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Mt. Lebanon blogger dishes up life, love, recipes in book | TribLIVE.com
Food & Drink

Mt. Lebanon blogger dishes up life, love, recipes in book

Adam Brandolph
| Tuesday, February 3, 2015 9:00 p.m
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Grand Central Publishing
Amelia Morris, author of “Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with Recipes!).”
ptrlivbonappetempt10204151
Grand Central Publishing
“Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with Recipes!)”
ptrlivbonappetempt1020415
Grand Central Publishing
Amelia Morris’ Korean-Style Shrimp and Scallion Pancakes
ptrlivbonappetempt4020415
Grand Central Publishing
Amelia Morris’ Korean-Style Shrimp and Scallion Pancakes
ptrlivbonappetempt2020415
Grand Central Publishing
Amelia Morris’ Korean-Style Shrimp and Scallion Pancakes
ptrlivbonappetempt3020415
Grand Central Publishing
Amelia Morris’ Korean-Style Shrimp and Scallion Pancakes

For Amelia Morris, cooking is like life, in that following instructions doesn’t always guarantee a perfect outcome. The real recipe for success is to learn from whatever happens along the way.

Morris, a successful blogger who grew up in Mt. Lebanon and now lives in Los Angeles, shares her stories of personal growth and passion for food in her new book, “Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (With Recipes!)” ($26, Grand Central Publishing). Morris will return home Feb. 11 for a book signing at Barnes & Noble at South Hills Village Mall.

“It’s really cool to be coming back to South Hills Village where I hung out as a teen,” says Morris, whose husband, Matt, also is from the Mt. Lebanon area.

Morris has made a name for herself online at BonAppetempt.com, where she details both her successes and failures with recipes found in food magazines, among other endeavors, in hilariously honest fashion.

The blog, which was “just supposed to be this funny thing on side,” went on to be named one of the 25 best blogs of 2012 by Time Magazine. Now, seeing her work in book form has been exciting and somewhat unnerving, she says.

“I feel really super excited, but it’s also scary, because it’s a memoir and personal and, in today’s age, I’ll just be sure to stay away from reading most things about it,” she says with a laugh.

Her book follows the same format as the blog but relies on tales of her relationship with food to punctuate her life experiences. The acorn-squash soup that falls short of expectations serves as a metaphor for her stressful, overwhelming wedding. The successful attempt to re-create a brie pasta recipe from Real Simple Magazine acts as a comfort when much of Morris’ life is up in the air.

The book details the ups and downs of her family life, her longtime friendship and eventual romantic relationship with Matt and her quest for meaningful employment, all with recipes tucked in.

Morris’ eventual foray into blogging came after the chocolate cake she tried to make for Christmas brunch, based on a recipe found in Bon Appetit magazine, toppled over into a disastrous, albeit delicious, mess. Morris saw the cake as a symbol for the way life rarely goes the way she wants it to, but can still be great.

“I feel like food has been healing for me as an adult,” Morris says. “It’s been a place where I can forgive myself and take it easy on myself and nurture myself and my family. With writing, I’m so hard on myself, but I feel like, even though that cake toppled over, it was still delicious and my friends and I still ate it. It was still fun and rewarding.

“Being a writer, you’re at a computer all day, and maybe you have nothing to show for it at end of the day, but then you cook dinner, and it’s this tangible thing and it feeds you. That’s rewarding.”

Though she’s lived on the West Coast for years, returning to Pittsburgh also remains exciting for the mother of one, who likes to meet up with family for a meal at Little Tokyo in Mt. Lebanon and visit the Strip District.

“I definitely consider Pittsburgh home,” Morris says. “Even thinking about Pittsburgh airport makes me happy.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

Korean-Style Shrimp and Scallion Pancakes

Morris prefers savory pancakes and likes these served alongside a salad of mixed greens and diced avocado tossed with store-bought ginger and soy-sauce vinaigrette.

From “Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (With Recipes!)”

For the pancakes:

1 cup flour

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or another neutral oil, plus more for the pan

Water

1 bunch scallions (green onions), dark and pale green parts only, cut into 3-inch pieces

1 pound peeled shrimp, chopped into 1-inch pieces (depending on the exact size of the shrimp, each one is chopped into 2 or 3 pieces)

1 small jalapeno, sliced into very thin rounds

For the dipping sauce:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

A few pinches of Korean red pepper (or Italian crushed red pepper)

To make the pancakes: In a large bowl, mix the flour, eggs and oil with 1 cup of water until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the green onions and shrimp. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and thinly coat the bottom with oil. When the oil is hot and lightly smoking, use a slotted spoon to scoop into the skillet as many 4-inch-in-diameter pancakes as you can. (The slotted spoon is important here, as you want just enough batter to hold the pancake together.)

With the bottom side of the pancakes cooking, use a fork (to protect your fingers) to lay one or two of the jalapeno rounds on top of each pancake. (You may end up not using the entire jalapeno.)

Cook the pancakes until the bottom is browned, for about 3 minutes, then flip the pancakes and cook them for another 3 minutes, occasionally pressing down on each pancake with the spatula, which helps to make sure you don’t get any pancakes with uncooked batter in the middle.

Repeat with the remaining batter, adding additional oil to the skillet halfway through, if needed. (You may want to place the finished pancakes in an overproof dish and throw them in a 275-degree oven to keep them warm).

To make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper. Serve the dipping sauce alongside the pancakes.

Makes 8 to 10 pancakes.

Brie Pasta

This was the first savory recipe Morris tried as a grad student living in North Carolina.

From “Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (With Recipes!)” and adapted from Real Simple Magazine

Water

Kosher salt

1 pound broccolini (about two bunches)

1 pound dried rigatoni

8 to 10 ounces brie cheese

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Get your water boiling for the pasta and salt it. Use a big pot — 5 or 6 quarts is best, as this is the pot everything will end up in.

Rinse the broccolini under cold water to clean it. Trim the very ends of the stems and then cut the broccolini into bite-size (or slightly larger) pieces. I like to do this by using kitchen shears and then just dropping the cut pieces into the skillet I’m going to use to steam them.

After all the broccolini is in the skillet, give it a couple of pinches of kosher salt and add about an inch of water to the bottom. Cover the pan with a lid and heat it over medium heat, checking on it after a few minutes. You want the water to be simmering but not boiling. When it’s simmering, it’ll need only about 5 more minutes. You want the broccolini to be just tender — al dente, like the pasta.

Speaking of the pasta, dump it into the boiling water while the broccolini is steaming.

Chop the brie, rind and all, into 1- or 2-inch pieces.

When the broccolini is al dente, drain the excess water from the pan and set it aside.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it and then return it to the hot pot. Give it two or three big pinches of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder. Mix everything together until the brie is completely melted and evenly distributed. Taste for salt. It usually needs a bit more.

Makes 4 servings.

Categories: Food Drink
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