Friday, October 18, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Art of Escapism Cooking" by Mandy Lee, Served with Poached Eggs with Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise

Happy Aloha Friday! To celebrate the weekend I have a review of a gorgeous new cookbook, The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy Lee for TLC Book Tours. Paired with my review is the delectable Poached Eggs with Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise from the book.


Publisher's Blurb:

In this inventive and intensely personal cookbook, the blogger behind the award-winning ladyandpups.com reveals how she cooked her way out of an untenable living situation, with more than eighty delicious Asian-inspired dishes with influences from around the world.

For Mandy Lee, moving from New York to Beijing for her husband’s work wasn’t an exotic adventure—it was an ordeal. Growing increasingly exasperated with China’s stifling political climate, its infuriating bureaucracy, and its choking pollution, she began “an unapologetically angry food blog,” LadyandPups.com, to keep herself from going mad.

Mandy cooked because it channeled her focus, helping her cope with the difficult circumstances of her new life. She filled her kitchen with warming spices and sticky sauces while she shared recipes and observations about life, food, and cooking in her blog posts. Born in Taiwan and raised in Vancouver, she came of age food-wise in New York City and now lives in Hong Kong; her food reflects the many places she’s lived. This entertaining and unusual cookbook is the story of how “escapism cooking”—using the kitchen as a refuge and ultimately creating delicious and satisfying meals—helped her crawl out of her expat limbo.

Illustrated with her own gorgeous photography, The Art of Escapism Cooking provides that comforting feeling a good meal provides. Here are dozens of innovative and often Asian-influenced recipes, divided into categories by mood and occasion, such as:

For Getting Out of Bed
Poached Eggs with Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise
Crackling Pancake with Caramel-Clustered Blueberries and Balsamic Honey


For Slurping
Buffalo Fried Chicken Ramen
Crab Bisque Tsukemen


For a Crowd
Cumin Lamb Rib Burger
Italian Meatballs in Taiwanese Rouzao Sauce


For Snacking
Wontons with Shrimp and Chili Coconut Oil and Herbed Yogurt
Spicy Chickpea Poppers


For Sweets
Mochi with Peanut Brown Sugar and Ice Cream
Recycled Nuts and Caramel Apple Cake


Every dish is sublimely delicious and worth the time and attention required. Mandy also demystifies unfamiliar ingredients and where to find them, shares her favorite tools, and provides instructions for essential condiments for the pantry and fridge, such as Ramen Seasoning, Fried Chili Verde Sauce, Caramelized Onion Powder Paste, and her Ultimate Sichuan Chile Oil.

Hardcover: 400 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks (October 15, 2019)

My Review:

I love cookbooks best when they tell me stories about the cook and about the recipes inside and The Art of Escapism Cooking does that well. From the chapter titles to the descriptions of each recipe, Mandy Lee's voice is strong and her words passionate and evocative. I was not familiar with her blog (Lady & Pups) but I spent some time on there while paging through her cookbook and have a feeling I will visit often. The book is gorgeous--the photography, by Lee herself, is stunning and had even the non-meat-eating side of me craving a burger, duck, and pork belly. It does have a definite meat focus to it but there are enough options that I found plenty to be inspired by. Lee was born in Taiwan, raised in Vancouver BC and "slow-aged" in New York City until she moved to Beijing with her husband. She now lives in Hong Kong and her cooking style reflects a mix of cultures from her background, as well as the places she has traveled. It's an eclectic and intriguing group of dishes (there are even homemade dog treats) and likely to drive people without well-stocked Asian markets or who don't order ingredients online a bit crazy. She does do an excellent job explaining her pantry of ingredients in the beginning of the book and gives some great make-your-own condiments (more detail on that below), but many of those condiments, sauces and seasonings also have ingredients that may not be readily available to some. I am lucky that in Hawaii most things are easily obtainable and I already stock a good portion of her pantry items in my own cupboards. 

For Lee, cooking is an escape--particularly when she was living in China and frustrated with her life there. I like to escape into cooking too, but one of the big differences between us is that I am often a lazy cook and like simple but delicious recipes full of flavor, while Lee's recipes for the most part are for cooks who like fully immersing themselves in the details of the recipes. The ingredient lists are often long and there are many steps. In some recipes, the steps seem to have steps. Even the section titled "Shit I Eat When I'm By Myself" has more complexity than I like on a weeknight after a long day at work or a weekend spent recovering from a long week. That, and the meat emphasis will end up making The Art of Escapism Cooking a book that I pull out to read and for inspiration rather than one I would rely on for regular meals. I will use it mainly for that condiments section, various components of the dishes, and for flavor inspiration (oh yeah, and for the Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise Sauce recipe that I would lick off a stick). ;-P There is nothing wrong with having a cookbook for special occasions and inspiration, and I am lucky to add this stunning volume to my cookbook collection.


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Author Notes: Mandy Lee founded her award-winning “angry food blog,” Lady and Pups, in 2012 out of sheer frustration after moving from New York City to Beijing. She and her blog have been featured in numerous publications and sites, including Saveur, FoodandWine.com, CNN.com, Yahoo, Food52, and WashingtonPost.com. She currently lives in Hong Kong with her husband and pups.

Check out her blog, Lady and Pups, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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The recipes I most wanted to make were for the seasonings like the Ramen Seasoning in it's regular and vegan version, the Makrut Lime Leaf Oil (a perfect use for the lime leaves I buy when I see them at the market which are marked kaffir but the same thing. Apparently Makrut is the politically correct name--see this article.), Garlic Confit Sauce, Fried Chile Verde Sauce, Caramelized Onion Powdered Paste, Sweet Soy Sauce, and Fried Garlic Powder. Also the Semi-Instant Laksa Mix, Spicy Chickpea Poppers, Black Hummus, Mapo Tofummus, and Chongqing Melted Cheese all look do-able and delicious.


Between the weather and my schedule, I just didn't have the time or inclination to fuss over recipes, and so as I went through The Art of Escapism Cooking, I looked for something relatively easy to make. At first it was going to be a seasoning or a sauce but then I read the description for Poached Eggs with Miso-Browned Butter Sauce and it became stuck in my head with it hitting on so many of my food favorites like breakfast, miso, eggs with runny yolks, capers, pickled vegetables (in this case shallots), browned butter and toasted bread. It also had fewer steps than most of the other recipes. I also had all of the ingredients except the shallots and bread so it became my Sunday morning project.


I'm not going to print the recipe as the sublime Miso-Browned Butter Sauce is worth purchasing the book yourself, but here is a link to Mandy Lee's Burnt/Browned Butter Hollandaise on her Lady & Pups site. Add 2 1/2 Tbsp of medium/yellow miso paste and a pinch of sugar and a little more lemon juice and you have it. For the pickled shallots, Lee gives a pantry recipe for Pickled Chilies or says to use whatever jarred chile pickle juice you have on hand--like jalapeño juice which I just happened to have. Lee also suggests using an immersion blender for the sauce to limit the splatters of ingredients in a blender--a good suggestion but I used my Vitamix and had no issues.


Notes/Results: The Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise Sauce will become a regular in my kitchen as in addition to eggs, I can see it drizzled over veggies and topping a piece of cooked fish. I can also see myself eating it straight from the bender cup. ;-) It is  that perfect umami, especially with the capers and shallots on top. I put two eggs on my toast, drenched the whole thing in the sauce and had an amazing Sunday brunch that made cleaning the several pans more than worth it. 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 Art of Escapism Cooing" was provided to me by the author and the publisher Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Creamy Tomato Soup & Toast with Tomato Butter for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I wanted a simple tomato soup this week and looked to How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman my source for good, easy recipes. I used his recipe and added milk at the end to make it creamy. Part of my reason for making tomato soup with tomato paste was to open a small can and use the remainder in this two-ingredient Tomato Butter that I pinned from Food & Wine the other day. I thought it would be delicious on a piece of toast...and it was.


Creamy Tomato Soup & Toast with Tomato Butter 
Slightly Adapted from How To Cook Everything By Mark Bittman
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 carrot, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
2 lbs tomatoes, cored & chopped, or one 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 to 3 cups water or tomato juice
1 tsp sugar, optional

3/4 cup half-and-half or coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves for garnish, optional


Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and carrot, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, lower the heat a bit, and continue to cook, stirring to coat the vegetables with the paste, until the paste begins to darken (don’t let it burn), 1 to 2 minutes.

Strip the thyme leaves from the stem and add them to the pot along with the tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently. Let the soup cook until the flavors meld, 5 more minutes. (At this point, I pureed the soup to make it smooth.)

Add milk and cook until warmed through--do not boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning; if the soup tastes flat (but salty enough), stir in the sugar. If the soup is too thick, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time. If it’s too thin, continue to cook until it thickens and reduces slightly (this will also intensify the flavors). Garnish with the basil if you’re using it and serve.

For the Tomato Butter by Stacey Ballis, there isn't a recipe--just combine the tomato paste with softened butter in a 1:1 ratio. Use in cooked rice, pasta, on toast, etc. Yum!


Notes/Results: This is a simple tomato soup, full of good flavor. I like mine creamy so I used my blender to puree it, then added some leftover half-and-half to make it creamy. It was delicious with the toast spread with the tomato butter--like a double punch of tomato flavor. I will make both again.


Tomato Soup is an American classic so I'm linking up this recipe to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week is our Monthly Cuisine Spotlight: American Food.



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 to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Lies in White Dresses" by Sofia Grant with a Recipe for Chop Suey with Shrimp

I'm excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tours for Lies in White Dresses by Sofia Grant, a novel that taught me about a tidbit of U.S. cultural history that I was unaware of. Along with my review, I have a recipe for a tasty Chop Suey inspired by the book.


Publisher's Blurb:

Award winning author Sofia Grant weaves an entrancing tale of female friendship and new beginnings inspired by the true stories of those who “took the Reno cure”. In the 1940s and 50s, women who needed a fast divorce went to Nevada to live on a ranch with other women in the same boat.

“Sofia Grant entices us into following three women seeking the Reno Cure, as they overcome their disillusionment over the lives they expected to have and summon the bravery to embrace new and unexpected paths.” –Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room

Francie Meeker and Vi Carothers were sold a bill of goods: find a man, marry him in a white wedding gown, and live happily ever after. These best friends never expected to be on the train to Reno, those “lies in white dresses” shattered, their marriages over.

On board the train they meet June Samples, who is fleeing an abusive husband with her daughter, and take the vulnerable young mother under their wing.  The three decide to wait out the required six weeks together, and then they can toss their wedding bands into the Truckee River and start new lives as divorcees.

But as they settle in at the ranch, one shocking moment will change their lives forever. As it brings their deceptions and fears into focus, it will also demand a reckoning with the past, and the choices that a person in love can be driven to make.

Paperback: 384 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 17, 2019)

My Review:

I jumped on this tour because I really enjoyed one of the author's previous book, The Daisy Children (see my review here) and because I knew little about Reno, Nevada's role in divorce in the United States. Growing up I knew Nevada was the place for a quick, uncontested divorce but I had not heard the term "the Reno cure" or known Reno was considered "The Divorce Capital of the World" for over six decades. At it's heyday, many women (including actresses and heiresses) came to the city and surrounding communities for the Reno cure and stayed for six weeks or more in order to get their residency established and get an uncontested divorce. Here's a great article about it I found online.  
Set in 1952, Lies in White Dresses tells the stories of Vi and Francie, two long-time best friends seeking divorces from marriages they expected to last forever. They befriend June, a young woman fleeing her marriage with her young daughter Patty, and take her under their wings and into the hotel they reside at in Reno that caters to women taking the cure. Chapters are told from their alternating perspectives, as well as the perspectives of Virgie, the budding Nancy Drew daughter of the hotel's owner, Willy a singer and the other woman in Vi's marriage, and Charlie, Vi's son. I found each of their stories absorbing, as was this look at women's history during a time when they didn't have a lot of options for getting out of a bad situation--especially if they didn't have the money to do so. 

There is humor and tragedy and a bit of mystery and intrigue thrown into Lies in White Dresses. Although there were a few things that seemed implausible, especially toward the end, I liked how Sofia Grant tied the stories together and created a not-perfect but satisfying ending for the characters I had grown to care about. If you like historical fiction, books set in the 1950s,stories about women's friendship and strong female characters, you will likely enjoy it too. 

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Author Notes: Sofia Grant has the heart of a homemaker, the curiosity of a cat, and the keen eye of a scout. She works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.


Find out more about Sofia at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Food Inspiration:

There was a good amount of food in Lies in White Dresses with many dishes indicative of the time. Mentions included a cottage cheese and pineapple plate, veal chop in paprika cream sauce, ham and cheese sandwich, fried chicken, broiled sole, iced tea, Shirley temples, hot cocoa and toasted cheese sandwiches, lemonade and cookies, sherry, lichee black tea, whiskey, rabbit, asparagus with creamy sauce, rolls, chicken divan, New York strip, Saddle Sores (a cocktail with rum, chartreuse and ginger ale), ginger cookies and hot tea, lemon meringue pie, coffee, chicken salad sandwiches, chicken and scalloped potatoes, scotch, mulled wine, ravioli and spaghetti, Manhattans, broiled chicken, steaks and boilermakers, pork chops with creamed onions, cake, brisket, meatloaf and corned beef sandwiches.


For my book inspired dish I had to go with Chop Suey from a conversation between Francie, Vi and June about things Francie wants to try while waiting for and after her divorce in Reno. 

"Well I want to try some new things."  
"Like what?" June asked.
"Chinese food," Francie said immediately. "It sounds so interesting. Even the names sound so exotic--chop suey and the like."

I remember when going out to eat at the very Americanized Chinese restaurant in town when I was a child in the seventies and my mom making chop suey and chow mein at home and how very exotic it felt so I wanted to recreate that, only using shrimp instead of the thinly cut beef my mom used since I don't eat meat. I looked on line for recipes and found several, but ended up making my own based on what I had on hand.


Chop Suey
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 to 3)

1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
sea salt and ground black pepper
4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts separated
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, julienned 
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 cup snow peas, trimmed and sliced in half
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups bean sprouts
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Sauce
1/3 cup veggie broth or water
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp mirin or cooking sherry
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp chili oil
2 Tbsp corn starch
Cooked noodles or rice and sesame seeds to serve.

Heat the oil in a large wok over medium-high high and add the white parts of the green onion, celery, carrot and salt and pepper and cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red bell pepper and water chestnuts and cook another 3 minutes, then add the snow peas and cabbage and cook for a minute or two. 

Meanwhile combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir until blended. Add to the stir fry mixture along with the shrimp, stirring gently to combine. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes--until sauce has thickened and shrimp are pink and cooked through. Taste for seasoning and serve over rice or chow mein noodles with green onions and sesame seeds sprinkled on to garnish. Enjoy! 


Notes/Results: Simple and tasty, it took me back to the dinners I ate as a child, just a bit more crisp and fresh tasting. ;-) I added a bit of chili oil and I liked the little kick and the sweetness from the mirin and oyster sauce in the chop suey sauce. (If you don't have mirin and oyster sauce available you could just add a bit of sugar and a tiny touch of vinegar.) At our house this was served with crunchy chow mein noodles but I have never been a fan so i used fresh packaged chow mein noodles instead. Fast and good for a weeknight, I will happily make it again.


I am sharing this book and food pairing with Novel Foods #37, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Sunday, October 20th.


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


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

 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Creamy Vegan Potato-Leek Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Sometimes my soups are inspired by a certain chef or cookbook or cooking club theme or maybe what I have on hand to use up. This week it was all about what I was craving--creamy potato and leek soup.


I decided to make it vegan and I also wanted to use up some dehydrated potato flakes I had from another recipe. I thought it would make it extra creamy and with good potato flavor. I was right. ;-)


Creamy Vegan Potato-Leek Soup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6)

1 Tbsp vegan butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 medium leeks, white and light green parts, halved & Sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 Tbsp celery seed
2 tsp roasted garlic powder
2 bay leaves
3 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes
5 cups veggie broth (I used non-chicken broth paste)
1 1/2 cups dehydrated potato flakes
1 can coconut milk
sea salt and black pepper to taste
fresh chives to garnish

Melt butter and oil in a large, heavy-bottom soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks and celery and saute about 10 minutes, until tender. Add celery seed, garlic powder and bay leaves and saute for another minute. Add potato cubes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes then whisk in potato flakes and coconut milk. Simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the potatoes and celery are cooked to tender and soup has thickened. 

Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Serve garnished with fresh chives. Enjoy!


Notes/Results: Ultra rich and creamy with the delicate flavor of potatoes and leeks, this is a tasty soup that is thick enough to be a chowder. I love how thick the combination of the dried potato flakes and coconut milk made it, but you could think it slightly with more broth or non-dairy milk. I ate two bowls and I am looking forward to enjoying it for lunches this week.. I would happily make it again. 


Let's look into the Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays Kitchen and see who is here.


The always amazing Simona of briciole shared a gorgeous Fruit Salad with Fresh Dates that she made for our recent Cook the Books selection The Food Explorer. She says, "...it was easy to decide to make a fruit salad (macedonia) for my breakfast (colazione) with fruit we eat because of his and his department's work and that is available now at the farmers market: Asian pear (pera asiatica), watermelon (cocomero), fig (fico), besides dates. Fairchild also tried to introduce the cashew tree, but domestic production never took hold, though consumption of cashew nuts (anacardi) did."


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog brought Tomato Dal Soup-Americanized and said, "Wow! This easy to make plant based Indian dal (soup) has lots of flavor, protein, fiber, and valuable nutrients! Tomato  dal is traditionally made from a whitish yellow colored split pea- called toor dal. Toor dal is commonly used in Indian cooking; I find you can substitute easy to find yellow split peas instead. I eat my dal as a soup (I added more broth) but it can be eaten as a side dish over rice."


Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made a gorgeous chicken dish and a tasty Chicken Caesar Salad out of the leftovers. She said, "I sure love chicken. I could probably eat chicken as my exclusive choice of meat/poultry for the rest of my life. Not that we have it every night, mind you, but we do enjoy a good chicken meal. It's so versatile. ...here is a Caesar salad with crisp Romaine and grilled, sliced chicken breast.  That's a filling lunch and fairly healthy.  A bit of red onion and Parmesan cheese made a nice blend of flavors."


Finally, here at Kahakai Kitchen I made some yummy Sour Cream Scrambled Egg Toasts suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. These little sandwiches used up some ingredients in my pantry--always a bonus. 

 
Thanks to Simona, Judee & Tina for joining in 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 to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

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

Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Lying Room" by Nicci French, Served with Sour Cream-Scrambled Egg Toasts

Happy Aloha Friday! I feel like I have been so busy at work lately that I haven’t had much time for reading or blogging. Hopefully October will be a bit calmer and I am happy to kick the weekend off with a great book and an easy dinner/breakfast. I am excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for The Lying Room by Nicci French and I am pairing my review with Sour-Cream Scrambled Egg Toasts inspired by the book.  


Publisher's Blurb:

In this thrilling standalone from the internationally bestselling author of the Frieda Klein series, a married woman’s affair with her boss spirals into a dangerous game of chess with the police when she discovers he’s been murdered and she clears the crime scene of all evidence.
 
One little secret between a married woman, her lover, and a killer.

It should have been just a mid-life fling. A guilty indiscretion that Neve Connolly could have weathered. An escape from twenty years of routine marriage to her overworked husband, and from her increasingly distant children. But when Neve pays a morning-after visit to her lover, Saul, and finds him brutally murdered, their pied-à-terre still heady with her perfume, all the lies she has so painstakingly stitched together threaten to unravel.
 
After scrubbing clean every trace of her existence from Saul’s life—and death—Neve believes she can return to normal, shaken but intact. But she can’t get out of her head the one tormenting question: what was she forgetting?
 
An investigation into the slaying could provide the answer. It’s brought Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Hitching, and Neve’s worst fears, to her door. But with every new lie, every new misdirection to save herself, Neve descends further into the darkness of her betrayal—and into more danger than she ever imagined. Because Hitching isn’t the only one watching Neve. So is a determined killer who’s about to make the next terrifying move in a deadly affair….

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 1, 2019)

My Review:

I have only read one other Nicci French book, Secret Smile, but I enjoyed it and wanted to sign up for this book tour based on it and on the description of the book which from the publisher’s blurb sounded like it might be a bit of a nail-biter—something I had been craving. The Lying Room is probably best described as a domestic thriller although it is also a psychological thriller and leans to a police procedural too. Neve Connolly is the main character who risks her twenty-year marriage on an affair with her boss. Does she love Saul? It’s not clear but she certainly loves how he makes her feel and since she and Fletcher her husband aren’t looking at each other much anymore, her oldest daughter has issues and is leaving for university (or threatening not to), her younger boys have some growing-up challenges, and her friends are a bit needy, Neve likes her stolen moments with Saul. Then she finds him dead at his flat. What would you do if you walked in and found someone, someone you cared for dead? In neve’s case she has too much to lose if an affair came out, so she scrubs the crime scene, removing all traces of her from his flat. Unfortunately, that opens a whole can of worms with the investigator on the case looking closely at Neve and her friends and coworkers and she begins to wonder if she was the intended victim instead of Saul and who might want her dead.

At first, I wasn’t sure I particularly liked Neve. There was the cheating thing, the lying and the many bad decisions she kept making, but she slowly won me over. In her group of university friends (three of whom are her co-workers and one is her husband), Neve is the one they gravitate too and sometimes confess their secrets. She is someone who cares deeply for the people in her life and maybe it is that burnout that has her seeking solace in her boss’s arms. In any case, I was rooting for her at the end. I liked the pacing of the book—it was difficult to stop reading to do life stuff and it kept me guessing on who the murderer was throughout. In the end, I was wrong although I had a few bits right and I liked the way the different clues and twists came together. If you already like the husband-wife team that are Nicci French or you just like a good thriller, you will likely enjoy The Lying Room.

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Author Notes: Nicci French is the pseudonym of English wife-and-husband team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Their acclaimed novels of psychological suspense have sold more than 8 million copies around the world.
 
Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


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Food Inspiration:

For a thriller, there is a lot of focus on food in The Lying Room. Neve is a nurturer constantly making breakfast for her family, packing lunches for her children and making dinners. Mentions included cornflakes and milk, porridge with golden syrup, toast with marmalade and tea, coffee, cheese, fish and chips, blueberries, tangerines, hearty soup, collard greens and sticky toffee pudding, cakes and biscuits, cheese sandwiches, apples and oat biscuits, a nectarine with yoghurt, Earl Grey tea, bagels, assorted vegetables from an allotment, oranges, lemon cake, vegetable lasagna with mushroom, cherries, steam cauliflower with yoghurt and tahini, bottles of red and white wine and plates of cheese and smoked meat, pasta, baba ganoush, raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, roast lamb, wild mushroom risotto, blue cheese on crackers, fish in a spicy, garlicky marinade, roasted squash with ginger  with yoghurt and lime sauce, rice, croissants and cinnamon buns, mangoes, milk and eggs, a Bloody Mary, pale ale, peanut butter, Thai takeaway, an aubergine and chickpea salad, green juice, poached eggs, roasted vegetables, a tuna and mayo salad, beans on toast, stuffed courgette flowers with ricotta and grated parmesan, tomato and avocado salad, hummus and flat breads, olives, cheese and prosciutto



For my book inspired dish, I was considering a few options and planning on stopping by the grocery store, but traffic was ugly, and it took me an hour to even get close to home. I thought of a passage in the book where Neve tries to think of something to make for a group of people at her house based on what she has:

“There was some bread left, and a couple of half-baked baguettes, sour cream, a few cherry tomatoes, a knob of ginger, butter, a bag of spinach, some parsley. It was hard to make a meal out of that. She thought of all the vegetables in the allotment waiting to be harvested. There were the eggs she had bought this morning though. ‘Scrambled eggs?’ she said to Renata, but Renata was gone, and so was Louis.”


I had eggs and was thinking about what was in my pantry when I realized that like Neve, I had sour cream, a few cherry tomatoes, baguette, butter, and instead of parsley, fresh chives. I decided to skip the grocery store, make my book-inspired dish out of my pantry, and ended up with Sour Cream-Scrambled Egg Toasts with cherry tomatoes on the side.

I don’t think there needs to be a formal recipe for these scrambled egg toasts but this is what I did:

Sour-Cream Scrambled Egg Toasts
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
Serves 1-2

butter
3 extra-large eggs
3 tbsp sour cream
salt & pepper
2 oz shredded cheese of choice
small baguette, split horizontally
olive oil
cherry tomatoes and chives to garnish

Brush baguette halves lightly with olive oil and toast in a pan or toaster oven until lightly browned. Set aside.

Mix eggs and sour cream together in a small bowl--it's OK if some sour cream "lumps" remain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix well. Melt the butter in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add the eggs and gently scramble. When almost done, sprinkle with grated cheese and allow to melt. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the chives and serve with cherry tomatoes on the side.


Notes/Results: Perfectly creamy and cheesy scrambled eggs on crisp toast—what’s not to like. Good for breakfast, dinner, lunch…any meal of the day. I was too lazy to stir the sour cream in thoroughly with the eggs, but I liked biting into the occasional sour cream clump. 😉 Quick, easy, really good, I will happily make these toasts 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.


I'm also sharing this open-faced breakfast sandwiches at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie)  Sundays a weekly event hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Here's the link to this week's post

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