Two Ohio authors have new books out that offer food for the body and the soul.
Hudson chef Carla Snyder is celebrating the success of her first solo cookbook, One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two (Chronicle Books, $24.95 softcover), which puts dinner for two on the table with the help of a 12-inch skillet.
Robin Davis, food editor for the Columbus Dispatch, is author of the newly released Recipe for Joy: A Stepmom’s Story of Finding Faith, Following Love and Feeding a Family (Loyola Press, $13.95 softcover). The story started out as a cookbook, but developed into an inspirational memoir of how Davis found love, faith and a new family, set against the backdrop of family meals.
Snyder said she had been looking for a solo project without her long-time writing partner Meredith Deeds, and came up with the idea of cooking for two in one pan.
As an empty-nester, Snyder is back to cooking for just herself and her husband, and said finding a way to get a good meal on the table without the fuss of five different pots and pans is how she is cooking now.
“I’m cooking this really easy way,” she said, adding that it’s a book “for people who love to cook but hate to clean up.”
Snyder, who is a frequent teacher at cooking schools throughout Northeast Ohio, said cooking in a single skillet does make it difficult to cook a lot of pasta dishes, but she has found that it works just fine for fresh pasta, which doesn’t require long boiling time or a deep pot of water.
The recipes are a wide variety of dinners for two, with plenty of fish, chicken, pork, beef, lamb, sandwiches, and even some vegetarian dishes. Snyder said she would like to continue the concept with a second book of all vegetarian recipes. “I love this concept and I love cooking like this,” she said.
There’s more on Snyder’s website, www.ravenouskitchen.com. She’ll be signing copies of the book on May 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at J. McLaughlin, 16 Clinton St., Hudson, and in November, she is expected to teach a class from the book at the Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson; no date has been set yet.
Davis, a Dayton native, left Ohio not long after graduating from the University of Dayton for California, where she attended culinary school, wrote for Bon Appetit magazine and eventually was hired as the restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Throughout her adult life, she vowed she would never move back to Ohio, get married, or join an organized religion. Life, however, has a way of making a liar out of us.
Davis took a sabbatical from her job and returned home after her father died to be closer to family, and met her future husband Ken Heigel, a widower with three children; they married in 2004. Her journey of becoming a stepmother to a son and twin daughters was a daunting one for Davis, but she found her way via the kitchen and cooking for her new family.
Along the way, she also found an unexpected call and eventually converted to the Roman Catholic faith of her husband and children.
Davis said she originally intended to write a cookbook for working moms about getting fresh meals on the table for a family, but she couldn’t find a publisher for the idea. Then she told her agent the story about her first meal with her future husband and his children.
He was grilling hamburgers and his daughter Sarah told him: “Dad, make sure you make it the way I like it.” He cooked all of the burgers the same, but when he put hers on her plate, he told her it had been cooked to her specifications. “This one is yours,” he said, and she gobbled it up.
When Davis’ agent heard the story, she suggested a book of vignettes on family life with recipes to accompany them. What resulted was a full-blown memoir of the last 10 years of Davis’ life. There are still some recipes, which, if taken together, form a complete seven-course meal.
Even though the book is not the cookbook she intended, Davis said she’s very happy with the finished product, which provides a lot of advice for those entering the role of stepmother, after children have lost their mother through death.
“Both of them are hard, I think, whether you are marrying into a family of divorce or death. But marrying into a death is whole difference set of circumstances. My husband never stopped loving his first wife. His children never saw conflict, they saw illness. … Stepping into that was completely different than what people in divorce go through,” she said.
Davis, who already has four other cookbooks to her credit, said she may work on a book of family favorite recipes one day, but also may delve further into faith-based books.
Here’s my warning: Read Davis’ book with a box of tissues. The lack of recipes may leave you with an empty plate, but you’ll finish the book with a full heart.
Here is a sampling from both books:
PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED SALMON
WITH CORN AND
2 salmon filets, 6 oz. each, skin removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thin slices prosciutto
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced, about 1 cup
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into small dice
2 ears corn, shucked and corn cut from the cobs, or 2 cups frozen corn
½ cup frozen lima beans, thawed
Pinch of cayenne pepper or more to taste
⅓ cup heavy cream (or chicken broth if you’re watching calories)
1 tbsp. thinly sliced basil leaves, plus a few leaves for garnish
Pat the salmon dry and lightly sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Not too much salt because the prosciutto will be salty. Wrap the prosciutto around the fish, two slices per filet. Don’t worry if it doesn’t stick very well. It’ll contract and cling to the fish as it cooks. Set it aside.
Heat a 12-inch frying pan with a lid over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it shimmers add the salmon to the pan and brown it, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish over with a thin edged spatula and cook the other side until browned, another minute. Transfer the fish to a plate. It isn’t cooked through at this point.
Add the onion and poblano to the hot pan and sauté the vegetables for about 2 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the corn, lima beans, cayenne, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper and sauté, stirring until the corn is almost tender, about 1 minute. Quickly pour in the cream or broth and stir in the basil.
Top the vegetables with the fish, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook covered for about 3 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flakes with a fork when pierced. Some of the salt from the ham probably crept into the corn but taste and season with more salt, pepper or cayenne if it needs it.
Mound the vegetables onto two heated plates and top it with the fish and a few basil leaves sprinkled over the top.
Makes 2 servings.
— One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two, Carla Snyder.
TOMATO AND ROASTED GARLIC
SOUP WITH CHEESE TOASTS
3 medium heads of garlic
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. crushed dried
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt to taste
3 cans (14¼ oz. each) diced tomatoes with juices
3 cups canned low-salt vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 baguette, cut into ½-inch thick slices
½ cup grated asiago, Parmesan or Romano cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the top ¼-inch off the heads of garlic. Remove some of the outer papery layers. Place garlic heads in a small baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Roast until the garlic cloves are very tender, about 50 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves, which should be quite soft, into a small bowl. Add the oil from the roasting pan. Mash the mixture with a fork.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rosemary, thyme, sugar and salt to taste. Stir 1 minute then add the tomatoes with juices, broth, bay leaf, and garlic paste. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, and cook until onion and tomatoes are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
Puree the soup in a food processor or blender to desired consistency. Adjust seasoning, if needed.
Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Toss baguette slices with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the grated cheese. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake until toasted, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with cheese toasts.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
— Recipe for Joy: A Stepmom’s Story of Finding Faith, Following Love and Feeding a Family, Robin Davis