Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "When the Cypress Whispers" by Yvette Manessis Corporon with a Mezedes Plate Featuring Spicy Feta & Red Pepper Dip

If you aren't in the position to personally travel to a gorgeous Greek isle but long for the beauty and magic of such a place, you can take the trip through the pages of When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon. This beautifully-written novel is full of family, love, growth, history, mouth-watering food, and a magical place where if you take the time to really stop, open your mind and listen, the cypress trees may whisper to you.

Publisher's Blurb:
"On a beautiful Greek island, myths, magic, and a colorful cast of mortals come together in a lushly atmospheric debut celebrating the powerful bond between an American woman and her Greek grandmother.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne has been brought up to believe in the American dream. When her husband dies in a car accident, leaving her with an inconsolable baby and stacks of bills, she channels everything she has into opening her own Greek restaurant. Now an acclaimed chef and restaurateur, she has also found a second chance at love with her wealthy, handsome fiancé.

Although American by birth, Daphne spent many blissful childhood summers on the magical Greek island of Erikousa, which her grandmother still calls home. At her Yia-yia’s side, she discovered her passion for cooking and absorbed the vibrant rhythms of island life, infused with ancient myths and legends lovingly passed down through generations. Somehow her beloved grandmother could always read her deepest thoughts, and despite the miles between them Daphne knows Yia-yia is the one person who can look beyond Daphne’s storybook life of seeming perfection to help her stay grounded. With her wedding day fast approaching, Daphne returns to Erikousa and to Yia-yia’s embrace.

The past and the present beautifully entwine in this glorious, heartfelt story about a woman trapped between the siren call of old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career and relationship. When Daphne arrives on Erikousa with her daughter, Evie, in tow, nothing is the way she recalls it, and she worries that her elderly Yia-yia is losing her grip on reality. But as the two of them spend time together on the magical island once again, her grandmother opens up to share remarkable memories of her life there—including moving stories of bravery and loyalty in the face of death during World War II—and Daphne remembers why she returned. Yia-yia has more than one lesson to teach her: that security is not the same as love, that her life can be filled with meaning again, and that the most important magic to believe in is the magic of herself."

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper (April 1, 2014)

I really enjoyed this book. Greece with its many islands is a place I have long wanted to visit and Yvette Manessis Corporon writes about them so descriptively, it made me feel as if I could actually see them. A dear friend and onetime roommate's mother was Greek and she made the most fabulous food, all of the classics, so Greek food remains one of my all-time favorite cuisines. The author's passion for food and obvious love for the island of Erikousa (a real-life place she spent childhood summers in) comes shinning through in the story, so easy to get caught up in. I liked the generations of female characters--strong, loving, not perfect. Not having grown up with living grandparents, I would have loved to have a relationship like Daphne's with her yia-yia. There are no big surprises in terms of plot, but the writing still absorbed me. The history of the island and its role in World War II and the stories of the experiences of Greek Jews during wartime were new to me and both fascinating and haunting to read. I was sorry to have the story end. Readers who like to get swept away by women's fiction, foodie travel fiction, Greece, family relationships and romance will like this novel. 

Author Notes: Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, and author. She is currently a senior producer with the syndicated entertainment news show Extra. In addition to her Emmy Award, Yvette has received a Silurian Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the New York City Comptroller and City Council’s Award for Greek Heritage and Culture. She is married to award-winning photojournalist David Corporon. They have two children and live in New York.

Vivid descriptions of the food permeate the book, making choosing a dish to make inspired by it both easy and yet difficult. Daphne is a chef and she learned the heart of her cooking from her yia-yia's simple and delicious food. Icy cold frappe, perfectly crisp fries, fried eggs with fresh tomatoes and beautiful basil, saganaki--thin slices of fried kasseri cheese with freshly squeezed lemon juice, simply grilled fish, good crusty bread, salty, briny olives and creamy homemade feta... the list, and my drooling, went on and on. In the end, I was craving a simple mezze or mezedes plate, using mostly purchased items and featuring a tangy feta dip with red bell pepper and red chilies. Not mentioned in the book but something I could see on the table at yia-yia's house or at island local Nitsa's hotel patio. (Plus doesn't the dip color go well with the cover?!) ;-)

OK, I should probably call my adaptation of this recipe from Modern Greek--Spicy Red Pepper & Feta Dip because I ended up switching the amounts of the ingredients around and the red pepper is more prominent. I had decided to make a half batch of the dip--so 8 oz. of feta instead of 16 oz of cheese. Since I had gone ahead and sauteed my whole pepper and bought 2 red chilies, I decided to put them all in. I don't look at this as a bad thing--it ups the Vitamin C and cuts down on the sodium, fat and calories (I subtracted calories and fat by reducing the oil too, BTW) and the dip is still rich, creamy and very good. (Plus it's cheaper to make!) A win in my book. My changes are noted in red below. 
Spicy Feta & Red Pepper Dip (Ktipiti)
Adapted from Modern Greek by Andy Harris
(Serves 6-8) (Makes about 2 cups)

3 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp)
1 red bell pepper, seeds & membranes removed, cit into strips
2 red chiles, seeds & membranes removed, cut into strips
1 lb feta cheese, crumbled (I used 1/2 lb feta)
3-4 Tbsp yogurt 
(I added 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the pepper and chilies for 10-15 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool slightly.

In a food processor, blend the oil, pepper and chile mixture with the feta and yogurt until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until required.  

Notes/Results: A creamy dip that is full of bright flavor with just a hint of a spicy bite at the end. Much as I like feta, I didn't miss the extra I left out at all. I liked it with both the toasted bread and with the veggies (in my case two of my favorite dippers--raw cucumber and sugar snap peas) and I think it would make a great sandwich spread or even a pasta sauce, thinned out a bit. Rounding out the mezedes plate were some kalamata olives and some deli-bought dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). With a glass of crisp white wine, it made for a wonderful light supper. I would make this dip again--with the changes I made to lighten it up. 

Note: A review copy of "When the Cypress Whispers" 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


  1. The book sounds great & that dip looks delicious!!

  2. Gluten Free A-Z BlogApril 27, 2014 at 12:43 AM

    Oh Deb, your post revived my memories of my glorious trip to Greece. And I love your photos and presentation of the Greek food. What a fabulous post.

  3. That looks like a delightfully refreshing lunch ... one that's I'd enjoy right now!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.


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