Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, Served with a Recipe for Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon & Fried Capers

Happy Thursday! Friday and the Memorial Day holiday weekend are just around the corner--making it a very good day. Also making it a very good day is my TLC Book Tour stop and review of The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, reissued to tie in with the STARZ® Original Series that debuted last month and that I can't wait to watch, now that I have finally read the book.

Accompanying my review of this innovative, odd and somewhat magical book, is a recipe for delicious Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Capers--certainly worthy of any gods and goddesses (American or otherwise) or just those of us mortals looking for a tasty snack or pupu! 

Publisher's Blurb:

Now a STARZ® Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber | Premiering Sunday, April 30, at 9pm EST

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.
PLUS… don’t miss American Gods: The Official Coloring Book, featuring illustrations by Yvonne Gilbert, Craig Phillips, and Jon Proctor. Indulge your inner artist and revel in the stunning imagery of the gods and people, places and artifacts of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Paperback: 576 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; The Tenth Anniversary Edition, with TV Tie-in jacket art 
(March 28, 2017)

My Review:

Beyond Coraline which I have loved for ages, I confess to being a more recent convert to Neil Gaiman's writing over the past few years--but I've begun digging into his body of work, both reading and listening (Neil Gaiman's reading his work on audio book is amazing and life-changing, though I suspect Neil Gaiman reading the phone book or the back of a cereal box would have ample charm). I have worked my way through his essays in The View From the Cheap Seats, enjoyed several short story collections, and listened to The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book, and Norse Mythology over the past few months. and I had planned to tackle American Gods and its 500+ pages even before signing up for the TLC Book Tour review. Gaiman's sense of dark and weird fantasy and his often child-like whimsy speak to me and I love escaping into the different worlds he creates.  
American Gods is quite the ride--a dark, imaginative, wild ride--full of mythology and magic, the old and the new, and a bunch of eccentric characters. Most of the characters  are gods from different cultures and traditions who have ended up, by choice or not, immigrating to America over the years, and these gods are behaving pretty badly for the most part. Although I relished the bad behavior of the gods in Norse Mythology, I wasn't sure I would sustain an appreciation for them for so many pages in American Gods. I was also unsure about the main character, the very recently paroled Shadow, as most of my favorite Gaiman protagonists are children. But, by the time he headed to the warden's office in the beginning of the book to receive his early parole and some very bad news, Shadow won me over and I found myself vested in his journey and at times, actually wanting to give him a hug--taciturn demeanor and intimating size be damned. The majority of the other characters are fairly over-the-top and not quite as easy to identify with or care for with a few exceptions and there are many of them, as well as tangents and subplots galore to keep track of, but it all worked for me in the end and came together into one crazy road trip. There were a few times that I scratched my head, or went back to reread a deeper meaning in something that I thought I missed and that made me think, "I need to be smarter or maybe smarter and odder for you Neil!" Even with those moments, the book flowed and I never found myself bogged down by the story or the pacing--I looked forward to picking up the book each time I had the chance to read it. 

Speaking of reading, I did a multi-media approach with American Gods, alternating mainly between an e-book copy of the 10th Anniversary edition and the full-cast Tenth Anniversary Audio Book from Audible that I grabbed with a credit. This is the first time I went back and forth and I enjoyed the experience. The audio book and the different voice and characters brought the story to life when I was cooking or walking. I had originally thought it would be fun to use with the Official American Gods Coloring Book the publisher sent, but I never managed to get any coloring done. It was also helpful to have the print and e-book copies for those moments I wanted to go back and reread. 

I think American Gods is a book people will either strongly like, or they will (probably strongly) dislike it if they find it too strange. It definitely is weird and dark, but for me it was in the best way and it combined really good entertainment with making me think about the deeper meanings. If you are a Gaiman fan, you like fantasy, mythology, and/or enjoy epic road trip stories that are worth the sometimes crazy driving and bumps along the way, chances are you will come down on the "heavy like" side of things as I did. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the STARZ® Original Series soon.


Author Notes: Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.
Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on InstagramFacebooktumblr, Twitter, and his blog.


Food Inspiration: 

Dark, crazy road trips may not include the best food, but there was food to be food in American Gods--some mentions more appetizing than others. Food mentions included; beer, mead and other drinks and lots of coffee and hot chocolate, burgers and fries, very rare steak, pizza, some unappetizing "ferociously crimson" beet and potato borscht and leathery pot roast, greens of some kind "well on their way to becoming browns" and cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and rice. There were mochaccinos, cold gumbo, Snickers bars, milk and fruit, pasties (meat pies), wild turkey stew and applejack, spaghetti with thick read sauce and spicy meatballs, crusty garlic bread, a ham roll and a packet of potato chips, RC Cola, bananas, apple pie, milk and cookies, pickled hog's foot, strawberry daiquiri, burning bacon, salmon, buffalo, sugar cane, potatoes and corn, orange trees, lemon trees and avocados, bad Japanese food, a breakfast of pancakes, sizzling bacon and perfect eggs, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, and finally an expensive Icelandic meal of smoked puffin :-( and cloudberries and arctic char and boiled potatoes

I ended up taking inspiration for my book-inspired dish from the goddess Easter who Shadow meets in a park where she is having a picnic on a paper tablecloth with a variety of Tupperware dishes in front of her. There were deviled eggs and deviled eggs happen to be one of my very favorite things. Easter makes Shadow a plate piled high with the eggs, roast chicken, chicken curry, chicken salad, and cold rabbit. Since she plays a role later in the book and it's always a good time for deviled eggs, I decided to make them. I have been wanting to add fried capers (capers are my addiction) to deviled eggs after seeing variations here and there. Since smoked salmon pairs well with capers, I decided to do a nod to the Norse gods and and top my eggs with bits of smoked salmon, dill and few caraway seeds along with the fried capers that are also incorporated into the deviled egg mixture.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Capers
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 8 Deviled Egg Halves)

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in half
1 Tbsp fried capers (see recipe below)
3 Tbsp mayo or yogurt
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp caper juice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper, as needed to taste

To Garnish/Serve: 
2 oz smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces
about 24 fried capers--about 3 per egg
fresh dill sprigs
caraway seeds 

Cut each hard boiled egg in half lengthwise and gently remove the yolks. In a small bowl, mash the yolks with a fork and add the capers, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, caper juice, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Stir until blended, smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed--you shouldn't need much salt--caper juice is briny.  

Fill eggs with equal amounts of filling--using either a small spoon or a pastry bag with a large tip. Garnish each egg with a few pieces of smoked salmon,2-3 fried capers, tiny pieces of fresh dill and a few caraway seeds. 

Fried Capers
(This will make more fried capers than you need for the eggs but that's OK, you are going to eat them while you make the eggs and/or, you can use any extras on grain bowls, salads, bagels with cream cheese, etc.)

1/4 cup capers, rinsed, drained and patted with paper towels until dry
about 1/4 canola/vegetable oil

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, Carefully add 1/2 of the capers, frying until they crisp and begin to open up like little flowers. Carefully remove the first batch from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the second half of the capers. 

Notes/Results: First off, fried capers are a necessary part of life and should be enjoyed on more than deviled eggs. ;-) Secondly, they pair amazing with deviled eggs and also with the smoked salmon and dill in this recipe. These were little bites of goodness and would be a quick and easy pupu to put together for a party or as a dinner or lunch starter--or to enjoy as a yummy snack when you are audio coloring with the American Gods audio book and the Official American Gods Coloring Book. I liked having the fried capers mixed into the egg salad and as a garnish on top--so much caper yum! ;-) In fact, as tasty as the smoked salmon was, I would have been just as happy with only the fried capers on top of the fried-caper laced eggs. I will most definitely make these again.

Quirky and really good--just like the book!

I'm linking this post up to 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 "American Gods" and a copy of 'American Gods: The Official Coloring Book" were provided to me by the publisher Harper Collins and 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.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Concepción and the Baby Brokers" by Deborah Clearman, Served with A Guatemalan Breakfast of Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Onions, Refried Black Beans, and Tortillas

Happy Tuesday! On today's TLC Book Tour we are headed to Guatemala for a short story collection set there, Concepción and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman. I'm pairing my review with a tasty classic Guatemalan breakfast of Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Onions, served with Refried Black Beans and Corn Tortillas

Publisher's Blurb:

In nine thematically linked stories set largely in Guatemala, Concepción and the Baby Brokers brings to life characters struggling with universal emotions and dilemmas in a place unfamiliar to most Americans. From the close-knit community of Todos Santos to the teeming danger of Guatemala City, to a meat-packing plant in Michigan and the gardens of Washington DC, Deborah Clearman shows us the human cost of international adoption, drug trafficking, and immigration.
A Cup of Tears, the opening novella, reveals a third-world baby farm, seen through the eyes of a desperate wet nurse, a baby broker, and an American adoptive mother. In “The Race” a young man returns to his native village to ride in a disastrous horse race. “English Lessons” tells of a Guatemalan immigrant in Washington DC who learns more than English from a public library volunteer. A teenage girl tries to trap her professor into marriage in “Saints and Sinners.”
With searing humanity, Clearman exposes the consequences of American exceptionalism, and the daily magic and peril that inform and shape ordinary lives.

Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First edition (March 15, 2017) 

My Review:

I have become a fan of short stories over the past few years and love how they give me  quick glimpses into different situations, places, and lives. Having the stories in Concepción and the Baby Brokers set mainly in Guatemala and involving Guatemalan culture and different walks of society gave me a clearer picture and better understanding of a country that I don't often get to read about. About the first 100 pages, titled A Cup of Tears, is given to the title subject and is about the illegal brokering of Guatemalan babies. This novella pulled me in quickly, told from the perspectives of the servant who sells twin baby boys, the agent/buyer and the lawyer involved in stealing them, the mother and grandfather looking for them, and the potential adoptive mother. It's a powerful and sad glimpse into an all-to-real problem. 

The remaining six stories vary in subject and although not all of them held my interest equally (common for me in short story collections) they were all well written and worthy of inclusion. These are not light or overtly humorous snippets of life as many of the characters are struggling with something, but they do ring true--life isn't easy for many of the people we meet inside the pages. The characters all live in or have ties to the Todos Santos municipality, a more rural area in the Northern Highlands of Guatemala where the people are mainly of indigenous, Mayan descent. The area is most well-known for its annual All-Saints Festival and 'drunken' horse races where many of the riders drink for days before the race--the subject of one of the stories.  

Although the author was not born in Guatemala, her descriptive writing of the scenery, food, people and culture makes it clear she has spent much time there. She has a novel called Todos Santos about an American artist and mother who travels with her son to Guatemala and heads for the remote village. After reading these stories and becoming intrigued with the country and region, I am adding the novel to my TBR pile. I would definitely recommend Concepción and the Baby Brokers to short story enthusiasts and those looking to expand their reading horizons to learn about a different country that they may not know much about.


Author Notes: Deborah Clearman is the author of a novel Todos Santos, from Black Lawrence Press. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the former Program Director for NY Writers Coalition, and she teaches creative writing in such nontraditional venues as senior centers, public housing projects, and the jail for women on Rikers Island. She lives in New York City and Guatemala.


Food Inspiration:  

For a relatively short book of stories, there was plenty of food to be found in Concepción and the Baby Brokers. Foods mentioned included corn, tortillas, chilies and miltomates (tomatillos) in a blender and made into a sauce with onions, burnt squash seeds and cinnamon, turkey in golden sauce, a sweetened maize drink, chichitos (a Guatemalan tamale), peanuts and bags of sliced mango, dishes like jocón, pepián, carne guisada, adobada, a peanut butter sandwich, soup of garlic, veggies and mashed tortilla, chila chayote, oatmeal mush, croissants and coffee, banana and papaya, huevos divorciados, fried chicken, black beans, mini bananas, orange cheese doodles, fresh rolls, armadillo soup with tomatoes, potatoes and wild greens, elotes (street corn), a pot of beans, chicken a Big Mac, sushi canapes, dips and pasta, grain and bean salads, carne asada, and margaritas at a picnic, beets, pan dulce, and hibiscus, cinnamon and chamomile tea.    

When picking my book inspired dish I wanted to go with something classic and there were a few mentions of scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes, served with tortillas and also with beans. It was supper in the mentions in the book, but when looking up recipes online it turns out that it is a classic Guatemalan breakfast as well.

I found the recipe I used online at The Antigua Guide. It said, "This recipe is as Guatemalan as corn tortillas. Try it when you’re getting tired of the same old scrambled eggs. Guatemalans modify the recipe in many ways. For example, sometimes people add corn tortilla bits or cooked chorizo instead of tomatoes and onions. Accompany the eggs with Frijoles Chapines (Guatemalan black beans any style) and Tortillas de Maíz (corn tortillas). Or serve the eggs atop a panfried corn tortilla with beans on the side. You can also modify this recipe by making the eggs sunny side up and using the onion and tomato combination." I modified the recipe just slightly--adding more tomato and onion to my eggs.

Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Onions
Adapted slightly from Amalia Moreno-Damgaard via
(Serves 2--or 1 Hungry Girl at Dinner) ;-)

2 large eggs
1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 sweet onion, diced
sea salt and black pepper

To Serve: refried black beans, corn tortillas, chopped cilantro, & lime wedges as desired

Place oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add tomato and onion and season with salt. Cook until they become saucy and thicken, about 5 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs until combined and fluffy.

Turn heat to medium-low and add eggs to the sauce, combining well. Cook until eggs are cooked through and creamy, stirring as needed. 

Serve hot, along with black beans (refried--I used Amy's brand or whole beans), corn tortillas, lime wedges and cilantro as desired. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I actually ate my breakfast for dinner because of timing and all but I would be happy to enjoy it any time of day. It's a simple preparation but the eggs has plenty of flavor--especially when paired with the black beans and scooped into the tortillas. I eat eggs with red sauce and eggs with salsa often and this is similar and quick to through together. I did want more veggies in my eggs, so I used a whole tomato and about a fourth of a large sweet onion with my two eggs. Refried beans are easy enough to make but I had a can of Amy's refried black beans in my pantry that I wanted to use. Heating the beans and warming the tortillas on stovetop burner happened while the tomatoes, onions and eggs cooked and dinner was on the table in about 15 minutes. Easy, filling, and delicious, I am sure I will make it again.

I'm linking this post up to 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 "Concepción and the Baby Brokers" was provided to me by the publisher, and 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, May 21, 2017

Zucchini, Cumin & Mint Soup: Silky Green Vegan Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I checked out Peace & Parsnips: Adventurous Vegan Cooking For Everyone by Lee Watson from the library several months ago but never got around cooking from it. I jotted down this soup recipe--although I checked the book out again this weekend and I may have to add it to my overgrown cookbook collection if this soup is an indication of the quality and deliciousness of the recipes. I love cumin, zucchini was on sale, and the combination of ingredients sounded too good to pass up.

Peace & Parsnips says, "This was a traditional Turkish-style soup until I got my hands on it. ... It is traditionally served with lots of yogurt, but the silken tofu steps in and adds a wonderful creaminess to the proceedings."

Zucchini, Cumin & Mint Soup 
Slightly Adapted from Peace & Parsnips by Lee Watson
(Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
4 zucchini, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 of a white cabbage, chopped
1 tsp dried mint
1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups good veggie stock or water
5 1/2 oz silken tofu or unsweetened, non-dairy yogurt
a handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
(I added 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)

To garnish: fresh mint leaves, ground cumin. fruity olive oil

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, cumin seeds, and salt and saute for 10 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic, zucchini, celery, potato and cabbage and saute for another 5 minutes or so. Add the dried mint and black pepper, stirring well.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Whisk tofu in a small bowl with a fork until smooth and add to the soup. Blend soup with an immersion blender--leaving it slightly chunky or blending until smooth--as desired. Add the chopped mint (and I added 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice) and stir. Taste and add additional salt and black pepper if desired. 

Serve in bowls, garnished with fresh mint leaves, freshly ground cumin and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy.

Notes/Results: I really like this soup--it is silky, satisfying and full of delicious flavor. I love how well the cumin comes though and the mint. With the freshness of the zucchini and mint, it fits well into warm weather eating and ends up not being too heavy. I did think it called out for some fresh lemon juice to brighten up the flavors a bit, so I added some at the end. I also like Lee Watson's call for leaving this soup a bit chunky--it adds to the enjoyment of eating it. I would happily make it again.

We have a few delicious dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look!

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared Chickpea, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad and said, "One evening I made my egg and rice stir fry and stayed up late to finish my latest Peter Robinson book. For dinner the following night I made a salad with chickpeas, tomatoes, olives and feta.  I stuffed a pita pocket with it and had a nice light dinner. There was enough salad leftover to serve as a side with a Greek Shrimp Scampi for dinner once Doug was home."

Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen said, "I made this Curly Kale and White Beans Soup over the weekend with what we had in the house as I wasn't feeling adventurous. Its nothing special, yet variations of this Curly Kale and White Beans Soup has featured on many a blog and many a cookbook, but it made for a nice change from a smoother soup with its chunky vegetable and crinkly soft greens."

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog brought Turkish Red Lentil Soup and said, "I was first introduced to this unique red lentil many years ago by my (then new to America) mother-in-law who made these lentils which she called "aatz" quite frequently to feed her family of seven on a very tight budget.I call it the never ending soup because the longer it sits, the thicker it gets and we always need to add more broth to leftovers when we heat it up the next day. It stretches and stretches!"


Mahalo to everyone who joined in this week! 

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 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.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Grilled Asparagus and Veggies with Garlic and Anchovy Dressing

Summer is on the horizon and it's already causing me to want to up my green veggie intake--but sometimes veggies can be a bit boring. That's when you fire up the grill pan and throw the ingredients for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Garlic and Anchovy Dressing into the blender. It works as a starter, or even a light meal on a humid night.

I made the dressing primarily to go with some asparagus, but tossed a small zucchini, some baby lettuce, and a few skewers of sweet little tomatoes onto the grill pan for some variety. Delicious with a glass of crisp white wine.

River Cottage says, "This punchy anchovy-based dressing – similar to the Italian classic bagna cauda – is a year-round favourite and easy to whip up from the sort of ingredients you’re likely to have in your store-cupboard and fridge. It’s a superb accompaniment to all kinds of veg – raw or cooked. We love it as a dip for crunchy summer crudités, but also serve it as a dressing for steamed purple sprouting broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower and kale. It will keep happily in a jar in the fridge for at leas"t a couple of weeks. It will probably separate, but can be re-emulsified by shaking or whisking."

Crudités with Garlic and Anchovy Dressing
From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall via
(Serves 4)

50g (1.75 oz) anchovy fillets, drained
150ml (5 oz) olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled

leaves from a sprig of thyme
a few basil leaves (optional)
1/2 small red chilli, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tsp Dijon or English mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar or wine vinegar

a few twists of black pepper

For the dressing, simply blitz all the ingredients together in a blender until completely smooth. Or, if you are using fresh chilli, you might prefer to chop it very finely by hand, then stir it into the blitzed dressing to give it a little texture.

Leave the dressing for half an hour or so, to allow the flavours to mingle and develop, then transfer to a large bowl.

Prepare the crudités: halve or quarter lengthways the lettuce hearts and larger baby vegetables, such as courgettes and carrots. Leave the smaller ones, such as pea pods and radishes, whole. Arrange them on a platter and serve with the dressing.

Notes/Results: Yum! If you like garlic, you will enjoy this dip. And if you are afraid of anchovies, don't be--they blend right in, just adding delicious Caesar salad dressing-like flavor to the dressing. Although it would be delicious with raw veggies, lightly grilled veggies are just so much more appealing. I just cooked them all on one grill pan, lightly brushed with olive oil until tender crisp on the zucchini and asparagus, lightly browned on the baby romaine, and until just softened on the baby tomatoes. If you want to make it more of a meal you could add some quartered hard-boiled eggs, steamed root vegetables, and/or chunks of poached fish and it would be perfectly delightful. Quick, easy and really good. I will happily make this again and use whatever veggies I have on hand.

It's maybe not the "pubbiest" of bar snacks, but I am linking this yummy starter that pairs well with wine up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Pub Grub. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Woman No. 17" by Edan Lepucki, Served with a California Roll & Salmon Poke Brown Rice Bowl (+ a Giveaway!)

On today's TLC Book Tour, we are heady for a sultry Hollywood summer and the dark lives of two women in Woman No. 17, a novel by Edan Lepucki. Accompanying my review is a dish loosely inspired by the contemporary Los Angeles setting, a California Roll and Salmon Poke Brown Rice Bowl. There is also a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book for your summer book stack.

Publisher's Blurb:

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.

But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.

Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Hogarth (May 9, 2017)

My Review: Woman No. 17 is my first book by Edan Lepucki. I had heard good things about her novel, California, and the premise of the book sounded intriguing as I enjoy dark and twisty thriller books. I do think I was expecting more thrills than I ultimately got. There was tension to be found and some dark humor to be sure and that kept me pulled into the story throughout the book. 

Both main characters--Lady and S and their secrets immediately piqued my interest and although they are not particularly likeable, I was interested to see where the story took them and and what happened. Both Lady and S are quite self-absorbed and have allowed themselves to become obsessed by their pasts and with their mothers. With S, she is becoming the drunk persona of her mother through an art project focused on mothers, and with Lady, she is estranged from her mother due to past slights and what she sees as a big betrayal, as well as being challenged with the relationship she has with her nineteen-year-old son from a previous marriage and her toddler. Both women are seeking something and both are playing games with their own and others' lives to find their answers and resolution. 

Lepucki definitely knows how to set a scene, she brings the Hollywood and SoCal scenes to life, capturing the culture and glamour with a mix of contemporary and noir feel and making scenes play out like a movie in the mind. The look at the art world is interesting, as is the exploration of the separation of art and life and the personas that are created when they are not held separately. If you need a character to root for, Woman No. 17 is probably not your book, but if you like a book with a noir-ish feel, set in a sultry Hollywood summer, that twists and turns and has you guessing about the outcomes, it does make for an intriguing beach book or one for a hot summer's day on the porch or lanai--icy cold cocktail or mocktail in hand. If you are a U.S.-based reader of this blog, there's a chance to win a copy of your own below. 


Author Notes: Edan Lepucki is the New York Times bestselling author of the novel California as well as the novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me. A contributing editor and staff writer at the Millions, she has also published fiction and nonfiction in McSweeney’s, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Cut, and elsewhere. She is the founder of Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

You can connect with Edan via her website or Twitter.


Food Inspiration: Although all sorts alcohol ruled the day (and night) in Woman No. 17 (including a French 75 cocktail of gin and champagne that almost got made) there was certainly food to be found. Food mentioned included poached eggs, sandwiches, Pizza Hut, P.F. Chang's dishes (lychee cocktails, Salt & Pepper Calamari, pot stickers, gluten-free 'beef-something-or-other'), and other restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), Yogurtland, Cheesecake Factory (oreo cheesecake), and Dominos, sushi, toasted and artisanal marshmallows, a bad Caesar salad with "tomatoes and not a single anchovy," sweet potato, cheeseburgers, coffee drinks, "milk-bloated Cheerios", watermelon, shabu-shabu, yaki-soba, apples and bananas, plantain chips, juice and fish sticks, shu mai from Trader Joe's, mussels, a burger and a side dish of Romanesco that turned out to be plain cauliflower, string cheese, Brazilian food, a classic omelet with chives and a salad with persimmon, sausage and egg sandwiches and a coke, pasta, eggplant, and a salad recipe with tarragon.

As I was away in Oregon for a week visiting family and was busy enough that I was either hanging out or crashing each night, reading took a bit of a back seat and I was finishing up the book on the plan ride home. That made the desire to cook something book-inspired when I got home very low. Had I been less travel weary I would have stopped at P.F. Chang's and grabbed one of the dishes mentioned in the book, but instead I found myself thinking about sushi--California rolls in particular, and a conversation with my nephew who is living in L.A. at the moment about his new favorite poke bowl place. If you don't know poke it is a salad/appetizer made up of cubes of raw fish--often ahi and a poke bowl is a rice bowl with poke and often veggies or other toppings. (Here are some examples of more recently made and posted poke: Hawaiian Ahi Poke with Black Sesame Seeds and poke bowls: California Roll Poke Bowl and Morimoto's Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl.)
Poke bowls are quite trendy outside of Hawaii now-especially in larger cities and areas like Los Angeles and New York, so while not entirely inspired by the book, it seemed a good fit.   

It also gave me the ability to assemble my book-inspired dish rather than cook it and grab some store-bought poke and something green and use some frozen microwave brown rice I had at home. I knew I wanted California Roll Sushi--nice and spicy, and the salmon poke--creamy and mild looked good as did the tsukemono (pickled) cucumbers and an avocado. With the creamy salmon poke and avocado, I wanted another pickled item and knew I had a pack of Farmhouse Culture Garlic Dill Kraut I had picked up to try sitting in my fridge at home and with some toasted sesame seeds and nori strips at home, it made for a light dinner assembled and enjoyed in a matter of minutes. Although not mentioned it the book, I think it definitely fits that trendy, L.A. vibe and is the perfect dish for a warm day or evening. 

If you want to make your own California Roll Poke and assemble a poke bowl, this is the recipe I use when I don't pick it up from the seafood department at my local grocery store. 

California Roll Poke Bowl
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen--Inspired By/Adapted from Foodland Hawaii
(Serves 2 to 3)

Make rice and sriracha mayo ahead before forming bowls. I prefer my rice just slightly warm with the cold poke on top, but you can chill rice if you prefer or aren't immediately eating your bowls. 
Sriracha Mayo:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used vegan Just Mayo--garlic flavor)
2 Tbsp Sriracha 
1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp rice vinegar 

Combine all ingredients. Taste and check for seasoning. Add a touch of salt or soy sauce if desired. Chill for an hour or so before using.


California Roll Poke:
4 oz fresh sushi-grade ahi, cubed
4 oz imitation krab, sliced or shredded thinly (or real crab!)
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into small cubes
1 small Japanese cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp green onions (green and white part) sliced finely
1 1/2 Tbsp furikake rice seasoning or finely chopped nori
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup Sriracha Mayo 

Combine ahi, krab, avocado, cucumber, green onions, furikake seasoning, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a mixing bowl. Add Sriracha mayo and gently mix until blended. 

Poke Bowl:
1-cup cooked rice of choice (I used sushi rice)
1 cup of California Roll Poke and/or other poke combined
1 cup of green things ;-) (I used avocado, pickled cucumber and garlic dill sauerkraut)

Divide rice into serving bowls. Top with California Roll Poke and whatever greens and toppings you are using. Serve.

Notes/Results: This totally hit the spot--perfectly satisfying and a good combination of spicy, creamy, pickly, and umami goodness in a bowl--especially for being on the table in a matter of minutes. I doctored up my brown rice by mixing in the toasted sesame seeds and broken up strips of nori seaweed and because the California Roll poke is quite saucy and there are the pickled kraut and cucumbers to mix together as you eat the bowl, I didn't feel it needed any sauce, although you certainly could add some. Bonus, there will be enough left over for another bowl today. I will happily make it again.

I'm linking this post up to 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 "Woman No.17" was provided to me by the publisher, and 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.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of Woman No.17 to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite food or the dish you want to eat when you come home from a trip. 

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Edan Lepucki (@EdanL), and/or Publisher Hogarth (@HogarthBooks)
on Twitter. (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me, the author or publisher on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is Tuesday, May 30th. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!