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End” and “The City of Never”), a Pushcart Prize nominated story (“Creep”), Prism also consists of the previously unpublished pieces “Titalis” (a tragedy along the lines of Shakespeare and Greek theatre), “Of Typhon and Aerina” (a tribute to epic verse), “Tumbleweed” (a humorous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,, 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.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Niçoise Vegetable Stew with Rouille (With Fish or Without) for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It has been grey and cool(er) this weekend which I am enjoying after too many days of humid evenings. It's still in the low to mid 70s at night which makes it ever amusing to hear the weather forecasters say to make sure you have a jacket because it will be 'chilly' at night. Still, I did sleep with a light blanket last night for the first time in months--which was lovely, and it is perfect weather for a big bowl of flavorful soup or stew like this Niçoise Vegetable Stew with Rouille.

I was attracted to this soup from Plenty by Diana Henry for a number of reasons--the assertive flavors, the sunny color, the use of saffron, potatoes and fennel, and the chance to make a new-to-me sauce--a variation of a Provençal rouille. It also fits our Mystery Box Madness Challenge for November at I Heart Cooking Clubs--where the selected recipe needs to contain at least three out of ten ingredients: Harissa, Eggs, Saffron, Pumpkin, Maple Syrup, Dates, Rose Water, Oranges, Spinach, and Chickpeas. The original recipe for this stew contains three of the ingredients--eggs, saffron and oranges. I made a few adaptations to the recipe (noted in red below) and added two more of the ten mystery ingredients--chickpeas and harissa

There is raw egg yolk in the rouille, so I used very fresh, local eggs. (It does make the soup even more special so definitely do it if you can get your hands on good eggs.) Henry serves this stew with grated Gruyère and croûtes or croutons which I think would be delicious, but Henry's talk of putting fish on the top before serving had me craving seared local ahi tuna steak sliced on top. Since ahi is expensive, this is a great way to make the soup more of a meal while also getting away with dividing a piece of fish or two between several people. Both the veggie version and the fish version (shown in the third and fourth photos) were fantastic. 

Henry says, "This is like a Provençal fish soup without the fish. It has a really gutsy flavor. if you want to make it a fishy, you can poach some fish in the soup at the end; or you can cook fish separately and put some on top of each serving. If you don't like rouille you can serve this stew with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) instead.

Niçoise Vegetable Stew with Rouille
Adapted from Plenty by Diana Henry
(Serves 4 as Main / 6 as Side Dish)

For the Stew:
1/4 cup olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp)
1 lb small waxy potatoes, halved lengthwise
6 oz baby onions (I used a Maui sweet onion)
3 leeks, trimmed, washed and cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
good pinch of saffron threads
1 strip of orange zest (I used several thick strips of zest)
3 thyme sprigs
salt and pepper
2 small fennel bulbs, sliced lengthwise
(I added 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced into strips)
6 plum tomatoes, quartered
(I added 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
(I added some of the fennel fronds)
grated Gruyère cheese and baguette croûtes,to serve (optional) (omitted)

For the Rouille:
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup olive oil
4 tsp tomato paste
lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper  (I subbed in harissa)

Heat the oil and gently sauté the potatoes, onions, and leeks for about 15 minutes. It's nice if the potatoes get a little golden. Stir from time to time to make sure nothing is sticking. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for another minute, then add half the stock.

Bring to a boil, add the saffron, orange zest, 2 of the thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are just becoming tender, about 10 minutes. 

Add the fennel and the tomatoes (and carrots and chickpeas if using & the rest of the stock--see Notes/Results below). Stir well and cook until the vegetables are tender, another 10 minutes or so. Stir carefully every so often to make sure everything's well coated in the saffron juices, but try not to break up the potatoes. 

For the rouille, put the garlic and a little salt into a mortar and grind to a purée. Mix in the yolks, then add the oil drop by drop, beating all the time (with a wooden spoon or electric hand beater). The mixture should thicken. Don't add the next drop of oil until the previous drop has been incorporated fully and the mixture has thickened. Add the tomato purée, lemon juice to taste, and the cayenne, then adjust the seasoning. 

Strip the leaves from the remaining thyme sprig and add to the stew. (I added some of the fennel fronds too for extra color/flavor.) Serve in soup plates with rouille spooned on top. I sometimes also serve grated Gruyère and croûtes, as you would with Provençal fish soup. 

Notes/Results: Such a great bowl of soup, and although there are a few extra steps if you make the rouille and sear fish for the top, it actually goes together fairly quickly. I used a bit less oil for cooking my vegetables because the rouille sauce has quite a lot already. If you find your veggies sticking, add a little of the stock to them and keep stirring. Speaking of the stock, I could not find where it said to add the other half of the stock in the recipe so I added it in with the fennel and tomatoes. The cooked chickpeas are a good addition to make this dish more satisfying as a meal. You wouldn't necessarily need both them and the fish on top but it worked for me. ;-) I liked subbing in the harissa in the rouille--a nice amount of spice and a little different flavor than cayenne. The rouille sort of melts into the warm broth of the soup and gives it a silkiness and a big punch of flavor.

For the tuna, I just seared it in a hot pan with a little oil, salt and pepper (raw in the middle as good ahi really should be), ;-) then I sliced it and placed it on top of the soup with the rouille drizzled on top. So good! But, it was just as appealing without any fish or would be good using another kind fish if ahi is hard to find for you. The fish makes this soup a bit more elegant for company I think, but this recipe is a keeper for me even without it. I would definitely make it again.

As mentioned, this soup will be linked up to this coming week's Mystery Box Madness Challenge at IHCC once the post goes live. You'll be able to see what mystery ingredients and recipes people chose by checking out the picture links on the post.

It's a bit quiet in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week but we have two good friends with soups to share, so let's have a look. 

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food is here with healthy Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Baby Broccoli Pasta Soup (or "Brassica Oleracea-family" Pasta Soup). She says, "This bowl of soup is all part of the Brassica oleracea family which includes cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli (broccolini to be exact). If there is only one essential tip to share for making this soup a success, it is to not over-cook the brussel sprouts and baby broccoli when they are added into the soup. A warm, soothing, and satisfying soup for autumn and the coming winter months."

Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm shares Gochujang Dak Juk - Korean Chicken Rice Soup. She says, "Congee or jook is the name for a rice porridge that is a common breakfast item in China. In Korea, it is called juk and with the addition of gochujang, I made a spiced up Korean version. I made this version a little looser consistency so it is closer to an American style soup than an Asian style porridge but this makes a perfect meal to enjoy as the temperatures start to dip."

Thanks to Tigerfish and Mireille for joining me 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 6, 2014

Spiced Feta in Olive Oil and Persian Marinated Olives: Easy and Exotic Mezze Plate Components

For a simple, light and low-effort dinner, nothing beats a mezze plate--tasty little dishes with different Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. They are also great for holiday entertaining because with just one trip to a good grocery store, you can pick up most of the components and can just plop them into bowls and onto plates. And if you have a little extra time, you can prepare a couple of simple but exotic recipes like Diana Henry's Spiced Feta in Olive Oil and Persian Marinated Olives. Perfect to have on hand to jazz up a holiday mezze spread or just enjoy yourself as part of a mezze dinner. 

I had a large chunk of good, firm sheep's milk feta leftover from a Costco run, and Henry's spiced feta recipe sounded like a winner. There is something magical about feta when it is softened slightly by olive oil and flavored up a bit before being spread on a baguette. I also fell in love with the description of the Persian olives and their mix of lemon, chile and herbs. 

Also on the mezze plate, homemade hummus (slightly darker/different in color due to it being a mix of canned chickpeas and fava beans + a liberal use of sumac, cumin and smoked paprika) and store-bought dolmas and gigantes bean salad. With mini carrots and bread for dipping/spreading, it was like a little celebration for the taste buds.  

Henry says, "It's great to have a jar of this, because you can easily mix it with dips (hummus, taramasalata, spiced carrot puree, baba ghanoush) and bread to make dinner for one, or serve it as part of a spread of mezze."   

Spiced Feta in Olive Oil
Recipe from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry
(Fills 1 (pint) jar)

3/4 cup olive oil
juice of two lemons
leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 tsp dried red chili flakes
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
9 oz feta cheese, broken into chunks

Mix olive oil with the lemon juice, thyme and chili flakes. Put the fennel seeds and both types of peppercorns in a mortar and crush them lightly so that the spices are bruised and partly broken. Add to the oil mixture. 

Put the feta into a sterilized jar (make sure the jar is not piping hot--let it cool to warm or the feta will start to melt), and pour the oil mixture over it. Seal and keep in the refrigerator. Make sure the feta is always covered with a layer of oil and eat within two weeks. 

Recipe Note: Henry says, "The olive oil "sets" around the feta because it's being stored in the refrigerator, so let it come to room temperature before serving."

Henry says, "Fresh and green tasting, these are unlike most marinated olives, and they make a good contrast to a bowlful of inky black olives. They are especially nice as part of a mezze spread..."

Persian Marinated Olives
Recipe from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry
(Fills 1 (pint) jar)

5 cups unpitted green olives in brine (I used a variety of green olives from the olive bar)
1 small unwaxed lemon
4 garlic cloves, sliced
about 6 sprigs of dill, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 green chiles, halved, seeded, and finely sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to seal

Make a little slit or cross in each olive (laborious, but it's the only way you can get the flavorings through the flesh). Cut the lemon into thin slices, then cut each slice into four.

Mix all  the ingredients together, then put into a sterilized jar, or if you will be eating them soon, just put them into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to marinate. Keep refrigerated and eat within one month (but cover with more oil to keep them this long).    

Notes/Results: Fabulous feta--the thyme, fennel and pepper give the cheese plenty of flavor without overpowering it. It has a nice level of peppery spice and spreads nicely onto the bread. I think this feta would be fab tossed into a green salad with the marinating liquid drizzled on as dressing. The olives are truly munchable--bright and sunny with the lemon's acidity and a kick from the chiles (I used serranos) at the finish. I love the mix of herbs in the olives--the dill plays the key role but you get the flavors of the cilantro and parsley as well. Perfect for munching on their own but, even better with the creamy feta. With both of these recipes, you will want to use a good quality olive oil as its flavor comes through. I will happily make both of these recipes again.

This post is linking up to "Stocking Your Exotic Pantry"--this week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can see the exotic pantry items everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.