Cooking From Midnight Chicken

 Our latest trip with Cook the Books Club is a Midnight Chicken journey, a memoir by Ella Risbridger.  With occasionally a little input from "the Tall Man" in her life. This round is hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  The book contains a fabulous selection of delectable recipes, alongside entertaining life notes which are worth reading as well.  

From a few reviewers and the Publishers:

A book of recipes and reflections that reveal the life-changing happiness of cooking.

"Bridget Jones' self-effacing wittiness, Julia Child's companionable forgiveness and Sylvia Plath's poetic prose." --NPR
"A manual for living and a declaration of hope." --Nigella Lawson

There are lots of ways to start a story, but this one begins with a chicken.

There was a time when, for Ella Risbridger, the world had become overwhelming. Sounds were too loud, colors were too bright, everyone moved too fast. One night she found herself lying on her kitchen floor, wondering if she would ever get up--and it was the thought of a chicken, of roasting it, and of eating it, that got her to her feet and made her want to be alive.

Midnight Chicken is a cookbook. Or, at least, you’ll flick through these pages and find recipes so inviting that you will head straight for the kitchen: roast garlic and tomato soup, uplifting chili-lemon spaghetti, charred leek lasagna, squash skillet pie, spicy fish finger sandwiches and burnt-butter brownies. It’s the kind of cooking you can do a little bit drunk, that is probably better if you’ve got a bottle of wine open and a hunk of bread to mop up the sauce.

But if you settle down and read it with a cup of tea (or a glass of that wine), you’ll also discover that it’s an annotated list of things worth living for--a manifesto of momentsworth living for. This is a cookbook to make you fall in love with the world again."

I would agree and did just that.  Skipped here and there, absorbing and cooking.  First off I made the Big Hearty Black Bean Soup  (page 146), with excellent results, the only change being that I used fresh herbs rather than dried.  Not being too good about drying herbs I have growing and on hand.

Next, it was the Trashy Ginger Chicken (page 102) that caught my eye.  Don't you love the sound of it?  Ten minutes or so before pulling it out of the oven, I added in chunks of left-over potatoes.  Altogether quite delicious, and we felt as if we were being healed at the same time with all that ginger and garlic.

For one of my contributions to our  Christmas festivities, I was making salmon mousse, to be served with a black bread, absolutely inspired by the Wicked Stepmother Black Bread from Ella's book (page 75).  You have to read the story.  She isn't really wicked.  I regularly make sourdough bread, keeping a starter going, so decided to look online for a sourdough version.  Fortuitously found a truly fabulous recipe for Sourdough Black Russian Bread.  Check it out, as I do mean fabulous!  It's richly flavorful, complex, dense and pretty easy to put together.  This is one I'll be making again for sure.  One of our guests was a chef, and he loved it.  Managed to take home a goodly portion as well.

My next foray into Midnight Chicken recipes was the Carbonara, for Caroline (page 151).  I liked Ella's backstory as well.  She notes, "Nigella, in How to Eat, says that she makes carbonara for her lovers, like in the movies, and takes it back to bed.  I make mine for my best friend, when the men are away; when we're watching bad films at midnight, and the shops are shut, and we need something savory and salty and good."  Well fine, I made mine for Bob (my tall man) and I, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  No bad films involved.

What am I to do?  This book is due back at the library tomorrow and can't be renewed!  Buy it, that's what.
This post is my contribution to our Cook the Books current selection, and I'll also be sending it over to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marge the Intrepid Reader, and to Heather for her January 2022 edition of  Foodies Read Challenge.  I absolutely recommend the book, and there's time (until Jan. 31st) if you want to read and get inspired to join in and post to this round.  Just comment at Cook the Books Club with your link, or email to Debra at Eliot's Eats.


Cinnamon and Gunpowder with African Yam

Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown, was a jolly good read for sure, and our Cook the Books Club selection for October/ November.  I am hosting this event, which is coming to a close on the 30th of November. What we do in this online group is read the current book selection, and then cook something inspired by our reading, post about it, then send your link to the host, or add in the comment line at the Cook the Books site.

I thoroughly enjoyed this very unique story, perhaps some might say an implausible one. But keep in mind the time, people and politics of the day, the places involved. There were pirates then. Life was very difficult for the poor, especially for women on their own. And, we do know from historical records that there were women pirates. Overall, what an amazing adventure!

From the Publishers:
"A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship

The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.
To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—"

There was plenty of food inspiration here.  Everything from potato flour crusted cod on a bed of saffron rice, walnut crisp cakes with figs and shrimp in a dark, fragrant red wine reduction, to a Spanish bean stew.  At one point they capture a ship on which are barrels of pepper, and as it is off the coast of West Africa, the Ivory Coast, I am speculating there may also have been among the cargo, aside from the peppercorns and ivory, various vegetables from the area.  Perhaps some Ghana yams, aka White Gunea Yam or Puna yam, considered the most important food staple in West Africa.  Items not for eventual trade, but for their own use at sea.  Remember that "potato" crusted cod?

See above, my yam from Ghana.  A dual purpose vegetable here.  Half I cut up and cooked.  The other was put aside for planting.  And, what a surprise!  Not like any yam or sweet potato relative I know.  It is very close to potato.  Some of the cooking half (note - it was a 5 lb.  tuber) I boiled, then served with a stew.  Some was sliced and fried, the rest I boiled and mashed to have with turkey gravy.  Love this yam.

The reserved half, as per online directions, I cut into what they call "setts" a size of between 60 - 100 grams.  Dusted with wood ash and left to air dry for a day, then laid on the ground under my lychee tree, sprinkled with potting soil, then lightly covered with leaves.  Now we wait for the sprouts to come up.  Lord willing!

Here with an elk stew.

The pictures don't do it justice.  But for a tropical potato substitute I am excited.  Our fictional chef would not have been into growing it, but happily using this yam in creative ways aboard the ship.  


Time to Eat with Nadiya Hussain

After reading a review of Time to Eat by Nadiya Hussain, which sounded quite intriguing, I promptly checked it out of the library, with the test before buying idea in mind.

I noticed right off that she generally prepares large amounts of a meal with the idea of freezing a portion.  She uses her freezer A LOT! I don't know about you, but no matter the larger freezer I now have, it is always full, with barely enough room to squeeze in more stuff.  I'm trying to avoid getting a separate freezer unit as it is hard enough getting the one we have in order and under control.  

According to her Publishers:

"Nadiya Hussain knows that feeding a family and juggling a full work load can be challenging. Time to Eat solves mealtime on weeknights and busy days with quick and easy recipes that the whole family will love. Nadiya shares all her tips and tricks for making meal prep as simple as possible, including ideas for repurposing leftovers and components of dishes into new recipes, creating second meals to keep in the freezer, and using shortcuts--like frozen foods--to cut your prep time significantly."

I'm also a great one for "repurposing leftovers" things that I shove in the fridge rather than freeze.  At the same time, she uses more prepared foods than I do, which actually I try to avoid, such as canned corned beef, fish pie mix, store bought crepe pancakes (I would use any extra I had from making crepes), precooked rice, etc., and difficult to locate items. Maybe I'll be able to find some canned, pressed cod roe one day, don't know.  I've checked several stores to no avail.  Guess it's Amazon for the truly serious.   All in all, fine for those with big time constraints.  If you discount the search for unusual ingredients.

To try the recipes out, the first thing I made was from the front section, her Avocado Pesto, thinking to use some of our current abundance.  The recipe also called for "a handful of frozen spinach" (?) :) for which I substituted a handful of my garden Brazilian spinach.  It was a nice smooth type of guacamole, good with little crackers or chips and to top cheese on toast.  

Next, I wanted to give Nadiya's Watercress Quinoa Kedgeree a go, which would be an excellent use of some red quinoa lurking in the bottom of my Rice Etc. container.  Normally a kedgeree would feature leftover rice, and I did add in some when the liquids didn't evaporate, as per the time given in her recipe, and whilst we were waiting on dinner.  Also I didn't have any cans of smoked trout on hand.  Though did try to find it at my usual natural foods market, as well as at the supermarket, but no go.  Subbed out with a can of sardines.  In addition, the recipe called for Bengali spice mix, for which I prepared her recipe at the back.  Wonderful, as it incorporated quite a few miscellaneous seeds that don't get used as often as they should.  Now I have extra of an amazing spice.  However, the time indicated for the total meal prep was quite a bit off.

 So, it's all good, though you couldn't call this an easily put together meal.  She adds quartered, hard boiled eggs on the side, and I think a poached egg on top would also be lovely. We had some chopped tomato in avocado halves as a side. 

Ms. Hussain also included an interesting slow cooker lasagne preparation, for which I had some reservations, due to the indicated relatively short time on low setting.  Checking other recipes, they all called for longer cook times.  However. being game to try things, and by then running short of time, we went ahead with good results.  I did add a dash of white wine, and used one can Crimini mushrooms along with a cup or so of fresh button mushrooms.  Also, cut the whole thing in half, as I was not making the extra freezer prep. (which actually made following her directions somewhat confusing).  Sometimes it's hard for me to keep from fiddling with things.

From Time to Eat, by Nadiya Hussain

With a side salad, this lasagne made for a perfect meal, and fairly easy to put together.  I'll be linking this post up to Weekend Cooking, hosted by the Intrepid Reader, Marge, and with Heather at the November edition of her Foodies Read Challenge.  Be sure to check out both sites for good book and cooking ideas.


Persimmons for Desert and Transient Desires


Don't you hate it when you've just read the last of a wonderfully written series.  Donna Leon's Transient Desires is such a one.  Now I've got to wait for her next novel, along with all the other fans.  

A depressing subject perhaps, yet written with compassion and objectivity, as Commissario Brunetti seeks to find the truth and see that justice is served. Why so many of us love mysteries.  We have that same hope. The aging policeman is going through a period of melancholy, brought on in part by the overwhelming number of tourists and huge ships wrecking havoc in his precious city, frustrated with many of his retired friends who are only interested in their grandchildren.  Then there is always the corruption in high places. But, he has the consolation of a wise and loving wife, challenging children and supportive colleagues, all set in the beauty that is Venice.. 

From the Publishers:

"In the landmark thirtieth installment of the bestselling series the New Yorker has called “an unusually potent cocktail of atmosphere and event,” Guido Brunetti is forced to confront an unimaginable crime.


Southern Cooking Inspired by Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

It's time at Cook the Books Club to report on our current read.  Which, right at this moment would be  Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, by Heather Webber.  We are reading and posting cooking inspiration gleaned from the book. This round being hosted by fellow Hawaiian blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.  

I enjoyed this book, the sometimes wacky characters who visit the cafe, the strange occurrences with neighborhood blackbirds, and the development of the protagonists and antagonists as they finally are able to forgive long held bitterness and preconceptions about one another.  A little romance adds a nice dollop to the overall picture.

From the Publishers: 

"THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER Heather Webber's Midnight at the Blackbird Café is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.
Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly."


Capellini al Pomodoro Fresco for The Venice Sketchbook

I've been reading some great books this summer, a few no finishes, and others merely okay.  This novel merits one of my lately infrequent posts with recipe, as recently there doesn't seem to be enough time or energy in my life for more blogging. You do what you can.  A great book here, and can you really go wrong with Rhys Bowen?  Don't believe I have.  Her novels are usually winners and The Venice Sketchbook is no exception.

A tale of star crossed lovers, mystery with romance, of course delectable Italian food, art and history.  Juliet Browning visits Venice as a young lady on tour with her elderly aunt along as guide and chaperone. Despite whose oversight, she meets up with a charming young Venetian on that first trip. Then on later trips, she serendipitously encounters him again. In La Serenissima, a love that's meant to be.  There are severe obstacles however, or we wouldn't have a story.  Alternating with her pre war and wartime experiences we have her great niece Caroline's  POV, many years later, when she receives a strange legacy from her Aunt Lettie.   A lovely story within a story. 


Latkes from 97 Orchard St.

We have been reading, or in my case browsing and sampling, 97 Orchard, by Jane Ziegelman our current, soon to be past, Cook the Books Club selection.  Jumping here and there in the book.  No excuse other than I found it hard to focus, with such a wealth of  factoids and history to absorb.  The book is sub-titled An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, and is being hosted this round by Simona of Bricole.

 Lots of amazing information, things I never knew about our immigrant forebears, their lives and times.  For an example, were you aware that at one time, circa 1842, about 10,000 pigs were roaming the streets of New York?  Finding what forage they could, garbage, etc. Just imagine....?  Or that folks were raising geese in their basements?  The noise! Not to mention the smell.  But those folks were industrious, inventive and struggling to survive, frequently in the face of cruel discrimination.. This book is about so much more than the food, covering as it does the lives of the immigrants as a whole. An excellent book for history teachers to assign.  Take note teachers!  We have too much revisionist history circulating at present.  Not my usual reading path, but I really enjoyed this look at our ancestors' traditions, lives and the times they lived through.  
From the Publishers: 
“Social history is, most elementally, food history. Jane Ziegelman had the great idea to zero in on one Lower East Side tenement building, and through it she has crafted a unique and aromatic narrative of New York’s immigrant culture: with bread in the oven, steam rising from pots, and the family gathering round.” — Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World. 


Bacon Biscuits and Honeysuckle Season

Our latest Cook the Books Club selection was Honeysuckle Season, by Mary Ellen Taylor, this round hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  The novel was a truly absorbing and enjoyable read, romantic with a mystery, at times heartbreaking, yet uplifting. I didn't find a lot of food inspiration, though was maybe reading too fast?  Hey,  but we Cook the Bookers are ready for that eventuality.  We can get inspired by atmosphere, location and any little off the cuff mention of items from the plant or animal worlds.  Sometimes a stretch, but we're generally able to come up with something.  

Our library never came through with my request for the book, and after more than a month on the list, I ordered at the last minute from Kindle.  Which is why I'm sailing in under the deadline bar here.

From the Publishers: 

"Adrift in the wake of her father’s death, a failed marriage, and multiple miscarriages, Libby McKenzie feels truly alone. Though her new life as a wedding photographer provides a semblance of purpose, it’s also a distraction from her profound pain.

When asked to photograph a wedding at the historic Woodmont estate, Libby meets the owner, Elaine Grant. Hoping to open Woodmont to the public, Elaine has employed young widower Colton Reese to help restore the grounds and asks Libby to photograph the estate.  From bestselling author Mary Ellen Taylor comes a story about profound loss, hard truths, and an overgrown greenhouse full of old secrets. Libby is immediately drawn to the old greenhouse shrouded in honeysuckle vines.

As Libby forms relationships and explores the overgrown—yet hauntingly beautiful—Woodmont estate, she finds the emotional courage to finally sort through her father’s office. There she discovers a letter that changes everything she knows about her parents, herself, and the estate. Beneath the vines of the old greenhouse lie generations of secrets, and it’s up to Libby to tend to the fruits born of long-buried seeds."


Paella for The Princess Spy

 The Princess Spy, by Larry Loftis, is an excellent biography, which reads like a fiction thriller, full of famous people, adventure and romance. The true story of World War II spy, Aline Griffith, a young American girl, a fashion model, who became a spy and then the Countess of Romanones.  I found the book by happy accident, while looking for another title, which I've now forgotten.  Biography is not my usual reading, so I was very enjoyably surprised by the book, and will be checking out his previous titles.

From The Publisher's Weekly:

"Historian Loftis (Code Name: Lise) delivers an entertaining biography of American fashion model--turned--spy Aline Griffith (1923--2017). Born in the small town of Pearl River, N.Y., Griffith moved to Manhattan after graduating from a Catholic women's college and found work as a model for fashion designer Hattie Carnegie. Griffith's life took a turn after a chance meeting with an Office of Strategic Services operative at a dinner party in 1943. Griffith joined the OSS and, following her training, was sent to Spain in 1944 to search for Nazi supporters among the region's social elites. Amid her information-gathering activities, she met and married a Spanish nobleman and became a countess. She quit spying in 1947 to focus on raising a family, but resumed clandestine activities for the CIA in 1956, though those missions remain classified. Loftis's fast-moving narrative includes plenty of colorful details about Griffith's social life, including lavish cocktail parties and her friendship with bullfighter Juanito Belmonte , and he sketches the battles between German, American, and British spies for influence over the Spanish government with precision. Espionage buffs will be enthralled."


The Shooting at Chateau Rock - It Wasn't the Duck


I've just finished the latest (for me anyway) of Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police, series - The Shooting at Chateau Rock.  What a delightful read, an exciting storyline, evocative and full of inspiring food and drink!  A good summary here from the Publishers:

"In Walker's outstanding 13th outing for St. Denis, France, chief of police Benoît "Bruno" Courrèges (after 2019's The Body in the Castle Well), 70ish retired rock star Rod Macrae, his much younger wife, and their college-age children, Jamie and Kirsty, are spending a last summer together at their country house, Château Rock, before the parents amicably divorce. Jamie is joined by his girlfriend, Galina, a Russian oligarch's daughter. When a sheep farmer dies and his children learn that they've been disinherited, Bruno investigates. He soon suspects there's a connection between the farmer's suspicious death and Galina's father, whose shadowy shell businesses may be a cover for illicit activity throughout the Mediterranean and the E.U. Meanwhile, the obliging Bruno helps plan and prepare meals, teaches children to swim, and considers breeding his pedigree hunting dog. Francophiles will relish the evocative descriptions of the Périgord region and its cuisine."

It's like old home week, reading a new novel in Walker's series.  The familiar characters once again come to life, joined by some very interesting newcomers.  His books are always especially inspiring in the gardening, food and wine departments.  Sometimes it's just hard to know where to start. I take notes on the meals and wines. For today, we'll begin with gardening.  Bruno always spends some time caring for his fruit trees and vegetable patch.  I can use encouragement in that area. You can see below that weeds need to be pulled. 


My Mad Foray into Vegan Cooking


Thanks to a very fortuitous introduction, I recently met the author of this excellent Cookbook, For the Love of Vegan Cooking, Deb Gleason.  She and her lovely partner came over for a garden tour and we had some wide-ranging discussions on cooking and gardening, with a focus on Hawaii, where they have just bought a home. It was only while talking to them that I discovered they were vegans.  Ah well, so much for my Lilikoi shortbread bars.  

Additionally, it came out that Deb was an author, not to mention "a former Homicide Detective, turned certified holistic nutritionist."  From dealing with death to better living, you might say.

Not to say that I have any plans for changing over to vegan cooking.  However, having that repertoire available is very helpful, for everyone these days. I'm sure we're not the only ones who have recently met  vegans.  Rather than be stymied over what to fix them for a meal or simple appetizer, I now have some delicious choices handy.  Actually, it was the second time this has happened in the past year.  Both times I broke out some of my Limoncello.  And, chips are vegan.  

From the Publishers: "With more than 100 delicious plant-based recipes, For the Love of Vegan Cooking will show you that veganism is not a rejection of culinary abundance, but instead a celebration of flavors, textures and tastes that are sure to delight. For the Love of Vegan Cooking puts the power of real, healthy food in your hands with comforting and deeply nutritious meals, desserts, drinks, and snacks that will make your mouth water in the best way. This book also includes two bonus sections to tickle your creative juices. Learn how easy it is to make creamy and delicious cultured cashew cheese, and to brew your own fizzy, probiotic packed kombucha.":


Ups and Downs of Where I Come From


Our Cook the Books Club selection for February/March is Where I Come From, Life Lessons from a Latino Chef, by Aaron Sanchez.  This round hosted by myself, and it has to be said, I was inspired right from the start.  On the first page of his Introduction, Sanchez states: "There is nothing about the food of Mexico that is dull or muted  - Cinnamon. Chocolate. Chile  Earth.."  

I had plans for some left-over roast chicken, Chicken Enchiladas, which I usually top with a decent brand of canned green chili enchilada sauce.  Horrors!  But slightly doctored up, when I'm not in a hurry.  In this instance I thought, yes, I have the chocolate, which we actually grow and process, I have the cinnamon, ditto, and the chilies are in the sauce. Viola!  We'll go with that thought.  I first pounded some roasted, ground cacao in my big, trusty mortar, with a bit of cinnamon, added some cumin and sautéed the spices for a few minutes in earth.  No, ha ha, bacon fat.  Stirred in minced onion and then garlic, after that I added it all to the sauce, which was now taking on the color of muted chocolate.  But, nothing dull or muted about the taste!! Transformed by those iconic spices of Mexico.


Cooking With Dandelion & Quince

I was checking out a new wine store in town yesterday, and spotted this cookbook on a shelf.  Dandelion & Quince by Michelle McKenzie. Just couldn't resist! The photography was beautiful, the recipes unique and experimental, with wonderful combinations of little used fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Definitely my sort of book.  And one I will be giving as gifts.

There are so many things I want to try.  Which goal, however does require assembling some ingredients not usually on my list. Burdock... yes, I've seen it in the market here, also known as gobo.  It's popular in Japanese cooking. Though I had no idea as to its flavor profile, possibilities and excellent nutrition. Cardoons?  No, we don't see them in Hawaii.  But, learning from her techniques, we can substitute with things that do grow here.  Experimentation is the note of the day. Opening ourselves up to new ingredients and ways of combining them.

From the Publishers notes:

"Dandelion and Quince features plant profiles—from dandelion to quince—for over 35 uncommon vegetables, fruits, and herbs available in today's markets—with over 150 recipes that explore their flavors.


Gumbo Z'Herbes for Eat Joy


Our current Cook the Books Club read has been Eat Joy, Stories and Comfort Food, edited by Natalie Eve Garrett, and this December/January round hosted by fellow Hawaiian co-host, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen

Of course, with any compilation of essays, by various authors, there are going to be some you love, some you really like, a few you don't get all that excited about, and some you might skip over, if not actually dislike.  There were enough here to make for an enjoyable read, to open up a door of understanding with uncomfortable subjects, some new information, and a bit of just good humor.  The first story one I read, No Alzheimer's in India, by Antoine Wilson,  definitely came under the category of humor, as well as new information, which, when I did some research, was actually backed up by medical science.  We all need more turmeric in our diets.

Lovely to have variety and a bit of spice in our reading as well as eating, something to nibble on in between times is a good palate cleanser.  It must be said, many of the recipes were included as illustrative, not meant to be especially wonderful in themselves.  From the Publishers: 

"This collection of intimate, illustrated essays by some of America’s most well–regarded literary writers explores how comfort food can help us cope with dark times—be it the loss of a parent, the loneliness of a move, or the pain of heartache 


A Minestrone to Love in The Summer Villa

Chic lit I suppose, but enjoyable all the same, with good themes and endings.  The Summer Villa, by Melissa Hill brings three young women together in a picturesque, though somewhat run down villa on the Mediterranean sea in Italy.  They are all running away from something in their lives, hoping a change of scene will help.

Six years later, they meet up again, still escaping from what now, once again,  look to be impossible situations; and lives run amuck.  

From the Publishers:

"The Irish Times #1 bestseller! Three women. One summer reunion...

Villa Dolce Vita, a rambling stone house on the Amalfi Coast, sits high above the Gulf of Naples amid dappled lemon groves and fragrant, tumbling bougainvillea. Kim, Colette and Annie all came to the villa in need of escape and in the process forged an unlikely friendship.

Now, years later, Kim has transformed the crumbling house into a luxury retreat and has invited her friends back for the summer to celebrate.

But as friendships are rekindled under the Italian sun, secrets buried in the past will come to light, and not everyone is happy that the three friends are reuniting... Each woman will have things to face up to if they are all to find true happiness and fully embrace the sweet life.

An epic summer read about food, friendship and the magic of Italy,"

I thought a pot of minestrone was the perfect food image for this yummy novel, things thrown together, from past meals, to create something better in the final mélange.  To a base of homemade stock, I added two sorts of leftover pasta, one with pesto clinging to it, moringa leaves, some tomato paste, pieces of duck breast, chickpeas, carrots, onion, garlic and celery.  I added thyme, parsley and sage from my garden, with a jolt of Worcestershire, and was amazed at the fabulous flavors in the end result. Recombining some old leftovers make a new and wonderful Minestrone!

I'll share the goodness over at Weekend Cooking, hosted by the inimitable and Intrepid Reader, Marge, and with Heather for her January edition of the Foodies Read Challenge.  Please visit, check out all the good food and book recommendations.


Comfort Food, Indian Style, from A Recipe for Persuasion

 The novel, Recipe for Persuasion, by Sonali Dev was a very interesting fictional look at life from the perspective of a recently emigrated Indian to America.  Not at all a typical one however.  The novel's protagonist, is from a royal family, with a dysfunctional upbringing, and the assorted issues devolving from that situation.  She faces her own  unforgiveness and wrong assumptions finally, which is always a benefit to life outcomes.  A bit Bollywood, but still an entertaining, romantic and engrossing story.  The Publishers had this to say::

"From the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors comes another , clever, deeply layered, and heartwarming romantic comedy that follows in the Jane Austen tradition―this time, with a twist on Persuasion.

Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map. She’s a chef, what’s the worst that could happen?  Rico Silva, that’s what.

Being paired with a celebrity who was her first love, the man who ghosted her at the worst possible time in her life, only proves what Ashna has always believed: leaps of faith are a recipe for disaster.