Saturday, November 30, 2019

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Warm Harissa Hummus for Cook the Books October/November Pick: "The Temporary Bride" by Jennifer Klinec

Happy Saturday and happy last day of November. It's time for my usual procrastinator's special post of our Cook the Books selection, The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran  by Jennifer Klinec. Selected by co-host and my fellow Hawaii-based blogger Claudia of Honey From Rock (see her announcement post here), it's a foodie memoir about a food lover who seeks out food traditions recipes from around the world and heads to Iran to explore Persian cuisine and in addition to exotic dishes, finds a forbidden love. Since I love Persian food and a good foodie memoir, this book was a hit with me and so was the tasty vegan Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Warm Harissa Hummus I made as my bookish dish.

Jennifer Klinec is a interesting and brave woman who leaves her safe and expected corporate job to open up a kitchen school in London and then spends much more time in Iran in a very precarious relationship with the son of the woman she is learning to cook Persian food from. I prefer to travel the world of Middle Eastern Cooking through cookbooks and books because of the political climate in countries like Iran that make it dangerous for travelers, particularly women to journey there. I look at Klinec with admiration for her courage but shake my head a bit at the chances she took with Vahid--even after receiving a "temporary marriage" status. I guess you can't help loving who you love, but as for me I'll stick to armchair travel to Iran. 

The food descriptions were my favorite parts of the books as Klinec's appreciation for food and flair for describing it come across beautifully not just with the Persian dishes and ingredients but the Eastern European recipes she grew up cooking with her mother and the many cuisines she tried along the way. I had tagged a few recipes to make in Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour, one of several Persian cookbooks I own but sadly, my local grocery store's gourmet section seemed to be missing the usual grape leaves and preserved lemon I rely on them for. I had a plan A,B, and C but because of my procrastination, found myself madly googling harissa recipes at the store, as it was something I had on hand.

It ended up being kismet as I found a recipe for a Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Warm Harissa Hummus from Olive magazine that sounded fabulous and as I already had all of the spices and basics at home, led to me just needing to grab a head of cauliflower, a pomegranate and some coriander. 

Vegan Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Warm Harissa Hummus
(Serves 2 to 23

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder (I used Aleppo pepper)
1 large cauliflower, larger leaves trimmed
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chili oil
1/2 pomegranate, seeds scooped out
small bunch coriander, leaves torn

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (400 g / 15 oz) tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp harissa

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C or 400 degrees F. Put the vegetable oil and spices into a bowl with salt and pepper and mix. Add the cauliflower and toss around well--making sure it is well covered with the seasoned oil. Put on a baking pan and roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hour or until the stem is tender when pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, whisk together the red wine vinegar and chili oil with some salt and pepper, then stir in the pomegranate seeds. 

Near the end of the cauliflower's cooking time, heat the olive oil in a pan with the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook gently for 5 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chickpeas and heat for 2 minutes, until warm. Tip pan into a food processor with the tahini, lemon juice, harissa and 150 ml of water , and whiz to a puree. Put the hummus in a small pan and keep warm until the cauliflower is ready.

Serve the roasted cauliflower on the warm hummus with the pomegranate seeds and the dressing drizzled over, plus a sprinkling of coriander leaves.

Notes/Results: This cauliflower takes only time and a few exotic spices and ingredients, but little effort to prepare and it is delicious. A good mix of flavors and definitely spicy spicy, but without a strong burn. The cauliflower is tender and takes on the flavors of the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili and gets a burst of tart acidity from the vinegar and pomegranate seeds. I may start stirring harissa paste into all the hummus I make--it adds another layer of flavor and a bit of heat and the warm hummus is a nice addition to the dish. I think it would be a spectacular recipe to serve during the holidays with its jewel-like colors and exotic flavors and would appeal to meat eaters as well as veg-friendly and gluten free friends. I will happily make it again.

The deadline for this round of Cook the Books is today, November 30th and Claudia will be rounding up the entries on the CTB site soon after. If you missed this round and like food, books, and foodie books, join us for our December/January pick, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. 

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.

And finally I'm linking up to this month's Foodies Read. You can check out November's Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Maya Rudolph's Chocolate Chili from "Mixtape Potluck" for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie Sundays & #AbramsDinnerParty

I am a huge Questlove fan from the tonight show and I was so excited to see his new cookbook, Mixtape Potluck as one of Abrams Books fall lineup and to receive a copy to review as part of #AbramsDinnerParty. I love the party vibe of this cookbook where Questlove features recipes from from his friends and along with the songs he selects for them. I picked the Chocolate Chili recipe by Maya Rudolph to accompany my review. 

I have no illusions that I am in any way cool enough to hang out with Questlove but I would love too and Mixtape Potluck is likely the next best thing and makes me feel cooler just by having a copy. ;-) It mixes music and food so well with a forward by Martha Stewart and an introduction to Questlove's dinner parties or what started as "food salons" where he brought in chefs to cook dishes that could be eaten partly standing up for his guests from a of different worlds. An epiphany at one food salon had him deciding to create an event where the guests would bring recipes and he would give them a song inspired by what he knew about them. His goal is a book for parties as well as one for quiet family meals but in his hope is that the food is communal and shared. 

Mixtape Potluck Cookbook A Dinner Party for Friends, Their Recipes, and the Songs They Inspire
  • Imprint: Abrams Image
  • Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Recipes are grouped by Arrival Snacks, Start It Up Small, Bring It Right On Over! Soups and Stews, Right There Next to it: Sides and Salads, Veg Friends You Wanna Impress, Carb Jonez, Meat Eaters, Bittersweet Ending, Raise a Glass, and After the Party: Late Night Snacks. There is an afterword about hosting a potluck, Questlove's Mixtape Potluck Playlist ,and tips for creating a good playlist. Finally there is an index of the dishes, contributors, and key ingredients. The food photos are artsy with a retro vibe and there are great party illustrations on the end papers. Although there are chapters of meat and seafood recipes, there is a great presence of veg-friendly recipes too--something that I look for in the cookbook I choose. Mixtape Potluck would be a great gift for yourself and your foodie friends, music lovers, and art and design fans. I had a lot of fun reading it and finding recipes to make--the hardest part was choosing one for my review.

I tagged lots of recipes to make including the Pimento Cheese Dip with Biscuit Crackers by Carla Hall, Plantains Two Ways by Fred Armisen, Chickpea and Spinach Tapas by Padma Lakshmi, Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancake by Nyesha Arrington, New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp and Burrata Toast by Kelly Fields, Shep's Maui Onion and Ginger Soup by Shep Gordon, South Philly Seafood Stew by Tariq Trotter, Bok Choy and Cucumber Salad by Zooey Deschanel, Peppers a'la Famiglia Tomei by Marisa Tomei, Herbed Shrimp Salad with Fried Green Tomatoes by Edouardo Jordan, Easy Veggie Party Quiche (That Will Blow Everyone's Minds) by Amy Poehler, Spinach Pie by Natalie Portman, Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Two Sauces by Jessica Seifeld, Old Dirty Basmati Rice by Tanya Holland, Coconut Jollof Rice by Yvonne Orji, Blueberry Crunch Cake by Jessica Biel, Ginger Beer by Thelma Gordon, Bourbon Raspberry Tea by Gabrielle Union, and Mac and Cheese by Q-Tip.

Maya Rudolph's Chocolate Chili was the recipe that called to me the most. (OK Carla Hall's Pimento Cheese Dip with Biscuit Crackers was close!) I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a simple vegetarian chili served with chocolate chips and Fritos (plus some other yummy toppings). I have made chili with cocoa powder, with beer, and with coffee but just sprinkling chocolate chips on top seemed like a fun and bold move. I stuck to the recipe with the exception of using two cans of pinto beans instead of white beans (I didn't look closely at my pantry bean collection) and adding pickled onions to my topping list. I love the extra hit of acidity. I also cooked it on the stove as I have a small kitchen and sometimes getting the slow cooker down from the shelf and wiping it out to use is more trouble than it's worth. She has notes for stovetop and oven preparation below.

Questlove says, "If I didn't love Maya enough already, I fell head over heels in love with her all over again because of her chili. Anyone who combines chocolate chips and Fritos is a hero. Be a hero yourself. Bring her dish to your next Potluck."

Questlove's song pick for Maya is Herbet Harper's Free Press News by Muddy Waters:

Chocolate Chili
Recipe by Maya Rudolph via Mixtape Potluck by Questlove
(Serves 8-10)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder\
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained & rinsed
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
2 (15 oz) cans tomato juice
2 tsp kosher salt + more to taste

For Serving:
-chocolate chips
-plain Greek yogurt
-grated cheddar cheese
-sliced scallions
-lime wedges
-Cholula or another hot sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed large pot over medium heat until simmering. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Transfer to a slow cooker. If you don't have a slow cooker you can easily make this dish on your stovetop or in your oven (see Note).

Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker, stir well, cover, and cook on low for two hours. 

Set out the chocolate chips and all other garnishments and let guests help themselves.

Note: For stovetop: Once all the ingredients are added to the Dutch oven, cook on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing is sticking.

For oven: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. In an oven safe-pot, cook the chili uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing is sticking.

Notes/Results: An easy and very tasty chili with plenty of flavor from the chili powder and cumin. Of course the magic happens in the toppings. I used Guittard Extra Dark Chips and the combination with the yogurt, lime, shredded and salty Fritos is delicious. I think darker or bittersweet chocolate is the way to go here. A fun and satisfying chili that I will happily make again. (And I am also stealing the chocolate chip topping idea for future chilis--trust me, give it a try.)

Many thank to Abrams Books and #AbramsDinner Party for this very cool new cookbook for my collection. This post is sponsored by Abrams Books, as part of the Abrams Dinner Party however my thoughts, feelings and experiences cooking from it are my own.  #sponsored 

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.

I'm also linking up to this month's Foodies Read. You can check out November's Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

Now let's look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brings Sink Soup (Not the Lizard!) this week and says, "This lovely book called The Complete Irish Pub cookbook has many good recipes as well as photos of the Irish countryside. It's fun just to look through and will make you wish for a trip to the Emerald Isles. It's a quick soup to make if you have some chicken already cooked. We happened to have leftover rotisserie so I shredded two thighs for the soup.

Debra of Eliot's Eats shares Persian Noodle Soup inspired by The Temporary Bride and says, "Almost all of the ingredients could be prepped the day ahead to make meal time easier. Soaking the beans overnight and chopping and sautéing the onions are the hardest part to this soup. I halved the original recipe and this still made four hearty servings. I heated up some of the leftovers for us and added a bit of chicken stock to stretch it a bit. It was better the second day."

Thanks to Tina and Debra for joining in this 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 to Souper Sundays 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 add a 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 this post or my blog on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Women: The National Geographic Image Collection" Served with Crispy Fingerling Potatoes

It's the start to the weekend after another crazy week and I am excited to kick it off with a review of Women: The National Geographic Image Collection, a gorgeous book of photographs celebrating women across the world. Paired with my review is a simple recipe for Crispy Fingerling Potatoes from one of my favorite women in food, Ruth Reichl.

Publisher's Blurb:

This powerful photography collection, drawn from the celebrated National Geographic archive, reveals the lives of women from around the globe, accompanied by revelatory new interviews and portraits of contemporary trailblazers including Oprah Winfrey, Jane Goodall, and Christiane Amanpour.
#MeToo. #GirlBoss. Time’s Up. From Silicon Valley to politics and beyond, women are reshaping our world. Now, in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, this bold and inspiring book from National Geographic mines 130 years of photography to showcase their past, their present, and their future. With 300+ stunning images from more than 50 countries, each page of this glorious book offers compelling testimony about what it means to be female, from historic suffragettes to the haunting, green-eyed “Afghan girl.”
Organized around chapter themes like grit, love, and joy, the book features brand-new commentary from a wide swath of luminaries including Laura Bush, Gloria Allred, Roxane Gay, Melinda Gates, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, and the founders of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. Each is accompanied by a bold new portrait, shot by acclaimed NG photographer Erika Larsen. The ultimate coffee table book, this iconic collection provides definitive proof that the future is female.
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: National Geographic (October 15, 2019)

My Review:

I am a sucker for beautiful coffee table books and big books of photographs. I reviewed two of National Geographic's books last year, Tasting Italy and All Over the Map and so I was happy to sign up to review Women: The National Geographic Image Collection this year. The book showcases women from across the globe with pictures from the last 130 years of women from all walks of life. Some photos are iconic images from the magazine, other were unfamiliar to me, all are stunning and fascinating. The book is set up by chapters  titled Joy, Beauty, Love, Wisdom, Strength and Hope. In between the chapters of images are Portraits of Power with interviews of strong and amazing women I was pleased to see authors Roxane Gay and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, my hero Jane Goodall, and other impressive women like Oprah, Melinda Gates, Christine Amanpour, and Laura Bush--just some of the 24 women featured. I also really enjoyed the history of women appearing in National Geographic Magazine photos and the Through the Lens snippets where photographers (women) talk about their work and the images they captured. These features make it more than just a book of stunning pictures.

There are photographs that made me smile and those that made me catch my breath and made me tear up and feel strong emotion. From the fanciful to the gritty, all aspects of women are captured. I have paged through the 512 pages and found myself absorbed and entertained and will be going back in to look, enjoy, and be inspired some more. Women would make an excellent gift for the strong women of all ages in your life and mine will be displayed proudly on my coffee table. 

Since there is little food that I found in the book itself, I decided to go with the theme of strong women and picked one of my favorite food icons, Ruth Reichl. I had a small bag of multicolored baby potatoes and found an easy recipe for Crispy Fingerling Potatoes from Ruth's blog (from Are French Fries Old Hat?) that contained some favorite ingredients (olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and sea salt) all of which I had in my pantry. I used a mock chicken broth to boil my potatoes but otherwise, followed the recipe as written.  

Crisp, Lemony Baby Potatoes
(Serves 4)

Preheat oven to 400.

Put two pounds of baby potatoes (they use Red Bliss, but I used Yukon Golds) in a skillet or a pot, add three cups of chicken stock that contains the zest of one lemon and a couple cloves of garlic. (The stock may not cover the potatoes.) Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 8 minutes. 

Drain, reserving lemon zest. 

Put them on a sheet pan that is liberally covered with olive oil. Gently flatten each potato, using the back of a chef’s knife, a rolling pin or a small skillet. Drizzle with olive oil and the zest from the chicken stock  and roast for about forty minutes, until the potatoes are so crisp they crackle when you take a bite.

Sprinkle with sea salt, and if you really want to gild the lily, shower them with grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes/Results: Okay, I confess... I ate the bowl of potatoes for dinner and I do not regret it one bit. Other than I now have no crispy potatoes. Oh well, they are super easy to make and so I can and will have more. The parmesan shavings were "gilding the lily" as Ruth said, but totally delicious. Crispy on the outside, creamy inside, lightly lemony and pretty addicting, I will make them again. 

Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is "I Am Thankful For..." dishes with ingredients we love and give thanks for (like potatoes, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil!). ;-)

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 "Women: The National Geographic Image Collection" was provided to me by the author and the publisher  via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Nigella's Thai Noodle Soup with Shrimp for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I could eat Thai food multiple times a week and not get tired of the mix of delicious flavors. I wanted a quick and easy and noodly bowl of soup this week and so I decided to make Nigella Lawson's Thai Chicken Noodle Soup and substitute shrimp for the chicken.

I liked the use of stir fry mix in the soup--less chopping of vegetables--so I picked up a frozen mix of asparagus, carrot, yellow squash, red pepper and mushrooms and I added some additional veggies and mushrooms. As I didn't have tamarind paste on hand, I used some tamarind soup seasoning. My changes to the recipe are noted in red below.

Thai Noodle Soup with Shrimp
Adapted from Nigella Lawson via
(Serves 2-3 as a Main, 4-6 as a Starter)

1 litre (about 4+ cups) chicken stock (I used non-chicken stock paste)
150 grams (5.29 oz) thin rice noodles or mung bean thread vermicelli
200 ml (about 7 oz) coconut milk 
3 1/2 cm (about 1 1/2 in) fresh root ginger (peeled, sliced thinly & cut into skinny strips)
2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla) 
1 fresh red chilli (deseeded and cut into strips)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp tamarind paste (I used 1 Tbsp tamarind soup mix)
1 tsp soft brown sugar
2 Tbsp lime juice, plus more to taste
(I added 3 makrut (aka kaffir) lime leaves)
150 grams (5.29 oz) cooked shredded chicken (I used jumbo shrimp)
250 grams (9 oz) stir fry vegetables or tender shoot stir fry mix (I used frozen asparagus stiry fry mix + added chopped fresh baby bok choy, mushrooms & snow peas)
2 - 3 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander (to serve)

Put the chicken stock in a good-sized pan to heat up. Put the noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over or cook as instructed on the packet. Add the remaining ingredients, except the vegetables, to the pan and bring to a boil.
When the chicken is piping hot, add the vegetables and when they are tender – a minute or two should be plenty if you’re using the tender shoots – add the drained noodles. Or simply divide the noodles between bowls and pour the soup over them.
Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh coriander.

Notes/Results: A great balance of flavor--savory, tangy, sweet and just slightly spicy and very quick to get to the table, I really like this simple soup. If you don't like shrimp Nigella originally did this with cooked chicken so you could put it back in or you could leave out the poultry/seafood and add more veggies or tofu--it's all good. I especially enjoyed the pronounced tang of this soup with the tamarind soup mix, lime juice and the lime leaves that I added and the sharpness of the ginger. I would happily make it again.  

Linking up this Nigella Lawson recipe with I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's theme: Monthly Cuisine Challenge: Asian Food.  

Now let's look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.

Debra of Eliot's Eats is back with New Mexican Beef and Beer Chili and said, "I wanted to post this recipe in October for both Oktoberfest and Halloween festivities. In honor of Oktoberfest last month, our local paper published quite a few wonderful sounding beer-based recipes. I could not resist the title of the recipe:  New Mexican Beef and Beer Chili. Although I didn’t get this posted in October, it is still a perfect recipe for November as the temperatures drop, families come together, and delicious hearty meals are needed."

Debra also shared these delectable Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Balsamic Butter  inspired by a recent read and said, "I’ve mentioned a few times that it is now soup weather here and I have posted a couple recently. I wanted to experience that grilled cheese from the novel that was made with goat cheese. Sounded delicious. I wanted to step it up another notch by using balsamic butter, something that I have been wanting to make for a while now."  
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made Slow Cooker Potato Soup, saying "Recently I have been wanting to use my slow cooker more so dinner could be simmering away while we enjoyed the day out. Or just sitting around reading or errands. You get the idea. I had lots of potatoes which I feared would go too soft if they weren't used soon so I decided on a potato soup. ... I had made a baguette earlier that day so it was a treat to sop up the comfortingly hot soup."

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe brings a fun Ghost Salad for a special party and says, "My mum made scones and Kerin brought drinks (including some very nice herbal tea).  She also did a fine joy of arranging the ghost salad as I chopped veggies at the last moment. As well as sausage rolls, we also served some chips, rice crackers, hummus and leftover pizza."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this 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 to Souper Sundays 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 add a 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 this post or my blog on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter 
Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Maggie's Ruse" by Anne Leigh Parrish, Served with Gnocchi & Cauliflower Casserole

Another week is winding down and I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Maggie's Ruse, a novel by Anne Leigh Parrish. Served with my review is an easy and delicious comfort food dish of Gnocchi and Cauliflower Casserole.

Publisher's Blurb:

Maggie and Marta Dugan, twenty-seven-year-old identical twins, live the good life in New York City on their stepfather’s money. Each has a glamorous calling. Maggie paints; Marta appears onstage. Success, though, eludes them. Marta’s roles are few and far between. Maggie’s endorsements are infrequent at best. When gallery after gallery passes on her work, she begins to doubt her talent. Home alone one afternoon, fueled by frustration, she is seized by a sudden, wild impulse to masquerade as Marta when a friend of hers drops by. The ruse is quickly discovered when Marta returns from another shopping spree, a rift between the sisters ensues, and they go their separate ways. But living apart proves harder than either thought at first. Each carries the other firmly within her, making any true independence nearly impossible. As the weeks pass, the weight of absence sometimes becomes difficult to bear. Both find a surprising degree of success in their respective efforts, due perhaps to their newfound freedom, yet the bond between them remains firm. Can they come back together, and under what circumstances would a reunion be viable? Has the time come for an open discussion of their issues with each other? Unable to fully answer these questions, each knows only that she needs the other to feel whole.

Paperback: 272 Pages
Publisher: Unsolicited Press (October 1, 2019)

My Review:

I struggled a bit with this book. I was acquainted with the Dugan family after reading and reviewing the author's Our Love Could Light the World, a set of connected short stories about them back in 2014 (see my review & recipe for it here). At the time I said "The Dugans however are that family--the glaringly dysfunctional one we know and tend to sit in judgment of--way too many kids and issues, way too little money and care for those around them." In that book, Maggie and Marta are young twins while in Maggie's Ruse they are twenty-seven, living in New York City and supported by their stepfather's money. They are not pleasant girls and have maintained my observation that they have little care for those around them is fully ingrained. Maggie is an artist, struggling to find her rhythm in painting and Marta is an actress with two small roles as her body of professional work. They are selfish and do what they please, manipulating people that cross their path. The premise of the book is that when the man Marta likes stops by, Maggie pretends to be her and is soon making out with him. Marta walks in and is not amused. This puts them on a path to separating their lives when Maggie moves away from the city and both sisters struggle with being apart. Can I like a book where I actively dislike both main characters and feel no connection to them? It is difficult. I didn't like how manipulative they both were and the lack of feeling and responsibility they posses. I tried to be sympathetic because of the way they were raised (mostly left alone) and their family being a hot mess in the earlier book--but at the end of the day, I wasn't that caring of whether either sister succeeded. I think that the short story format made the Dugan's more tolerable while in this novel the relatively short 272 pages felt longer and gave me more opportunities to be irritated at the twins as I waited for the conclusion. 

As much as I disliked Maggie and Marta, Anne Leigh Parrish is a talented writer and I did find the book tough to put down for too long as I wanted to know how things would play out. Both twins grow, but just slightly, and begin to find themselves and that was interesting to observe, as is twin relationships and behavior in general as I find it fascinating. It was also intriguing to look in on the Dugan family and see what they were up to and to learn that Parrish has written or is writing about other Dugan family members and told their stories and I am interesting in taking a look. A bit like a train wreck that you can't turn away from, they do manage to make me think and appreciate my own family. ;-)


Author Notes: Anne Leigh Parrish is the author of five previously published books of fiction: Women Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By The Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and All The Roads That Lead From Home, stories, (Press 53, 2011). She is the author of over forty-five published short stories, and numerous essays on the art and craft of writing. 

Learn more by visiting her website at


There was food and drink mentioned in Maggie's Ruse, although not a lot. Mentions included champagne, roast chicken with rosemary, a salad or pre-washed lettuce and ranch dressing, white and red wine, Maker's Mark (straight up), potato chips, baked ham, peach yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, pizza, deviled eggs, tea, chocolate layer cake, Chinese food, a carton of fried chicken, a plastic tub of pasta salad, spaghetti with meatballs, a non-fat latte, a grilled cheese sandwich with both goat cheese and cheddar with a cup of homemade tomato soup, breadsticks and Italian food, Chianti, sherry, Italian hoagies, Oreos, a roast beef sandwich, Americanos, Mexican food with guacamole and margaritas, canned soup, a dinner of salty pork chops, brown lettuce with bottled dressing and frozen macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with garlic and red pepper flakes, Pop Tarts, chicken breasts stuffed with cheese and olives, and salad with bleu cheese dressing.

For my book-inspired dish, I had a bit of trouble getting inspired by the food. I ended up stretching things a bit and making a dish involving baked cauliflower and cheese, a nod to the character Josh's asking about the dinner he is invited to at Marta and Maggies apartment. 

'"What are you making?" he asked. Seafood wasn't his thing. Nor any kind of gross vegetable like artichokes or eggplant. Cauliflower he could stand, but only if it were baked and smothered in cheese."

(Many thank to Abrams Books and #AbramsDinner Party for this delightful new cookbook that I know will become a favorite part of my collection. This post is sponsored by Abrams Books, as part of the Abrams Dinner Party, however my thoughts, feelings and experiences cooking from it are my own. #sponsored)

I had tagged a recipe for Gnocchi & Cauliflower Casserole from the Forest Feast Mediterranean: Simple Vegetarian Recipes Inspired By My Travels by Erin Gleeson. I received this gorgeous book as part of #AbramsDinnerParty from Abrams Books. I'll be reviewing the cookbook soon and couldn't resist pairing this simple weeknight-perfect recipe with the book as I think even a veggie hater would like it.

As I am reviewing the book soon and will be sharing a recipe or two then, I am not going to print it here. That being said, the dish is so simple, you can make it without one quite easily. Cook a small head of cauliflower into small florets and boil for a few minutes, then add a 17-oz pack of gnocchi and boil according to package instructions. Drain and mix with about 3/4 of a cup of grated Parmesan along with a couple of tablespoons of butter, a little olive oil and salt and pepper, then broil for about 3 minutes, until the top is golden. 

I took the liberty of sprinkling a little herbed panko breadcrumbs on top of mine and used a mix of Parmesan and grated Romano cheeses but otherwise kept the recipe the same.

Notes/Results: This was so simple and really good--cheesy and comforting and on the table in about 15-minutes from start to finish. Add a salad and eat it as a main dish or you could serve it on the side with the rosemary roast chicken mentioned in the book. I took my leftovers to work yesterday and liked it reheated too. I will happily make it again.

Note: I do have to mention that I sent the first photo of the casserole and book cover (at the top of the post) to my friends and she said the cover was creepy and that the casserole dish I used is the same shape as the woman's face. Hah! I kind of like the pairing visuals! ;-)

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 "Maggie's Ruse" was provided to me by the author and the publisher  via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.