Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Alice Network" by Kate Quinn, Served with an Herbed Goat Cheese & Veggie Baguette Sandwich

I'm so excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, a wonderful new historical fiction book about two women of different generations and the amazing female espionage agents in the first World War. I devoured this book--not wanting to put it down-- and then I devoured this Herbed Goat Cheese and Veggie Baguette, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 6, 2017)

My Review:

I really loved this book--so much so that the 500+ pages flew by, I stayed up late reading it during a busy week and I didn't want to put it down when I had to work or take care of adult life stuff. The Alice Network turned out to be a 5 star read for me--it's a skillful blend of real life--people and events with well-drawn fictional characters that brought the story to life.  

I love historical fiction, especially when it is set in World War I or World War II. I also love war-time historicals that give me a different insight or perspective and The Alice Network did just that. Although I knew about and have read and seen bits and pieces about female intelligence agents and spy networks during the wars, I was not familiar with the real-life heroine Louise de Bettignies and The Alice Network, the spy ring that she led. (There is a great afterward with details about the history and further reading suggestions and I found myself googling for historical details several times throughout and after my reading.) Kate Quinn did an amazing job in using de Bettignies's story (Alice Dubois was one of her pseudonyms) as the core of her novel while creating two strong female leads in Eve Gardiner, a young recruit sent into a spy network in France in 1915, and Charlotte (Charlie) St. Cloud, an American college student looking for her missing French cousin in 1947 where their paths intertwine. Both characters are complex, somewhat lost, feel real, and are easy to root for and the supporting characters are also interesting and nuanced. Being a wartime novel, you know things are not going to end well for everyone, so being so vested in these characters was fairly nerve-wracking as I was biting my nails any time there was the scent of danger in the air. (My right hand is not pretty!) The two stories intertwine well as the book goes back and forth between the time periods and it was interesting to look at the similarities and differences of France during the thick of WW1 and right after the end of WW2. Quinn writes with enough detail to put you right into the setting, while not bogging down the story or the action. 

If you love historical fiction, you will love this book. If you think historical fiction is boring, I still think you will love this book as it reads just as much as a suspense novel as it does as a historical. If you like books with strong female characters and relationships, you will love this book. The Alice Network is gripping, intriguing and really well done. My only complaint--I wanted more time with these characters. This is my first Kate Quinn book and although her other books are set in time periods (Italian Renaissance and First-Century Rome) that I normally don't read much of, I will definitely be checking them out. If they are anything close to as good as The Alice Network, they are winners. 

Highly recommended--one of my favorites this year.


Author Notes: Kate Quinn is a native of Southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books set in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.
Find out more about Kate at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

Even in war times, there was food to be found in The Alice Network--helped along by the restaurant that featured in the story. Examples include: dry little scones and tea sandwiches, fried liver, an English breakfast of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, bread, and canned beans, baguettes, a mention of hot dogs and coffee, lemonade, sandwiches, boeuf bourguignon, toast made with good bread, real butter and strawberry jam made with real sugar, veal and béchamel sauce, roast quail, crème brûlée, Kirschtorte, chocolate mousse, croissant, bouillabaisse, tarte alsacienne, millefeuille, vichyssoise, lobster bisque, cherries jubilee, roasts, a hamburger, more bacon, fish and chips, biscuits, and fried courgette flowers. Alcohol included brandy, whiskey, sherry, elderflower liqueur, gin martini, and absinthe with a sugar cube and water.  

Since both sandwiches and baguettes were mentioned several times, I decided to make a sandwich for my book-inspired dish. There was one described as "thick sandwiches of goat cheese and prosciutto" and another of soft goat cheese and marbled ham, I was on board with the soft goat cheese, but since I don't eat meat, I decided to fill my sandwich with zucchini, sauteed in lemon-pepper and olive oil, sliced Roma tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves. I also wanted to make an herbed goat cheese to make my sandwich pop with flavor. 

Herbed Goat Cheese & Veggie Baguette Sandwich
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup soft goat cheese, at room temp
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice + zest of lemon
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, stirring until the herbs and zest are well mixed into the goat cheese. 

Place into serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with bread or crackers or use as a sandwich spread.

To assemble sandwich: Use a mini baguette or length of a regular baguette, split. Spread both pieces of the bread with a thin layer of the herbed goat cheese spread.

Slice zucchini into ribbons with a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler. Saute in olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a generous sprinkle of lemon pepper until soft and starting to brown. Slice tomatoes, thinly, and separate 5-7 basil leaves. 

Layer the bottom baguette slice with the zucchini on top of the goat cheese, then layer on tomato slices and top tomato slices with the basil leaves. Place the other baguette slice on top and press lightly together. (Cut in half for easier eating.) Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: This is such a delicious sandwich that tastes of summer and has a ton of flavor. Spreading the herbed goat cheese on both the top and bottom baguette may seem like overkill but it's a thin layer, it tastes so good, and it helps hold all of the ingredients together. Since the sauteed zucchini and the tomatoes are so juicy, no butter or mayo is needed for moistness. I served the sandwich with grapes for sweetness, but if you wanted, you could add some apple or even plum slices to the sandwich itself. I did get hungry for bacon and other cured meats reading the book but this meatless sandwich had enough delicious flavor to satisfy me. I would happily make it again.(And since I have leftover herbed goat cheese, I probably will.) ;-)

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

I am also sharing it with Novel Foods #30, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Friday July 7th.

Finally, I'm linking up this tasty sandwich to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup 

Note: A review copy of "The Alice Network" was provided to me by the publisher Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Spanish Almond & Garlic Soup (Ajo Blanco) with Grilled Tomato Bread (Pan Con Tomate) for Food 'n Flix June: "Volver" & Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

It's Food 'n Flix time again--when a group of bloggers watch a movie--foodie or otherwise, and head to the kitchen to make a dish inspired by it. This month's Food 'n Flix film pick is the 2006 Spanish drama, Volver, starring Penélope Cruz and it's hosted by the amazing Evelyne at CulturEatz. (You can see her announcement post here.)

I watched this film on Netflix when it came out but I didn't remember that much about it, so I got it from Netflix again to watch last weekend. I find it's always fun to see a film a second time with my food googles firmly in place.

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, Volver is the story of a family of women from Alcanfor de las Infantas, a small windswept village in La Mancha. Raimunda (Cruz) now works and lives in Madrid with her husband and teenage daughter and her sister Sole lives nearby. Although Raimunda was estranged from her mother before her death (in a house fire that killed both parents a few years before the film starts), both sisters miss her. The family is full of secrets and a couple of recent deaths bring the sisters together, along with the ghost of their mother--who seems to want to tie up loose ends. I don't want to say too much more than that. It is an interesting mix of humor, sadness, tragedy, and mystery, and there is plenty of food--both foods the family cooks and food that Raimunda makes in a restaurant she 'borrows' from a traveling neighbor to feed a local film crew.

Some of the food I wrote down included: 'wafers' (they looked more like donuts or churros), something pickled (I couldn't tell what), bread, pork, vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and squash, sausages--chorizo, cookies, a menu board with omelette and blood sausage written on it, tortilla and pork salad,a brothy soup, eggs, mojitos with lemon, red peppers and jalapenos (maybe for salsa?), and a dessert that looked like a cross between flan and rice pudding. I know I missed some things--it happens when I am trying to pay attention to subtitles, but there was plenty to choose from for my film-inspired dish.

The soup in the film looked like a comforting chicken broth, but I decided to go with a classic Spanish cold soup for the warm and quite humid weather we have been having this week. I have made a lot of different versions of gazpacho over the years, as well as its cousin, salmorejo--a creamy tomato soup, but I have been wanting to try ajo blanco--Spanish almond and garlic soup. I thought since the film involves the mother's ghost returning to help her daughters, the white soup would represent her ghostly presence. I found a recipe I liked in Sauver Magazine, from Claudia Roden, one of my favorite Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cookbook authors.

The soup is meant to be garnished with green grapes and olive oil and I thought some Spanish Marcona almonds would be lovely on top, along with smoky paprika for color. To go with the Ajo Blanco, I made one of my favorite classic Spanish tapas; Pan Con Tomate or grilled tomato bread.

Sauver said, "Pungent raw garlic shines in this bracing, no-cook Spanish soup of garlic, bread, and puréed almonds. The dish, one of Spain’s oldest cold soups (which include gazpacho and salmorejo), dates to the eighth century. This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain (Ecco, 2011). Fresh grapes, a traditional garnish for the dish, add a touch of sweetness."
Spanish Almond & Garlic Soup (Ajo Blanco)
Very Slightly Adapted from
(Serves 4)

2 cups ice-cold water + more if needed
1 cup blanched and peeled almonds (or slivered almonds)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 baguette (about 3oz), crusts removed and torn into pieces
1/4 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
1 1/4 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 drop almond extract
sea salt to taste
halved green grapes, Marcona almonds, olive oil, and smoked paprika to garnish

Combine 1 1/2 cups of the water, almonds, garlic, and bread in a food processor or blender and let sit until bread is softened, about 4–5 minutes. Purée until smooth. With the motor running, add the remaining water, the oil, vinegar, almond extract, and salt to taste and purée until the soup is emulsified. 

Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle with more oil; garnish with grapes and sliced Marcona almonds and smoked paprika, if you like. Eat while soup is cold. 


Catalan Tomato Bread
Slightly Adapted from
(Makes 8 to 10 Toasts)

1 long baguette roll, cut into 3/4" slices
2 large garlic cloves, halved-crosswise
3 to 4 small ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise
3 to 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt, to taste

In batches of 4 to 5 pieces of bread, grill bread on a lightly-oiled grill pan, over high heat, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until grill marks form.  

Remove bread from heat and immediately rub 1 side of each slice with cut side of a garlic half, then rub with cut side of a tomato half, using 1 tomato half for 1 to 2 slices of bread and allowing most of pulp to be absorbed by bread (discard remainder of garlic and tomato halves). Brush bread with oil, then sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 

Notes/Results: This is a pungent and quite tasty cold soup. It's rich and satisfying from the almonds and bread and the green grapes and olive oil are a nice fruity contrast--as is the pan con tomate, if you serve it with the soup. Because it's so rich and flavorful, a small amount as a starter on a hot day or humid evening is perfect with the tomato breads to dip and enjoy. I would happily make it again.

The deadline for this round of Food 'n Flix is Wednesday, June 28th and Evelyne will be rounding up the dishes on her blog soon after. If you missed out this month and like food, movies and foodie movies, join us for Food 'n Flix July when we will be watching the 80s classic Dirty Dancing, hosted by Chef Sarah Elizabeth.

We have a few delicious dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look!

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog shared Sprouted Lentil Salad and said, "Lentil sprouts which are crunchy, juicy, pleasing to eat, and will blend well with just about any kind of salad veggies. How do they taste? They are mild, delicious, and satisfying. … This salad is so tasty; I would make this for company without hesitation. It is also naturally gluten free, making it a great salad to bring to a BBQ or other summer gathering."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made Pan Bagnat and said, "Today I wanted to share a sandwich that had been an old favorite  of ours quite a while back. I'm not sure why I quit making it but something inspired me to make it for our lunch this week. Wednesday evening I made a loaf of French bread in preparation for Thursday's lunch. ... You can add turkey or anything you'd like per your taste preferences.  It's a great lunch - lots of carbs but you wouldn't want to have it every week."

Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen brought Roasted Broccoli and Apple Salad and said,
"It was lovely with lots of varying textures and bursts of flavours. We both really enjoyed the freshness of this salad. It was also very substantial that we did not need to eat anything else later."
Here at Kahakai Kitchen I made Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad and loved the bright flavors of the dressing and cooling herbs and the combination of crisp beans, sugar snap, and snow peas, along with the peanuts and noodles. Satisfying by itself and also god with some protein added (I put a scoop of ahi poke--cubed raw ahi tuna salad) on top of the leftovers.

Mahalo to everyone who joined in this week! 

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 the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's 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 Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

It's been another long week--warm and humid weather too. So I was craving something simple, fresh and cooling for dinner and I found it in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Herby, Peanutty, Herby Salad. I have been wanting to make this salad since my pal Kim made it the first week we cooked with Hugh at I Heart Cooking Clubs. 

Full of fresh herbs and veggies, with enough noodles (I used gluten-free brown rice noodles) and flavorful dressing to make it seem decadent, plus roasted peanuts for crunch, it was exactly what I was looking for.

Hugh says, "A bright and zingy dressing, handfuls of herbs and crunchy peanuts pack loads of flavour into simple, easy-to-cook noodles. If you can only find salted peanuts, rinse the salt off and pat them dry. When it comes to the fresh herbs, the mint’s pretty much a must; the other two are desirable but optional."

Herby, Peanutty Noodly Salad
From River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup raw or roasted unsalted peanuts
7-8 oz egg noodles or Thai rice noodles (I used brown rice fettuccine noodles)
5 oz French beans, snow peas, or sugar snap peas, or a combination (I used all three)
1/2 cucumber
6 spring onions, trimmed

about 12 basil leaves (ideally Thai basil), roughly torn
small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)

2 Tbsp rice vinegar
grated zest and juice of 1 lime, or ½ lemon
1/2–1 small red chile, finely chopped (I used Sriracha instead)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp soy sauce, plus extra to serve

If using raw peanuts, roast on a tray in the oven (350 degrees F.) for 8–10 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool, then bash lightly to break them up a bit.

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and rinse under the cold tap. Add to the dressing and toss until well coated. Leave to cool completely in the dressing.

Cook the beans and/or mangetout in a pan of lightly salted boiling water till just tender and still a bit crunchy, 3–5 minutes for beans, 2–3 minutes for mangetout. Drain, refresh in cold water and drain well.

Halve the cucumber lengthways and slice thinly. Finely cut the spring onions on the diagonal.

Toss the cooled noodles with the peanuts, cucumber, spring onions, beans and/or mangetout and herbs. Serve with soy sauce on the side, for everyone to help themselves.

Notes/Results: This salad with its bright flavors and my favorite herbs (cilantro, Thai basil and mint) made me very happy. It goes together quickly--especially if you are lazy like me and cook the green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas together in a large pot, lift them out with a strainer, and then use the same boiling water to cook the pasta. I also left my herbs mostly whole and used canned roasted peanuts. Rather than serve it with extra soy sauce, I liked it with extra lime. This was the perfect dinner for a humid night and I am looking forward to the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. I will happily make this salad again. 

Linking this salad up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is A Pinch of This, A Dash of That... Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes featuring herbs and spices. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

I am also linking this delicious salad up to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Gypsy Moth Summer" by Julia Fierro, Served with Shrimp Cocktail with Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette

I'm excited to be a stop today on the TLC Book Tour for The Gypsy Moth Summer, a novel by Julia Fierro. I'm pairing my book review with an tasty appetizer of Shrimp Cocktail with Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette inspired by my reading, and there is a giveaway for a copy of the book at the bottom of the post. 

Publisher's Blurb:

It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island–dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island’s leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.

It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall–only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family–returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in “The Castle,” the island’s grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.

Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island’s bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island–and its patriarch, the Colonel–be to blame?

As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie’s and Brooks’ passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.

Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders; a plotting aged matriarch and her husband, a demented military patriarch; and a troubled young boy, each seeking his or her own refuge, escape and revenge, The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (June 6, 2017)

My Review:

Note to self: Don't book a trip to Avalon Island, off the coast of Long Island, especially when there is a gypsy moth invasion. Yuck and double yuck! I learned a bit more about gypsy moths, their habits, noise, and their unending excrement than I really wanted to in this book--although it certainly helped to build a tense and seething atmosphere for the story. If you think that the gypsy moths sound bad, you haven't met the citizens of Avalon Island, a community full of dark secrets and neighbors who are comprised of the haves and the have-nots and who all have some very racist views and prejudices in common. Tensions are already high when Leslie Day Marshall moves back to town with her biracial family after her mother's death. There's the gypsy moths covering every surface, trouble with Grudder Aviation--the main employer of the community, and a rash of cancers that have struck both young and old. Leslie's husband Jules, is an African-American landscape architect who is leery of being on the overtly WASP-y island and concerned about the safety of his children--teenage Brooks and little Eva, but also anxious to get his hands on the garden around Leslie's family home, known as "The Castle.

The Gypsy Moth Summer is set in 1992 and the author pulls in many of the signs of the times with the foods, music, movies, styles, and current events that I found enjoyable to read and think back on. The story is told primarily from five points of view--Leslie and Jules, Maddie, a local teen and their neighbor, Veronica, Maddie's grandmother, and Dom, her brother. There are also quite a few secondary characters--Maddie's circle of friends, Leslie and Jules's son Brooks, Maddie's parents and cousins, and The Colonel--Veronica's husband and Maddie's grandfather. Everyone seems to be dealing with something or keeping something secret--from domestic violence and abuse, health and mental health issues, drugs and addiction, bullying, and sexuality. Combine all that with battling the rampant caterpillars and the environmental issues caused by the aviation factory and Avalon Island is pretty messed up. It's also a lot of people and issues to keep track of, but the author does a good job in weaving everything together. I found myself immediately attaching to and liking Maddie and Jules, however the other main characters are not as deeply drawn, or as likable and their motivations are not as clear. With some of the characters and situations (and the gypsy moths), the book is a bit like a train wreck--you want to look away but you just can't, and while I may not have liked them, I did want to know what happened to everyone. This made the 400 pages fly by rather quickly--the pacing mostly worked for me although I found the ending to be somewhat abrupt. 

The Gypsy Moth Summer is not a light and happy summer read, it covers some dark subjects, is thought provoking, and it made me uncomfortable at times. It won't appeal to everyone--there is sex and drug use and some instances of violence, but if you like a deeper read for your summer book stack, it's a worthy addition. 

Author Notes: Julia Fierro is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to more than 4,000 writers in New York City, Los Angeles and online. Her first novel Cutting Teeth, was praised by The Boston Globe (“at once modern and timeless”) and The New Yorker (“a comically energetic début”). A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Julia lives in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

You can connect with Julia via her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Food Inspiration:

There was a lot of food mentioned in The Gypsy Moth Summer, everything from common snack foods and beverages of the 90s to more elegant country club and society party fare. Examples include: candy and caramel apples, chicken wings, cotton candy, zeppole balls, pizza and hero sandwiches at a carnival, roast chicken with lemons, Chinese takeout, pastries and espresso, cheese fries, mention of the Feast of the Seven Fishes with sardines, squid, octopus, baccala--cod, heart-shaped flapjacks, chocolate babka, spaghetti with marinara fried zucchini, Wonder Bread, pot roast, corned beef brisket, Sarah Lee pound cake with Cool Whip, swirled pink and green sherbet, peaches, sweet corn, raspberries and blueberries, strawberry-rhubarb pie, and chicken cutlet sandwiches. There was a progressive dinner with appetizers of smoked salmon, whitefish salad, chicken liver pate, and multiple kinds of savory cheese puffs, a main course of filet Mignon, biscuits, and gravy "to die for," and desserts of Red velvet cake, coffee cake, tiramisu, mint green petit fours, brownies, blondies and eclairs. There were Cool Ranch Doritos, ham and cheese Hot Pockets, mini egg rolls, Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies, and kiwi-strawberry Snapple, and an afternoon tea of Harrod's oolong tea, cucumber and other assorted tea sandwiches, and chocolate-covered bananas, strawberries and marshmallows. I'll stop here but I could go on and on with the food, not to mention all of the alcohol and cocktails like martinis and Manhattans, strawberry coolers, mimosas and rum and cokes--to name just a few.  

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to go with the popular party, buffet, country club appetizer of shrimp cocktail. It was mentioned a couple of times in the book--including a society matron standing at the buffet with, "A jumbo shrimp tail stuck out of her mouth." Even though shrimp or prawn cocktails have been around for decades, I am never unhappy to find a platter or shrimp and a zesty sauce at a party. I had a bag of jumbo wild shrimp in my freezer and looked online to see if there was something more exciting than the usual red cocktail sauce. I found a recipe for shrimp cocktail with a Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette and thought it sounded good--and it even matches the colors of the book cover a bit. 

Just serve with cooked jumbo shrimp--you can boil of grill the shrimp yourself, or buy them already cooked. Here's a simple recipe for a party-sized platter of shrimp for shrimp cocktail.

Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette
From Alison Attenborough via 
(Makes about 3/4 of a cup of dressing

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil

kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Combine lemon juice, shallot, tarragon, and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serve with cooked shrimp, de-shelled and de-veined, tail left on. Extra dressing can be stored, tightly-covered, for about a week in the fridge.

Do Ahead Tip: Vinaigrette can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Notes/Results: I love both lemon and tarragon, so this sauce was perfect for me. The bright and tangy lemon flavor and cooling, bittersweet tarragon worked well with the sweet shrimp and the leftover vinaigrette will make a great dressing too. I find it a nice change from the classic. If you are a shrimp cocktail 'purist'-you could serve this dressing alongside a classic red shrimp cocktail sauce as another option, and if you aren't a shrimp fan, you could use this sauce as a salad dressing or a dip for raw  or grilled vegetables. I will definitely make it gain.

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy and a giveaway copy of "The Gypsy Moth Summer" was provided to me by the publisher, St. Martin's Press, and TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Gypsy Moth Summer to give away (U.S./Canada addresses only, please) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite food from the 90s or your favorite party appetizer.
There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Julia Fierro
(@JuliaFierro), and/or Publisher St. Martin's Press (@StMartinsPress) on Twitter. (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me, the author, or publisher on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is 12:00 AM (HST) Friday, June 30th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!