Mahi Meuniere Style and The Savage Garden

The Savage Garden, by Mark Mills, was a pretty terrific novel, a mystery that turns out to be a double cold case involving a fifteenth century murder, cleverly memorialized in an elaborate Tuscan garden, as well as a more recent World War II murder on the same estate.  A young Cambridge student, Adam Strickland, is assigned a special summer project by his professor, with an introduction to the present owner, to research and prepare a thesis on her garden with its intriguing sculptures.  Adam is enchanted and drawn in as he proceeds to work at unraveling and exposing some well hidden truths, underlying the garden's unusual iconography.  Stir in a nice fillip of romance and well done Mr. Mills!

Though Adam rattled through France on the train to Italy and Signora Docci's villa in Tuscany, I thought this recipe, a simply prepared fish with a bit of complexity, might have been served in the dining car, albeit with a more Mediterranean variety of fish.  I've made this twice now, with mahimahi as well as with Monchong, a similar lightweight white-fleshed fish with good flavor, and loved it both times.  Basically a browned butter sauce with lemon and capers, quickly tossed together after sauteing the fish.

Mahimahi Meuniere Style

4 mahi fillets, 6 oz. each
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon parsley, or chives, minced

Season the fish generously on both sides with salt and pepper.  Allow to sit for 4 minutes.  Then dredge in flour.

Heat a large saucepan over high heat.  Add the olive oil and gently place the fillets in the pan.  When the oil begins to lightly smoke, turn the heat down to medium and saute the fillets on one side until they are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Turn over and continue to cook on the other side until just cooked through and golden brown, another few minutes more.  Remove the fillets from the pan and set aside on a paper towels to drain before transferring to plate.

Pour off any excess oil from the pan and wipe with a paper towel.  Return the pan to medium high heat and add the butter, melting and simmering until butter begins to brown and takes on a nutty aromatic smell.  Remove pan from heat and carefully add the lemon juice, zest and capers, being careful as the liquid will react with the hot butter.  Stir together and add in the parsley or chives.  Spoon hot sauce over the fish and serve immediately.  I just added a green salad and my mixed rice for which I combine wild, brown and jasmine white.

This will be served up for the Weekend Cooking event, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Jump aboard with your own food related post, or drop by for some good cooking and books.


Cassoulet of Sausage, Butter Beans, Apples and Mushrooms

This latest novel, Black Diamond, (that I've read as yet) of Martin Walker's mystery series, "of the French Countryside", was another winner.  I really enjoyed all the information regarding truffles, that elusive and tempting fungi (especially for someone living in Hawaii).  His hero, Bruno, Chief of Police in a smallish town, also shares with me a delight in growing things for his kitchen.  Only a small village policeman would be able to keep chickens, a vegetable garden, truffle oaks, and go hunting with his friends.  He does all that, as well as butchering his catch, hanging up the herbs to dry and ham to cure, not to mention coaching rugby to the town kids and teaching tennis.  What a guy!

All of which add immensely to the plot, especially a particularly wonderful description of the wake dinner he prepares for a murdered friend, his truffle growing mentor and hunt club buddy.  The tradition is to fix food for a grand send-off, using meat that the friends have hunted together.  In this case, it was the venison, truffles and more. 

Chief Bruno's venison casserole, with sausage, mushrooms, shallots, wine, etc. is brought to a simmer, herbs are added, and then the pot is nestled into a hay box, topped with a thick bed of hay and left for the remainder of the day.  A perfectly splendid, rustic slow cooker, I'd say.  I did mine in my Le Creuset.

 He also prepares a soup with turnips, leeks and potatoes, stock, cream and herbs from the garden, all topped before serving with grated black diamond truffle.  For dessert he makes Crème brûlée, infused with black truffles.  There are full descriptions of all the preparations, mixed in with police action, conversations with other inspectors, a rugby game and his own musings on the crime's solution.


Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Garlic and Porcini for The Critic

This has to be the perfect book for mystery lovers and cold case fans, who are also interested in wines, the whole business from grapes to wine production, to tasting and beyond.  Quite fascinating background information is seamlessly merged with the action.  Peter May's The Critic has it all, as well as some good food mentions.

Of course, the overly-powerful (influence wise) wine critic gets murdered.  Not a "cozy" mystery here, more in the exciting thriller vein.  And, forensics expert, Enzo Macleod, from May's earlier debut novel in this series, Extraordinary People, gets to hunt the killer, as well as visit vineyards, and do a bit of wine tasting himself.  Thoughtful in parts too, about how people make assumptions, and draw conclusions based on misinterpretations, printed as fact in the newspapers and other media.  Similar to the present political divide, much of it stirred up by people with their own agendas, funding "protests" and paying the participants.  But I digress. On to the food!


Winter Salad with Sesame Tahini Dressing

 Just finished Picnic in Provence, another lovely food filled memoir by Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris. Though I think I enjoyed her first book a bit more.  Still, lots of good recipes are included, as well as village characters, stories, and her insights on life in France.

Bard now has a young son, and together with her husband, Gwendal, they pick up stakes and move from Paris apartment living to a country house in the South of France.....Sigh.  I would do it in a heart beat.  Even through adjusting to new neighbors, new cultural traditions, a new business enterprise and attempting to get along with in-laws, she maintains a positive, can do attitude.  I don't think my own adjustment in a similar situation would be as good.  For one thing, Bard is a much more outgoing, social individual, which helps in making new friends.  I did wonder how much her mother-in-law would appreciate some of the honesty however.

My choice of recipe was based mostly on needing food to bring to a Christmas party.  I liked that she said of this dish, it's "the only thing I can think of that I'd want to eat before Thanksgiving dinner.  That said, it would also make a lovely salad served with dinner itself."  A winter salad, in reds and greens - perfect for a Christmas party.  She only dressed it with a bit of olive oil and some salt.  I did that, but for extra flavor, I decided to bring along a sesame tahini dressing, also from her book, with a few changes.  Though I didn't toss the salad with it, to keep from muddying  the colors.


Happy Thanksgiving, Liliko'i Butter Mochi!!

Some of you might wonder, why is she posting about Mochi on Thanksgiving?  Well, no special reason, it's just what I decided to make for dessert on this special day.  Luckily my daughter brought cheesecake, so there was  a choice. If you've (likely) never tried it before, mochi is more confection than cake.  Similar consistency to Applets and Cotlets, or nougat, and popular here in Hawaii.  I was going through my box of clipped recipes, which hardly ever gets looked at nowadays, since the computer recipe file I keep, and ended up online, with this one from the Executive chef at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Ralf Bauer, originally clipped from our local airline magazine.


Tomorrow There will be Apricots - in Lamb Tagine

Our current selection for  Cook the Books Club is, of course, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, by Jessica Soffer. Plenty of angst here.  Daughter, Lorca, longing for the love and affection of her cold mother (so remote we never even know her name) for her father, left behind, and not caring enough to fight for his daughter.  Lorca mutilates herself to escape the pain? I guess immediate pain knocks out the more existential sort.  Temporarily at least.  She longs to make her mother happy, and thinks preparing food for her, maybe finding the perfect dish will save her from boarding school. Then we have a grandmother who mourns her husband, gave her child away and now regrets it, a lifetime later.  The grandfather who mourns the loss of his child all those years ago.  The former mistress, Dottie, who mourns him as well.  The only character I really liked or identified with was Lorca's sweet boyfriend, Blot.  Yes, Blot.

I was dissatisfied with the end, as it didn't seem consistent with earlier sections.  If Joseph really believed that their child had been still-born, that certainly didn't come through in his POV sections.  If he told Dottie that later, it was most likely to protect his wife (and himself) from the shame of giving their child away.  That should have been revealed.  Also, at one point (P. 21)  Lorca's mother tells her sister that she had not tried to find her biological parents.  She hadn't wanted to.  Almost at the end, she tells her ex, and Lorca, "I found my parents... In the obituaries."  Doesn't really hold up, and seems more in tune with her character that she is lying.  Finally, Lorca is headed off to boarding school at the end, after nearly dying from her latest slashing episode.  Do we believe that the thought of her boyfriend and maybe father and grandmother visiting occasionally will stop more of this self-mutilation business?  Not really, but we can hope.  Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.


Fish Wrapped with Leaves

 For some reason (Foodies will probably concur) I think this kind of thing is fun.  Breaks up the old cooking ruts.  Get a bunch of leaves, wrap up some fish with seasoning, and steam.  Those Asian bamboo steamers are great and come with several levels, so you can do lots or just other stuff at the same time.

I finely minced some kefir lime leaves, added ground "Grains of Paradise" (pepper will do) and salt.

Cut the banana leaf into two sections, about 10x12" or so each, set the fish on top (I used Ono, also known as Wahoo) then brushed the fillets with macadamia oil (olive would be fine), and patted on the seasoning.  Both sides.

Laid a pandan leaf, folded in half on top, then rolled it up and tied with another pandan leaf.  Or you could use cooking twine.  Hopefully, by this time your rice has almost finished cooking.

I had some tabbouleh left from the day before and got that out.

Now you get water boiling in the bottom of your wok, set the steamer on top with the lid on and let it steam about 5 minutes.


Maigret and the Chicken Paillard

Books and food, two of my favorite things, perhaps why I enjoy combining those subjects in a post.  The Inspector Maigret mystery series by Georges Simenon is one I've been working my way through.  Still more to go as he was a very prolific author, with close to 500 novels to his credit.  Simenon started very young, working as a newspaper reporter, which saw him visiting the seamier side of life in the city, but later provided plenty of material for his books.  The one I've just finished, Maigret and the Wine Merchant is typical.  They're all fairly lightweight, and not exactly cozy mysteries, but creative stories and interesting from a Parisian post-war perspective.  And I like his good relationship with Mrs. Maigret, who is always cooking up some delicious meal.

To go along with the French theme, we have a chicken breast, sort of a butterflied technique called paillard.  New to me, but maybe you all do up paillards on a regular basis.  I even had the grill, which had only ever been used, until lately for pancakes on the opposite side.  What a revelation, a use for something I already have.  Got to love that.  In case you're not familiar with the method, I'm going to lay it out for you from Serious Eats.  If you go to the link there will be photos of each step.


Asparagus Gratin and Rules of Civility

 Don't you just love coming across a new author, one who is witty, erudite, and just plain fun to read?  Rules of Civility, the very well-written debut novel of Amor Towles, hits all the high notes and then some, transporting us to the last years of the 1930's, .New York City prewar Cafe society,   Another time, and peopled with a cast of carefully drawn, singular characters, and an engaging narrative.  Highly recommended.

The book's heroine at one point determines that, being in a singular state at the time, is not going to stop her from enjoying a meal out on her birthday.  Dining alone was not usually something done by women.  Even today, it's not always an easy thing.  Assumptions are made.  She takes a taxi to a good French restaurant.

"After taking my name the maitre d' asked if I would like a glass of champagne while I waited.  It was only seven o'clock and less than half the tables were taken.  'Waiting for what?' I asked.  'Are you not meeting someone?'  'Not that I know of'.

This scenario is repeated with the waiter.  She perseveres however and orders an asparagus gratin and a glass of white wine, and for the entree, the specialty of the house: poussin stuffed with black truffle.

Now you have it. Where the urge came to make an asparagus gratin.  I've done various things with that lovely vegetable, but this was my first gratin.  Enough of a description was given to guide my selection of a recipe, and to make the appropriate adaptations.  Most had the stalks laid out whole, but I prefer eating them cut to a more reasonable size.


Skordalia and Horta - Not Just for Cretans

 I've just finished reading The Tomb of Zeus, by Barbara Cleverly, author of the terrific Joe Sandilands series.  This novel introduces her new series with protagonist, Laetitia Talbot, archeologist and occasional sleuth. The story takes place on a dig in Crete, where they will be searching for the legendary tomb of Zeus.  Of course a murder takes place and needs to be solved.

Her first night after arriving, Letty is served some local dishes, as her host, an eminent archeologist, is also a proponent of all things Cretan.  Their fare includes horta, and fried fish with Skordalia. His starter, which turns out to be a test of Letty's nerves, is a "chalky white mound of animal tissue folded in tightly curling waves and sitting in the middle of her plate...This culinary delicacy was surrounded by a moat of reddish-brown fluid..."  lamb's brains, just to see how she'd react.

I was not tempted to reproduce that particular dish, but the horta and skordalia piqued my interest.  Skordalia is a sauce (or dip) often served with fried, battered fish.  I wanted to try that.

When I visited Crete several years ago, it was during the off-season, and many restaurants were closed.  Nevertheless,  I do remember enjoying all of my meals. Complementary raki everywhere may have helped.  No one served me lamb's brains.


Meat Pies with Guacamole, Hooroo Curtis!

It's Hooroo Curtis week, we're saying goodbye, Aussie style to our currently reigning IHCC chef, Curtis Stone.  I don't always get a chance to participate, but have enjoyed the times I do.  For my farewell meal we had Meat Pies and Guacamole Curtis.

I lapped my pies over, empanada style however, and they paired nicely with his tasty guacamole, served on beds of crisp lettuce.  Here's the recipe from his web site, where you can find the meat pies.  Mine differs a bit, as I made individual pies, and used left-over lamb stew from the freezer, which needed clearing out mate.  The extras make super lunches for the next day(s).  More on meat pies here and here.


Chilaquiles Verdes or Tortilla Casserole with Green Sauce

It's a real bonus when what you have, especially items that need to be used up, coincide with an easy, quick and delicious Mexican meal.  The IHCC theme this week was a Potluck with any of the past chefs, and Rick Bayless was my choice with his excellent book, Authentic Mexican.

I had just enough chicken, chicken broth, left-over tomatillo green sauce, the tortillas, and etc. etc.  Perfect.


The Bee's Kiss and Madeira Cake with Passion Fruit Glaze

This seems to be the season for slightly shady or shall we say perversely themed novels on my shelf.  The Frida thing done, I picked up The Bee's Kiss, by Barbara Cleverly, another in her Joe Sandilands mystery series.  I've enjoyed them so far, and am reading the books in order, this being her 5th in the series. The year is 1926 and Joe is back in London after a number of cases had kept the Commander in India.

A prominent, aristocratic feminist leader, Dame Beatrice, with high up connections, who turns out not not to be entirely what she seems, is bludgeoned to death in her suite at the Ritz.  Often mysteries will have a really unsympathetic and despicable character murdered at the start, and I am privately cheering.  This is definitely one of those.  Still the crime must be solved, the backstory discovered, and that is where we readers get involved and interested in the motives and whodunit.   Of course, this one does get resolved, not quite as we would expect, with all the internal betrayal, and upper level corruption going on, but still with unexpected twists and turns, solved in the end.


Pork Medallions in a Dark Chocolate Chipolte Sauce

Our current (August/September) Cook the Books Club selection is The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo, by F.G. Haghenbeck, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  I began his novel, intrigued to learn more about the famous artist.  My interest in her was originally piqued by a mole demonstration I attended at the Kona Chocolate Festival several years ago.  The very charming Mexican chef prepared a recipe for Mole Poblano which he said could be found in the book, Frida's Fiestas.  And after tasting his delicious meal, I ran right out (via Amazon) to get that book, which is indeed a beautiful one, filled with wonderful recipes, art and photography, much of it taken at her famous Blue House, and co-written by Frida's step-daughter, Guadalupe Rivera, who states in an Epilogue that the purpose of her writing was to offer "a different aspect of Frida's way of life, the joyous one."

That said, I must admit to dismay and a bit of revulsion at the other side of her life, as revealed in  Haghenbeck's novelized account of Frida's mostly painful and amoral life.  It was difficult finding very much to relate to or admire in the book, dragging on as it did with sordidness and pain. Not a fun or uplifting read.

In spite of the awkwardness of  the writing (due partly to translation?) and fictionalized bits, dream sequences, etc., it seems to be a true enough rendering, at least in spirit, of Frida's life, according to her more accurate biography, Frida by Hayden Herrera, upon which the movie was based.

Inspiring though, as far as food goes, lots of recipes and references to wonderful meals.  I just love eating and cooking Mexican.  How to choose??  Then whilst reading one of my little mystery thrillers, there happened to be a mention of "Pork Medallions in a Dark Chocolate Chipolte Sauce".  Now that grabbed my attention.


Tangy Larb with Roast Chicken

I only recently even heard of this dish, often found in Thai restaurants (though actually a Laotian specialty).  Guess I wasn't looking too closely at the menus.  Perhaps the name had something to do with that??  Anyway, I did make it last month with ground beef, but having a nice bit of left-over roast chicken, thought I'd mince that up for a quick no-cook dinner.  Always good to have something different to do with extra chicken, and a beautiful idea in this hot weather.  Usually larb has some sort of ground meat or tofu, which you then cook before adding the flavoring ingredients and lettuce leaves to dish it into.  Many larb recipes call for roasted, ground rice, which I left out, not being certain this added step is necessary.  Easy peasy dinner. 


Making Passion-fruit Mead

Is fermenting cooking?  At any rate, it's food related.  Wine or mead is something I make with excess fruit.  And right now it is passion-fruit, known in Hawaii as lillikoi.  Lots of it around here, some of which I've given away, some made into sorbet, or syrup.  Jam is good.  But, I have to say the easiest way to deal with large quantities of fruit is to dump it all into a nylon straining bag and ferment.  Yea, no worries about the seeds.  The bag will be pulled out at the end of the week, with only seeds left in it.


Pineapple, Pepperoni Pizza with Mint

Fresh mint is fabulous with fresh pineapple, so why not on pizza, I asked myself, rhetorically speaking.  And if ham and pineapple go on pizza, why not pepperoni and pineapple?  And yes, as things turn out,  it was a fabulously yummo pizza.  What can I say?  When you're right, you're right.


Salmon en Croute and Scarlet Feather for Cook the Books Club

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy has been our June/July book pick for Cook the Books Club, as well as my first hosting experience there.  I was pretty sure I had read this novel sometime in the past, but to be honest, once I got (re-)? reading it, the story was absolutely new to me.  Maeve Binchy was the starting point however.  Knowing that I wanted us at Cook the Books Club to feature one of her wonderful novels, I selected this one for the culinary connection.  And it does indeed contain lots of foodie inspirations

The book concerns a pair of friends from cooking school who have the dream of opening their own catering business.  An engrossing story, covering the process of getting Scarlet Feather (named for the duo - Tom Feather and Cathy Scarlet) the perfect premises, funded and established, including the connections and interesting personalities of all the various relatives, friends and, unknown to them, enemies, with lots of humor and understanding.
Binchy is well known for her delightful and humorous depiction of unique  and memorable characters, both good and bad, and this novel has plenty of them.  I especially loved the funny, precocious, abandoned  twins who come to stay and end up living with Cathy and her family.  Tom and Cathy face almost insurmountable odds both in their personal lives as well as with their business.  But, are a fictional illustration of what can be overcome and be the impetus for growth in life.

Among many treats mentioned in the book was Salmon en Croute, which called to mind some wonderful meals we enjoyed in Ireland featuring salmon.  A fish which also brings to mind an old Irish legend about the "Salmon of Knowledge."  Perhaps eating salmon makes you wiser?


Quick and Easy Chilled Gazpacho


You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto!

We're rockin' out with tomatoes this week at IHCC and chef Curtis Stone.  The weather, being so muggy and hot, has been inspiring me to more salads and less cooking.  A Gazpacho sounded quite cool and refreshing, and it was, it is!  This recipe may be found on his web site and in his book, Relaxed Cooking, as well.


Green Pineapple Chutney with Cranberries

You see here a couple of green, unripe pineapples that no one in their right mind would pick.  However, at the beginning of the season, when the desire for a lovely, sweet, fresh pineapple overrides common sense,  we usually make this mistake at least once, thinking maybe it's ready.  Hope prevails.  Both Bob and I did it.  They sat around for a week or more, and I could see those guys were never going to ripen up.  Meanwhile really, truly ripe ones were happening.

Cooking them into a tangy chutney was the solution.  Lots of wonderful spices, red peppercorns, cranberries, you get the picture.  A double rescue.


Competition Mixed Veggie Mac 'n Cheese

 I was truly forced to do another Christine Wenger book post here.  It was the Mac 'n Cheese cook-off competition in Macaroni and Freeze that did it.  Firstly her descriptions of the contest entries had me planning  ingredients for a nice variation of my own.  Also, the book, "A Comfort Food Mystery" is a fun, food-filled cozy.  Nothing deep here.  Even the cuisine is pretty basic, '50's Diner style stuff, which you might expect, as the heroine runs a comfort food diner.  In between helping solve various murders.

The last one I read, and posted about here, was good and this who-done-it is no exception.  The expected murder, narrow escapes, a wee bit of romance, and food of course. Formula writing, but diverting in the evenings.

The beauty of macaroni and cheese is the infinite diversification possible.  I've made a number of those and posted some of them.  Cauliflower, Tuna, hamburger, salmon, green kale, to name a few.  This particular version was inspired by the one I had at Moon and Turtle, made with spätzle.  After my own session of spätzle making,  a corporate decision was made to not bother again, or to buy a special gadget for making said noodles.  There are enough fine pastas on the market which can be conveniently used.  


Local Ono on the Barbie!

This week with Curtis Stone, current reigning chef at IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs), we're On the Barbie!  Grilling whatever.  In my case, Curtis' recipe for grilled salmon was transmogrified to ono, a locally caught, quite delicious fish, the name of which translates to really good.  Some of you folks might know it as Wahoo!  I always think deserving of the exclamation point.

Served up at his website recipe on a Greek salad, with kalamata olives and chunks of feta.


Tinga Poblana - A Smoky Pork and Potato Stew

 This is Potluck week at IHCC, (I Heart Cooking Clubs) and I selected a wonderful recipe from Rick Bayless out of his Authentic Mexican Cookbook.  Which, after perusing the library book with extreme covetousness, for weeks already,  I now have coming via Amazon.  My very own copy.


Pineapple-Bourbon BBQ Sauce

For the weekly theme at IHCC, (I Heart Cooking Clubs) it was Fresh & Fruity with our reigning chef, Curtis Stone.  Just in time for your Fourth of July barbecuing , was my thought, not to mention all the pineapples ripening up around the old ranch.  Which meant a change from the original recipe: for apple, add in a pine.


Potato, Cauliflower and Camembert Gratin for Surf and/or Turf

 This week at IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs) it's a Surf and/or Turf theme, a recipe that features either surf (fish and seafood) and/or turf (meat, poultry, and vegetables) from our currently featured chef, Curtis Stone.  I had a nice looking cauliflower, and the potatoes, so this recipe in his book, What's for Dinner? was a natural, being from the turf side of the agenda.  I served the gratin with roast chicken rather than his suggested grilled pork chops.


Candlenut Chicken Curry - a Deadly Special

Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials is my second read in this little series by Singaporean author, Ovidia Yu, and so glad I found it!  Mysteries, with humor, troubling social issues, and lots of culinary interest.  Some of the food mentioned sounds quite intriguing, though not especially appealing to Western tastes perhaps, but again, much of it is.

 I especially enjoy her philosophy, partially based as it is around cooking; as well as the way she uses herbs and dishes to calm and even heal.  Rosie is a compassionate, kindly and helpful character, who thinks about people and what motivates them with a purposeful sort of curiosity.  Aunty can tell so much about a person by what, and how he or she eats, which information of course helps with her sleuthing. 

Book Description from the Publisher for those interested in it:
"Rosie "Aunty" Lee, the feisty widow, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore's best-loved home-cooking restaurant, is back in another delectable, witty mystery involving scandal and murder among the city's elite
Few know more about what goes on in Singapore than Aunty Lee. When a scandal over illegal organ donation makes news, she already has a list of suspects. There's no time to snoop, though—Aunty Lee's Delights is catering a brunch for local socialites Henry and Mabel Sung. Rumor has it that the Sungs' fortune is in trouble, and Aunty Lee wonders if the gossip is true. But soon after arriving at the Sungs', her curiosity turns to suspicion. Why is the guesthouse in the garden locked up—and what's inside? Where is the missing guest of honor? Then Mabel Sung and her son, Leonard, are found dead. The authorities blame it on Aunty Lee's special stewed chicken with buah keluak, a local black nut that can be poisonous if cooked improperly. She's certain the deaths are murder—and that they're somehow linked to the organ donor scandal. To save her business and her reputation, she's got to prove it—and unmask a dangerous killer."

There was a recipe at the back for the famous "Deadly Special", which is not only a delicious Chicken Curry, but uses candlenut (kukui here in Hawaii) instead of the very rare jungle nut, Buah Keluak, frequently used with the dish in Singapore.  The author also suggests macadamia nuts can be substituted.  As I do have a kukui nut tree and few opportunities to use them, this "Deadly Special" had to be the inspired dish for my post.


Eggplant, Parmesan and Ricotta Bake

 This was my first experience with cooking a Donna Hay recipe, thanks to IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs) and our weekly themes.  This week's was Chef Donna Hay, so I checked out her website for something to cook with what was on hand - an eggplant.  My only change was to swap out basil for some fresh oregano.


Cinnamon French Toast with Fresh Mango

 A sublime Cinnamon French Toast with Mangoes, courtesy of Curtis Stone, our featured chef at IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs), where this week's theme is Local and Seasonal.  It would not be possible to go more local and seasonal than mangoes at the moment.  Bob picked an enormous bagful from our tree yesterday, and it is now up to me to deal with them.  Even after all the giveaways there is still a lot.


The Water Room Washes up a Savory Galette

I've just finished my second Christopher Fowler novel, The Water Room, and am certainly looking forward to reading another.  He is the most amusing, witty and original author I've had the fun of reading for quite awhile.  Highly recommended.  Fowler features two older detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May, who head up the PCU (Peculiar Crimes Unit), in London, loosely associated with MI7.

Publisher's comments: 
"Bryant & May’s investigation of a secret world beneath London begins when a woman is found in a dry basement with her throat full of river-water. In the quiet street where she lives, the residents are unsettled by the sound of rushing water. Further impossible deaths reveal a connection to the lost underground rivers of London, and a disgraced academic hunts an ancient secret that will soon be lost within the forgotten canals. Meanwhile it won’t stop raining, there’s a flood coming, and nobody’s house is safe as Bryant and May head beneath the city to stop a murderer from striking again."

And from the media:  ‘An imaginative fun-house of a world where sage minds go to expand their vistas and sharpen their wits’ – New York Times

All that aside, you can believe me when I insist this book is FUNNY, with a peculiar, dry British humor.   Just for example, the dead woman's son (who knows Bryant from an earlier case) comes to see them: "'I came to you Mr. Bryant,' said Benjamin Singh, 'because you have such an incredible capacity to be annoying.'  'I can't imagine what you mean,' said Bryant, stuffing his bentwood pipe with a mixture of Old Holborn and eucalyptus leaves.  'I mean you can get things done by badgering people. I don't trust the regular police.  They're distracted and complacent.  I'm glad you are still here.  I thought you would have retired by now.  You are so very, very far past retirement age."  Some of us might relate to that.


Brussels Sprout Risotto with Amish Blue

Bob sadly, likes his Brussels sprouts plain, either boiled or steamed.  What he doesn't realize is that there would be no challenge, or fun at all for the chef in complying.  That said, some of these sprouts were indeed simmered, albeit shredded, with the Arborio rice, and some quartered and fried to garnish the top.  So theoretically, we're both going to be happy here??  Right? 


Perfect Pizza Makes Me Sing, That's Amore!

Our latest selection from Cook the Books Club has been Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, by Kathleen Flinn.  You have to love that title, which was actually an axiom direct from the author's grandmother; given to let the kids know they should not let a bit of burn stop them from eating their toast.  She was definitely a frugal woman.

The memoir was touching, often sad, occasionally humorous, a poignant remembrance of Flinn's childhood and some of her parents' and grandparents', with historical background, mostly taking place in Michigan, though with brief sojourns in California and Florida.  Totally making me happy to be in Hawaii.   Sorry, but to be impoverished would be bad enough without freezing weather to top it all off.

Too funny though, her account of deer hunting in Michigan (applicable to neighboring states as well, I'm sure):
"No one discussed the ethics, or debated gun ownership.  Sitting in the woods quietly freezing with a rifle in your hand was simply a rite of passage.....Even as a young child, I felt fortunate to be a girl."

 Angelo Pellegrini, our previous CTBC author, would be thrilled with all the canning, baking, gardening, hunting and foraging going on in this remembrance.  Most of which stopped however, when they moved from farm life to a city, and with full-time jobs.


Smoked Salmon Omelet with Feta and Beet Relish

This scrumptious little number is a brunch, breakfast, or in my case actually, a dinner recipe, for Sunny Side Up! our IHCC week's theme, taken from Curtis Stone's cookbook,  Good Food, Good Life.  And it is.  Good  food that is.  Bob is usually only around for breakfast on Sundays, a bit late for this posting, so rather than do it all up just for myself, it was a lovely dinner for two.


Salad of Figs, with Basil, Amish Blue and Pomegranate Vinaigrette


Well, as nearly always happens, the recipe will sound terrific, but there is a distinct lack of certain items.  In this case, a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, current featured chef at IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs), calling for  fresh figs and goat cheese.  Okaaaay, we had dried ones, and for feta, we had a lovely, creamy Amish Blue, which I had spontaneously bought and wanted to try.


Absolute Best Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Muffins, Ever

I may as well admit right here to an addiction for real fluff, as far as some (not all :)) of my reading goes.  What the hey, it's also called light entertainment.  Or the written version of daytime soaps I suppose.  Along those lines are some that feature food.  Such as Christine Wenger's Comfort Food Mysteries, of which my latest read was Diners, Drive-ins and Death.

Our plucky heroine owns, runs and cooks the graveyard shift at the Silver Bullet Diner, as well as renting out 11 vacation cottages by the lake, and investigating various murders in her spare time.  She's also in denial about her love for the local sheriff in his white Stetson and cowboy boots.  Trixie serves up Diner style, basic comfort food, and the books include some recipes at the end.

Mostly not my sort of recipes, but substitutions can always be made.  For instance the Potato-Cheese Soup sounded pretty good, in which I'm sure Velveeta cheese is not absolutely necessary.   Indeed,  I almost subbed out the creamed corn in these comfort food muffins.  But the can's ingredient list seemed okay, and I went with the flow.

And just saying, these muffins cannot be beat, or raved on enough.  Tender, moist and so flavorful, even comforting, though they weren't mentioned in the book. We get a twice monthly little coupon book with recipes included, from a local supermarket, and I was snagged by their Jalapeño White Cheddar Cornbread in the latest edition.  They looked like they might be good, though should have been called muffins, being that they're baked in a muffin tin.


Mango-Lime Margarita - Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

This was meant to be a Curtis Stone Pineapple-Lime Margarita, for the IHCC Wet your Whistle theme, but all our pineapples are half-size at the moment and totally unripe.  However, and that's a ginormous however, I had one perfectly ripe and delicious mango.

Actually, had to stop myself from eating the entire thing whilst slicing it into the blender.  First of the season and sooooo good.  I love mangoes.  Plus which, with the lime and natural acidity of a pineapple, just my personal opinion, mango is much better in this drink. A really delicious concoction, garnished with kaffir lime leaves and nasturtium flower.  Only one other slight change to the recipe - no straining.  The little bits of fruit were a plus here.  Really.  It's not pure laziness, as this was not a fibrous fruit.

I enjoyed mine while trying to find a Mexican recipe that would use ingredients we have on hand.  Not always an easy thing.  Do visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and see all the lovely drinks being served up this week from Curtis Stone, our current chef in residence.


Mulligatawny Soup at the Palace

 Author, Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness Mystery series, is unfailingly engaging, and this latest, Malice at the Palace is no exception.  I so look forward to each new book.  Set in 1930's England, they feature a young woman, 35th in line to the throne, with unfortunately, no money to go along with her title, who manages to survive, one way or another, often helping out the Queen with a problem.

In the course of her newest adventure, Lady Georgiana finds herself having supper with the aunts, which the Prince of Wales calls "the Aunt Heap", at Kensington Palace.  And, sure as shootin', the mere mention of their supper, consisting of Mulligatawny Soup, roast pheasant and apple dumplings, was all I needed.  I'm not a masochist though; and not having a sous chef, a normal supper, around here doesn't usually include pheasants, or fancy dessert either.  That soup was in however, simply spiffing, as Georgie would say.

As per Wikipedia, Mulligatawny Soup:
 "is an English soup after an Indian recipe. The name originates from the Tamil words mullaga/milagu and thanni and can be translated as "pepper-water".  The original version of this soup consisted of a broth from lentils, fried onions and curry powder. Today it normally designates a thickened soup that is strongly spiced with curry powder and nutmeg. Often, strips of vegetables, nuts and rice are added." 
 Anglo-Indian food then, and appropriate for English royalty.


Saffron Tagliatelle with Ratatouille Reprise

I'm the sort of weird individual who has fun making something like noodles.  Truthfully, I found myself humming a tune and saying under my breath, this is FUN!  Really.  And it was. Especially hanging them up on coat-hangers from a cupboard hinge.

Again with a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, from Plenty.  My choice for this week's potluck chef theme at IHCC, but of course.  Have I mentioned already how absolutely inspiring that man is? He served it up (in the book) with spiced butter, however having stated earlier that Ratatouille is lovely the next day, I thought, how perfect to toss with the tagliatelle.  I was going to call this post "Pricey Pasta" as the recipe calls for an entire  2 teaspoons of saffron, though I did cut the whole thing in half for the two of us.  Less to roll out, even more enjoyable.  You can find the recipe here also.