I have already established that I am a bit of a cookbook addict. I own far too many of them, but it doesn’t mean I want to stop getting them by any means because I love discovering new dishes and ways of preparing food. It also means I’ve seen my fair share of “meh” books that I don’t feel I need to share with you all. (this doesn’t mean if you have a cookbook that came out recently and I didn’t review it that it was “meh”, it probably means I just haven’t had time to give it my full attention yet) What I LOVE about getting cookbooks though is every so often you get a gem that strikes some sort of chord in you and speaks to you in a whole new way. Whether it’s from the amazing, you want to jump right in and eat the pages photography, or the recipe titles that sound like they are straight out of a torrid romance novel (for food), cookbooks can make you dream of meals that will tantalize your taste buds and bring you together with family and friends.
I also know a good cookbook when I open it up and instead of just flipping through the pictures, I want to sit down and read it page by page, like a book should be read. When I received And Here We Are At the Table by Ariana Mullins, that is exactly what I did. This book is nothing short of delightful!
Ariana has lived in many places, including the Philippines, Los Angeles, Portland, Germany, and most recently England, but she’s done her fair share of traveling as well. This book is really part travelogue, part cookbook due to all the fascinating little tidbits Ariana has included about her travel, such as stories of what happened to them while they were staying with a family unknown to them in a foreign country to recounting how they went foraging for nettles one late February day. I used to travel a lot before I had kids so it was fun to rehash some memories of my own and to live vicariously through her journey as well.
The recipes in the book also have this same foreign flare which makes them just seem, I don’t know, more fun? I mean, a chicken roasted in Colorado is one thing, but a chicken spatchcocked and then marinated in a spice mix and then roasted is just so… exotic! Maybe it’s just me, but I just feel like Ariana has had so much more life experience in all of these places that she somehow naturally makes simple-to-make dishes look and sound so amazing. Plus I think we Americans like to spice things up and call it “gourmet” but people living around the world just call it “normal” so they seem to understand how to do it so well. Nothing in this book is overly difficult, nor are the ingredients hard to find, but yet it just feels so different. Like you are taking a quick trip to Europe for the evening but yet can sleep in your own bed.
And call me old fashioned, but I typically like a hard copy of a cookbook in my hands. However, this book comes in both hardcopy and a special digital version which includes a bunch of special extras, like 3 video cooking classes and a lot of links to more travel and food stories, which bring the recipes to life. Ariana is just adorable so the cooking classes were tons of fun to watch, and made me really feel like I made a good friend by the end of the book between the videos, the stories, and her recipes, so I’m kind of sold on the digital version of this one. If all digital books were like this I’d own all of those too!(thank goodness they aren’t!!)
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Ariana has granted me permission to share her Chelo Kebabs recipe from the book here, which we absolutely loved, and loved that it took less than 30 minutes to have on the table! This is another example of what I am talking about – simple but exotic.
- 1 medium onion, skinned and cut into quarters
- 1 lb (500 g) Fatty Ground Beef or Lamb
- 1/4 tsp ground Tumeric
- a generous pinch of Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- a few grinds of Fresh Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Dried Mint
- chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley to garnish (optional)
- Chili Flakes and Ground Sumac to garnish (optional)
- Lemon Wedges to garnish (optional)
- Put the onion into the food processor and process until finely chopped. Gather the onions to one side of the work bowl and use a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to press as much liquid out as you can.
- Add the meat, salt, spices, and baking powder, and process for about 30 seconds to one minute. You want the meat to be smooth and well-blended. This might seem weird, but it works!
- Form the meat into kebabs. It will be sticky, and if you want you can dip your fingers into a bowl of cold water between kebabs to make them less sticky. You can either put them on kebab skewers, or just form them into a long sausage shape and place them on a baking sheet. (The authentic way to form them is to make them much thinner and longer than the ones you see here. Ariana does them like this because it's much easier, logistically). If you have more than you need, or are cooking ahead, you can put them on an extra baking sheet to flash freeze.
- Cook them under the broiler under full heat. This will be very quick, about 5 minutes on each side. You'll know they're done when they start to brown a bit and smell ridiculously good. For the ones you have frozen, bake straight from the freezer at 450 F (230 C) for 8-10 minutes on each side.
- Garnish the Chelo Kebabs with fresh herbs and lemon wedges, and serve with cucumber yogurt salad and cauliflower rice (recipes also found in the book).
Keywords: Paleo, Whole30, dinner
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