I make extensive use of my library system. Mostly, this is because if I bought every book I wanted to read, my house would be overflowing with books and I’d be broke!

This week’s library food-related selections are:

  • Farm To Fork, Emeril Lagasse
  • Why Italians Love to Talk About Food, Elena Kostioukovitch
  • The Art of Eating In, Cathy Erway, of Not Eating Out in New York

This wasn’t initially supposed to be a book review post, but what the heck. Quickie reviews.

Farm To Fork: Hey, y’know, I know people who despise Emeril. Not me. I love the way he cooks. His dishes pack a wallop of flavor, and there are a bunch of recipes in this book that I can’t wait to try out. In fact, I couldn’t wait on one of them long enough to write this review. You can see my kicked-up version of his kicked-up scones at the bottom of this post. This is really a book of recipes, though it does include some discussion on local-and-organic issues. The seafood recipes in it look delicious, but they feel tailored for an East Coast / Gulf Coast fish market, instead of a West Coast one. Lots of shrimp and shellfish recipes, and a couple for finfish that aren’t regularly available here. Which, ya know, doesn’t mean you can’t substitute. The pictures are pretty and the food, by and large, is actually pretty simple to prepare. He also includes a small section in the back on canning and preserving, which is nifty. Other recipes I want to try: Buttermilk Candy (have I mentioned I love buttermilk?); Tomato Tartare and Microgreens with Shallot Vinaigrette; Braised Apples, Roasted Acorn Squash, and Fresh Thyme; Roasted Garlic Soup; and several of his sauces.

Why Italians Love To Talk About Food: Written by a Russian in Italian, then translated into English, not only does this book cover the specialties of each region in Italy, it relates Italian cultural nuances about foods. For example, do not diss the tortellini in Emilia-Romagna. It’ll get you in trouble, especially if you’re running for office. (There’s a story there, but it’s a long one. You should go read the book. (; ) It also talks about Italian food-related phrases, like “Parla come mangi!” (speak like you eat) and “buono come il pane” (it’s as good as bread), which share similarities to English phrases like “cool as a cucumber” or “it’s a piece of cake”. After each section, there’s a wrapup that discusses typical dishes, products, and beverages of the region. Pretty cool. This is not a cookbook. This is a book about how food is an integral part of the culture in Italy. It’s really neat.

The Art of Eating In: This is a slice-of-life book about what Cathy was doing while she was doing her two-year no-eating-out challenge. It also contains recipes — a few at the end of each chapter — but to be honest, I didn’t find them as compelling as her narrative, which kept me page-turning far into the night. I hadn’t actually read her blog before finding the book, so it was an interesting overview of what had gone on with her life during the process. It’s amazing how one seemingly-small project can have a profound influence on one’s life, and her book definitely demonstrates that.

Now, on the subject of those scones. I had buttermilk in the fridge and an intense desire to bake last night, so while Uncle Pasto was writing up his Dai Smoked Chicken post, I decided to bake something. I’d initially been thinking muffins, but wasn’t finding something that fit the bill for what I wanted to make, so I decided to experiment with Emeril’s rosemary scones instead. I wanted something a bit fruitier, though, and had no oranges, and also didn’t have enough butter. (Well, I did, actually, but it was in the freezer, and my microwave does not properly defrost things.)

Well. One of the things I’ve learned is that if you’re up for a little smokiness in your baked goods, bacon drippings substitute just fine for butter. This recipe in particular looked like it’d be good with a bit more savory flavor, since it was already packed with rosemary and black pepper. I decided to upgun it by replacing 1/2 of a stick of butter with 1/4 c. bacon drippings. I also added minced dried pears that I’d picked up when we went to Bates Nut Farm this past weekend for our annual pumpkin-picking. No oranges? No problem. I had lemons, and I thought that making it a touch tarter would probably point up the savory taste as well.

Truth be told, if I’d had any actual bacon in the house, aside from just the drippings, I’d have been inclined to add that to the recipe as well. Notes on that are detailed below.

By the way, I recommend that if you need to chop up dried fruit, it’s usually much easier to do it with scissors than with a knife. Ditto things with a similar stiff-jelly texture, like candied ginger.

Rosemary-Buttermilk Scones with Pear and Pig

Adapted from Farm To Fork, by Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt (optional if you are using bacon drippings)
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced (about four or five smallish sprigs)
  • zest of 1 lemon, minced
  • 4-6 dried pear halves, snipped with scissors into small pieces
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (or 1 1/2 sticks if you are not using bacon drippings)
  • 1/4 c. cold bacon drippings
  • 1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. cold buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set it aside while you make the dough.

Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt if using, black pepper, rosemary, and pear bits, stirring to combine. Cut the butter and bacon drippings into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in 1 c. of the buttermilk with a fork until just moistened.

Gather the dough into a rough ball, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly, about six to ten strokes. Split the dough into two balls, and pat each into a circle. Slice each circle into 6 scones and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush each scone with some of the remaining buttermilk and bake for 12-15 minutes, until puffy and golden.

For a more savory variation, add 3-4 strips of cooked-crisp crumbled bacon to the dough when you add the pears.

Rosemary Buttermilk Scones