Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Healthier Honey-Walnut Shrimp, Served with Sugar Snap Peas & Brown Rice for Food 'N Flix July: Eat Drink Man Woman

I am hosting Food 'N Flix this month (you can see my announcement post here) and I'm so happy to share Eat Drink Man Woman (one of my very favorite classic foodie films) with the group. Of course I am sneaking in (the day before the deadline) to my own party as usual. ;-) I re-watched the film early in the month and decided on my dish, it just took me this much time to actually get around to cooking it.


If you have not seen this sweet and funny Ang Lee film about a widowed father and semi-retired chef and his three very different daughters, all who share their 'secrets' by announcing them at the elaborate weekly family dinners he cooks for them, do give it a go. It is subtitled--which I know isn't everyone's cup of tea--but the story is easy enough to get caught up in (especially if you have seen its Hispanic remake Tortilla Soup) and the food is plentiful and drool-worthy. 


You would think that with the amount of beautiful food that Mr. Chu creates, I could have found a fancy Taiwanese-style dish to make from the film. But sadly, my dish is not Taiwanese--it's an Americanized Hong Kong-style dish that just happens to be my guilty pleasure go-to at my favorite Chinese restaurant; Honey-Walnut Shrimp. Truly a guilty pleasure because between all of the saturated fat and sugar contained in this dish, it isn't something I indulge in often. Still, when I am 'eating my feelings'--rarely is there anything that satisfies as much as this dish. It has some slight variations depending on the restaurant, but generally it is slightly crispy, lightly battered shrimp with sugary candied walnuts tossed in a creamy (usually mayonnaise-based) sauce. I have been toying with making a healthier version for a while now and this seemed like a great push to actually do it. So, definitely it's different form the shrimp dishes served in the movie, but a dish that still says family, comfort and love to me. ;-)


I tend to prefer a lighter sauce to begin with in my Honey-Walnut Shrimp. I have had this dish where it is a big glop of mayo and frankly that's a little too guilty and WAY too much mayonnaise for my tastes--I want it glossy and creamy, not gloppy. I decided to lighten it up but still keep all of the elements--sweet-savory-crispy-creamy--that I love in the original. This version is yogurt based--although I left in a bit of the mayo for texture, and I added a touch of heat to keep it interesting. I also cut down on the white sugar that usually ends up in the dish, using honey and maple syrup to sweeten. I kept the shrimp lightly battered and sauteed the shrimp in coconut oil rather than deep-frying them, and I used a variation of Ellie Krieger's healthier Maple-Glazed Walnuts. It ends up being still a pleasure and an indulgence, but served with brown rice and steamed sugar snap peas, it becomes a healthier, much less guilt-inducing dish.


Healthier Honey-Walnut Shrimp
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen 
(Serves 4)

Sauce: 
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (nonfat or 2%)

2 Tbsp light mayonnaise (I used Just Mayo vegan mayo)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Sriracha 
(or other chile paste of choice to taste)
small pinch of salt

small pinch of black pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp honey, or to taste


Shrimp 1 lb large or extra-large shrimp, shelled and de-veined, rinsed and patted dry
1 egg + 1 egg white
1/4 cup mochiko (or all purpose) flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
coconut oil for frying

Garnish:
Maple-Honey Glazed Walnuts (see recipe below)
green onions, sliced 

To Serve:
Cooked brown rice
steamed sugar snap peas
 
Sauce: 
In a medium-large bowl, mix yogurt, light mayo, lemon juice, rice vinegar, garlic powder, Sriracha, salt, pepper and honey together until smooth and well-blended. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your preferred level of sweet/tangy/spice/salt. Set aside. 

Shrimp: 
In a small shallow bowl, whisk egg and egg white together until smooth and well-mixed. In a second small shallow bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch salt, pepper, and paprika and stir to thoroughly combine.

To large frying pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil--enough to cover the bottom completely. Heat over medium high heat until hot and a bit of the egg mixture dropped in begins to bubble.

Dip the shrimp into the egg mixture, lightly shaking off any excess and then dredge into the four mixture, again, shaking off the excess. A few shrimp at a time, saute them in the hot oil for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, or until the breading turns slightly golden and the shrimp are pink and cooked through but not over-cooked. Time will vary based on the size of the shrimp used. Transfer the cooked shrimp to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Continue until you have cooked all the shrimp. 

Add the hot shrimp, and 1/2 the Maple-Honey Glazed Walnuts to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

To Serve: 
Place the shrimp over brown rice. Garnish with the remaining glazed walnuts and sliced green onions. Serve with steamed sugar snap peas if desired.

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Maple-Honey Glazed Walnuts
Adapted from Ellie Krieger via Food Network
(Makes 1 Cup)

1 cup walnut halves
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp maple syrup 
1 pinch of sea salt

Preheat a dry skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the walnuts, maple syrup and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until syrup is caramelized and nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly and stir to separate.


Notes/Results: Oh yeah, this made me happy. Much healthier and cheaper than getting this dish at a restaurant, and although there are a few steps, it's not that hard or time consuming to put together. I had my brown rice, warm in the rice cooker and my lightly steamed sugar snap peas at the ready, so the dish came together pretty quickly. (Thanks to frozen, easy-peel wild shrimp, defrosted over night). I will admit that with the lightening up, the addition of Sriracha, mochiko (rice flour), rice vinegar, etc., that this dish isn't traditional Chinese cooking but the flavor and the pleasure was all there. It was creamy and sweet enough to match the classic dish, but I liked the spicy notes of the hot sauce and the tangy essence that the yogurt and vinegar gave it. The sugar snap peas are optional, but they add some color and a nice crunchy texture that pairs well with the creamy shrimp. I will happily make this dish again. 


The deadline for submission for this round of Food 'Flix is Wednesday, July 29th,
and I'll be rounding up all of the Food 'N Flix entries here at Kahakai Kitchen very shortly after. 

If you missed July's Food 'N Flix event but you like food, films, and foodie films, consider joining us in August, when my friend, the lovely Debra of Eliot's Eats will be hosting with August: Osage County
 
 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Poached Salmon with Tomato Béarnaise Sauce

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are celebrating the five French Mother Sauces (Sauce Bechamel, Sauce Espagnole, Sauce Veloute, Sauce Hollandaise, and Sauce Tomate); the basic French sauces that most other sauces come from. Since we were to make a mother sauce or one of its children--a sauce derived from one of the five, I opened up my copy of Essential Pepin and went straight to the Basics chapter. Hollandaise sauce is one of my favorites, especially on top of Eggs Benedict, so I thought that I would start there. One of its most popular child or small sauces is Béarnaise Sauce with white wine vinegar and tarragon. Jacques had a Tomato-Flavored Béarnaise listed that immediately caught my eye. 


So if the Tomato Béarnaise Sauce is a variation of a child sauce, I suppose that makes it Hollandaise's grandchild?! In any case, this multi-generational sauce was destined for piece of poached fish. In keeping all things Pépin, I used his poached salmon recipe from the same book. And, because I am lazy and the days have been hot and humid, I chose to make Chef Pépin's Blender Hollandaise instead of lingering over a double-boiler and a whisk.  
 
Jacques Pepin Technique for Poached Salmon 
Adapted from Essential Pepin 

Bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil in a large stainless steel saucepan. Add the salmon to the pan and bring the water back to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn off the heat and let the salmon steep in the liquid for 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly underdone in the center at the point; adjust the cooking time to accommodate thicker or thinner fillets and your personal preference.

Remove fillets from the liquid with a large spatula or skimmer, drain them well, and place on warm plates. Sponge up any liquid that collects around the fillets with paper towels, then spoon the sauce over and around the fillets and serve.

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The sauces: 

Jacques says, "Blender hollandaise is a cinch to make (20 to 30 seconds from start to finish) and is very good, although not so delicate and light as classic hollandaise; it has a firmer, tighter texture. The butter must be hot enough to cook the yolks. If you cook the butter until brown, the hollandaise sauce becomes a hazelnut sauce, so-called for its nutty taste." 

Blender Hollandaise 
Adapted from Essential Pepin 
(Makes about 1 ½ cups)

3/4 lb (3 sticks) of unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper 
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and heat until bubbling but not brown. Put the yolks, water, salt, pepper, cayenne to taste and lemon juice in a blender, cover, and turn the blender to high. Immediately, with the blender running, add the hot butter in a steady stream. Serve warm.


Béarnaise Sauce: 
Combine 2 tablespoons dry white wine, 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar, (I used white wine vinegar and added 1 tablespoon of finely minced fresh tarragon to the pan) and 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until all but about a tablespoon of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool, then stir into the hollandaise, along with 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh tarragon and parsley. 

Tomato-Flavored Béarnaise:
Peel and seed 1 ripe tomato, then coarsely chop it. Melt 2 or 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small skillet. Add the tomato and sauté for 3 minutes over medium heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon tomato paste and bring to a boil. Mash well and let cool, then mix into the Béarnaise sauce.
  

My Tomato Béarnaise Sauce:
Since I was making the Blender Hollandiase and thought it best to add it last, I made the Béarnaise Sauce up to the point of adding the Hollandaise, and then in the same pan, added the ingredients for the Tomato-Flavored Béarnaise and followed the cooking instructions. While the sauce cooled, I made the Blender Hollandiase and once it was finished, I stirred my cooled Tomato Béarnaise into it, along with the chopped fresh tarragon and parsley and served it warm over the poached fish.

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Notes/Results: By making the hollandaise in the blender (I made about third of the recipe amount) and combining the other sauces into one pan, I probably violated all the basic laws of French sauce preparation, but it certainly came together quickly and deliciously on a hot evening so I have no regrets. ;-) The sauce was rich, silky, buttery with the bright acidity from the tomato and vinegar keeping it from being cloying over the rich salmon. Poaching the (King) salmon resulted in very tender, moist fish which was perfect to compliment the flavorful sauce. Since the sauce and salmon are both heavy, I dressed some sliced baby romaine and cherry tomatoes with a touch of lemon juice and served the salmon and sauce over it. The sauce acted as a dressing for the salad as well as the fish and lightened things up slightly. Although it took a couple of burners and a blender to make, the time in the kitchen was pretty minimal for such a great dish--always a bonus in my book. I will happily make the sauces, the poached fish, and this entire dish again.

 
You can see what sauces everyone made and how they used them by checking out the picture links of The Mother of All Sauces! post at IHCC.

 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Orphan #8" by Kim Van Alkemade, Served with Poached Whole Plums with Vanilla-Honey Sauce & Labneh {Recipe}

Today's TLC Book Tour stop features a review of Orphan #8, a historical novel by Kim Van Alkemade. I am pairing this intense and compelling book with a simple and comforting recipe for Poached Whole Plums with Vanilla-Honey Sauce & Labneh, a recipe inspired by my reading.


Publisher's Blurb:

A stunning debut novel of historical fiction set in the forgotten world of New York City’s Jewish orphanages

In 1919, four-year-old Rachel Rabinowitz is placed in the Hebrew Infant Home where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research on the children. Dr. Solomon subjects Rachel to an experimental course of X-ray treatments that establish the doctor’s reputation while risking the little girl’s health. Now it’s 1954, and Rachel is a nurse in the hospice wing of the Old Hebrews Home when elderly Dr. Solomon becomes her patient. Realizing the power she holds over the helpless doctor, Rachel embarks on a dangerous experiment of her own design. Before the night shift ends, Rachel will be forced to choose between forgiveness and revenge.

Inspired by true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful novel about the human capacity to harm—and to love. 

Paperback: 416 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 4, 2015)

My Review: 
 
Orphan #8 is not an easy read. There are pages that will make you angry, there are pages that will make you weep. The medical experiments conducted on innocent children who were treated as chattel by doctors were horrifying, and while I wasn't surprised to learn that testing like this actually happened, it isn't something I knew anything about. The effects of the experiments on the main character Rachel, both physical and mental, were devastating and followed her through her life. The story weaves between Rachel's childhood--first in the Hebrew Infant Home and then in the Children's Home, how she made her way into adulthood, and the present day of the novel, where as a hospice nurse she comes across the doctor who lead the X-ray treatments that altered her life in so many ways. Guarding her secrets closely--alopecia due to radiation from the X-rays, now covered by a wig and drawn-in eyebrows, and her sexual orientation and long-term relationship--very much a taboo in the 1950s, has left Rachel feeling isolated from the few co-workers, family, and friends she has. That isolation, combined with her history of abandonment--her mother's death, father's disappearance, and repeated separation and emotional distance from her older brother, have given her a desperate craving for love and acceptance. When she finds her health at serious risk and learns that her childhood  'treatments' from Dr. Solomon were in fact experiments rather than curative, and with no caring or even remorse from the dying doctor, she is pushed towards vengeance. 

Orphan #8 is not a happy book in so many ways however, there is still a strong thread of hope throughout the story that pulled me along. Despite the many reasons Rachel might be completely broken, she has an amazing strength to her and a fighting spirit that is easy to admire. The author has painted a vivid and interesting picture of life in a Jewish-American orphanage, the war years, lesbianism in New York in the early to mid-1900s, and medical ethics--all interesting and skillfully woven together into one compelling story. I always want to know where the inspiration for a story comes from, particularly when it is inspired by true events so I found the afterword of the book particularly intriguing. The fact that this story came about from some of the experiences of the author's family was fascinating to me and made me want to know more. Be ready for Orphan #8 to wring the emotions out of you, not a light read, but it is fascinating and well worth the effort.

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Author Notes: Kim van Alkemade was born in New York. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in literary journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, So to Speak, and CutBank. She teaches writing at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
 
Find out more about Kim at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Food Inspiration:

Food isn't the first thought in reading this book so coming up with a dish inspired by it was a bit challenging as nothing was calling out to me between the orphanage food, hospital meals, and Rachel's tuna salad and cracker dinners. There were a couple of instances that as a child, Rachel was eating stewed fruit (prunes and peaches) and it was of comfort to her. I am not a stewed prune fan, but I do love fresh plums and I happened to have pinned a recipe for Poached Whole Plums with Brown Sugar Syrup on The Kitchn. I think it puts a modern and more appetizing spin on a bowl of stewed fruit but keeps the simple, sweet comfort-food factor that drew me to the description.


There is a beauty in serving the whole plum in the dish and since the poached fruit becomes so tender, it is easy to eat around the pit. Instead of brown sugar syrup, I wanted to use vanilla and honey to sweeten, along with a touch of cinnamon. Rather than the suggested ice cream, I served my plums with honey-sweetened labneh (thickened yogurt). It makes an excellent breakfast, as well as a healthy dessert. 


Poached Whole Plums with Honey-Vanilla Sauce
Adapted From/Inspired by The Kitchn
(Serves 2)

1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp honey

1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 small pinch lemon zest (just a few strands- no more than 1/4 teaspoon)
2 medium ripe plums


Place water, honey and cinnamon stick into a small lidded saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the honey. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, then place plums in the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue simmering for another 8-10 minutes, until the liquid has thickened. Turn off the heat and allow the plums to cool for about 5 minutes. 


To serve: Place a scoop (about 1/2 cup) of sweetened labneh or thickened Greek yogurt (To serve with the slightly tart plums I used 1 teaspoon honey per 1/2 cup of labneh) into an individual serving bowl. Nestle one of the plums next to the labneh and drizzle with the vanilla honey sauce. Enjoy!


Notes/Results: This is the kind of recipe that makes your kitchen smell incredible with the fruit, cinnamon, and honey bubbling away. The result is a great combination of sweet and tangy--and total comfort food. Simple to make and a pleasure to eat, I will definitely make it again.


Note: A review copy of "Orphan #8" 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.

 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bow-Tie Pasta with Fried Eggs and Gruyère {One Photo Friday}

Quick comfort food. There isn't much that's better. This Jacques Pépin recipe is simple, quick to the table, and with Gruyère cheese melting into the pasta, plus a couple of fried eggs on top, it's pretty perfect.  


Jacques says, "This is truly one of my favorite dishes to eat at home. Gloria and I like our pasta simply seasoned with the best possible olive oil, salt, pepper, chives, and Gruyère cheese, which melts from the heat of the pasta. Make sure that the serving plates--we use soup plates--are very hot."

I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe--noted in red below.

Bow-Tie Pasta with Fried Eggs and Gruyère
Adapted from Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way
(Serves 4) 

12 oz bow-tie pasta (farfalle) pasta (about 6 cups) (I used mini farfalle)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives (I used fresh tarragon)
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Garnish:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
8 large eggs (preferably organic)
About 1 1/3 cups (7 oz) grated Swiss (Gruyère or Emmenthaler)

Cook pasta to package instructions or until it is done to your liking. Meanwhile put the herbs, salt, and pepper in a bowl large enough to hold the cooked pasta. When the pasta is ready, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add it to the bowl. Drain the pasta well, add it to the bowl, and toss well.

For the Garnish: Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in each of two 6-inch non-stick skillets. Break 2 of the eggs into each skillet and cook, covered, over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes or just until the whites are set. Spoon a 6-ounce ladle of pasta into each of  two warmed plates and sprinkle on a heaping spoonful of cheese. Place the two eggs on top of the pasta, add a little more cheese, then a half ladle of pasta. (The egg yolks should still be visible through the top layer of the pasta.) Cook the remaining 4 eggs and assemble the two remaining plates in the same way. Serve immediately. 

You have to have at least one photo showing the egg yolk drizzling into the pasta.

Notes/Results: A bowl of pasta with melted cheese and herbs is good and almost always hits the spot, but nestle an egg into it, letting that silky yolk coat the cheesy pasta... and now you have something special. This is a great little recipe that can be adapted to whatever pasta, cheese and herbs you have in your pantry and pulled out whenever you want something comforting and delicious without a lot of effort. Jacques called for chives in his version but I love tarragon with eggs and had some in my fridge so I used it instead. Mini pasta is always more fun to eat--I love these little bow ties. I made a half batch of this dish and I cut the amount of oil and cheese down just a touch. I probably could have gotten along with just one egg--but it did give me plenty of that liquid gold to stir into my pasta. ;-) I will happily make this again.  


I'm linking this post to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's Fast Food Jacques's Way this week and we are making Pépin recipes that take 30 minutes or less to cook. You can see what quick recipes everyone made by checking out the photo links on the post.

 {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 (usually) one photo of it with my iPhone--no muss/no fuss.}  
 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ratatouille with Penne: Easy Summery Veggie Pasta Dinner {One Photo Friday}

It's July's Mystery Box Madness Challenge week at I Heart Cooking Clubs where we make a dish from Jacques Pépin or any former IHCC chef that must include at least three mystery ingredients out of a list of ten. 

July's Mystery Box Madness Ingredients:
  
Chicken
Seaweed
Sesame Seeds 
*Parsley 
Mozzarella Cheese 
*Pasta 
Mango
Brown Sugar
*Zucchini
*Mint 

Since zucchini is so abundant this time of year, I used it as my starting and quickly zeroed in on Jacques Pépin's Ratatouille with Penne from More Fast Food My Way. In addition to the zucchini, the recipe included penne pasta, and it had the option of topping the dish with fresh basil or parsley, my third MBM ingredient. When I went out to the lanai to chop the Italian parsley and basil, I grabbed some mint, adding a fourth MBM ingredient to the mix.
   
A photo sans cheese--so you can see and appreciate the color and beauty of the veggies.

I made a few changes to the recipe (noted in red below), based on what I had on hand and what I like (extra garlic & capers whenever I can add them). ;-) With fresh local eggplant, onion, zucchini and herbs, this is a perfect easy dinner for a summer night.

Jacques says, "Ratatouille, the classic vegetable stew of Provence, is featured in all the small restaurants along its coast. Vegetables for ratatouille are usually prepared separately and not combined until the end. Here everything is cooked together. I don't bother to peel the eggplant, but do so if you wish. I recommend Japanese eggplants for this dish. Long and thin, they are firmer and have fewer seeds than regular eggplants. 

Ratatouille is generally served on its own, at room temperature, sprinkled with the best-quality olive oil, olives, and parsley. I use it as a pasta sauce, tossing it with cooked penne before garnishing it with olive oil, olives, grated Parmesan cheese, and parsley or basil."

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Ratatouille with Penne
Adapted from More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pépin
(Makes 4 Generous Servings

Ratatouille:
1 long Japanese eggplant or small regular eggplant (about 10 oz), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small firm zucchini (about 1/2 lb total), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 cubanelle or long Italian peppers (about 1/2 lb total), seeded & cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 5 red and yellow mini sweet peppers)
2 cups cubed (3/4-inch) onions
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped garlic (I used 3 Tbsp)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes in sauce (I used fire-roasted in garlic & basil)
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil


Penne:
salt
3/4 lb penne pasta
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil (I omitted the extra oil--didn't feel it needed it)
1/2 cup small pitted oil-cured black olives (I used Kalamata olives & halved them)

(I added 2 Tbsp capers)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
A few fresh basil or parsley leaves, for garnish (I used parsley, basil & mint leaves)


For the ratatouille: Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Mix well, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook gently for 30 minutes. If the mixture still has a lot of liquid, reduce it by boiling, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature. You will have about 5 cups.

For the penne: Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the penne and stir it in well, so it doesn't stick together. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is cooked to your liking.
 
Meanwhile, combine the ratatouille, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and olive oil in a large glass bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes to warm it through. Drain the pasta and add it to the ratatouille in the bowl. Sprinkle on the olives and the cheese and mix well. Divide among four hot plates and garnish with the herbs and grated cheese. Pass more at the table.

Note: To serve the ratatouille on its own, spoon it into a serving dish, drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with 1/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives or kalamata olives, and garnish with 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley.

And a photo of how the dish looks with freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Notes/Results: A dish for a happy belly, satisfying, comforting and great flavor. I am glad I punched up the garlic and threw in the capers--they added to the dish without overpowering it. This is an easy recipe that cooks away without fuss or a need for standing over the stove and you can cook the pasta and prepare the garnishes while the veggies are simmering. It is also a good base recipe, you can add whatever veggies you like. Simple and a good use for your farmers market, garden or CSA bounty, I would make it again.  

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You can see what mystery ingredients, recipes and chefs other participants chose for July's Mystery Box Madness Challenge by checking out the picture links on the post at the IHCC website.

 
{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 (usually) one photo of it with my iPhone--no muss/no fuss.}   
 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Olivay" by Deborah Reed, Served with Bread Topped with Fromager d'Affinois and Plum Chia Seed Jam {Recipe}

On today's TLC Book Tour Stop, I am reviewing the psychological suspense novel, Olivay by Deborah Reed. I'm accompanying my review with a recipe for Plum Chia Seed Jam, paired with one of my favorite cheeses--Fromager d'Affinois, topping slices of cranberry walnut bread--a dish inspired by the book.


Publisher's Blurb:

We don’t believe that our lives can change in an instant—until they do.

Olivay, widowed for a year and sleepwalking through life, meets Henry by chance. She takes him to her Los Angeles loft, thinking it will just be for the night. But the following morning, bombs detonate across the city; mayhem and carnage fill the streets; and her loft is covered in broken glass and her own blood. Henry is skittish, solicitous, and strangely distracted. Who is this man she’s marooned with as the city goes on lockdown? Why is she catching him in lie after lie? Is he somehow connected to her husband’s death and the terrorist attacks outside?

With eloquent and suspenseful prose, Olivay explores the wreckage of loss and the collision of grief, desire, and terror in its aftermath. As the characters get pushed outside their comfort zones, forced to walk the thin line between destruction and salvation, Olivay keeps readers guessing what will become of Olivay and Henry until the very end.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (July 7, 2015)

My Review: 

The premise of this book immediately hooked me-coming off of the Boston Marathon trial, the many threat advisories that come up for events and major holidays like the recent July 4th weekend, and the current focus on 'lone wolf' terrorists. It is almost impossible to turn on the news and hear these kind of stories and warnings and not feel at least a frisson of anxiety. Olivay brings those fears close with the story of a woman faced with the dawning realization that the attractive man she has just met could be involved in heinous terrorist acts. Olivay, the title character, has had the very worst happen already when her husband was killed in front of their apartment in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident and died in her arms. A year later, she is finally making steps to leave the apartment and meets Henry in her neighborhood coffee shop. Finally feeling something for the first time since her husband's death, she brings him home for a one-night stand. The next morning, the world goes crazy when bombs go off in the city, including one at the finish line of the LA Marathon just up the street. The blast destroys part of her apartment, badly injuring her leg in the process. Martial law has the city locked down and Olivay finds herself stuck in her loft with Henry and his behavior is becoming increasingly suspicious. Is he involved? Could he even be involved in her husband's death? 

Chilling and well written with a slow building tension that completely pulled me in. Both Olivay and Henry have a story and secrets that they are keeping, told in short chapters and bursts of detail that made me want more as the story unfolded in layers. Fair warning that not everything is completely uncovered and resolved, even by the book's end (something that normally drives me crazy), but that lack of closure has kept me mulling over the story since I finished the book a few days ago. I have a feeling that I will keep thinking about it and that might not be the case if everything had been neatly buttoned up. If you can deal with some ambiguity and want a quietly frightening and thought-provoking book, Olivay is a great addition to a summer reading list. 

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Author Notes: Deborah Reed’s novel Things We Set on Fire sold more than one hundred thousand copies in its first six months, while Carry Yourself Back to Me was a Best Book of 2011 Amazon Editors’ Pick. She wrote the bestselling thriller A Small Fortune and its sequel, Fortune’s Deadly Descent, under her pen name Audrey Braun. Several of her novels have been translated or are forthcoming in German. Her nonfiction has appeared in publications such as the LiterarianMORE, and Poets & Writers. She holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing, and teaches at the UCLA Extension Writing Program. She is also codirector of the Black Forest Writing Seminar at the University of Freiburg in Germany. She resides in Los Angeles.

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Food Inspiration: 
 
Centered around two people trapped in an apartment in the middle of the attack zone, Olivay isn't a food-filled novel. There are some mentions of food like oysters and absinthe, crab cakes and pasta, sticky buns and pizza. Olivay's refrigerator held apples, yogurt and half of a chocolate bar, and there were crackers, boxes of spaghetti and a tin of lemon wafers in the back of the cupboard. Mrs. Hightower, Olivay's friend and neighbor, stops in to check on her and leaves a Marionberry pie (yum) but I wasn't about to bake. 

I ended up taking my inspiration from a conversation between Henry and Olivay where she asks him his three favorite foods. He responds with plum jelly on a biscuit, d'affinois cheese that he "can eat like candy" and figs.  


Coincidentally,  Fromager d'Affinois, a French double-cream soft cow's milk cheese is one of my favorite cheese indulgences--so soft and creamy. I love it spread on baguette with grapes or olives on the side. I thought about the plum jelly Henry liked and how the sweet/tart flavor would pair well with the smooth Brie-like cheese. I am a fan of chia seed jam--so easy to make and so good to eat, so instead of plum jelly on a biscuit, I am spreading a cranberry walnut bread with a layer of lovely d'Affinois and then topping it with a dollop of homemade chunky Plum Chia Seed Jam.


I have made all manner of chia jams from fresh fruit and even canned fruit--blueberry, peaches, strawberry. Depending on the fruit and how sweet I want the resulting jam, I will add honey or agave. I also like to add more depth to the flavor with a little lemon, vanilla or other natural flavorings. I wanted this batch to be tart/sweet with hint of cinnamon. Unbelievably ;-) I was out of vanilla extract so I added a teaspoon of almond extract to round out the flavor.  

Plum Chia Seed Jam
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups of jam)  

8 medium plums (about 3 /12 cups worth), chopped (I used mixed red and black plums)
1 large cinnamon stick
1/3 cup honey, or to taste depending on the sweetness of your fruit & preferences
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
1/4 cup chia seeds

Place pitted, chopped plums, honey, lemon juice, and extract into a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring as fruit begins to liquefy and mixture comes to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow fruit to simmer for 20-25 minutes until it breaks down and starts to get saucy. (Note--I like a chunkier jam so I cook it about 20 minutes and leave the small chunks that are left. If you like a smoother consistency, cook 25-30 minutes and break up the chunks with a fork or potato masher.) Taste for sweetness and add more honey if desired.

Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in chia seeds--making sure the seeds are mixed thoroughly into the fruit mixture and don't clump. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Jam will begin to thicken (and it will thicken much more as it cools) but if it seems too thin, you can add additional chia seeds. 

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the jam to thicken and cool to room temperature. When cooled, place in jar(s) and place in the fridge. Jam will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks and in the freezer for a few months--if it lasts that long. 

Enjoy it spread onto bread, stirred into yogurt, and served over ice cream. 


Notes/Results: I am loving this jam--just a great balance of sweet and tangy with that a touch of cinnamon in the background. In tasting the plums as I was chopping them, I found the black plums sweeter and softer than the red, so having a mix of the two was good and they cooked down to the just slightly chunky jam I like. Chia seed jam is.. well... seedy, but I find the seeds softer and less obnoxious than raspberry seeds. I toasted my bread which has a nutty flavor and has little bits of tart cranberry that matched well with the rich and creamy cheese and the tangy sweet jam. Just an excellent mix of flavors and textures.If you don't want to splurge on the cheese, thickened, slightly-sweetened yogurt would also work well. (But I highly recommend the double cream cheese and jam combination!) I happily ate this for breakfast but it would also be a good snack or even a light lunch. I will definitely keep eating it this week and will make it again.  


Note: A review copy of "Olivay" 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.


 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Glazed Salmon in Mirin, Served with a Salad of Mixed Greens with Sesame Dressing {One Photo Friday}

The humid and hot weather of the past week has not improved my lack of interest in cooking. So, low-effort recipes that get me out of the kitchen quickly put still taste great are my preference. Jacques Pépin's Glazed Salmon in Mirin is a great example. It marinates for a bit but only cooks for 2-3 minutes and it's ready to serve. I have paired it with another Pépin recipe--Salad of Mixed Greens with Sesame Dressing for an easy and healthy weeknight dinner.


Jacques says, "The marinade gives the salmon a sweet, nutty flavor and a beautiful color, while the lemon dressing provides a good contrast to the sweetness of the fish. Although I suggest marinating the salmon for at least an hour and as long as overnight, you can just coat the steaks with the marinade and cook them right away, if you are pressed for time."

Glazed Salmon in Mirin
Adapted from Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pépin
(Serves 4

For the marinade:
1 1/2 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp soy sauce  (I used low sodium)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
4 salmon steaks (about 4-5 oz 1 1/2-inches thick each)

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp Tabasco
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

For the marinade and fish: Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the marinade into a plastic zipper-lock bag. Put the salmon steaks into the bag, seal it, and marinate the steaks in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

For the dressing: When ready to cook the salmon, whisk all the ingredients (except seeds) together in a small bowl until combined, then set aside.


Heat a large nonstick skillet until hot. Remove the salmon steaks from the marinade and arrange them in the hot skillet with the marinade on top. Cover and cook over medium to high heat for about two minutes, or until the bottoms of the steaks are nicely browned and the tops are cooked through from the steam created in the covered pan. The steaks should be slightly rare in the center.


Serve the salmon steaks with the lemon dressing drizzled over and around them and sesame seeds sprinkled on top. 


Make ahead: For this fast, easy recipe, the salmon can be marinated in the refrigerator overnight.
 

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Food & Wine says, "Jacques Pépin's friend Jacky Ruette, the former chef-owner of La Petite Marmite and Prunelle restaurants in New York City; developed this recipe with ingredients that just happened to be around."

Salad of Mixed Greens with Sesame Dressing
Adapted From Food & Wine.com, Contributed by Jacques Pépin
(Serves 8)

1 Tbsp green peppercorn mustard or Dijon mustard (I used a grainy Dijon)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
1 tsp honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp Asian sesame oil / toasted sesame seed oil
12 cups mixed salad greens (I used baby greens, Japanese cucumbers & radish sprouts)
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

In a large salad bowl, mix the mustard with the vinegars, honey and salt and pepper. Whisk in the oils. Add the greens and toss well. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and serve.

Notes/Results: A great easy recipe to have in your back pocket for when you have salmon in the freezer and don't want to hassle with anything elaborate for dinner. The salmon was very tender, with a nice sweet and savory flavor. I liked the lemon dressing on top and probably could have just used that for the green below, but the Sesame dressing for the mixed greens salad was really good, and it paired well with the flavors in the salmon. I used some organic mixed baby lettuces and added in very thinly sliced cucumbers and some radish sprouts for their slightly peppery bite. You could add some brown rice to this, but I was perfectly satisfied with the salmon-topped salad. I would make both the salmon and the salad recipes again.  


This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are headed Out of France--Jacques Pépin recipes with non-French origins. You can see what dishes everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.



{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 (usually) one photo of it (or sometimes two) ;-) with my iPhone--no muss/no fuss.}