Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Matchmaking for Beginners" by Maddie Dawson, Served with a Recipe for Pasta with Fried Eggs

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for the sweet and fun "Matchmaking for Beginners" a novel by Maddie Dawson. My review is accompanied by a recipe for a quick and easy pantry recipe for Pasta with Fried Eggs, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.
When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.
And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

Hardcover: 370 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (June 1, 2018)

My Review:

I hadn't read any of Maddie Dawson's work before--although I have seen it and meant too, but something about Matchmaking for Beginners caught my eye. The gorgeous cover in one of my favorite colors, the need for a bit of fluff and fun in the midst of my usual darker or more serious books, and matchmaking--I am a sucker for matchmaking stories. I quickly signed up for the tour and I am so happy I did. What a sweet, fun, and enjoyable book! 

You can't help but love Marnie, a teacher who just wants to marry her boyfriend and start a simple life. While at an after-holiday party with her boyfriend's family, Marnie is befriended by its black sheep, Great-Aunt Blix, a colorful matchmaker in her eighties who senses a kindred spirit in Marnie and ends up leaving her an apartment in Brooklyn with the stipulation that Marnie live there for three months before she can sell it. Back at home in Florida after her marriage suddenly ends, Marnie has just started to feel like her life is coming together towards the happy future she wants and isn't sure she wants the slightly crumbling but charming brownstone and its group of occupants and neighbors that made up Blix's family (she's also pretty sure it's not a good idea that her ex-husband is now bunking with her), but she's also finding some of Blix's 'magic' as well as starting to find her own. 

Blix is that engaging and eccentric relative we all want, and the supporting characters are interesting and easy to wish well for--even Noah, Marnie's ex. The apartment is delightful--I want to paint my boring white refrigerator turquoise and live in a fun little city neighborhood. Blix's life lessons and legacy of hopes for her friends are meaningful--I need to adopt her mantra of "whatever happens, love that."  There are no big surprises in the book, it's just a breezy, heart-pleasing story--the kind of book you can tuck into a beach bag, or curl up in your favorite chair and escape with. Matchmaking for Beginners was a pleasure to read, it make me smile and I was sad to turn the final page. I will definitely be looking at Maddie Dawson's other books.


Author Notes: Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family HappinessThe Opposite of MaybeThe Stuff That Never HappenedKissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

Connect with Maddie via her website, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram


Food Inspiration: 

There is a good amount of food in Matchmaking for Beginners including a red holiday cocktail. Welsh rarebit, chocolate almonds, ice cream, beer, Bloody Marys, cheeseburger and onion rings, lobster, poached eggs, salmon, kale-strawberry smoothies, bread with seeds and sprouts, chocolate chip cookies, mushroom omelet, iced coffee, eggs, meatloaf with two cheeses, granola bars, six-layer dip with four melted cheeses, red onion and avocado, oatmeal and cranberries, instant pudding out of the package, cupcakes with fortunes baked in, a salad of iceberg lettuce, carrots and celery, hamburgers, roasted veggies, American cheese, Wonder Bread, canned vegetables, cakes, pickles, tacos, a burrito, eggs at a restaurant called Yolk, muffins, a cheese omelet with bacon coffee grits and whole grain toast, maple syrup on pancakes, chai lattes, subs, German pancakes, brownies, apple pie with crust with butter, fried fish and tuna, pizza, chicken salad, cheese and grapes, chicken with mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe, almond flour, Irish butter, vanilla cheesecake, whiskey, egg sandwiches, cream puffs with vanilla pudding, a potluck Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, green bean casserole, pumpkin pies, clam chowder, squash casserole, dinner rolls, sliced roast beef, beet salad, onion soup, Grey Poupon, and lobsters, cinnamon buns, popovers, oatmeal and pancakes.

I wasn't sure what I was going to make for my book-inspired dish with so many different foods and inspiration to turn to. If I were a baker I might have tried to perfect Maggie's momentary career plan of creating cupcakes with paper fortunes in them or made one  of Patrick's (haunted and hurting tenant that Blix wanted to find love for) pies, or popovers or vanilla cheesecake or cream puffs. Lobster's played a role in the story, as did a few other key dishes. I finally decided on eggs--there are plenty in the book--omelets, poached eggs, a restaurant with the best eggs, called Yolk. Then, Sammy, the son of one of Blix's tenants performs at a school concert and reads a poem he wrote about his broken-up family:

"The poem isn't long. It's about a boy looking at a plate of over-easy eggs and thinking how his father is the yellow part and his mother is the white part, the surrounding stuff that holds the family all together, but then later when he's eating a hard-boiled egg, the boy sees the yellow part hop out and fall away. Then there's something in there about the boy noticing that he's the piece of toast; he's not the thing that holds the yolk and white part together, but the thing that they can both join with, like he's an egg sandwich maybe?--and then it's done, and the air comes back in the room, and everybody claps for him." 

I was going to make an egg sandwich because I eat them a lot, but I have posted then for books before, so when a Mark Bittman recipe for Spaghetti with Fried Egg showed up in my New York Times Cooking email feed this week, I decided that the combination of fried, over-easy eggs and pasta, all mixed together was a good dish for the book--plus I was craving it too much not to make it. ;-)

Mark Bittman says, "Here's a quick and delicious pasta dish to make when you have little time, and even less food in the house. All you need is a box of spaghetti, four eggs, olive oil and garlic (Parmesan is a delicious, but optional, addition).

Note: I thought I had spaghetti but when I went to make this dish I remembered I gave my spaghetti and linguine to the recent mail carrier's food drive and just had the thicker bucatini. 

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs
Slightly Adapted from Mark Bittman via the
(Serves 2 or 3)

1/2 lb thin spaghetti (I used buccatini)
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
4 eggs
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, optional

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Start the sauce in the next step, and start cooking the pasta when the water boils.

Combine garlic and 4 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil occasionally to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Remove the garlic, and add the remaining oil.

Fry the eggs gently in the oil, until the whites are just about set and the yolks still quite runny. Drain the pasta, and toss with the eggs and oil, breaking up the whites as you do. (The eggs will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta.) Season to taste, and serve immediately, with cheese if you like.

Notes/Results: Why I haven't been making this before I do not know. I have topped pasta with fried eggs before but not broken them up, and often pesto is involved. This is a very quick and simple pasta dinner that comes together from fridge and pantry staples. I definitely think a thinner noodle is the way to go here to make breaking up the eggs and mixing it in the pasta easier, but I do love bucatini and that way that little hole in the center changes up the texture of the pasta. The cheese is optional but even a small sprinkling (I used pecorino-romano) does give it that extra decadent touch. I made a half recipe because you really want to eat this one hot and fresh, and it made a very large serving that I had no problem inhaling. I will happily make this again and again.

I'm linking this post up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week is our monthly Potluck--any recipe from our current or any of our past IHCC chefs--like Mark Bittman.

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 "Matchmaking for Beginners" 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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Shanghai Noodles with Dried Shrimp and Spring Onion Oil for Cook the Books April/May Selection: "Shark's Fin and Sichaun Pepper" by Fuchsia Dunlop

Here it is almost June and here I am ducking in at the last minute with my Cook the Books dish for this round's selection, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop. It is my norm to procrastinate, even the rounds like this one where I am the host, but thankfully, I finished the book over the holiday weekend and found an easy but tasty recipe to make that may become a staple in my house. I'll call that a win.

I picked this book because I heard so many good things about it. Fuschia Dunlop is a cook and food writer who spent about fifteen years cooking, living, traveling and eating throughout China. She starts with a trip there that turns into a research grant and ends up the only female student and first westerner at the famed Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu in the Sichuan province. A self-described "adventurous eater" and "never one to turn down a taste of something new," Dunlop braces herself to eat whatever is put in front of her. All of that is very vividly described in this book, often in fairly nauseating detail. It is something that turned many of my fellow participants off of the book and it was something I was worried about--being a meat and poultry-free eater for the past several years--I wondered if I would be able to hack reading about bear paws, civet cats, deer's tail, camel's foot, sheep's stomach, and all manner of offal and so forth. Although the book might have gone a bit too heavy into the descriptions of the stranger and more disgusting (to me) foods at times, I found myself caught up in her insights into the food and culture of a country that I have only traveled and dabbled a bit in, years ago.

I could very much relate to Dunlop's try-anything-put-in-front-of-you policy. In roughly the same time period on the early to mid-nineties, I interviewed internally for a job training the operations teams and supporting the opening of American coffee shops in the Asia-Pacific regions. They were down to the final four candidates and I was the only one of the four who didn't have any International travel experience sans a couple of trips over the border to Vancouver BC. The president of the International division told me that although the team wanted me, he had huge concerns about picking me for the job because of my lack of travel experience and he grilled me about, of all things--my eating habits. "What do you eat?" "What foods do you hate?" "What won't you eat?" I stupidly bravely told him that I would try pretty much anything put in front of me and he made me swear I would. 

"So, if one of our partners gives you a bowl of something that looks and sounds disgusting, what will you do?"  
" it?..." 
"What else will you do?" 
"...Um, thank them and eat it?" 
"...Eat all of it?"
"You'll eat it and you'll like it!" 
(Thinking: "Well that seems excessive..") "Yes, I'll eat it and I'll like it!"

I got the job and for the first couple of years I spent eating anything and everything put in front of me, and while I didn't eat nearly as many uniquely unpleasant things as Dunlop did, I did end up with things like thin slices of raw chicken in bowl (I thought it was sushi until I asked) and chicken "soft bone" (cartilage) and almost all other parts of the chicken at a yakitori restaurant in Japan (my American co-workers and I called it "the all things chicken" restaurant), frog legs, shark's fin soup, bird nest soup, & all manner of chicken feet dishes at a Chinese banquet in Singapore. Durian dozens of ways (oh, that smell!) in Singapore and Malaysia, Strangely-sauced and mostly unidentifiable offal dishes in Taiwan (honestly, when your hosts give you things and watch you eat them and then ask "Do you like it?" "No you REALLY like it?" while snickering to each other, you find it's just better not to know what you just ate.) Nothing killed or almost killed me--except for some really bad food poisoning I got in Thailand one trip--ironically from the nicest restaurant we ate at. I also had some of the best and worst food of my life (worst award goes to uni {sea urchin} tarts in Japan--I just do not like the taste of sea urchin and I doubt I ever will) in some of these countries. After a couple of years of market visits with no "international incidents," I had enough credibility that I felt fine saying no to things I had tried before and didn't like or things I really couldn't or didn't want to eat. I think those experiences made me a better and more well-rounded eater in general. Even though I choose not to cook and eat meat and poultry now for many reasons, I will eat it if I need to in social situations, although I'll fill up on things I do eat.

So even though there were some paragraphs that made me squeeze my eyes shut and/or wince at while reading, I did ultimately enjoy the book. I won't call it my favorite foodie memoir, but I could truly relate to some of Dunlop's adventures in a foreign country, and as I only made one quick trip to Beijing and a couple of trips to Taiwan, I was very interested in her experiences in mainland China and I think she gave a through and entertaining account.

There are of course plenty of food mentions and food inspiration in the book although, as mentioned, some of the food had a gross-out factor. The bulk of the recipes included in the book featured meat or poultry which ruled them out for me. My thoughts turned to making veg-friendly versions of Mapo Tofu or Dan-Dan Noodles, both classic Sichuan dishes, but since I procrastinated and my fellow bloggers had already made such delicious looking versions, I decided to long for a different dish. I also did not make it to Chinatown to find Sichuan Pepper. (Yes, I know I had 2 months..) ;-) I ended up checking one of Dunlop's cookbooks, Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China, out from my local library and found several dishes to try.

I was craving noodles and one recipe especially caught my eye, the Shanghai Noodles with Dried Shrimp and Spring Onion Oil. The recipe is not Sichuanese, but Dunlop does travel and talk about food throughout China in her book. I often see small bags of dried shrimp at my grocery store and think I should try cooking with them and this recipe combines the dried shrimp with spring onions into a savory oil that is stirred into noodles. An easy recipe with few ingredients is always a blessing for a procrastinator. I wasn't able to find the Shaoxing wine at the grocery store, but Dunlop notes that sherry can be used instead.

Dunlop says, “This Shanghainese recipe also appears in Every Grain of Rice, but I had to include it here because I find it one of the most indispensable Jiangnan recipes. The combination of oil infused with the fragrance of spring onion and dried shrimp and the umami savoriness of soy sauce is irresistible, however simple it sounds. ... I eat this dish so often that I have taken to making the flavored oil in large quantities and keeping it in the fridge—although I’m not sure it requires refrigeration. ... The recipe is said to have been invented by a street vendor near the City God Temple in Shanghai."
Shanghai Noodles with Dried Shrimp and Spring Onion Oil
Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop
(Serves 2)

2 Tbsp dried shrimp
2 tsp Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
4 spring onions
4 to 5 tsp light or tamari soy sauce, to taste
6 Tbsp cooking oil
7 oz dried noodles of your choice or 10 oz fresh noodles

Put the dried shrimp in a small bowl with the Shaoxing wine and just enough water to cover them and leave to soak for half an hour. Smack the spring onions slightly with the flat side of a Chinese cleaver or a rolling pin to loosen their fibers, then cut them evenly into 2 ½ to 2 ¾-inch sections.  Pour the soy sauce into your serving bowl.

Heat the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the spring onions and stir-fry until they are turning a little golden. Drain the shrimp, add them to the wok and continue to stir-fry until the spring onions are well-browned and wonderfully fragrant, but not burned. Then set aside this fragrant oil—along with the spring onions and shrimp.

Bring a large pan of water to a boil and cook the noodles to your liking, then drain them well and put them in the serving bowl. Put the spring onions, shrimp and their fragrant oil on top and serve.  Mix everything together very well with a pair of chopsticks before eating.

Notes/Results: While the texture of the re-hydrated shrimps was not a winner for me, the unami flavor of the oil stirred into the noodles with the lightly caramelized green onion stirred into the fresh noodles was fantastic. I will definitely make up more of the oil and use this as Dunlop does as a quick fix dinner. The shrimp do add to the flavor of the oil and since they are relatively cheap and store well, I would likely use them for the oil and maybe stir in some tofu cubes or mushrooms, or even fresh shrimp to add some substance to the meal. I'm happy I tried this one--simple and tasty is always a win.

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is my fourth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the May 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

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.
The deadline for this round of CTB is tomorrow, May 31st and I'll be rounding up the entries on the Cook the Books site soon after. If you missed this round and like food, books, and foodie books, join us for June/July when we'll be reading Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl and hosted by Claudia of Honey From Rock


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Easy Creamy Tomato Soup with Herbed-Garlic Goat Cheese Toasts for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Sometimes I make a soup just to go with something else. I had some leftover Herbed-Garlic Goat Cheese from the Eric Ripert recipe I made on Friday and I really had an urge to dip it in creamy tomato soup. You might think of tomato soup for cold days but I eat soup in any temp and tomato soup is so quick and easy, I don't mind cooking it on the warmer days. Also the tart and savory goat cheese and fresh basil leaves give it a lighter, more summery feel.

Although I served it with my all-dairy cheese, I like using coconut milk in my creamy tomato soups--its natural sweetness enhances the tomato and the texture makes it extra creamy. You can use any milk or cream, non-dairy included.

Easy Creamy Tomato Soup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp celery seed
small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes & their juices
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk or 1 to 1 1/2 cups milk of choice
2 tsp brown sugar
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute onions until soft and add the garlic, herbs and spices, and the crushed red pepper,and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, and (in batches if you don't have a high speed blender), puree in a blender until smooth.  Return soup to the pot, stir in the coconut milk and brown sugar and heat through. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper as needed.

Notes/Results: Just a very simple tomato soup, very creamy and delicious--especially when paired with warm, crusty toasted bread smeared with herbed-garlic goat cheese. ;-) I just tossed the soup together with what I had in my pantry--you could add a carrot or celery if you have it, or fresh herbs--whatever you like. If you want it less creamy, use less coconut milk or your milk of choice. You can adjust the spice level too or leave out the red pepper flakes.  Easy and tasty, I would definitely make it again.

 We have some great dishes in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look!

Judee of Gluten Free A- Z shared Spring Salad with Orange Cashew Dressing and said, "This colorful spring salad calls for seasonal dark greens and sweet strawberries and the citrus dressing adds an interesting touch. ... I like to eat a raw salad for lunch. This one has great eye appeal, lots of crunch, and interesting flavors. It has a wide variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, it adds a nice fiber boost to your day to help you detoxify a little."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brought Creamy Mushroom Soup and said, "It's May and it's hot around these parts but that doesn't usually deter me from making soup. This particular soup has been on my radar for a while but I kept putting it off. After reading a Nicci French book (Frieda Klein series) I started thinking about a mushroom garlic soup again. It was one of the culinary items mentioned in that book and I actually planned to make it the representative dish. You could use all sorts of mushrooms such as shiitake, portabello or white button - any sort you like. I used the white button mushrooms, not very adventurous this time but was good."

A big welcome to Mae from Mae's Food Blog who joins in Souper Sundays for the first time! Mae shared her French Onion Soup, saying, "Onion soup made according to the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I. ... I prefer the cheese toasts to be added to the soup, rather than the alternative of covering the soup with cheese and heating it under the broiler. The latter method always results in my burning my tongue! Today's soup was inspired by Len's bread, perfect for toasting with cheese. Or with butter and jam."

Debra of Eliot's Eats shared her Sichuan Cucumber and Noodle Salad, inspired by our Cook the Books selection. She said, "I have experimented a bit with Sichuan peppercorns and I like the overall punch of acid of this unique spice. Although my Sichuan pepper went into the making of hot chili oil, I adapted a salad recipe to highlight the spice. ... Depending on how hot you want this dressing, you may want to cut the chili oil with a mild oil like grape seed oil."

Thanks to everyone who joined in Souper Sundays this week!
About Souper Sundays:

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 your blog post that you link up her in order to be included in the weekly round-up.

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 to it 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, May 25, 2018

Herbed-Garlic Goat Cheese and Spiced Olives: Eric Ripert Appetizers or an Easy Friday Night Dinner

Friday nights call for easy dinners, for me that's sometimes an appetizer--or two like these recipes from Avec Eric by Eric Ripert. Add warm, toasted bread and a glass of white wine and it's a perfect Friday evening. 

I kept to the recipes with the exception of cutting down on the black pepper in the goat cheese. I am a big fan of black pepper, but a whole tablespoon seemed liked too much for even me.

Chef Ripert says, "Fresh chevre has a beautiful tart taste. Creamed together with garlic and herbs, it makes a great spread for slicesof crusty bread."

Garlic–Herbed Goat Cheese
From Avec Eric by Eric Ripert
(Serves 6)

8 oz fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper (I used 1 heaping tsp)
1 tsp finely minced garlic
fine sea salt
toasted baguette slices

Beat the cheese, milk, oil, thyme, oregano, rosemary pepper and garlic in a large bowl until well blended and fluffy. Season to taste with salt.

Serve at room temperature with toasted baguette slices.


Chef Ripert says "It's easy to add flavors to regular cured olives and once mixed, the olives will continue to take on stronger flavors as they marinate."

Spiced Olives
From Avec Eric by Eric Ripert
(Makes 2 Cups)

2 cups mixed olives
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp toasted fennel seeds
1/2 tsp dried hot red chili flakes

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Let the olives marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.

The marinated olives can be refrigerated, covered, for up to two weeks.

Notes/Results: I love pretty much any kind of goat cheese on its own but add herbs and garlic and I'm sold. This was a nice mix. I think cutting down on the pepper was a wise idea--I used a fairly heaping teaspoon and it was plenty peppery. I would have like to have used local goat cheese--well from Maui anyway, but the store near me that carries it was out of the plain goat cheese and so I went for a French one that was still delicious. The spiced olives were good with the mix of cumin and fennel--two of my favorite spices, rounded out by the lemon, garlic and slight kick from the red pepper flakes. My grocery store olive bar had some cured cipollini onions, so I added a few to my olive mix and they benefited from the spices too. With the toasted baguette slices and a cold glass of crisp white wine, it made for the perfect light, warm weather dinner to kick off the holiday weekend. I'd happily make either recipe again. 

Linking up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is From the West--Eric Ripert recipes from the western part of the world. The cheese is from the Sonoma California episode and the olives are from his Fonterutoli, Italy visit.
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I'm also linking it to 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.
Happy Aloha Friday!