Win Four Delicious Food Books!

I've spent the past few weeks cleaning out my apartment and trying to do away with as much clutter as possible. I've donated bags and bags of clothing, and sold off a ton of stuff at a stoop sale. I even joined a fantastic site called that lets you trade books with strangers from all over the country. I guess that's not really helping since I'm getting books back, but at least I'm not spending any more money!

To further help these efforts, I've decided to do a little book giveaway. On my other blog I'm giving away four fantastic novels and memoirs, but here I figured I'd do something a little bit more edible. I've collected four yummy food-related books that I know you guys will love. The books are:

Broccoli, and Other Tales of Food and Love, by Lara Vapnyar (Fiction. A clever collection of sad and funny short stories about Russian immigrants who seek solace in food. Great recipes with each story and the directions are probably the most entertaining part!)

Climbing the Mango Trees, A Memoir of a Childhood in India, by Madhur Jaffrey (Memoir. A luscious tale by the brilliant cookbook writer and actress that will send you running to the kitchen. With delicious traditional recipes.)

Toast, by Nigel Slater (Memoir. Nigel Slater’s truly extraordinary story of a childhood remembered through food. In each chapter, as he takes readers on a tour of the contents of his family’s pantry—rice pudding, tinned ham, cream soda, mince pies, lemon drops, bourbon biscuits—we are transported....)

The Adventures of Food, Edited by Richard Sterling (Essay Anthology. Wonderful collection of essays from great food writers about adventures encountered while traveling around the world.)

To enter to win them, all you have to do is one (or all 3!) of the following:

1.) Leave a comment telling me either what book you're reading now or what you like to do when it's time to organize your shelves. That will get you one entry.

2.) Follow me on twitter (@nandita) and tweet a link about this contest then come back here to say you did it (with a link so I can see it). If you're already following me, just tweet about the contest and then leave another comment telling me you did. That will get you a second entry.

3.) Post about this contest on your blog, website, or Facebook page (and then let me know you did). That will get you a third entry.

The winner will be chosen randomly using a random number generator. You must include your email or twitter name with your entry so that I can contact you. If I can't find a way to contact the winner, then a second entry will be chosen. Contest is open to everyone who is not related to me. It's OK if you live outside the US--we'll find a way to get the books to you if you win. Maximum 3 entries per person. All entries must be in by July 4th, 11:59 PM EST.

Good Luck!!

Creamy Asparagus Soup w/ Bacon & Asparagus Tip Garnish

When we got back from Aruba a few weeks ago, there wasn't much in our fridge. Just before leaving I'd dutifully cooked my way through the majority of what we had then tossed out anything I suspected would spoil before we got back. Had it not been for the work farmer's market they hold in our cafeteria every Wednesday, our first dinner back would have likely been scrambled eggs. But fortunately, I was able to snag a beautiful (and huge!) bunch of local purple asparagus to turn into delicious soup.

Soup might seem like an odd choice for a summer meal, but this Creamy Asparagus Soup is actually quite perfect. It comes together easily and requires minimal time in front of the stove. Even better, it travels well and reheats even better, so you can make a batch early in the week for quick lunches or meals, or bring the leftovers into work. (Also, when you think about it, it really hasn't been much of a summer, has it?)

I started this soup with bacon. OK, ok, I confess. I start just about *every* soup with bacon. Just a few strips snipped into small pieces with scissors or a knife and browned at the bottom of my Dutch oven. I scooped out the crispy pieces and set them aside and added minced onion, garlic, and shallots to the bacon fat to saute for a few minutes. (Feel free chop coarsely instead of mincing. This soup will soon be pureed, and the beauty of a pureed soup is that you can be really lazy and haphazard with your chopping. No one cares. It will cook just the same and you'll blend it all up anyway.) Then in went the asparagus pieces (with tips reserved for garnish). I topped it off with some chicken stock and let it cook for a bit just until the asparagus was softened. I pureed everything with my immersion blender (I love that thing so much, I just might make it my maid of honor when the time comes!). A generous glug of cream to round things out and some salt and pepper to season. And that's it! Serve in these ridiculously adorable bowls with handles and top with generous sprinkles of bacon and asparagus tips.

Mmmm...don't you love summer soup?

Creamy Asparagus Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 Strips bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 pounds asparagus
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized dutch oven. Add the bacon pieces and let cook over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces and reserve, leaving the bacon fat and oil in the pot.

2. Add the chopped onions and shallots. Saute for about 5 - 10 minutes or until the onions and shallots turn slightly caramelized.

3. While the onions are cooking, prepare your asparagus. Trim and discard the fibrous portion of the asparagus (about 1 inch at the base). Cut the asparagus tips and set them aside. Cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch segments and reserve.

4. Add the asparagus stalks to the onions and saute for one minute.

5. Pour in the vegetable or chicken broth and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

6. While the asparagus simmers, small saucepan with a few cups of water to boil and quickly blanch the asparagus tips by dropping into the boiling water and letting cook for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water and set aside. (This can also be done in the microwave)

7. Use an immersion (or regular) blender to puree the soup until creamy. Add the cream to your taste and season with salt and pepper.

8. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with generous sprinkles of the reserved asparagus tips and the crisped bacon bits.
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