Monday, May 30, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "He Will Be My Ruin" by K.A. Tucker, Served with a Recipe for Dark Chocolate-Topped No-Bake Shortbread Bars

Today's TLC Book Stop includes a review of the mystery-thriller He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Dark Chocolate-Topped No-Bake Shortbread Bars, inspired by my reading.


Publisher's Blurb:

A woman who almost had it all . . .
 
On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?
 
A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .
 
Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.
 
Until he became her ruin.
 
On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (February 2, 2016)

My Review: 

Coming off of a couple of books that were good but slower moving and required more thought and attention in reading, I was happy to open up an exciting thriller that pulled me right into the action and the story. He Will Be My Ruin is a compelling and dark psychological thriller that kept me guessing throughout the book. The prologue starts off with a bang with Maggie, the main character, bound and apparently in the trunk of a car at potentially at the mercy of the person that killed her best friend. The rest of the book leads up to how she got in that predicament, with plenty of dark and twisty turns along the journey. Maggie has come to New York to pack up the apartment of her best friend Celine, who committed suicide--something that Maggie is having a hard time reconciling with the Celine she knew and grew up with. Although once she begins going through Celine's personal items and journals, Maggie realizes that there is much she didn't know about her friend and her life the past few years. Instead of suicide or even an accidental death, Maggie becomes convinced that Celine was murdered and sets out to determine who did it and why.

This is the first book I have read from K.A. Tucker and I wasn't disappointed. She has crafted an absorbing mystery that had just enough plot twists to keep me guessing. I like mystery-thrillers that I don't have completely figured out by the end and although I thought I had this one nailed (and frankly was a bit smug about it), I found that I only had part of the solution correct. Wanting to find out exactly what happened made me not want to put this one down, making the 350-ish pages fly by. There is some romance in the book, but the focus is on the mystery and the friendship and relationship between Maggie and Celine. I liked Maggie, even her stubbornness and sometimes not-so-great decisions, and I adored the elderly neighbor Ruby who was a friend to Celine and became a friend and helper to Maggie. I also enjoyed Doug, the PI Maggie hires and his tech expert (hacker) Zac--and Maggie's somewhat snarky relationship with both of them. He Will Be My Ruin will appeal if you like a good mystery-thriller that has its dark moments and ratchets up the action with each turn of the page.
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Author Notes: K.A. Tucker is the author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and the Burying Water series. She currently resides outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures. 

Connect with K.A. Tucker on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.



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Food Inspiration:  

There is not a ton of food presence in the novel, but there are mentions of food and drink like bottles of Ketel One, Maker's Mark, and Jägermeister on a polished brass bar cart, a mention of Rosa's breakfast enchiladas, coffee, tea and shortbread, a New York foot-long hotdog with hot peppers and mayo, popcorn, cold pizza, ramen noodles, canned tuna, toast and eggs at a diner, wine, chestnuts roasted over the fire, eggnog cheesecake, Cristal and duck confit, parsnips, roasted squash and steak, and a tall caramel latte from Starbucks. 

There were two things that called out to be made, the first a "Cold-Blooded Ginger"--a cocktail that Maggie orders at her family's charity ball and appears to be made from Southern Comfort and ginger ale with a cherry garnish. The second was the buttery shortbread that Celine's elderly neighbor Ruby is known for. "I grab one and take a bite. And moan just like Grady, as the buttery cookie melts in my mouth, hints of curry and parmesan sparking my taste buds." I went with Ruby's shortbread for my inspiration.


As delectable as shortbread and especially curry and parmesan-spiked shortbread sounded, I am not much of a baker and I really didn't think I needed the all of the butter and sugar in a normal shortbread recipe, so instead, I googled "healthy, no-bake shortbread" and believe it or not, I got quite a few different examples. 

This No-Bake Chocolate Shortbread from Food 52 caught my eye and so I made a few adjustments to the recipe--based on what I had on hand. Depending on the chocolate and sweetener that you use, they are easily adaptable to be vegan or paleo-friendly. Sure it's not authentic shortbread, but it is easy to make, is topped with dark chocolate, is a healthier indulgent treat, and it has a  surprisingly buttery taste and texture. I paired it with some of my favorite coconut Oolong tea.

No-Bake Chocolate Shortbread 
Adapted from Paleo with Mrs P via Food 52
(Makes 8-12)

1 cup ground almonds (I used 2/3 cups slivered almonds + 1/3 cup chopped mac nuts)  
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp cashew nut butter (I used tahini)
1 Tbsp sweetener (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup)
1 pinch sea salt
1 cup dark chocolate (if paleo use 100% cacao + sweetener)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp raw honey or other sweetener if desired

Place ground almonds, coconut, nut butter, sweetener, and sea salt into the bowl of a food processor. Blend until it reaches a bound consistency (about 1 to 2 minutes), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  

Press mixture evenly into a greased pan (8"x 8" or similar size), lined with parchment for easier removal. Make the base about 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Place pan in freezer for about 30 minutes or until solid. 

Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in the microwave or using a double-boiler. Once melted, add in the sweetener if using and stir until it's fully dissolved. 

Pour melted chocolate evenly over the shortbread base, smoothing it out with a spatula to the edges. Place in freezer for about an hour, until set.  

Remove from the freezer and let stand about 15 minutes before cutting into squares with a sharp knife. 

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Notes/Results: These are surprisingly good. Maybe not surprisingly because they do have a layer of deep, rich dark chocolate and it's hard not to love that, but the bottom layer is buttery, delicious, and definitely has a shortbread vibe. They are super easy to make--I didn't pre-grind my almonds and macadamia nuts and I used large chip-like pieces of unsweetened coconut, so I think a finer texture could have been achieved by putting the nuts and coconut in my Vita-Mix dry blender container first and grinding them before putting into the food processor, however, I really didn't mind the grainier texture at all. I think these are really adaptable bars, based on whatever nuts and nut butters you have on hand to use. They are very rich so I cut mine into 12 pieces and found one makes for a satisfying treat. Much better for me than a piece of shortbread but still fills the craving for a "buttery" treat, I will definitely make them again. 


Note: A review copy of "He Will Be My Ruin" 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 this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

'All-Afternoon Bean Soup' with Greens & Carrot-Fennel Top Pesto for Cook the Books: "Burnt Toast Makes Your Sing Good" and Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

I'm hosting this round of Cook the Books and my pick for April/May is the foodie memoir, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir with Recipes From An American Family by Kathleen Flinn. I am a fan of the author's other two books, The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry (about attending Le Cordon Blue in Paris) and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (her experiences teaching a group of novice cooks how to make good healthy meals on a tight budget), so I was excited to read this book and learn more about her growing up years.


I really enjoy Flinn's story-telling skills, whether talking about food or recounting family stories, she has the ability to settle the reader in and make you feel like you are right there with her. Although Flinn and I grew up in different places, we were born in the same era and share being the youngest girl in a large family without a lot of money, so I could relate to many of her stories. One particular story that made me laugh was when her father splurged and bought a variety pack of single-serving cereals. When the sibling's battles over the coveted Corn Pops and Fruit Loops went on too long, her Dad scooped the boxes up and threw them outside, into the snow and then warned them not to go get them. For the rest of the winter, she says that they "...would cup our hands next to our faces on the living room's bay window and stare at the boxes. None of us dared to go after them." I can totally relate to getting those little boxes of cereal only as a special treat (for us it was road/camping trips) and batting for the "good ones"--no one wanted to be stuck with the Special K or Raisin Bran. When I was growing up packaged foods and eating out were luxuries as well, given as treats for special occasions. I always longed for single serving packages of my own--a small bag of Doritos or Lays, rather than a plastic baggie full of chips from the "big bag" doled out for occasional sack lunches. Times like when my aunt and uncle would drive up in their camper, having stopped at The Pop Shoppe and I could have my own red bottle of Lime Ricky, or New Year's Eve when we each got to select our own flavor of chips or crackers were the height of excitement. It makes me laugh thinking of how much I don't eat those foods now, but how much I wanted them back then. Flinn also talks about the small token gifts given for birthdays in a cash-strapped family and the "real" present of being able to "order" your birthday meal and we had a similar custom. My pick was almost always my mom's Chicken Fricassee, mashed potatoes and a "Lincoln Log" cake--what we called a chocolate roll cake at our house. Reading Flinn's family stories brought back happy memories for me and made me smile.


The book has its sad and touching moments too. Flinn lost her father at an early age, and although I had mine for much longer, the pain of that loss and the more recent loss of my mom made me tear up many times throughout the book. I love how Flinn puts the influence our families have on us, "...I'm pieces of my parents, siblings, grandparents, and great grandparents."  ... "Burnt toast makes you sing good. Be thankful; no matter how little you've got, someone's always worse off than you. You can't give anything away, it always comes back. They handed down these simple life lessons to me as surely as they did their recipes. Although her first two books will remain my favorites, as her time at Le Cordon Blue fascinates me and teaching people to cook is something I love to do, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good was an enjoyable journey and helped cement Kathleen Flinn as one of my favorite foodie writers. I hope she has many books ahead of her--I will be waiting to read them. 


For food inspiration, there are many family recipes woven throughout the book--about 30 in total, so there were plenty to cook from. It's simple, homey, family fare like chili, clam chowder, goulash, oven-fried chicken, jam, pickles, coffee cake, apple crisp, pan-fried fish with almonds, biscuits and farmer's eggs.

Although tempted by several of the dishes, I chose to adapt the "All-Afternoon Bean Soup"--the first meal Flinn's mother made when they moved from California to the farm on Coldwater Road in Michigan. Made with dried beans, it gets its name from the hours it takes to simmer away. I made a meat-free, vegan, slow-cooker version of the soup--adding some healthy dark greens and fennel (because I love it in everything lately), and in a nod to frugal cooking and because I dearly love pesto stirred into my bean and veggie soups, I used the carrot tops and fennel fronds to make pesto. 

I have been eating a lot of fennel frond pesto lately (I might just be buying all of the fennel to make and enjoy the fennel pesto!) and I thought the bright green carrot tops from the local carrots I bought would pair well with the fennel fronds. I also added some sorrel I picked up in the herb section thinking that its slightly sharp and sour taste would be interesting. It was! With the lemon juice, oil and almonds, this a a bright and tangy pesto that livens up a simple soup.


Flinn notes, "Midwest budget cooking at its finest, this basic recipe offers potentially endless options. Just swap out the type of beans you're using, the flavoring meat, and the seasonings..."

"All-Afternoon Bean Soup"
Slightly Adapted from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn
(Makes 8-10 Servings)

1 lb of dried mixed beans
2 1/2 to 3 quarts liquid, any combination of broth or water
1 bouillon cube (vegetable or chicken( (optional--I omitted)
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
5 stalks celery, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
(I added 2 small fennel bulbs, chopped)
3 garlic cloves, chopped (I used 4 cloves)
about 6 oz flavoring meat (optional) (omitted)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (I used coconut aminos)
1 Tbsp dried thyme (I used the leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh thyme)
2 tsp celery seed (I used 1 Tbsp)
2 tsp garlic powder (I used 1 Tbsp)
(I added 2 tsp smoked paprika)
1 bay leaf
one (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
(I added 4 cups chopped mixed greens--collards, chard, & turnip greens) 
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper or cayenne pepper, or to taste
hot sauce, optional
Fennel-Carrot Top Pesto to garnish, recipe below

Put the dried beans in a pot with enough water to allow 3 inches of water above them. You can either leave the beans to soak overnight or do a 'quick soak.' (Boil for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for an hour.) Either way, drain the beans and rinse with cold water before proceeding. 

Combine the beans with 2 quarts of the liquid, the bouillon cube (if using), vegetables, garlic, and flavoring and spices in a large soup pot. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat, partially cover, and simmer for about 2 hours, occasionally skimming off foam or excess fat as it collects on the surface. 

At this point, the soup should be quite thick. Add the tomatoes with their liquid and another 2 to 3 cups of water or broth. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. (If you have used ham hocks or bacon, it might not be needed.) Simmer for an additional hour, or until the beans are tender. Check every so often to assure there's enough liquid to cover the beans by at least an inch.

Before serving, discard the bay leaf. If using ham bones, hocks or other bones, pull it from the soup. Chop any meat clinging to the bone into bite-sized pieces and return to the soup. Check the seasonings again and finish with a few shakes of hot sauce if desired.

Once chilled, leftover should be stored in an airtight container for 5 days in the fridge or for up to 2 months in the freezer. When reheating, you may need to add extra liquid, as the soup will thicken while it is stored. 

(Deb's Note: I went the slow cooker route with this soup, adding the ingredients (except the tomatoes) into the slow cooker with 3 quarts of veggie stop and cooking it on high for 2 hours to get it started, then on low for 6.  I added the canned tomatoes and about 4 cups of chopped mixed green to the slow cooker for the last hour of cooking.)
 
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Carrot-Fennel Top Pesto
By Deb, with inspiration from The New York Times
(Makes about 1 1/2 Cups Pesto) 

1 1/2 cups green carrot tops, cleaned well and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups green fennel fronds, cleaned well and roughly chopped
1/2 cup herb of choice (I used sorrel)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup nuts of choice (I used slivered almonds) 

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup walnut, mac nut or olive oil + more if needed

Combine the carrot tops, fennel fronds, herbs, garlic, nuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper n a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is chopped up. Drizzle in the oil until the mixture reaches desired consistency, scraping the sides of the blender or food processor as needed.   

Serve pesto at once, store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze up to one month.    



Notes/Results: A simple but flavorful bean soup that satisfies without the meat. This soup is tasty on its own--I don't use a lot of celery seed as a rule and liked the flavor it added, along with the garlic powder, thyme, and coconut aminos (my replacement for Worcestershire sauce). For a little smokiness like you would get from bacon or ham hocks, I used smoked paprika. The soup gets even better once the bright green pesto is stirred in. I like to add a little vinegar or lemon to bean/pulse soups for the acidity and the pesto adds that bright finish, elevating the flavor. Lucky I like it--I used my large slow cooker and made the full recipe so I am freezing portions to enjoy later. I would make this again. (And, I know I keep saying it but... fennel pesto (and/or fennel & carrot top pesto) is THE BEST! Try it!) ;-) 


The deadline for this Cook the Books round is this Tuesday, May 31st, and I will be rounding up the delicious entries at the CTB site shortly after. If you missed out on this round and like books, food, and foodie books, consider joining us for June/July when my fellow Hawaiian-Island dweller, Claudia of Honey from Rock will be hosting with Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy. Hope you join us!


Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is my ninth entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the May Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.  


Here's a recap of the delicious dishes from last week's Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays roundup.  

Yep, Souper Sundays is  back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of some (or all) of the entries the following week. 

(If you are not familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.)


Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared a salad she enjoyed from a recent road trip to Georgia, saying "Here is my Santa Fe Chicken Salad. If you want a packed salad, this is one of those offered and I liked it very much. Doug ordered Quiche which came with a mini muffin and fruit. Unfortunately, the quiche portion was very small so, I don't think he will ever get that again. I wouldn't.

 

Flour.ish.en Test Kitchen made Ottolenghi's Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Hazelnut and Spinach Pesto, stating "If there is one thing I would change about this dish from Ottolenghi's NOPI, it is that I wish I have made a double portion. I served the soup to my family for dinner on a gray and rainy spring day. A warm creamy vegetable soup was just what we needed to perk us up."  



Pam of Sidewalk Shoes made Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups and says, "I found this easy Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups at Cooking Light. It’s super easy and what intrigued me were the dried cherries!  They really added a tart sweetness to the salad. This makes a lovely lunch or even a light dinner with a glass of chardonnay."  


 
Finally at Kahakai Kitchen, I found my new favorite summer salad from Ellie Kriger. This Tender Green Salad with Strawberries, Cucumber, Pistachios and Cucumber was a wonderful combination of flavors and some of my favorite ingredients--and so pretty on the plate too. 

 
Thanks to everyone for linking up last week!

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 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.
On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional). 

 



Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Tender Green Salad with Strawberries, Cucumber, Pistachios and Basil (Served with Salmon) to Welcome Summer

This salad has been on my mind since I came across it in The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago and pinned in to make once I had some ripe strawberries. It comes from Ellie Krieger and I love the simplicity of it, how pretty it looks on the plate, and the combination of some favorite ingredients--strawberries, buttery lettuce, cucumber, chopped pistachios, and fresh basil, all tossed with a light dressing. 


I served this salad alongside a piece of simply cooked wild King salmon (lightly seasoned with salt and black pepper and cooked in a bit of coconut oil). Together it made a perfect light and healthy dinner that welcomes summer. 


Tender Green Salad with Strawberries, Cucumber, Pistachios and Basil
Adapted slightly from Ellie Krieger via The Washington Post
(Serves 4)
 
2 Tbsp walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar (I used champagne vinegar)
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 head butter, Boston or bibb lettuce, leaves torn (about 5 cups, lightly packed) (I used local Manoa lettuce)
6 large or 12 small hulled strawberries, quartered if large, halved if small
1/4 English (seedless) cucumber, cut into thin half-moons
2 Tbsp shelled, unsalted pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped (see NOTE)
4 large or 8 medium fresh basil leaves, torn

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a medium bowl to form a dressing.

Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Drizzle in about half of the dressing, and toss to coat.

Divide the dressed lettuce among individual salad plates. Arrange the strawberries and cucumber slices on top, then drizzle with the remaining dressing. Top each portion with 1/2 tablespoon of pistachios and some basil.

(NOTE: Toast the pistachios in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.)


Notes/Results: This may be my new favorite summer salad--each bite made me happy. The sweet strawberries, crisp cucumbers and the slightly sharp and herby basil work well with the mild lettuce, toasty pistachios and the slightly sweet dressing. So simple but so good! It also paired well with the salmon--they complimented each other without one overpowering the other in flavor. I think this salad would partner well with any simple fish, seafood, or lighter protein option. It's definitely a keeper recipe that I will make again. 


I am linking this delicious salad up to I Heart Cooking Clubs. It's Potluck week, where we can make any recipe by the current featured chef, Curtis Stone, or any of the previous IHCC chefs like Ellie Krieger. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

 
I am also linking it to this week's Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays post here at Kahakai Kitchen. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich to share you can join in by linking your post up. Here's this week's picture linkup--details are on the post.


 Happy Aloha Friday and have a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Boozy Spiced Cherries with Vodka and Brandy for Food 'N Flix May Pick: 'The Witches of Eastwick'

Every month I swear I am going to get my Food 'N Flix post up early and every month, it gets pushed to the last week. (heavy sigh...) Particularly silly when I knew what I wanted to make even before re-watching the movie, have even had it made for a few days, and STILL can't seem to get it posted early. 

Ah well, I do think these tasty, boozy little cherries are worth the wait. 


Our Food 'N Flix movie this month is The Witches of Eastwick, hosted by Kimberly of Coffee and Casseroles. (You can see her announcement post here.) I have seen this 1987 film several times over the years, although it's been a while and I had never focused on the food, so a good re-watching was in order. I ended up ordering a copy for $4.99 when I couldn't seem to get it into my Netflix queue in time to watch it before the end of the month. 

If for some reason you haven't seen it, Alexandria (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon), and Sukie (Michelle Pfieffer) are three friends from the small town of Eastwick. All three have been let down by men in various ways and they have weekly get-togethers where they drink martinis, eat junk food, and talk about their lives and the lack of men. One night they get specific with a list of qualities their fantasy man must have and the next day, a devilish stranger (Jack Nicholson) arrives in town. In quick succession, he seduces all three of them and soon their lives are turned upside down and the community is in an uproar. Since it appears they conjured him up, can they get get rid of him before it's too late?

 

The Witches of Eastwick is a fun, dark comedy with some of my favorite actors, but my biggest issue with this movie pops up in my mind whenever I watch it and I have to get it off my chest. Why do they stick poor Michelle Pfeiffer in possibly the world's most hideous outfit (Is it pajamas, a romper? I am never quite sure...) in the big sexy ballroom/balloon playing/party scene? (Actually through most of the movie--even once Alex and Jane have new looks, Sukie still gets most of the dumpy clothes. Although she does have that one tropical pattern pajama/robe set that I do like...) But back to the big party scene in question--Cher gets a sexy LBD, Susan Sarandon gets a sexy gold lamé dress, and poor Michelle Pfeiffer is stuck in a black and white (paisley-ish?) shapeless monstrosity and hat. I assume that it was something to do with her being just under 30 when the movie was made and Cher and Sarandon had just dipped into the 40s pool, so maybe it got put into their contracts that Pfeiffer has to look as  frumpy as possible? Not an easy task. I saw her once in a bookstore in Kailua with her kids, sans any makeup in a basic tee-shirt dress and she was luminously gorgeous. Anyway, wardrobe issues aside (and there are a lot of wardrobe issues in this 80s film)..., it's an entertaining film and one of these days I will actually get around to reading the John Updike novel it is based on and compare the two; but now let's talk food.


There is actually a surprising amount of food and drink in The Witches of Eastwick that I had never paid attention to--from food in the kitchen at Alex's house--toast, bananas and condiments, to zucchini jam at Sukie's and a gigantic zucchini in a basket. The Thursday night party has them unloading beer, Easy Cheese Spray, crackers, potato chips, and popcorn in the kitchen and drinking martinis. Daryl tells Alex that they are having fish for lunch the day he seduces her--although it looks more like there is a pile of eggs, some kind of meat and fruit on the table and I can't quite tell what dessert is. Jane goes shopping at the local market eating a jar of pickles, picking up double-double chocolate cookies, fruit, and whipped cream and after the women trick Daryl to get him out of his house (so they can create a spell to send him away), he goes to town to buy them bagels (and gravlax) and ice cream (pistachio and chocolate-chocolate chip). 

But, if there is one food that you can't help but associate with this movie, it is red, ripe and luscious cherries. There is an abundance of fruit shown in the movie--big platters and bowls in Daryl's mansion, including a gigantic bowl of cherries that ends up being used two different times in a spell that has the victims (Felicia and Daryl) projectile vomiting  cherry pits out of their mouths
  

Cherries really are kind of sexy--their color, their shape, their sweetness. (Albeit much more so when being eaten rather than when the pits are spewing from your mouth...) Cherries capture the mood of this movie for me and since Whole Foods put organic ones on sale recently and I have had this recipe for Spiced Vodka Cherries pinned forever, I knew they had to be my dish. 

Fresh cherries are pricked with a needle and then infused in a mix of vodka, cherry brandy (I used Kirsch), fruit juice and juniper berries and allspice. Delicious Magazine says, "Feel smug in the knowledge that you've imbibed a few vitamins along with the alcohol with this sophisticated party drink.

The magazine had a shot of the cherries piled in shot glasses with small spoons so I did something similar with my favorite tiny cordial glasses. (Local thrift store find $2.00 for a set of 6. Love!) I think the cherries would also be wonderful in a glass of vodka lemonade or other cocktail, or with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream.


Spiced Vodka Cherries
From Delicious Magazine.com
(Enough for 6 People--or more)

450g (about 2 lbs) fresh cherries, stems left on
400ml (about 1 3/4 cups) cranberry juices
200ml (about 1 cup) vodka
200ml (about 1) apple juice
50ml (about 1/4 cup) cherry brandy (orange liqueur is a good alternative) (I used Kirsch)
1 Tbsp juniper berries, crushed 

pinch of ground allspice

Prick the cherries in several places with a sterilized needle. Mix all the remaining ingredients together in a large jug or bowl.

Add the cherries, cover and set aside in a cool place for anything from 1-12 hours before serving up in shot glasses.

Store in a tightly-covered jar in the fridge. 


Notes/Results: These are pretty yummy--a nice blend of sweet and tart with the slightly piney, citrus vibe from the juniper berries and the clove-ish pungency of the allspice.  The cherries absorb the flavors and the alcohol quite well and I think these little fruits could be quite dangerous as they are bordering on addicting. Because they are left with the stem and pit, they are just slightly unwieldy to eat neatly but that's all part of the adventure. Just dispose of the pits as delicately as possible rather than the fountain style of the movie and all is good. I am happy to finally get this pin crossed off my to-make list and I although I currently have a large canning jar of these in my fridge, I have no doubt I will work my way through them and will happily make them again. 



The deadline for this month's Food 'N Flix event is Monday, May 30th. Kimberly will be rounding up the entries shortly after on her blog. If you missed this month but like food, films, and foodie films, join us for June when Evelyne of CulturEatz will be hosting I Am Love.