Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Diana Henry's 'Crazy Salad' Revisited by "One Step Too Far" Author Tina Seskis + Ten Other Favorite Diana Henry Dishes From the Past Six Months

If you read this blog regularly you know that I do a good amount of book reviews and because Kahakai Kitchen is at its heart a food blog, I almost always pair my reviews with a recipe inspired by my reading whether it's a 'foodie' book or not. Most of the time the authors seem to like this or at least find it interesting. Few authors however become enamoured by the dish, make it themselves, and even send me a picture of it. 

When I reviewed the psychological mystery/thriller One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis, as a stop on the TLC Book Tour back in January, I paired it with a fabulous Diana Henry recipe called "Crazy Salad"--saying "...I realized that crazy salad actually captured my feelings about the book--the coming together of the different perspectives, time periods and 'hints' thrown out by the author, that seemed disjointed but came together in the end--much like the many ingredients in this salad that may seem somewhat random, but ultimately come together and taste great. A little crazy, but in the end--very good."

(Find my review of One Step Too Far and the recipe for Diana's 'Crazy Salad' here.) 

Tina Seskis, the author, sent me a lovely email thanking me for the review and saying she loved the pairing (and that she understood that I meant the book and the salad were both crazy in the best way possible!) ;-) and once the weather warmed up a bit in London, she was going to try the salad for herself. I told her that if she made it and took a picture of it, I would love to post it. So she did, and so I am!

Diana Henry's 'Crazy Salad' as interpreted by Author Tina Seskis

Tina says, "I absolutely loved the idea on Kahakai Kitchen of reviewing books and linking them with meals, but I am also a sucker for a pulse-based salad so was keen to give your Crazy Salad a go. So I thought I'd send you my version, and here it is, with just a few alterations (addition of red onion, omission of carrots, extra chilli oil, extra harissa) and it was delicious. Thanks also for your review of One Step Too Far, it's never been called "crazy" before but very glad you enjoyed it. I wonder what you will pair my next book with - its title is When We Were Friends..."

Tina did a fabulous job on the salad and definitely has me craving it again--as well as waiting anxiously for her next book. Will it spark another crazy good pairing? Hmm...

Of course I can't take credit for genius of the recipe--that was all chef and cookbook author Diana Henry. Crazy Salad with its mix of grains, veggies, fruit and harissa-spiked dressing, was one of my favorite recipes that I cooked along with her and the gang at I Heart Cooking Clubs over the past six months. It is hard to say goodbye to a weekly Diana Henry recipe as I have loved so many of her dishes. I know that we will be cooking a lot more together for IHCC Potluck weeks and just because her recipes are always so good.

To send her out in style, here are ten of my other Diana Henry favorites. It was hard to choose just ten(ish--I snuck a two-for-one in there) and they are in no particular order. These are the recipes that I most loved and the ones that I craved long after making them. 

Eastern Salmon Carpaccio was fresh, full of flavor and just plain fabulous. The Asian flavors and gorgeous color made it a dish long remembered. An quick and easy weeknight dinner that would also be perfect for entertaining.

A completely different take on salmon was Diana's drool-worthy Salmon Hash with Creamy Mustard Sauce. Big chunks of salmon and Yukon Gold potatoes mixed with spinach and a delectable mustard sauce had me sad when I ate the last serving. So good!

Simple to make and beautiful to look at, Yogurt with Honeyed Saffron Syrup, Apricot Compote, & Toasted Almonds was another favorite for dessert and/or breakfast. The exotic flavors of saffron, honey and orange flower water paired so well with the apricots and yogurt and the toasty crunch of almonds.  

Diana is equally adept at indulgent dishes like this wonderful Smoked Trout and Leek Risotto which was decadent, rich and creamy. Who knew smoked trout and Parmigiano-Reggiano would pair so well together?!

I would love to claim that Diana's Cabbage & Leek Colcannon is health food--especially since I added kale to the mix but there is far too much Irish butter in this mashed potato dish to make it healthy. No matter--if you have ever turned up your nose at cabbage and kale, try them in this dish and you will be hooked!

A healthier turn and certainly more colorful was this Chermoula-Marinated Tuna with Pomegranate Couscous. I totally fell for the flavors and textures of this dish. Plus, pomegranate seeds make any dish a party!

I made a few of Diana's soups but two especially stood out: her Niçoise Vegetable Stew with Rouille (and Tuna) had such unique flavor that Diana called "gutsy." With the spicy and garlicky rouille sauce it packed a flavor punch for sure.

The second soup that I can't stop thinking about was the first recipe I made with Diana for IHCC, Moroccan Lentil Soup with Yogurt & Chilli-Fried Onions. It certainly elevates a bowl of lentil soup with the slight smokiness of the cumin, the aromatic and slight sweetness or the coriander and the ras el hanout blend. Then the toppings of cool tangy yogurt and those sweet and spicy onions. Yum!

A two-fer, perfect for a party plate are Diana's Spiced Feta in Olive Oil and Persian Marinated Olives. The thyme, fennel and pepper give the cheese plenty of flavor without overpowering it and the olives were a great mix of dill, cilantro and parsley with lemon and chile. Wonderfully munch-able. 

Finally, this pretty Orange & Fennel Salad with Pomegranate & Feta is a another favorite Diana Henry salad. Such excellent flavors and colors--along with the fennel, the salty, creamy feta contrasted well with the honey in the dressing and the sweet oranges and slightly tangy pomegranate seeds. I have made it a couple of times since the post and enjoyed it each time.

What a fabulous six months it was! I am hungry all over again just looking at these recipes.

A big thanks to Tina Seskis for letting me share her salad skills. I will be including it in my Souper Sundays roundup post this weekend. If you like dark, suspenseful psychological thrillers and to be kept guessing, give One Step Too Far a try.

This post will be linking up for our Farewell to Diana Henry! tribute at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can see the recipes everyone chose to make and/or remember this week by following the picture links on the post. 

Which Diana Henry dish is your favorite or which of her dishes would you want to make?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pea and Cilantro Soup with Red Chili Cream (and Fried Tortilla Strips) for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

Pea soups can be a little bland sometimes but this Pea and Cilantro Soup from Diana Henry's Plenty adds a little something different to pea soup with the blend of cumin and cilantro and by topping it with a Red Chili Cream. I added some strips of tortilla, crisped up in oil to add some welcome crunch. 

Pea and Cilantro Soup with Red Chili Cream
Adapted from Plenty by Diana Henry 
(Serves 6-8)

For the Soup:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 potato, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
large bunch of cilantro
2 lbs frozen green peas
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
lemon juice to taste

For the Cream:
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 fresh red chilies, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup whipping cream
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
pinch of superfine sugar (optional)

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy pan. Add the onion and potato and stir. Add the cumin and stir for a minute to release the aroma. Chop the cilantro stems (reserve the leaves) and add them as well, stir, add a splash of water and cover. Sweat for about 20 minutes, adding a splash of water every so often to prevent it sticking on the bottom of the pan. 

Add the peas, stock, cilantro leaves, and seasoning and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes, then leave to cool. When at room temperature, puree in a blender and add lemon juice to taste. 

To make the cream, heat the olive oil and saute the chilies until soft. Put into a blender and add the cream, lemon juice, and a bit of salt. Blend briefly until broken down. Add a little water to thin it out (It should be able to float on the soup but not be in thick blobs). Check the seasoning. You might think it needs the tiniest pinch of sugar. Reheat the soup before serving (or serve cold) and garnish with the cream. 

Notes/Results: The cumin and cilantro add good flavor to this creamy soup but it is the red chili cream that makes it special. Slightly sweet (I did add the pinch of sugar), slightly tangy, and with a little bit of heat, it is a nice foil to the peas. I had coconut milk creamer in the house, so I used that instead of heavy cream. If you do that and leave out the butter, you can make it vegan. I really like having the strips of deep-fried tortilla to add a crunchy texture to the soup--tortilla chips would work well too. Quick and easy to make, it would be a good starter to a Mexican-themed meal and it works either hot or cold. I would make this again.  

I am going to link this post up with Potluck Week at IHCC--a chance to make any recipe from Diana Henry or any of our previous IHCC chefs. You can see what everyone else made for Potluck by checking out the picture links on the post.

We have a couple of good friends hanging out with me in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week. Let's see what they brought!  

Alicia of Foodycat made Garlic Soup with Gruyere Croutons inspired by Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples and a soup she enjoyed years ago. She says, "The mention of garlic soup reminded me of the delicious, pungently wine-flavoured garlic soup we'd had in Switzerland, back in 2007 when I was but a baby blogger. I've tried a couple of different versions but I've never quite nailed the combination of fresh-tasting but cooked garlic and dry wine that I remember. This time I tried a version from one of my favourite defunct food blogs, FX Cuisine. Such a great blog but no activity since 2009. Anyway, in his version you roast the garlic with quite a lot of oil, then use that garlic and oil to make a roux before adding stock to make the soup. He also adds noodles to it. I used some dry white wine as well as the chicken stock, and used sourdough olive bread croutes (nothing says "San Francisco" to me like sourdough!) smothered with gruyere cheese to make it substantial enough to be a meal. It was completely delicious, but still nothing like the one we had in Wengen."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor and Novel Meals shares a classic Lentil Soup inspired by a review of The Soup Club Cookbook. She says, "There are many recipes in this book and not all of them are soups or stews. There are also side dishes and breads. The very cool thing about the recipes are the stories that accompany them. The back stories of these women and their families make it extra special. It started with four friends, women who didn't know each other before they moved to New York City. They became friends & eventually decided to start a soup club. ... With so many intriguing recipes I am selecting a favorite of mine - lentil soup. The quantities of ingredients have been cut back tremendously and I am a "little bit of this, little bit of that" type measurer so....I will just include the recipe in it's original format."


Joanne from Green Gourmet Giraffe is sharing these yummy-looking open-faced sandwiches and says, "I made myself Cheesey Peas on Toast for lunch. "I heated and mashed some green peas.  I mixed them with a spoonful of cream cheese and a little grated cheese.  It was very nice with a grinding of black pepper and some time under the grill.  However the peas were quite sweet so perhaps some spring onions in the mix would give the bite it needed.  A nice easy lunch that I would be happy to eat often."

Thanks to Foodycat, Tina and Joanne for joining me this 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 sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!    

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ruth Reichl's (Very Comforting) Sunny Buttery Saffron Rice Pudding (Sholeh Zard) for Cook the Books: "Comfort Me With Apples"

I am hosting the February/March round of Cook The Books, our bi-monthly virtual foodie book club with Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl. Comfort Me With Apples covers Ruth's life from 1978 through the late 1980s and her journey from chef to food writer and restaurant critic.

It's a memoir that balances Ruth's passion for food and describing it in vivid detail, with tales of her (at times almost soap-opera-ish) life. It is her incredible food writing that pulls me into her books--although I greatly admire her ability to write so directly about her personal life and drama with such honesty--despite how it might make her come across. I was at a writing workshop last weekend and the author who instructed the afternoon creative non-fiction session said that her editor once told her that in writing her memoir, she should write "like everyone you know is dead"--as if it's 100 years from now, so you can be completely and brutally honest. That to me describes Ruth Reichl's style to a T. While never deliberately unkind to herself and others--whether reviewing a chef/restaurant or describing family or a lover, she doesn't pull any punches. Coupled with her ability to put food to words in such a way that you feel as if you are dining with her, as well as including some of the recipes most meaningful to her experiences at end of each chapter, it makes for an engrossing read.     

One would think that being the host, having selected the book ages ago and having finished (re-reading) it last month, that I could manage to be early with this Cook the Books round but no. It hasn't been an easy couple of months for a variety of reasons and time just seems to slip away, so I find myself slinking in a few days before the deadline as usual. That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about my entry though. As I was going through the book, none of the recipes or mentions called to me particularly, or if they did, someone else had already made them. I definitely wanted comfort food. Had I not already made it last year for a book review, Ruth's Matzoh Brei would have certainly been a contender. There's also the Massaged Kale Salad with Currants, Pine Nuts & Parmesan inspired by a mention in Ruth's novel Delicious! that has become a healthy-ish comfort dish for me as I make it on a regular basis. 

Wanting to try a different Ruth recipe, I went to her blog. I get my fix of Ruth's writing by periodically cruising through Ruth's Words on her website where she reviews restaurants and talks about dinner parties, various dishes she cooks, and other foodie things. I definitely go there for her words and not the food photography which always makes me smile because well..., it just isn't great. But, do you know what? She is Ruth freaken Reichl!--her words paint the picture of what she eats better than any picture could. ;-) I found a few recipes that I intend on making someday, but it was the recipe for Persian Rice Pudding or Sholeh Zard that most called to me. I agree with Ruth that rice pudding is the ultimate in comfort food (OK, maybe right next to soup), so it seemed perfect for the book.    

Ruth's recipe serves twelve and although I have been in need of serious comfort lately, I didn't need that many servings of sweet rice pudding. I made a small batch--about three servings worth, by adjusting and (mostly) quartering the recipe quantities. I have written the recipe as I have adjusted it below. If you are feeding a crowd, follow the link to the original recipe. 

Ruth says, "Rice pudding is the chicken soup of desserts. Ultimate comfort food, it's an international dish that changes its style as it travels the world. Once again perusing my stack of Time-Life books I came upon another recipe I couldn’t resist: sholeh-zard, or Persian saffron rice pudding. A goldenrod smear on the page suggests I once made this, but I have no memory of it. Intrigued by the saffron - and the fact that this rice pudding contains no milk - I decided to try it. Unlike the two previous recipes I’ve written about here, this one was so sweet and so strongly redolent of rose water that I made a few serious modifications. Trolling around on the internet I found that sholeh-zard is traditionally incredibly sweet; one recipe I found called for three cups of sugar to one cup of rice. And the classic version is so strongly perfumed with rosewater that some recipes call for as much as a cup. But I've made this to my own taste, so it's less sweet and less perfumed. It is also, in my opinion, very delicious." 

Sunny Buttery Saffron Rice Pudding (Sholeh Zard)
Adapted from Ruth Reichl.com  
(Ruth's Recipe Serves 12 -- Reduced Below to Serve 3)
2 cups water
1/4 cup basmati rice, rinsed and soaked
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pinch saffron threads, pulverized with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon, and dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
1 scant Tbsp rose water, or to taste
2 Tbsp slivered blanched almonds
1 Tbsp slivered or finely chopped unsalted pistachios
1 tsp cinnamon (garnish)

In a heavy saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Pour in the rice and salt and stir. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible point and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. The rice will still be quite watery. Stir in the sugar, then add the butter and the saffron mixture and continue stirring over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, the butter has melted, and the rice is bright yellow. 

Stir in the slivered almonds, and about 1/2 tablespoon of the pistachios and, stirring occasionally, cook for 30 minutes longer until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape almost solidly in the spoon.

Stir in the rose water according to taste. Ladle into a bowl or several small ramekins. Let cool at room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least two hours. 

Traditionally, this pudding is decorated with lines of cinnamon and nuts laid out in your own personal design.

Notes/Results: Besides not needing the sugar, butter and calories from twelve servings of sholeh zard, I also was concerned that it might be too aromatic, sweet and floral for my tastes however, Ruth's tastes mirrored my own and I really enjoyed the flavor. It was just about right in terms of sweetness, rose and saffron flavor and is really quite delicious. A bit more "solid" and less creamy than some rice puddings I have made (the no-milk aspect, non-dairy if you use a butter alternative) and the nuts add a nice little crunch. I think some dried fruit would be great in here as well. Since it's a cold rice pudding, it would be a fabulous summer dessert--although the bright sunny color does make it warm up a dark and dreary day. Noting that Ruth said sholeh zard is traditionally decorated with lines of cinnamon and nuts in designs and patterns, I looked it up in Google Images and it was fun to see the different and very creative variations. Since I was serving mine in ramekins and I like things simple, I just made a single flower pattern to top the small bowls. A great way to use some exotic pantry items I had stocked up on, pretty, and delicious, this was a fun recipe to add to my rice pudding collection. (I think this is #7 on the blog according to the rice pudding label on my sidebar.) I will happily make it again.

I'll be rounding up all of the dishes that Comfort Me with Apples inspired shortly after the deadline on the Cook the Books site. If you missed out this round and like food, books and foodie books, consider joining us for April/May with our pick; The Feast Nearby: How I Lost my Job, Buried a Marriage, and Found My Way by Keeping Chickens, Foraging, Preserving, Bartering, and Eating Locally (All on Forty Dollars a Week) by Robin Mather, hosted by Deborah of Eliot's Eats


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Precious One" by Marisa de los Santos, Served with Giada's (Very Addictive) Pizza Popcorn

Today's TLC Book Tour stop is The Precious One: A Novel by Marisa de los Santos. It's a sweet read about relationships and the bonds between those we love--our family and our friends. At times moving, at times funny, it is a story that is easy to get caught up and lose track of time while reading. I have partnered it with a recipe for Pizza Popcorn, inspired by a scene in the book. Fitting, because it is a dish that is easy to get caught up in (some might call it addicting) and lose track of how just much popcorn you have consumed. 

Publisher's Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Belong to Me, Love Walked In, and Falling Together comes a captivating novel about friendship, family, second chances, and the redemptive power of love.

In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary—professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter, Willow, only once.

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister—a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?

Told in alternating voices—Taisy’s strong, unsparing observations and Willow’s naive, heartbreakingly earnest yearnings—The Precious One is an unforgettable novel of family secrets, lost love, and dangerous obsession, a captivating tale with the deep characterization, piercing emotional resonance, and heartfelt insight that are the hallmarks of Marisa de los Santos’s beloved works.

Print Length: 368 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow (March 24, 2015)

I really loved Marisa de los Santos's first two novels; Love Walked In and the followup, Belong to Me. I wasn't quite as fond of Falling Together, her third novel that came out in 2012, feeling as though I didn't connect as much with the three characters in a friendship triangle. The Precious One may just be my favorite of all of the author's work. It is the story of family, centered around two half-sisters Taisy and Willow, who have spent the past sixteen years forming opinions and resentments about the other until they are thrust into each other's lives when their father 'summons' Taisy to come visit. The story is told from the viewpoint of both sisters. Taisy, at 35, has been estranged from her father since he cheated on her mother and started his new family with young wife Caro and daughter Willow. She has spent her life longing for some sign of affection and love from him. Willow, is 16 but not in any way a typical teenager, having been isolated (and in his mind protected) by her father. In many ways she is naive, in other ways much older than her years from the high expectations of her father and the need to take care of her distracted and somnambulist (sleepwalker) mother. Willow has no intention of sharing her place as daughter with Taisy. The author wrote both characters well, with clear and distinct voices and their relationship is the heart of the book, making the romance(s) secondary. 

Marisa de los Santos excels at writing about women and families (those we are born into and those we create) with humor, heart, and great affection. I did miss getting to know the supporting characters more--even Wilson, the father, who was a complete ass without much redemption in my opinion, even once his secrets were revealed. I especially wanted to spend more time with Caro--Willow's mother, and Marcus--Taisy's brother and Willow's half-brother, to understand and appreciate their stories. Hopefully this won't be the last we see of some of these characters. Here's to Marisa de los Santos revisiting them in a followup, like Belong to Me was for Love Walked In. If she does, sign me up please. The Precious One was a good escape that flew by and left me feeling happy at the end.

Author Notes: Marisa de los Santos has published three New York Times bestselling novels for adults, including Love Walked In and Belong to Me, while David Teague is the author of the picture books Franklin’s Big Dreams and Billy Hightower. Saving Lucas Biggs is their first joint venture. Married for over twenty years, Marisa and David live with their two children, Charles and Annabel, and their Yorkies, Finn and Huxley, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Connect with Marisa on Facebook and Twitter.

Marisa de los Santos's books usually have at least some elements of food in them and The Precious One certainly did. Dishes like as 'fancy' store-bought salads including one made of artichoke hearts, chickpeas, arugula and feta cheese, a coffee cake thick with apple chunks, espresso in tiny black cups and lemon ricotta cookies on square black plates, butternut soup with mushrooms from the neighborhood grocery, pizza and fries for sisterly bonding, a plethora of pies for an awkward Thanksgiving dinner, and some after-the-dance bacon pancakes were all appealing. I was leaning toward the salad or the apple cake but then I got inspired by one of my favorite parts of the book--when Taisy and Willow's mother Caro help her get ready for her first date and first school dance including watching the 80's classic Pretty in Pink while eating pizza and popcorn and drinking grapefruit soda.   

"But I stood firm, and they gave up after minimal hounding, probably because I submitted to the rest: hair, dress, nails, shoes, jewelry, makeup, the crash courses on popular music and how to pin a boutonniere (both taught by Taisy of course), and a pool house viewing of a film called Pretty in Pink during which popcorn, pizza, and fancy grapefruit soda (my first soda experience!) flowed like milk and honey." 
Willow, The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos.

So, popcorn and pizza on the mind, I started thinking about pizza-flavored popcorn. I had seen a couple of popcorn recipes from Giada de Laurentiis, made in a covered kettle and that featured cheese and herbs that I knew I could make pizza-ish. Then, I got smart and simply typed in Giada Pizza Popcorn and... she actually had a recipe for a version on Food Network. Love that! ;-) The recipe sounded good to me and I had everything I needed to make it--always a win. In addition to owning a copy of Pretty in Pink, I also happen to frequently stockpile LaCroix sparkling water in Pamplemousse (aka grapefruit), so the fancy grapefruit soda part of the scene was covered. 

I did change the quantity of many ingredients up a bit (noted in red below) and remembered my sun-dried tomatoes were in fact, oven-dried and not in oil which led to a 'chunkier' texture when coupled with using my mini-chopper to blend instead of dragging out my larger food processor and locating the small bowl insert that I almost never use. I hesitate to call it a 'failing' because I actually like the little pieces of sun-dried tomato mixed into the popcorn however, if you desire, you can get the paste smoother and bits smaller if you do it properly to Giada's suggestions. ;-)

Pizza Popcorn 
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis via FoodNetwork.com
(Makes 4 Servings)

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature (used salted Kerrygold Butter)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained well (used sun-dried not in oil-see notes below)
1 clove garlic, smashed (I used 2 cloves)
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (used 3 Tbsp very finely-grated + extra to top)
3/4 tsp dried oregano (used 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp kosher salt (omitted as butter was salted)

In a food processor, puree the butter, tomatoes and garlic until it forms a smooth paste. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat and add the butter mixture. Heat the butter until melted down and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.

Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Once hot, add the popcorn kernels and oil, and shake the pan to coat the kernels in the oil. Cover and continue to cook over high heat until the kernels begin to pop. Shake the pan once again and reduce the heat to medium-high. Continue to cook until the popping slows dramatically, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the popped popcorn into a large bowl. While still warm, add the flavored butter, cheese, oregano and salt. Toss to coat, and then serve.

Notes/Results: This pizza popcorn is pretty delectable and is very well addicting. (Says the girl who grazed her way through at least three of the four servings while writing this review post.) I don't think it is really in my defense to say that it was my dinner. ;-) With the garlic, cheese, oregano and tomato, it does have a very pizza-ish taste. I am sure you could adapt it to include some pepperoni in that compound butter, or some crushed red pepper flakes if you are a fan. I am even going to play around with a vegan version using nutritional yeast and vegan 'butter.' It is quite easy to make popcorn in the covered kettle/Dutch oven, just make sure to shake it periodically so that it doesn't burn. I also have an air popper, or if you are really lazy, you could use a plain, microwave popcorn or put some unpopped kernels in a brown paper bag and pop your corn that way before mixing in the toppings. A bit messy to eat, but well worth it when you want to jazz up movie night. I will happily make this again. 

It's Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs--a chance to make any recipe from any of our previous IHCC chefs, so I am linking up Giada's Pizza Popcorn there. You can see what everyone else made for Potluck by checking out the picture links on the post.

Note: A review copy of "The Precious One" 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 this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lemony White Bean & Pearled Couscous Soup: Quick & Satisfying for Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays

This Lemony White Bean & Pearled Couscous Soup came from the desire to use up part of the bags of Israeli or pearl couscous I bought on a closeout sale. I wanted some spring flavors, so lemon, baby fennel, lemon thyme, and some locally grown chervil (an herb I almost never stumble across) joined the party. I added beans for satisfaction and protein--mixing canned chickpeas and small white beans to vary the texture. Finally, a quick purging of the fridge veggie drawer yielded carrot, celery and part of a small bunch of kale. Put together, it was a fairly quick to make soup that is satisfying and wonderful in its simplicity. A little spring kitchen magic in a bowl.  

This is a pantry use-it-up soup so you could certainly adjust the ingredients to fit what you have on hand. For example, I had lemon thyme and chervil and the remains of a small bunch of kale I wanted to use up so I tossed them in. A can of low-sodium garbanzo beans plus a can of navy beans were mixed together and I went heavy on the peal couscous. If you wanted a gluten free soup, you could replace the couscous with quinoa or a gluten free pasta, or even some rice cauliflower would be nice. Adjust the fresh lemon juice to your taste preferences. 

Lemony White Bean & Pearled Couscous Soup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4)

! Tbsp olive oil
1 sweet or yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
3 cups cooked white beans
1 heaping cup Israeli / pearl couscous
2 cups kale, center stems removed and leaves cut into very thin shreds
juice of 1 lemon or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
garnish with fresh parsley or chervil, and a bit of chopped fennel frond. 

In a large , saute onion, carrots, celery, and fennel in olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute another about 5 more minutes. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and vegetable stock, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are almost. soft.

Bring broth back to a low boil and add beans, pearl couscous and kale. Cook about 10 minutes, until couscous is cooked and kale is tender. Stir in fresh lemon juice and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: Just  a great little soup--good soft lemony flavor, filling without being heavy and pleasing in that everything is bite-sized and easy to spoon up. As mentioned, I went a little heavy on the pearl couscous but I like how it absorbs the broth and thickens the soup to make it more of a meal. If you don't like a stew-like soup, you can add extra broth and/or reduce the amount of couscous down to 1/2 or 3/4 cup. If you don't care whether it is vegan or dairy-free, a little grated Parmesan or even Greek Myzithera would be lovely grated on the top. Serve with a piece of toast topped with hummus or avocado 
if you like. I would happily make this again.

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog is here with Lebanese Roasted Eggplant Salad and says, "Roasted tangy eggplant salads, like this one, have been popular in Middle Eastern countries for centuries. I think they taste fabulous, are easy to make AND are really healthy too. This recipe is actually my cousin Elaine's recipe who is an experienced and authentic Middle Eastern cook. She invited us for brunch and served a number of memorable dishes. Although everything was very good, her tangy roasted eggplant was my favorite. Mixed with lemon, garlic, and other herbs and spices, the eggplant salad was superb."

Thanks to Judee for joining me this 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 sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!