Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "When the Cypress Whispers" by Yvette Manessis Corporon with a Mezedes Plate Featuring Spicy Feta & Red Pepper Dip

If you aren't in the position to personally travel to a gorgeous Greek isle but long for the beauty and magic of such a place, you can take the trip through the pages of When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon. This beautifully-written novel is full of family, love, growth, history, mouth-watering food, and a magical place where if you take the time to really stop, open your mind and listen, the cypress trees may whisper to you.

Publisher's Blurb:
"On a beautiful Greek island, myths, magic, and a colorful cast of mortals come together in a lushly atmospheric debut celebrating the powerful bond between an American woman and her Greek grandmother.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne has been brought up to believe in the American dream. When her husband dies in a car accident, leaving her with an inconsolable baby and stacks of bills, she channels everything she has into opening her own Greek restaurant. Now an acclaimed chef and restaurateur, she has also found a second chance at love with her wealthy, handsome fiancé.

Although American by birth, Daphne spent many blissful childhood summers on the magical Greek island of Erikousa, which her grandmother still calls home. At her Yia-yia’s side, she discovered her passion for cooking and absorbed the vibrant rhythms of island life, infused with ancient myths and legends lovingly passed down through generations. Somehow her beloved grandmother could always read her deepest thoughts, and despite the miles between them Daphne knows Yia-yia is the one person who can look beyond Daphne’s storybook life of seeming perfection to help her stay grounded. With her wedding day fast approaching, Daphne returns to Erikousa and to Yia-yia’s embrace.

The past and the present beautifully entwine in this glorious, heartfelt story about a woman trapped between the siren call of old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career and relationship. When Daphne arrives on Erikousa with her daughter, Evie, in tow, nothing is the way she recalls it, and she worries that her elderly Yia-yia is losing her grip on reality. But as the two of them spend time together on the magical island once again, her grandmother opens up to share remarkable memories of her life there—including moving stories of bravery and loyalty in the face of death during World War II—and Daphne remembers why she returned. Yia-yia has more than one lesson to teach her: that security is not the same as love, that her life can be filled with meaning again, and that the most important magic to believe in is the magic of herself."

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper (April 1, 2014)

I really enjoyed this book. Greece with its many islands is a place I have long wanted to visit and Yvette Manessis Corporon writes about them so descriptively, it made me feel as if I could actually see them. A dear friend and onetime roommate's mother was Greek and she made the most fabulous food, all of the classics, so Greek food remains one of my all-time favorite cuisines. The author's passion for food and obvious love for the island of Erikousa (a real-life place she spent childhood summers in) comes shinning through in the story, so easy to get caught up in. I liked the generations of female characters--strong, loving, not perfect. Not having grown up with living grandparents, I would have loved to have a relationship like Daphne's with her yia-yia. There are no big surprises in terms of plot, but the writing still absorbed me. The history of the island and its role in World War II and the stories of the experiences of Greek Jews during wartime were new to me and both fascinating and haunting to read. I was sorry to have the story end. Readers who like to get swept away by women's fiction, foodie travel fiction, Greece, family relationships and romance will like this novel. 

Author Notes: Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, and author. She is currently a senior producer with the syndicated entertainment news show Extra. In addition to her Emmy Award, Yvette has received a Silurian Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the New York City Comptroller and City Council’s Award for Greek Heritage and Culture. She is married to award-winning photojournalist David Corporon. They have two children and live in New York.

Vivid descriptions of the food permeate the book, making choosing a dish to make inspired by it both easy and yet difficult. Daphne is a chef and she learned the heart of her cooking from her yia-yia's simple and delicious food. Icy cold frappe, perfectly crisp fries, fried eggs with fresh tomatoes and beautiful basil, saganaki--thin slices of fried kasseri cheese with freshly squeezed lemon juice, simply grilled fish, good crusty bread, salty, briny olives and creamy homemade feta... the list, and my drooling, went on and on. In the end, I was craving a simple mezze or mezedes plate, using mostly purchased items and featuring a tangy feta dip with red bell pepper and red chilies. Not mentioned in the book but something I could see on the table at yia-yia's house or at island local Nitsa's hotel patio. (Plus doesn't the dip color go well with the cover?!) ;-)

OK, I should probably call my adaptation of this recipe from Modern Greek--Spicy Red Pepper & Feta Dip because I ended up switching the amounts of the ingredients around and the red pepper is more prominent. I had decided to make a half batch of the dip--so 8 oz. of feta instead of 16 oz of cheese. Since I had gone ahead and sauteed my whole pepper and bought 2 red chilies, I decided to put them all in. I don't look at this as a bad thing--it ups the Vitamin C and cuts down on the sodium, fat and calories (I subtracted calories and fat by reducing the oil too, BTW) and the dip is still rich, creamy and very good. (Plus it's cheaper to make!) A win in my book. My changes are noted in red below. 
Spicy Feta & Red Pepper Dip (Ktipiti)
Adapted from Modern Greek by Andy Harris
(Serves 6-8) (Makes about 2 cups)

3 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp)
1 red bell pepper, seeds & membranes removed, cit into strips
2 red chiles, seeds & membranes removed, cut into strips
1 lb feta cheese, crumbled (I used 1/2 lb feta)
3-4 Tbsp yogurt 
(I added 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the pepper and chilies for 10-15 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool slightly.

In a food processor, blend the oil, pepper and chile mixture with the feta and yogurt until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until required.  

Notes/Results: A creamy dip that is full of bright flavor with just a hint of a spicy bite at the end. Much as I like feta, I didn't miss the extra I left out at all. I liked it with both the toasted bread and with the veggies (in my case two of my favorite dippers--raw cucumber and sugar snap peas) and I think it would make a great sandwich spread or even a pasta sauce, thinned out a bit. Rounding out the mezedes plate were some kalamata olives and some deli-bought dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). With a glass of crisp white wine, it made for a wonderful light supper. I would make this dip again--with the changes I made to lighten it up. 

Note: A review copy of "When the Cypress Whispers" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 the Book Tour and what other readers thought here

Sunday, April 20, 2014

South Indian Rice and Seafood Soup: Creamy, Coconut & Curry for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

It occurred to me that I have not cooked along with Jamie Oliver for quite a while so I was flipping through Jamie's Dinners this week and came across his South Indian Rice and Seafood Soup. Craving something coconut and curry-flavored, this soup looked full of flavor and a good reason to open up the spice cabinet.

I did make some changes to the recipe--noted in red below. I cut the oil down by more than half and switched to light coconut milk to reduce the fat, switched to brown basmati for a bit more fiber and protein and added more garam masala spice and lime juice. Finally, I added carrot, celery and chopped baby spinach to increase the nutrients.

Jamie says, "This soup was first cooked for me by Das, my friend who runs the southern Indian restaurants in London called Rasa. I've based mine around his original recipe, and what's fantastic about it is that it's so easy to make. It only takes about 30 minutes, and the other great thing is that the ingredients are not particularly expensive, so it's economical. However, if you want to spend a little more and make it a bit luxurious using something like crab, then you can. The soup is just as good with frozen prawns and flaky white fish though. Use any selection of fish that you fancy – I like to use a good mixture of fresh-looking fish (John Dory, cod, haddock or red mullet all work well). Get it skinned and filleted, then all you have to do is chop it up. If you can find any coconut oil, use that, otherwise vegetable and sunflower oil are fine to use. This really is one of my favourite soups. It's not too hot, but as you eat it you can pick out the individual flavours. And there's something about having rice in a soup that makes it really scrumptious.

South Indian Rice & Seafood Soup
Adapted from Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver
(Serves 4)

5 Tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil (I reduced to 2 Tbsp of coconut oil)
Tbsp brown mustard seeds
1 handful fresh curry leaves, picked off their stalks
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garam masala (I used 2 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
2 tsp turmeric
3 red chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced
2 large thumb-sized pieces fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

(I added 1 carrot and 1 large celery stalk, diced)
2 handfuls basmati rice (I used brown basmati rice, cooked separately)

2 1/2 cups (565ml) water
1 lb 6 oz (600g) fish, from sustainable sources, skinned, filleted and cut into 2-3 inch chunks (I used frozen salmon & shrimp + fresh local kajiki/blue marlin)
2 (14 oz) cans (about 400 ml) coconut milk

(I added about 5 cups coarsely chopped baby spinach)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, juice of (I added another lime + extra wedges to serve)
1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp freshly grated coconut (I used unsweetened coconut from the bulk bin)

Get yourself a big pan and heat up your oil, then add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds, garam masala, chilli powder and turmeric. Cook for a few minutes and you'll get the most amazing smells filling the room from all these spices. Then add the chillies, the ginger, the garlic and the onions. Continue cooking slowly until the garlic and onions are soft. Then add the rice and the water. (Note: Since I was using brown basmati rice which takes longer to cook, I cooked the rice separately, then added in about 5 minutes before I added the coconut milk and fish/shrimp.)

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add your fish and the coconut milk with a little more water and a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for a further 7 to 8 minutes, then stir well to break up the pieces of fish. (I added the chopped baby spinach about 2 minutes before it finished cooking.)

Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper, then just before you serve it squeeze in the lime juice and stir in half the coriander. Serve in warmed bowls, sprinkle over some freshly grated coconut, if you have it, and rip over the rest of the coriander.

Notes/Results: A satisfying bowl of highly-flavored soup. Creamy, tangy and aromatic, with a healthy nudge of heat from the chillies, there is a lot going on in this bowl. The ginger and garlic come through, as does the garam masala (the extra helps) and the lime adds the bright notes at the end. I bought a kajiki (local blue marlin) fillet and intended to add it to the frozen cod and salmon in my freezer--then realized I had no cod. I subbed with some large prawns. The seafood was a good mix of textures--the shrimp firm, the kajiki, mild and a bit more flaky, and the salmon, moist and stronger flavored. The sprinkle of coconut on top is a fun textural touch. Probably my only 'complaint' was the amount of curry leaves--they don't really soften up so much so I felt like I was constantly eating around them or pulling them out of my mouth (kind of like the kaffir lime leaves in Thai soups). I think they do add another layer of flavor but, if you don't like them or can't find them, you could certainly leave them out and likely no one would notice. This soup is so thick with the rice and fish, plus the extra veggies, it makes for a filling but not too heavy meal. I would make it again.   

This is Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs--the chance to make any Nigel Slater recipe or any recipe from a previous IHCC chef. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

It's a quiet Easter Sunday in the Souper Sundays kitchen but we do have both a soup and a salad to share. Let's take a look.

Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm explores India and shares this regional Mizo Chicken Vegetable Soup. She says, "While recipes for Mizo cuisine were hard to come by, I came across many descriptions of the food and I developed my own version of their Chicken Vegetable Soup. It is flavored with a local herb pardi, with a flavor similar to celery as well as other green leaf vegetables, particular to the region. This adapted version of the soup uses ingredients that I was able to locate here in NYC . Mizoram cuisine is characterized by being a low fat cuisine that utilizes little oil and is simply flavored with onions, garlic, ginger and chiles."

Corina of Searching for Spice made this pretty Halloumi, Vegetable and Pomegranate Molasses Salad and says, "Now, a girl can’t just live on salad, especially not when 38 weeks pregnant, and luckily I had some halloumi in the fridge. Halloumi is quite salty but because of that it goes really well with the sweetness of the pomegranate molasses and the sourness of the lemon juice.  In fact, my husband always says it reminds him of bacon! If you haven’t had pomegranate molasses before, it is quite sweet so you may want to add a little less than I did and then add more to taste afterwards. If I’d had a pomegrante at home, a few seeds sprinkled over the  top would have also made a nice addition. Oh well, next time."

Thanks to Mireille and Corina for joining in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.
Have a happy, healthy week and Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Leek and Cheese (Camembert + Fontina) Risotto

OK, I am not allowed to make a Nigel Slater cheese dish for a few weeks. It wasn't until I was making this risotto that I realized that for our first three weeks cooking along with Nigel Slater at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I have made all cheesy, carby, comfort food dishes. (See 'Needs Must' Fettuccine Alfredo and Goat Cheese Bubble & Squeak). Obviously I have a problem and may soon need some kind of a 'cheeservention'.  

I was flipping through his Real Food cookbook and the description of the Leek and Taleggio Risotto caught my eye. Nigel called it "the most gently restoring of all suppers--and honestly it has been a tough couple of weeks for a lot of reasons that I won't bore you with here and I needed some emotional restoring. Besides eating and cooking with my eyes, I eat and cook with my emotions and a bowl of creamy goodness seemed like it would fit the bill. You might note that Nigel's recipe calls first for Taleggio which is always a challenge to find here so I used mostly the second cheese noted, a soft, easy to find Camembert. Turns out I misread and only bought 4 ounces, so I made up the difference with Fontina. 

Nigel says, "I am rather fond of risotto and its soothing texture. The addition of  a cheese such as taleggio or Camembert makes it the most gently restoring of all suppers."

Leek and Camembert Risotto 
Adapted from Real Food by Nigel Slater
(Serves 2 Generously) (Deb says see Notes/Results below)

50 g butter (about 1 1/2 oz)
2 large leeks, chopped and rinsed
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
a little dried oregano
225g arborio rice (about 1 cup)
900ml hot vegetable or chicken stock (about 4 cups + I added an extra cup)
225g taleggio or other soft creamy cheese like Camembert, cut into thick slices (about 4 oz) (I used 125g Camembert & about 100g of Fontina)

Put the butter into a shallow, heavy-bottomed pan and add the leeks and garlic. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are soft. Don't hurry this; let the leeks cook slowly for about 15 to 20 minutes, but stop cooking before they color. 

Stir in the oregano, a teaspoon or so will do, and the rice. Pour in three ladles of hot stock and stir. Leave to simmer gently, stirring regularly, until the stock has almost all been soaked up by the rice. Add more stock and leave to cook once more, at a gentle pace, then add more when that too has gone. It will stick if you forget to stir it. The rice will be plump and tender after about 18 to 20 minutes. Taste it to see if it is done to your liking; it should have a bit of bite left in it but should be quite tender.

Stir in the cheese at the last minute--it will melt creamily. Check for seasoning; it will need both salt and black pepper.

Notes/Results: Very creamy, very cheesy and completely indulgent. The leeks and oregano give great flavor and I liked the earthy flavor the Fontina added to the mellower Camembert. (So it was good that I misread the recipe and only had half the Camembert called for in the recipe.) ;-) You might note the orange looking bits in the bowl--that's the Camembert rind which softened and didn't end up being a problem--although you certainly could cut it off. I am just lazy! Nigel says this makes two 'generous' servings but they would be VERY generous for such a rich dish. I say do your arteries and waistline a favor and divide it into four smaller but still decent-sized portions and serve it with a green salad and it will still be plenty decadent and restoring. I would make this again.

It's Potluck week at IHCC so you can see what dishes and chefs were selected by everyone by checking out the picture links on the post.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Leek, Zucchini & White Bean Soup for Blustery Spring Days and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It's been a blustery weekend. Grey more often than not, bursts of hard rain followed by smaller spurts and drizzles, wind gusts last night that rattled up against the slats of the jalousie windows of my house and woke me up a few times. Of course this being Hawaii, the sun keeps making an appearance between showers to remind me where I live or maybe just to tease and taunt a bit. I am not complaining--I like blustery, and I like the rainier than average days here--they are a pleasant break from the norm and they are optimal soup weather. 

I have been reading/cooking from Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney (daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney). It's full of simple, meat-free food, beautifully photographed by Mary. I loved her Coconut Rice Pudding which I made with dried cherries and pistachios. This simple soup caught my eye. Leeks always appeal to me--few ingredients smell better when they hit a pan with butter or oil. With the leeks and the zucchini, this soup warms the body and soul and seems to beckon sunnier days. 

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe--noted in red below.

Mary says, "I love the subtle blend of flavors in this soup. If I don't have any zucchini, I sometimes use green beans instead and that works really well."

Leek, Zucchini and White Bean Soup
Adapted from Food by Mary McCartney
(Makes Aprox. 4 Servings)

2 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp coconut oil)
2 medium leeks, trimmed, ashed and finely chopped
2 medium zucchini (aprox. 14 oz), finely diced
1 stalk celery, trimmed and finely chopped
15 oz can white beans (I added a second can of cannellini beans at the end)
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs (I added 1 tsp Herbes de Provence: savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon and lavender flowers)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gently fry leeks until they are soft and golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in zucchini, celery and white beans and fry another 4 minutes or so. Pour in vegetable stock and add herbs, mixing well. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Puree with a handheld blender or cool soup slightly and puree in batches in a blender. (Or serve soup chunky depending on preference.) (Because I like a mix of brothy/chunky/pureed, I blended about 2/3 of the soup and then added an additional can of beans to the mix and cooked it for another 10 minutes.) Reheat if needed, taste for seasoning and add salt or black pepper if needed. Serve.

Notes/Results: This is one of those soups that makes you feel nourished and cared for just by eating it. Thick, brothy, beany, with a savory herbal flavor. It was by accident that I added a teaspoon of the herbes de Provence instead of the 1/2 teaspoon called for but I think the soup benefited from it. I also liked the texture with deciding to blend a good portion of it, then add another can of beans to the mix after blending. It gave it a satisfying chunkiness but with enough of the broth so that it wasn't too smooth and mushy--so I would keep that change as well. In the photo in the book it looked as though Mary McCartney had stirred a touch of cream in the soup and I liked the look of it so I used a bit of coconut creamer on top of mine to keep it vegan. If you don't care about that I think some grated parmesan would also be lovely on top. I would make this again. 

Just one friend waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week, lets see what she brought.

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food made this Cordyceps Chicken Soup (cordyceps is a type of mushroom/fungi) and says, "It was the first and last time I bought cordyceps. Rather, Mom bought them...for me.Gosh. So super duper exorbitantly expensive! I was not aware of the cordyceps "market situation". It was the last time as I will not be consuming it regularly for its claimed benefits (even if what good it does to the body is indeed true). Often the classic cordyceps chicken soup is doubled-boiled with chicken, cordyceps, sometimes with red dates and gojiberries. However, I did it quite differently - without dates and gojiberries. Instead, some carrots and woodear mushrooms were added to my version (which is actually an idea inspired by a friend). Luckily, the soup turned out great without being overpowered by the sweetness of carrots and earthiness of mushrooms."  

Thanks to Tigerfish for joining in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my sidebar for all of the details. 

Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nigel Slater's Goat Cheese Bubble and Squeak--Served with Salmon & 'Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce'

British food has the best names--like bangers & mash, toad in the hole, Eton mess, spotted Dick, the list goes on and on... I am sure it is much easier to get a child to the table when you are making bubble & squeak rather than calling it fried cabbage and potato cakes. ;-) This week we are making foods that are 'Fit for a Brit!' at I Heart Cooking Clubs, finding and making Nigel Slater recipes for more traditional British fare. 

We are going traditional-ish here at Kahakai Kitchen. Nigel Slater's version of Cheese Bubble & Squeak from Tender adds a less common ingredient--goat cheese--to the potato cake mix. Nigel says that two of these patties with a spinach salad  are ample as a main course, but I was thinking they would be a happy side dish for some grilled salmon. White fish would have been more 'traditional' for a British fish dinner, and while I have cod in the freezer, I was feeling the salmon instead. To green things up a bit, I went back to the 'Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce' from Nigel that I made for his '30-Minute Fish Supper' a few years ago when we read  "Eating for England" for Cook the Books. (Note: If delving deeper into the subject of British food interests you, Slater's 'Eating for England' is an entertaining and humorous romp that you should check out.)

(From Tender) Nigel says, "Bubbles, squeaks and rumbledethumps: Colcannon, rumbledethumps, pyttipanna, biksmad, roupa velha, and stampot--the local names used throughout Europe intrigue and delight but they all describe the same thing, a stir up of potatoes and greens. In some cases, the two components are served freshly mixed; in others they are fried or baked to acquire a crust. Either way, this is good food at its most frugal. The ingredients may be cooked fresh or taken from yesterday's leftovers. Roupa velha is Portuguese for 'old clothes'.

"Bubble and squeak is generally shaped into rounds and fried in a pan, or left in one large cake, which looks splendid but is difficult to turn in the pan. Either way, the name comes from the sound it makes as it fries in the pan."   

Goat Cheese Bubble and Squeak
(Makes 4 Cakes: Enough for 2)
greens of choice (Savoy cabbage here) --7 oz (200g)
cooked potato -- 3/4 cup (200g) coarsely mashed
goat cheese -- 3 1/2 oz (100g)
nutmeg (optional), salt and pepper to taste
all-purpose flour --1 Tbsp + extra for coating patties
a little olive oil

Wash greens thoroughly, then cook in deep salted water until bright green and tender. Drain carefully and coarsely chop, discarding any tough stalks. 

Mix the mashed potatoes and greens, then cut/crumble goat cheese into small pieces and add to the potatoes and greens. Season generously with salt, black pepper, and if you wish, a very little nutmeg. Stir in the tablespoon of flour. 

Divide the mixture into fourths and shape each one into a rough patty 2 1/2 - 3 inches (6 to 7.5cm) in diameter and about 1/4-inch (6mm) thick. Put patties on a lightly floured plate, turning them once in the flour. 

Put a thin layer of olive oil in a shallow, non-stick pan. Get it hot, then lower the patties into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until golden and lightly crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve.

Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce
Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater
(Makes about 3/4 cup)
A blender salsa verde is another idea. The piquancy of the capers and the saltiness of the anchovy are singularly appropriate with the white fish. My basic recipe is to whiz all of most of the following in the blender: the leaves from a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley and a few sprigs of mint, 6 anchovy fillets, a couple of cloves of garlic, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, a couple of tablespoons of capers, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Now pour in enough olive oil to reduce it all to a lumpy slurry the color of that green stuff that floats on the pond in summer. Taste and check; you might find you want it with more mustard or lemon.

Notes/Results: Crispy, golden crust, soft and creamy within--these are some yummy little potato cakes. The bites of goat cheese add just the right amount of tangy to the mix. I'm not normally a nutmeg fan and Nigel has had me using it twice so far since it was in last week's pasta. I didn't use a lot of it in these cakes but I think it did give them a little something extra as it did in the Alfredo sauce. He may just convert me. ;-) 

I would have been happy with the potato cakes as the entree, although they paired nicely with the salmon and sauce. The verde sauce stands up well to the salmon's flavor and the whole dinner worked well. In retrospect, if serving them as a side again, I would make the patties smaller. I didn't really measure/weigh my cabbage or potato, using one small head of savoy cabbage and a fairly large russet potato and I got six good-sized patties. I think some of the extras will be crisped up for breakfast tomorrow with a runny egg on top. A great use for leftover potatoes and greens but worth cooking them up for too, I will make them again. 

You can see what Nigel Slater dishes the other IHCC participants found Fit for a Brit! by checking out the picture links on the post. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Mind of Winter" by Laura Kasischke with Coconut Rice Pudding with Dried Cherries & Pistachios

"She woke up late that morning and knew: 

Something had followed them home from Russia"

--Mind of Winter, Laura Kasischke 

So begins Mind of Winter, a riveting new novel by Laura Kasischke. It's a snowy Christmas morning and Holly and her husband wake up in a panic. Eric runs out the door, late to pick up his elderly parents and although Holly wants to find a pen and paper and capture these strange thoughts, she has a houseful of company coming--Eric's parents and siblings, his annoying co-worker and family, and Holly's friend and her partner with their little daughter. Holly is surprised her teenage daughter Tatiana didn't wake them up but 'Tatty'--adopted from a Russian orphanage as a baby, seems distant and different today. Peaceful snow soon turns into a blizzard, Eric is stuck at the hospital with his ailing parents, and it becomes apparent that no one will be making it to Christmas dinner. Holly is left in the house with an ever-changing Tatiana and the suspense builds as quickly as the storm outside.  

Publisher's Blurb:

"Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author of The Raising, returns Mind of Winter, a dark and chilling thriller that combines domestic drama with elements of psychological suspense and horror—an addictive tale of denial and guilt that is part Joyce Carol Oates and part Chris Bohjalian.

On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.

As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behavior becomes increasingly frightening . . . until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter."

When I signed up for this book tour I was looking for something scary and liked how this novel was described as a psychological thriller with elements of horror. In my mind I was picturing a creepy tale, similar to the film Orphan--probably due to the Russian orphan thing. Although weighted more on the domestic drama/psychological suspense side of things than truly horror-book-and-movie-scary, Mind of Winter is definitely eerie. The suspense is built page-by-page with a few twists and turns, and plenty of questions about what is real and what only exists in Holly's mind. The book is told from Holly's point of view going between current day and the past, both Holly's tragic life before Eric and Tatiana, and the couple's experience of adopting Baby Tatty and her childhood. Since we meet Tatiana through Holly's eyes, it is hard to form a strong connection to her but this works for the suspense as we begin to question what is driving her strange behaviors. When those behaviors are cataloged in Holly's mind along with the small odd things that have been happening over the years since they returned from Russia, she begins to question if she really knows her daughter. The ending hits with a bang and a bit unexpectedly, but in going back and thinking about the book there are subtle clues that lead up to it. The ending was a little frustrating for me--answering some of my questions but leaving me with many more. It just added to my overall angst and feeling of disquiet but that is certainly suitable for this kind of story and how it should leave the reader feeling. ;-) Mind of Winter is my first book from author Laura Kasischke and it won't be my last--her writing drew me in and made this novel hard to put down.

Author Notes: Laura Kasischke teaches in the University of Michigan MFA program and the Residential College. She has published seven collections of poetry and seven novels. She lives with her family in Chelsea, Michigan.

For my usual dish inspired by the book, I needed something comforting to soothe my angst. The food mentions in the book were mainly related to the holiday dinner Holly was preparing and nothing really caught my eye there. One of the most comforting dishes I can think of is a creamy rice pudding. At one point, Holly is looking out at her dormant roses, covered for the winter in her yard, and one of them was called Cherry Parfait. I decided to make a rice pudding with cherries and I love the pairing of cherry and pistachio.

For the base rice pudding, I used a recipe I tagged to make in a new-to-me cookbook, Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney--found the discount table at Barnes & Noble for $7.98. (A happy find since I had picked this one up a few times but just couldn't justify the full price in my budget.) The Coconut Rice Pudding with Chocolate Sauce caught my eye and although the chocolate sauce topping sounded great, I went with dried cherries plumped up nicely in the pudding and topped with more cherries, chopped pistachios and some additional coconut pieces. My changes to the recipe are in red below. 

Coconut Rice Pudding with Dried Cherries & Pistachios
Adapted from Food by Mary McCartney
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup aborio or short-grain rice
1 (14.5 oz) can coconut milk (+ extra if needed/desired)
2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup raw superfine sugar (I used 2 Tbsp agave)
1 tsp vanilla extract
(I added 1 tsp almond extract)
2 Tbsp dessicated coconut (optional)
(1/3 cup dried cherries + a few extra to garnish)
(2 Tbsp each chopped pistachio & coconut 'chips' to garnish)

In a large-ish, heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the rice and coconut milk, rinsing out the empty coconut milk can with 2 tablespoons of water and adding it to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Stir well, then add the sugar (agave) vanilla extract, almond extract and coconut if using. 

Simmer gently, stirring often for 15-20 minutes or until rice is cooked through and liquid absorbed. (Add dried cherries for last 5 minutes of cooking time. Note: If needed or you like a 'wetter' rice pudding, add additional coconut milk or water to get your desired consistency.)

Serve in bowls with a few additional dried cherries, chopped pistachio and toasted coconut 'chips' on top.

Notes/Results: Creamy comfort-food goodness, sure to soothe any angst or calm those book-shattered nerves. I have used coconut milk often in my rice puddings--I prefer the sweetness it lends to the dish. Adding the dessicated coconut gave it another layer texture that was nice with the creamy rice and juicy pieces of the plumped up dried cherries. With the pistachio and the crunchy larger 'chips' of toasted coconut on top, this rice pudding was quite tasty. I do plan to try the chocolate sauce-drizzled version but I was very happy with my changes and would make it again. 

Note: A review copy of "Mind of Winter" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 the Book Tour and what other readers thought here


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tortilla Soup from "Real Food Daily's": It's What I'm Craving for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was all set to make the Creamy Broccoli Soup with Red Pepper Crème from The Real Food Daily Cookbook: Really Fresh, Really Good, Really Vegetarian. Then, when doing a final check of the ingredients for my shopping list, the Tortilla Soup caught my eye. The heart and stomach want what the heart and stomach want and mine wanted tortilla soup. The broccoli soup will wait. ;-) I've made a half-dozen tortilla soups on the blog. This one is thick and flavorful and quite tasty topped with thin fried tortilla chips, chunks of avocado, thinly-sliced radish and cilantro.  

Ann Gentry says, "There are two basic types of tortilla soup: one is brothy, and the other is a heartier soup thickened with corn tortillas. I really love love the second kind. Many of the folks working in my kitchens bragged about their hometown or family versions, so I set up a little contest to come up with the best tortilla soup. This hearty version came out the big winner. If you like a thinner soup, use fewer tortillas. And if you'd like to make this soup less spicy, cut away the veins and seeds from the jalapeño chile.

Tortilla Soup
The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry
(Makes 6 to 8 Servings)

1 Tbsp canola oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jalapeño chile, finely chopped
2 Tbsp tamari
2 tsp ground cumin (I used double)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano (I used double)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 cups vegetable stock or water
1 lb tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used canned fire-roasted)
1/3 cup tomato paste
8 corm tortillas, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
crispy tortilla strips & avocado to garnish (+ fresh lime wedges & sliced radish)

Heat oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the jalapeño chile, tamari, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper and saute 1 minute longer. Stir in stock, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender. Add the tortillas and simmer 10 minutes longer, or until the tortillas are falling apart. 

Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the soup in the pot until smooth. Alternatively, working in batches puree in a regular blender. Stir in the cilantro.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with tortilla strips and avocado and serve with a lime wedge or too.
Note: The soup will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Notes/Results: Thick and satisfying with plenty of flavor and a subtle kick from the jalapeño. I did add extra amounts of cumin and oregano, and since the local fresh tomatoes were not looking particularly red and perky this week, I used canned fire-roasted tomatoes. Besides the usual avocado and tortilla strips, I used some leftover radishes, thinly-sliced for crunch. I also prefer a bit of lime juice to brighten things up. If you didn't care if the soup is vegan, some crumbled Mexican cheese is always nice too. I would make this again. 

Soups and a salad await in the Souper Sundays kitchen, let's take a look.

Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm is here with Pork & Lamb Thupka. She says, "Thupka is a dish of eastern Nepalese origin that is very popular throughout Nepal and Tibet. Additionally, it has become popular in Bhutan and the Indian states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh along the Chinese border as well as the Ladakh region of Kashmir. It's basically a noodle soup. Although vegetarian and chicken versions exist, it is most often made with yak, lamb, beef or pork. The varieties are endless as it can be made with any variety of vegetables and meat.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes says, "So, is it spring by your house?  Even though I stubbornly changed out my winter clothes and replaced them with spring and summer clothes, and attempted to wear them, Mother Nature did not cooperate. Which means, it’s still soup weather. I still have a zillion pounds of beans from year of beans from Rancho Gordo, so I knew I wanted something with beans. When I found Sausage and White Bean Chili from Fine Cooking, it sounded like a winner and it was!  It had the flavors of sausage and white beans which I love and then gave it the whole chili flare. I finally found some of the queso fresco cheese that I’ve been looking for. What an interesting cheese. I love how it doesn’t melt. It adds a nice creaminess to this soup."

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a dairy-free Creamy Miso Butternut Squash Soup using soft tofu and red miso. She says, "Sometimes, a dish can be "discovered" in unexpected ways: when the fridge is almost cleared of perishables such as milk and leafy greens before going on a short vacation; then just after you have returned and have not even get the time to stock up on some fresh produce/groceries to replenish the fridge, you suddenly realized you need to start cooking!"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brings hearty White Bean and Ham Soup and says, "Let us say goodbye and good riddance to the cold and dreary days of winter. It's finally Spring weather and yes, I know my buddies in the southern hemisphere are having different weather conditions, but here...I am celebrating the last of the chilly weather with a hearty soup. I surely won't have this one once it's hot and humid. Inspiration is from my friend in Carlucet France who, along with her lovely daughter, sent me a French care package."

And one hearty salad from Janet of The Taste Space, this pretty, healthy and green, almond-topped Asparagus and Edamame Salad with Lime-Miso Dressing. Janet says, "I crafted a fun twist with spring’s new bounty of asparagus. I paired it with edamame for some additional protein and toasted almonds for crunch and drizzled it with a miso-lime vinaigrette."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!