6/20/2019

Kauai Inn Papaya Cake for The Victory Garden

Rhys Bowen has outdone herself again with The Victory Garden!  I just love her Royal Spyness and the Molly Murphy Series, as well
as her terrific stand alone novels, as is this one.  What a great writer!  Bowen has the ability to draw in and engage readers with her created world.

From the Publishers:
"From the bestselling author of The Tuscan Child comes a beautiful and heart-rending novel of a woman’s love and sacrifice during the First World War.

As the Great War continues to take its toll, headstrong twenty-one-year-old Emily Bryce is determined to contribute to the war effort. She is convinced by a cheeky and handsome Australian pilot that she can do more, and it is not long before she falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage.

When he is sent back to the front, Emily volunteers as a “land girl,” tending to the neglected grounds of a large Devonshire estate. It’s here that Emily discovers the long-forgotten journals of a medicine woman who devoted her life to her herbal garden. The journals inspire Emily, and in the wake of devastating news, they are her saving grace. Emily’s lover has not only died a hero but has left her terrified—and with child. Since no one knows that Emily was never married, she adopts the charade of a war widow.

As Emily learns more about the volatile power of healing with herbs, the found journals will bring her to the brink of disaster, but may open a path to her destiny."

That pretty much sums things up.  My review being - great book - read it!  


My own garden is chock full of herbs and fruit trees.  So, from the garden, which the other day confronted me with an abundance of papaya, comes this old recipe from my card file - The Kauai Inn Papaya Cake, embellished with a passion fruit glaze.   The problem with my papaya trees has been that they grow ever upward, making it nearly impossible eventually to get them even from a ladder, with a pole picker.  Just recently I found a "low-bearing" papaya starter at the market, and am hoping that will make things easier.


When the passion fruit (locally known as lilikoi) are dropping everywhere, I make syrup, which goes on waffles, pancakes, etc. as well as glazing such things a roast duck and cakes. 

Just to give you an idea of how long I've had this recipe.  But, no worries, I'll translate it for you from the card.

                              The Kauai Inn Papaya Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teas. ground ginger
1/2 teas. nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups diced papaya
1 cup raisins (for this one I used about 1/4 cup re-hydrated barberries for part of the cup)
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Butter a Bundt pan or a 9x12x2" pan

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then
add the eggs. one at a time, beating well after each.
Add the sifted dry ingredients, water, lemon juice and fruit.  Mix well and scoop into pan.

Bake about 45-50 minutes, or about 55 minutes in a Bundt pan. Test with a knife to see if it comes out clean.

While hot, prick all over and glaze with lilikoi syrup or the following Orange Glaze:
1/2 cup orange juice, boiled with 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon grated orange rind for 10 minutes. Unmold when cool.and serve with whipped cream, ice cream or sour cream if you like.


Delicious if I do say so, and according to my taste testers. Bob's birthday cake, and as you can see, some people got into celebrating early. I'm sharing this recipe and review over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, at Novel Foods Summer edition, hosted by Simona of Briciole, and with Heather at the June edition of her Foodies Read Challenge.

6/06/2019

Pasta ala Norma for Auntie Poldi

I just finished the debut novel of a new series, Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, by Mario Giordano, and I did enjoy it, despite a few reservations.  Auntie is a definitely a character, albeit one prone to occasionally wavering somewhere on the edges of wonderland.

From the Library Journal review:

"There is a new amateur sleuth in town. Auntie Poldi, a 60-year-old Bavarian widow, decides to retire to Sicily and spend the rest of her days enjoying a good sea view and an abundance of Prosecco. Instead, she gets involved with investigating the death of Valentino, her handyman, and with an attractive police inspector. The characters are eccentric, bordering on over the top; the scenery is lovely; and the descriptions of food are fantastic. Poldi's nephew, an aspiring writer, lives in her attic bedroom and narrates the tale. There are some awkward pacing points in the book, which could be owing to difficulties in the translation; overall, it is a breezy mystery."

Auntie enjoys eating as well as drinking and flirting, so plenty of good food mentioned, both German and Italian, particularly Sicilian.  Poldi fixes a dish for her new Police Inspector friend, one I'd never heard of, though apparently a favorite in Sicily, Pasta ala Norma.  According to my sources, "a triumph of Mediterranean flavors, so called in honor of Vincenzo Bellini's opera "Norma". The story says that in the 19th century, Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian writer, poet and theater director, was so impressed when he first tasted this dish that he compared it to “Norma”, Bellini’s masterpiece.  And the name lasted ever since.

5/28/2019

Melting Pot Meal for Buttermilk Graffiti

It's Cook the Books time here, and summing up our current selection, Buttermilk Graffiti, by Edward Lee. This CTB round is hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. It's a sort of memoir, travelogue, food journey across America.  As the full title says: "A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting-Pot Cuisine."  Lee is a very empathetic fellow, totally engrossed and patient with all the people he interviews along the way.  The title he chose didn't grab me, though it has meaning for him.  Also, I am not averse to trying new things, but Lee's cooking was a little out there for my taste, with some weird food combinations.  That said, his journey and the people he encountered along the way were certainly interesting.  I especially enjoyed Captain Wally's story in the Trawling for Shrimp chapter.  Characteristically, Lee says, "I find myself driving to a stranger's home for no other reason than to cook food.  It is humbling to witness the kindness of people."

More from the Publishers:
"American food is the story of mash-ups. Immigrants arrive, cultures collide, and out of the push-pull come exciting new dishes and flavors. But for Edward Lee, who, like Anthony Bourdain or Gabrielle Hamilton, is as much a writer as he is a chef, that first surprising bite is just the beginning. What about the people behind the food? What about the traditions, the innovations, the memories?

5/02/2019

A Dill Straw for Your Bloody Mary

I'm recommending another good mystery series here, and though this one, Murder on the Ile Sordou, is fourth in the progression by M.L. Longworth, you might want to start with an earlier book, perhaps Murder in the Rue Dumas.  The first in her series, Death at the Chateau Bremont didn't get as good a review, though I did enjoy it enough to get the next one.

I especially loved her evocative descriptions of a stunningly beautiful island off the coast of Marseilles.  The whole ambiance made me want to book a trip and stay in the hotel described, sadly though I know it doesn't exist. But maybe one like it??

Some privileged guests, among them a French film star have come for the grand opening.  The plot proceeds to thicken, with Longworth's investigative duo, Judge Antoine Verlaque and his lady love, law professor Marine Bonnet along for the ride.  They are on what is supposed to be an idyllic, relaxing vacation.

All the characters are very well fleshed out, and original.  As well, the food and wine descriptions are just too tasty.  On this remote island in the Mediterranean Sea, Hoteliers, Maxime and Catherine Le Bon have spent their life savings beautifully restoring the hotel.  They have also secured an ambitious young chef, Emile, for their kitchen, one who goes foraging for local wild herbs and plants.  And the varied, inspired menus have us wanting to try his wonderful creations.  He served the guests a starter that would be great with my drink: A Goat Cheese Crème Brûlée with Caramelized Onions.  Oh yes!

4/18/2019

A Tea Shop Mystery and Quickie Chicken Tetrazzini

Among a number of cozy mystery series I enjoy, and get back to frequently, are the Tea Shop mysteries by Laura Childs.  My most current read being, Pekoe Most Poison. Theo's tea shop as described in her books, sounds so lovely, a soothing and relaxing place to chill out, until there is a murder in the vicinity, which of course, she must help to solve.  In this little who-done-it  she is invited to a "Rat Tea Party", supposedly a tradition from years past in Charleston, SC.   From the Publisher:

"When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston's most prominent hostesses, to a "Rat Tea," she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston to promote better public health.

But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen's entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat. And as she reviews the guest list for suspects, she soon finds herself drawn into in a dangerous game of cat and mouse..."

3/22/2019

Peranakan Cooking for Crazy Rich Asians

Our current Cook the Books Club pick is Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan, hosted by moi, with a Movie tie-in to Food n' Flix, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  The people featured in this novel are not just rich, but crazy rich.  Also, some of them, plain crazy.  But, happily for our purposes at CTBC, Singaporeans are food obsessed.  Lots of fabulous food is eaten, discussed and argued over, another local pastime.

This over the top romp mostly takes place in Singapore around the marriage of the century.  And two New Yorkers, NYU college professors, are heading off to participate in the extravagant event; Nicholas (the Best Man) and Rachel, his girlfriend, (who is clueless about his crazy family).  Even though Nicky's cousin Astrid has clearly warned him; "You can't just throw Rachel in the deep end like this.  You need to prep her, do you hear me?"  He doesn't see the need.  He has been raised not to talk about money.  His family are traditional and very private.  They don't do media interviews or seek publicity.

The wealthy people in Singapore are divided between the filthy rich old family Singaporeans, the recent  Chinese emigres "mainlanders", and assorted Malay royalty.  So we're given a look at the Asian jet set, with plenty of snobbery, greed, ridiculous spending, nasty gossip and rude behavior, but balanced out with large doses of humor and sarcasm, thanks to Mr. Kwan . In the end, it becomes quite clear that money may help, but it is not making people happy or nice. Kwan's novel is, at heart, a romance in the best sense, tried and true in the end.

3/06/2019

Oatmeal Lace Cookies and President Roosevelt's Martini

I don't know about you, but if there's a particular sort of novel I especially appreciate, it's one with a competent female protagonist.  Two books I've recently finished illustrate this type. The Dead Cat Bounce, is a mystery series debut featuring Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree, recently retired from the stressful field of financial management in New York, and currently restoring a rambling old fixer-upper on an island in Maine.  She is a money whiz and home repair do-it-yourselfer (with occasional help).   And, just so you know, cat lovers out there, the dead cat bounce is a stock market term.  Her books have the added allure of being funny.Right from the first page:
 "...on that bright April morning when, after living cheerfully and peacefully in the house for over a year, I found a body in the storeroom. Coming upon a body is an experience, like childbirth or a head-on collision, that takes the breath out of a person. I went back through the passageway between the kitchen and the small, unheated room where in spring I kept dog food and dahlia bulbs, and where apparently I now stored corpses."  And, on page 3:
 "People in Eastport do not think the telephone grows naturally out of the tympanic membrane, and some of them will actually decide whether to answer it or not based on what sort of news they are expecting." and further down: "I think Ellie added, 'we should make sure the man is really dead.'  This struck me as pointless, since an ice pick in the cranium promised little in the way of future prospects.  But Ellie was determined; it was part of her down east Maine heritage, like being able to navigate in the fog or knowing how to dress out a deer."

1/11/2019

Hawaiian Food for Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Our latest selection for Cook the Books Club is Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, by Sara Ackerman, hosted by fellow Hawaii blogger, Deb from Kahakai Kitchen. Especially interesting to me as a resident on the island where this all takes place - The Big Island!  And so fascinating to visit a familiar locale at this time in the past. I don't believe I've ever read a book dealing with WWII and its impact on Hawaii, particularly The Big Island.

Other than the pies, there wasn't a whole lot of food mentions. Not that I noticed anyway. However, given the ambiance, we can use our imaginations. From the Publishers:

"Hawaii, 1944. The Pacific battles of World War II continue to threaten American soil, and on the home front, the bonds of friendship and the strength of love are tested.

Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives together one year after the disappearance of her husband. As rumors swirl and questions about his loyalties surface, Violet believes Ella knows something. But Ella is stubbornly silent. Something—or someone—has scared her. And with the island overrun by troops training for a secret mission, tension and suspicion between neighbors is rising.

Violet bands together with her close friends to get through the difficult days. To support themselves, they open a pie stand near the military base, offering the soldiers a little homemade comfort. Try as she might, Violet can’t ignore her attraction to the brash marine who comes to her aid when the women are accused of spying. Desperate to discover the truth behind what happened to her husband, while keeping her friends and daughter safe, Violet is torn by guilt, fear and longing as she faces losing everything. Again."


I had family over and prepared them a Hawaiian themed dinner. Kalua pork, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Macaroni Salad (local style) and Coconut cake. The Kalua pork was a first for me, and made in the pressure cooker. Traditionally, a whole pig would be slow cooked, overnight in an imu (a large rock and banana leaf lined pit in the ground, as they did in the book for their Christmas party). Much easier to start with some locally sourced, free range pork shoulder roast, a few banana leaves and some liquid smoke.  Oh yes!  It totally worked.

1/03/2019

Cajun Cooking for Letters from Paris

If you've read The Paris Key, by Juliet Blackwell, here is another of her stunning, romantic novels, definitely not to be missed.  There is a love story, a bit of mystery to resolve and a fascinating new job.  Letters from Paris, tells the story of an orphan girl in Cajun country, Louisiana, who finally escapes small town life, then makes her way back home, finally ending up in Paris, tracing the origins of a funeral mask.  I especially enjoyed Claire's search for the woman behind the mask, the fascinating details of mask making, and all the delicious food mentions, from her home in the South to the wonderful food she encounters in France.  And, from the Publishers:

"After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard has worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something is lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful piece of artwork that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.

At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the century-old mask-making atelier where the object, known only as “L’Inconnue”—or The Unknown Woman—was created. Under the watchful eye of a surly mask-maker, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offers insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire explores the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to unravel deeply buried secrets in her own life."