Summer Reading Picks

Summertime is the right time for picnics and reading in the park. When the temperature starts rising and the fridge fills up with greens, I know it’s time to find a quick read and a shady spot to lounge in. In the spirit of short, seasonal adventures, here are some things I’ve read recently that put a smile on my face (and made me hungry too).


The Mental Health Cookbook

Mental Health Cookbook Cover

This smart and charming little zine from H. Finn Cunningham includes recipes, musings, and instructions for a happier and healthier life. Learn how to make tea, ferment vegetables, nurture a garden, work with edible flowers, and lots more. Here’s a brief excerpt:

This isn’t really a cookbook. But I like to imagine it as one anyways. A little book full of recipes and instructions for you to alter at will. Take what you want. Pick and choose. Start anywhere you’d like. Pass it along. Get the pages dirty. Improvise.

That’s the spirit! I love this little food zine, and it’s only $8.60 with shipping.


Written Together: A Story of Beginnings in the Kitchen and Beyond

Written Together by Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon runs Food Loves Writing, a blog where she celebrates simple ingredients, finding her voice, and cooking at home. Written Together, her mini-food-memoir-slash-love-story, tells the speedy tale of meeting and marrying her husband. The Kindle edition is $4.99 and includes family recipes with each chapter.

On the topic of blogging and writing, she says: “When you open up and someone else gives you their ear, you’re participating in one of the oldest traditions of all time: You’re building friendships. You’re practicing love.” Shanna has a new full-length cookbook coming out soon! Check out her writing series for interviews and more inspiration.


The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink

The Hungry Ear, edited by Kevin Young

Kevin Young edited this delightful anthology of poems about food and drink. With pieces from Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Joy Harjo, Wendell Berry, Sylvia Plath, Jack Gilbert, and others, this collection is worth every penny. (It’s about $18 online, or $25 list.) The poems are arranged into groups by season and threaded together by themes. And since the book is masterfully typeset and designed, The Hungry Ear makes a wonderful gift.

Smoky Poblano and White Corn Soup

Before I learned that I’m allergic to dairy, I fell in love with this incredible smoked goat cheddar. This soup started as an effort to justify that cheese habit with a healthy dose of vegetables, but you honestly don’t need the cheese. The soup is good enough without it.

The base is simple and versatile; I switch up the ingredients and the heat levels to suit my mood and the season. In the summer, it works beautifully with fresh corn and roasted poblanos as it is here. In the winter, it’s brimming with smoky chipotle flavors, black beans, chicken stock, and sweet potatoes or squash. You could try adding carrots, brown rice, or chicken too. It’s a delicious framework to play around with. The smokiness of the peppers with the acidity of the tomatoes is enough to keep me coming back for more.

Smoky Poblano & White Corn Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • vegetable broth – about three cups
  • a yellow or purple onion
  • garlic – 4 cloves
  • fresh white corn – 4 ears
  • chopped tomatoes – 14.5 oz can
  • two poblano peppers
  • juice from a lime
  • fresh cilantro
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • cayenne
  • cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • smoked goat cheddar (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • a crust of day-old bread (optional)

Method

Peel and dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Remove the corn from its ears and put it aside. Warm up a large stock pot over medium heat. Add a good splash of olive oil.

Add the garlic and onion to the pan. Salt and simmer the base over medium heat. Roast the poblanos on a separate burner until they blister, turning as needed. Put the peppers aside to cool. (Some people like to put them in a plastic bag to cool to encourage the skin to peel off.)

Add the broth, tomatoes, cayenne, cumin, and a bit of cilantro to the base. (I don’t measure the spices, but be careful with the cayenne!) While the soup simmers for about 10 minutes, chop the poblano peppers and cut the corn off of the cob. Add them both to the soup. Taste it again and add salt as needed.

Cook on low for at least 10 more minutes. The corn should be tender, but not mushy. Then, blend the soup until it’s mostly smooth. Squeeze the lime juice in, stir the soup, taste it, and salt it again if needed.

Optional: To make the croutons, remove the crusts from the bread, and tear them into bite-sized pieces. Set the oven to broil. In a large bowl, toss the bread with a light coat of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Broil until crispy, turning the pieces occasionally. When they’re crispy on the outside and warm in the middle, remove the croutons from the oven and toss them in the bowl again with the goat cheddar and some pepper.

Pour the soup into a bowl. Add the cheese croutons, a dollop of sour cream, and some cilantro. Serve and enjoy.