Sunday, March 29, 2020

Torshi Tareh (Persian Sour Herb Stew With Marbled Eggs) for Cook the Books February/March Pick: "Pomegranate Soup" & Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Torshi Tareh or Persian Sour Herb Stew with Marbled Eggs is a called a stew so I am making it count for both Souper Sundays and for our Cook the Books February/March selection: Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. Lots of herbs and spinach with slightly jammy eggs on top works for me and the recommended serving of rice and smoked fish was intriguing and delicious. First lets chat about the book, hosted by Simona of briciole. (You can see her announcement post here.)

I feel guilty this round of Cook the Books because although I have read this book twice, book readings were several years ago and with a lot of craziness at work and in life, I didn't manage to skim it again. To make matters worse, I couldn't find my copy either, just my copy of the sequel Rosewater and Soda Bread. So not only am I at my usual last minute post, I didn't even have the book for pretty photos. 

Here is the cover blurb on the book:

Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of “crazed sheep and dizzying roads,” they might finally find a home.

From the kitchen of an old pastry shop on Main Mall, the sisters set about creating a Persian oasis. Soon sensuous wafts of cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron float through the streets–an exotic aroma that announces the opening of the Babylon Café, and a shock to a town that generally subsists on boiled cabbage and Guinness served at the local tavern. And it is an affront to the senses of Ballinacroagh’s uncrowned king, Thomas McGuire. After trying to buy the old pastry shop for years and failing, Thomas is enraged to find it occupied–and by foreigners, no less. 

But the mysterious, spicy fragrances work their magic on the townsfolk, and soon, business is booming. Marjan is thrilled with the demand for her red lentil soup, abgusht stew, and rosewater baklava–and with the transformation in her sisters. Young Layla finds first love, and even tense, haunted Bahar seems to be less nervous. 

And in the stand-up-comedian-turned-priest Father Fergal Mahoney, the gentle, lonely widow Estelle Delmonico, and the headstrong hairdresser Fiona Athey, the sisters find a merry band of supporters against the close-minded opposition of less welcoming villagers stuck in their ways. But the idyll is soon broken when the past rushes back to threaten the Amnipours once more, and the lives they left behind in revolution-era Iran bleed into the present.  

Infused with the textures and scents, trials and triumph,s of two distinct cultures, Pomegranate Soup is an infectious novel of magical realism. This richly detailed story, highlighted with delicious recipes, is a delectable journey into the heart of Persian cooking and Irish living.

I gave the book a four-star rating on Goodreads back in 2011, and remember that I enjoyed the story and the relationship between the sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla. I like magical realism, which whether you do or not is definitely going to impact your feelings on the book though the magic is less in this book than in its follow up, Rose Water and Soda Bread. I think it goes well with the exotic ingredients and glimpses of life in Iran and Ireland in the book. There is culture shock for the sisters, as well as for the community of Ballinacroagh, the small Irish town they settle in, Some in the town welcomes them, others shun them, and others don't quite know what to think until they taste the dishes they serve at the Babylon Cafe. There are delicious recipes woven into the chapters of book (why I am so disappointed that I couldn't find my copy) so the overall feeling is like a mix of Like Water For Chocolate and Chocolat, only with the clash of Irish and Iranian culture. I recommend it to foodies who don't mind a touch of magic in their books. 

For my bookish dish, I wanted to make some sort of Persian soup or stew that I hadn't made before for the book and I had this recipe that arrived in my email a week or so ago from Epicurious picked because it looked and sounded delicious. Since I had a coworker who was stopping by our retail outlet I had her look for fresh spinach and some potatoes for another dish. She grabbed me a gigantic (2.5 lb) bag of baby spinach and a 5 lb bag of Yukon Gold potatoes & with our discount it came to $11.00, so a deal for fresh groceries here. The recipe calls for frozen spinach but I thought I had a box in my freezer and didn't, and the more popular frozen veggies are hard to find right now and besides, I like fresh spinach more anyway. I had some fresh cilantro and parsley and freeze-dried dill since fresh dill wasn't readily available and so I made about 2/3 worth of the recipe. 

Epicurious says, "Home cook Maddi Behzadi taught us how to make this Northern Iranian dish, which traditionally features wild greens. With a texture similar to saag paneer or green shakshuka, her version is made with braised spinach and herbs, and gets a vibrant boost of flavor from lime juice. Unlike shakshuka, the egg yolks are broken and marbled with the whites before they cook on top of the greens until gently set."

Torshi Tareh (Persian Sour Herb Stew With Marbled Eggs
Slightly Adapted from Mahdis Behzadi via
(Serves 6)

2 Tbsp basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1 large bunch cilantro
  • 1 large bunch dill (I used freeze-dried dill)
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach (I used fresh spinach)
  • 1/4 cup dried cilantro
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes)
  • 6 large eggs or 6 large egg whites
  • cooked rice and smoked white fish (for serving; optional)

    Combine rice with 3 cups water in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; set aside.
    1. Meanwhile, tear cilantro, dill, and parsley (including stems) with your hands. Working in batches if needed, stuff into a food processor and process until finely chopped.
    2. Combine onion and oil in a cold large high-sided skillet with a lid. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring and shaking pan occasionally, until onion is dark brown around the edges, 6–8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is just barely golden, about 1 minute. Add turmeric and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add herbs and spinach (no need to defrost or drain) and cook, stirring often, until herbs are wilted and spinach is thoroughly defrosted, about 2 minutes. Add dried cilantro, pepper, 21/2 tsp salt, and reserved parcooked rice along with all of the water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over medium-low heat until flavors come together, about 10 minutes.
    3. Remove lid and continue to cook spinach mixture until greens are glossy and liquid is almost completely evaporated (dragging a rubber spatula or wooden spoon through the mixture should leave a trail with little to no liquid seeping back in), 6–8 minutes. Stir in lime juice; taste and season with more salt if needed.
    4. Make 6 divots in mixture and crack an egg into each one (or, if making with egg whites only, separate out egg yolks first and reserve for another use). Working quickly, drag the tip of an offset spatula or butter knife through each egg once or twice to break up the yolks and encourage wisps of egg white to spread throughout the mixture (you want a marbled effect—don’t scramble). Cover pan and simmer until eggs are cooked to your liking, about 3 minutes for jammy. Serve with rice and smoked fish alongside if desired.
Cook’s Note
If you have cooked rice on hand, you can skip the first step and add ¼ cup cooked rice and 3 cups hot water instead.

Notes/Results: I love everything about this stew--the exotic herby flavor, the acidity, and the touch of lime "sourness" and the jammy eggs and creamy spinach. At first, I thought the smoked fish accompaniment was a little odd but it rounded out the flavors nicely. My friend Barb supplies me with Trader Joe's Smoked Trout regularly, and I am lucky to have a few cans in my pantry. It was it delicious with the spinach and eggs. I also liked the small amount of basmati rice rice mixed into the stew, and more on the side for serving. This stew is much like green shakshuka and I will happily make it again.

Simona will be rounding up the entries for this round shortly on the Cook the Books site as the deadline is Tuesday, March 31st. If you missed this round and like books, food and foodie books, please join us for the April/May selection, hosted by me. We'll be reading Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman. Hope you join us!

Now let's look into the Souper Sundays kitchen this week:

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared a Burger and Fries she enjoyed this week, the baked potatoes from a library cookbook and said, "The first recipe I tried was oven baked potatoes. They are almost the same as the way I prepared them and while tasty and crispy, Doug said he liked my old version better. ... Doug grilled burgers while heated fresh corn and made these potatoes. Then we sat outside to escape the hot kitchen as the oven was cranked up to 425 F for 20 minutes. Not like you need to twist our arms to eat outdoors."

Thank you to Tina for joining me 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!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Fingerling Potato & Corn Chowder for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays (+ 5 Favorite Potato Dishes)

Fresh foods are still plentiful at the stores around me, while prepared and frozen foods are hit or miss. That could certainly change, so I wanted to make the most of it and use up some multi-colored fingerling potatoes, fresh tarragon and fennel that were starting to look slightly limp. I also wanted chowder because chowder is always a good idea. To make it a vegan chowder I used coconut milk for my base, thickening it with cornstarch.

You can make chowder with any vegetables you have on hand--the recipe below is what I used.

Fingerling Potato & Corn Chowder
By Deb, Kahaki Kitchen
(Makes 6 Servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped (I used 1 orange carrot/1 parsnip)
3 medium leeks, light green and white parts only, washed well and sliced
2 medium fennel bulbs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dried tarragon or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 lbs fingerling potatoes, well scrubbed and sliced/chopped into 1-inch pieces
5 cups broth (I used non-chicken bouillon cubes)
2 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp cold water 
1 can coconut milk
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh tarragon to serve (optional)  

Heat olive in in a large soup pot over medium and add onion, carrots, leeks and fennel. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until veggies soften slightly and onions turn translucent. Add garlic, celery seed, tarragon and bay leaf and cook another 2 minutes. 

Add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes and veggies are just tender. Mix the cornstarch with cold water until it is smooth with no lumps. Add it, and the coconut milk to the soup, along with the corn and simmer for another 5-7 minutes, until corn is warmed through and chowder has thickened.

Taste and add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve with fresh tarragon on top if desired.

Notes/Results: Rich, creamy and satisfying, chowder always makes me happy. I like the difference in taste and texture of the three colors of potatoes and the anise flavor of the tarragon and fennel. If you don't want to use cornstarch, you could make a roux or mash up some of the potatoes to thicken the soup. This will be excellent for lunches this week--whether I end up at home or at the office. I'll happily make it again.

While we are on the subject of potatoes (my love language), here is a round up of five tasty potato dishes from some of our 19 featured chefs at I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's Hot Potato! theme:

Ruth Reichl's Crisp Lemon Baby Potatoes:

Tessa Kiros: Sage & Rosemary Mashed Potatoes:

Mark Bittman's Spanish Tortilla:

Diana Henry's Cabbage (Kale) and Leek Colcannon:

Nigel Slater's Goat Cheese Bubble & Squeak:

I could post favorite potato recipes for days but I'll stop here and let's see who is in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week:

Debra of Eliot's Eats brought Carrot Salad with Olives saying, "This week, I present Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden  by Jeanne Kelley. ... I’ve made a few recipes, but the most recent one was a riff on a carrot salad. We had company here for lunch and I needed something quick and easy with ingredients I had on hand. (I certainly wasn’t running back to the grocery store with the hoarders!)"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor advises "If you are staying home, make soup!" and offered up Nigella's Tortilla Soup saying, "I wanted to participate with the cooking club, Deb’s Souper Sunday and British Isles Friday so I thought, why not make a Nigella Lawson recipe and tweek the ingredients from her quesadillas. This is basically her quesadilla recipe dumped into a pot and made into soup. Nigella is one of my favorite British chefs and I'm sure I'll be revisiting her cookbooks soon."

Judee of Gluten Free A - Z Blog brought her Green & Healthy Spinach Soup and said, "Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, this beautiful spinach soup recipe is quick, green and healthy. It's kind of like a homemade V-8 shake. When you read the ingredients, you may think it sounds weird (I did), but I assure you it tastes absolutely delicious despite mixing orange juice and vegetables. The question is- "Is this a soup, shake or a smoothie?"

Thank you to Debra, Tina and Judee for joining me 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--stay safe and well!

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Hunting Party" by Lucy Foley, Served with a Recipe for Mushroom Risotto

It's Friday and time for a stop on the TLC Book Tour review for The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I was thinking that a bright spot in social distancing would be more reading time but so far I have been going into the office every day--at least parts of days and feel like I have even a little less time on my hands which is why I started cooking Mushroom Risotto at 8:00 PM last night as my recipe pairing. It was worth the effort--both this twisty thriller and the tasty risotto. 

Publisher's Blurb: 

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect… 

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.
All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.
They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.
Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.
The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.
Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.
Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?
Paperback: 352 pages 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 3, 2020)
  My Review:

After finishing this book and recently (finally) reading Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood, I am determined that if any friends ever want to gather in a very remote location, in the winter, at modern yet creepy houses made of glass or mostly windows, with copious amounts of alcohol and maybe even drugs, the advisable thing to do is say NO!... and this is even before the new reality of social distancing. No good ever comes from these situations. In The Hunting Party, a group of nine college friends (now in their thirties), stay at a very isolated estate in Scotland for their traditional of ringing in the New Year together. There are four couples: Samira and Giles (who have brought their baby), Nick and Bo, Miranda and Julian, Emma and Mark, and finally Katie, Miranda's oldest friend focused on making parter at her law firm and on her own for the trip. The trip was planned by Emma, last to "join" the group and wanting to dazzle them with the unique and opulant location and her fabulous cooking. Things get off to a slightly rocky start when the group finds they are sharing the property with a somewhat creepy couple from Iceland. Then, a blizzard starts, the isolation kicks in and with alcohol and small white pills, secrets, drama, and fissures in friendships start. The story goes back and forth from the arrival at the group at the lodge on December 30th to January 2nd when the body of one of them is discovered after they went missing early on New Year's Day. The reader needs to figure out who has been killed and who did the killing. The story is told from several different perspectives including Heather, the property manager and Doug, the gamekeeper, who are hiding their own secrets. There was a slight challenge for me in that I really didn't like these people (with the exception of Heather and Doug) as they were obnoxious enough that they annoyed me, but the fun is in the story and putting the clues together and not about needing likable characters. The tension builds steadily and there are some good twists and turns. I developed two theories of whodunit and I am happy to say one of them was mostly right. ;-) (I had a slightly incorrect motive.) The hardcover version came out last year and the paperback version came out earlier in the month. Although not the perfect thriller, overall, I enjoyed it. The Hunting Party is a good book for your social distancing TBR pile as you can honestly think to yourself that you would much rather be stuck at home, curled up with a mystery-thriller than hanging out with the college friends you don't have much in common with anymore! 


Author Notes: Lucy Foley studied English literature at Durham University and University College London and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry. She is the author of The Book of Lost and Found and The Invitation. She lives in London.

Follow Lucy on Twitter and Facebook.


Food Inspiration: 

Alcohol and venison ruled the day for food in The Hunting Party but there was other food mentioned as well like local, seasonal produce,fresh truffles, foie gras, oysters, beer, champagne, a flaming sambuca shot, beef fillet, smoked salmon and mackeral, caviar, endive, Roquefort, walnuts, chocolate, quails eggs, double-cream, potatoes, on-vine tomatoes, whiskey, an omelet, venison with juniper and limp Tuscan kale, locally caught salmon with wild herbs, wine, smoked salmo blinis, venison Wellington, chocolate souffle, limp raspberry pavlova, negronis with the gin swapped out for bourbon, steak and ale pies, vodka, alcopops, risotto, meringue-and-raspberry thing, rose, cava, Sainsbury's ready meal curry, protein powder shakes, coffee, fry-ups, bacon and toast, orange juice, olives, and elderflower.

Recipe Notes: 

For my bookish dish, I ended up going with risotto. It gains only a brief mention in the book as a disaster one of the characters cooked but I had risotto rice and mushroom bouillon cubes in the pantry and there were mushrooms at my local supermarket. Since currently, it's a challenge readily locating some ingredients, risotto seemed the best option, not to mention I love mushroom risotto and crave it on a regular basis. I even like making it and waiting for that magic moment when the rice is just perfectly cooked and soft but yet has a bite.  

"Never remember you being much into your cooking, Miranda." This is an understatement--which I'm sure is his point. Miranda is a terrible cook. I remember a particularly awful risotto where half the rice had stuck to the bottom of the pan and burned black."  

--The Hunting Party--Lucy Foley

Mushroom Risotto
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4 as Entree/6 as Starter)

5 cups mushroom stock
3 Tbsp butter, separated
3 Tbsp olive oil, separated
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp Trader Joe's Umami seasoning blend
4 cups (ish) fresh mushrooms (I used crimini, button & beech (shimeji) mushrooms, sliced)
2 cups risotto rice
1/2 cup white wine 
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated + more to serve
chopped chives to serve

Heat the mushroom broth in a medium saucepan until just at a boil. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer.

Meanwhile place 2 Tbsp butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a stockpot or dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring, until onions are softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the button and cremini mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 4-5  minutes. Add the beech mushrooms and cook for another couple of minutes until the mushrooms have released most of their moisture and are lightly browned but not "mushy." Remove the mushroom-onion mixture from pot, cover and set aside.

In the same stockpot (no need to wipe it out after removing mushrooms), heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated and starts to turn opaque. Stir in the white wine and cook until it evaporates. 

Using a ladle, add a ladle-full of the hot broth to the rice and cook, stirring gently, until the liquid is absorbed. Follow the same process, adding the remaining broth a ladle at a time and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to cook and gently stir, letting the rice absorb each ladle of broth before adding more. (This should take about 20-25 minutes depending on your rice.) Once rice is creamy but still just slightly firm, it is done.

Gently stir the reserved cooked mushrooms into the rice mixture, along with the grated Parmesan. Taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. Serve immediately, garnished with extra Parmesan and chopped chives.

Notes/Results: Making risotto at 8 PM might have seemed like a daunting prospect after an exhausting day but I put on a mellow don't-need-to-think-about-it audio book (the classic, Sense and Sensibility read by Rosamund Pike) and the stirring was very tranquil and zen and a good way to help clear my very active and tired brain. The resulting risotto was delicious--perfectly mushroomy, creamy and satisfying. While I do think risotto is always best served immediately, I am always happy to have leftovers to heat up for lunch. I will make it again.

I'm sharing it at 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 Hunting Party" was provided to me by the author and the publisher Harper Collins 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 stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.