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.)

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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


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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 ExtraCrispy.com

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.

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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!
 

6 comments:

  1. Stuffing butter, as you suggest, has enormous potential as an ingredient or accompaniment to lots of good things. I grew some sage this year so I would have a particularly good use for it with this.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. We usually have our favorite foods for Thanksgiving instead of "traditionaL" dishes. This year, my favorite was crab cakes.
    Dianna

    ReplyDelete
  3. Turkey-I love turkey and cranberry. Along with anything pumpkin.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Love how you tied the risotto with stuffing butter into the book! I'm definitely going to have to try it. I bet it'd be great in mashed potatoes instead of regular butter ....

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

    ReplyDelete

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