11/23/2019

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.

Some cinnamon sticks were drying in the oven (pilot light only) and 2 were destined for this brew.  You get the picture.  Just add cream and a sprinkle of parsley when finished.  While not quite.  First the roots needed to be roasted.  So, Roasted Roots Soup.  I chopped up the various roots in about 1 inch chunks, tossed with some peanut oil, harissa, salt and pepper.  Then roasted at 425 for 30 minutes, turned and finished them for another 20 minutes or so. Should have gotten a picture at this stage.  Oh well.

Then after cooling a bit, into the blender with the stock.  Added cream (about 1/2 cup) cinnamon stick, more salt and heated it all up  That's it.  Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley.


Cream of Roasted Roots Soup

Heat oven to 425F

2 parsnips
2 carrots
2 shallots
1 sweet potato (white)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups homemade (preferably) stock
salt, pepper and Harissa
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup of cream
2 tablespoons parsley

Peel the vegetables and cut into chunks.  Spread onto roasting pan and toss with oil, salt, pepper and dash of Harissa.  Roast about 30 minutes, turn and finish until soft, about another 20 minutes or so.  Cool a bit before blending with the broth.  Reheat gently with cream and cinnamon sticks.  Remove cinnamon sticks and serve with sprinkling of parsley.


I was surprised at the depth and complexity of delicious flavor!  Amazing what just a combination of some roots will do!  We loved it, and I'll be doing repeats in future.  This will be shared over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event.

11/05/2019

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?

10/29/2019

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.

10/25/2019

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.

10/17/2019

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!

9/26/2019

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.

9/13/2019

A Night of Miracles and Mango Coffeecake


Having just finished Night of Miracles, by Elizabeth Berg, I've got to say she's got another winner! I've reviewed several of Berg's novels in the past (The Art of Mending and Never Change), but am not letting that stop me.  When they're good, they're good, and you want to share it!

This one calls to mind the sadly late Maeve Binchey, featuring a number of diverse characters in a small town, whose lives are tied together in various ways. The central figure, an elderly woman, Lucille, is a consummate baking queen, who has begun to teach classes in her home, between fending off a few encounters with the Angel of Death.

So mentions of food abound, not just baked goods, but plenty of scrumptious Southern cooking turns up here, with another of the characters working in a local cafe.  Beware of constant temptations from the likes of Upside-down Chocolate Pudding Cake, Praline Cupcakes, and sugar cookies stuffed with raspberry jam.  Oh Boy!

9/04/2019

Perfect Cold Borscht for Hot Weather

This is the time of year when cold soups come into their own, and yes, it's still hot here.  I was very happy with the way this version of Borscht turned out.  I've tried others, good too.  There are probably as many variations of this soup as there are nostalgic emigres around.

On a related, sort of, subject?  We must have been in a Russian mood, as I ordered a jar of Shilajit, which if you've never heard of, is a supplement, a mineral rich tar found in high mountain ranges, like the Himalayas, Altai and Caucasus.  You add a small amount - less than 1/8 teaspoon to some tea and voila, energy!  It just came in the mail from Siberia, so I'll let you know how it works.  My brother-in-law, who is sold on the stuff, told me about it.

So, here's a delicious soup to be made earlier in the day, chilled and, then when you don't want to heat up your kitchen, there you have it!

8/15/2019

A Meal from Prune, The Cookbook


I've been enjoying Gabrielle Hamilton's cookbook, Prune, based on the recipes featured in her New York restaurant of that name, and which I checked out from our local library.  I didn't renew it though. Bought my very own copy, YES!  A fairly hefty tome.  And looking forward to trying many more of her recipes, methods and creative ideas.

We at Cook the Books Club had just read and reported on Gabrielle's previous book, a memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter, which led me to check out her cookbook. So glad I did.  Gabrielle's background, learning to cook with her French mother, working for various small restaurants, and catering companies, traveling and learning along the way, all informed her unique personal style and conception for Prune.

7/30/2019

Blood, Bones & Butter Review With a Negroni!

We at Cook the Books Club are closing out this segment with our latest book selection, Blood, Bones & Butter, a memoir by Gabrielle Hamilton, and I'm just getting my post in under the wire.  I loved this book, found it a truly enjoyable read!  There's an old saying, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" and does it ever apply here. Gabrielle not only stands it, she actually revels in it, the overwhelming, awesome heat of a small restaurant kitchen with 10 burners going.  She says: "I am the only one I know who likes it.....I feel like we are two small-time boxers---me and the heat---meeting in the center of the ring to tap gloves..."

Though I hadn't thought about heat too much in terms of restaurant work,  I do know that my own little kitchen often heats up beyond my tolerance and I just have to get out.  Go sit in front of a fan on the deck until I'm cooled down enough.  Not possible for anyone on a restaurant job.

What a trip! Gabrielle carries us along with her, from the beginning of her interest and contact with food prep, watching her French mother,  through years of camp cooking and catering, to the opening of her own unique little restaurant in New York City.   Her stint with various catering companies would certainly put one off ordering from them, by the way.  "The Inadvertent Education" adventures are narrated in a writing style that kept my interest to the end.   She is a truly talented, evocative raconteur and cook, her MFA in fiction writing clearly shows. 

7/18/2019

Cuban Cooking Inspired by Next Year in Havana

This was my first foray into Cuban cooking, and I believe into Cuban history or politics.  Next Year in Havana, by Chanel Cleeton, was an eyeopener, for me anyway.  I love reading about periods in history and about places I'm unfamiliar with, learning new things, especially when enfolded with an enjoyable, engrossing story.  Like this one.  Cleeton's novel is told from two perspectives, of those escaping the revolution and of the granddaughter, visiting Cuba for the first time, to scatter her grandmother's ashes.

From the Publisher:
"After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

7/08/2019

Making Kim Chi and Reading Reichl

I've been a long time fan of Ruth Reichl, her memoirs particularly, and this latest, Save Me the Plums, is another engrossing read.  So many books, about one life!  Amazing.  This memoir chronicles the years of her Gourmet magazine experience, until just after its sad demise.

Reichl's major talent is an ability to convey an immediacy of taste, the perceptive description of personalities, surroundings and ambiance, in her writing, so that you are at one with the experience, along with her.  You can savor the duck, "rare, with the wild taste of lakes and forests," smell the salty caramel topping, and wonder at the magazine back of house shenanigans, intrigue and silliness.  Delicious fun and inspiring reading. With recipes!  I'm looking forward to making her German Apple Pancakes.   From the Publishers:

"When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America’s oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone’s boss. Yet Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?

This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl’s leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media—the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down."

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.

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."