Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ottolenghi's Spicy Chickpea and Freekeh Soup with Herby Creamed Feta Paste: Warm and Spicy Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I rarely open a new cookbook and start from the beginning. Usually I immediately head for the soups--especially when it comes to Yotam Ottolenghi, who is the master of combining ingredients and flavors into truly fabulous soups. So when I received my copy of Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi, I went right to the Simmer section where this Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup caught my eye.


I made a couple of small changes--subbing the bulgur for freekeh (a roasted green wheat) because I have a large bag from Costco that needs using up, and swapping in Greek yogurt for the crème fraîche in the feta paste (cheaper and more protein). Otherwise, I left Ottolenghi's recipe alone and ended up with a hearty, warm, and spicy soup masterpiece.


Ottolenghi says, "This simple and soothing soup, minus the optional feta paste, can most likely be made with ingredients you already have in your cupboards and fridge (and if you don't have some celery stalks and a couple of carrots regularly lying around in your fridge, plus a jar of good harissa, I highly recommend that you do: they form a good base of some of my favorite sauces). The dairy-free soup works well without the paste, but a spoonful on top elevates a midweek supper into something pretty special."

Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup
Adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4-6)

Soup:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, cut into 3/8-inch/1-cm dice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3/8-inch/1-cm dice
4 celery stalks, cut into 3/8-inch/1-cm dice
2 Tbsp harissa paste, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp whole caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups/500 g drained cooked chickpeas (canned are fine)
5 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup/100 g coarse bulgur wheat (I used freekeh)
salt and black pepper

Creamed Feta Paste:
3 1/2 oz/100 g feta, broken into large chunks
1/4 cup/60 g crème fraîche (I used Greek yogurt)
1 cup/15 g cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup/15 g mint leaves
salt (omitted)

Put the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Add the harissa, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring well. Gently mix the chickpeas into the vegetable mixture--you don't want them to break down--along with salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until veggies are cooked through.

Meanwhile, rinse the bulgur, put in a small saucepan, and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Drain, refresh under cold water, drain again and set aside.

To make the feta paste, put the feta, crème fraîche, cilantro, mint, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes, until a smooth, creamy paste forms. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Before serving, add the cooked bulgur to the soup and bring to a gentle simmer. Divide the soup among bowls, add a spoonful of feta paste to each bowl, and serve at once.


Notes/Results: So good! This is a bowl of just-rightly-spiced soup with wonderful flavor. It tastes great on its own with the slightly smoky heat, then when the cooling, herby, creamed feta paste mixes in, it elevates the soup to another level.The caraway seed is a (pleasant) surprise in this soup. Harissa paste often includes caraway, but when you get a small burst of flavor from a caraway seed, it adds a different, unexpected flavor. I started with 1 1/2 tablespoons of harissa but after tasting it, I added the other 1/2 tablespoon finding it just spicy enough for me--I feel the heat but it doesn't overwhelm. The freekeh or bulgur, along with the chickpeas, make this soup satisfying. If you don't plan on serving all of the soup at once, I recommend keeping the grain separate and adding it in when you warm the soup to keep the texture. A truly wonderful soup--simple but special, I will make it again. 


This delicious soup is being linked to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this coming week is November Potluck--the time to make any Diana Henry dish or any recipe from one of our previous IHCC chefs. You can see what dishes everyone made by checking out the picture links when the post goes live.


Let's have a look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here and what they brought.


Janet of The Taste Space shares hearty Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry and says, "And like that, winter arrived. The snow dropped in full force and actually stuck around a bit. I had a few short weeks for biking. My broken leg meant I was not fit for biking earlier this fall but it was nice while it lasted. And what is better during the cold weather than a warm bowl of curry? To keep things simple in the kitchen, I have resorted to remaking some favourites and making twice as much. ... So, please, grab yourself a huge sweet potato and make a double batch. It freezes well should you want to save it until a colder day."



Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog is here with her Flu Fighting Soup and says, "Our temperatures hit 22 degrees F this week in Bucks County, PA and everyone is sneezing and hacking. I made a new soup. It's really a cabbage vegetable soup, but it's so rich in antioxidants, I'm calling it a flu fighting soup! ... You don't have to have the flu to enjoy a bowl of this delicious soup. However because cold and flu season are upon us,  we can help boost our immunity with the antioxidants in soups like this."



Debbie of The Friday Friends brings Spanish Style Split Pea Soup (Potage de Guisantes Barcelona) this week and says, "I love split pea soup. I especially love the smokey flavor from the ham or ham hocks it cooks with, but this soup from the Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread, has a pea soup made with no meat. Perfect for vegetarians OR anyone who wants a good soup! I loved the addition of caramelized onions and tomatoes."


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 on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 

 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Prism" by Roland Allnach, Served with Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds & Smoked Sea Salt

Deep, gritty, eclectic glimpses of life and humanity--a short story collection that encompass multiple genres set in the present, the past and the future, is Prism by Roland Allnach. Kahakai Kitchen is a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Prism (and my guess is this is the only blog pairing the review with a recipe), so I'm serving it up with some shards of Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds & Smoked Sea Salt--rich, dark and fractured like the stories themselves.     


Publisher's Blurb:

Prism presents the best of Roland Allnach’s newest stories together with his most acclaimed published short fiction. These selected stories fracture the reader’s perceptions among a dazzling array of genres and styles to illuminate the mysterious aspects of the human experience. Roland Allnach has been described as a ‘star on the rise’ (ForeWord Clarion), ‘a master storyteller with a powerful pen’ (Cynthia Brian, NY Times Bestselling author), with writing that is ‘smart, elegant, and addicting’ (San Francisco Review).
 
Prism collects seventeen stories into one volume, following a trail of diverse genres and narrative forms. From literary fiction to speculative fiction, from humor to horror, from tragedy to mythical poetry, Prism represents a wide ranging journey united by contemplations on the human condition. Including Allnach’s award winning published fiction (“Conquest’s End” and “The City of Never”), a Pushcart Prize nominated story (“Creep”), Prism also consists of the previously unpublished pieces “Titalis” (a tragedy along the lines of Shakespeare and Greek theatre), “Of Typhon and Aerina” (a tribute to epic verse), “Tumbleweed” (a humorous ditty), and “Dissociated”, a surreal short to cap off the collection.

Paperback: 282 pages  
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press (July 3, 2014)

I have read a few short story collections over the past months and I find it is a genre that I increasing like for the chance to drop into different worlds for a brief time. Prism is such a diversity of stories (seventeen in all), dipping into horror, tragedy, dark humor, science fiction, mythology, and even poetry, and it is impressive to see an author so talented in the different genres. With the broad assortment, it is understandable that not every story will resonate with a reader and so I found myself extremely enjoying the first half of the book and bored and impatient in the second half. Part of it was me getting behind this month and trying to read the book in a couple of days--I think this book is best delved into a couple of stories at a time. Part of it might have been the ordering of the stories. The first half of the book felt crisp, several of the stories appealing to my enjoyment of being slightly creeped out like "11"-- where a man has been terrorized by someone who has been lurking after him most of his life. "Creep"--was a story about a little boy who wakes up thirsty and is afraid of what might happen as he leaves his bed to head to the bathroom for water. I loved "Flowers for Colleen”--where two serial killers meet accidentally and end up having coffee and scones. (Who knew serial killers feel isolated and long for a bit of community?) I started to drag with Titalis”--a well-written story with a Shakespearean tragedy feel to it and the longest story in the book by far. It was followed by a truly epic poem "Typhon and Aerina" that just didn't seem to end--and the formatting in my ARC e-book was wonky which made it disjointed to read. I will confess that poetry is usually hit or miss for me and then that the epic poem was then followed by another poem about a 'well-endowed gunslinger' that just did not seem to fit the mood of the rest of the book and fell a bit flat. Although the entire book wasn't a match for me, based on the first half of Prism I would definitely read more from this author. His writing is strong, smart and witty, as well as being slightly twisted (in a good way), and the beauty of this collection is that others will probably really enjoy the parts that I didn't like as much.

Author Notes: Roland Allnach, after working twenty years on the night shift in a hospital, has witnessed life from a slightly different angle. He has been working to develop his writing career, drawing creatively from literary classics, history, and mythology. His short stories, one of which was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, have appeared in many publications. His first anthology, Remnant, blending science fiction and speculative fiction, saw publication in 2010. Remnant was followed in 2012 by Oddities & Entities, a collection spanning horror, supernatural, paranormal, and speculative genres. Both books have received unanimous critical praise and have been honored with a combined total of twelve national book awards, including honors from National Indie Excellence, Foreword Reviews, and Readers’ Favorite. Prism marks Roland’s third stand alone publication.

When not immersed in his imagination, Roland can be found at his website, rolandallnach.com, along with a wealth of information about his stories and experiences as an author. Writing aside, his joy in life is the time he spends with his family. You can also find Roland on Facebook.
 

Not a book that inspires foodie thoughts--a few of the stories are downright appetite suppressing in fact. I decided that my favorite stories in Prism called for something dark, seductive--maybe something slightly nutty? Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds & Smoked Sea Salt broken into jagged pieces seemed appropriate to fit the mood of the book.


Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds & Smoked Sea Salt
Adapted from It's All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow
(Makes About 6 Servings)

7 oz good quality dark chocolate (70% cacao or more)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
coarse smoked sea salt to taste 

Line a small baking pan with parchment paper.

Break chocolate into small pieces and melt (either in microwave or using double-boiler on stove), stirring until completely melted.

Evenly pour chocolate onto parchment-lined pan. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of chocolate and sprinkle salt evenly over. Place pan in the refrigerator until chocolate sets completely--about 1-2 hours. 

Break the chocolate into pieces and serve. Keep in a airtight container in the refrigerator or in a cool dark place as the chocolate melts easily.  

Notes/Results: An easy and great way to liven up plain dark chocolate and make it something a bit special. It's been a while since I made chocolate bark and I happened to see a variation of this one (the original recipe included coconut) and started craving the sweet and salty combination. I have a grinder of smoked sea salt from Trader Joe's that I used to impart a bit of smoky flavor. Next time I will grind it coarser so you can see the crystals on the chocolate but the flavor of this was spot on. It's rich enough that a piece or two satisfies. I will make it again.



Note: A review copy of "Prism" 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 reviewer thought about the book here.


 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sicilian Tuna in Stemperata Sauce (Sicilian Sweet & Sour 'Salsa') with Zucchini Noodles

Local ahi tuna steaks seared with a touch of balsamic glaze, served with sweet and sour Sicilian stemperata sauce--chunky like a salsa. This is a quick-to-make dinner with great flavors. I wanted pasta but didn't want all the calories and extra carbs so I kept it fresh with some spiralized zucchini noodles (we get local zucchini year-round here), sauteed with a touch of olive oil and oregano to match the sauce.


Diana says, "Sicily is tuna heaven. The fish is served in hundreds of ways--in countless tomato sauces, with almonds, with oranges, with vinegar and onions, raw, marinated, with pasta and without. Many of the dishes, like this one, are sweet and sour, showing the island's Arab legacy. This sauce is a cinch to make , can be prepared in advance, and tastes great.


Sicilian Tuna in Stemperata Sauce
Adapted from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

4 thick tuna loin steaks
olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar

extra virgin olive oil to serve

For the Sauce:
4 celery sticks plus the leaves, finely chopped

1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 1/2 oz pitted green olives, some halved, some coarsely chopped
6 oz capers, rinsed
3 oz raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan and fry the onion and celery until soft and just beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic, olives, capers and raisins and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the oregano and vinegar and cook until the vinegar is evaporated.
When you want to serve, rub olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper on each side of the fish and heat a ridged griddle or frying pan until very hot. Cook the tuna for 1-1 1/2 minutes on each side. This will give you tuna which is like a rare steak – charred on the outside, pink and melting inside. In the final few seconds splash in some balsamic vinegar and let it bubble away, turning the tuna over once in the vinegar. It gives a wonderful glow.


Serve the tuna immediately with the stemperata sauce and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.


Notes/Results:If you are a caper fanatic and olive fan like I am, you will like this dish. The sweet/sour combination and crispness of the sauce is a wonderful contrast for the creaminess of the seared ahi tuna. It worked well on the zucchini noodles too. I was a little leery of putting the balsamic vinegar on the tuna as sometimes the taste overpowers everything, but the small splash (I used a just a bit of a lighter-flavored sundried tomato balsamic) livened it up without competing with the other ingredients. Such wonderful  flavors for a really fast-to-the-table meal. I will make this again. 


This dish is being linked to I Heart Coking Clubs for this week's "Sweet Cloves and Liquid Gold" theme--celebrating the joys of garlic and olive oil. It from the chapter of the same name in Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by current IHCC chef Diana Henry. You can check out what everyone makes by checking out the picture links on the post. 

 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Giada's Cranberry Soup with Curried Shredded Brussels Sprouts for Food 'N Flix November Pick: "Pieces of April" and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays


I'm hosting Food 'N Flix for November and my pick is the indie-comedy-drama "Pieces of April" starring Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt. (The announcement post with all of the details is here.) Since I tend to slide in my Food 'N Flix posts right under the wire, I thought as a responsible host, I would change it up and actually post a couple of weeks before the deadline. Plus, if you are tired of pumpkin and squash soups starters and having the standard cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving plate, here's a new recipe to shake things up a bit--a variation of Giada De Laurentiis' Cranberry Soup with Curried Breadcrumbs Shredded Brussels Sprouts.  


I saw this movie when it first came out, then again last year when I caught it on cable and loved the story of April Burns, estranged from her family but looking to mend relationships--particularly the one with her difficult mother, before it is too late. A broken oven has April relying on the kindness of strangers to get dinner cooked, while her family begrudgingly makes the long trek into the city. It's got good performances, dark humor mixed with warm and poignant moments, and it's about Thanksgiving. When I re-watched the movie for Food 'N Flix, I took the time to watch the behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of the film and interviews with writer/director Peter Hedges (known for writing What's Eating Gilbert Grape the screenplay for About a Boy) and the cast. If you get the chance, watch both--the film and the extras.


So being about Thanksgiving, there is plenty of food inspiration in this movie--your basic traditional Thanksgiving foods that April tries to cook, the more gourmet dishes of neighbor Eugene and his wife Evette, Krispy Kreme donuts, even the pancakes that April likens herself to:

April:  "I'm the first pancake."
Evette: "What do you mean?"
Eugene: "She's the one you're supposed to throw out."
 
I knew I wanted to do something with cranberries as I liked the exchange between April and Eugene when she defends using canned cranberry sauce:
 
April:  "I like it from the can!"
Eugene: "Nobody likes it from the can.

April later tosses her blob of canned cranberry jelly into the trash and Evette shows her how simple it is to make sauce from fresh cranberries, encouraging her all the way. The kindness of strangers. ;-)

Rather than making cranberry sauce, I kept seeing a Giada De Lauretiis recipe for a cranberry soup with curried breadcrumbs on top that sounded interesting--one of those will-I-like-it-or-will-it be-weird?-sounding recipes. I did make a few changes--shown in red below--mainly reducing the oil and sweetener, adding a bit more smoky flavor, and swapping out the curried breadcrumbs for curried shredded Brussels sprouts. (A great way to make it gluten-free and work so more veggies in.)  


Cranberry Soup with Curried Breadcrumbs Shredded Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via Natural Health Magazine & online here
(4 to 6 Servings)

3 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp, divided)
1 onion, roughly chopped 
1 carrot, roughly chopped 
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped 
1 3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided (I used 1 1/2 tsp smoked sea salt)
1 apple, such as honeycrisp, chopped 
1 lb cranberries 
1 cup apple juice 
2 1/2 cups water 
2 star anise 
1 cinnamon stick 
3 cardamom pods 
(I added 1 tsp smoked paprika)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (I used shredded Brussels sprouts)
1/4 cup agave nectar, divided (I used 2 Tbsp maple syrup)
1/2 tsp curry powder
Smoked olive oil to finish (optional) (I omitted)

Heat a 3 quart sauce pan over medium heat. To the pan add the onion, carrot, celery and 1 teaspoon of salt and sauté for 4 minutes or until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Add the apple and cranberries and sauté for another 2 minutes. Deglaze with the apple juice and add the water, star anise, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Bring soup to a boil, and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the star anise, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, mix together the panko, 1 tablespoon agave, the curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
(I omitted the agave or sweetened and substituted in Brussels sprouts for the panko and used 1/2 tsp of oil to pan-fry them in until the sprouts were crispy and lightly browned.) Place over medium heat and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until the breadcrumbs are fragrant and golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In 2 batches, ladle the soup into the pitcher of a blender and puree until smooth. Return the pureed soup to a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons of agave. Ladle into bowls and top with the curried breadcrumbs. Drizzle with a little smoked or extra virgin olive oil if desired.  



Notes/Results: I wondered if this soup would be too tangy or too fruity for my taste buds but it turned out well--a good blend of sweet and savory and a little smoky thanks to the smoked salt and paprika I added. The curried Brussels sprouts were the perfect topping--not that the panko wouldn't be great as well, but I liked the slight bitter greens flavor of the sprouts with the curry with the tangy/sweet. Plus I learned that curried Brussels sprouts are delicious and plan to make a salad/side dish with these flavors. This is a good soup to use as a starter to a meal--rich, but not too heavy and good to serve in a small bowl or cup. I would make it again.


As mentioned, I'm hosting this round of Food 'N Flix and I'll be rounding up all of this month's entries right here at Kahakai Kitchen shortly after the deadline of Sunday, November 30th so you still have plenty of time to watch the film and play along. (As host, I decided to actually to get my entry done a couple of weeks before the deadline this time--a rarity!) ;-) If you miss out this month, I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya to join us in December when we will be watching the holiday classic, A Christmas Story hosted by Food 'N Flix's founder, Heather of girlichef


Since it's also Souper Sundays, let's take a look into the kitchen and see who is here and what delicious dishes they brought.


Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm shares this flavorful Ottolenghi Spinach Chickpea Soup with Roasted Carrots and says, "Rose water and raz el hanout add a Middle Eastern flavor to this healthy Vegetarian Soup. ... This is a balanced flavorful soup with the light and fresh flavors of the greens, but then the smoky deep flavors that come from the carrots and the raz el hanout. It makes a complete meal with the protein from the chickpeas."



Shaheen from Allotment2Kitchen is here with this pretty rice salad and says, "I made this Red Camargue Rice Salad last month.  It was my first time cooking and eating red camargue rice. I don't know why, but I had expected the red camargue rice to be chewy like brown rice, but it wasn't and was somewhere in between white rice and brown rice.  It did however add texture and faint colour to this very autumnal looking salad. The rice was further enhanced by the flavours of the roasted butternut squash and red peppers, I also threw in some fresh tomatoes."



Janet of The Taste Space brings Moroccan Cauliflower Rice and Date Salad and says, "This was also a fun spin on a vegetable salad: cauliflower is riced and tossed with Moroccan spices, dates and cilantro. The savoury spices (cumin and cardamom – although I think cinnamon would have been better) worked well with the sweet dates. My only complaint was that I picked a big head of cauliflower, so I needed more dressing. No fault of the author, as I guess there are truly puny cauliflowers out there."



A salad this good needs to be re-shared. At Kahakai Kitchen, I made slightly adapted this Nigel Slater Pan-Fried Apple and Cheese Salad with Glazed Walnuts and fell a little bit in love. It is amazing what pan-frying the apples (I used Honeycrisp) does for them--especially when the warm, juicy apples meld with the farmhouse cheddar and soften it up. This is a perfect fall salad simple, pretty to look at and a pleasure to eat, that I will make over and over again. (Stop by and take a look and enter to win a $25 e-gift card to an online bookstore of your choice and a copy of the cozy mysteryThe Garden Plot by Marty Wingate.) 


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 on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 

 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Moroccan-Inspired Sweet Potato Hummus: A Simple Healthy + Delicious Recipe {One Photo Friday}

Here's a confession... I am not a big fan of sweet potatoes. Nutritionally, I can fully get behind them as they are so chock full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and a plethora of other nutrients. But flavor-wise, not so much. I think it's the sweetness that my taste buds try to tell me doesn't below in anything labeled potato. But, I have a habit of buying random vegetables and other healthy foods that I am not particularly fond of and challenging myself to find a way to like, maybe even grove to love them--in a way that doesn't involved deep-frying. ;-) This creamy, full-of-wonderful-Moroccan-inspired-flavors hummus might just be the ticket to me loving my sweet potatoes.


This hummus came from a happy accident. I steamed a lonely sweet potato that I needed to use up and was trying to decide how to enjoy it more. I had some homemade hummus that I had spiced up with a combination of sumac, cumin, and smoked paprika, so I slapped some on top of the sweet potato and sprinkled on toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch and thought "Hey, that's pretty good!" I thought it would be even better mixed into the hummus, and with some harissa for a bit of kick so I bought another sweet potato and hit the spice rack.  

It turned out to be fabulous--I think I like it even better than my Sunny Carrot Hummus because of its slightly spicy and smoky flavors. A great, vibrantly-colored, and healthy appetizer to put out for holiday parties. 
 
Moroccan-Inspired Sweet Potato
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes About 3 Cups)

1 sweet potato (roughly a pound), steamed until soft*
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas (low-sodium), rinsed and drained
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp sumac
1 1/2 tsp harissa (spice or paste), or to taste
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1 tsp sesame oil  
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water

Place all ingredients except ice water into a food processor and process until smooth, adding ice water as needed to get good consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with raw veggies of choice. (I like minis--kirby cucumbers, tiny carrots and baby bell peppers.)
 
(*Sweet Potato Note: I usually steam mine in the microwave because I am lazy. I wash the potato well, cut it into 1-inch cubes and put in a microwave-safe bowl with a Tablespoon of water and cover. I check after 7 or 8 minutes but it can take 10 or more depending on the microwave. It should be soft enough to mash easily. Let potato cool and remove skin.)

{One-Photo Friday: Since I normally drag out my big camera and gear, take a bunch of photos of my recipes, and then spend time obsessing over them--I decided that for Fridays, I'll simplify by posting a recipe or something interesting and then just take one photo of it with my iPhone--no muss/no fuss.}

Happy Aloha Friday!
 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Red Book of Primrose House" by Marty Wingate, Served with (My New Fall Favorite) Pan-Fried Apple & Cheese Salad (+ Gift Card/Book Giveaway!)

It's a fun post today--a TLC Book Tour review of the gardening cozy mystery The Red Book of Primrose House: A Potting Shed Mystery by Marty Wingate, an easy recipe for a fabulous fall salad, and an opportunity to win a book and a $25 e-gift card to the e-book retailer of your choice.


Publishers Blurb:

In Marty Wingate’s charming new Potting Shed Mystery, Texas transplant Pru Parke’s restoration of a historic landscape in England is uprooted by an ax murderer.

Pru Parke has her dream job: head gardener at an eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex. The landscape for Primrose House was laid out in 1806 by renowned designer Humphry Repton in one of his meticulously illustrated Red Books, and the new owners want Pru to restore the estate to its former glory—quickly, as they’re planning to showcase it in less than a year at a summer party.

But life gets in the way of the best laid plans: When not being happily distracted by the romantic attentions of the handsome Inspector Christopher Pearse, Pru is digging into the mystery of her own British roots. Still, she manages to make considerable progress on the vast grounds—until vandals wreak havoc on each of her projects. Then, to her horror, one of her workers is found murdered among the yews. The police have a suspect, but Pru is certain they’re wrong. Once again, Pru finds herself entangled in a thicket of evil intentions—and her, without a hatchet.

Publisher: Alibi (November 4, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC

Earlier this year I reviewed The Garden Plot, the first book in this cozy mystery series (you can find my review and a fabulous recipe for Orecchiette with Goat Cheese and Artichokes here), so I was happy to dig into (pun intended) the second book. The Red Book of Primrose House takes up shortly after the first with Pru settling into her new job restoring the gardens at Primrose House. It's exhausting work and she's an hour away from Inspector Christopher Pierce, her love interest from the first book. Pru has to deal with her employer's copious notes--usually suggesting some outlandish requests and ideas for the garden. There's also her crew, a local newspaper garden blogger featuring the work on the Primrose House garden, and the gardener who was supposed to get the job instead and keeps showing up. Meanwhile she is also dealing with her own family secrets. When the garden starts get vandalized and then one of her employees ends up dead, Pru takes it upon herself to try and find the killer and solve the mystery. 

This is a fun series--even if you aren't a green thumb or know much about gardening. As much as I like the breezy escape of a cozy mystery, I like to learn a little something when I read. For example, I was happy to learn there really was a Humphry Repton--considered to be the last great English landscape designer of the eighteenth century, and he did write and present red books with his garden plans to his wealthy clients. Pru is a fun lead character--she's in early 50's, a good and loyal friend, and it is fun to see her navigate the relationship waters with Christopher. It is best to start with the first book in this series but not completely essential as the author provides enough detail to bring the reader up to speed. (You can enter for a chance to win a copy of the first book and a gift card at the end of the post.) Author Wingate also does a good job of balancing the gardening detail out well--enough to be interesting without being too technical. A great second offering--I look forward to more time with Pru and her gardens in future books.

Author Notes: Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Potting Shed mysteries are planned.



Although set most often in and centered around Pru's gardens, there is food inspiration in the book. Lots of tea and various cakes and pastries, Christopher brings Pru takeout all the way from Gasparetti's--her favorite Italian restaurant, a roast chicken and risotto lunch, moussaka, hot soup, restorative curry, eggs and Pru's homemade biscuits with damson plum jam, even a supper of fish fingers and apple slices shared with a child. I decided to take my inspiration from apples since Pru planted antique apple varieties along the walls of the Primrose House garden, intending to 'espalier' them in different patterns. (Espaliering is the pruning and tying the branches of woody plants to a frame to train them to grow a certain way. See, I do learn a bit of gardening from these books!


I remembered a salad recipe from Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food that I have been wanting to try--where apples are pan-fried in a bit of walnut oil and used to top a salad along with cheese and walnuts. It sounded like a great autumn dish and something green and garden-like. I did make a few changes to the recipe which are noted in red below. 


Pan-Fried Apple and Cheese Salad
Adapted from Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater
(For 2 as a Snack or Light Lunch or Supper)

1 large or 2 small apples (I used Honeycrisp)
1 Tbsp walnut or peanut oil
2 Tbsp broken walnuts (I used glazed/candied walnuts)
2 handfuls of salad leaves of choice (I used baby spinach)
2 oz crumbly farmhouse cheese such as cheddar (I used local Naked Cow farmhouse cheddar)
1/2 lemon

Wipe the apple(s), but do not peel. Cut in half, then into quarters. Remove apple core and cut the fruit into thick slices--about 6-8 slices per apple. 

Warm the oil in a large shallow pan; when it is hot add the apples and walnuts. (Note: because I used glazed walnuts--I did not cook them with the apples.) Cook the apples for about 3-4 minutes, until they are golden, turning them once. Divide salad leaves on the 2 plates. Remove the apples from the pan with a metal spatula and scatter them among the leaves. Crumble the cheese over the hot apples--it will soften rather than melt. Squeeze the lemon juice into the pan and drizzle the resulting dressing over the salad. Eat immediately. 


Notes/Results: This is my new favorite fall salad--such a great combination of flavors and textures and it is pretty to look at too. Pan-frying the apples brings out extra flavor and enhances the sweet/tart flavor. I used my favorite Honeycrisp apples and they were brilliant. I may have to fry them up on a regular basis--salad or not. ;-) I was grabbing walnuts when I saw a small package of glazed ones. They turned out to be a wonderful touch adding a little sweet and spice to the mix. The cheese gets just slightly softened by the warm apples (this was a local farmhouse cheddar) and the bites of the apple and cheddar together were wonderful. You could use any lettuce or greens--I liked the hardiness of the baby spinach. A perfect salad for holiday entertaining--elegant but goes together in a snap, I can imagine doing a version with pan-fried pears, pecans and a mild blue cheese or goat cheese. A definite keeper recipe that I will make again (and again).


Note: A review copy of "The Red Book of Primrose House" 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 reviewer thought about the book here.


***E-Giftcard/Books Giveaway!!!***

Kahakai Kitchen is joining in on the Rafflecopter giveaway for TLC Book Tour of The Red Book of Primrose House. The publisher is giving away a $25 e-giftcard to the e-book retailer of the winner's choice, plus 1 copy of THE GARDEN PLOT by Marty Wingate! Enter to win below.  

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