Sunday, January 12, 2020

Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro: Easy Comfort for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

This will be a very quick post. I have a doozy of a cold and feel pretty awful. Luckily I have Mark Bittman at the ready for easy recipes, and this is a very low effort soup to make. The lentils, broth, and lemon are good for my scratchy throat and stuffed up nose, and the ingredients are from my pantry which means less buying and less food waste. I added a carrot wasting away in my veggie drawer to the mix and changed out the chicken broth to a vegan version. If you use the cilantro stems along with the leaves, that's even less waste.


Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro
Adapted from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express via Redbook.com
(Makes 4 Servings)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
(I added one medium carrot, chopped)
1 cup red lentils
4 cups broth (I used non-chicken bouillon
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
salt
5 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion about 4-5 min, until soft. Add lentils and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer and cook about 25 minutes until lentils are soft. 

Puree the cilantro leave with 1/4 cup oil and salt in a mini chop. Set aside. 

Puree about half of the lentil mixture in a food processor or blender, until almost smooth. Return blended soup to the pan, add fresh lemon juice to taste.

Serve with cilantro puree drizzled on top. 


Notes/Results: I'm pretty sure this soup is really good but in truth I can just barely taste it with my cold today. What I can taste is good though, and it hit the spot for lunch before I napped and filled my stomach before I napped. The half-pureed lentils along with the whole lentils makes the texture thick, but not too thick and I like the cilantro oil when it is stirred in. I think it and the lemon bring the brighter notes lentils need to pop. It's satisfying on it's own but for heavier appetites I'd add some bread or basmati rice. I would make it again.


Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is our 2020 Food Trends Challenge January: Zero Food Waste.


Tina joined us in  the Souper Sundays kitchen this week, let's look at what she brought.


Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brought Chicken and Rice Soup and said, "I had a container of brothy short grain rice, a lonely few carrots and mushrooms, fresh corn and leftover roasted chicken. Do we really need a recipe for this? Nope! Add seasoning and spices per taste. I used salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Here's a bowl with cheddar cheese as a topping."

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and add a link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to this post or my blog on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Ellie Krieger's Brazilian-Style Seafood Stew for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

A fresh and vibrant Brazilian-Style Seafood Stew is on the Souper Sundays menu today. I checked out Ellie Krieger's newest cookbook, Whole In One: Complete Healthy Meals in a Single Pot, Sheet Pan or Skillet from the library last week and this is the first recipe that caught my eye.


Ellie says, "The ingredients are nothing unusual, but pulled together in this remarkably flavorful and stunning stew they take on an entirely new and exciting life. ... It is one of those meals that have a tremendous impressive-to-effort ratio, meaning it will wow whomever you serve it to, but you can easily pull it together in less than thirty minutes, start to finish."


Brazilian-Style Seafood Stew
From Whole in One by Ellie Krieger 
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 1/2 lbs white fish fillets like halibut, tilapia, mahimahi, or cod, cut into 2-inch pieces
8 oz large shrimp (16-20 count per lb), shelled & cleaned
3 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lime juice
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1 medium-sized onion, diced
1 medium-size red pepper, seeded & thinly sliced
1 medium-size yellow pepper, seeded & thinly sliced
(I added 2 small fennel bulbs, chopped)
2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste (I used Aleppo pepper)
1 cup fresh tomatoes
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup light coconut milk (I used the entire can)
1/2 cup seafood or fish stock, or water (I used clam juice)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Place the fish and shrimp in a medium-size bowl and toss with the lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, half of the garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper. Allow to marinate as you prepare the remaining ingredients. 

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the bell peppers and cook until they have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic, the paprika, and the red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Then, stir in the tomatoes and the scallions and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Nestle the fish into the vegetable mixture, then pour the coconut milk and stock over it. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the shrimp is cooked through and the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and add more red pepper flakes, if desired.

The stew will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Nutritional Info: Serving Size: 1 3/4 cups. Per Serving: Calories 390, Total Fat 16 g (Sat Fat 4.5 g, Mono Fat 8 g, Poly Fat 2 g); Protein 45 g, Carb 16 g, Fiber 3 g, Cholesterol 175 g, Sodium 670 mg, Total Sugar 6 g (Added Sugar 0 g).


Notes/Results: A tasty stew--the blend of coconut milk, lime juice, paprika and pepper is very good and the stew is satisfying without being heavy. My cod broke up a bit after marinating but the flavor was there. I though the fennel was an excellent addition--I love it with fish. I also like the Aleppo pepper I added as I'm not a fan of too much crushed red pepper flakes as I think they can be harsh. I served my stew with a package lime-coconut rice mix but any rice or some bread would make this a nice light meal. I would happily make it again.


Linking up this fresh and healthy dish to welcome 2020 in at I Heart Cooking Clubs: Dishes For a New Decade theme this week. 

It's quiet in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week but please consider joining in next week! 

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and add a link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to this post or my blog on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Meet Me on Love Lane" by Nina Bocci, Served with a Recipe for Mini Artichoke Lasagnas & Garlic Toast

Happy 2020! I am kicking off the new year with my first TLC Book Tour review of the decade, Meet Me on Love Lane, a novel by Nina Bocci. Accompanying my review off this sweet romance is a recipe for Mini Artichoke Lasagnas from The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson, served with garlic toast.


Publisher's Blurb:

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of On the Corner of Love and Hate comes a romantic comedy about a woman who grudgingly returns home to small-town Pennsylvania, only to find herself falling in love—not only with the town, but with two of its citizens. 
Charlotte Bishop is out of options in New York City. Fired, broke, and blacklisted by her former boss, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Hope Lake, PA to lick her wounds. Although she’s expecting to find a miserable place with nothing to do, she is pleasantly surprised to discover it is bustling and thriving.
She’s only supposed to be in Hope Lake temporarily until she can earn enough money to move back to New York. She’s not supposed to reconnect with her childhood friends or her beloved grandmother. She’s not supposed to find her dream job running the local florist shop. And she’s definitely not supposed to fall for not one but two of Hope Lake’s golden boys: one the beloved high school English teacher, the other the charming town doctor.
With a heart torn between two men and two cities, what’s a girl to do?
A perfect blend of humor and heart, Meet Me on Love Lane is the second in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci that is sure to charm fans of Josie Silver and Sally Thorne.
Series: Hopeless Romantics (Book 2)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books (December 10, 2019)

My Review: 

I like a good small town romance, Hallmark-like rom-com novel every so often, especially around the holidays and Meet Me on Love Lane is exactly that. Part of the Hopeless Romantics series, it's the second book and although it isn't necessary to start with On the Corner of Love and Hate, I am quirky about reading books in order to get the back story so I asked that I be sent the first book too. I'm glad I read it first since the series centers around a group of childhood friends, grown up to their early thirties and building their adult lives in the town they grew up in. Meet Me on Love Lane centers around Charlotte, who had to leave her hometown of Hope Lake, Pennsylvania when she was ten with her bitter mother after her parents divorce, and returns to town from New York City to regroup after her event planning career implodes. After 21 years, Charlotte's memory of the town is spotty but she is sure her exile in Hope Lake will just be for the summer. Her childhood friend Emma (the main character in the first book) is determined to keep her there and offers up a tempting opportunity for Charlotte to open and run the local flower shop. There are also two attractive men vying for her attention--Max, the new doctor in town working with Charlotte's father and Henry, her childhood best friend and the English teacher at the town's high school. So there is romance and a cast of fun small town characters including Gigi, Charlotte's irrepressible grandmother a retired doctor, and her best friend and neighbor Mrs. Mancini. 

It's sweet and touching and the kind of feel good story that is a pleasure to read. I did like Meet Me on Love Lane better than On the Corner of Love and Hate which took me longer to get into but after finishing both, I became quite enamoured with Hope Lake and its citizens and I am excited to read the third book The Ingredients of You and Me, coming out at the end of April. If you want something light and romantic to read, this series will appeal. 

-----

Author Notes: Nina Bocci is a USA TODAY bestselling novelist who loves reading and writing about swoony, relatable heroes and smart, witty heroines. If it’s set in a small town, even better. You can always find her chatting on social media about her massive, crazy Italian family, and her favorite person in the world, her son.
Connect with Nina on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


-----

Food Inspiration: 

There was a good amount of food in Meet Me on Love Lane even though most of the main and supporting characters are not cooks. Mentions included ice cream, coffee, cookies, pasta Fagioli, big sandwiches with pickle spears and chips, scones, wine, garlic-Parmesan chicken wings, Nathan's hot dogs, Peeps, fries, pizza, iced tea, a meatball appetizer with Mozzarella inside, grapefruit and blood orange draft beer, pasta, green tea, fortune cookies, Kung Pao chicken, shrimp with garlic sauce, bananas foster cupcakes and cookies.


I was torn between three different Italian dishes for my book-inspired dish, the Classic sandwich that Emma advises Charlotte try on their lunch together (fresh mozzarella, fresh spinach, sliced tomato, and basil pesto mayonnaise on a soft bun), the pizza from the local hang out (thin, cheesy, and the right amount of crunch to the crust) and the "too-large piece of lasagna and slice of garlic toast" that Mrs. Mancini leaves for her on her first night.



Ultimately the lasagna won out especially since I had all of the items I needed to make the Mini Artichoke Lasagnas from The Forest Feast Mediterranean: Simple Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by My Travels by Erin Gleeson, a book that I received from Abrams Publishing as part of their #AbramsDinnerParty event. (I'll be reviewing the cookbook soon--I want to try a couple more of the recipes first.) Although the portion isn't "too-large" like the slice in the book, the ramekins make more convenient portions.


Mini Artichoke Lasagnas
The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson
(Makes 4)

1 cup (240 ml) marinara sauce
6 oz (170 g) fresh mozzarella, sliced
4 Tbsp chopped marinated artichoke hearts
4 strips of no-boil lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
1/2 cup (50 g) grated Parmesan

Put a spoonful of marinara in the bottom of each of 4 (3 1/2-in/9-cm) ramekins, then layer all other ingredients except the Parmesan which goes on top. Try to give each ramekin 3 layers of noodles & always make sure sauce is covering the noodles. 

Bake at 375 degrees F. (190 degrees C.) for 25-30 minutes. Cool a bit before serving & top each with fresh basil, salt & pepper.



Notes/Results: For a quick and easy vegetarian lasagna without a lot of bells and whistles, this one is pretty tasty. I used a good marinara sauce and fresh Parmesan-Reggiano and mozzarella, which help with the flavor. I will make this again--maybe using a larger ramekin as getting all of the layers into this one was a bit tricky. I had not used no-boil lasagna noodles before and was pleasantly surprised that the texture was comparable to the kind you boil. For my garlic bread I mixed melted salted butter with roasted garlic powder and brushed it on the bread and toasted it in my toaster oven, Delicious and I have no issue with double carbs. ;-) The portion of lasagna with the bread was satisfying, although a green salad would be a nice addition. A great comfort food meal!


(Many thank to Abrams Books and #AbramsDinner Party for the gorgeous new cookbook that I know will become a favorite part of my collection. My thoughts, feelings and experiences cooking from it are my own. #sponsored)

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Meet Meet on Love Lane" (and a copy of "On the Corner of Love and Hate) was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.

 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Mark Bittman's Mushroom Barley Soup: Simple Comfort for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

I wanted a simple soup to close out the year with and I have been craving mushroom soup and barley so a quick Internet search turned up Mark Bittman's Mushroom Barley Soup.


It's simple and wanting the most mushroom flavor possible, I added some porcini broth cubes and Trader Joe's Umami Seasoning Blend to pump it up, along with a shot of sherry vinegar.

Mushroom Barley Soup
Slightly Adapted from Mark Bittman via Epicurious.com
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 oz dried porcini mushroom (about 1 cup)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb shitake or button mushrooms, stemmed & roughly chopped (I used cremini & button)
3 medium carrots, peeled & sliced
1 cup pearl barley
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp soy sauce (I used low-sodium tamari)
(I added 2 porcini bouillon cubes)
(I added 1 Tbsp Trader Joe's Umami Seasoning Blend)
(I added 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar)

Soak porcini in 3 cups very hot water. Put olive oil in a medium saucepan and turn heat to high. Add shiitakes and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add barley, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown; sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Remove the porcini from their soaking liquid, and reserve liquid. Sort through porcini and discard any hard bits. 

Add porcini to pot and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add bay leaf, mushroom soaking water and 3 cups additional water (or stock, if you prefer). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer; cook until barley is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add soy sauce, and taste. Add salt if necessary and plenty of pepper. Serve hot.


Notes/Results: Just a simple soup, full of good mushroom flavor and chewy barley. I think adding the porcini broth cubes and dried porcinis gave this soup even more flavor and the tamari and the sherry vinegar add a richness to the broth. Hearty and filling without being heavy, I am looking forward to lunches in my cold office this week. I would make it again.


Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is December Potluck this week.




Tina of Squirrel Head Manor is here in the Souper Sundays kitchen with A Portuguese Soup: Caldo Verde that she made for Food 'N Flix. She says, "Over a year ago Debra at Eliot’s Eats hosted for Love, Actually and I participated with my favorite storyline, Jamie & Aurelia’s. Without looking at my offering then I laughed once I chose to make a Portuguese soup. Again. Ha! This time it’s not a  Fish Chowder but a Portuguese classic called Caldo Verde, a pantry soup for hard times. I found the recipe at The Guardian in Nigel Slater’s column. A British cook inspired a Portuguese Soup for a London based Christmas movie. Brilliant."

Thanks to Tina for joining me this week!

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and add a link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to this post or my blog on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
Have a happy, healthy week!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Ottolenghi Instagram-Inspired Butter Braised Chickpea & Parmesan Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

Do you ever have recipe obsessions? I get them often especially when I see a post on a favorite chef's Instagram. When Yotam Ottolenghi posted a picture of Butter Braised Chickpeas on his account back in October, I waited for it to move from the testing kitchen to one of his newspaper columns but it was taking too long, and maybe it was for an upcoming cookbook, and who knows when it would be published, so I decided that there was enough of a description for me to just cook it--adding a little extra broth to make it more of a soup for Souper Sundays.


So the below recipe is my interpretation of the recipe from what was posted on Instagram but the mix of ingredients and basic processes are all Ottolenghi and his team.


Butter Braised Chickpea & Parmesan Soup
Inspired and Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad via Instagram, Interpreted here by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 small bay leaves
1 package dried chickpeas (about 4 cups)
6 cups liquid (4 cups lite veggie broth + 4 cups water)
3-4 Parmesan-Reggiano rinds
3/4 stick of butter, chopped 
juice & zest of one lemon, or to taste + one lemon to grill
salt and black pepper to taste
grilled spring onion, grated Parmesan, & grilled lemon slices to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute about 10 minutes, until softened and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and saute another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bay leaves, broth and water and Parmesan-Reggiano rinds and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until chickpeas are soft. 

Place the rinds and a couple of ladles full of chickpeas and broth into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour back in the pot, along with the butter and lemon zest and bring to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Cover again and cook on low for another 30 to 40 minutes or until chickpeas are very soft. Add lemon juice and season with more salt and black pepper if needed.

Serve ladled in bowls with grilled spring onions, grated Parmesan cheese and more black pepper to taste. (Whether eating as a soup or not, bread would be very welcome at the bottom of the bowl or on the side.) Enjoy!


Notes/Results: So comforting and indulgent and really, really delicious. I can't wait to see the actual recipe to see what quantities of things Ottolenghi and Murad used and how close or not I was. Regardless, I am pretty happy with how it turned out--the nuttiness and slight funkiness of the Parmesan-Reggiano, creamy chickpeas, acidity from the lemons and rich butter all work together for layers of flavor. My only regret was not having any good sourdough bread to dip into the broth. I will happily make it again.


Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where the theme is Good Tidings of Comfort & Joy where we make comfort food from any of our nineteen featured chefs. 


It's just me in the Souper Sundays kitchen this busy pre-holiday week with the Simple Greek Salad with Roasted Shrimp I made earlier in the week. I kept it simple with wild shrimp from the freezer and tomatoes, cucumber, onion, freeze-dried dill, capers, lemon, and yogurt that I had in the fridge. It was light but satisfying and delicious with the sweet roasted shrimp on top. 



(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and add a link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to this post or my blog on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Playground' by Jane Shemilt, Served with Simple Greek Salad with Shrimp

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away and this is my last TLC Book Tour review of 2019. I am excited to end the year with a domestic thriller from an author I enjoy, The Playground by Jane Shemilt. My review is paired with a Simple Greek Salad with Roasted Shrimp, inspired by the book.


Publisher's Blurb:

Big Little Lies meets Lord of The Flies in this electrifyingly twisty follow-up to Jane Shemilt’s breakout debut The Daughter.

Over the course of a long, hot summer in London, the lives of three very different married couples collide when their children join the same tutoring circle, resulting in illicit relationships, shocking violence, and unimaginable fallout.

There’s Eve, a bougie earth mother with a well-stocked trust fund; she has three little ones, a blue-collar husband and is obsessed with her Instagrammable recipes and lifestyle. And Melissa, a successful interior designer whose casually cruel banker husband is careful not to leave visible bruises; she curates her perfectly thin body so closely she misses everything their teenage daughter is hiding. Then there’s Grace, a young Zimbabwean immigrant, who lives in high-rise housing project with her two children and their English father Martin, an award-winning but chronically broke novelist; she does far more for her family than she should have to.

As the weeks go by, the couples become very close; there are barbecues, garden parties, a holiday at a country villa in Greece. Resentments flare. An affair begins. Unnoticed, the children run wild. The couples are busily watching each other, so distracted and self-absorbed that they forget to watch their children. No one sees the five children at their secret games or realize how much their family dynamics are changing until tragedy strikes.

The story twists and then twists again while the three families desperately search for answers. It’s only as they begin to unravel the truth of what happened over the summer that they realize evil has crept quietly into their world.
But has this knowledge come too late?

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (December 30, 2019)


My Review:

I was pulled to this tour both because of the author (I read and reviewed her novel The Daughter a few years ago) and the premise of "Big Little Lies meets Lord of the Flies" which I thought was interesting. I also do like a good domestic thriller and I think The Playground is a pretty solid one. I won't go into the story details for fear of spoilers but the basic premise is that three different families (with differing types and levels of dysfunction) come together when one of the mothers, Eve, begins giving Sunday lessons for the dyslexic children of the group and they and the siblings that tag along quickly bond and become friends and their parents soon follow. It turns out that all is not well. There is a tragedy and it becomes quickly apparent that these people are not great parents and have completely lost control of their children and things quick spiral downward for each family. It's a bit like watching a train wreck and most of the riders are not at all likable which makes it easy to judge them and their self-absorbed lives. Although there were twists and turns in the book, there were no big reveals and I could fairly well predict what would happen but I think the point of this thriller is in the anticipation and the voyeuristic glimpses into these crumbling lives--which definitely kept me turning the pages. 

-----


Author Notes: While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England.
 
Follow Jane on Twitter and Instagram.




-----

Food Inspiration:

There was quite a lot of food mentioned in The Playground, much more than in Shemilt's first book. Mentions included: homemade bread, rolls and croissants, coffee, strawberry jam and butter, carrot sticks and small sandwiches, homemade pizzas, beef daube, beer, pizza and French fries, tea and lavender cakes, Malteasers, Manchego cheese, bananas, potatoes, salmon, broccoli and new potatoes, fruit cake, chocolate cake, cupcakes, sponge cake smothered in strawberries and cream, apples, filo with lemon cream, fresh dill and tiny shrimp, bouillabaisse, marinated salmon, baked crab patties, broad beans in oil, pureed raspberries, orange juice, champagne, steak, pies, salad, bread with olives,ginger beer, sausages, okra, sage, wild thyme and honey, wine, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, pots of yogurt, black olives, cheese-and-spinach pie, flat yellow peaches, lemon cake, ice cream, cherries, flaky fish and curled tentacles in tomato sauce, casserole, baked potatoes, fruit smoothies with tamarind, potatoes with butter and parsley, chicken in an herb-scented sauce, tomato soup and toast, jam sandwiches, crisps, chocolate biscuits, macarons, crumpets, chocolate cake, toast, sausages and beans, chocolate mini rolls, mashed potatoes, and lemonade.


For my book-inspired dish, I went with the trip to Greece the families in the book made which was basically the beginning of the end of the happier times. A Greek villa owned by Eve's family was the setting and so I thought a Greek salad would be a good pairing with the book. Since I needed some protein and had wild shrimp in the freezer, I decided to roast some to top my salad.


Although it shares some of the ingredients mentioned in the book for characters' time at Eve's house in Greece, the recipe for this salad and the shrimp came mainly from the ingredients I had available in my pantry saving me a midweek grocery run. You could of course add things like olives and mint and other veggies and leave off the shrimp or replace it with another protein. The beauty of salads is how adaptable they are. 

Simple Greek Salad with Roasted Shrimp
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2)

Shrimp:
12 extra jumbo (16-20 per lb) shrimp, peeled and deveined
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
smoked paprika

Salad:
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved 
3 mini persian cucumbers sliced, or 1 English cucumber, halved & sliced
2 Tbsp red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped dill (fresh or freeze dried)
1 1/2 Tbsp capers, drained 
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
sea salt and black pepper to taste
3-4 oz feta cheese, in chunks

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. cover a roasting pan with foil. Toss shrimp with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika and spread in a single layer on pan. Cook for about 7-8 minutes or until shrimp is opaque, pink and cooked through. Set aside.

Meanwhile place tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, minced garlic, dill, and capers in a bowl and gently mix together. Add Greek yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice and gently toss together with ingredients until everything is mixed and coated. Very gently mix in feta cheese chunks. Taste and season with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice as needed. 

To serve, mound salad on plates and top with the roasted shrimp. Enjoy.


Notes/Results: A fresh tasting salad in a creamy dressing, topped with the sweet and juicy shrimp and salty feta cubes made for a quick and tasty dinner--satisfying while still light. With the capers I didn't miss the olives--although they would have been a nice addition, as would more herbs like mint and parsley. Everytime I make and eat a Greek salad I always wonder why I don't make them more often. yum. ;-)


I am sharing this salad with Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen--a weekly opportunity to share soups, salads, and sandwiches from me and other bloggers who join in. Here's the link to this week's post

I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Playground was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.