, drizzle or spread frosting over rolls and serve.

[This recipe made a considerable amount of frosting – at least double the amount you need to cover the cinnamon rolls. I would recommend cutting this portion of the recipe in half, or planning something else delicious to use it for!]


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Sleeping Giants is the first novel in a series called Themis Files, and even though Neuvel does a good job of wrapping it up so you don’t have to read further if you don’t want to, his unexpected prologue left me wanting more. (The follow-up won’t release until 2017.)

book review, recipe

Bridge Daughter + Zucchini Pancakes

Bridge Daughter came to my attention when a friend, who happens to know author Jim Nelson, recommended it. Based on the concept alone, I knew I had to read it. Once I got started, I finished it in less than a day.

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A short dystopian novel, Bridge Daughter describes a world very similar to our own, with one exception – when a woman gives birth, she always gives birth to a bridge daughter. Fourteen years later, the bridge daughter gives birth to her actual child.

Hanna is one of the lucky ones. Raised by caring parents and taught to read, she grows up hoping to attend college and start a career. These dreams seem possible, until she learns that she, too, is a bridge daughter. Hanna must decide if she wants to accept her fate or become the woman she always dreamed she’d be.

A strong character, I found myself sympathizing with Hanna and rooting for her until the very end. The morning her mother forces her to make pancakes for breakfast, it becomes clear things are shifting for Hanna. Later on, pancakes are on the table again as her life takes another unexpected turn.

I’m sure Hanna made traditional breakfast pancakes, but since I decided to make them for dinner, I opted for a more savory recipe – adapted from Wonderland Kitchen’s Pancakes with a Heart of Gold. An apt name, I think, as Hanna counts on the goodness of many along the way.

I began by finding my sifter so that I could get my dry ingredients together and shredding my small zucchini, so it would be ready to go.

After combining all of the ingredients to make the pancake batter, I heated my griddle and put the first one on. Here it is with some cheddar, pre-flip.

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I always find pancake-making a little precarious – a flip too early can create a mess, just as a misplaced turnover can end up folding the little guy in half…or off the griddle onto the stovetop. Fortunately, no pancakes were harmed in the making of this post, so I call that a success.

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Zucchini Pancakes with a Heart of Cheddar

  • Servings: 2 (Yields 8 pancakes)
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Adapted from: Wonderland Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini (about 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded)
  • 2 scallion, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 8 thin slices of cheddar (I used sharp white cheddar)

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Shred zucchini and blot well with paper towels to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
  3. Beat egg into the buttermilk and add this mixture, the oil, zucchini, scallions, and lemon zest to the dry ingredients. Whisk together until just incorporated. Allow to rest while bringing your skillet or griddle up to medium heat.
  4. When hot, grease lightly with a little butter. Drop batter by the roughly 1/3 cup onto griddle.
  5. When dry around the edges and ready to flip, place a slice of the cheese on top of the uncooked side and turn in over in the pan. Continue in this manner until all pancakes are made. I got eight 6-inch cakes.
  6. Serve hot topped with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey.