A Mouthful of Stars — Off the Shelf

by in Books, August 29th, 2014

A Mouthful of Stars CookbookPack your bags and grab a fork, because this week you’re heading on a trip around the world with Kim Sunée’s new book, A Mouthful of Stars. Part travel diary and part cookbook, A Mouthful of Stars covers a vast and intriguing amount of ground in its pages. It also offers up an impressive and delectable selection of food from Sunée’s favorite destinations.

The chapters are broken down into location themes, but you won’t simply find the usual suspect destinations in A Mouthful of Stars. Instead, Sunée takes you on what really feels like a personal guided tour of her favorite international (and a few domestic) food spots. Chapter one takes you to Seoul; chapter two whisks you off to North Africa, India and Mexico.

A Mouthful of Stars also features recipes from Provence, Paris, Norway, Sweden, Italy and the Southern United States (including New Orleans). The result is a wonderfully eclectic collection of dishes that is both balanced and fun. Craving Korean? Travel to Seoul with the Pork Belly Korean-Style BBQ or make Basic Fresh Kimchi at home. Fancy something French? Perhaps the Cheese and Thyme Pots de Creme from Paris or the Savory Tomato and Pesto Bread Pudding from Provence (recipe below for you to try at home) will satisfy your craving. There are Roast Pork Tacos from Mexico and a Curry Leaf Cocktail inspired by India, and Pan-Seared Salmon with Pistachio-Herb Gremolata from Scandinavia. For your sweet tooth, a Triple Layer Chocolate Coconut Cake from the chapter on dishes from the American South. With this book, the possibilities for fun international dishes are almost endless. Flip through the pages and discover a dish for every mood, every craving, every inclination of wanderlust you might have.

Sunée’s voice is refreshing and bright, and her stories leap to life right off the page. It’s not hard to indulge yourself in a vicarious culinary vacation through her words. Make no mistake, though, the food is what really puts this book a cut above the rest. You can order a copy of your own here.

Savory Tomato and Pesto Bread Pudding

I started making this peasant dish, known as a panade, to use up the leftover crusty bits of pain de campagne and pesto from a summery vegetable soupe au pistou. Sometimes I add a layer of thinly sliced eggplant or zucchini. The inside is soft and rich with garlic while the cheesy crunchy bits of bread on top are the prize and quite addictive. Serve with a green salad dressed simply with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a fruity extra-virgin olive oil.

In Provence, a pistou is made with just basil, olive oil and garlic. This pesto has nuts and a bit of heat from a jalapeno, and by itself is excellent tossed with hot pasta, adding a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if the sauce is too thick. Or chill the pasta and eat as a salad, or serve the pesto with grilled vegetables, fish, chicken or meat. This is also good made with a combination of equal amounts of lacinato kale and arugula.

Savory Tomato and Pesto Bread PuddingSpicy Walnut Arugula Pesto
Makes 1 1/2 cups

2 cups packed arugula
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves or flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup whole walnuts or raw almonds
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium fresh jalapeno, stemmed (and seeded, if desired)
1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bread Pudding

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence or thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1-pound) round loaf day-old hearty bread such as pain de campagne, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 pounds large ripe tomatoes, such as beefsteak, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 cups shredded Comté or Gruyère
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

To make the pesto, combine the arugula, basil, mint, walnuts, garlic, jalapeno, cheese, lemon juice and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until well blended. Taste and add more olive oil, lemon juice, or salt, as needed. Set aside until ready to use.

To make the bread pudding, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and simmer over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and herbes de Provence, and season with salt and pepper; stir and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom of a 10-inch round or 9-by-13-inch baking dish that’s at least 2 1/2 inches deep.

Line the baking dish with half of the bread slices, overlapping the slices slightly and cutting to fit as needed. Top with half of the tomato slices and lightly season with salt and pepper. Spread half of the prepared pesto over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with half of the shredded cheese, pressing down on the layers. Add the remaining layer of tomatoes, pesto and shredded cheese. Pour the reserved onion and broth over the cheese. Cut the remaining bread slices into quarters and place over the onion. Gently press down on the bread with the back of a spatula or large spoon so that the liquid is evenly distributed. Top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover with lightly greased aluminum foil and bake in the upper third of the oven for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes more, or until the top is browned and crisp and the insides are bubbling. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

From A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes from My World Travels by Kim Sunée, Andrews McMeel Publishing 2014

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