Saturday, 16 August 2014


I recently read A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, writer of the food blog Orangette. It is a book I enjoyed very much; one of those lovely, dreamy summer reads all about food and life, which takes you from America to Paris and back. Much to my pleasure her second book, Delancey (2014), landed on my doormat a good week ago. The book is about the trials and tribulations of opening a (pizza) restaurant; the pressure it puts on a marriage, the single-mindedness and dedication it requires, as well as giving insight into how incredibly hard restaurant folk work. I finished the book in just a couple of nights. And what a couple of nights they were (I had such trouble putting the book down that I might just have to sue Molly for loss of sleep).  I even suspect I may have enjoyed this book more than the first one, despite having to plough through lengthy descriptions of how to get pizza dough just right. But even in that ploughing I learnt something, namely, what an incredibly laborious task the perfecting of pizza dough is! In fact, I ate at an Italian restaurant just last night, where I bit into a crispy pizza with deeply renewed appreciation.

Molly Wizenberg is an engaging writer, and one of the things I enjoy most about her is her insightfulness.  She's not afraid to show us how her striving for perfection - her habit of putting constant pressure on herself to be the best at everything - comes back, in a big way, to bite her in the proverbial arse:

"Being excellent was important to me. (...) Maybe that was why I'd been such a failure of a pantry cook: because I had wanted so much to excel, to please our customers and to succeed, that it had paralyzed me. I couldn't put my head down and just do my job." (p.217)

In the course of working in the kitchen at Delancey, Molly spirals into crisis which culminates on an evening when she cannot stop crying whilst making the starters. In the end she is forced to admit that, though an avid home cook, she is not suited to restaurant cooking - it is far too hectic and exhausting. She simply cannot continue to force herself into a mold that doesn't fit. Besides which, working in the kitchen restaurant takes her away from her greatest passions: writing, and, ironically, home cooking. The restaurant dream is her husband's, not hers - and although this realisation is a bitter pill to swallow, she comes to the conclusion that in the end, that is just fine.  Husbands and wives don't need to share the same dream - as long as they support one another's.


Although summer seems to be slowly drawing to a close, we still find the weather is gentle enough to eat outside in the evenings. We are also still in a let's-eat-salad state of mind. This past week I have made two quick, easy, colourful, and incredibly tasty pasta salads, both combined with a vinaigrette from Delancey. Please note that this vinaigrette is best made in advance, not last minute.

Shallot Vinaigrette
adapted from Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

2 small or 1 medium shallot, minced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
100ml extra vierge olive oil
2 tablespoons of runny honey
a pinch of fine (sea) salt
4-5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

  • in a small bowl, stir together shallot, garlic and vinegar
  • leave for at least an hour so the flavours melt together
  • whisk in oil, honey, and salt; add basil and let sit for another 30 minutes before drizzling over the salad

Pasta Salad with Smoked Trout

125g smoked trout
100g spiral (whole-wheat spelt) pasta*
1 courgette, sliced into half-moons
3 bell peppers (yellow, red, and green), cut into small cubes
1 small red jalapeno, thinly sliced
50g pine nuts, lightly roasted
sea salt

  • cook pasta in salted water according to instructions on packet; set aside to cool completely
  • in the meantime, slice and cube all that needs to be sliced and cubes
  • cook courgette, peppers, and jalapeno on medium heat until soft - about 10-12 minutes; set aside to cool completely
  • roasting pine nuts: put the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat and, shaking the pan gently,  jostle the nuts for about three minutes; watch they don't burn!
  • assemble the salad by combining all ingredients thoroughly (pasta, peppers, courgette, pine nuts, trout) and drizzling the shallot vinaigrette over the top

Pasta Salad with Tuna

2 tins of tuna: one in brine, one in oil
100g spiral (whole-wheat spelt) pasta*
1 courgette, sliced in half-moons
1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
sea salt and black pepper

  • cook pasta in salted water according to instructions on packet; set aside to cool completely
  • in the meantime, slice whatever needs to be sliced
  • open the tins of tuna; save a little of the oil for cooking in, then discard the rest along with the brine; set the tuna aside for the moment
  • in the saved tuna oil, cook courgette and mushrooms in a large skillet on medium heat until soft - about 10-12 minutes - and season with salt and black pepper to taste; when finished, set aside to cool
  • assemble the salad by combining all ingredients thoroughly (pasta, courgette, mushrooms, tuna) and drizzling the shallot vinaigrette over the top
* you may want to use more pasta - we use whole-wheat spelt pasta which is quite filling, and therefore don't need more than 100g for two adults and two children
 And.... don't forget to check out what everyone else is reading over at The Year in Books...



  1. That sounds like a really interesting read, thank you for sharing.

  2. The book sounds excellent. And how lucky she is to have someone to share and support her dreams.

  3. that sounds like a great read - I think I would empathise!!

  4. I read Delancey too, but must confess to not enjoying it as much as Homemade Life. Perhaps it was all those endless descriptions of pizza dough.... I finished it, but probably won't read it again. However I agree Molly is a great writer, and a very honest one X

    1. I think the reason I enjoyed Delancey (even) more is because there seems to be a more mature voice at work, one that is able to reflect and dig deeper a little more.

  5. Sounds like an interesting read :)

  6. Sounds good - I always think there a difference between enjoying. Hobby and going professional - which probably takes the enjoyment out of it - those who do enjoy their chosen profession are very lucky.

  7. I enjoy Molly's blog very much but haven't read her books yet. I will have to add them to my list.

  8. Isabelle, I have A Homemade Life here now on your recommendation, can't wait to make a start! Look forward to adding this one to the list, thanks for sharing!

  9. Hey Isabelle,
    I shall be ordering this book in one minute!! Any more book recommendations gratefully received from this once lapsed bookworm!
    Leanne xx

  10. I'm looking forward to reading this really soon. I really enjoyed her first book.


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