Chasing Flavours at Barbara-jo's Book Club

The winter session of Barbara-jo's Wednesday night book club is now in full swing. The concept? A devout group of hungry readers get to do the literary equivalent of singing for their supper. Discussing a selected volume - with an appropriate culinary theme - before resident chef Glenys Morgan prepares a corresponding menu based on the book.  In our latest session, the book under discussion was a memoir by culinary superstar Marcus Samuelsson entitled Yes, Chef.

  Samuelsson is probably best known for his role in popularizing two diverse restaurants. As a young chef, his years at New York's Swedish-themed Aquavit secured his reputation as a rising culinary star. More recently, he's the proud owner and creative force behind Harlem's Red Rooster. In the book, Samuelsson attributes his success to his lifelong passion for "chasing flavours." Finding new and exciting twists for more traditional dishes. Along the way, he takes us on a fascinating journey that draws on his rich cultural heritage. An Ethiopian, Samuelsson was adopted by Swedish parents as an infant. Much of the book chronicles his struggle to balance a hectic professional life with a growing desire to explore his dual heritage.

Unlike Marcus, the members of the book club didn't have to chase any flavours. After a lively discussion, Glenys obliged us with a wonderful four course menu culled from two of Samuelsson's most popular cookbooks, Aquavit and The Soul of a New Cuisine. The menu highlighted one of his favourite ingredients - coffee - as well as a popular blend of Ethiopian spices called berbere. An ingredient that the chef refers to as "his secret weapon."

We started with a Swedish-inspired appetizer of smoked salmon, followed by Spicy Ethiopian Peanut Soup. For our main course, we enjoyed a delicately flavoured Chicken Berbere. We finished with a delicious spice cake. If you'd like to learn more about Samuelsson's life - or explore some of his truly unique recipes - you won't have to travel far. All of the above mentioned books are available at the shop along with any advice you'll need to create a fascinating meal.