Peter Mayle's The Marseille Caper was a terrifically enjoyable read, right from the first sentence:
"Shock has a chilling effect, particularly when it takes the form of an unexpected meeting with a man from whom you have recently stolen three million dollars' worth of wine."
Although pretty lightweight, his novel was throughout, entertaining, funny, romantic and included a thrilling high jinks rescue off a grand yacht. There are gangster thugs, and an intrigue-ridden local real estate war going on in Marseille. Sam, the fixer, takes on various tricky jobs mainly to make his life more interesting. This is on top of all the wonderful food and wine descriptions, being as our intrepid hero and his client are both connoisseurs. Good summer reading.
The only other book of Mayle's I've read was French Lessons, a memoir which our Cook the Books group did a few years back. That link will take you to the round-up with all our inspired dishes for the book. I think, all in all, I like his fiction better.
The first meal described after their arrival in Marseille, included a starter of crab cakes with a puree of avocado. This mention inspired a concoction of my own: cold marinated beets, topped with a cool cloud of avocado puree, which I served with some grilled chicken, also cold.
A great summer side dish, requiring no heat at mealtime, if you cook the beets early in the day, peel and slice, then set them to marinate in an oil and vinegar dressing. The creamy, umami avocado mousse is simplicity itself.
For 4 servings
1 large avocado, peeled, and seeded
1 cup chicken broth (preferably home-made)
1 clove garlic
1/8 (or more) teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/4 teas. salt (unless you are using a salted broth - taste first)
1 cup ice cold water
1/2 cup heavy cream
Scoop out the avocado into blender container, add broth, garlic, salt and hot pepper. Cover and blend on high speed for 15 seconds. Remove cover and add the ice water and cream.
Cover and blend for 10 seconds longer. Should be thick and mousse like. Lay down some lettuce leaves, add the chilled, marinated beets, top with a few scoops of avocado mousse and sprinkle with minced chives or parsley. Just what the beet needed.
I'm sharing the goodness with Heather at the July edition of Foodies Read Challenge and with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event. Join the fun or just check out some good book suggestions and meal ideas.