Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thoughts for Food

Cover of "The Key to Chinese Cooking"
Cover of The Key to Chinese Cooking
The characters in my science fiction novels share my love of a good meal, so no surprise that they drink kaff, consume sweet rolls, cheese, and fruit, and eat grain and vegetable stews. Me, I'm not picky. I just plain love to eat.


All of which, since my mind is kind of like an attic with heaps of ideas piled in every corner, reminds me of my father's method for picking restaurants.

I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. At one point, in my late teens, I traveled with my parents to London and Paris. This was in the 1960's, when finding imported items back in the states was rare, and long before the bottled water craze. Back when coffee at home was pretty much always brown and watery-weak.

Somehow we managed to enjoy delicious meals in London, which at the time had a reputation -- perhaps undeserved -- for dull food. My father had a number of friends and acquaintances there, so perhaps he gathered some underground intelligence. But at least one of the ways he picked restaurants was quite simple: was the place half-empty, or was there a line of patrons waiting to get in.

We waited for tables, but we always ate great food.


I discovered radicchio, a lettuce-like red cabbage relative, some time after moving to the Boston area in 1978. I had acquired the truly excellent, The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, and was eager to try her recipe for stir-fried red cabbage.

Red cabbage heads are large, and, loathe to waste so much cabbage on a meal meant to serve two, I hadn't yet attempted the recipe when I discovered what I firmly believed to be a small head of red cabbage. Delighted, I brought it home and started stir-frying.

The directions read, "..when the cabbage turns from purple to deep red ..." Mine wasn't turning deep red -- more like a darkish burgundy. Mentally shrugging my shoulders, I ignored the color difference and finished making the dish. Very tasty.

I did eventually discover my mistake, and decided to search for a recipe for radicchio. I searched through the Chinese cookbook (no luck) and went on to Marcella Hazan's  Classic Italian Cooking,where she recommended pretending the vegetable was an endive.

If Marcella could pretend that radicchio was endive, I could pretend it was red cabbage. And I highly recommend both cookbooks.  My aliens are vegetarians, so they'd doubtless enjoy the stir-fried radicchio as much as I do.

What are your favorite recipes? Favorite cookbooks? Leave a comment  and share your thoughts.

A free copy of one of my Aleyne novels will go to some lucky commenter. Come back tomorrow to see who's won.

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margaret mendel said...

I love red cabbage with vinegar and sliced apples. Yes, a head of red cabbage (small one are hard to find) will go a long way!!! And I associate this recipe with the fall season.

Margaret Fieland said...

Lisa, your recipe sounds yummy.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thanks so much for your red cabbage recipe ideas. My husband, the gardener, raised red along with the regular green heads of cabbage successfully this year. Needless to say we had a lot of red cabbage and I ran out of ideas. Vegetarian aliens...makes sense to me.

Unknown said...

Fun post, Margaret! My husband is an advertising photographer, specializing in food, so we get to eat a lot of unusual things left over from photo shoots. My new favorite find is "skinny roll" sushi - more veggies, less rice. Yum!

Margaret Fieland said...

JQ, the stir-fried red cabbage recipe is terrific -- as is the whole of Irene Kuo's cookbook.

Margaret Fieland said...

Heather, I love sushi -- your "skinny rolls" sound great {yum}.

Helena Fairfax said...

Great post, Margaret! I'm glad you found the food good in London in the 60s. British food got a bad reputation after the war and in the fifties, when there was still rationing, but now eating out is totally different - especially in London, where you can find restaurants from every part of the world.
Loved the red cabbage recipe - thanks!

Leona~Author said...

Nice post, Margaret. I love cabbage stirfry, but I've only had red cabbage in slaw.

I'd love to try it though.

No wonder aliens always look so thin.