September Bonus Recipe: Tolkien Lembas Bread

“The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

The best part about fantasy and science fiction writing is that the details don’t have to be tethered to reality – and nobody creates a more detailed world than J.R.R. Tolkien. As an avid student of mythology, language structures and etymology, Tolkien was adept at weaving these themes throughout his works, especially in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lembas bread, or waybread, is created by the elves of Middle Earth and used for long journeys because they will stay fresh for months. It is said that one small bite of lembas is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man. The bread is first mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring, which was published in 1954, so enthusiastic fans have had plenty of time to come up with a real-life recipe for this fictional food.

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September: Barley Soup and Brussels Sprouts with Béchamel (Harry Potter Cookbook)

“Harry’s mouth fell open. The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eat at one table.” – J.K. Rowling

It’s 11 AM on the morning of September 1, which means that the Hogwarts Express is leaving Kings Cross station right now, bringing eager young witches and wizards to another year of school. One of the ways J.K. Rowling is able to paint such a rich, detailed picture of this fictitious universe is by using food – Harry, who has never known an abundance of food, suddenly experiences sumptuous feasts, holiday treats and hearty meals. I love this cookbook because it emphasizes how intertwined food and literature are, and the best meals are made with love and shared with others.

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August Bonus Recipe: Tofu Pad Thai

“Thai food ain’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish.” – David Thompson

This pad thai doesn’t come from a proper cookbook, but it comes from my notebook where I keep recipes that I’ve torn out of magazines and newspapers, photocopies, printed out and written notes on, or jotted down on the back of receipts. The notebook has no order or theme, it’s just a jumble of flavors that looked good to me. It’s my favorite cookbook, and after many years, it’s fairly hefty with some favorite dishes. But there are a lot of dishes that I still haven’t tried yet.

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August: Chai-Spiced Yam Bruschetta with Crunchy Kale (Plum)

“A woman who can eat a real bruschetta is a woman you can love and who can love you.” – Nick Harkaway

I first encountered Plum when I was volunteering at KEXP 90.3 FM: before the radio station’s new home was built at Seattle Center, the major giving offices were located upstairs in the Armory, where the food court is. I stopped by Plum Pantry for pre-made salads and sandwiches on my way to my other job, but at the time I didn’t know it was part of a larger group of restaurants owned by Makini Howell. Today, the Plum brand encompasses a vegan bistro, bakery, food truck, pantry, catering and a cookbook. Although the Plum Pantry food is delicious, I’m excited to try something more elaborate.

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July Bonus Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Crêpe Cake

“There’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates.” – Fernando Pessoa

I admit, I love watching cooking videos and gifs. Everything is already prepped and ready to assemble – it looks so easy and elegant! Although I’ve used the videos for inspiration, I’ve never actually followed a recipe through to completion. So when my friend posted this Tastemade video for a chocolate caramel crepe cake, of course I had to make it but I also had to enlist some help. I’ve never made crêpes before, I’ve never made caramel from scratch, and I’ve never made a cake with more than 2 layers – so this covers a lot of new territory for me. What could go wrong?

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July: White Wine Risotto with Mushrooms (New Food Fast)

“Wine is meant to be with food – that’s the point of it.” – Julia Child

I love risotto, but I’ve never needed to make it because my roommate makes several incredible variations. My favorite kind that she makes is a gorgeous pink beet risotto with an expert blend of cheeses mixed in and on top. I know there’s absolutely no way I can top her recipes, so I’ve found my own in a cookbook that’s filled with easy recipes that all take 30 minutes or less to make!

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June Bonus Recipe: Carrot Cake Muffins

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” – Paul Cezanne

Fresh, local ingredients make a world of difference in cooking. I’m fortunate enough to live in a place where I have access to farm delivery subscriptions, grocery stores that emphasize family-owned and sustainable operations, and local farmers markets – including the Pike Place Market, which has been operating continuously for 111 years! Diane LaVonne, founder and chef of Diane’s Market Kitchen in Seattle, uses these same ideas to craft meals that are deceptively simple but incredibly delicious.

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