Food Processor Perfection – Vegetable Gratin

gratin5 You just can’t go wrong with America’s Test Kitchen. Any recipe I’ve tried from ATK has come out perfectly. When I saw this cookbook focusing on using the food processor I had to try it.

Actually, I had this book checked out of the library a while back and waited to post this.  I don’t know why.  Then I thought about not posting it as some folks are in the middle of extreme winter weather where you can’t get a decent tomato or zucchini.   But it is summer in the southern hemisphere so I thought, why not.  (That’s a shout out Carole’s Chatter 🙂 And I would still make this in winter with hothouse tomatoes because its a comfort food (for me).

Anyway…….first recipe I tried was a Summer Vegetable Gratin with lots of juicy tomatoes, crisp zucchini, sliced onions and garlic.  Obviously there is cheese and the merging of these ingredients makes for a fabulous side dish or vegetarian main dish.  It also makes for a messy kitchen but I assure you it’s worth it.

This was meant to last as two side dishes but we almost devoured the entire thing in one sitting.  We served this with grilled fish.

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Recipe follows and I will warn you, it’s a bit time consuming but you can cut back on the time with some of the prep.  I gave the recipe as printed in the book but obviously you can make your own adjustments. Enjoy!

Vegetable Gratin

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound yellow squash, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin pole to pole (about 3 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 large slice white sandwich bread, torn into quarters ( I used 1 cup of Panko one time and a slice of my French bread another time)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup) (I used onions once and shallots the next time.  made no difference)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside. Midway through prep start heating your oven to 400 F.

Toss zucchini and squash slices with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; transfer to colander set over bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.

Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, remaining salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened  (15 minutes). Set onions aside.

Combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in small bowl. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish. Arrange caramelized onions in even layer over squash. Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of onions. Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake in a 400 degree oven until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown on edges, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. (You should have about 1 cup crumbs). Combine bread crumbs, remaining tablespoon oil, Parmesan, and shallots in medium bowl. Remove baking dish from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake gratin until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and let sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

It’s a bit time consuming but it’s delicious. Totally worth it.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series

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The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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This book has gotten mixed reviews but I am a fan, I liked it. If Tudor comes out with another novel I will certainly read it. There were places where the author would leave you with a cliffhanger but didn’t make you wait 50 pages to get back to it. Set in England and reminiscent of Stand by Me, five friends experience childhood pleasures of riding their bikes, exploring the woods, getting into scrapes, playing games and the usual.

This was before the cruel introduction of the internet and cell phones so kids actually played. And talked. Amazing, huh?

The mystery starts with chalk figures drawn around the village. Colored chalk was gifted to Fat Gav at his birthday party and this starts the appearance of chalk figures and coded messages. If one of the friends exited their house and the sidewalk was adorned by a blue chalk man with a circle, it meant to meet your friend in the playground. That sort of thing.

One day a chalk figure directed the five friends to the woods, leading them to a grisly discovery. A young woman was dismembered, the head missing, her body parts strewn and half hidden by the leaves. The kids flip out, understandably, go for the police and were never quite the same afterwards. There are many other supporting characters in this story such as our narrator David (one of the friends), the Reverend Martin, David’s mother who is a doctor and the subject of controversy for her clinic, David’s father who decks the preacher at Fat Gav’s party and bloodies his face over “inappropriate conversation” and Chloe (a character from 2016) who plays a part in the mystery.

There is actually more than one mystery and the people and actions all seem to tie together eventually. I had a few surprises in there and that’s always pleasant. No one wants to figure out the whodunit within the first quarter of a book.

The time period shifts between 1986 and 2016. It’s a creepy book yet a page turner.

More Info
Author Bio

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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How I Live Now {The book and movie}

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How I Live by Meg Rosoff.

In the book, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth (who goes by the name of Daisy) arrives in England from America to stay with her Aunt Penn and her cousins, Osburt, Eddie, Isaac, and Piper .  Her aunt and cousins live on a farm in a remote area of the U.K.  Daisy gets a little homesick at first but then falls into a happy life with her family.  Despite them being cousins, Daisy and 14-year-old cousin Edmond fall in love.

Here comes the twist – World War Three is about to break out and enemy troops surround the farm.  Unfortunately Aunt Penn had been traveling and now can’t get back to her family.  Sounds like a tense book with a dystopian theme.  I haven’t read it yet but I did watch the movie.  This book won the 2004 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

The movie, I was told, took a few liberties and changed a bit of the plot.  That happens all the time though, it’s usually just a similar story line from the book.   Daisy, a neurotic and anorexic American teenager, is sent to the English countryside for the summer to stay with her Aunt Penn and her cousins, Eddie, Isaac, and Piper.   The movie eliminated the character of Osbert and made Eddie the oldest.  When she arrives in England there is tight security due to  terrorism, reports of a bombing in Paris.

As in the book, Daisy falls in love with Eddie but the character development is different.  Eddie has mystical connection to animals, hawks landing on his arm and other almost spiritual interactions with wild creatures.  Not weird, just a strange connection.

As it turns out Aunt Penn is an expert in terrorist extremist groups and has to leave for a meeting in Switzerland.  This is the beginning of WW III.  In her absence the children explore the woodlands surrounding the farm, unaware of the enemy troops about to converge on the farm and that part of England.  Aunt Penn’s expertise would come in handy now but she’s stuck in another country and can’t help.

A nuclear bomb is detonated in or near London killing hundreds of thousands. Martial law is imposed, electricity goes out, troops descend and they are left to defend, hide or flee.   This was filmed in England and Wales.

I enjoyed the movie and you can’t go wrong with Saoirse Ronan. I have so many books lined up for this month so I know I won’t get to this book yet, but I would like to compare the differences,

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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The Chalk Man will be my first book of the year #BookJourney

This is my first time participating in First Book of the Year!  Shelia who writes at Book Journey is hosting again.  This event is in it’s fifth year but my first time participating.

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This book isn’t out until January 9, 2018 but I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy. Can’t wait to tuck into it as I love British mysteries.

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What’s this book about?  Here’s the blurb from Amazon!

“In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.”

That plot certainly has my attention.  Hopefully I can post a review very soon.

What’s your first book of the year?

 

 

 

39 Steps by John Buchan

The 39 Steps by John Buchan

When I was growing up my father took us to every James Bond movie as soon as it hit the theaters. For my parents, there was the fast paced, espionage themed, exotic entertainment. I’m a kid, so I just liked going to the movies and getting white paper sacks of orange sweeties to eat during the film. 39 Steps by John Buchan has been described as one of the earlier examples of the ‘man-on-the-run’ thriller.

The main character is Richard Hannay. Early in the book he meets a man who shares an extraordinary tale involving spies, betrayal as well as plans in motion to assassinate a visiting dignitary. Hannay takes the man in, considers all he’s told with caution (as he’s looking for some adventure anyway), and unwittingly steps into the middle of it all. As you follow Hannay through the country, him staying steps ahead of the bad guys, you realize he is a man who puts his country’s interests ahead of all else. He’s sort of an early version of MacGyver, getting out of jams using whatever he has on hand.

39 Steps was first published as a serial in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1915.

There is intrigue and evidently if you read it over, you’ll see clues regarding the man who was on the run and the people he is hiding from. It was pretty good but I doubt I will read it again.

Some reviews complained about dated language but remember, this was written a long time ago….plus that particular complaint could be applied to Jane Austen, Shakespeare and the like but certainly does not stop people reading those authors. The forward by the author’s grandson (author is deceased)was very interesting.

So, since he’s on the run in England and Scotland and you hear about the occasional simple meal in a pub (nothing specific) – I immediately thought of lamb dishes. These grilled lamb chops and garlic mashed potatoes are just the ticket to fuel Richard Hannay on his mission.

Happy Reading!

More Info:  John Buchan

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and GirlXO for the December Monthly Motif. It’s my favorite genre, mystery, so I had to end the year with an old classic mystery.

I’m looking forward to participating with the 2018 Monthly Motif at Girlxoxo and contributing more to Joy’s British Isles Friday.

Happy New Year to my bookish friends!

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Kate Hewitt Christmas books set in Cumbria and Yorkshire

vicarageA Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt is a very short book, more of a novella. Evidently there will be a series focusing on the Holley Sisters. In this book the focus is Anna Holley. She lives in Manchester but a Christmas visit brings her home for the first time in years.  Her childhood home is the vicarage in Thornthwaite situated in beautiful Cumbria. I have a soft spot for any book set in Cumbria as my ancestral roots are there.

Anna loves her home and has many wonderful memories with the exception of a haunting memory of her brother Jamie’s death.  She also suffers from  a bit of social anxiety and avoids crowds and gatherings when she can.  Being Christmas time and her father is the vicar…well, there will be people gathering at the vicarage.

Anna decides to step out during a party, heads to the pub and meets a nice man named Simon.  With the prompting from Simon and a pint of cider, and Anna thinking she will never see this man again, she pours her heart out about her anxiety and her family.  You can see where this will go, right?  In this genre you can predict how things will turn out but it’s still a lovely romp through a beautiful landscape, snow, love and forgiveness.

I won a copy of this eBook from LibraryThing. Thanks LT! holly

A Yorkshire Christmas
If you want a quick read with the Christmas theme and a setting in England then this book is perfect for you. Incidentally, this is a wholesome romance without explicit language or scenes so, family friendly reading here.

My preference is Kate Hewitt’s women’s fiction – Rainy Day Sisters is also set in Cumbria and that was my favorite of the books I’ve read by this author.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Crimson Snow and Sunday Silence for #BriFri

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Christmas and murder mysteries, they go hand-in-hand, right? Crimson Snow is the selected book for the Kindle English Mystery Club. This volume of short stories is perfect for the mystery lover during a hectic holiday season. You can read a story quickly. This is part of the British Library Crime Classics, the short story collection. There were authors I am not familiar with and I enjoyed most of the stories but none were brilliant. You can see the surprise ending fairly well. The Christmas ghost story was great.

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Sunday Silence by Nicci French was excellent.  I think I made a mistake reading this one first.  Most likely I read spoilers relating to previous books in this series. Once I started this book I realized I liked the style and the plot so I’m planning on reading the other books such as Blue Monday and Tuesday’s Gone. Certainly I will give those a go in 2018 and read more by this husband and wife team of authors.
From the first page you jump right into the story, no lagging around hoping it gets interesting. The police are called to Frieda’s house as a body has been discovered under her floorboards. It’s someone Frieda knows.

It won’t be the first murder in this book, we have abductions thrown in there too. The writing style captured my attention, grabbed me from the beginning. Obviously there was prior character and relationship development in the earlier books but that didn’t leave me bewildered at all. As the police investigate and Frieda comes up with her own theories tensions build between them.

I notice the food references in books, even if they aren’t foodie books, so here are a few:

“He returned to the kitchen, which was full of steam, the smell of potato cakes, barley broth and spicy lamb stew.”

“He started working on an artisanal cheese stall on the South Bank and became something of a cheese zealot, offering soft wedges wrapped in waxed paper as gifts wherever he went”

“Jack had cooked spaghetti. Do you want some? He asked hopefully, I made enough for an army. “I’d love some, said Frieda, not because she was hungry but to see the look of pleasure on his face.”

Jack planned a risotto and had all the ingredients in his backpack; red onions, dried mushrooms, Parmesan and even a small jar of truffle sauce that someone had given him at the market in return for a circle of soft cheese.”

Josef ordered the full English breakfast: fried eggs, two rashers of streaky bacon, a large pink sausage, fried bread, fried tomatoes and mushrooms.

The Risotto was calling me but I went for comfort food – Spaghetti Bolognese.  Can’t go wrong, you won’t go hungry.

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Linking to:

The Kindle English Mystery Book Club

December Foodies Read

 Joy’s British Isles Friday

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