Sunday, June 17, 2018

Cold Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

If you read this blog regularly you know that I'm a person who eats hot soup almost all year-round living in a tropical climate. And while I'll happily slurp a bowl of soupy noodles or a good thick chowder on a warm and humid day, it's the cooking of the soup that I dislike in hotter weather. That's when I pull out the recipes for cold soups that I have been pinning throughout the year. A little time chopping and blending and several hours chilling, result in a cool and refreshing starter or light lunch or dinner.


Cold soups with cucumber and yogurt are especially cooling and perfect for a summery day. I have several of them on the blog (just look under the 'cold soups' tab) and I have been meaning to try Andrew Zimmerman's from Food & Wine Magazine. I liked the description of the dill, tarragon and parsley combination of herbs and the brightness from the lemon and tangy yogurt. 


Cold Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill
Recipe by Andrew Zimmerman via Food & Wine Magazine, June 2013
(Makes About 5 Cups)

2 large European cucumbers (2 1/4 pounds), halved and seeded—1/2 cup finely diced, the rest coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 small shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup loosely packed dill
1/4 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 Tbsp loosely packed tarragon leaves
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt
fresh ground white pepper
1/2 red onion, finely chopped

In a blender, combine the chopped cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, dill, parsley, tarragon and the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Season the soup again just before serving. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the finely diced cucumber, red onion and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.


Notes/Results: A simple soup to put together but complex in flavor and really refreshing--especially when served very cold--so definitely give it plenty of time to chill, so the flavors meld. I forgot to get a red onion for the top, so I subbed in another shallot for garnish along with the chopped cucumber. (BTW--I almost never seed my English/European cucumbers--I like the flavor and it doesn't matter when it's blended up anyway.) You can make this soup vegan by using a thick vegan dairy-free plain Greek-style yogurt--I recommend a coconut milk-based yogurt. I ate a bowl of this soup as a light lunch today and it would also be perfect paired with a salad or as a starter for a grilled meal of any kind. I will happily make this again.
 

My pal Tina is with me in  the Souper Sundays kitchen this week--let's take a look!


Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared her Greek Salad saying, "This was meant to hook up with Deb's Souper Sunday but I was  supremely unmotivated and thick-headed on Sunday so.........yeah.   Didn't happen. I'm not saying we did sit on the patio until late drinking Chardonnay, talking and listening to the rain patter on the metal roof......but it would explain why a perfectly good post with photos already uploaded didn't make the linkup :-) Better late than never.  Having salad with pizza presumably enables me to eat less pizza.  A big fat salad and two slices of tomato, mushroom and spinach pizza was enough.  Otherwise, I eat three slices.  Every time. Heavy on the feta cheese, red onion, lots of black olives for me and fewer for Doug, banana peppers and tomato is such a great accompaniment for pizza night."


Mahalo Tina!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following 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 her 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 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 it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Anthony Bourdain's Spaghetti with Garlic, Anchovies, and Parsley {#ForAFriend #ForAnthonyBourdain}

It's hard to believe that it's just been a week since the news that Anthony Bourdain died awoke me. I still am so sad every time I think about him. Last week, I dedicated my Friday dinner recipe to him, and this week I am doing it again as part of a tribute at I Heart Cooking Clubs. We are currently cooking along with Chef Eric Ripert, one of Bourdain's best friends and making any recipe we want from any chef and #forafriend. 


I was at the library picking up a hold last weekend and I grabbed Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain. I had checked it out when it came out in 2016, choosing not to buy it because Bourdain is the epitome of a carnivore, and I am not. ;-) It's a very entertaining cookbook (be forewarned there is much cursing of course) and made me laugh and tear up in turns. I knew that there were some fish and veggie dishes in it and I quickly found a simple pantry pasta recipe to make. (I think was pulled to the pasta chapter by the picture of Chef Ripert.)


Bourdain said, "This is a super easy pasta that, with a well-stocked pantry and fridge, you should be able to start and finish inside of fifteen minutes."  (Since it is hazy, humid, and hot for Hawaii today--fifteen minutes or less is about the maximum time I wanted to spend in the kitchen.)


Deb says--OK, don't be afraid of the anchovies here--they melt into the sauce, don't taste at all fishy, and add a delicious umami to the dish.


Spaghetti with Garlic, Anchovies, and Parsley
From Appetites by Anthony Bourdain 
(Serves 4 to 6)

1/2 cup best-quality, extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained, and patted dry (I just used my entire tin)
1 lb dry spaghetti
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
salt to taste (I added freshly ground black pepper)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more to taste (I used Pecorina-Romano)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring salted water to a boil.

In a medium-large sauce pan, warm the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and anchovies. Make sure to watch they are well distributed so that everything is in the oil, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies are melting into the oil. Monitor the heat carefully, you don't want burned or even browned garlic here. 

Once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions until just al dente. Just before taking the pasta from the water, add the parsley to the saute pan and toss gently. Remove the pasta from the water with tongs and add it directly to the pan--the water that clings to it will help form the sauce. Toss the pasta with the pan ingredients, increasing the heat to medium. Add a small splash each of oil and pasta water to keep everything slick. Taste a strand of pasta and season with salt if necessary.

Transfer pasta to individual serving bowls and top each with the grated cheese or serve it alongside.


Notes/Results: Really easy, really quick, really satisfying and really delicious. Of course even fifteen minutes in the hot kitchen had me sweating until my hair was damp, compounded by picture-taking, so I thankfully plopped myself directly in front of my fan and pretty much inhaled my bowl (probably two servings-worth if I am honest) and loved every bite--toasting Chefs Anthony and Eric with a glass of red wine. Use good-quality ingredients and your stomach and soul will be happy with this one--I'll definitely make it again.


You can join in with I Heart Cooking Clubs making a dish on your blog or posting a pic on social media. You can find the details here: For a Friend {For Anthony Bourdain}.
 
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.

 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)" by Terri-Lynne DeFino, Served with a Recipe for 3-Ingredient Pineapple-Mango "Nice" Cream

Happy Wednesday! It's a warm and humid one here so I am happy to be enjoying some cold, sweet-tart frozen goodness while reviewing The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses), a new novel by Terri-Lynne DeFino as a stop on the TLC Book Tour. That chilly goodness is a three-ingredient, all-fruit and non-dairy Pineapple-Mango 'Nice' Cream, inspired by my reading.


Publisher's Blurb:

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.
 
Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. 
Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.
 
As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

Paperback: 336 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 12, 2018)

My Review:

I have a few blogger friends who refuse to read or preemptively dislike books with long titles and subtitles so they would not even pick up The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses), which would be a shame because it is an engaging and enjoyable book. It also has a story or book inside the book so maybe it gets a pass on the long title since it's two stories in one. ;-)

The retirement home, called the "Pen" by its staff in residents was set up by Alfonse Carducci's mentor and lover, Cornelius Traeger, as a place elderly and ailing writers could find respite in their last days. In edition to its quirky collection of authors, editors, publicists and others--some very famous, some less so, there are is a staff--a doctor/director, nurses, orderlies and a groundskeeper. Cecibel Bringer is an orderly, who hides out at the Pen--from her past and from the accident that has left half of her face and her life destroyed. Cecibel is one of Alfonse Carducci's biggest fans and her admiration for him and the hurt she carries around with her, calls to Alfonse and she becomes his muse, inspiring him to pick up his pen to write again in the limited time he has left. A few close friends and more of Alfonse are living out their days at the home and soon they are adding their own passions and skills to the story the Alfonse starts. There are secrets and revelations, a possible romance for Cecibel and  of course the passed around treasure of a notebook where the authors take turns writing from different points of view.

With the story-within-a-story and the various characters--residents, staff, characters they are writing, etc., things could get confusing but DeFino manages to make it flow smoothly and wind the various bits together while secrets are unwinding. I can't decide whether I liked the chapters devoted to the present or 1999 at the Pen in Maine, or the mid-to-late 1950s where the book--a tale of star-crossed lovers take place, mostly in New Jersey. When I was reading one part I was enjoying it but found myself looking forward to getting back to the chapters in the other era. I was immediately drawn into the book and it kept me involved until the end. The characters are almost all likable and I found myself wishing the best for them and I was sorry to turn the last page although the ending satisfied. Quirky, unique, touching and engaging, The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Authors (And Their Muses) (OK, the title really is too darn long!) ;-) is a great summer read for book lovers and fans of writers and a book that's easy to escape with.

-----

Author Notes: Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.
 
Find out more about Terri at her website.

-----

Food Inspiration: 

There is some food in the book, not a lot, but certainly enough to provide inspiration.  Some of the mentions included burgers and fries, coffee, tea (chamomile, peppermint and Earl Gray specifically), a lobster bake with butter, rolls and ice cream accompanying it, hotdogs, tapioca, puddings, light cakes and sorbets, whiskey, turkey sandwiches, ice tea and chips, pancakes, Long Island Iced Teas, hors d'oeuvres, Manhattans, steak, port, pies, fried chicken, potato salad, turkey with gravy and stuffing, s'mores, malteds and egg creams, chocolate cake, cannoli, salmon properly cooked, gimlets, hot cocoa, New England clam chowder, popcorn, cookies,carrot, potatoes and beef, Russian tea cakes, champagne, chicken Parmesan and sausage and pepper sandwiches. 


With a hot day and a busy week, my thoughts went to ice cream and a sentence about the retirement home, "The Pen" and having a pattissier--"creating decadent but harmless tapiocas and puddings, light cakes and sorbets" for the elderly residents. What could be more harmless than ice cream, or "nice" cream made with frozen fruit? I had pinned a recipe for Pineapple Nice Cream from Eating Well Magazine and it sounded like a good match for the book and a perfect match for the weather.


Eating Well says, "All-fruit, dairy-free and with no added sugar—these are the hallmarks of nice cream, a healthy alternative to ice cream. This pineapple nice cream has tropical flavors, thanks to a hit of mango and lime. It takes just minutes to make this naturally sweet frozen dessert in the food processor or a blender. Enjoy it alone, or top with fresh fruit and toasted coconut." 

Pineapple Nice Cream
Carolyn Casner, Eating Well Magazine, November 2017
(6 Servings) (Let's be real--more like 3 or 4!)

1 16-ozpackage  frozen pineapple chunks
1 cup frozen mango chunks or 1 large ripe mango peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice or lemon juice 

Process pineapple, mango and lemon (or lime) juice in a food processor until smooth and creamy. (If using frozen mango, you may have to add up to 1/4 cup water.

For the best texture, serve immediately.

Nutritional Info: Serving size: ½ cup Per serving: 55 calories; 0 g fat(0 g sat); 2 g fiber; 14 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 26 mcg folate; 0 cholesterol; 11 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 342 IU vitamin A; 47 mg vitamin C; 13 mg calcium; 0 mg iron; 1 mg sodium; 131 mg potassium


Notes/Results: I have made banana nice cream and homemade Dole Whip before and this is right up there. Although the pineapple is a bit more prominent, the mango comes through and sweetens and mellows the pineapple a bit--rounding out the flavor. Refreshing and a good combination of sweet and tangy, it's a tropical taste treat that goes together easily and tastes great. (Although our humidity did make it melt pretty quick while taking pictures--lucky my spoon is also a straw!) I will happily make it again. 


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 "The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sweet Corn Chowder with Chloe's Croutons: Vegan and Delicious for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

It's been pretty humid here this weekend, but that never stops me from eating soups--especially a summery Sweet Corn Chowder like this one from my vegan cooking guru, Chloe Coscarelli. I love the fact that she eats soup in the hot summer in New York--a girl after my own heart. I like that this soup gets it's creaminess from the pureed corn and potato. There's a couple of pans and steps involved--especially if you make the croutons, but I had leftover bread from Friday and everything goes together quickly and easily with simple ingredients.


Chloe says, "Even in New York's summer heat, I still crave this hot-hot soup. Not only is it temperature hot, but it's also got a nice kick from the jalapeno. There's something very hydrating about the pureed corn, that makes it a great summer choice. . It's flavorful and fun with tons of color and texture."  


Chloe notes that you can make it gluten-free by using gluten-free broth and using gluten-free bread if making the croutons.

Sweet Corn Chowder with Chloe's Croutons
Very Slightly Adapted from Chloe Flavor by Chloe Coscarelli
(Serves 6)

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 Yukon Gold or other yellow potato, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cups (about 2 lbs) frozen sweet corn (I used about 8 cups of corn-yellow & white)
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cups vegetable broth (I used 4 cups due to the extra corn)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 jalapeno seeded and minced
Chloe's Croutons (recipe below), optional
lime wedges, optional

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, potato, 4 cups of the corn, the garlic and the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the broth, brown sugar and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through. 

Turn off the heat and puree directly in the pot using an immersion blender, or, working in batches, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth (always be careful when blending hot liquids); return the soup to the pot. 

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the bell pepper and remaining 2 cups of corn. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned, then add to the soup. Add the jalapenos and stir over medium heat until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Serve topped with croutons and a lime wedge, if desired. 

-----

Chloe's Crouton's
Very Slightly Adapted from Chloe Flavor by Chloe Coscarelli
(Makes 3 Cups)

3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed
3 cups cubed of torn bread
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder (I used roasted garlic powder)

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, When it shimmers, add the bread and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. Season with salt and pepper. Add more oil if the pan looks dry.

Turn of the heat and toss with the garlic powder. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to one month.


Notes/Results: Corn chowder is such a favorite of mine and this is a good one--sweet, with a little heat from the pepper and jalapeno and perfectly creamy and delicious.You won't miss the milk or cream if you eat them, or the non-dairy milk if you are a vegan, the soup is silky using just the pureed corn and potato. I used a small package of white sweet corn along with a big package of sweet yellow corn, giving me about 8 cups or corn. I like the extra corn as it makes the chowder even more substantial. You could use fresh corn too but it wasn't looking that fresh in the store and for the lazy soul, frozen sweet corn is quick and easy. Do make the croutons if you get a chance--they are delicious in the soup--along with the lime juice--but make extra because if you are like me you will be noshing on them as they toast up. I would happily make this soup again. 


Let's see who is in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week! 


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog shared Broccoli Raab and Potato Soup and said, "Broccoli raab, small red or white potatoes, and carrots make an unusual yet interesting soup  The rich green vegetable can be a tad bitter, but the potato and sweet carrot balance out the flavors making this an excellent way to enjoy eating your greens. I love the creamy texture, the vibrant color, and the pungent flavor of this easy seasonal soup. It's soothing and satisfying."
 

Debra of Eliot's Eats made a fresh summery salad from tomatoes from her garden and said, "My favorite way to eat them—sliced with just a bit of Himalayan sea salt and fresh pepper. I’ll leave you with a simple yet delicious salad that I mixed up for a quick dinner after one of our marathon road trips: Strawberry and Cherry Tomato Bruschetta Salad. Just toss the tomatoes, sliced strawberries, fresh basil with good olive oil and a splash of balsamic. Season with fresh ground pepper. Enjoy!"


Here at Kahakai Kitchen I made Eric Ripert's Curry Vinaigrette and Curry Croutons and used them on a green salad--rounding it out as a meal with a skewer of grilled shrimp, spiced with curry and smoked paprika. It made for a delicious light dinner, perfect for a tough week.

Thanks to Judee and Debra for joining me this week!
  
About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following 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 her 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 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 it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).




Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Salad with Eric Ripert's Curry Vinaigrette & Curried Croutons, Served with Grilled Curry Shrimp

My heart hurts today. It hurts for Anthony Bourdain, for his family, his friends, and those who loved him. We've lost other celebrities and people in the public eye, as recently designer Kate Spade earlier in the week, but there was something about waking up to losing the life force that was Anthony Bourdain that made it seem harder and more real. Kitchen Confidential was one of my first foodie memoirs and I continued to read Bourdain's books, watch his shows, follow him on Instagram, and admire his talent, wit and candor, and how he brought both food and a better understanding of the world to so many of us. He will be sorely missed.


As an introvert who doesn't often share my deepest feelings--and especially when they are feelings of pain, I implore you, I implore me, to do whatever you need to do to share and talk it out if it feels that it has become too much to handle. There are people out there who care about you, or if you aren't comfortable reaching out that way, call the National Suicide Prevention Help Line (1-800-273-8255)--it's 24/7, toll-free, confidential and can provide support. Know that you matter and that you are loved. And know that a smile, a kind word, and listening sincerely and without judgment to others can be so helpful to someone who is in pain. I try to think about what I say, or write before I do it and if I can't say something positive that uplifts rather than tears down, I think it is better left unsaid. If we were all even just a little kinder to each other, our world will be a better place. 

So it seems a bit odd to post a recipe tonight, and an Eric Ripert recipe at that--he was Anthony Bourdain's best friend and sadly, the person who found him. Truth be told, I almost didn't want to even cook tonight, but I had planned to make this recipe for I Heart Cooking Clubs, I had good jumbo shrimp thawed, fresh bread and greens bought, and the act of tossing it together into an easy dinner was somewhat soothing. There's a certain solace for me in the kitchen. As I sat down with my plate of salad, bread and shrimp and a glass of white wine, I toasted Anthony Bourdain and wished him peace. 


About the recipe: I had been eyeing Eric Ripert's Mâche Salad with Curry Vinaigrette for a while but mâche is difficult to find here so I subbed in an organic baby spinach and greens mix. Wanting something to make it more of a main dish, I added in a tomato and grilled shrimp. When I can't find local shrimp, I try to stock my freezer shrimp from Whole Foods--where there are checks and balances on the producers they buy from and it is sustainably farmed. If you don't do shrimp, this salad would be perfectly delicious on it's own as a starter or side, or add your favorite protein to make it a full meal.


Mâche Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine.com 
(Serves 4)

5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp Madras curry powder
3 oz peasant or country bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces (2 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 
kosher salt
2 oz mâche lettuce (8 cups) (I used mixed greens and baby spinach)
1/4 cup chopped chives  (I subbed in 1 Roma tomato--cored, seeded & chopped)
 
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Whisk in 1/4 teaspoon of the curry powder and add the bread. Toast over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the croutons to a plate.

In a bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder with the lemon juice; season with salt. Toss gently with the mâche and chives; transfer to plates and top with the croutons.

For the Shrimp: I tossed good jumbo shrimp--peeled and de-veined, tail shells removed, in olive oil, Madras curry powder, smoked paprika, sea salt and pepper and threaded them onto wooden skewers (soak skewers in water for 5  minutes first). I heated a grill pan on high heat and cooked the shrimp--about 2 minutes per side until they were golden and pink and firm all the way through. 


Notes/Results:  OK, crispy curry croutons are a very good thing--especially enjoyed with salad with a curried dressing and the addition of lightly curried shrimp. It's like a one-two-three punch of curry, flavorful but not overwhelming. This was a quick and easy dinner--perfect for a humid Friday night--especially when the heart is hurting. I will happily make the dressing and croutons (and the shrimp) again.


Linking up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where our theme is From the Salad Bowl--any kind of Eric Ripert salad recipes.
  
 
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.


Finally, it's a salad so I am linking up to Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup 

 
 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Almost Sisters" by Joshilyn Jackson, Served with a Recipe for No-Bake Lemon Icebox Pie

It's Wednesday and it's a bit hazy and humid. Not quite a hot and muggy Alabama summer, but still a great time to review a southern novel with summery feel like The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. And, what better way to accompany my review than a slice of tart-and-sweet No-Bake Lemon Icebox Pie.


Publisher's Blurb:

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality–the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 29, 2018)


My Review:

The Almost Sisters is my first Joshilyn Jackson novel, but I had heard great things about the book and her writing, so I assumed that I was in for a treat and I was. I loved the book and I think I found a new author to enjoy. The Almost Sisters is sweet, but a bit snarky, sentimental and touching, but without being too much so. Leia is the main character, a single, thirty-eight-year-old graphic novelist who finds herself pregnant by a one-night stand with Batman--or an attractive stranger dressed like him at a convention. She keeps the news to herself until her second trimester, when she's about to confess all at lunch at her 'perfect' stepsister's house. But before she can tell anyone, Rachel's unexpected marriage troubles and a plethora of calls and texts from people from the small southern town Leia's grandmother Birchie lives in interrupt her, and Leia finds herself headed to Birchville, Alabama with her thirteen-year-old niece, Lavender, in tow to hopefully sort it all out out. Things are worse than Leia expects when she discovers the truth about the disease that is taking the Birchie she knows away and some well-hidden secrets with big ramifications from Birdie's past come spilling out. 

Leia is a delight of a character--prickly and funny, hiding a lot of hurts behind her art and the graphic novel she created and self-published that became a hit and now has her under contract to write a sequel. All the family drama isn't helping her creative block--from her secret pregnancy to Birchie's and Birchie's best friend Wattie's troubles, to her niece and Rachel--who heads down to Birchville to protect her daughter and escape her own issues. Leia has always lived under the shadow of Rachel and her strong personality and we don't get drawn into Rachel's life and character as much, but that's OK, because this is Leia's and ultimately Birchie's story. The supporting characters are quirky and interesting and the small southern town of Birchville is almost a character itself. I don't want to go into a lot of details beyond what I've shared and what is in the publisher's blurb because Jackson weaves together the characters and plot points so well and then unfolds the story and the secrets in such an appealing and engaging way, that you should just read it on your own. The whole memory loss and dementia aspects hit me a little hard at times--anyone who has dealt with an aging and ailing parent or grandparent can relate to that pain--but there is so much charm, humor and hope in the book, that the sadder moments didn't pull me down. I liked the glimpse of the south that Jackson gives through Leia--both the 'surface' south with all of its charm that Leia loves, and the more hidden south, with its prejudices and other issues that seethe below, and that she discovers when she looks at Birchville with new eyes. Although how Leia relates to life is through her love of superheroes and villains, art, graphic novels, and comics and that's not really a world I know much about, it isn't overdone and comes off as charmingly nerdy and fun. 

The Almost Sisters drew me in from the start and kept me turning the pages. I'd gladly go back to Birchville and these characters again. This book has all the pleasure of a good summer read that sweeps you away, while still hitting on some tougher issues. I look forward to exploring more of Jackson's novels.

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Author Notes: Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her websiteFacebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


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Food Inspiration:

It's the south so of course there was plenty of food in The Almost Sisters. Food mentioned included tequila, beer and wine, Easy Cheese, shrimp scampi, beef medallions, breakfast eggs, homemade jam, a fish fry with fried catfish, salad with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and homemade ranch dressing, cheese grits, fried okra, cornbread, and icebox pie. There was an unfortunate salmon en papillote with asparagus and cherry tomatoes, sweet tea, homemade soup, hush puppies (don't add jalapenos and cheese at the church), pecan pound cake, Fiddle-Faddle, meringues, macarons, chicken soup, Cornish game hens, sliced tomatoes, tea with cinnamon and lemon, cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, chicken casseroles, mac-n-cheese, cake pops, a skinny vanilla latte, Nana's Lemon Bars, homemade biscuits, marrow broth and fried chicken livers, pancakes and bacon, carrot sticks, toffee cookies, blackberry jam, tea with bourbon, fudge, wild caught salmon and beets, hot cocoa, cake stuffed with strawberries, ham and potato casserole, muffins, lemonade and gingersnaps, sweet potatoes, oatmeal with berries, fried tomatoes, lady peas with bacon fat and collards, corn pudding, frozen "emergency casseroles" and chips.


So I actually decided on icebox pie as my book-inspired dish within the first several chapters of the book, starting with the mention of the food at the annual church fish fry which goes awry when Birchie has a public meltdown. Later, Leia ruminates that it is hard to reconcile this ailing and different Birchie with the grandmother who made her icebox pie. I liked the idea of this southern staple dessert and have been meaning to make one. As I read on, I found that later in the book icebox pie is in a couple of more negative scenes and mentions. Ah well, I had already bought my ingredients and so we'll just think of the positive memories icebox pie had for Leia. 


I found plenty of different recipes for icebox pie and quite a few for lemon icebox pies--which seems the most classic flavor. It's a busy and humid week here, so I looked for an un-baked version that was as quick and easy as possible. I ended up with a Betty Crocker recipe from the website that looked both simple and tasty. Although I have made and have no problem making a graham cracker crust, buying one was actually cheaper than buying a box of graham crackers that I likely wouldn't use the remainder of--and it shaved an hour+ off of my no-baking time. Plus, I watched The Kitchen on Food Network this weekend and Geoffrey Zakarian's tip for easy summer desserts was buying graham cracker pie crusts. I figure if an Iron Chef says to do it, I am OK. ;-)


No-Bake Lemon Icebox Pie
Filling Recipe from BettyCrocker.com
(Serves 8)

Crust: (if making--as mentioned, I bought a Keebler crust to save time)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs--from 10 to 12 whole crackers
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel (I used about 1 1/2 Tbsp)

Crush graham crackers in food processor or in sealed food-storage plastic bag with rolling pin. In medium bowl, mix crust ingredients. Press evenly into un-greased 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate 1 hour.  

In large bowl, beat Filling ingredients until smooth. Spread evenly in crust. Refrigerate 4 hours but no longer than 8 hours.

Serve with whipped cream if desired.


Notes/Results: It's really a shame that this pie is so good and so easy to make because I fear I may be making it again or dabbling in a variety of flavors of no-bake icebox pies this summer. There is just enough lemon in this one to make it tangy and refreshing, but the sweetened condensed milk sweetens it so it has a good balance. It also has a nice almost cheesecake like texture that I like. Since I was zesting lemons anyway, I zested all of mine before I squeezed them, added extra to the pie, and sprinkled some on top to garnish before freezing. I froze (instead of refrigerating) my pie about 5 hours before slicing (I was trying to catch decent light for photos) and it was just a bit soft. Since it was warm and pretty humid yesterday, my pie and my whipped topping rosettes got a bit melty quickly which is why some of the pics have slightly 'blobby'-looking whipped cream in them. Looks aside, it still tasted delicious. At about 7 hours of freezing, I inspected things (and maybe ate the first piece I cut and set aside...) and the firmness was optimal. The recipe says not to refrigerate it over 8 hours, but for me, I am going to leave it in the freezer as I like that almost-frozen texture. I would definitely make it again--probably with a homemade graham cracker or maybe a shortbread crust the next time.
 

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 "The Almost Sisters" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.