Feeling Bookish

I was sick this past week. Like, missed several days of work sick. No television was watched, no books were read. That kind of sick. Actually, we were all sick: me, Rich and even our little cat, who had to spend some time at the vet.  It was only this past weekend that I decided I was up to leaving the couch and head outside for a little walk. My destination was the library, which is less than 10 minutes on foot from the house. I’d already put my name in online for a couple of books, but it will be months before any of them are in my hands. And anyways, there’s something downright magical about a trip to the library. Can you imagine, a whole building full of books and movies and music, all free? Splendid, I tell you.

And there it was, right in the new releases, Andrea Reusing’s brand new Cooking in the Moment. I had read about her miraculous anchovy mayonnaise here, and her wondrous asparagus with soy and butter here. Somehow I figured this book would be on reserve for months before I could get a hold of it. But like I said, the library is magical.

I picked up a few other cookbooks – is there anything one can do with CSA garlic scapes besides make it into pesto? – and checked out the book sale in the back room. I also found success there, in the form of a cookbook devoted entirely to onions and a book of porky goodness for Rich.  And off I went, with my bag full of books.

I’ve done the walk home from the library dozens of times since I’ve lived in our neighborhood, and I’ve have developed the safest route home where I can have my head buried in a book while walking on the sidewalk. I made it through the introduction and was deep into the spring section by the time I’d made it back to my couch where my cat and I spent the rest of the afternoon, intermittently reading (me) and napping (both of us). I imagined what pickled sour cherries would taste like in July, was curious about the spinach with melted leeks and cardamom in late September, and wondered if I could wait until winter to enjoy roasted Japanese turnips with honey.

This is Reusing’s first book, and she writes the same way she cooks at her Chapel Hill restaurant Lantern: using local and seasonal fruits and vegetables. She wrote the book over the course of a year, sitting down when she could, perhaps on a Saturday afternoon in late August, after enjoying an eggplant salad with walnuts and garlic. She literally cooks and writes “in the moment.” North Carolina is of course a bit more temperate than Boston, but certain fruits and veggies have their season, so I dove right into June, excited to see what tricks she had up her sleeve.

I see these two weeks I have the book out of the library as free-trial period. No money down, and I can return it, no questions asked. That being said, if all the recipes are like this one here that I saw and knew I needed to make, well, Reusing has just sold a copy of her book.

I had been bookmarking rhubarb recipes for nearly a month: muffins, compotes, cakes, clafoutis and jams, but none of them felt like a June recipe to me. But when I saw this sorbet recipe, that teams rhubarb with a ginger syrup, I knew I had found what I was looking for. I used about half the amount of rhubarb that Reusing calls for, but left the amount of ginger syrup the same. The result was wonderful: soft, sweet, fragrant and surprisingly creamy for a sorbet. It also yielded about 1 1/2 cups, which is what the original recipe says it will make. I used this for my sieve.

I’ve since announced to Rich that we will now have ginger syrup on-hand at all times in the house. As Reusing points out, there is a touch more syrup made than what is needed for the recipe, and suggests to make a spring cocktail combining it with muddled fresh strawberries, lime juice and vodka, served over ice. Don’t mind if I do!

Rhubarb-Ginger Sorbet from “Cooking in the Moment” by Andrea Reusing

Makes 1 1/2 cups

3 pounds fresh rhubarb, thinly sliced (about 2 quarts)

1 1/2 cups Ginger Syrup (recipe follows)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice, or more to taste

In a nonreactive saucepan, bring the rhubarb, ginger syrup, and salt to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the rhubarb turns a deep, dusky rose color and is the texture of very soft applesauce. (It took me closer to 25 minutes to reach that stage, but perhaps you’ll have better luck than me.) Push through a medium (not fine) sieve or colander with a spatula while still warm. It should yield 4 cups. Cool before adding the lemon juice and freezing an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. (We actually put the bowl in an ice bath to speed up the cooldown before mixing.)

Ginger Syrup

Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups sliced, unpeeled fresh ginger

Bring 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Stir in the sugar and ginger and bring to a very low simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Cool the ginger in the liquid and then strain.