The Lost Family by Jenna Blum #TheLostFamilySupperClub

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I am honored to have been invited to the Lost Family Virtual Supper Club hosted at the Book Club Cookbook site.

This is the first time I have participated with a virtual supper party and I’m thrilled to see some other food bloggers I know on the guest list.   Jenna Blum is a new author for me and I can say, after diving into this page-turner, I am now hungry for the menus included as well as Blum’s other publications.

Jenna describes her book this way: “The Lost Family is a novel about a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor named Peter Rashkin, who emigrates to New York, starts a restaurant, and falls in love—only to find his new American family haunted by the wife and daughters he lost during the war.

The story starts in the 1960’s and spans roughly 30 years. It’s about love, loss, understanding and forgiveness.  Peter Rashkin, the handsome owner and chef at Masha’s restaurant is the star of the story.  He is a man haunted by his past, torn between the ghosts of his old family and his new family.  While the other story lines focus more on June and Elspeth’s point of view Peter is indeed the main character. There is wonderful imagery in this novel, you feel like you are sitting in on the conversations.

There are so many passages that feature food, drink and menus that I can’t list them all. Well, I could but then I may not post prior to this fabulous book being released on June 5, 2018 – so let me just say there is plenty of culinary inspiration.

A cold gin martini with a few Queen olives will start me off here.  No recipe needed.

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I loved this particular passage:

In every time of trouble in his life, large or small, Peter had gravitated to the kitchen. During his childhood, in flight from his father’s bullying or his mother’s disdain, Peter had sought the large square room in the back of the house where Hilde let him stir soup, roll dough and – most excitingly, and provided he held the knife just as she showed him – chop vegetables. During his teens Peter’s sole act of rebellion had been to apply for a job as Adlon commis instead of clerking in the family law firm.”

“Food is essentially the same. Julienning carrots or chiffonading basil was the same in Skokie or Berlin. A rutabaga was a rutabaga. Vegetables, meat and technique had no language. The kitchen, any kitchen, was Peter’s home.” (pp. 134-135)

I thought about Peter as he chopped vegetables and herbs, as rolled dough to make bread, losing himself in the kitchen environment.  Relaxing and creating.  Personally I find making bread therapeutic.  I love the process of making bread, the slow kneading of the dough and creation of something  everyone loves to see gracing the table. Hot, fresh bread. Yes.

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Herbed Bubble Bread

3 – 3 ½ c flour
2 T sugar
1.5 t salt
1.25 oz yeast (1 pkg)
1 ¼ c milk
2 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 c melted butter or margarine
2 T Parmesan
1 T sesame seeds
1 teaspoon each of garlic salt, paprika, parsley, rosemary &  thyme

Lightly grease a 2 quart deep round casserole. In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

In small saucepan heat milk and vegetable oil until very warm (120 -130 F).  Add egg and warm liquid to flour mixture. With electric mixer beat 3 minutes at medium speed.

With wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 1-2 minutes.

Place dough in warm greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes.

Punch down dough. Pinch off walnut-size balls of dough and dip in melted butter. Place in prepared casserole forming one layer.  Combine cheese, seeds, garlic salt, paprika, and herbs. Sprinkle half over layer of bubbles.

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Make a second layer of buttered bubbles; pour remaining butter over bubbles, sprinkle with remaining seasoning mixture.  Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, until the “bubbles” almost reach top of casserole, 30 – 45 minutes.

Just before rising time is up, preheat oven to 400 F. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; loosen from pan with spatula and remove. Serve warm.

A labor of love

This book will be released on June 5, 2018. Many thanks for this advanced reader’s copy!  Please check out what others have brought to the party.

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More Info Here!
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I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and Heather for the June Foodies Read.

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*Disclosure: I  received an advance reading copy of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum, the Book Club Cookbook and Harper Collins so I was able to participate with the  #TheLostFamilySupperClub party.

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Blue Monday by Nicci French

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Blue Monday by Nicci French
Publisher: Penguin Group

As I mentioned before, I started with book 7 – yeah, brilliant. But I was so taken with the story and characters that I decided I would grab book 1 and read the beginning, even if I do have a few spoilers along the way.

This book is the start of the Frieda Klein series and it begins in 1987.

It takes a while to get started, it moves rather slowly at first while you get to know the characters but, in my opinion, the character development is worth it. Frieda is a psychotherapist. She isn’t a warm character but I like her. She’s complex, cool and competent. Intelligent and a problem solver. Her mind never seems to shut down and so she walks the streets of London at night until she is weary. I like her rituals such as laying the fire in the morning so she can start a fire each evening when she returns home. I like her organizational method to approaching….anything.

This book introduces us to Frieda’s latest client, a troubled man named Alan Dekker. The short gist of it is he is an emotional mess. He is on the verge of a breakdown and anxious all the time about so many things in his life. To add to it, he and his wife Carrie are having trouble conceiving a child. He wants a child of his own rather than adopting and gives Frieda great detailed descriptions of his fantasy child, down to the hair color and build. He explains all this during his therapy sessions, a place where he should be safe and know his feelings won’t be shared. Unfortunately a little red-haired boy named Matthew Faraday has been abducted and he fits the description of the fantasy child to the letter. Big red flag here! Did Dekker abduct Matthew?

Now comes the ethical dilemma for Frieda about whether she needs to go to the police. Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson is assigned the missing child case and this is where he crosses paths with Frieda Klein. It’s explosive in so many ways. This sets up the premise that Frieda may be working, albeit hesitantly, with the police now and again.
The end wraps up fairly nicely yet leaves you curious about a few possible loose ends.

So. Now that I have read both the last book and then this book  I can say that I will read the series  – but I liked the characters in Sunday Silence better than this one. Clear as mud right? Knowing how some of these folks turn out and clearly the writing was crisper in book 7, that’s what interests me. Blue Monday needed to have the character development and the explanations about their lives but it wasn’t a I’m-in-love-with-this-series instantly had I started with this book.
Please don’t let me turn you off to the Frieda Klein series, I honestly do think it’s good.

Food mentioned here and there……
Curried cauliflower and chick pea salad
Marmalade Bakewell tart
Holubsti (pickled fish)
Kutya (wheat, honey, poppyseed and nuts)

Recipe for chickpea salad may be found HERE.

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday , Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and January Foodies Read at Spirit Blog.

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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 and January Foodies Read at Spirit Blog.

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Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King {The featured selection of Cook the Books}

feastofSorrowThis book is the featured selection at Cook the Books for December/January. Thank you Debra for choosing this one….I was completely engaged with this story. Food, drink, historical content, political maneuvering, joy and yes….sorrow.

Be prepared to be intoxicated with vivid descriptions of lavish meals and the preparation for wickedly decadent parties.  I enjoy historical fiction as it gives me appetite (pun intended) to learn more about the real characters.

Your heart will go out to Thrasius, the slave purchased  for an astronomical sum to become head chef for Marcus Apicus.  The story is told from his point of view and I found it very interesting, especially the depictions of real life characters such as Apicus, Apicata, Pliny, Sejanus and Drusus.

Apicus was maniacal in his quest to become Caesar’s culinary adviser and the journey to secure his dream was amazing.  I will try and find more books about him.  He didn’t realize wealth alone wouldn’t pave the way.

The actual rendering of Marcus Apicus surprised me a bit as I envisioned Gerard Butler while reading the book.  What visual came to mind as Apicus was losing his temper or sweet talking the guests?  It was Butler for me. Totally.

The treason and infidelities committed in this book makes for a good plot.  I was simultaneously fascinated and saddened to see innocents drawn in, suffering undeserved consequences. The ending chapters were indeed horrifying but I can’t give away the plot.  It all comes together and I could have read more.

With so many meals to choose from you can’t go wrong, although I was never tempted to have fried flamingo tongues or hyacinth bulbs. Spinach Pie did sound like a winner. So that was made in addition to a shrimp paella served with liberal amounts of white wine and homemade bread. (photos above)

The treat, the decadent addition to the table for us, is a cheese we’ve never had called Jasper Hill Harbison.  It’s a soft ripened cheese wrapped in strips of spruce cambium.  See it below?  It’s actual spruce wrapping.  The most unique cheese we have ever had and whoa….so delicious.   Instead of using a knife I used a mini spatula to dip into the cheese for spreading.  Maybe they made something like this in ancient Roman times, using tree bark. It’s wonderful.

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You have until January 31, 2018 to read and review if you’d care to hook up. I recommend this historical accounting of Apicus and ancient Rome.  Click HERE for the link to Cook the Books.

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

The Mountain Between Us. A tale of survival, love and regret….

mountainI have been absent on my reviews and participation due to a death in our family.  Everything stops and momentum is changed when someone leaves us.  This book I am sharing now came at a good time. I think so anyway.

So, to the book.  Earlier this month I saw a movie trailer for The Mountain Between Us and thought I’d like to see it….but I wanted to read the book first.  I always want to read the book first.  This is a tale of survival, love, regret and chances missed.

This story was engaging and I had a hard time putting it down. People are stranded at an airport and obviously frustrated.  It starts with Dr. Ben Payne recording notes into a small recorder about cases he’s working on.  Ashley Knox sits beside him on the floor so she can share the outlet to charge her computer.  They chat and then they part ways for the night since flights are cancelled during a snowstorm.  Soon they arrange to share a private flight in a two-seater plane.  The plane crashes it the Utah mountains and here is where the story really develops.

It seems they are lost, no way to tell which way to hike toward civilization yet they can’t sit and await rescue.  The pilot hadn’t filed a flight plan so no one knows where they are.  Both Ben and Ashley are injured and honestly, you’ll think things can’t get much worse.  Fabulous story with a twist at the end.

Without giving spoilers I will say a food item mentioned is soup.  It’s vegetable soup in the book but I present you with a Tomato Basil soup.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  What more could you ask for, great pairing.

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (or use a large can of Tuttorosso tomatoes).
Chop 6 fresh basil leaves.  1 cup vegetable broth or tomato juice
1 cup half-n-half or milk (Almond milk works!)
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine tomatoes and juice in a saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes.  Now puree mix in food processor or use immersion blender.  Add basil leaves.  Return to saucepan and add milk and butter.  Serve with grilled cheese!

Linking up with:

Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.
Girlxoxo for the 2017 Monthly Motif Challenge.  For August the theme is seasons, elements and weather.
Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE.
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A Year Between Friends: Crafts, recipes and best of all….friendship.

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A Year Between Friends: 3191 Miles Apart is a lovely book filled with craft ideas, recipes, letters and best of all – friendship.

Molly Wizenberg wrote the forward and it’s a great beginning.  She explained how she discovered a blog called  Port2Port where Maria (MAV) was an author.  This was over 10 years ago.  Molly and Maria were fans of Stephanie Congdon (SCB) on Flickr.

The ladies began collaborating with photo projects and craft ideas. They have been corresponding for quite some time and the result was deep friendship between Maria and Stephanie.

This book is divided by the months of the year. They each take photos of their respective locales – Maria who goes by MAV is in Portland Maine and Stephanie (SCB) lives in Portland Oregon.  In addition to photos there are recipes and letters.

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My dear friend Mary Margaret lives in Alaska and I live in Florida.  About as far away as friends can be and still be in the USA. This book reminded me of our deep friendship and how the miles didn’t matter a lick.  I can still call her and talk to her as if I’d seen her a day ago.  This has been going on since the late 1970’s. (Yes, I am a senior citizen 🙂

What a lovely display of friendship this book is.

From Amazon:  Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes share a love of art and design, handmade pleasures, and a well-lived domestic life. Almost a decade ago, they began their first year-long project together, posting a photo from each of their mornings on their blog, 3191 Miles Apart, named for the distance between their homes in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon.

The inspired recipe from this book is soup. But we haven’t been eating much meat lately and so, while I planned on chicken soup….I diverted to a veggie chili.  Very different but one of the biggest components in this book features healthy eating.

I made a black bean chili with finely chopped zucchini, green onions,tomatoes, mushrooms and a little bit of water. Once everything started thickening up I added about 3/4 cup of brown rice.

The plus of our healthier eating (and additional walking) is the weight loss.  My husband has lost 22 pounds while I have lost 12 pounds. Yes, I keep up with him eating and drinking yet my weight loss has been considerably slower.  🙂  Oh well!

Good book with great recipes and craft ideas.  You will love flipping through it.

Linking up with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE.

Also linking with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

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Strange Affair by Peter Robinson

strangeEach time I read a DCI Banks novel I think I will jump right to the next one. I love this guy! But then I realize I will be caught up and have to wait for the next publication so I am slowly savoring each novel, reading something else in between these books. It’s great that Peter Robinson writes these novels in real time. When I started with Gallows View (Book #1) Alan Banks had just moved to Yorkshire, his children were in school, he was in a happy marriage and his career was on the right path.

I just finished Strange Affair (Book #15) and so much has changed. Banks is, naturally, older and has had some boost in rank. His kids are grown and one is in college. It’s been nice reading along watching the progressions.

Strange Affair starts off with a woman driving away from London, obviously frightened for her life as she expresses she will be safe in just a few hours. Before you get too many pages into the book she is found dead, still in her vehicle, with a single gunshot wound to her head. Her purse and cell phone are missing but in her back pocket is a hastily written note with Alan Banks’ name and address.

Banks can’t be located because he has driven off to London in search of his brother Roy. A day earlier Roy called Banks and left a voice message that he was in danger and he needed help. When big brother Alan couldn’t reach Roy he decided to drive to London. He didn’t tell anyone about Roy’s call and he didn’t call in to the police station to let them know he’d be gone. With the discovery of a dead woman who was headed toward Banks’ Yorkshire address and him now missing, the Eastvale police have him as an unofficial suspect.

Most of this story line takes place in London. We alternate between Banks looking for his brother and DI Annie Cabbot looking into the murder of the young woman. Not too far into the book you see they are connected, both the murder and Roy’s disappearance. You also see a more reflective side of Alan Banks as he’s working though his depression over a house fire (Book # 14) and him getting to know more about his brother.

There are 22 DCI Banks books currently published. I will be on to #16 soon and once I catch up, I will one of the eager fans waiting for the next publication.

For my representative meal I made a chicken, sausage, potato and tomato bake.  Wine was the choice of drink as DCI Banks is off his whiskey for a while.

Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor…. HERE.

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
The British Book Challenge at The Overflowing Library

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series

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