The TBR List: Fall Cooking

The weather turned in a blink. Our building switched from air conditioning to heating, there are signs in the elevators asking residents to sign up as trick or treat stops and socks have worked their way back into my wardrobe.

This is the time that I looked forward to all summer — a time when bumping around my little kitchen with a blaring stove or humming oven would provide finally welcome heat. But between my vacation last week and a professionally challenging-yet-rewarding few days since my return, my microwave has been my most-loved appliance of late. The closest I've gotten to cooking is throwing together the pantry meal above, which combines cooked egg noodles, sliced onions, frozen peas and kale, Parmigiano Reggiano, and these genius frozen basil cubes. Also #butterlapse.

I hope to properly get back into the kitchen next week, but in the meantime I'm dreaming of apple desserts, risottos, pot pies, slow-simmered sauces, baked potatoes and more. What do you think I should make when I get back in the kitchen?


- Kids tasting fancy food.

- Literary Starbucks is literally perfect.

- I like to think of The TBR List as a mini articles club.

- Blanket season is here. I'm eyeing this cable knit beauty.

- Speaking of cozy (weren't we?) this chair is a reader's dream.

Paperbacks and hardcover still outsell ebooks. Which do you buy?

Ina Garten's Instagram has exactly the pictures I would expect it to have.

- While I was vacationing, the New York Times apparently decided brunch is for jerks. (I disagree.)

- Pasta and eggs is one of my favorite solo meals. Stephanie's version is more labor-intensive but I'm sure it's worth it.

At The Table With...Mira Jacob, Author of "The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing"

An interview with author Mira Jacob |

Today we're hanging out with Mira Jacob, the author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing. When Nazihah reviewed this book a few weeks ago, she paired it with Indian-style mac and cheese to reflect the book's cultural fusions. It's not just Mira's characters who blend cultures; she herself has taught in New York, New Mexico and Barcelona. At home in Brooklyn, she co-founded the Pete's Reading Series, a ten-year-old bimonthly series that's featured the likes of Nell Freudenberger and Colum McCann. Plus, Mira used to write for VH-1's Pop-Up Video. What?! So much fun. 

Read on to get to know Mira!

What is your all-time favorite book, and why?

No such thing, my favorite depends on my mood. Lately, I've been really feeling Jeffrey Eugenidies' The Virgin Suicides.

What meal do you love to cook, and why?

Dinner. Because I will get to see everyone's faces as they eat it. 

What is your favorite food scene from a book, and why?

Like many Indian children, I had stacks of Enid Blyton books pressed upon me at a young age. "The picnics!" My mother would say, if my attention flagged. "You must read about the picnics!" And weirdly, she was right. The picnics were filled with an array of things no Indian, much less Indian-by-way-of-New-Mexico would eat, and they sounded so exotic. Honeycomb! Tongue sandwiches! Other things I am forgetting because I've never once eaten them in my life!  

Coffee or tea?

I started drinking coffee about a year ago and I'm like a weird teenage boy who has just started drinking alcohol. I don't know my limits, I do it just because I can, I regularly suffer the consequences.  

What is the last book you abandoned, and why?

I've read the starts of at least 30 books in the last year and could not finish because I was too self-involved. (My own book, which I had worked on for 10 years, came out and I was too nervous to read other good books, as sad as that is to admit.) Have luckily managed to pull my head out of my ass and am currently enjoying Ted Thompson's The Land of Steady Habits.  

Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?

Sherman Alexie, green chile cheeseburgers 

Where do you go to find new recipes? 

My mother.

Where do you go to find new reads?

Book Court in Brooklyn. Or the subway. I love seeing what other people are reading on the subway. 

Tell us about your writing — the inspiration for it, why you write, and your favorite aspects.

I write fiction because I love the feeling of being inside an invented world, of being both part of what I see and outside it. It's the best parts of a waking dream.

What are your favorite blogs, and why?

I love Now This News showing up in my Instagram because I will often miss good stories and they don't.  
Maris Kriezman's Slaughterhouse 90210 combines highbrow and lowbrow in the best way humanly possible. I remember the first post I saw and I thought, "Okay, that's it, we're done now. Pinnacle reached." 
Though now defunct, ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS used to function as my daily horoscope. 
When I feel funny about my profession, I like reading posts from Dani ShapiroAlexander CheeRoxane Gay and Ted Thompson because they are all very good at being honest and thoughtful and professional, which is a damn tricky balance. 

Connect with Mira: Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Website

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    "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt & Il Palio Cocktails

    The Secret History is a murder novel that brings its characters to life. Escape as they do with Il Palio cocktails.

    I’m a sucker for the author who, in a few masterful strokes, can bring to life every character in a novel. No minor players are left to languish in stereotypes and the protagonists are lush with personality, so much so that it’s almost Dostoyevsky-esque the way Donna Tartt convinces you to sympathize with murdering Bunny Corcoran.

    A gift from a friend, The Secret History did what any great thriller does: kept me glued until the last page. It’s unconventional in its telling, as we know from the very beginning who did it and how. What drives the reader’s curiosity is the search for answers to more complicated questions like "Why?" and "What Now?"

    More than a mere mystery, though, Tartt’s novel is a gorgeous exploration of the emotional ride of being a college freshman: that longing to escape where you came from and that desperation to belong to some more divine social group.

    Richard Papen is our narrator and escort through the story. His desire to belong and his navigation of the costs that come with it is a poignant commentary on the ecstasies and agonies of friendship. As a girl who went to four elementary schools in three countries, I was especially struck by Richard’s journey through all the risks of investing yourself in others. Luckily, I never fell in with a group so obsessed with intellectual mysticism that it led to a disastrous trip to Italy and finally murder.

    Recently escaped from his bland, lower-class life in Plano, California, Richard sinks gratefully into an elite liberal arts college in Vermont and is quickly enthralled by the small group of Greek students. Studying under an eccentric professor who insists all their classes be with him, the group is elevated and isolated from the rest of the college. Richard joins their ranks, capturing for me the ecstasy of being included, the unfamiliar obligations that come with that, and the squirming suspicion that you may not be completely included after all. Richard is never quite in the thick of things, even when he is. It’s never his tragedy nor his love story nor his revenge. Eventually, after the book’s violent climax, Richard balefully describes himself as “the bystander which I so essentially am.”

    The only off-key note for me was the novel’s ending. Rather than a neat finish, the story just seems to wander off. Nevertheless, the gripping narrative and the painful reflection of my own aching to fit in made this one juicy read.

    "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt & Il Palio Cocktails |

    I knew I wanted a cocktail recipe to do this novel justice since the protagonists are preoccupied with escaping their own minds, whether through a bacchanalia, drugs or alcohol. And as a trip to Italy is a catalyst for Bunny’s death and the ultimate undoing of his murderer, Henry, I was immediately drawn to the Il Palio. I love how the melting of the blood red Campari ice cubes mimic the suspenseful build of Tartt’s story and its chilling (see what I did there?) revelations.



    For the Campari ice cubes:

    • ¾ oz. Campari
    • 2 oz. water

    For the cocktail:

    • 2 oz. bourbon
    • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
    • Orange bitters
    • Orange twist, for garnish (optional)


    Several hours ahead of time, mix Campari and water and freeze in a square ice mold.

    Once Campari cubes are frozen, place two in a rocks glass. Pour all ingredients over ice cubes and (if you’re fancier than I am) garnish with a wide orange twist.

    Stir the drink to start the ice melting. Sip while plotting something unspeakable.

    Adapted from this recipe by Jeff Faile of the Casa Luca bar in Washington, D.C.

    Get more Laura by following her on Twitter.

    The TBR List: Jet Lag

    Islamabad greenery |

    Happy Friday! I'm heading back to the US tonight after five lovely days in Islamabad, Pakistan. The last time I was here, I was five years old and my most vivid memory of that trip is puking on the way up into the mountains. Charming. This trip has been different — it's my first time coming to Pakistan and not visiting my home city of Karachi, my first time here without my immediate family and my first time seeing a city that gives me hope rather than breaking my heart. This is a clean, lush, growing place. I only hope the rest of the country can catch up. 

    Most of our time here has been spent visiting with family, shopping and, of course, sleeping. Five days is not enough time to get over jet lag, I've learned. 

    I dug a bit more into On the Noodle Road, but the only real entry for this week's TBR List is this excellent analysis from the New Yorker that looks at what Gone Girl is really about. I highly recommend you read it. 

    For the record, I intend to see the movie ASAP.  

    Until next week,

    Get more Amina by following PAPER/PLATES on Twitter and Instagram.