Book Review: Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals by Dinah Fried

Fictitious Dishes:  An Album of Literatures Most Memorable Meals

I recently picked up Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals by Dinah Fried with the expectation that I’d soon be trying out some new recipes.

I was mistaken.

So my initial reaction to this book was one of disappointment.

But I was still intrigued, as I usually am with anything related to either novels or food {and this had both!} so I sat down and began to read it from the beginning.

I found the author’s description of her process to be quite entertaining, and I think I would have enjoyed hearing more about her story.  After all, she chose some books with which I was completely unfamiliar and some times she chose foods that I wasn’t able to identify or match to the descriptions.  So even though I enjoyed the tidbits of facts on each page, I would have liked a meatier {hehe} explanation.

There were a wide variety of books documented here, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Secret Garden, pictured above, to others like Moby Dick, Lolita, and American Psycho.  I liked finding so many different titles, but there are so many, many more – endless, really – options for inclusion in a book like this, that I kind of found it too short.

I want to make sure that I stress that I really did like this book.  But I also want to stress that it’s a coffee table book, not a cookbook.  Gazing at the creamy chowder and crusty bread in the rustic setting of the author/photographer’s imagining of Moby Dick left me craving a warm soup to combat the dreary, rainy weather I could hear in my memory.

Which also made me realize that the book had accomplished its goals.  The author tells us that she hopes her work will “transport [us] back into fictional worlds,” and for the books we haven’t read, that her photographs are there to “offer a little taste of the stories.”

So not a cookbook.  An art book.  A photography book.  A recipe book, but not recipes of food.  Recipes of the subconscious lingerings that great books leave behind in us.

And once I understood the purpose of the book, I was able to devour it {snicker} with relish {I could do this all day…} and find amusement in the playfulness of the props and the colorful culinary interpretations.

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Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

This is one of my go-to recipes when I want something easy to make that my kids will eat.

I know it may seem strange, but my girls have always eaten this, ever since they started on solid foods, and even though it has spinach in it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always served spinach, but my kids like it.  Of course, they like it best smothered in Alfredo sauce.

So I’m advocating this recipe as not only “easy,” but also “kid-friendly.”

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Anyway, the recipe can be altered to your tastes.  For example, I tend to change up which Alfredo sauce I buy.  Depends on what’s on sale.  :)

And I always make this after I’ve made chicken of some kind.  The chicken seen here is shredded chicken thighs that were “grilled” on the stove top the night before.  You can use white or dark meat, or both. Just make sure it’s seasoned.  Plain chicken is sooooo boring.  To me, at least.  So make your chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, or whatever you normally use.

I like to shred it by pulling it apart with my fingers (which is the fastest method I’ve found) the night that it’s cooked.  That way I can just pull the shredded meat out of the fridge when I’m ready to make this.

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

And when it comes to the spinach, I have no idea how much you would use if you’re using fresh.  I’ve always used frozen for this, because I always have frozen spinach on hand.

Here I used the steam-in-the-bag spinach from Target, because that’s what was the cheapest when I went shopping, but I usually stock up on the boxes (that are the same size:  10 oz.) when they’re on sale.

Either way, make sure you drain the spinach really, really well.  Spinach holds a lot of water and that water will make your dish far too soggy and keep the sauce from sticking to the pasta.

To drain the spinach, I usually press it into a mesh colander with a fork until no more water drips out.

And I suggest mixing in the spinach before stirring in the chicken or noodles, to make sure there are no dense clumps of spinach hiding in your finished meal.

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

And that photo is just a close up to show you what I used this time:  Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo.  But any type of Alfredo will work.  Could even make your own Parmesan white sauce instead.

Also, taste it before serving, because, if you’re like me, you may want to mix in a little extra pepper or garlic powder if your chicken wasn’t seasoned enough.  I like my spices to be noticeable.  :)

Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Ingredients:

3 cups penne pasta
2 cups shredded chicken
10 oz. chopped frozen spinach
2 jars (16 oz. each) Alfredo Sauce (I used Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo)

Cook the pasta and the spinach (separately) according to the directions on the package.

Drain all water from the spinach, through a mesh colander or towel, or your sauce will be too wet.

Pour the sauce into a very large saucepan.  Stir in spinach, combining well.  Then stir in chicken and cooked pasta.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

*****

And here is the FREE printable PDF:  Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Or, you can Pin this photo:

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken Recipe

Enjoy!

And I’m curious:  do your kids like spinach?

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Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

When I was five years old my favorite food was macaroni and cheese.

Nothing’s changed.

Seriously, I could eat this stuff every day.  But it IS nice to change up the elbows and cheddar routine.  And one of my favorite ways to do that is with Gouda.

As you’ll see, I also incorporated sausage into this.  You could do that in a variety of ways, but I chose to fry the sausage and cut it into half-slices.  You could also remove the casing and crumble it into the pan to cook, if you think you’d prefer that.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

I also added half a sweet onion for flavor.  As you can tell from the photos, I removed most of the onion before adding the sausage pieces to the macaroni because they’d become a little too dark for my taste.  I didn’t want the taste of the burnt onion pieces in my final dish, but cooking the sausage with the onions gave it a nice depth of flavor.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

This recipe also calls for a basic roux.  Butter, flour, milk, cheese:  voila.

And pepper.  Gotta have my spice.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Also, I used Corkscrew pasta.  I like to change up the shapes of pasta sometimes, but keep in mind that when using a different shape of pasta than what the recipe calls for, you may need to adjust the amount.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

You could easily use regular breadcrumbs, but I like using Panko sometimes.  I used it here.

If you’re not going to bake it right away, wait to add the breadcrumbs until just before baking.  Sometimes I put a little bit of my mac mixture into a small ramekin or two to keep in the fridge to bake another day.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

And, if your breadcrumbs don’t brown as much as you’d like by the time the sauce is bubbling nicely, then just broil it for a couple minutes.

As you can see from my photo, the Panko don’t brown as quickly or evenly as regular breadcrumbs.  But they’re still toasty, even the parts still light in color, so it still adds a nice crunch to the dish.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac & Cheese

So, here’s the path to yumminess:

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups corkscrew pasta
2 to 4 sausage links
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 Tbs olive oil
5 Tbs butter, separated
3 Tbs flour
2 tsp pepper
3 cups whole milk
2 cups (8 oz.) apple smoked Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion and sausage and cook until onions are translucent and sausage is at least mostly cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and slice into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices, and cut the slices in half. Return sausage to pan, adding extra olive oil if the pan is too dry, and cook until the pieces are well-browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels, removing any onions that have become too dark (or all of them if you only want the flavor of them in the meat).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Also, in a small dish, melt the 2 Tbs butter and mix the panko into it. Set panko aside.

Melt 3 Tbs butter in a saucepot. Sprinkle flour over it and stir well to create a roux. Add pepper and stir for a minute to lessen the taste of the flour. Remove from heat and whisk in milk. Return to heat and cook at medium high, stirring frequently, until just starting to boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn heat to low and stir in cheese. Stir until cheese is fully incorporated.

Stir the cooked pasta and sausage into the cheese sauce. Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle the panko over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more, or until sauce begins to bubble. If desired, you can broil it for 2 minutes to achieve a well-browned crust on the breadcrumb topping.

(Note: Dish can be stored in the fridge or freezer before baking. Let sit at room temp at least 30 mins from fridge before baking and add 10 mins to baking time. Do not add panko until ready to bake.)

*****

Print the FREE PDF of the recipe:  Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Enjoy!

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