At The Table With...Elizabeth Stark of Brooklyn Supper

(Photo by Andy Ryan)

(Photo by Andy Ryan)

Today we're hanging out with Elizabeth Stark, one half of the wife-and-husband blogging duo behind Brooklyn Supper. The former Brooklynite now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she indulges in seasonal eating, often with produce fresh from her garden. If there's anything that makes me regret my balcony-less urban life, it's reading about a garden like Elizabeth's. Luckily, there's plenty else on Brooklyn Supper to distract me. For example, link roundups! (Loyal P/P readers know how much I love roundups.) Then there are recipes like mixed berry coconut cream parfaits and mango freakin' guacamole. With recipes like that, it's no wonder I come back to Brooklyn Supper again and again. 

Read on to get to know Elizabeth!

What is your all-time favorite book?

It’s impossible for me to pick a single favorite, but Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell [P/P pairing], Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, and anything by Ha Jin would all top my list.

What meal do you love to cook?

I love cooking for friends. Setting aside the time to create a thoughtful menu, shop for ingredients, and then cook something interesting or comforting for the people I care about is one of my very favorite ways to spend time. I get super stressed out and frazzled in the kitchen sometimes, but I secretly love all the chaos just before everyone sits down to a big meal.

What is your favorite food scene from a book?

Though it’s not technically a scene, I love the chapter in An Everlasting Meal entitled “How to Boil Water.” In it, Tamar Adler writes beautifully about one of the most fundamental acts of cooking. I so admire her economical writing style, and am really in awe of her ability to paint something as fundamental as a pot of boiling water in such a new and surprising light.

Coffee or tea?

Definitely coffee, with a splash of cream.

What is the last book you abandoned?

1491 by Charles C. Mann. It’s a fascinating look at the Americas just before the arrival of Columbus, and I’m really hoping to get back to it.
A scene from Elizabeth's welcoming kitchen. (Photo by Elizabeth Stark)

A scene from Elizabeth's welcoming kitchen. (Photo by Elizabeth Stark)

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

Edward Gorey? I’d imagine a huge table and lots of pomp, not to mention wonderfully acerbic wit. I’m pretty sure frog legs, snails, and baked Alaska would be on the menu. I’d also be hoping for a really elaborate layer cake.

Where do you go to find new recipes? 

I’m always inspired by publications like Bon Appétit, as well as smaller mags like Cherry Bombe, Remedy Quarterly, and Diner Journal. I also tend to find inspiration in whole ingredients; I’ll run across a new food at the market and then look for ways to prepare it  often, a quick Google image search is enough to get me excited.

Where do you go to find new reads?

My husband [and blogging partner] Brian is a voracious reader, so most of my book suggestions are filtered through him. And I always have an eye on new cookbooks and food writing, usually discovered through a handful of favorite blogs and browsing at my local bookstore.

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

Brooklyn Supper focuses on local, seasonal ingredients prepared in simple, tasty ways. Though I really love elaborate meals, the blog focuses on more pared down creations with robust, of-the-moment flavors. Through the blog, I hope to motivate home cooks to learn more about their own local food systems and make connections with the small farmers growing food in their region. Though I never expected it, one of my favorite things about blogging is the community I’ve found. It’s so wonderful to have so many like-minded friends around the world — some I’ve met one or two times, and some I’ve never even spoken with, but we’re all friends nonetheless. It makes the world feel like a smaller, better place.

What are your favorite blogs, and why?

This is such a good time for food, imagery, and food writing that it’s really tough to choose. Laura of The First Mess brings an incredible vitality to her words and photos. I also really love  the fresh perspective and southern slant that Elliott and Fred bring to F for Food. Other favorites include The Vanilla Bean Blog [ATTW interview], Lottie + Doof [ATTW interview], Turntable Kitchen, Autumn Makes and Does, Yummy Supper, and My Name is Yeh [ATTW interview].

Connect with Elizabeth: Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

Kellie Strøm's "Worse Things Happen at Sea" & Scallop Vermicelli

Worse Things Happen at Sea explores the peril and adventure of monster-ridden waters. We think it goes great with scallop vermicelli.


My older brother has a weakness for sea monsters. He went through a phase growing up where he was terrified of giant squid, but that passed relatively quickly and now he's into all fantastical ocean-dwellers. When we visited Rome together this year, his favorite part of the Vatican was the map room because there are mermaids hidden in the paintings. Meanwhile, he only got excited about watching Game of Thrones when he learned that dragons played a role. You get the picture.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned about a brand spanking new book from lauded Scandanavian illustrator Kellie Strøm all about the perils of sea travel. The promise of sea monsters was enough for me to pre-order Worse Things Happen at Sea as a birthday present for my bro.

What came in the mail was even more magical than I could have predicted. It's hard to know whether we should call this a book, a work of art, a graphic novel, or even an songbook. The work is a long fold-out panoramic illustration that tells the tale (through illustration only) of a ship full of brave and perhaps fool-hardy soldiers trying to survive a stormy, monster-infested sea.  

Image via Cool Hunting.

Image via Cool Hunting.

The detachable cover of Worse Things Happen at Sea is integral to the story — featuring a song (complete with barebones sheet music!) with lyrics that describe the eventual demise of the doomed sailors (I guess you could call "spoiler alert" on this one, but, c'mon, it's only a few panels long). The attention to detail both in form and actual visuals is astounding — Strøm actually had to use a magnifying glass while he worked to cram his pen-drawings with the all detail he desired.  

Though short and non-traditional, this is storytelling at its best. It is magical, surprising, clever, and absorbing. I recommend it for all story-lovers, not just monster fans! It will be equally beautiful on your mantle or in your bookshelf.

Transient

Naturally, such a work deserves a seafood feast. Inspired by the omnipresent Vietnamese cuisine in my new Seattle home, fresh shellfish, and Strøm's complex and detailed work, I put together a nuanced scallop vermicelli.


SCALLOP VERMICELLI


Ingredients:
- 8 oz. rice vermicelli
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon sliced fresh red chili (or jalapeño)
- 1 lb. bay scallops
- a dash of soy sauce
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 4 sliced green onions
- 3 large leaves of green leaf lettuce
- 1 medium carrot, julienned
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into small pieces

Instructions:
Boil some water and cook your vermicelli for about 4 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Combine your water, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and chili. Set aside in a bowl — you'll use this as your sauce later.

Heat up a skillet, and add the oil, soy sauce, garlic, and onions. Cook for a couple minutes and then throw in your scallops. Cook just until scallops become opaque white.

Put your noodles in a large bowl, pour in the scallop mixture, add the lettuce, carrot, and herbs, and toss it all together. Serve with your sauce on the side — dinner guests can add the right amount for their tastes.

Adapted from Martha Stewart


The TBR List: July 18

As weeks go, this has been a tough one to be human. The news is even more full of horror than usual. From unthinkable violence and aggression abroad to unbelievable shootings in the streets of my own city, this has been a week during which paying attention to the news was as difficult as it was important. Global citizens that we are, it is our responsibility to our species and our world to know and care about as much that goes in it as we can. But since that isn't easy, we must also take comfort in the small pleasures around us.

For me, this week, ice cream has been a savior. The scoops above come from the first batch I ever made myself, a smooth treat dotted with fresh strawberry bits and globs of Nutella. In a cruel world, this is helping me keep sane.

For added distraction, here are some lovely links I found this week:

- I used this recipe to make my strawberry ice cream, and it turned out beautifully in my brand new (red!) Cuisinart machine.

- Author David Mitchell (whose The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet we've featured in a pairing) will release his next short story tweet by tweet.

- If you thought selfies were so 2013, you were wrong. This toaster can burn yours into a slice of break.

- This stainless steel teapot is designed to brew loose leaf, perfectly and in the most beautiful way.

- Over the past 8 years, 27 foods have been called "the new cupcake." Yeah, okay.

- Maybe I should try eating some of these stress-busting foods. Eggs, I'm getting in, but I can certainly up my dark chocolate intake too.

- Book covers before and after the movie adaptation. I'm sure you can guess how the "afters" turned out.

- Amazon is thinking of getting into the subscription ebooks game with a $9.99/month service. Update: The new service, called Kindle Unlimited, was announced today.

- Take a few minutes to appreciate this pop-up book, which uses light and shadow play to create a story.

- This has been controversial: A writer alleges almond milk is a waste because it's more water than nuts. 

- Some of the speakers for this year's Chicago Humanities Festival have been announced. I hope this will be the year I finally go.

- Here's an interesting idea: A grocery store co-op with 1,000 owners, aimed at connecting buyers to local foods.

- And to round out the list, here's Bill Hader, by the book.

At The Table With...Christina Bello of My Homespun Home

Christina Bello of My Homespun Home interview via @paperplatesblog

Today we're exploring with Christina Bello, the 31-year-old Chicago-based blogger behind My Homespun Home. Like me, she uses her blog as an escape from the demands of work and life and relishes the chance to make things with her hands. Interspersed with her thoughtful, seasonal food posts are occasional (and achievable) craft projects or tips for around the home. Reading My Homespun Home is like settling in with an old friend — it's comforting and inviting. I especially love Christina's photography, which lets the food shine in all its natural glory.

Read on to get to know Christina!

What is your all-time favorite book?

Ha, favorite in what regard? I can't pick just one, so here are my top 4:
Nancy Drew — I got my mom's old books when I was a kid, it was the first series I was addicted to.
Fahrenheit 451 — I ordered it from the Scholastic book form in 6th grade, it was the first book that made me think about how important books are and started my love of Bradbury and sci-fi. It's also the source of my one and only tattoo.
East of Eden — I only read it recently, but it's the first book in a long time that made me cry.
The Man with the Golden Arm — I wrote my Masters thesis on it, it's set in Chicago, and it was the first National Book Award winner but so few people have read it!

What meal do you love to cook?

The meal I've cooked most frequently is Sunday breakfast. Big Sunday breakfasts have been a family thing, especially with my dad, since before I can remember. Pancakes or eggs (over easy, egg-in-a-hole, or soft boiled) and toast, bacon, hashbrowns, fruit, and tea. My dad sometimes still calls me from Rochester, NY (my hometown) to read a good comic from the Sunday paper. Sunday breakfast is cooked and eaten leisurely and I like that.

What is your favorite food scene from a book?

I think the scenes in The Man with the Golden Arm set in the Tug & Maul bar on Division Street in Chicago. It's such a central location in the book, literally and figuratively. Plus Rumdum the beer-drinking dog is a great character.

Coffee or tea?

Tea, please! My Sunday morning pot of tea is one of my favorite food rituals, I even wrote a post about it. I do like a good foofy coffee drink on occasion though.

What is the last book you abandoned?

City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. I loved Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I went to Italy recently and was excited to read about Venice, but it just didn't grab me.
Christina Bello's gorgeous outdoor space.

Christina Bello's gorgeous outdoor space.

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

Ray Bradbury and a glass of dandelion wine (I've always been curious what it tastes like!) or Nelson Algren and a beer.

Where do you go to find new recipes?

I want to say the stack of cookbooks on my bookshelf, but honestly, usually other blogs and websites. Or Google if I'm looking for something specific, I love researching different variations of a recipe.

Where do you go to find new reads?

The book club I'm part of is great for this, but my mom also gives great suggestions. The bi-annual Evanston Public Library sale is my go-to for stocking up on new reads without spending a lot of money.

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

I started writing my blog as a creative outlet and a way to share my favorite recipes with my family in Cleveland and New York (they are my most frequent commenters, which I think is adorable). Over the past two years, my favorite aspects have been the people I've met (I'm pretty introverted, so it's great to have a built in common interest to spark a conversation) and the new skills I've learned — canning, grilling, and photography especially, but it's generally given me incentive to be more adventurous in my cooking. I love sharing what I've learned, which will hopefully inspire someone else.

What are your favorite blogs, and why?

Like a million others, Smitten Kitchen because her recipes are so reliable (and she posts stuff like brownie ice cream sandwiches right when I'm trying to think of a good dessert for a party). America's Test Kitchen Feed is a good supplement to their general recipe site. Food in Jars got me started learning how to can and preserve, and Northwest Edible Life makes me jealous of her amazing garden. I also love the blogs of the people I've met through the Chicago Food Swap and Chicago Food Bloggers — it's great putting faces to blog names. 

Connect with Christina: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter