Showing posts with label salads. Show all posts
Showing posts with label salads. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman, Served with Tropical Fruit Salad with Lime-Honey Dressing & Toasted Coconut Chips

I am very excited to be the final stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman. It's easy to tell from the books I read and review on this blog that World War II historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine and Ackerman's second novel is set here on Oahu, making it an even more tempting read. I've paired my review with a simple Tropical Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing & Toasted Coconut Chips that was inspired by the breakfast scenes on the SS Lurline in the book.

November, 1941. She’s never even seen the ocean before, but Eva Cassidy has her reasons for making the crossing to Hawaii, and they run a lot deeper than escaping a harsh Michigan winter. Newly enlisted as an Army Corps nurse, Eva is stunned by the splendor she experiences aboard the steamship SS Lurline; even more so by Lt. Clark Spencer, a man she is drawn to but who clearly has secrets of his own. But Eva’s past—and the future she’s trying to create—means that she’s not free to follow her heart. Clark is a navy intelligence officer, and he warns her that the United States won’t be able to hold off joining the war for long, but nothing can prepare them for the surprise attack that will change the world they know.
In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eva and her fellow nurses band together for the immense duty of keeping the American wounded alive. And the danger that finds Eva threatens everything she holds dear. Amid the chaos and heartbreak, Eva will have to decide whom to trust and how far she will go to protect those she loves.
Set in the vibrant tropical surroundings of the Pacific, The Lieutenant’s Nurse is an evocative, emotional WWII story of love, friendship and the resilient spirit of the heroic nurses of Pearl Harbor.

Paperback: 352 Pages
Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (March 5, 2019)

My Review:

I had the pleasure of being on the Instagram tour for Sara Ackerman's first book Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers two years ago and hosted it as part of my virtual foodie book club, Cook the Books, earlier this year so I knew I was in for a great read with The Lieutenant's Nurse before I even opened the cover. The book starts soon before the attack on Pearl Harbor, as nurse Eva Cassidy is on board the steamship SS Lurline, headed to Oahu from San Francisco. A job as an Army Corps nurse and a boyfriend await her in Hawaii, as does a chance to hopefully leave her past and the secrets she holds behind her in Michigan,  Eva has regrets about leaving her younger sister behind, recovering from polio, but hopes to bring her out with her at some point. On the ship, she meets Lieutenant Clark Spencer and is immediately attracted and intrigued by him. Clark is in navel intelligence and his feelings for Eva have him passing on his suspicions about the probability of attack from the Japanese. If you know your history, I am sure you can guess what happens shortly after the Lurline docks on Oahu and soon Eva and Clark are caught up in the horrors of war. 

As in her first book, Ackerman does an outstanding job in describing the dichotomy of a beautiful island paradise, caught up in the graphic ugliness of war. Eva and Clark were characters that won my heart immediately and I liked the intrigue in the plot and that the author went in with the "who knew what and when" about the Pearl Harbor attack angle. I have read my share of fiction and non-fiction on the subject and I find the advance-knowledge conspiracy theories fascinate me. This is a romance for sure, emotions are heightened by the events going on around the main characters and some of the side characters, but it is also about Eva's growth and bravery. Living on Oahu, it's always fun to read about places I know in a time in history and Ackerman's vivid writing brings it to life. I only wanted more after the final chapter and I am already looking look forward to her next book.

If you want to win a copy of The Lieutenant's Nurse, head over to my Instagram account (here), where I am giving one away.


Author Notes: Sara is the bestselling author of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at

Connect with Sara on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There was food to be found in The Lieutenant's Nurse--especially while on the Lurline, then some classic 1940s wartime fare on Oahu. Mentions included: ship launch appetizers of cheese balls, pigs in a blanket, pate, champagne, shipboard dinner with lobster tails, steak,French-fried potatoes, glazed carrots and peas and rice, pineapple juice, Moscow Mules, made to order omelet, steak and eggs, breast of chicken with wild rice, glacé  pineapple and truffle sauce, bakes Alaska and petits, fours, rice balls radishes and pickled pickled plums wrapped seaweed, strawberry lemonade with a splash of vodka, strawberry waffle, a Shirley Temple, mention of guava trees, banana tress and big fat prawns in a stream at the North Shore, a Royal Hawaiian Pineapple Cocktail, canned sardines and Saloon Pilot crackers, mincemeat pie, hot dogs and Coca Cola, coffee and malasadas, soldiers running from the attack with pockets of maraschino cherries, cheese and pickles, egg salad sandwiches and lemonade, fried chicken and rice with seaweed (aka furikake rice), sugar cane and pineapple fields.

My first thought was to recreate the Royal Hawaiian Pineapple Cocktail, but my friend Debra did it too well already on her review so instead I turned to the description of breakfast on the Lurline--"plates of strawberries, pineapple and banana with bowls of shredded coconut" and "Tiers of cinnamon buns, pecan snails, and twisted donuts..." and "pancakes, waffles and tropical syrup..." I decided to focus on the fruit and make a breakfast salad with a tropical syrup-style dressing of lime juice and honey and a crunchy topping of toasted coconut chips. Wanting to be a little healthier with my dressing, I used an Ellie Krieger recipe I like with fruit that uses honey instead of white sugar and left out the mint.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Lime-Honey Dressing & Toasted Coconut
Dressing Slightly Adapted from Ellie Krieger's Radiance Salad at
(Serves 3-4) 

1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups fresh pineapple cut into chunks
1 large banana or two apples banana, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime
toasted coconut flakes or chips

Place fruit into a large bowl. whisk honey, lime juice and lime zest together in a smaller bowl. When serving, pour the dressing over fruit and stir to combine. Right before serving, top with coconut flakes/chips. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: A very simple fruit salad that can be adapted with what fruit you have on hand or in season. The lime dressing is both sweet and tangy and the honey and lime keep the bananas from browning too much. Put the coconut on at the very end so it remains crunchy and this is quite a tasty little salad that would also be good over yogurt or a bowl of overnight oats, or even atop a pancake or waffle. I would happily make it again.

Linking up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where we are having Spring Canapés as a theme. I think this fruit salad with it's refreshing dressing would make a fine lunch or dinner starter.

I'm also linking this yummy fruit salad up at Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen. You can join in the Souper Sunday fun by linking up your soups, salads, or sandwiches on the weekly post, here

Finally, I'm sharing this post with 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 of "The Lieutenant's Nurse" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via 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.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Beyond the Point" by Claire Gibson, Served with Hawaiian Ahi Poke and a Recipe for Avocado Salsa

Happy Wednesday! I am very excited to be today's TLC Book Tour stop for the debut novel, Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson. My review of this story of three friends brought together by their time at West Point is accompanied by a dinner inspired by one in the book of Hawaiian Ahi Poke with Avocado Salsa and Corn Tortillas and Mango.

Publisher's Blurb:

Three women are brought together in an enthralling story of friendship, heartbreak, and resilience. Set at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, this is an amazing debut novel.
Duty. Honor. Country. That’s West Point’s motto, and every cadet who passes through its stone gates vows to live it. But on the eve of 9/11, as Dani, Hannah and Avery face four grueling years ahead, they realize they’ll only survive if they do it together.

Everyone knows Dani is going places. With athletic talent and a brilliant mind, she navigates West Point’s predominantly male environment with wit and confidence, breaking stereotypes and embracing new friends.

Hannah’s grandfather, a legendary Army general, offers a stark warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but she moves forward anyway, letting faith guide her path. When she meets her soul mate at West Point, the future looks perfect, just as planned.
Wild child Avery moves fast and doesn’t mind breaking a few rules (and hearts) along the way. But she can’t outpace her self-doubt, and the harder she tries, the further it leads her down a treacherous path.

The world—of business, of love, and of war—awaits Dani, Hannah, and Avery beyond the gates of West Point. These three women know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But soon, that adage no longer rings true—for their future, or their friendship. As they’re pulled in different directions, will their hard-forged bond prevail or shatter?

Beyond the Point is a heartfelt look at how our closest friends can become our fiercest battle buddies. After all, the greatest battles we fight rarely require a uniform.

Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 2, 2019)

My Review:

I jumped on this tour because having spent time at a local university and community college, I am always intrigued by books with more revered university settings, and then when you add that the three women, Dani, Avery, and Hannah, meet as plebes at the West Point just added to the appeal. My dad was in the Navy well before I was born and my nephew is in the Navy now, but military life is a world I know little about. Although Beyond the Point covers those subjects well, it is friendship that is at the heart of this novel. Dani, Avery and Hannah all play basketball, but otherwise don't seem to have much in common and each has her own reason for attending West Point and joining the Army. The book is told from their alternating perspectives and covers their final year in high school as they apply to the Point in 2000, through their four years there as their friendship forms and strengthens, then through 2007 as their lives take different paths. 

The characters are well written, not perfect, but easy to root for and the depiction of their friendship and how they come together feels realistic, as does their friendship after graduation as their lives separate and that closeness is put to the test. I found myself caught up in their stories and that the 500+ pages went by quickly, in fact I wanted more time with Hannah, Avery and Dani. There is heartache and heartbreak in their stories, but there is also humor and hope. 

This is the author's debut novel and she paints a vivid portrait of military life and the sacrifices it requires of soldiers and their families. The afterword tells of Gibson's inspiration--she grew up at West Point with her father, a lieutenant colonel, on the faculty. Her passion for the subject and appreciation for the cadets, particularly the women, shine through and there are excerpts and photos of her interviews with three Women of West Point. I found myself as engaged by the afterward as I was with the book. If you like novels with strong female characters, stories about friendship, and books with a military setting, add Beyond the Point to your reading list.  


Author Notes: Claire Gibson is a writer and journalist based in Nashville, Tennessee. Born and raised at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, she grew up captivated by cadets and always dreamed of writing a story that honored her childhood home and the women that inspired her there. Her stories have been featured in The Washington PostThe Christian Science MonitorThe Tennessean and Entrepreneur Magazine, among many other publications.

Find out more about Claire at her website, and connect with her Twitter and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There was plenty of food in Beyond the Point, mostly meals eaten at West Point or shared with family and friends. Food mentions included pie (like strawberry-rhubarb, pumpkin and chicken pot pie), barbecued ribs, a salad of spinach and chard with lemon-garlic dressing, crusty homemade baguettes with soft salted butter, cake, three kinds of cheese on a platter, homemade cinnamon rolls, pierogies, lemon-pepper chicken, pancakes and eggs, homemade chili, brownies and ice cream, vegetable lasagna, roast chicken with tabbouleh, grilled salmon with mango slaw, and cookie dough ice cream, pizza, Cheez-Its, spaghetti, French toast and coffee, gin and tonic, oatmeal, green juice, lemonade, cereal, Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream, filets mignons in butter, roasted broccoli, salmon, Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, roasted corn, fresh broccoli, creamed spinach, and acorn squash stuffed with mushrooms and rice, a Middle Eastern dinner of lamb with sauces, tandori bread, yogurt sauce, chopped mint and preserved lemon, falafel, rice and steamed greens, meatloaf with red sauce, fish and chips, an undressed Caesar salad with chicken, a Nutella crepe, fettuccine noodles with butter, fried chicken, apple fritters, eggs over easy, a smoothie and Subway sandwiches. 

For my book-inspired dish, I ended up recreating an island meal shared by Dani, Hannah, and Avery and put together some local Hawaii favorites. I liked the fact that the three women were together and when poke comes up in a book, you know I am going to feed my addiction.

"Dinner's ready."

"Avery came to the patio holding a bowl of ahi tuna poke that she'd purchased from a shop on the way home from the beach. She placed it at the center of the patio table. Dani emerged from the kitchen, her hair back to a large, natural Afro. She added a bowl of mango, corn tortillas, and her famous avocado salsa to the assortment. With her strange restrictive diet, Dani had become quite the chef. Avery put a pitcher of margaritas on the table, and suddenly, a memory came to Hannah's mind."

I left out the margaritas--I rarely drink on "school" nights, and I grabbed poke from the grocery store and frozen mango (none of the fresh ones were ripe). All I needed to do was chop the ingredients for the salsa, open a bag of cabbage mix and toast some tortillas on my gas stove, and dinner was served. 

Avocado Salsa
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 to 4)

1/2 red onion, diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ripe avocado, chopped
the juice of two limes
a generous glug of olive oil
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss until well mixed. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: I topped the grilled tortillas with the cabbage mix, the avocado salsa and the poke for poke tostadas which were delicious. I am not that big on fruit and fish combined, so I ate the mango on the side. Everything was fresh and vibrant and it was a very low effort meal--perfect for a busy week. My leftovers came together in a salad for lunch today as both the poke and the avocado in the salsa are best as fresh as possible.

I'm sharing this post with 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 of "Beyond the Point" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via 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.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Woman in the Lake" by Nicola Cornick, Served with an Avocado Caprese Salad

Happy Thursday and the last day of February. It's hard to believe that tomorrow, March begins. Easing my way into the month, I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick. Accompanying today's book review is a tasty Avocado Caprese Salad, inspired by the book.

Publisher's Blurb:

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.
Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…
250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can’t tell what is real and what is imaginary.
As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

Paperback: 320 Pages
Publisher: Graydon House; Original edition (March 1, 2019)

My Review:

This is my first novel from Nicola Cornick and I enjoyed it. I am a fan of dual stories and time periods and the the intriguing story of the malevolent yellow gown, that seems to bring out the worst in people--whether in 1765 or 2015. The Gothic feel and supernatural-horror vibe were a great combination with the historical aspects. I did feel like I wanted a deeper dive into some of the history with the house, the smuggler, the dress, etc. In  having the two eras with three different perspectives--Lady Isabella and her maid Constance in the past, and Fenella in the present, it's hard to get all of the detail in 320 pages. I did like the pacing and the twists and turns the story took. Cornick does a good job of vivid descriptions and setting a creepy tone that made for a few shivers on the windy and rainy evenings we have been having. I like that Lady Isabella was inspired by a real-life Lady Diana Spencer, an artist born in 1734, and that she had me Googling to learn more about her. If you like British history, mystery, supernatural elements and a quick, atmospheric and ultimately satisfying read, give The Woman in the Lake a try.

Author Notes: USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over 40 historical romances and now writes Gothic time slip for HQ and Graydon House.
Nicola’s writing is inspired by her love of history and was fostered by a wonderful history teacher and by her grandmother, whose collection of historical romantic fiction fed Nicola’s addiction from an early age. She studied in London and Oxford and works as a guide and historian in a 17th century house as well as acting as a historical adviser for TV and radio. Publisher’s Weekly have described her as a rising star and her books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and for the Romance Writers of America RITA Awards.

Nicola lives near Oxford with her husband and dog. When she isn’t writing she enjoys long walks in the countryside, singing in a choir and volunteering as a puppy walker for Guide Dogs. 

You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


 Food Inspiration:

Although not a prominent part of either time period, there was food and drink mentioned throughout the book that included sweet sherry, a spaniel named "Scampi" (made me think of shrimp scampi), canned baked beans, shepherd's pie, tea and toast, champagne, crepes and croissants, bread, cheese, chicken pie, apples and pears, biscuits, coffee (including a flat white), lemonade, BLT and cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches, orange juice, rosé wine, brandy, hot chocolate, apple juice, French onion soup, guacamole, sour cream dip and cucumber sandwiches, and marmalade and a breakfast roll.

I ended up taking my recipe inspiration from a salad Fen made before meeting work friends for drinks, early in the story, before she opens the package from her sister containing the golden gown. I love a good caprese salad of mozzarella, tomato and basil and like to add an avocado sometimes too. It also sounded like a perfect weeknight dinner and luckily good cherry and grape tomatoes and fresh basil are plentiful year-round here, so I didn't have to wait for summer.

"As she tossed some basil, mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and avocado into a bowl and sloshed in some olive oil, Fen caught sight of the parcel, still sitting on the table, waiting."

I don't know that you really need a recipe for this salad, but this is what I did. I will say that I am not a big balsamic fan so I tend to use my bottle of champagne vinegar or rice vinegar for salads like this. Use what you prefer, cut things the size you like--you really can't go wrong here.

Avocado Caprese Salad
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 or more as a side)

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks
2 medium avocados cut into 3/4 chunks
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp champagne or rice vinegar
sea salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper to taste 

Gently toss tomatoes, mozzarella, avocado, basil, oil, and vinegar together in a bowl, Season to taste with flaked sea salt and black pepper. Divide into serving bowls and serve immediately. 

Notes/Results: Just a few simple ingredients but when they are fresh, you don't need much more. My avocados were a tad over-ripe but I think it works in their favor as they melt a little into the olive oil and vinegar, making a a creamy and delicious dressing.Bread would be excellent with this salad, or like me--you can eat it from the serving bowl, on the couch, and enjoy a bit of #metime with a good book. (Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the cool bookmark in the first picture!) ;-)

Linking this salad up at this week's Souper Sundays, here at Kahakai Kitchen, where anyone can share a soup, salad, or sandwich creation.

I'm also sharing this post with 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 of "The Woman in the Lake" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via 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.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Salad with Eric Ripert's Curry Vinaigrette & Curried Croutons, Served with Grilled Curry Shrimp

My heart hurts today. It hurts for Anthony Bourdain, for his family, his friends, and those who loved him. We've lost other celebrities and people in the public eye, as recently designer Kate Spade earlier in the week, but there was something about waking up to losing the life force that was Anthony Bourdain that made it seem harder and more real. Kitchen Confidential was one of my first foodie memoirs and I continued to read Bourdain's books, watch his shows, follow him on Instagram, and admire his talent, wit and candor, and how he brought both food and a better understanding of the world to so many of us. He will be sorely missed.

As an introvert who doesn't often share my deepest feelings--and especially when they are feelings of pain, I implore you, I implore me, to do whatever you need to do to share and talk it out if it feels that it has become too much to handle. There are people out there who care about you, or if you aren't comfortable reaching out that way, call the National Suicide Prevention Help Line (1-800-273-8255)--it's 24/7, toll-free, confidential and can provide support. Know that you matter and that you are loved. And know that a smile, a kind word, and listening sincerely and without judgment to others can be so helpful to someone who is in pain. I try to think about what I say, or write before I do it and if I can't say something positive that uplifts rather than tears down, I think it is better left unsaid. If we were all even just a little kinder to each other, our world will be a better place. 

So it seems a bit odd to post a recipe tonight, and an Eric Ripert recipe at that--he was Anthony Bourdain's best friend and sadly, the person who found him. Truth be told, I almost didn't want to even cook tonight, but I had planned to make this recipe for I Heart Cooking Clubs, I had good jumbo shrimp thawed, fresh bread and greens bought, and the act of tossing it together into an easy dinner was somewhat soothing. There's a certain solace for me in the kitchen. As I sat down with my plate of salad, bread and shrimp and a glass of white wine, I toasted Anthony Bourdain and wished him peace. 

About the recipe: I had been eyeing Eric Ripert's Mâche Salad with Curry Vinaigrette for a while but mâche is difficult to find here so I subbed in an organic baby spinach and greens mix. Wanting something to make it more of a main dish, I added in a tomato and grilled shrimp. When I can't find local shrimp, I try to stock my freezer shrimp from Whole Foods--where there are checks and balances on the producers they buy from and it is sustainably farmed. If you don't do shrimp, this salad would be perfectly delicious on it's own as a starter or side, or add your favorite protein to make it a full meal.

Mâche Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food & Wine 
(Serves 4)

5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp Madras curry powder
3 oz peasant or country bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces (2 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 
kosher salt
2 oz mâche lettuce (8 cups) (I used mixed greens and baby spinach)
1/4 cup chopped chives  (I subbed in 1 Roma tomato--cored, seeded & chopped)
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Whisk in 1/4 teaspoon of the curry powder and add the bread. Toast over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the croutons to a plate.

In a bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder with the lemon juice; season with salt. Toss gently with the mâche and chives; transfer to plates and top with the croutons.

For the Shrimp: I tossed good jumbo shrimp--peeled and de-veined, tail shells removed, in olive oil, Madras curry powder, smoked paprika, sea salt and pepper and threaded them onto wooden skewers (soak skewers in water for 5  minutes first). I heated a grill pan on high heat and cooked the shrimp--about 2 minutes per side until they were golden and pink and firm all the way through. 

Notes/Results:  OK, crispy curry croutons are a very good thing--especially enjoyed with salad with a curried dressing and the addition of lightly curried shrimp. It's like a one-two-three punch of curry, flavorful but not overwhelming. This was a quick and easy dinner--perfect for a humid Friday night--especially when the heart is hurting. I will happily make the dressing and croutons (and the shrimp) again.

Linking up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where our theme is From the Salad Bowl--any kind of Eric Ripert salad recipes.
I'm also sharing this post with 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.

Finally, it's a salad so I am linking up to Souper Sundays 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 


Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hot Mess" by Emily Belden, Served with a Recipe for Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese

It's one day closer to Friday! Today I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Hot Mess, a new foodie novel by Emily Belden. Accompanying my review of the book is a delicious Ina Garten recipe for Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese that was inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

Sweetbitter meets The Devil Wears Prada in this riveting and provocative novel set in the trendy Chicago restaurant scene. 

Twenty-something Allie Simon never imagined she’d fall for a recovering drug addict—but that was before she met Benji Zane, Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming chef, who’s known as much for his hard partying ways as for his unparalleled culinary skills. Six months into their relationship, the food and chemistry are out of this world, but the reality of living with a cooking wunderkind hasn’t exactly been all hearts and flowers. Still, Allie’s convinced that her love is the key to fixing this talented man’s broken soul—so when Benji is offered his dream job as chef de cuisine for a new restaurant opening on Randolph Street, Chicago’s foodie hot spot, Allie agrees to invest her life savings in his future. But less than a month after she goes all in, Allie learns a heartbreaking lesson: addicts lie. Benji cracks under the pressure, relapses and disappears, bagging out not only on the restaurant, but on her, too. Left with nothing but a massive withdrawal slip and a restaurant that absolutely must open in a matter of weeks, Allie finds herself thrust into a world of luxury and greed, cutthroat business and sensory delight. Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.

With razor-sharp wit and searing insight, Emily Belden serves up a deliciously dishy look behind the kitchen doors of a hot foodie town.

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Graydon House (March 20, 2018)

My Review:

I love a good foodie novel and especially ones that are set in the world of professional chefs and restaurants. I like the ability to live vicariously through the characters as having been involved both in opening and supporting birth quick service food concepts and casual dining restaurants in my career, I know the hard work that goes into them and have no desire to actually do that work again myself. Allie Simon has no desire to be involved in the restaurant business, although she enjoys the fame that comes with being the girlfriend of Chicago's favorite bad-boy chef, Benji Zane. She also helps him with his current post-rehab venture of pop-up dinners--mainly to collect and hold onto the money so he isn't tempted to return to his old ways. When he inevitably does (not a spoiler--it's on the cover blurb) she is left with all of her savings being tied up in the new restaurant concept he was set to headline and she must jump in and learn quickly if she wants any possibility of ever recouping her money.

Hot Mess was interesting for me. I did not love the main character Allie, who at twenty-five, is a few decades younger than me. That she is a bit immature and codependent didn't help. I also was not a fan from the start of Benji and did not see his appeal. I'm not into grungy addicts with man buns. (I disagree strongly with Allie who says, "For anyone who says the man-bun trend isn't their thing, they're lying." I see a man-bun and pretty much think 'douchey!') ;-) Anyway, the first half of the book I was convinced that foodie or not, I was probably not the demographic for this novel and I found it (mainly Allie putting up with Benji) a bit annoying at times. Luckily, the second half finds Benji missing (again, not a spoiler--it's on the back cover) and Allie working with general manager (Angela) and the team to get a high profile restaurant open and I got interested and began to like and respect Allie. I enjoyed the characters involved in the restaurant--Angela, the new chef Tabitha, and the hot produce vendor Jared, and it took me back to the crazy pre-opening days of food service establishments, which was fun.

The cover tag on my ARC of the book captures it pretty well, Hot Mess is "a novel of fine dining and finer men." It's a foodie novel that is also a romantic comedy with the coveted boyfriend who turns out to be a loser and a new guy who may not be glamorous and famous, but is a solid pick and different from who Allie normally goes for. It's a bit predictable (as rom-coms tend to be) and for me the foodie aspects were more rewarding and interesting than the romance, but overall once I got into it, I found it an enjoyable and entertaining read.

Author Notes: Emily Belden is an author for powerhouse publisher, Harlequin/HarperCollins. She is represented by famed literary agency, Browne & Miller, along with 44 Blue Productions in Burbank. The SoCal studio is adapting her memoir into a comedic series.

You can connect with Emily on her website, Facebook, or Twitter


Food Inspiration

It's a novel based on the girlfriend of a bad-boy chef and the opening of a restaurant so of course Hot Mess is filled with food inspiration. I started the novel writing down all food mentions and then gave up and just noted the ones that interested me. Here's just some of what was included: chocolate soufflé, hard boiled eggs, house-made butter, caramel, avocado aioli, Sriracha Jell-O cubes, grilled fig panna cotta with bourbon honeycomb drizzle over vanilla bean gelato, deconstructed squash blossoms, Bloody Marys with a host of garnishes, a veggie omelet and hash-browns, cinnamon brioche French Toast, deconstructed elotes with yellow corn, homemade mayo, and parmesan cheese, crispy cucumber slices with homemade garlic hummus and Craisins, toast points with guacamole, ricotta pancakes, carrot mousse, "real" mac-n-cheese with a roux, ditalini pasta with cream sauce and pancetta, roasted chicken with carrots and broccoli and mashed sweet potato gnocchi, deconstructed cannoli, spaghetti with black truffles, cheese and black pepper, 'fancy' eggs Benedict, tomato bisque, prosecco and an octopus appetizer, a blue cheese burger--deconstructed and served on toast points with tomato jam and strings of onions, sweet potato mash with pecans, spinach salad with Honeycrisp apple, butternut squash soup, a variety of amuse bouches--including prawns, portobellos, and dates, burrata flatbread,  and roasted beet salad,

Several ideas tempted me like the fig panna cotta, one of the several deconstructed dishes or egg and bagel sandwiches with onion bagels, cheddar and scrambled eggs (cooked with 12 cup sparkling water to make them "beyond fluffly"). I decided to go with an iceberg salad which sounds basic but it wasn't cooked by Benji, whom I didn't like and showcased the contrasting  'good guy-ness' of Jared the produce vendor, who replaced a case of iceberg lettuce that Allie let outside where it became "totally browned and wilted--not to mention half-eaten by whatever lives under the dumpster and between the cracks of the building." Allie panics when she checks the menu and sees a "Wedge of Iceberg with house-made bleu cheese dressing"  and calls Jared for help.

It gave me an immediate craving for good, homemade blue cheese dressing so I went to Ina Garten who had a couple of iceberg salad recipes. I was caught by her Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese (from The Barefoot Contessa website)--in which the wedge is instead a thick slice of iceberg lettuce, topped with a creamy blue cheese dressing, thinly sliced crunchy veggies and small chunks of Roquefort blue cheese. It sounded delicious and the presentation looked restaurant-worthy.  

Crunchy Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten via
(Serves 4)

For the Dressing:
4 oz Roquefort blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

For the Salad:
4 tender inside celery stalks, trimmed and sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick
6 radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
5 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts sliced ¼ inch thick
1 large head iceberg lettuce, wilted outer leaves removed
4 to 6 oz Roquefort blue cheese, crumbled
Fleur de sel or other flaky salt

For the dressing, place 4 ounces of blue cheese in a small bowl and microwave for 15 seconds, until it begins to melt. Place the mayonnaise, yogurt, warm blue cheese, sherry vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad, combine the celery, radishes, and scallions in a bowl. Slice the whole head of lettuce across to make four ¾-inch-thick round disks and place each on a dinner plate. Spoon the dressing on the lettuce and sprinkle on a quarter of the vegetable mixture. Distribute the remaining crumbled blue cheese on the salads, sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper, and serve.

Notes/Results: I know blue cheese is a bit polarizing--people either really like it, or they really don't. I happen to love it and Ina's creamy dressing is perfect--just blue cheesy enough without being too overpowering and thick and creamy enough to be a dip or spread. In addition to going well with the lettuce, the texture and flavor of the dressing compliment the green onions, celery and radish slices piled on top, and the extra crumbles of cheese provide an extra punch making the salad a pleasure to eat. I think you could plly around with and change up the toppings--I think blueberries or sliced strawberries, chunks of avocado, and/or chopped hard-boiled egg would make nice additions. I loved this salad and will happily make it and the dressing again.

Although our theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week is Breakfast Buffet, I am always happy to have salads on any breakfast or brunch buffet, so I'm linking this Ina recipe up there. ;-)

Hot Mess is my second foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the March 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.  

I'm also sharing this post with 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.

Finally I am linking this post up to Souper Sundays, right 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 "Hot Mess" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via 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.

Note: If you are reading this post anywhere other than on this blog--Kahakai Kitchen, the content has been stolen--taken and used without my permission. It is very frustrating, when people steal your hard work--writing and photos, and put it on their blog like it is their own, when it clearly is not. I am currently taking steps with the server that hosts the site that has been scraping my blog feed and stealing my work to both to get all of my work removed from that site and to deal with the troll who is stealing it (and also stealing material from other blogs) and would not take it down when asked. I am hoping that karma will come around and bite them (very hard) where it hurts.