Thursday, July 21, 2011

Three "Beachy" Reads with a Giveaway and a Herby Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Feta

Summertime, and the livin' is easy... (and the reading is too) I found myself with three books on my summer review stack that are all set around beaches along the east coast. From a Florida barrier island, to Charleston County, South Carolina, then continuing north up to Maryland, these books are light reads, perfect for lugging along to the beach. Pack yourself a lunch, including this summery orzo salad, pour a glass of sweet tea and relax...

"Sunset Bridge" by Emilie Richards, is actually the third book in the Happiness Key series, but it stands well on its own too. Even having not read the first two books, I found myself easily caught up in the lives of Tracy Deloche, owner of five small beach cottages in a quaint beach town on a barrier island in Florida, and her four tenants; outspoken waitress turned pie shop owner Wanda, her daughter Maggie, an ex-cop having left love and her job behind her in Miami, Janya, a young Indian woman who wants to start a family but is not having luck in getting pregnant, and Alice, struggling to keep up with her adolescent granddaughter. Their individual stories are interwoven into their friendship and their beachside cottage community, along with a murder, and an impending hurricane adding to the drama. The book kept me absorbed and wanting to learn more about the characters--it was a relaxed and effortless read. (Although it did give me intense cravings for pie thanks to some of the descriptions of Wanda's pie creations.) ;-) I will likely be hitting the bookstore for copies of the first two novels in the series.

Check at the end of the post for a chance to win your own copy and "escape" to the beach with a good read.

Another book that I didn't realize was part of a series until I was holding it in my hand (whoops!) is Beach Lane by Sheryl Woods, #7 in the Chesapeake Shores series, set along the coast of Maryland. Longtime friends Mack and Susie who have been "not dating" for years but spending all of their free time together, both want to pursue a different kind of relationship with each other but just when it seems like it is going to happen Mack loses his job, Susie faces a life-threatening diagnosis, and Mack's former lover comes to town. There is charm and humor in this love story and plenty of tears too. This one was not quite as successful as a stand-alone for me as it was hard to keep track of the many members of the O'Briens (Susie's family) and their friends whose stories are told in the preceding books. Still it was a quick and light read and good beach fare--even if this particular story is set more in the fall and winter months.

In "Folly Beach" by Dorothea Benton Frank, we head to South Carolina to lowcountry. The author sets her books, called "Lowcountry Tales" in the south and although they are not a series, occasionally characters will pop in another book. In Folly Beach, wealthy Cate Cooper's husband kills himself and leaves her with little more than the clothes on her back. Reeling from his death and the many messes he left behind, she retreats back to her childhood home of Folly Beach to figure out what to do next. Cate's aging aunt sets her up in a tiny old cottage named the "Porgy House" because Dorothy and DuBose Heyward, authors of the book and collaborators with George Gershwin on the musical Porgy and Bess lived there. Cate feels a connection with Dorothy as she researches the history of the house and Dorothy's life. I wasn't sure I was going to like this book at first as it alternates Cate's story with scenes from a one-woman play about Dorothy Heyward's life which i found distracting, but it kind of grew on me after a while. This is a breezy beach read with good humor and a fun look at lowcountry life mixed in with a little history of the "Charleston Renaissance" period in the 1920's.

Of course I had to make a good beachy dish to go along with these beachy reads so where better to look for a recipe than in "The Summer House Cookbook: Easy Recipes for When You Have Better Things to Do with Your Time" by Debra Ponzek and Geralyn Delaney Graham. Quick and simple recipes abound in this book and the one for Corsican Orzo Salad caught my eye. I think having a big container of a flavorful pasta salad is key for those humid summer days when you don't want to touch the stove. I liked that this one featured a mix of dill, tarragon, flat-leaf parsley and cilantro--all prolific in my herb garden right now. I added some farmers market cherry tomatoes for sweetness and color and used whole wheat orzo for extra fiber.

The Summer House Cookbook says, ""A hands-down winner at picnics and barbecues, this Greek-inspired pasta salad is tangy and full of clean flavor. It tastes even better served the next day, so it's a good choice to make ahead for a party. Double the recipe for easy-to-pack leftovers to take on a hike or to the beach."

Corsican Orzo Salad (or Herby Whole Wheat Salad with Feta)
"The Summer House Cookbook"
(Serves 4-6)

sea salt
1 pound orzo (2 2/3 cups)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp finely chopped freshcilantro leaves
zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups feta cheese
15 French black or kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped (I used a mix of black, green and kalamata olives)
(I added 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half)

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl, add the orzo, herbs, lemon juice and zest, and oi. Toss until well coated. Crumble the feta cheese into the bowl. Add the olives and toss again.

Notes/Results: An excellent salad on its own for a light lunch, or as a side dished for some fish or chicken sausages from the grill. I liked the unusual mix of the herbs--it made it more complex than using just one herb and it was nice to get a bite and identify tarragon, then the dill, etc. I think the cherry tomatoes add a lot to the salad and other veggies--maybe some fennel or celery would be nice too. Although good when freshly made, it does benefit immensely from a night in the fridge. I liked this salad and will make it again.

This tasty orzo salad is going over to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Debbi of Debbi Does Dinner ... Healthy & Low Calorie. Check out her round up post on Friday, featuring all manner of pasta creations.

***Sunset Bridge Giveaway!***

In need of a little beach read yourself?! The kind people at PTA Reviewer Rewards have given me a copy of Sunset Bridge to give away to a lucky reader. And bonus! I am tossing a little Hawaii fun foodie item or two into the mailing envelope ;-)

Let's keep it simple--if you would like to enter, just leave a comment by this Monday, July 25th letting me know you would like to enter and telling me your favorite thing about summer. (Be sure I have a way to contact you if you win.) I'll randomly draw out a winner and post it on Tuesday, July 26th and get your book and gifties out to you.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: Copies of these books were provided by the publishers however I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Happy summer reading and eating!


  1. Your orzo salad sounds wonderful; sure wish I were on YOUR beach! I don't think I've ever seen whole wheat orzo, but with all those great veggies and herbs, this is truly a healthy choice.

  2. I love your recommendations on the books! I love series books so I'll look for the first ones before delving into these. Incidently, that IS the one thing about summer that I love; reading. I homeschool my kids and we are always super busy reading school stuff during the school year that I don't get to read any of MY kind of books so I love being able to take some time off of school and just read for fun. I love the sound of these as I like the light reads, not usually the heavy stuff. Too much of that during school! Thanks!

    And the Orzo salad sounds awesome!

  3. I could totally see myself on the beach, reading a good book, with a bowl of this by my side!

  4. I want to participate in this giveaway.

    In summer, I consume lots of fresh fruits and fruits juices. When I visit my native, I love to spend time on a beach and I love swimming. I also love to do some fishing.

  5. I'd love to win book and some Hawaiian foodie item(s)!! Thanks!

    My favorite thing about summer is lounging on the beach with a good book. That's why my blog is called "I'd Rather Be Reading At The Beach"!


  6. I've been doing pasta and grain type salad meals myself for this summer, "beachy" weather. And, this Orzo with Feta Salad sounds like a good one.

    I put those authors on my "give 'em a try" list as well.

  7. My favorite thing about school!!

  8. My favourite thing about summer is all the fresh produce! I can never decide what to make next, gah! This orzo salad looks great with all those herbs!

  9. I'd love to enter if this is open to Canadians. My favourite thing about summer is fresh fruit.

    ikkinlala AT yahoo DOT ca

  10. Your gazpacho sounds delicious and the round-up is, as always, terrific. I hope you have a great week, Deb. Blessings...Mary

  11. Served this 2 days ago at a potluck – WOW was it good! It all went and lots of rave comments. Love this blog, the recipes never miss.

  12. Thanks for the lovely review of Sunset Bridge, and even more? The great recipe. I love orzo, and everything else that goes with it in this recipe. Will try soon. Feeling lucky to have found this.


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