Sunday, July 22, 2018

Provencal Vegetable Soup with Basil Pistou: Summer in A Bowl for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was looking for a veg-friendly recipe this week to make the most of summer's bounty and remembered that I had Eric Ripert's Provencal Vegetable Soup with Basil Pistou tagged to try. From Food & Wine online, it uses ham rind and chicken stock, so I adapted it to be vegan. It's not heavy, but the white beans and the fiber from all of the veggies make it satisfying and the pistou or basil pesto stirred in gives it plenty of summery flavor.  


I really didn't measure my veggie quantities (just going with what I had from the market) and I used my entire package of Great Northern Beans, uping the broth and liquid. To get that smoky, meaty vibe, I used a mix of low sodium no-chicken and no-beef bouillon cubes and added a little smoked paprika.


Food & Wine says, "This vegetable-packed soup from star chef Eric Ripert gets exceptional flavor from pistou, the pesto-style basil puree that’s served with it. To make a vegetarian version, omit the ham and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock."

Provencal Vegetable Soup
Slightly Adapted from Eric Ripert via FoodandWine.com
(Serves 4 to 6)

1/2 cup dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained (I used and entire bag)
one (2-inch) square of ham rind or meat (I omitted)
2 thyme sprigs, 4 parsley sprigs & 1 bay leaf, tied together with kitchen twine (I doubled)
1 qt chicken stock or low-sodium broth (I used 2 qts-a combination of veggie non-chicken and non-beef broth)
1 medium tomato, cored
3 cups lightly packed basil leaves
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
pepper 
(I added 1 tsp smoked paprika)
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium fennel bulb—halved lengthwise, cored & cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 oz haricots verts, cut into 1-inch lengths 

In a large saucepan, cover the navy beans, ham rind and herb bundle with the chicken stock and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer. Using a sharp paring knife, score an X on the bottom of the tomato. Add to the saucepan and blanch just until the skin starts to peel, about 30 seconds. Transfer the tomato to an ice water bath to cool. Peel and seed 
the tomato, then cut it into 1/4-inch dice.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil with the garlic until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated. Season the pistou with salt and pepper.

Remove the ham and herb bundle from the beans. Add the tomato, carrot, fennel, zucchini, onion and haricots verts and season with a generous pinch of salt. Simmer over moderately low heat until the 
vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Serve with the pistou, stirring it into the soup at the table.

The soup and pistou can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat the soup; serve the pistou at room temperature.
 

Notes/Results: Just a simple, summery vegetable soup on its own, but add the pistou and the flavor goes to another level. I cooked my beans about 40 minutes before adding the vegetables--just to make sure they were tender enough. I like the combination of veggies--especially the fennel and how they stay slightly firm because you only cook them about 12 minutes. I would happily make this soup and the pistou again.
  

This soup is linking up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where this weeks theme is From the Garden-Eric Ripert recipes with ingredients from the garden or grocery store produce aisle.


Lets take a look into the Souper Sundays kitchen.


Tina of Squirrel Head Manor joins me this week with a healthy Greek Chicken and Chickpea Salad. She says, "This recipe came from a book I checked out about Power Bowls.  The combo of these ingredients called out as something nice and cool to have during the steamy summer months.  It's actually meant to be combined together, without a carb, but I kept the salad separate from the chicken. And I served with rice and homemade bread so.......I broke the carb rule straight away. That was for a dinner. ... For lunch the next day we both mixed all the ingredients up as the power bowl idea, except we mixed in the rice too. Great lunch. This is fairly quick and easy, transports well if you keep the dressing separate."


About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at 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, July 20, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "When We Found Home" by Susan Mallery, Served with a Recipe for Macadamia Nut, Chia Seed & Banana Pancakes with Fruit and Coconut Syrup

Happy Aloha Friday! I'm kicking off the weekend as today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for When We Found Home, a new novel by Susan Mallery. Accompanying my review are some easy and health-ish Macadamia Nut, Chia Seed & Banana Pancakes with Fruit & Coconut Syrup. There's also a chance to enter a tour-wide giveaway for a prize pack at the bottom of the post.


Publisher's Blurb:

Life is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old. Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.

But starting over can be messy. Callie and Keira fit in with each other, but not with their posh new lifestyle, leaving Malcolm feeling like the odd man out in his own home. He was clever enough to turn a sleepy Seattle mail-order food catalog into an online gourmet powerhouse, yet he can’t figure out how to help his new sisters feel secure. Becoming a family will take patience, humor, a little bit of wine and a whole lot of love. But love isn’t Malcolm’s strong suit…until a beautiful barista teaches him that an open heart, like the family table, can always make room for more.

In this emotional, funny and heartfelt story, Susan Mallery masterfully explores the definition of a modern family—blended by surprise, not by choice—and how those complicated relationships can add unexpected richness to life.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: HQN Books (July 10, 2018)

My Review:

I have only read a few of Susan Mallery books (this is the last one I reviewed) and they are generally feel-good books that are perfect for summer reading. Heavier subjects are touched on, but ultimately they are about love, friendship, family, and relationships. When We Found Home follows suit with the story of three half-siblings Malcolm, Callie, and Keira who are brought together by their grandfather--each looking for love and acceptance. The trio grew up differently with Malcolm brought into the fold as a pre-teen and then Callie--who needs a fresh start after a big mistake, and Keira--a twelve-year-old in foster care, are discovered later (after their deadbeat, woman-in-every-port father passes away and Grandfather Alberto learns of their existence). 

The book is set in Seattle, where the family owns Alberto's Alfresco, a successful high-end food distribution company that Malcolm runs, along with his best friend Santiago who is the company's CFO. In the building that houses the company's headquarters is a coffee bar with an attractive part-time barista named Delaney, a former finance executive who is now pursuing a new life by becoming a Naturopath after losing her fiance. Malcolm is attracted, Keira be-friended, and Delaney's story is a big focus of the book, both her own story and her romance with Malcolm. Callie and Santiago are a second potential couple and they, Keira, Grandfather Alberto, and his housekeeper (and perhaps more) Carmen make up the rest of the main and secondary characters. The romances are fine (although Callie and Santiago seemed a bit too insta-love to me), but it is in the family dynamics, the building relationships between the siblings, and the second chances for characters that are seeking and/or hurting that When We Found Home excels. 

There is good humor--especially from Keira and poignant moments (also many from Keira) that made the book enjoyable and made me care about the characters. There are no big surprises here, but a heartwarming and uplifting story that drew me in with the Seattle and somewhat foodie setting. The 400+ pages were enjoyable from start to finish and I think anyone who likes family dynamics, romance, and second chance and start-again books will like this one. 


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Author Notes: #1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

Connect with Susan on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Food Inspiration:

Susan Mallery books never seem to have a shortage of food in them and with the family being food purveyors there were plenty of food mentions that included coffee and espresso, pasta--rotini and fusilli, marinara sauce, macrons, biscotti, cinnamon rolls, jelly donuts, and a children's party offering of PB & J sandwiches, carrot, cucumber and celery sticks, organic apple juice, punch, mac-n-cheese, mini hot dogs made into cars with tomato and cucumber wheels, There was oatmeal, poached eggs and fruit, an antipasto plate, cookies, steak, dark chocolate, expensive hot cocoa mix and mixes for minestrone soup and spicy sangria (from the food company's gift baskets), macadamia pancakes with bacon and fresh fruit, sandwiches, brownies, pizza and salad, tea with scones and tea sandwiches, wine, Dr. Pepper, chocolate cake, brandy, stuffed mushrooms, prime rib, mashed potatoes, and cheesecake, puff pastry appetizers, Cosmos, Shrimp & Crab Louie and BLT salads, mini mushroom quiches, salmon, potato casserole, martinis, egg and sausage sandwiches, chocolate croissants, Mexican food, and ice cream with chocolate sauce. 


In determining what to make for my book-inspired dish, I considered the two recipes in the back of the book--Shrimp with Lemon Linguine and Triple Chocolate Biscotti Brownies, but neither really fit my current eating habits and gluten-limiting. I decided to go with the macadamia pancakes that Carmen serves for breakfast with bacon "and a lovely little fruit garnish." I wasn't going to have the bacon and gluten-limiting seems not to fit pancakes, but then I thought of the 2-ingredient, gluten-free banana-egg pancakes I make sometimes (like here, or this peanut butter variation). A new friend (Kamala of KamalaWellness) just posted a pic of egg & banana pancakes with chia seeds on Instagram and I thought they looked delicious, and it would be easy to add chopped macadamia nuts to the banana, egg, and chia seed mix. I was going to use maple syrup with fresh fruit and chopped mac nuts to top my pancakes, but I thought I'd play around with the container of coconut sugar I had in the pantry and make a quick coconut simple syrup instead.
 

Macadamia Nut, Chia Seed & Banana Pancakes with Fruit & Coconut Syrup
Adapted & added to from The Kitchn
(Makes About 6 pancakes)

2 medium-ish ripe bananas
2 large eggs

1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp chopped macadamia nuts (I used roasted)
dash of vanilla

large pinch of cinnamon
coconut oil for pan
coconut syrup (recipe below) and chopped mac nuts, fresh blueberries and other fruit as desired to serve

Mash the peeled banana with a fork until no large lumps remain and stir in egg until well-combined. Add chia seeds, mac nuts, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk until it forms a slightly loose, liquid-y batter. Let sit for about 10 minutes so chia seeds gel a little which helps hold the pancakes together.

When ready to cook, heat pan or griddle over medium heat and add a small amount of coconut oil to prevent sticking. When pan is hot, drop about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the  pan--if it doesn't sizzle slightly, turn up heat. 

Cook until the bottom of the pancake looks golden brown when you lift a side--about 1 minute or so. The edges should also be looking set but the middle will still be a bit loose. 

Carefully lift the pancake by gently working a thin spatula about halfway underneath the pancake, and carefully turning over to the other side. If any loose batter spills when you turn the pancake, lay the pan cake on top of the spill and move any excess back under the pancake. Cook the pancake for another minute or so until it is golden brown on each side--flipping back and forth as needed to get them evenly browned.

Set pancake aside (keep warm) and cook remaining batter/pancakes. 

Serve immediately while warm with coconut syrup, fresh blueberries or other favorite toppings.


-----

Coconut Simple Syrup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1/2 cup)

1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place the coconut sugar and water into a small sauce pan and bring to a light boil, stirring continuously for about 5 minutes--until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture starts to thicken. 

Remove pan from heat and allow to cool and thicken. Use warm, or store in a glass jar in the fridge. 
  
 

Notes/Results: I was happy with both the pancakes and the syrup. The pancakes have a nice texture with the addition of the chia seeds (which also some extra protein, fiber and Omega 3-s) and the macadamia nuts. The chia seeds give the pancakes a poppy seed-like texture which I like and they, along with keeping the pancakes on the smaller size, hold things together pretty well. I know not everyone likes bananas, but if you do and you are looking for a paleo-friendly or gluten-free pancake option, these are winners. The syrup has a toasty coconut and molasses-like flavor that worked well with the pancakes and fresh fruit--I used blueberries, raspberries and diced pineapple, as well as the dry roasted mac nuts on top. Eat them for breakfast or for a satisfying dinner, as I did. I will happily make both the pancakes and the syrup 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.


When We Found Home is my Sixth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the July 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   


***Giveaway!***

The publisher is doing a fun tour-wide giveaway for this book with a great foodie prize pack:
This Taste of Seattle Gift Bag includes:
  • An “I [Heart] Happy Books” tote bag
  • Starbucks Pike’s Place ground coffee
  • Seattle Chocolates gift set (3 truffle bars)
  • Cucina Fresca marinara sauce
  • Sahale Snacks (6 packs)
  • Maury Island Farms jam (2 jars)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: A review copy of "When We Found Home" was provided to me by the author and the publisher 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, July 15, 2018

Giada's Corn and Tomato Soup with Basil: Summer in a Bowl for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Back to a warm summer soup this Sunday--Giada's Corn and Tomato Soup which with the sweet corn and fresh tomatoes and basil, is a bit of summer in a bowl. 


I saw this one on Food Network and as I often do, I took a look at the reviews, which were mixed, before making it. Some liked it, some didn't, and some marked the recipe low because they didn't like how Giada chewed in the episode the recipe was shown. (Heaves a big sigh...) I take other reviews and comments with a grain of salt because sometimes people scare me--especially when they change every single thing about the recipe (but don't do it well) and then complain about it not tasting like it should. That being said, when I first looked at this one, I thought to myself that it would need a little somethin-somethin to give it more flavor and lack of strong flavor turned out to be the main complaint of those who didn't like it as much.  


Since I like bigger flavors, I did add to Giada's base. I also ended up using more corn and cooking it longer to build flavor and pureeing only 2/3 of it to have a lighter texture and chunks of sweet corn in the soup. To me, biting into those sweet morsels is a big part of summer. The recipe with my changes below. To see the original, follow the link below.

Corn and Tomato Soup 
Slightly Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via Food Network.com
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 tsp kosher salt, or salt to taste
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, or to taste 
(I added 2 chopped green onions)
(I added 2 garlic cloves, crushed)
(I added 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper-or cayenne)
1 lb, about 3 1/4 cups corn-fresh or frozen (thawed) (I used about 6 cups fresh & frozen)
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used veggie stock)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (I used 3 Roma tomatoes)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (I used 1/2 cup)

In a large  saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, salt and pepper and cook until just soft--about 3 minutes, stirring as needed. Add the green onions, garlic, dried basil, smoked paprika and Aleppo or cayenne and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes--until fragrant.

Add the corn and stock and bring to a boil, cooking about 15 minutes. Blend all or part of the soup in a blender (I blended about half) and return to pot. Stir in tomatoes and basil and season to taste.

Ladle into bowls and serve.


Notes/Results: Creamy, sweet sand savory and great flavor, I really enjoyed this soup. With the changes I made, it worked for me--a little heat and extra basil flavor, the garlic--it gave the flavor a boost but didn't overpower the corn and tomatoes. I think the recipe started with good bones and just needed a bit of tweaking to make it hit the profile I was looking for. Fast to make, summery, filling, and satisfying, I would happily make it again. 


I'm linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's our Monthly Featured Ingredient / Dish Challenge: Corn. Corn recipes from our current featured chef or past featured IHCC chefs.


Here are five of my other favorite corn recipes from our IHCC chefs:

Jacques Pépin's Corn and Hominy Chowder:


Giada's Pizza Popcorn:

  
Rick Bayless's Zucchini with Roasted Peppers, Corn and (Cashew) Cream

 
Nigel Slater's Quick Fish and Corn Chowder:


 Rick Bayless's Creamy Corn Soup with Vegetables and Poblano Chile


Now let's look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog brought Instant Pot Broccoli Soup--Creamy or Not and said, "This flavorful plant based broccoli soup is very appealing. It's light and creamy and goes well with a variety of toppings. The creaminess comes from the vegetables when it's blended, not milk or cream. ... I sometimes make this recipe creamy, but personally when it's just for me- I like my soups broth-y rather than creamy, so I do not always blend my soup. Yes, the broccoli will be very soft because it well cooked in the Instant Pot but the flavor that it imparts in the soup is truly amazing."

 
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor is declaring the Shrimp Tacos she enjoyed on a recent Florida day trip a sandwich. We (OK it's only me) ;-) at Souper Sundays say that if it is filling wrapped or enclosed somehow, it makes it a sandwich to us. Tina says, "I tried the shrimp tacos. Wow, they are very filling and I would certainly get them again. The standard order includes two tacos but you could order a third taco for a small price. Two was plenty for me. Served with Greek potatoes."


Mahalo to Judee and Tina for joining me this week! 

-----
 
About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at 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!
 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "A Place For Us" by Fatima Farheen Mirza, Served with a Recipe for a Cold and Creamy (Vegan) Mango Lassi

I'm very excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, the first novel from SJP for Hogarth, a collaboration between Sarah Jessica Parker and the publishing group. Accompanying my review is a cold and creamy, vegan Mango Lassi that was inspired by my reading and is a delicious summer treat.


Publisher's Blurb:

The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity and belonging

As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made.

There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride.

What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?

A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children — each in their own way — tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.

A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.  

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth (June 12, 2018)


My Review:

I was exited to jump on the tour for A Place For Us, both for the subject of the book--I love immigrant stories, especially when they involves family and the Indian and Muslim cultures. I also like Sarah Jessica Parker and I admit to being intrigued about what smart and book-loving female celebrities are reading, enjoying, and supporting--whether by including a book as a book club selection or backing it, as in this partnership between the actress and Hogarth Publishing. I hoped the story would be as good as it sounded from the description and it was--a beautifully written book that drew me in from the start, kept me engrossed throughout, and made me sorry to reach the end.

The story focuses on a Muslim-American family where the father, Rafiq, immigrated to America as a teen and entered into a marriage arrangement with Layla, who immigrates after the marriage, leaving behind everyone and everything thing she knows. They live in California where they raise three children, daughters Hadia and Huda and the youngest, their son, Amar. The parents hold strongly to their faith and and the Muslim-American community with the children being pulled between these traditions and assimilation into American culture. The story starts with adult Hadia's wedding--a love match between the eldest child (a perfectionist and doctor) to Tariq (a more modern/relaxed Indian of a different sect). We see the family at the wedding and learn that there is much drama and estrangement between Amar and the family. The history of this family drama unfolds throughout the book as the author moves back and forth in time and the tale is told from the different perspectives of the main characters. I think the great beauty in a book like this is how you can find a family that in most all aspects of background, religion, and life in general, is so completely different from your own, yet you can find so many commonalities in the characters, their personalities, roles in the family, and experiences. Hadia and Amar as the oldest daughter and youngest son, tend to get the most notice--both good and bad from their parents, while Huda, the middle child, is more of a minor character--but no less relatable. The story touches on subjects such as addiction, cultural struggles, family dysfunction, and the impact of 9/11 on a Muslim family in America (the children are teens when it happens) and the ongoing fear, distrust and bigotry many have for this religion and culture. 

There were times that the back and forth in time and perspective got confusing to me as it moves quickly and often, with no clear identifying path. I found at one point that I must have put my bookmark in the wrong section and I missed about fifty pages and didn't notice it until something really didn't make sense, then I had to go back to read what I had missed. Still, the story is well-crafted and so impressive, especially for a debut novel, that the minor frustrations of having to unwind, slow down, and find my place were well worth it for the quality of the story. The way the author uncovered the story in pieces and learning the various characters' "whys" for their actions were smartly done and had me wiping away tears at an ending, that while not wrapping things up completely, left me satisfied. 

A Place For Us is not a light, breezy summer read, it requires thought and draws at emotions, but it resonated with me and I think it will with anyone that enjoys stories with family and cultural drama, beautiful and descriptive writing, and strong characters.

-----
   
Author Notes: Fatima Farheen Mirza was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.

Find out more about A Place for Us at sjpforhogarth.com.





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Food Inspiration:

Centered around an Indian wedding and family life, there is plenty of food to be found in A Place For Us. Food mentions included mango and pineapple juice and a table of Wedding appetizers--including samosas with mint sauce and tandori chicken, wedding gift pouches of almonds and chocolates, popcorn, pomegranates and mangoes, ice cream--pistachio, almond and vanilla, Peanut M&Ms, lunches of pears, grapes, Goldfish crackers, wraps of roti and fried okra, cereal with banana, kheema and fried tomatoes, dal, tawa gosht, freshly-made roti, macaroni, spinach and egg, tomatoes and basil growing in a garden, biryani/rice, a blended iced coffee drink, chaat with yogurt, blackberries, pasta salad, and baby carrots, a favorite Thai restaurant with desserts of mango sticky rice, fried roti and fried ice cream, pizza, tea, and an eggplant dish.


For my book-inspired dish I decided to go with a mango lassi--partly because it has been hot and humid here and after seeing it referenced several times in the book, I was seriously craving one, and partly because it was something that had special meaning to Hadia as it was the favorite drink of her boyhood crush. I wanted to keep it simple and dairy free, and not too sweet--so it isn't the most traditional of lassis, but it is delicious.


Vegan/Dairy-Free Mango Lassi
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2-3)

2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup non-dairy yogurt, plain or vanilla
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 tsp rosewater (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
sweetener of choice to taste if needed/desired--I didn't use any in mine
ice cubes/ice water, if needed/desired

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a little ice water or ice cubes as needed and continue to blend until smooth and pourable. Serve immediately. Any leftovers can be stored, cover in the fridge for a day or so.

 
Notes/Results: There is just something about a mango lassi--it's refreshing, satisfying, slightly exotic with the rosewater and cardamom and so good. With the coconut milk and coconut-based yogurt I used, this one was ultra rich and creamy and I found for me, it did not require any additional sweetener, but adapt it to your own tastes with whatever dairy or non-dairy milks and yogurts you prefer and sweeteners--honey, agave, coconut sugar, or a date or two would all work. I drank one of my lassis when I made it and saved the remaining to drink the next day, as well as stirred some of it into a vanilla chai pudding. I enjoyed it all and 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 "A Place For Us" was provided to me by the author and the publisher 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.