Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Paris Secret" by Karen Swan, Served with a Recipe for Ratatouille with Salmon

I'm happy to be hosting today's TLC Book Tour stop for The Paris Secret by Karen Swan full of secrets and mysteries, history and a bit of romance too. Accompanying my book review is a recipe for Ratatouille, a classic French stew of vegetables and in this case, topped with a piece of grilled salmon. Both the book and the stew are perfect to curl up with as we watch November pass into December.

Publisher's Blurb:

In this glittering tale of forgotten treasures and long-held secrets, international bestseller Karen Swan explores one woman’s journey to discovering the truth behind an abandoned apartment and a family whose mysteries may be better left undiscovered.

When high-powered fine art agent Flora Sykes is called in to assess objets d’art in a Paris apartment that has been abandoned since WWII, she is skeptical at first—until she discovers that the treasure trove of paintings is myriad…and priceless. The powerful Vermeil family to whom they belong is eager to learn more and asks Flora to trace the history of each painting.

Despite a shocking announcement that has left her own family reeling, Flora finds herself thrown into the glamorous world of the Vermeils. But she soon realizes there is more to this project than first appears. As she researches the provenance of their prize Renoir, she uncovers a scandal surrounding the painting—and a secret that goes to the very heart of the family. The fallout will place Flora in the eye of a storm that carries her from London to Vienna to the glittering coast of Provence.

Xavier Vermeil, the brusque scion of the family, is determined to separate Flora from his family’s affairs in spite of their powerful attraction to one another. Just what are the secrets he is desperately trying to hide? And what price is Flora willing to pay to uncover the devastating truth…?

Paperback: 416 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 14, 2017)

My Review:

The Paris Secret is the second book about, or based on the discovery and opening up of the real abandoned Paris apartment which had sat untouched for 70 years after the owner fled at the outbreak of World War II. (My review for that book The Paris Time Capsule is here.) I find the subject so intriguing, the description of the book sounded different enough from the other and I was curious to see what this author would do with the inspiration and I was not disappointed. Karen Swan puts the emphasis on the art in this book and the descriptions of it and the history she imagines surrounding the apartment and its occupants easily transported me to present day Paris, as well as made me imagine what it must have been like at the dawning of the war. I liked Flora, although she is focused on her work as an art agent (which sounds fascinating), she cares for her family, especially her older brother who is facing a life-changing accusation. The family that owns the apartment and who Flora is working for is interesting, even if most of its members are not totally likable and Flora's research uncovers deep secrets and scandals that could easily topple them. These side plots add to the drama of the story of the treasures in the Paris apartment and where they came from. I enjoyed the focus on the apartment and artwork more than the romance that formed for Flora--which didn't quite click for me--but there was enough in the story that did to make me overlook it. I don't know a lot about art, other than to appreciate it, but I could follow along and I felt like I learned something about fine art and the auction world which had me checking out some things on line along the way--always a good sign of how interested I am in a subject.

With the beautiful writing and intriguing story, The Paris Secret made for a nice escape and had me not wanting to set it down as I really wanted to find out what would happen. If you like art, fashion, history, mystery and/or romance, you should enjoy this one. It's my first book from Karen Swan but I will definitely be checking out her other work.  


Author Notes: Karen Swan worked as a fashion editor before moving into writing fiction. She is married with three children and lives in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the South Downs. She is the author of the novels The Summer Without YouChristmas at Claridges, and The Perfect Present.

Follow Karen on Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

There is more detail on fashion and art than there is on food in The Paris Secret but there were some food mentions including chamomile lawns,” langoustines, tea, yoghurt, lemon mascarpone cheesecake, rosemary, figs, pomegranate, molasses, olive bread “club salad”, avocado, lime soda, jars of pickled fruits and vegetables, a tagine, tequila,  Diet Coke and jelly babies, a sushi bar with salmon nigiri and tuna maki, chicken, frappes, macaroons, apple and pear trees, champagne, potatoes, beans and carrots grown on a hidden rooftop, rib of beef, chili, pie, espresso, croissants, orange juice, truffles, a bowl of fruit, sausages, ice cream, moules (mussels), shepherd’s pie, ice wine, bowls of ratatouille, pancakes,  and vodka tonic.

The only thing that really called to me to make was the ratatouille which was served at a town “ball”—really an outside dance in a town on the coast of Provence where the crowd sat at wooden tables and the “delicious but rustic” food with bowls of ratatouille were passed down the benches. I love a good bowl of ratatouille and even though it is turning into December, I can still get good local basil, eggplant, zucchini and even tomatoes.

Since it is Potluck week at one of my blogging events—I Heart Cooking Clubs, I looked to see which of our many featured chefs had a good ratatouille recipe that I hadn’t yet tried and although there were several that tempted me, I ended up with an Ellie Krieger recipe for Ratatouille with Red Snapper. There’s no fish beyond shrimp and mussels mentioned in the book, but the heart wants what the heart wants. ;-)  There was no local snapper (onaga or opakapaka) and the other local Hawaiian fish at the market didn’t look that great so I decided to swap in salmon from my freezer instead. I also didn’t Ellie would mind if I added in a couple of my favorite veggies--fennel and red bell pepper--to her recipe. My changes are in red below.

Ratatouille with Salmon
Slightly Adapted from Ellie Krieger via
(Serves 4)

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large eggplant (about 1 lb), trimmed & cut into small dice (about 3 cups) (I used 2 Japanese eggplant)
1 medium onion, cut into small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)  
2 cloves minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons)
2 medium zucchini (1 lb total), trimmed, cut into small dice (about 2 1/2 cups)
(I added 1 fennel bulb and 1 red bell pepper)
1 (14.5-oz) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1 tsp herbs de Provence (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme & 1/4 teaspoon each dried rosemary & dried marjoram)
3/4 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
4 (5-oz) fillets red snapper, skin on (I used 2 5-6 oz salmon fillets, skin on)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp rosemary (or other herb) infused olive oil, optional (I omitted)

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until eggplant has softened but not completely lost its shape, about 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from skillet. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and zucchini to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is soft, about 6 to 7 minutes. Return eggplant to pan and add tomatoes, herbs de Provence, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer approximately 10 minutes. Season with additional salt, to taste. Stir in basil and remove from heat.

To cook fish, preheat broiler. Sprinkle fillets with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Combine the remaining tablespoon olive oil with the lemon juice and brush on fillets. Broil until fish is cooked and firm, about 7 minutes. (I added a sprinkle of herbs de Provence to the salmon along with Ellie's salt, pepper, oil  lemon) and cooked in until just done on a pan on the stovetop.)

Mound 1 cup ratatouille on 4 plates; top each mound with 1 fish fillet and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon herb infused oil, if using. Garnish with additional basil.

Notes/Results: This is a simple and tasty ratatouille—nicely flavored with the garlic and herbs de Provence and the salmon stands up to the chunky vegetable stew quite well. I sprinkled a bit of my herbs de Provence on top of the salmon, seasoned it as per Ellie’s recipe and cooked it in a pan on the stovetop. Since I halved the recipe, I didn’t need to fire up the oven that way. Any good firm fish will work here, or you could leave off the fish and add a can of beans to the ratatouille for a veg-friendly version. Easy enough for a weeknight dinner, healthy, and delicious, I would happily make it again.

I'm linking this recipe up to Potluck at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can see what everyone made by following the picture links on the post. 

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 "The Paris Secret" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Ambrosia Overnight Oats for Food 'N Flix November Pick: Planes, Trains and Automobiles {#FoodnFlix}

It's the end of November and I am sliding in at the last possible moment (surprise!) with my entry for Food 'N Flix, the monthly blogging event where we watch a movie and then head to the kitchen to make something inspired by what we saw. This month our film is Planes, Trains and Automobiles, hosted by Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures (See her announcement post here.)

Planes. Trains and Automobiles is a John Hughes film, from 1987 and stars Steve Martin and John Candy playing their typical roles--uptight yuppie (Martin) and annoying but ultimately lovable goof (Candy). Chances are you have seen it but in case you haven't, it's holiday travel gone bad with Martin's Neal Page trying to get home to Chicago for the Thanksgiving holiday with his family. He meets Candy's Del Griffith on the plane and due to a series of mishaps--starting with a blizzard that halts flights, the two spend several days trying various ways to work their way home. That's the quick version--you have to watch the movie to appreciate all of the misadventures and situations the pair encounters.

It had been years since I watched the movie--at least the whole thing. I happened across a copy of the DVD at my library bookstore for $1 so I grabbed it up and settled in to re-watch it with my food goggles on.It actually holds up fairly well--except for the lack of technology like the laptops and cell phones we take for granted today. It has some very funny moments, some silly ones and even a few that are touching. 

There is not a ton of food in the movie but some things I noticed included spaghetti, mention of a "hot dog and a beer," soda, tea, Life Savers, a Slurpee, Cracker Jacks, Chiclets, a diner breakfast spread that looked like it included eggs, orange juice, pie, oatmeal, coffee and maybe French Toast, nuts and soda on the train, salad and some kind of meat in a restaurant, mention of ambrosia salad, crescent rolls, turkey and cranberries, pizza, alcohol like Amaretto, gin, tequila and rum, various kinds of candy and candy bars, a pie (cherry?) with a lattice crust and a Thanksgiving turkey. 

For my movie inspired dish, I decided to do a mash-up of two inspirations--first the ambrosia mentioned on the phone call that the car rental agent (Edie McClurg) is talking about on the phone and then the diner breakfast where it looked like Neal was stirring a bowl of cream of wheat or oatmeal. I thought I would be fun to take the ingredients and flavors of a classic ambrosia salad (tangerine, pineapple and coconut) and add them to oatmeal. I chose to make overnight oats and keep it cold as that just sounded better and more like the salad. I actually like cold overnight oats better than hot oatmeal anyway and I go through phases where I make and eat them regularly for breakfast.

There appear to be a lot of variations to ambrosia--Wikipedia says, "Ambrosia is a variation on the traditional fruit salad. Most ambrosia recipes contain fresh or sweetened pineapple, mandarin oranges or fresh orange sections, miniature marshmallows, and coconut. Other ingredients can include maraschino cherries, bananas, strawberries, peeled grapes, or crushed pecans. Ambrosia can also include whipped cream (or whipped topping), sour cream, cream cheese, pudding, yogurt, mayonnaise, or cottage cheese. The mixture is refrigerated for a few hours or overnight before serving. Although the name references the food of Greek gods, it is widely believed to be an American dish originated in the late 19th century." I remember my mom occasionally making a variation of it with canned fruit cocktail and marshmallows in a creamy whipped cream (I think) sauce--but no coconut.

I wanted to keep my ambrosia overnight oats on the fresher, healthier side and use fresh fruit--pineapple and tangerine, unsweetened coconut, plain coconut yogurt, and a bit of maple syrup (John Candy was Canadian) to sweeten it. I was going to leave out the marshmallows but then I ran across some toasted pineapple coconut marshmallows at my local grocery store and though it would be fun to cut them up and add them to the oats. In addition to the unsweetened desiccated coconut in the oats, I toasted up some coconut flakes with a dash of cinnamon to put on top.  

Ambrosia Overnight Oats
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 Servings)  

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup shredded desiccated (dried) coconut, unsweetened
3/4 cup yogurt of choice (I used plain coconut-based yogurt but you can use vanilla,orange, coconut or pineapple flavored yogurt for a sweeter version)
1/2 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened vanilla coconut milk)
1 large tangerine, peeled and segmented with the skin removed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced
tiny pinch of salt
maple syrup or honey to taste
1/3 cup miniature marshmallows (optional), halved (I used the pictured flavored marshmallows and chopped them into bite-sized squares)
extra tangerine,pineapple and marshmallows to top if desired
1/4 cup coconut flakes, toasted

Combine the oats, desiccated coconut, yogurt, milk, fruit, and pinch of salt into a jar or tightly-lidded container. Stir well to combine. Place in refrigerator overnight--or at least six hours.

When ready to eat, check consistency (you want it thick and creamy but loose to mimic the ambrosia consistency) adding additional milk or yogurt to loosen it up as needed and stir in marshmallows if using. Taste and add maple syrup or honey if you want it sweeter (if you use a flavored yogurt you likely won't need to add much if any sweetener). 

Serve in bowls, topping it with extra fruit and marshmallows and toasted coconut flakes if desired. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I liked this mix of flavors as it gave my overnight oats a bit of a tropical twist with the pineapple and coconut. They were creamier than I usually make my overnight oats to replicate the salad and I liked how it softened and plumped up the dry desiccated coconut. Although I wouldn't make the marshmallows a regular thing, it was fun to have them in the mix for their chewy texture (stir them in right before serving) and sweet flavor. It reminded me of eating a bowl of Lucky Charms as a kid and saving the little bites of marshmallow for last. The toasted coconut flakes added a needed crispiness to all that creaminess. I might add nuts next time too--chopped pecans or mac nuts for even more texture. If you like ambrosia salad and/or these ingredients and like overnight oats, you will probably enjoy this combination. I will happily make it again.   

The deadline for this round of Food 'N Flix is today, Tuesday November 28th 2017 and Amy will be rounding up the entries on her blog soon after. If you missed this round and love food, films and foodie films, join us for December when we'll be watching Clueless, hosted by Food 'N Flix's founder, Heather of All Roads Lead to the Kitchen.  


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Creamy Middle Eastern-Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Israeli Couscous & Harissa-Mint Yogurt for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

I have been fighting off the 'yucks' the last few days--headache, a mild sore throat and some aches, mainly. It's like it's just on the verge and doesn't know if it wants to develop or not, but it definitely has left me feeling blah and mostly burrowed into the couch with tea and a blanket. I wanted a low-effort soup today, one that offered comfort and enough flavor that I could actually taste it.

I settled on a red lentil soup with some Moroccan flavors--ras el hanout, cumin, turmeric, garlic and ginger. As I went back and forth from the couch to the kitchen, other ingredients made their way into it--tomatoes, coconut milk and lemon and the last half of a package of Israeli couscous--always fun to eat. I thought of topping it with yogurt and remembered how much I liked the flavors in this Harissa-Mint Bagel Shmear so I mixed them into Greek yogurt. In the end it all came together into a delicious bowl of soup as the best "toss it all together" recipes do.

Creamy Middle Eastern-Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Israeli Couscous & Harissa-Mint Yogurt 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 6 Servings)

2 Tbsp coconut oil
6 shallots, peeled and diced (or 1 large onion)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1-inch piece  ginger, peeled and crushed/grated
2 tsp ras el hanout (or curry of choice)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or chili pepper of choice)
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup red lentils, picked through, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
6 cups vegetable-based stock of choice (I used not-chicken broth paste)
1 cup dried Israeli couscous or rice, or grain of choice
1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
lemon juice to taste
sea salt and black pepper to taste 
Harissa-Mint Yogurt (recipe below) and fried onions to garnish, if desired

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot and sauté the onion and carrot until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and all of the spices and cook for another minute or two. Add the lentils, tomatoes, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce soup to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.  

Add Israeli couscous and cook for another 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in coconut milk, heating until warmed through--about 5 minutes. The soup will be somewhat thick, if you prefer a thinner consistency, add more stock or water as necessary. Season to taste with fresh lemon juice salt and pepper.

Serve topped with Harissa-Mint Yogurt and crispy fried onions (I like the garlic & black pepper ones) and enjoy! I served it with fresh sourdough bread bu any Middle Eastern flatbread would be nice too. 


Harissa-Mint Yogurt
Inspired by The Kitchn
(Makes 1 Cup)

8 oz Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp Harissa paste, or to taste
zest of a lemon + 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
sea salt

In a small bowl, gently stir harissa paste, lemon zest, lemon juice, and mint into the yogurt until thoroughly mixed in. Taste and season with sea salt to taste. 

Allow to chill and flavors to set for an hour or so in fridge before serving.  

Notes/Results: This soup hit the spot--full of flavor and warm spices and very creamy from the lentils and the coconut milk, with the lemon juice brightening things up nicely.  The soup itself has a mild heat, which intensifies when the Harissa-Mint Yogurt is stirred in. If you don't have ras el hanout, you could use any curry powder of choice and the same with the Israeli couscous, you could sub in rice, a grain, or any other pasta shape of choice. I was very happy with how it turned out and would happily make it again.

We have some good friends and tasty dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look at what got linked up this week!

Debra of Eliot's Eats joins us with Massaged Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Cranberry Relish from her "Moveable Thanksgiving Feast" and said, "At the last minute, I decided we needed some more greens so I made a version of my massaged kale salad.  For some color, I threw some pomegranate seeds on top. ... I really like a tart relish, but this next recipe can be adapted to your family’s tastes. The original recipe called for sugar. I used honey and a tangerine. These simple ingredients made the best relish ever. Truly. As I was testing for tartness, I found myself eating it out of the food processor by the spoonful."

Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen shared Estonian Beetroot and Potato Salad and said, "Estonian Beetroot and Potato Salad is known as Rosolje. Obviously it has beetroot and potatoes, but it also has pickled gherkins, red onion, slithers of eating apple and for flavour soured cream, of course those of you who are vegan can substitute this with a vegan alternative, mustard and seasoning to taste."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shares a Grilled Crab Cake Sandwich she recently enjoyed and said, "Craving: Crab cakes and grits. I could make this, it just requires planning. My husband makes excellent cheese grits and I usually fry crab cakes for a dinner but grilling them may be an option next time. This beauty of a sandwich was had at Boss Oyster in Apalachicola. Florida."

Finally here at Kahakai Kitchen, I tried Ina Garten's Roasted Salmon Nicoise Platter, paired with a book review for Cook the Books. It was amazing--beautiful on the plate and the (in my case marinated and pan-seared instead of roasted) salmon was perfectly moist and delicious. 
Mahalo to everyone who joined me at Souper Sundays this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches 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 the post you link up to be included.

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

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Silent Fountain" by Victoria Fox, Served with a Recipe for Mushroom & Leek "Stuffing" Risotto with Stuffing Butter Bread Crumbs (And a Giveaway!)

It's the day after Thanksgiving and whether you are a Black Friday fan or someone who hides in the house to avoid it (that would be me), it probably time for a break. On today's TLC Book Tour, we are journeying to Italy (with some jaunts back in time to 1978 Hollywood) for a review of The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox. Accompanying my review of this novel with a Gothic feel is a recipe for Mushroom & Leek "Stuffing" Risotto, topped with "Stuffing" Butter Breadcrumbs that is amazing and (loosely) inspired by my reading. There's also a Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

Hollywood, 1978 
Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti—and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister and learns that her new husband’s past holds dark secrets…

Tuscany, Present day 
Lucy Whittaker needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed. Strange sounds come from the attic. The owner of the house will never meet her in person.
The fountain in the courtyard is silent—but has never run dry.

Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa. 

And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: MIRA (October 31, 2017)

My Review:

The publisher's description of The Silent Fountain drew me in with it being primarily set in Italy, the promise of 'dark secrets' and a Gothic feel, and dual time settings and perspectives, which are are all things that I enjoy. Once I started the book, I was immediately absorbed--at one moment I was feeling all of the pleasures of the sunny Italian countryside, the next moment the menacing feel and foreboding chills of a crumbling estate with noises and odd occurrences would come sneaking in, along with a few goosebumps (called 'chicken skin' here). The writing is descriptive and the shifts in time and point of view serve to build the tension between chapters and move the story along, making it often hard to put down. Bits and pieces of the history of the two main characters, Lucy, a young British woman running to Italy from the implosion of her life, and Vivian, a faded American actress, owner of the Castillo Barbosa and Lucy's new (but mysteriously unseen) employer, unfold and their secrets are slowly revealed. 

I liked the well-executed mix of settings and stories--present day at the crumbling estate outside of Florence and the late 1970s through the mid-1980s in Hollywood and Tuscany, and I enjoyed both characters. Although Vivian is the headliner with more complexity and nuances to her story, Lucy provides a solid supporting role and her character grows throughout the book. There were some good twists that kept me guessing and although the ending wasn't quite what I was expecting, it worked with the story and left me feeling all the feels. The Silent Fountain will appeal if you like women's fiction with Gothic leanings, books set in Italy and/or romantic mysteries with a bit of depth to them. This is my first book from Victoria Fox but I will be looking into some of her other works. 

(If The Silent Fountain sounds appealing, don't forget to enter for your chance to win a copy at the bottom of the post.)


Author Notes: Victoria Fox is a bestselling author in the UK. She used to work in publishing and is now the author of six novels. The Silent Fountain is her breakout novel in North America. She divides her time between Bristol and London.

You can connect with Victoria via Facebook or Twitter


There is food in The Silent Fountain, although it is not a foodie book. I don't think you are allowed to have a novel set mostly in Italy and not have food. Some examples included herbs, lavender and tea, wine, spaghetti, pink gelato, fields of maize and barley, almonds, grapes and lemon trees, vanilla-cream muffins, soup, crackers and grapes "the color of bruises," pizza, saltimbocca, Chianti, limoncello, cheeseburgers, Bolognese sauce, iced buns, Campari and soda, chicken cacciatore, white bean salad, grappa, vodka, rabbit pappardelle, scrambled eggs, ciabatta, lobster claws, focaccia, ham, piccalilli (pickles), prosciutto, salami, tomatoes, cheese and pears, sugary pastries, chocolate tiramisu, veal, potatoes, mince pies, linguine, Sunday roast, and marinara sauce. 

Sometimes my book-inspired dished are totally from the book and other times it becomes less about the book and more about what I am craving at the moment--that I can somehow relate to the book. This is the case for The Silent Fountain. I get a lot of food related newsletter email and sometimes I read them and often I don't but the headline of one from Extra Crispy caught my attention, "Everyday is Thanksgiving When You Have Stuffing Butter." Stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving and a stuffing-flavored compound butter is a pretty genius idea. The fact that the recipe was from Stacey Ballis, (a favorite foodie fiction writer of mine) only sealed the deal. I resolved to get stuffing butter into my life. 

The stuffing butter and thoughts of stuffing led me thinking of a good Italian dish to incorporate it into and pair with The Silent Fountain and I settled on another favorite, risotto. Although it doesn't appear in the book, give me a plate or bowl of risotto and I'm happy. I love the zen of stirring a big pot of risotto on the stove, listening to an audio book, and then sitting down to enjoy the fruits of my labor. 

Since my review falls so close to the Thanksgiving holidays, I resolved to introduce my beloved stuffing flavors to a vegetarian risotto of mushroom and leeks and to incorporate the stuffing butter into some crisp panko bread crumbs to top it. And, since Vivian is an American in Italy and wasn't allowed to celebrate holidays growing up, a combination of an American holiday dish with an Italian classic seems to fit. 

There are a few steps to this recipe but the Stuffing Butter can be made ahead of time and the breadcrumbs cooked in the same pan as the mushrooms, so it's not too arduous.

Mushroom & Leek "Stuffing" Risotto 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4 as a Main, More as a Side Dish)

Stuffing Butter (see recipe below)
8-10 oz crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 
5 cups good chicken-flavored and/or mushroom stock (I used a combination of both)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large ribs celery, chopped
2 to 3 leeks, white and green parts, cleaned well, halved and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp sage leaves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
1 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tsp celery salt 
1 1/2 cups arborio rice 
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs (see recipe below) 

Prepare Stuffing Butter using recipe below. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium-large saucepan and keep simmering on the stove.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp of the Stuffing Butter into a large frying pan and add mushrooms. Cook mushrooms over medium heat until they are tender--about 5 to 6minutes. Scrape mushroom and juices out of pan and onto a plate and set them aside. Use pan to prepare Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs (recipe below) and set aside.

In a large, high-sided, heavy-bottomed pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high and add the celery and leeks. Cook about 7 minutes, until vegetables are almost tender. Add garlic, sage, thyme, dried parsley, rosemary, and celery celery salt and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until herbs are fragrant. 

Add the aborio rice and stir to coat it in the oil and herbs. Toast the rice until it crackles and starts to turn opaque. Add the white wine and stir until it is almost all absorbed (about 5 minutes). 

Reduce heat to medium and place a ladle of the simmering stock into the rice, stirring  until it is absorbed. Repeat, adding 1 ladle of the stock at a time and stirring constantly, (making sure the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle) until rice is tender but still has a bit of a firm "bite"--about 25 minutes.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms and fresh parsley and add any leftover stock as needed if you need to loosen up the risotto a bit. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as needed. You can stir in some Stuffing Butter if you want any additional stuffing flavor (just remember you'll be topping it with the Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs).

Serve immediately on warmed plates, sprinkled generously with the Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs and additional chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy.

Stuffing Butter 
Very Slightly Adapted from Stacey Ballis via

Top of F11/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp low-sodium chicken base, preferable Better Than Bouillon brand (if you can’t find low-sodium, cut back to 1/2 Tbsp or it will be too salty) (Note: I used their no-chicken paste and reduced to about 3/4 Tbsp.)
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves, chopped fine
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp rubbed sage (I used 1 tsp dried sage)
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp granulated garlic (I used 1/2 tsp roasted garlic powder)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
11/2 tsp dried chopped onion (from the spice aisle), re-hydrated in 1/4 cup warm water for 30 minutes
Bottom of Form

Drain the re-hydrated onion flakes and press dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, mix the butter and bouillon paste until well incorporated with no streaks. Add all of the spices and the onion and mix well. 

Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to six months.

Slather on any available bread, top your baked potato with it, melt it down and drizzle it on your popcorn. If you want something to taste like stuffing, this is your new best friend.


Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

3 Tbsp Stuffing Butter (recipe above)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

In a large frying pan (I use the one I cooked the mushrooms in), heat the Stuffing Butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and saute them until they are crisp and golden brown--stirring consistently to ensure they do not burn. Set aside until ready to use.

Notes/Results: Stuffing Butter is a great big LOVE, thank you Stacey Ballis! I adjusted it slightly to make it fit my stuffing memories and it certainly did. The Mushroom and Leek "Stuffing" Risotto was also amazing--it definitely has the flavors of dressing or stuffing and hits all of the comfort food buttons. The contrast of the creamy risotto and the crisp stuffing-buttery panko breadcrumbs is wonderful. Rich, delicious, and definitely more-ish (just like my favorite Thanksgiving side dish), I would happily make it again. (And I'm trying the Stuffing Butter on popcorn this weekend.)

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 Silent Fountain" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Silent Fountain to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) and tell me about your favorite Thanksgiving dish or favorite Italian dish, or tell me why you'd like to win a copy of The Silent Fountain

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or
author Victoria Fox (@VFoxWrites). (Note: You can still get the extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Saturday, December 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!