Friday, February 28, 2014

Lime and Coconut Poached Fish with 'Volcano' Rice & Sugar Snap Peas

This Lime and Coconut Poached Fish from Fast, Fresh Simple is what Donna Hay says she cooks on "summer beach holidays" and that when she cooks it at home, her "thoughts return to the beach." I love the tropical feel of the dish from the fresh (local) kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and coconut milk and served here with gingered 'volcano' rice (brown and red rice grown on the mineral-rich volcanic soil of West Java) and steamed sugar snap peas.

Lime and Coconut Poached Fish
Adapted from Fast, Fresh, Simple by Donna Hay
(Serves 2)

1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
1 long green chilli, finely diced
1/4 cup (60 ml) lime juice
6 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
1 Tbsp fish sauce
200 g firm white fish fillets (about 7 oz)
1/2 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves
steamed rice and steamed greens to serve

Place the coconut milk, chilli, lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce in a pan over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the fish and cook 3-4 minutes each side or until tender. 

To serve, divide the fish the fish and poaching liquid between serving plates and sprinkle with coriander and serve with steamed rice and greens. 

Notes/Results: A great combination of flavors--tangy, spicy and sweet. The fish (I used frozen cod) is tender and moist and the coconut 'sauce' soaks into the rice nicely, giving it even more flavor. I made my volcano rice in the rice cooker, tossing in some minced ginger and steamed the sugar snap peas--making sure they were plenty crisp. This makes for an easy and satisfying meal that isn't too heavy. I would make it again. 

It's Tropical Delights week at I Heart Cooking Clubs--making delectable Donna Hay recipes with tropical ingredients. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

Happy Aloha Friday! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "After I'm Gone" by Laura Lippman with Easy, Vegan Potato Latkes

There is a certain symmetry to the fact that this is my 35th turn as a TLC Book Tour Host and the book that I am reviewing is the latest novel from Laura Lippman, the author of my very first TLC book tour. My review for Lippman's novella "The Girl in the Green Raincoat" posted February of 2011, was my introduction to her books and since then I have enjoyed several of her other books. After I'm Gone is her newest novel, a character-driven mystery that quietly builds suspense by weaving a story that spans decades in the life of a family, while following a retired detective tasked with working cold cases and determined to solve an old murder. 

Publisher's Blurb:

"When Felix Brewer meets Bernadette “Bambi” Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative—if not all legal—businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s comfortable world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.

Though Bambi has no idea where her husband—or his money—might be, she suspects one woman does: his mistress, Julie. When Julie disappears ten years to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she’s left to join her old lover—until her remains are eventually found.

Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web stretching over three decades that connects five intriguing women. And at the center is the missing man Felix Brewer.
Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy will find the truth. And when he does, no one will ever be the same."

Hardcover: 352 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow (February 11, 2014)

The book starts out with the 1976 disappearance of Felix Brewer before jumping to 2012 when detective "Sandy" Sanchez, looking for the next cold case to spend his time on, opens an 800-page file and becomes intrigued by the murder of Julie Saxony. Saxony, a former exotic dancer and the girlfriend of Felix Brewer, was presumed to have left to join him ten years after he escaped prosecution--until her body was discovered in a Baltimore park in 2001. The story then goes back and forth between present day and the past--from Felix meeting his wife, Bambi, in 1959, and through the ensuing years, showing the effects Felix's choices and his fleeing had on his wife, three daughters and his mistress. 

The book started out a bit slow for me, there were a lot of characters to keep track of and the alternating time periods had me going back to the beginning of the chapters to remind myself where we were at. I also found many of the characters somewhat unlikeable and thus hard to attach to for the first half of the book. After I'm Gone, required some patience to "peel back the layers" of the characters and discover their secrets and the motivations for their behavior but it was worth it--the second half has plot twists and turns that ratchet up the suspense. I like it when I am convinced I am right about whodunnit and the whys behind it and then things change and I end up surprised at the end. Lippman definitely achieved that element of surprise for me and made the book well-worth the slower start. Lippman fans, readers with the patience to let a mystery unfold, and lovers of character-driven novels and family dramas will enjoy this book.    

Author Notes: Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned to her hometown in 1989 to work as a journalist. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left the Baltimore Sun to focus on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Knowand Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity.

And now for the food... There is some food presence in After I'm Gone. Even if Baltimore doesn't seem to be a particularly inspiring food mecca, I get the feeling from her books that Lippman is at least bit of a foodie. Food mentions mainly range from the catered fare at events like weddings, parties, and a bat mitzvah, to traditional Jewish dishes at family get-togethers and holidays. Detective Sandy seems to hit a lot of diners, Howard Johnsons  and the occasional Subway, although he had his own Cuban restaurant that failed and longs for a good Cubano sandwich. Latkes appeared a couple of times in the book and finding it hard to resist fried potatoes of any kind, I decided to make a small batch of these pancakes as my dish inspired by the book.


Latkes are traditionally cooked on Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the menorah oil in the Jewish Temple. Latkes are traditionally made from potatoes (shredded), with eggs, onions and salt. Sometimes herbs/spices are added for flavor and Matzo meal, breadcrumbs or flour may be added in to help bind everything together. I didn't go traditional with my latkes--choosing an easy vegan recipe from Vegetarian Times--mainly because I forgot to buy more eggs. ;-) I served them with a little applesauce and leftover vegan sour cream (from these Blinis with Beluga Lentil 'Caviar' and Cashew Sour Cream) as the recipe suggested.

Vegetarian Times says, "Jason Johnstone-Yellin created this vegan version of potato pancakes after his Jewish wife kept saying "they're not as good as my mom's." Now he's working on a vegan cookbook: Cooking with Tamara's Husband."

Easy Vegan Potato Latkes 
Adapted from Vegetarian Times, April 2007
(Serves 4--8 Latkes)
2 large potatoes peeled, grated and squeezed dry (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
*2 Tbsp whole grain mustard (see note below)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup canola oil, divided, for frying
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. 

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Scoop 1/2 cup potato mixture into skillet and spread into 1/8-inch thick patty. Repeat. 

Fry patties 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Cook remaining latkes in batches of 2, adding 1 tablespoon oil to skillet each time.
To drain, transfer latkes to wire rack on top of baking sheet lined with newspaper. Place latkes on pan in oven to keep warm. Serve with vegan sour cream or applesauce.

(*Note: The current online recipe doesn't list the mustard but in reading the reviews, I noticed a couple of people brought up that it had previously called for it and that it "made" the latkes so I added it into mine.)

Notes/Results: I was really pleased with how these turned out--perfectly crisp--especially around the edges and they tasted great. For my first latke-making, I think I did pretty well. ;-) Not traditional of course--but, the stone ground mustard added a nice layer of flavor that contrasted nicely with the sweet applesauce and slightly tart cashew sour cream. I used my spiralizer (cutting the potato so it would make short 'strings') and I think the super-thin shreds made them even crispier. They actually held together quite well. I used my ice cream scoop and packed the mixture into it, flattening them with the spatula when they hit the pan. I used one large baking potato and 1/2 an onion and it made 5 good-sized patties. I would definitely make them again.

Note: A review copy of "After I'm Gone" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 the Book Tour and what other readers thought here.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beluga Lentil 'Caviar' with Cashew Sour Cream on Blinis--A Veg-Friendly Take on 'Blini Demidoff au Caviar' for Food 'N Flix February: "Babette's Feast"

Babette's Feast the 1987 Danish film based on a story by Isak Dinesen is often called the pinnacle of foodie movies and it's our Food 'N Flix February movie, hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. It has been years since I watched this movie and watching it again reminded me of it's simple grace and beauty. 

"Throughout the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best." 
                                                               --Babette, Babette's Feast

Set in 19th century Denmark, Babette's Feast is the story of two adult sisters, the daughters of the leader of a fairly austere, pious church sect in a small village. Since their  father's passing, the daughters serve the church and its elderly congregation living simply and doing good works. Babette, a French woman, shows up on their doorstep asking for refuge and they take her in as their cook and housekeeper. After many years of service, Babette wins a large sum of money and asks the sisters if she may cook them "a real French meal" for the supper they are having to honor what would have been their father's 100th birthday. They somewhat reluctantly agree to let her purchase the ingredients and cook the dinner but, they have concerns about what this decadent supper says about their faith and spiritual principles. I won't say more than that because I love the way the story unfolds and I think you should just rent, stream, or buy it and watch this wonderful film.  

Babette's Feast is full of food--from the not-so-appetizing soup of brown bread and ale and the dried fish that seems to make up the basic diet of the congregation, to the incredible dinner that culinary artist Babette creates for her guests of turtle soup, blini with caviar and sour cream, baby quail in pastry, endive salad with walnut vinaigrette, a gorgeous cheese and fruit plate, a beautiful cake with glacéed fruits and several fine wines and champagne.

I decided to do a veg-friendly version of Babette's 'Blini Demidoff au Caviar'--the buckwheat blini topped with caviar and sour cream. I am not a big caviar fan although I don't hate it and have eaten it a few times over the years and (purportedly) even partaken of the 'good stuff.' I guess fall somewhere in the middle of the Tom Hanks scale--in between spitting it out and making faces as in Big and selfishly scraping all of a caviar 'garnish' onto my own plate as in You've Got Mail. But, I do really like the little black lentils called "beluga" lentils for their resemblance to caviar. 

I thought it might be fun to do a vegan version of the dish with a cashew sour cream and the lentils. In the end, I got lazy and bought my blinis and since they have milk and eggs in them, it ends up as a vegetarian rather than a vegan dish. (There is not a lot of difficulty in making blini and one of the recipes I looked at for inspiration has a great vegan blini, however I simply did not have the time or inclination to locate buckwheat flour and 'futz' with making them this week--and the pre-made ones are much better looking than I am sure I would do!) Still these ended up being a fun, tasty and elegant little appetizer. 

Beluga Lentil 'Caviar' w/ Cashew Sour Cream on Blinis
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen (inspired by this recipe and this recipe) ;-)
Beluga Lentil Caviar:
1/2 cup dried black beluga lentils, rinsed well and picked through
2 cups water
1 large piece kombu (seaweed), cut into two smaller pieces
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp caper brine
2 Tbsp capers, drained and finely minced
sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a small pan, combine lentils, water and kombu pieces and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, partially cover and cook until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. 

Drain lentils and discard kombu. While lentils are still warm, stir in vinegar, caper brine and minced capers. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. (Lentils should taste a bit salty/briny.)

Refrigerate for an hour or two. Drain any excess liquid before assembling on blinis.

Some of the less familiar ingredients: Blinis, Beluga Black Lentils & Kombu

Cashew Sour Cream:
1 cup raw cashews
about 1/2 cup of water
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Soak cashews overnight in a bowl of water. Drain and rinse.

Place drained cashews into high-speed blender with lemon juice, vinegar and sea salt. Blend until completely smooth, scrapping down sides and adding additional water in small amounts as needed. Place in airtight container in fridge for an hour or two to blend flavors. Cashew cream will thicken/firm somewhat as it chills. 

(Note: I bought a pack of 16 mini blinis and both the lentil and cashew cream recipes make more than enough but I use the leftovers in other things. The amount you can make will depend on the size of your blinis and how much you put on them.)

I assembled my blinis (after lightly toasting my store-bought blinis) as Babette did with a small scoop of the lentils on one side and a scoop of the cashew sour cream on the other side but for easier snacking by hand, spreading the sour cream on first and topping them with the 'caviar' keeps the lentils from rolling off. ;-) I also added some finely chopped chives for color. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: A great little bite with a good contrast of taste and texture. The lentils have a briny flavor from the kombu, capers and red vine vinegar which goes well with the creamy and just slightly tart cashew sour cream. Although these take a little advance prep--soaking the cashews, cooking and cooling the lentils--they go together in a snap (especially when you cheat and don't make your own blinis!) ;-) so you can quickly put them together for an easy addition to a party appetizer selection that both carnivores and veg-friendly guests would like. I would make them again.    

The deadline for February's Food 'N Flix is today--so if you missed this round, please join us for March when I'll be hosting the quirky 2006 comedy-drama-fantasy film "Stranger Than Fiction"--staring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Emma Thompson, here at Kahakai Kitchen. An announcement post will becoming soon.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Easiest Posole (with Pinto Beans) & Lots of Toppings for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

This Easiest Posole recipe comes from "It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great" by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen. This is the second of Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbooks and is based on recipes created for an elimination diet she went on based on health issues (no coffee, alcohol, dairy, sugar, shellfish, gluten or soy, no processed foods and only organic meats and fish). Wanting to still enjoy her food, Paltrow and chef/food writer/producer Julia Turshen came up with recipes that although she doesn't stick to everyday, since completing the diet, she still uses when she wants to eat healthier or revitalize. Although it's not a vegetarian or vegan cookbook, vegetables are predominant and recipes are coded as suitable for an elimination diet, vegan, or protein-packed and there are also menu suggestions for different weeks like A Body Builder Week, A Detox Week, A Family-Friendly Week, A Vegan Week, and a week of Just Great, Healthy, Everyday Eating. Although not looking for celebrity health advice--nor on any kind of elimination diet or detox, I am always looking for different veg-friendly healthy recipes that still taste great and the book seems to be full of them. There are a couple of non-processed condiment recipes in the back (Sriracha, Hoisin Sauce), that I am looking forward to trying too.

There is usually one recipe in a new (to me) cookbook that catches my fancy right away when I look through it. In this book it was the posole--a Mexican-style soup/stew made with hominy and usually some kind of meat like pork or chicken, chili peppers and garnishes.  Easiest Posole is meat-free/vegan and of course being addicted to soup toppings, I knew I had to make it. I did make a few small changes (noted in red below)--mainly adding pinto beans for more substance and taking a turn from one my favorites--tortilla soup and adding corn tortilla strips crisped up in oil to the garnishes. The result is a warming, tangy and slightly spicy bowl of soupy comfort topped with lots of goodies.   

Gwyneth says, "Julia came up with this recipe on an unseasonably cold day one summer when I craved something warm and comforting that still had light, ever-so-spicy flavors. The various fresh vegetable garnishes allow everyone to customize their posole however they choose."

Easiest Posole (with Beans) 
Adapted From "It's All Good" by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen
(Serves 4)

For the Posole:
6 tomatilloes, papery layers and stems discarded, roughly chopped
1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 jalapenos, roughly chopped (seeds removed if you don't want it too spicy)
extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock (I used vegan mock-chicken broth)
3 large springs of cilantro (I coarsely chopped mine)
1 (28-oz) can hominy, drained and rinsed
(I added 1 (15-oz) can pinto beans)

For the garnish:
1 ripe avocado, diced
small handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
3 radishes thinly sliced (omitted)
1 lime, cut into wedges
(I added 1 jalapeno, roasted and diced) 
(I added 3 white corn tortillas, sliced thinly into strips and crisped in oil)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 

On a sheet pan or in a large baking dish toss the tomatillos, onions, and jalapeños with the olive oil to coast, and add a large pinch of salt. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, stirring a few times, until they’re soft and a little browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (I did mine on a grill pan, about 15 minutes total, turning until soft with grill marks on all sides)

Transfer vegetables to a powerful blender along with 1 cup of the stock and puree until completely smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large pot along with the rest of the stock, (pinto beans), cilantro, and hominy. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until flavors have blended. Season the soup to taste with sea salt if needed.

Serve posole with bowls of garnishes of choice and allow everyone to 'dress' their own posole.

Notes/Results: A really good bowl of soup. The broth, thickened by pureeing the grilled veggies is slightly tart and has great flavor. The slightly chewy hominy and beans add good texture, as do all of the garnishes (especially those tortilla strips!). I am sorry I didn't get the radishes as their slightly bitter crunch would have been nice. I stopped at the store last night after spending the day at a chocolate festival and then drinks/pupus with friends and my cell phone (with the ingredient list on it), had completely died. I think I actually did pretty well relying on my memory to get all of the other ingredients needed while coming down from a sugar and mojito-fueled 'high.' The other problem with ingredient shopping on a Saturday night is that all the really good avocados--the ones that are not too hard or not too ripe--have gone on to other people's tacos and guacamole bowls. This wasn't a great avocado but it did the job. This soup goes together quickly and easily and it's easy to chop all of the toppings while it simmers so you can get it on the table in about 30 minutes. Very tasty and satisfying, I would make this soup again.

A couple of good friends are waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's see what they brought with them. 

Janet of The Taste Space shares this flavorful Black Bean Soup with Roasted Red Peppers, Lime and Cilantro and says, "This is an absolutely delicious soup. However, there is an asterisk. It tastes good because you coax all the goodness out of each ingredient individually. Translation: it is a bit labour-intensive but so worth it. Caramelize your onions and carrots. Roast your red bell pepper. Make your own Ancho chile puree. Freshly toast your cumin seeds. If you have the time, prepare your beans from scratch. Squirt on some lime juice and scatter cilantro throughout. Yeah. Take the time to tend to this soup and you will not be disappointed. In fact, I recommend you double the recipe so that you can freeze your bounty."

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes brings a tasty grain salad this week and says, "Look closely at the above photo.  There is something there that you rarely ever see in one of my food photos. What? Raw onions! I hate raw onions and have been known to spend an inordinate amount of time picking them out of dishes served at restaurants. ... But when I was looking for a side dish salad that included green beans, I was intrigued with Green Bean and Israeli Couscous Salad with Pickled Red Onions from Fine Cooking. I was intrigued because I adore pickles, remember The Summer of Pickles from 2009?  The recipe called for a quick pickle with a heated brine.  Would that be enough to turn them from hated to loved?  I’m happy to say that YES it would!!  They were wonderful.  Slightly tart, slightly sweet.  I loved them!"

Thanks to Pam and Janet for joining me this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details. 

Have a happy, healthy week!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "The Fixer" by T. E. Woods with "Cheat's" Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse

Nothing gets me more revved up (and keeps me awake way-too-late reading when I should be sleeping) like a great thriller. "The Fixer" by T.E. Woods, a recent review for TLC Book Tours, is that kind of book--a smart and suspenseful novel about a skilled female hired killer who specializes in "fixing" select problems when it looks like justice won't prevail, and a veteran police detective working with a dedicated psychologist to investigate some deaths that are beginning to look suspicious. 

Publisher's Blurb:

"Never a doubt. Never a mistake. Always for justice. Never for revenge. She’s the person you hire when you need something fixed—permanently. With a strict set of criteria, she evaluates every request and chooses only a few. No more than one job per country, per year. She will only step in if it’s clear that justice will not be served any other way. Her jobs are completed with skill and precision, and never result in inquiry or police investigation. The Fixer is invisible—and quite deadly. . .

In the office of a clinical psychologist in Olympia, Washington, a beautiful young woman is in terrible emotional pain. She puts up walls, tells lies, and seems to speak in riddles, but the doctor is determined to help her heal, despite the fact that she claims to have hurt many people. As their sessions escalate, the psychologist feels compelled to reach out to the police . . . but it might be too late.

In Seattle, a detective gets a call from his son. A dedicated journalist, he wants his father’s expertise as he looks into a suspicious death. Together they follow the trail of leads toward a stone-cold hired killer—only to find that death has been closer than either could have imagined."

E-Book: 312 pages
Publisher: Alibi (February 4, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC

There is a lot going on in this book with many characters and converging plot lines to pay attention to. The story moves at a fast past and there are definite twists and turns--some I expected/predicted, and a few that I was surprised by, and all of them kept me turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. Even with the instances where I figured something out before it unfolded in the book, I had to keep reading to check and see if I was right. All three of the main characters--Linda Corriger, Mort Grant and The Fixer were well-developed, each damaged in some way and suffering from tragic and/or violent events in their pasts. Author Woods has given them many layers, some are uncovered in this book and there are more yet to be peeled back as this is the first novel in a series. Woods has made The Fixer herself a particularly interesting and sympathetic character--her brand of vigilante justice making her morally ambiguous. She is a cold assassin for sure but, it is hard not to root for her as she is ridding the world of some very evil people. The Fixer is crafty and skilled at what she does, reminding me of a cross between a much more violent Olivia Pope of Scandal and a much less bloody Dexter. Is she using her talents for good or for evil? The other characters and the reader have to decide.  This novel is a solid start to a new series. Lovers of mystery-thrillers, strong female characters, police dramas and books with a flawed or anti-hero will enjoy "The Fixer." I am looking forward to the second book, "The Red Hot Fix" which is scheduled for early June.  

Author Notes: T. E. Woods is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Her scientific writings are well represented in peer-reviewed journals and academic texts. Her literary works earned her first place for Fiction at the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute. Dr. Woods enjoys kayaking, hiking, biking, and hanging around the house while her two dogs help her make sense of the world. Her habit of relaxing by conjuring up any manner of diabolical murder methods and plots often finds her friends urging her to take up knitting.

As always, there must be food representing the book in my reviews. While food is present in "The Fixer"--it's not a focus. There's plenty of coffee and alcohol, there's also pumpkin pie, sandwiches and a couple somewhat plain meals that psychologist Linda eats. ("Baked potato, broccoli, breast of chicken. A dinner guaranteed not to add an ounce to her five-foot-seven, 130-pound, thirty-six-year-old body.")  I ended up choosing to make chocolate mousse. Early in the book, The Fixer shares a last meal with one of her targets, enjoying lobster and salad on the dining room terrace, finishing a bottle of Pinot Grigio with a chocolate mousse and ending the dinner with Irish Coffee. Of course then she ties him to the bed and strangles him with a silk scarf, but hey, at least dinner was good... ;-) 

So, chocolate mousse has no real significance to the story other than being mentioned but I have been craving it lately and had tagged this Donna Hay easy Cheat's Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse recipe to make a while back. Made with three ingredients--cream, hazelnut liqueur and Nutella, this is simple, creamy, and the kind of comforting dessert or snack that you need for a good suspenseful mystery novel.

Cheat's Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse 
From "Fast, Fresh, Simple" by Donna Hay
(Serves 2)
300ml (about 10 oz) double cream
1 generous tbsp hazelnut liqueur
85g (1/4 cup) chocolate hazelnut spread

Place the cream in a bowl and whisk until just starting to thicken.

Stir the liqueur through the chocolate hazelnut spread. Add to the cream and whisk gently until combined and thick. 

Spoon the mousse mixture into glasses and serve.

Notes/Results: Rich and smooth with just the right amount of sweetness and hazelnut flavor for me--it's there but not overpowering. This is extremely easy to make for the lazy person--no breaking eggs or melting chocolate. I even used my hand mixer on low instead of whisking. ;-) You could dress this up if you wanted by piping it into cups and topping with some toasted hazelnuts but I figured I would go all-in with the cheating and just spoon it into coffee cups and sprinkle some mini chocolate chips on top. The recipe says it serves 2 but I think you could serve 3, or even 4 people with it, as although it is light in texture, it is still rich. I got 3 heaped (about 6 oz) coffee cups out of it and still had a spoonful or two to enjoy--licking scraping the bowl. It doesn't say to chill the mousse before serving it but I think the flavor was better after it set for a couple of hours in the fridge. I would recommend some fridge time and then letting it sit out for 10 minutes or so before serving so the texture is optimally silky. I would make it again.

This chocolate mousse is being linked to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is "Potluck Week"--a chance to make any recipe from Donna Hay or any one of our previous IHCC chefs. You can see what everyone made by following the links on the post.

Note: A review copy of "The Fixer" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 the Book Tour and what other readers thought here.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tomato-Freekeh Soup: Healthy Comfort for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I am 'freekeh-ing' out today. OK, that was bad. My apologies...  ;-) I did acquire a large bag of freekeh at Costco recently and you may find several recipes featuring this ancient grain over the next few weeks. I had been wanting to try freekeh--a bulgur-like roasted green wheat for a while now--ever since finding a pilaf recipe featuring it in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. When I went to look for it at Whole Foods and some of my local natural foods stores I was put off by the price--$15 or more for a small 8 oz bag here which is too spendy for me. So, I was delighted to find the 3-lb bag at Costco for $9.99. Hopefully it will become like quinoa and will eventually become easier to find and less costly if its popularity increases. Nutritionally it has 11 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber in a 1/2 cup serving--not too shabby for a quick-cooking grain.

Mark Bittman is often my go-to guy for easy recipes that are full of flavor. I have been meaning to make his Tomato-Bulgur Soup from The Food Matters Cookbook and since freekeh has a similar texture, I thought it would be a good way to work in some of my bulk bag. I used canned Italian tomatoes (so much more flavor then their American counterparts) and a mock-chicken stock which along with the onion, (extra) garlic, white wine and thyme gave this thick soup a great flavor. It's a healthy, comforting bowl of soup.  

Bittman says, "There’s no faster, surer way to enrich soup than by stirring in a handful of grains; they absorb the surrounding flavors and release starch to make the broth thick and creamy. Bulgur is ideal because it cooks in a flash, but you can use whatever you’ve got, including already cooked grains (leftovers are perfect) or ground grains like cornmeal. Depending on which you choose, the cooking time may decrease or increase from a little to (rarely) a lot, and you might need to add more liquid." 

Tomato-Freekeh Soup
Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman
(Serves 4)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 large celery stalk, chopped 
1 Tbsp minced garlic (I used 2 Tbsp)
salt and black pepper
1⁄2 cup white wine
3 cups chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; include their juice)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
5 to 6 cups vegetable stock or water, or more as needed
3⁄4 cup bulgur (I subbed freekeh)
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish, optional
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional

Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, celery, and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften and turn golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the white wine and cook, stirring to loosen the bits of vegetable that have stuck to the bottom of the pan, for about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break up, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the stock and bulgur freekkeh, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat so the mixture gently bubbles. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the bulgur freekeh is tender, about 10 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more stock or water. (You can make the soup up to this point and refrigerate for several days or freeze for months. Gently reheat before proceeding.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with the parsley and Parmesan if you’re using them, and serve.

Notes/Results: Warming, satisfying and tasty, this bowl of soup made me happy. The texture of the freekeh is pleasing (again much like a coarse bulgur), bulking up the soup and giving it a slightly toasted, nutty taste that worked well with the sweetness of the tomatoes and onions. I did add a little microplane-grated Parmesan to the soup--which adds a nice richness, but it was perfectly good without it so if you want to make it vegan or can't have dairy, just leave it off. If you can't find bulgur or freekeh, use your grain of choice. This soup was quick and simple to make and very easy to throw together from the pantry. I would make it again.  

This soup is being linked to Potluck Week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. It's the week that we can cook from our current chef Donna Hay or any of our previous IHCC chefs. You can see what everyone made when the post goes live on Monday.

Let's check out the Souper Sundays kitchen where good friends and good dishes await!

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food has two soups to share this week. First up, this Hong Kong-Style Breakfast Macaroni Soup. She says, "Thin strips of ham over macaroni soup - do you find this combo. of ingredients weird?  Ham and macaroni soup, a Western-style dish typically served as breakfast in Hong Kong, and often found in Hong Kong-style tea cafes. My hb who always enjoys home-cooked chicken macaroni soup strangely finds the combination (of plain macaroni in saltish broth topped with a few thin strips of ham) weird. However, it was surprising that  when I cooked a similar breakfast dish at home one day, he finished it all in no time!"

About her second soup, Tigerfish says, "A combination of frozen and fresh describes this Organic Spinach, Pea and Jalapeno Soup. I have enjoyed the advantage of harvesting jalapeno from the garden, whenever I want. Fresh! Sadly, right now, as I am writing this post, our jalapeno plant is already gone, taken away by winter and our lack of care. Frozen organic spinach and organic peas make the soup almost entirely instant. So quick. Done in a matter of minutes within a few blitz from the magical hand-blender. This soup pairs well with sandwiches..."   

Janet of The Taste Space is here with South of the Border Tortilla Soup and says, "Not your typical tortilla soup topped with tortillas, rather the tortillas are blended INSIDE your soup. Before I found corn tortillas in Houston, I considered substituting masa harina/masa arepa, but now I had no excuse. Make thee some Mexican-inspired soup. Black beans, corn, green chiles, tomatoes, cumin and corn tortillas. All in one soup. Topped with avocado and cilantro. It reminded me of a grown-up version of one of my favourite soups from university: stupid easy black bean and salsa soup.

Mireille from Chef Mireille's East West Realm brings a soup and a salad to Souper Sundays this week. First, her Amaranth/Dasheen Cauliflower Soup about which she says, "Calaloo is the name originating from the West Africans who came to the Caribbean, but the English word is amaranth. Dasheen bush is also sometimes used for calaloo. These are the leaves of the taro root plant. In recent years, amaranth has become popular in health food circles. However, the grains or the milled flour is usually used. It is still difficult to locate amaranth leaves in a generic or even health food supermarket. It is readily available in Indian supermarkets, who use this green leaf vegetable as well. So take an excursion to a Caribbean or Indian supermarket and make this delicious Indian inspired soup."

Mireille's salad is this classic Tabbouleh Salad. She says, "Tabbouleh is a bulgur salad of Arab origin popular throughout the Middle East in the countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine & Israel. It is very popular in the West and you will easily encounter this salad in many eating establishments. Middle Eastern and Eastern European markets who cater to people who eat bulgur in many forms will sell many different types of bulgur. The usual options are fine, medium coarse, coarse and extra coarse. While most people in the West usually make tabbouleh with fine bulgur, I prefer to use medium coarse as I find the fine bulgur becomes too mushy."

It's a colorful Beet Salad with Mint, Lemon and Celery from Judee at Gluten Free A-Z Blog this week. She says, "After roasting them, I made a beet salad with mint, lemon, and celery. It was easy and delicious. Of course the roasted beets were so sweet and tender, I could have just eaten them plain. Fresh vegetables like beets are a perfect food on the gluten free diet. They provide great taste and great nutrition. This salad is light and delicious and makes an interesting side dish with just about any meal. For a real treat, put a tablespoon of Greek Yogurt over the beets.

Since I don't make a lot of sandwiches, I had to share this yummy Bagel Sandwich with Lox and Caper-Dill Spread that I made being inspired by a great foodie fiction novel I recently reviewed "The Wedding Bees" by Sarah-Kate Lynch. Since I like to keep the capers and red onions on my sandwich and not rolling around on the floor, I made a creamy spread using (a healthier-than-cream cheese) kefir labne. Piled high with smoked salmon, lettuce, and tomato and served with honey-mint lemonade, it was a fabulous lunch.  

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week! If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!