Pistachio Dusted Cream of Cauliflower Soup from The Knowledge

Many of you may be familiar with Martha Grimes' series featuring Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent, Richard Jury, and her clever pub name titles.  The Knowledge  is one of those, her latest effort in the series.. Jury and his occasionally strange cohorts/friends are always fun.  I'd recommend starting at the beginning however, unless you already have.

From the Publishers:
"With their signature wit, sly plotting, and gloriously offbeat characters, Martha Grimes’s New York Times bestselling Richard Jury mysteries are “utterly unlike anyone else’s detective novels” (Washington Post). In the latest series outing, The Knowledge, the Scotland Yard detective nearly meets his match in a Baker Street Irregulars-like gang of kids and a homicide case that reaches into east Africa.

Robbie Parsons is one of London’s finest, a black cab driver who knows every street, every theater, every landmark in the city by heart. In his backseat is a man with a gun in his hand—a man who brazenly committed a crime in front of the Artemis Club, a rarefied art gallery-cum-casino, then jumped in and ordered Parsons to drive. As the criminal eventually escapes to Nairobi, Detective Superintendent Richard Jury comes across the case in the Saturday paper.

Two days previously, Jury had met and instantly connected with one of the victims of the crime, a professor of astrophysics at Columbia and an expert gambler. Feeling personally affronted, Jury soon enlists Melrose Plant, Marshall Trueblood, and his whole gang of merry characters to contend with a case that takes unexpected turns into Tanzanian gem mines, a closed casino in Reno, Nevada, and a pub that only London’s black cabbies, those who have “the knowledge,” can find. The Knowledge is prime fare from “one of the most fascinating mystery writers today” (Houston Chronicle)."

Mentions of food were often intriguing, some from one character's sojourn in Africa.  What especially caught my fancy though, was a Pistachio dusted Cream of Cauliflower soup.  Perfect for our chilly, constantly raining weather.  I swear, the rain hasn't let up here for more than a half hour at a time over the past  two weeks.  

But this soup hit all the stops and I would definitely make it again.  Particularly loved the freshly roasted and ground white pepper in it, and the dusting of toasted pistachios on top.

Pistachio Dusted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower, separated into chunks
2 tablespoons butter
1 small potato, cut into chunks
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups broth
1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns, toasted and crushed
salt to taste and or fish sauce
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or garlic chives for garnish
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled, roasted and finely ground

Melt the butter in your soup pot and saute the onion until softening, then add in the garlic and cook a few more minutes.  Add the remaining vegetables and stir for another few minutes, using more butter if it looks necessary.   Add the stock and seasonings, bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft.

You can take it off the heat and wait to blend when it's cooled down a bit.  Blend until smooth, with the sour cream, adding milk or more cream if needed.   Re-heat.  Serve in individual bowls topped with the parsley and a dusting of pistachios.  Oh super yum!

I'm sharing this over at Beth Fish Reads, for her Weekend Cooking event, with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for  Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays, and with Heather for her January Foodies Read Challenge.  Be sure to visit everyone and enjoy all the good food and reading suggestions.


Happy New Year's Jook

The downside to embarking upon a terrific new mystery series, when you've just finished the debut novel, is the wait for a follow up!  Singapore Sapphire, by .A. M. Stuart, has it all - an intrepid heroine, in an exotic locale, fascinating history and really splendid writing. I want to read her next one now!

I would only take exception to the cover.  Who is supposed to be represented here?  Certainly not our brave heroine, Harriet Gordon, an Englishwoman, raised in India.  More from the Publishers:

"Early twentieth-century Singapore is a place where a person can disappear, and Harriet Gordon hopes to make a new life for herself there, leaving her tragic memories behind her--but murder gets in the way.

Singapore, 1910--Desperate for a fresh start, Harriet Gordon finds herself living with her brother, a reverend and headmaster of a school for boys, in Singapore at the height of colonial rule. Hoping to gain some financial independence, she advertises her services as a personal secretary. It is unfortunate that she should discover her first client, Sir Oswald Newbold--explorer, mine magnate and president of the exclusive Explorers and Geographers Club--dead with a knife in his throat.

When Inspector Robert Curran is put on the case, he realizes that he has an unusual witness in Harriet. Harriet's keen eye for detail and strong sense of duty interests him, as does her distrust of the police and her traumatic past, which she is at pains to keep secret from the gossips of Singapore society.

When another body is dragged from the canal, Harriet feels compelled to help with the case. She and Curran are soon drawn into a murderous web of treachery and deceit and find themselves face-to-face with a ruthless cabal that has no qualms about killing again to protect its secrets."


Party Guacamole Speaks with the Language of Flowers

Our latest bimonthly Cook the Books Club entry is The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and hosted this time by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  If you'd like to join us, the party is open for your contribution until January 31st.  Everyone is welcome! Be sure to check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.

From the Publishers:
"The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness."


All About Roasted Roots Soup

This soup came about after my last batch of pressure cooked broth was nicely cooled and waiting in the fridge, with caps of fat to be removed.  I was thinking what sort of soup shall we make?  There was a bit of broccoli from the market, but more would be needed for a cream of broccoli soup.  Then, back at the market, next day, no broccoli was left.  However there were some nice parsnips, and that spurred me on to the thought of other roots; carrots, shallots, sweet potato and garlic.  Yes, and the idea of a cream of roots soup was hatched.


Jubilee and a Cajun Catfish Etoufee

I was recently invited to be part of a review event for Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, a just published, new cookbook by Toni Tipton-Martin.  Thanks Camilla for extending the invite. 

About the book, from the Publishers:
"More than 100 recipes that paint a rich, varied picture of the true history of African American cooking—from a James Beard Award–winning food writer

NAMED ONE OF FALL’S BEST COOKBOOKS BY The New York Times • Bon Appétit • Eater • Food & Wine • Kitchn • Chowhound

Throughout her career, Toni Tipton-Martin has shed new light on the history, breadth, and depth of African American cuisine. She’s introduced us to black cooks, some long forgotten, who established much of what’s considered to be our national cuisine. After all, if Thomas Jefferson introduced French haute cuisine to this country, who do you think actually cooked it?


Various Incarnations of Crack Chicken

My dear grandson came for dinner the other night and happened to mention that he had just cooked up a batch of Crack Chicken in an Instant Pot. (knowing my interest in haute cuisine :))  What? I asked - Crack Chicken?  He tells me, as in addictive. Now in the recent past the boy would cook whole meals in his rice cooker, everything would go in there and he'd have dinner for a few days.  Now it's the Instant Pot.

This was the first I'd heard the term Crack Chicken.  He told me how great it tasted, and how easy it was to make.   So later I asked friend, Duck Duck Go and found a number of recipes for this odd sounding dish.  Very Au Courant I discovered.

Thus, we had to whip up a batch.  A bit like creamed chicken, but with ranch seasoning, cream cheese and bacon.  How could you miss?  One benefit is that it makes a goodly amount.  On various nights, and for lunches, we had it over noodles, with mashed potatoes, in a hamburger bun with tomato and lettuce, on toast topped with melted cheese, on pizza with some sliced olives, and I froze some for another day.


Orange Chicken Koresh for The Temporary Bride

Our latest selection (October/November) for Cook the Books Club is The Temporary Bride - a Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec. A truly fascinating read. I especially enjoyed the account of Klinec's very unusual growing up years, which went a long way toward explaining her extreme courage and independence.   Also the cooking school she ran in London sounded like my kind of fantasy class to take. Eclectic, wide-ranging culinary explorations, learning everything from Oaxacan moles to preparing a Vietnamese-style snapper. She says: "We crimp dumplings between our fingers and mix pickled tea leaves with roast peanuts and lime juice in tiny, lacquer Burmese bowls."

On the other hand, I certainly don't find Persian cooking fabulous enough to take it to the extent she went to, in her determination to learn how to cook their food on site.  In fact, I came away with the impression that it would be an extremely horrific place to live, let alone visit.  You couldn't pay me to go there.  Although everything wasn't totally squalid, enough was, especially when added to the extremely oppressive political atmosphere.  Something like going away to live in Nazi Germany maybe, as a Jew, to learn how to make strudel.  Maybe fearless, maybe stupid. Pardon me.  Just my opinion, coming away from this memoir.  Not talking about some of the people who were kind and helpful, the interesting culture or food here, just the current religious/political situation, particularly for women.


Salade Lyonnaise for Mastering the Art of French Eating

Here's a memoir you might enjoy, even if you aren't a Francophile, which I'm certainly not -  Mastering the Art of French Eating, by Ann Mah.  Lots of super food ideas and mentions!   I had already read and loved two of her other books, The Lost Vintage, and Kitchen Chinese, Mah's debut memoir.

Ann's husband is called away on a diplomatic assignment to Iraq, for a year - no spouses allowed - after being first assigned to Paris, their dream come true. She must get over her disappointment, and as an aid to that, as well as her almost overwhelming loneliness, while he is away, she takes side trips to various of the French regions.  The idea being to feature a specific, representative dish from each area, interview chefs, farmers, marketers and French foodies for an article or book. As Dorie Greenspan remarks, "feasting through France with Ann Mah is a delicious adventure."  

I did think she went on over much about missing her husband, but hey, it's truth and a memoir.  She coped well, meeting new people via her craft of writing and interest in food; getting to know these people, not only their representative foods, but their culture, interests and unique personalities.  She discovers that the French are very serious about their meals.  Lunch is not meant to be carelessly consumed at one's desk, or food eaten whilst walking along the street.  I can only imagine what they would think of eating while driving.  Quel Horreur!


Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Peppers for The Food Explorer

The Food Explorer, by Daniel Stone  is a biography of David Fairchild,  and our most recent Cook the Books Club selection, chosen and hosted by my fellow Hawaiian blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. The full title adds: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats."  I enjoyed the book quite a bit, though this type of historic biography is outside my usual reading purview.  Very informative however, despite some of it being a bit dry, there's enough to keep one interested, with all his travel adventures and mishaps, the variety of seeds, cuttings and plants Fairchild, as well as his protegee, Frank Meyer, and contemporary, Walter Swingle, were able to ship back to the US, or carry themselves.

 From the Publishers:  "The true adventures of David Fairchild, a late 19th-century food explorer who traveled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes - and thousands more - to the American plate

In the 19th century, American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable lust to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater.