Fiddle Head Ferns and Fennel Salad, With a Mystery

Sheila Connolly has several "cozy mystery" series out and I've enjoyed her writing thus far.  This newest series, the Victorian Village Mysteries, is outstanding already.  A real winner, judging from the debut, Murder at the Mansion.  I especially loved her blend of history, including little known background on Clara Barton, a bit of romance, an interesting premise - can a dying town be saved, and an unusual solve. It's the girl grows up, leaves town in a hurry and unwillingly comes back to help someone scenario, with a few fun twists. Connolly is an entertaining and witty writer.

Kate has a great job, managing day-to-day operations for a high-end boutique hotel on the Baltimore waterfront, when her high school best friend comes seeking help for their hometown.

Here's what the Publishers and a few Reviewers have to say:

"Welcome to Asheboro, Maryland, where the homes are to die for. . .

Katherine Hamilton never wanted to return to her dead-end hometown. But when she is called in to help save Asheboro from going bankrupt, Kate can’t refuse. The town has issued its last available funds to buy a local Victorian mansion. It’s a plan that Kate would be happy to help get off the ground. . .if only she didn’t have such bad memories associated with that mansion. Is Kate ready to do business―or is this job too personal for her own good?


Kuku Sabzi - and I Don't Mean Crazy

We are currently reading Pomegranate Soup for our Cook the Books Club, hosted this round by Simona of Briciole fame. This novel by Marsha Mehran is the tale of three young women who made their escape from the revolution in Iran, and have come to live and open a cafe in a small village in Ireland. A bit of culture shock going on here.  More so on the part of some unsympathetic Irish villagers.  However enough of the residents are willing to try the strange food on offer, and come back for more.

I did enjoy the story as a whole, though I thought Mehran's tale got off to a bad start with her prologue. All about the evil villain of the piece, Thomas McGuire.  He is so over-the-top nasty that it strains credibility.  This negativity continues through her first 5 or so chapters, carried into descriptions of  Irish villagers, police, the town, even the country side. Such as, on a remote mountain road: "the big man puffed his way along the rocky mile and a half to the cottage on foot, coughing on vapors of cow dung and pig fat that hung in the air." Truly?  Doesn't mesh with the remoteness of the spot, or "beauty of the surrounding verdant valleys."


A Super Pesto - With Moringa!

Okay, all right, I do realize that most of you won't be harvesting Moringa any time soon.  However, (should be in caps) it was such a thrill making this pesto that I'm posting it anyway, especially since it turned out so darned good! The moringa itself has a lovely nutty flavor, just a hint of bitter, with the basil adding it's sharp herbal notes and citrus offsetting the unctuousness of toasted walnuts, Parmesan and olive oil. 

YOU CAN ALSO make it with moringa powder.  Add 1 Tablespoon of the powder to your pesto recipe, and increase the amount of basil and parsley if you wish. As shown on the Dr. Oz show apparently.  I started a project some time ago, determined to find more ways of incorporating this very healthful plant into our diets.  And, pesto is a great addition for sure.  See above post link.

                                     Moringa Basil Pesto
                                                         A Variation of Pesto Genovese
1 cup fresh basil, divided
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
2/3 cup finely grated parmesan
2 large cloves raw garlic, chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups fresh Moringa leaves
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil  (adjust to desired consistency)
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced
Salt to taste

Place half the basil leaves along with the garlic cloves, cheese, and walnuts into a high speed blender. Blend continuously until finely chopped and evenly dispersed.

Add lemon juice, remaining basil, parsley leaves and the fresh Moringa leaves. Blend, scraping down sides of the blender jar intermittently until adequately chopped and incorporated.

Drizzle in oil while blending. Adjust to desired consistency. (Note: More oil will produce a thinner pesto that works well for sauces. Less oil will produce pesto better equipped for spreading.)

Spritz in extra lemon or lime juice as needed. Sprinkle in salt. Add/adjust ingredients (garlic, walnuts, cheese, lime, salt) to taste.

If keeping, coat the top with a bit of olive oil and store in a small air tight container.

For our Valentine's Dinner we had Tagliatelle with Pesto Genovese and Tenderloin steaks.  Blueberry Upside down Cake to follow.

We really enjoyed this mixture of pasta and potatoes with the pesto sauce. From a favorite cookbook of mine, Great Italian Cooking, edited by Michael Sonino.

Another useful moringa discovery was the trick of putting a good sized bunch of leaves into a big paper bag for drying.  A few days in a sunny spot or in the oven with just a pilot light.  Then you can easily pull out the bigger stems and keep your dried herb in a mason jar for tea.  Especially good with ginger and lemon grass.

All will be shared over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event.  Check out some good suggestions, both for cooking and reading.


Escapism Cooking, In One Sense

When I got The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy Lee, from our library (this is not a book you want to buy without checking it out first) I thought, my word, what amazing looking recipes!  What wonderful photography!

Then, I realized that these recipes were for very involved, not to mention strange, concoctions.  Pages of instruction and hard to come by ingredients, many incorporating unique sauces, which needed to be created first, before using, in meals entitled for instance, Spelt Jianbing with Kettle Cooked Potato Chips, Clams Over Oatmeal, Chewy Layered Paratha, Korean Pork Belly Tacos with Pear on Sticky Rice Tortillas, and Semi-Instant Risotto with Pork Fat Crispy Rice Cereal.
This is not merely fusion cooking people, but more like Double Extreme Fusion!  And Lee gives her readers a few tirades on that subject, for example her rant on pizza: 
"Pizza has the potential to be Italy's ramen, a democratic arena of creativity, progressivism, and tolerance, if only the Italians could just chill the fuck out about it.  Is it really pizza?  Who says so, and who cares?  Neither the tomato itself nor baking stuff on top of a fermented dough was an original Italian idea, and if the Italians from a few hundred years ago were dumb enough to give a shit about that, then there wouldn't even be such a thing as pizza today.  All the dishes we eat today were fusion at some point in history.  And to say that this progression should stop and freeze at an arbitrary point for the sake of national pride is both dangerous and dumb-sounding."