Friday, April 27, 2007

The Know It All

Thursday Evening, Beth's

Once again we gathered to discuss the latest book, The Know It All. The premise is one man's quest to become the smartest person on earth by reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. It's a clever, cute, funny and sometimes educational work of non-fiction.

The author's tone is conversational and personal as he describes how big of an ass he truly is. He highlights some of the more quirky facts in the EB, and like most people comments on the gossipy funny stuff like who had multiple wives or why there are ridges on the edged of coins. He also goes into wonderful detail about his participation in Mensa activities, his attempts to get on Jeopardy and a fun trip back to the sixth grade where he wasn't all that popular.

Consensus was the book was fun, light and would be a great summer beach read. Nobody said they were going to run out and try to read the EB themselves.

We debated the time line of the book and whether the author wrote as he read and then edited or read the whole EB and then started to write. We ended solidly on the wrote as he read side, and firmly believed that his "road to enlightenment" was a tad contrived. He starts out trying to be smarter than everyone in the world and ends up enlightened because there is still so much to learn. You're humble, we get it.

There were no dissenting opinions or great debates, just rousing chatter about sections that made us laugh. It was a nice palate cleanser after the depressing (but great) dust bowl book.

In perfect thematic pitch, this was the menu from our hostess Beth:

The menu features a red lentil soup with kale (a form of cabbage, green in color, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms.) A green salad with garbanzo beans (variously known as chickpea, chick pea, ceci bean, bengal gram, hummus, chana or channa) and sunflower seeds (used by Native Americans for more than 5,000 years - they were brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors) and bread will round out the meal.

Soup and cookie recipes have been requested.

Our next book is massive, so there's no time to dwaddle.

(I'm told the meeting order is still wrong, but I can not find my notes so it will be updated as soon as someone posts the true order or replies with the error.)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Hearty Peasant Soup

Serves: 4
Preptime: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Definitely not a salad green, broccoli rabe needs cooking to round out its flavors. This rustic soup is an excellent way to do so. But before you add the greens to the pot, clean them thoroughly. After cutting the broccoli rabe as indicated in the recipe below, place it in a large bowl of cold water and then agitate to loosen dirt. Lift broccoli rabe from the bowl (leaving dirt and silt behind) and repeat if necessary.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
course salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for seasoning if desired
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 punch (about 1 pound) broccoli rabe, cut crosswise 1 inch thick and well washed, with water still clinging to it (blanched if desired)
4 thick slices of rustic whole-wheat bread, toasted

1) heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper; cook stirring frequently, until onion is softened - 4 to 5 minutes
2) Add tomato paste and vinegar; cook stirring frequently, until slightly darkened, 2 to 3 minutes
3) Add tomates (with their juice), beans, broccoli rabe, and 4 cuts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broccoli rabe is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
4) to serve, place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each serving bowl; ladle soup over toast.

per serving: 403 calories; 18 g protein; 9 g fat; 65 g carb; 11 g fiber

Recipe found in body+soul
Cooked by Christine

Footnote: in searching for references on broccoli rabe another blogger's entry on this soup was located and it's linked here for your enjoyment. (Also note the odd similarity of his picture of the soup and ours. Thanks man!)