The first cookbook I was given as a young university student was The Joy of Cooking. A very grown-up, serious cookbook, The Joy is packed with serious, housewifely recipes that feed a suited husband and smiling children. I was terrified of it. As a result, I didn't cook from it at all. Ever. Now I have a husband who wears a suit (though no smiling munchkins of our own) and I still never use The Joy of Cooking. It's too stuffy. Definitely too serious.
The antedote for serious, old-fashioned recipes is found with Bob Blumer. The grinning "surreal gourmet", Blumer authored the first cookbook that I bought for myself. Bob was my kitchen companion as I learned to cook during my uni years. His Party Caesar Salad was my first experience with exciting cooking (and also one of my first ever blogged recipes). Bob's style is playful, fresh, simple, social. A perfect beginning for a young cook such as myself. (We've always been on a first name basis, you see.)
Excitingly, Bob was recently visiting Hong Kong to promote his new cookbook, Glutton for Pleasure. I read about it in the newsletter of my grocery store loyalty card! I was so giddy with the thought that I would get to meet him in person. He was signing copies of his new book at a big store in the central part of the city and I planned to go down and visit with him, tell him all about my learning experiences with his cookbooks, gush over his inspirational ideas,... and try not to sound too obsessive!
I woke up early on the Saturday morning, and I even planned what I was going to wear. I set out with my camera and a smile to rival Bob's own in size. I was going to meet him in person!
When I arrived I searched the store for him, and a crowd of other adoring fans who I would fight past to see him. I found, instead, this lonely banner, with a stack of cookbooks nearby. My heart plummeted as I realised he had been, met his fans, and left again, all before I made it to the store. The loyalty card newsletter had misprinted the time of his appearance and I was all alone. Dejected and long faced, I bought a cookbook; it was signed, but not with the personal, friendly message I had envisioned. Despite my missed meeting with Bob, I resolved, I would continue to love him and his fresh, zingy recipes. I spent my journey home reading the cookbook and sighing.
Thankfully, it's an excellent cookbook. I made Bob's ten minute pasta with lemon and parsley (with formula one noodles) recently. And this corn and red pepper chowder is a delight with the piercing citrus and punchy herbs on top of a bowl of smooth yellow and red soup.
Corn and Red Pepper Chowder
adapted from Glutton for Pleasure by Bob Blumer
serves 6 to 8
2 T butter
8 ears of corn, husked and kernels sliced off into a bowl
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 c (1250 ml) chicken or vegetable stock, divided
2 T olive oil
4 rashers bacon, diced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 sweet onion, finely sliced
1 1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
salt and pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 T lime juice
Heat the butter in a large pan and add the corn and red pepper. Saute for 10 minutes, until corn begins to brown.
Puree the corn mixture with half the stock using an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and fry the bacon, garlic, and onion for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep them from sticking.
Add the corn mixture and the remaining stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the cilantro, season with salt and pepper, and top with cayenne pepper and lime juice before serving.
Finally, as a token of how funny it can be living in Hong Kong, read this little food-related typo on the last line of Bob's banner. I found myself with a tiny smile on my face, even though my cookbook hero was not there to share it with me.