Showing posts with label Tessa Kiros. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tessa Kiros. Show all posts

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "300 Days of Sun" by Deborah Lawrenson, Served with Fried Tuna with Tomatoes & Onions and Potatoes with Coarse Sea Salt & Rosemary

We are escaping today with a review of 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson, a novel that will take you to Portugal, transport you between present day and World War II, and wrap you up in an intriguing mystery. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, to make the journey complete I am accompanying my review with recipes for Fried Tuna with Tomatoes and  Onions and Potatoes with Coarse Sea Salt and Rosemary--sure to make you feel the seaside breezes and the warm sun on your face. 

Publisher's Blurb:

A mesmerizing novel that transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career; Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But Joanna soon realizes that behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline more than two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically suggests she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

Paperback: 384 pages  
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (April 12, 2016)

My Review: 

There are things that I expect from a Deborah Lawrenson book after discovering her through TLC Book Tours of her first two books, The Lantern (set in Provence) and The Sea Garden, (set on a Mediterranean Island off the French Coast). When describing her writing, I always fall back on the word "lush." There are the beautiful and lush locations she writes about and the lush way she describes them that makes a reader feel as though there is a touch of sun on their face and they are smelling the sea air, hearing the cries of the birds, seeing the local flowers and foliage, and tasting the delicious food. There is also that Gothic literature feeling that her writing evokes--knowing that beneath all that beauty, especially in the crumbling corners of old buildings and ruins, there lurk secrets, mystery and menace. 300 Days of Sun does not disappoint, in fact I found it to be more of a pulse pounder than the first two books and it had me turning the pages with a sense of anticipation and dread to learn the secrets of tiny seaside Faro, Portugal--both in World War II and those carried on to present day--and find out just how it was all woven together. 
The story goes back and forth from present day Faro, where recently-unemployed journalist Joanna is staying while completing a Portuguese language course and meets Nathan, a younger man with a mystery that he seeks her help in solving. As she begins to investigate, a British expat she meets suggests that she read a novel written by an American woman about her experiences in Faro and nearby Lisbon during World War II. At first Joanna doesn't see a connection between the book and Nathan's mystery, but the probing that she and Nathan do into the past seems to be digging up trouble, danger and even murder. The back and forth in time and the story within a story work well here as it kept me guessing and wondering throughout the book. I am a fan of wartime fiction, particularly World War II, and as in The Sea Garden, Lawrenson has taken a country where I didn't know much about the effects of the war on the citizens and expats that lived there and given an interesting perspective with her detailed research of the political issues, spying, and intrigue that occurred. But, even if you are not typically a fan of historical fiction don't shy away from 300 Days of Sun as it is a excellent mix of mystery and romance, modern day and history, and she tosses in some travel writing to wrap it all in a setting that will make you carry it outside to your lanai, just to feel the sun on your face and to warm any goosebumps that might pop up as the tension builds. 

Author Notes: Deborah Lawrenson studied English at Cambridge University and worked as a journalist in London. She is married with a daughter, and lives in Kent, England. Deborah’s previous novels include The Lantern and The Sea Garden.
Find out more about Deborah at her website, read more at her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.


Although not a food-centered book, it would be hard not to visit a seaside town in Portugal without food playing a role and Lawrenson writes food with as much lush detail as in the scenes she sets. Whether reading about the "aromatic cloud of strong coffee" at the local cafe, or how "the air was heavy with orange dust from the Sahara that fell like a sprinkling of paprika powder over the town's white sills and ledges," I found I was frequently hungry while reading. There were mentions of tiny almond pastries and custard tarts, fried donuts on the beach, plates of cubed white cheese and olives, carafes of Vinho Verde, tosta (toast with cheese), pizza, imported biscuits, whiskey, stollen, cakes and marzipan in wartime Lisbon, sweet sticky carob and honey-and-almond cakes, piri-piri chicken, omelette, oranges and orange trees, a pomegranate, dried figs, and apricots, cherry liqueur, flakes of white sea salt raked by a salt panner, and of course the seafood--clams, octopus, dried cod,"sardines grilling on charcoal fires" and other"delicate fish dishes."

When choosing a book-inspired dish, I was drawn to the description of a wartime fish dinner in Faro from the novel within the story, cooked by a fisherman's wife and consisting of white fish with preserved pimento and potato. Although I couldn't quite find a recipe that sounded like it online, I opened the pages of my favorite (OK, maybe only, ... but still favorite) Portuguese cookbook, Piri Piri Starfish by the amazing Tessa Kiros. (If this review has you wanting an armchair trip to Portugal and some of the delicious food, I recommend you go to Amazon, order 300 Days of Summer and then toss in a copy of the gorgeous Piri Piri Starfish--you will be swept away!) ;-) 

I have been wanting to make the fried tuna recipe from Piri Piri Starfish for quite a while now and found some nice local tombo ahi (white ahi)--see fish sourcing notes below. Since I am not eating gluten at the moment and did not have GF breadcrumbs, I toasted and ground sliced almonds and coated my tuna lightly with them for the crust. To get potatoes into the mix, I picked Tessa's boiled potatoes tossed with olive oil and coarse salt--thinking of Alva in the book within a book, who stops to watch a man raking white crystals on the beach and he gives her a taste to show her it is sea salt.  

Fried Tuna with Tomatoes & Onions
Adapted from Piri Piri Starfish by Tessa Kiros (and at the L.A. Times)
(Serves 4)

about 5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly squashed1 (14 oz) can good chopped tomatoes or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
2 onions, thinly sliced (I used local sweet Maui onions)
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 thick tuna steaks, halved crosswise
dry breadcrumbs (I used sliced almonds, toasted and ground)
chopped parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and cook until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes until the tomatoes are tender and release their juices. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of water to thin out the sauce slightly so it isn't too thick (there should still be rustic lumps of tomatoes in it). Remove the garlic, taste and adjust seasoning as needed and set aside, covered, in a warm place

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat and sauté the onions. Season and cook until soft and golden, turning with a wooden spoon occasionally to ensure none are burning. Add the vinegar and simmer until it is just absorbed. Tilt the pan, keeping the onion-flavored oil to one side (you'll use this to cook the tuna). Lift out the onions with a slotted spoon, set aside and keep warm.

Rinse the tuna and pat dry with paper towels. Season with a bit of salt. Place the breadcrumbs (or ground almonds) on a plate then coat the tuna on both sides. Add a little more oil, if needed, to the onion oil in the pan and place over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tuna and fry until a deep golden brown crust has formed underneath. Flip the tuna and cook the other side. (I like my tuna on the rare-in-the-center side so I should have cooked it about 1 and 1/4 minutes per side and ended up about 2 min per side.)

Divide the onions evenly among plates; place a piece of tuna on top of each. Top with the tomato sauce. Scatter with parsley; serve with crispy fried or boiled potatoes.

Potatoes with Coarse Sea Salt & Rosemary
From Piri Piri Starfish by Tessa Kiros
(Adapted to Serve 2-4)

2 lbs new potatoes/baby potatoes, scrubbed, skins on, halved if large
2 Tbsp roughly chopped rosemary leaves + extra to garnish
1 large red or white onion, roughly chopped
1 heaped tsp coarse sea salt
black pepper
about 1/4 cup good olive oil

Bring the potatoes, rosemary, and onions to the boil in a large, unsalted pot of water. Lower the heat slightly and cook until potatoes are soft but not falling apart and rosemary is tender.

Drain potatoes into a bowl and scatter with the salt, black pepper to taste and olive oil. Mix gently so the potatoes don't break up too much. Garnish with a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Serve warm or cold. 

Notes/Results: Two fabulous Tess Kiros recipes! The tuna dish had such excellent flavor with the sweetness of the lightly caramelized onions and tomato sauce, contrasting with the acidity of the vinegar--it just popped in the mouth. I will admit to getting the tuna a shade past done to my liking. (I prefer the outside seared and the inside bright pink--aka mostly raw) but with the browning of the almond crusts I was about 45 seconds too long on each side and my fish center was lightly pink. Still, the fish was moist and tender and I enjoyed every bite. The potatoes were also perfectly tender and the bits of salt (I used a mix of fleur de sol and a pink Hawaiian alaea salt), rosemary, and olive oil were just right and great with the tuna. This is probably one of my favorite book/inspired dish pairings of late! I would happily make both dishes again.

Fish Sourcing Notes: I try to eat fish a couple of times a week and I try to buy as much locally sourced and sustainable fish as possible--but it is hard to be sure just what you are getting, the quality, and the effect on the waters being fished. I got an opportunity to sit in on the practice runs of a new Waikiki restaurant, Mahina & Suns at the new Surfjack Hotel & Swimclub. Lucky me! I mention it because Mahina & Suns is Chef Ed Kenney's fourth eatery on Oahu. If you don't know Ed Kenney, you have not been reading your food media recently as his eclectic restaurants and local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always” mantra seem to be everywhere these days with the increasing popularity of Hawaiian cuisine. My entire meal was delicious (you can see the rest of the meal and cocktails on my Instagram page) but the standout was the 'Ahi Palaha'--white tombo ahi on a 12-grain rice salad with shaved cucumber and carrot, pickled mushrooms, pistachios and an amazing limu (seaweed) salsa verde (shown in the upper right corner of the picture collage below).

My server Max gave me a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch pocket guide for Hawaii and mentioned that all four of Kenney's restaurants are certified as "good choice restaurants" for fish they serve. Makes me feel good about my dinner and renews my commitment to sustainable and responsible buying choices. My tuna for this post is local tombo from Pacific waters although I am not sure if it was pole and line (excellent choice) or longline (good choice) but either way, I can feel good about my home-cooked dinner too. (And I am definitely going back for more Ahi Pahala!)

I am linking this post up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is Potluck Week! Our chance to make any dish from current featured chef Curtis Stone, or any dish from one of the previous IHCC featured chefs like Tessa Kiros. You can see what dishes and chefs everyone chose by checking out the picture links on the post. 

And, I'm also linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "300 Days of Sun" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Eggs in Tomato (with Sweet Potato *Noodles*) A Little Breakfast for Dinner + Some Favorite Tessa Kiros Recipes

When I open a cookbook from Tessa Kiros, I invariably want to curl up in a chair with a pot of tea and read it cover to cover. Her cookbooks have the power to transport me to places and spaces as beautiful as the pictures and the prose contained in them. This week Tessa Kiros is our Monthly Featured Chef at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we get to cook with one of our beloved previous IHCC chefs. We originally cooked with Tessa back in 2011 and she quickly became a favorite.

So many books and recipes to choose from but I wanted something really quick and simple for a busy week and so I selected her Eggs and Tomato recipe from Apples for Jam. Of course the recipe screams for, and Tessa recommends, good rustic bread for dipping however, I am not eating wheat presently. I still wanted something starch-ish to dip or run through those glorious runny yolks, so I quickly used my spiralizer and sauteed some sweet potato noodles.

I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe--noted in red below.

Eggs in Tomato
Slightly Adapted from Apples For Jam by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 2)

2 12 Tbsp olive oil (I reduced to 1 Tbsp)
1 clove garlic, peeled and squashed a bit (I used 2)
1/2 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
2 basil leaves torn up (+ more to garnish)
2 eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil and garlic in an 8-inch frying pan. When it begins to sizzle and you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes. Season with salt, and the basil, and cook for a few minutes over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to melt together. 

Reduce the heat and carefully break the eggs into the pan, leaving a little space between them. Cook until the whites just start to set, then make sure the bottoms aren't sticking to the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and cook about half a minute until the whites are milky set. Sprinkle a little salt and freshly ground black pepper over the yolks as desired. 

Leave the eggs slightly undercooked and take the pan to the table with the lid on rather than risk having the eggs hard and overcooked as you want to be able to dunk your bread (or sweet potato noodles) in the yolks. 

For the sweet potato, I used the C-Blade on my Inspiralizer which makes a fettuccine sized noodle. I used 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and sauteed the noodles for about 5 minutes until al dente. 

Notes/Results: Simple but really delicious, like so many of Tessa's recipes. The tomatoes cook down to a nice jammy consistency and the eggs nestle right in. Sure, bread would be nice, but the sweet potato noodles were a great pairing with their slight sweetness and firm noodle consistency. The tomato eggs would be great on top of regular pasta as well. This is also a good starting point for adding other ingredients--a bit of harissa or red pepper flakes for spice, maybe some baby spinach or chopped greens...  you get the picture. A great weeknight (or morning) pantry/fridge dinner when you want something delicious but don't want to make a big effort. I will make this again.

To celebrate Tessa Kiros properly, here are six of my favorite of her recipes cooked during our time with her at IHCC and beyond. It's tough to pick out just a handful because I have loved every dish I've cooked with Tessa (you can see the others if you check out the Tessa Kiros label on my blog sidebar) but these are the ones that were most memorable (and most crave-worthy!).

Tomato Soup with Rice & Basil from Recipes and Dreams From An Italian Life

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino & Avocado from Recipes and Dreams From An Italian Life (Still one of my favorite pasta dishes ever!)

Red Bell Pepper & Anchovy Sauce from Venezia 


Sage and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes from Apples for Jam

Gelato al Limone (Lemon Ice Cream) from Venezia

Portuguese Purslane Soup from Piri Piri Starfish 

Delicious, right?!?!

You can see what Tessa Kiros dishes our participants made for this week's IHCC Monthly Featured Chef Event by checking out the picture links on the post.


Monday, November 2, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "All the Stars in the Heavens" by Adriana Trigiani, Served with Torta Di Spaghetti

Today's TLC Book Tour stop takes us to 1930's Hollywood, with a brief stop in Italy. I am reviewing a sweeping novel inspired by some real events--"All the Stars in the Heavens" by Adriana Trigiani. Along with the review comes a recipe for a simple Torta di Spaghetti that is inspired by my reading--perfect for using up leftover pasta and a great meat-free Monday dinner. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Adriana Trigiani, the New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster epic The Shoemaker’s Wife, returns with her biggest and boldest novel yet, a hypnotic tale based on a true story and filled with her signature elements: family ties, artistry, romance, and adventure. Born in the golden age of Hollywood, All the Stars in the Heavens captures the luster, drama, power, and secrets that could only thrive in the studio system—viewed through the lives of an unforgettable cast of players creating magic on the screen and behind the scenes.

In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town’s golden age—an era as brutal as it was resplendent—and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success. With meticulous, beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.
The movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly.

Far from the glittering lights of Hollywood, Sister Alda Ducci has been forced to leave her convent and begin a new journey that leads her to Loretta. Becoming Miss Young’s secretary, the innocent and pious young Alda must navigate the wild terrain of Hollywood with fierce determination and a moral code that derives from her Italian roots. Over the course of decades, she and Loretta encounter scandal and adventure, choose love and passion, and forge an enduring bond of love and loyalty that will be put to the test when they eventually face the greatest obstacle of their lives.

Anchored by Trigiani’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy, this mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than-life characters both real and fictional—including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more—it is it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema’s greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.

Hardcover: 464 pages  
Publisher: Harper (October 13, 2015)

My Review: I have seen and occasionally picked up books by Adriana Trigiani but had never read one until All the Stars in the Heavens. I was pulled to this book by the description of the "golden age of Hollywood" and that it was based in part on a true story--or at least on some true facts--chiefly that Clark Gable and Loretta Young had a child together. I am a lifelong movie lover and a big fan of the classics, thanks in a good part to my parents, especially my dad. Growing up we had a set of movie books put out in the mid-1960s and my favorite was "All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!: A Pictorial History of the Movie Musical." I would pour over that book and it's many black and white photos of movie stars. There were other volumes on "bad guys," westerns, and foreign films and some volumes on particular stars like Judy Garland, Laurel & Hardy, Katherine Hepburn and Clark Gable. My dad always had a thing for Loretta Young too, so this book seemed right up my alley. 

All the Stars in the Heavens is an ambitious and epic story and Trigiani tells it well, making Hollywood and its stars come to life on the pages. As glittering as Hollywood was in its heyday, there was a lot that wasn't pretty going on behind the scenes. The studios ruled and the stars were securely tied to them with heavy contracts including strong morality clauses in place, ironic--since much bad behavior went on behind the scenes and everyone was sleeping with everyone--regardless of relationships or marriages. Most of it stayed under wraps or was only speculated about as a violation of a morals clause could be the end of an actress. Luckily for the stars, the 1930s and 1940s were in the days before not only the paparazzi, but everyone on the street, had the ability to snap and send out a picture of a celebrity at any time, so much of the gossip and innuendo stayed as rumors only and indiscretions were more easily covered up.

The book mostly follows the story of Loretta Young and Alda Ducci, two women from very different backgrounds who come together when Alda is asked to leave her convent and is then placed as Loretta's secretary and companion, reviewing her fan mail and assisting her on set. The two develop a strong friendship and Alda is witness to Loretta's habit of falling for her (married) co-stars, most notably Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. Meanwhile Alda, who ran to her California convent from a failed relationship in Italy, finds love with Luca Chetta, a scene painter working in the movie industry. Although the ups and downs of the Gable-Young love story and subsequent love-child, and Alda and Luca's romance bring love and passion to the forefront of the novel, to me the more important love story was the deep and long-lasting friendship between Loretta and Alda. That friendship and watching Alda navigate Hollywood, along with the constant parade of celebrities in and out of the story (David Niven, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow , and Carole Lombard to name a few), kept me turning the pages and engaged in the story.  

The story does meander quite a bit in its 450 or so pages, so it requires a patient reader. In fact, I  think you need to be the right reader to truly enjoy this book--someone who loves the movies, old Hollywood, and historical fiction. If you are like me and turn on the Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics channels when you want to escape back in time, you will enjoy getting caught up in All the Stars in Heaven and escaping to the sparkling Hollywood of yesteryear.

Author Notes: Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her books include the New York Timesbestseller The Shoemaker’s Wife; the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Brava, Valentine; Lucia, Lucia; and the bestselling memoir Don’t Sing at the Table, as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. She wrote the screenplay for Big Stone Gap, which she also directed. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.
Visit Adriana at her website:, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Food Inspiration:

There was some food inspiration in All the Stars in Heaven. Although set in Hollywood, the food Loretta Young's family enjoyed was the homey fare made by their longtime cook Ruby like pork roast, biscuits, and pie. Stew was the on-set meal that was served most often when Gable and Young were shooting Call of the Wild in the mountains of Washington and Gable and the crew were getting tired of it. There were also some restaurant mentions and care-packages of different ingredients and See's Chocolates sent to Loretta on set by her family.

I took my inspiration from Italian food--although it had not yet "caught on" in America (and Clark Gable had never had spaghetti) in 1935--when Alda, Luca, and Loretta cook dinner on location with ingredients from Loretta's Birthday care-package. Italian food was plentiful in the book between the dinner, Loretta's time with Ada's family in Italy hiding her pregnancy, and Alda and Luca's visit to his family in Brooklyn.

"My mother used to say, if you have a lemon, a clove of garlic, some salt, olive oil, and spaghetti, that's all you need to live." Luca stirred the sauce.

"What about cheese?" Loretta placed the wedge of Parmesan on the counter. 

"Love it. But cheese is a luxury. Somebody has to make it. It takes time. Pasta, you can make from scratch if you have flour and eggs. Lemons--if you live in California, they're everywhere. Garlic, that keeps well, and olive oil--well a home without olive oil is not a home. It's just a place where people sleep."
-All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

I was going to recreate the spaghetti in olive oil (and butter, lemon & Parmesan) that Luca made for dinner but I recently made and posted a similar dish for another book review. Instead, I kept many of the same ingredients and rustic feel and turned to one of my favorite cookbook authors Tessa Kiros for a slight variation (my changes are noted in red below) of her Torta Di Spaghetti recipe. Nothing says comfort like a fried spaghetti "pancake." I could see Luca or Alda's family making this from their leftovers.

Torta Di Spaghetti 
Adapted From Recipes and Dreams From An Italian Life by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 4)

4 1/4 cups leftover cooked pasta (9 oz uncooked)
2 1//2 Tbsp olive oil
(I added 2 cloves garlic, minced)
4 eggs
5 Tbsp shredded Parmesan, plus a little extra, to serve (optional)
a few herbs, chopped
(I added black pepper)
(I added the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon)

Have the cooked pasta at room temperature. Heat the oil in a 10 1/2-inch nonstick pan and swizzle it around. (I added minced garlic and cooked it until translucent before adding the spaghetti.)

Add the pasta, flattening it like a neat nest. Whip the eggs in a bowl with a little salt (I added lemon juice and black pepper to the eggs). Pour out evenly over the pasta and stir to make sure all the pasta is coated. Flatten again. Pan-fry for a couple of minutes, then scatter the Parmesan and herbs evenly over the top. Cook for a couple of minutes more, until the egg is set and a bit crusty in places. Pot on the lid and leave the pan off the heat for 5 minutes or longer, so the cheese melts a bit.

Loosen the edges with a wooden spatula, slipping it all the way underneath to make sure nothing is stuck. Have a large plate ready. Put the lid on the pan and flip the pan over so the torta is upside down on the lid. Now put the serving plate upside down over the torta and flip it back over with as much finesse as you can manage. Cut slices with a sharp knife and serve with a spatula. Serve hot with an extra scattering of Parmesan (and black pepper) if you like. 

Notes/Results: Another one of those recipes that I don't know why I have never made it before. It's so good! I frequently have leftover pasta (although I just cooked pasta fresh for this one) and this is a great way to use it up. I made a half recipe in my small pan and added in some garlic and lemon to keep with the spaghetti mentioned in the book. I love the crunchy underside of the spaghetti cake and the cheesy goodness of the topping. Satisfying and delicious--I will make this again.

Note: A review copy of "All the Stars in the Heavens" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Friday, May 1, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Antigone Poems" by Marie Slaight, Paired with a Recipe for Classic Greek Salad (Salata Horiatiki)

And now for something a little different... Here's the thing, I don't read a lot of poetry. I appreciate a well-crafted poem, I have taken the assorted poetry class, and I have come across the occasional poem that speaks to me--but I seldom seek out books of poetry to read. So, when Lisa from TLC Book Tours was looking for reviewers of "The Antigone Poems" by Marie Slaight, I decided to expand my reading horizons and signed up. Paired with my review of this stark and haunting book is a classic Greek Salad (Salata Horiatiki).

Publisher's Blurb:

Featuring poetry by Marie Slaight and charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker, The Antigone Poems was created in the 1970’s, while the artists were living between Montreal and Toronto. An intensely personal invocation of the ancient Greek tale of defiance, the illustrations and poetry capture the despair of the original tale in an unembellished modernized rendition. The Antigone Poems provides a special expedition into the depths of the ancient Sophocle tragedy while questioning power, punishment and one of mythology’s oldest themes: rebellion.

To learn more about The Antigone Poems, please visit

Trade Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Altaire Productions & Publications; First edition (June 15, 2014)

This is a gorgeous book. Small, paperback, but elegant, with thick creamy paper. Both the poems and the illustrations have a stark sort of beauty to them; the sparse charcoal drawings adding to the haunting tone of the words. My Greek mythology is a bit rusty so I had to look up Antigone, about whom these poems are based, and reread her story. If you are not familiar, the short version is that Antigone was born of the incestuous relationship of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta, and seeking a proper burial for her brother, she defies a law set by her uncle and buries him. Antigone is then imprisoned in a cave where she kills herself. The poems and drawings are meant not only to reflect Antigone's despair, rebellion, and punishment, but to also show the suffering of all women over the ages. One gets the feeling that the author's passion and pain are also wrapped within. 

Most of the poems are short, like the example below:

All love pains
Are an aged protest
Wanting fresh surge;
Decrying the ancient throb
Of memories.

                -The Antigone Poems, Marie Slaight 

They are somewhat unsettling, dark and wild. Interesting to read, then go back and read again, savoring the words. I found myself thinking about them afterward--which to me is what a good poem is meant to do. Now I am not going to pretend to be a poetry critic, I can just tell you that I found these poems interesting, evocative, and moving. Although not a book I normally would have selected to read, I found The Antigone Poems truly fascinating and well worth the time. It is interesting to me that this collaboration was done back in the 1970's and was never released until now as there is such a timeless feel to it. Lovers of poetry, Greek mythology, visual arts, and those looking for something a bit different will enjoy this unique and beautiful book.  

Author Notes: Marie Slaight (1954-) has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer, and performer. Now based in Sydney, Australia, her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company, which has been involved in such films as the award-winning documentary Bury the Hatchet, Kindred and Whoever Was Using This Bed.

Artist/Illustrator Notes: Terrence Tasker (1947-1992) was born in Saskatchewan, Canada. Raised in rural western Canada, he went on to become a self-taught artist and filmmaker. He co-founded and built the original Studio Altaire, a 90-seat theater and visual art gallery that also ran after hours jazz concerts in downtown Montreal. He worked as a set builder as well as working in construction, mining, finance, industrial installations, taxi driving and film projectionist. He created the artwork for The Antigone Poems in the 1970s, while living in Montreal and Toronto. 

So, obviously not a book with food themes, I had to take a broader inspiration from The Antigone Poems. I wanted a classic Greek dish and first settled on Saganaki (fried cheese), because of the references to fire in the book. I had some challenges finding the right cheese--Kasseri, and although I could have substituted the easier to find Halloumi, instead I decided I was craving a classic Greek Salad. I used a simple Tessa Kiros recipe from Food From Many Greek Kitchens, a favorite cookbook of mine. Kiros notes to use good quality tomatoes and olive oil for this salad and to be sure to soak up the juices at the bottom of the bowl with bread.

Greek Salad (Salata Horiatiki)
Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 2-4)

8 gorgeous small ripe tomatoes, quartered (I used local Romas)
1 cucumber, sliced thickly on the diagonal 
1 small medium red onion, sliced
about 17 drained kalamata olives in brine (I used mixed Greek olives, pitted & sliced)
1 heaping tablespoon capers (I used 2 Tbsp)
2 small handfuls of purslane, if you can get it (I used romaine)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 1/2 oz slab of feta (I used sheep's milk feta)
1 tsp or so dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, optional

Put the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and capers into a serving bowl. Add the purslane (romaine) and season with a little salt and a few grinds of pepper. Put the feta on top and crumble the oregano over with your fingers. Drizzle the olive oil over and the vinegar if using. Serve with bread.   

Notes/Results: A simple Greek salad that hit the spot. Salty, tangy, sweet from the tomatoes, briny olives and capers--it was perfect with grilled bread and a glass of crisp white wine. I would have loved to have the purslane--sometimes I can get it locally at the farmers market, and I'll make it again the next time I come across some. I used a small head of local baby romaine in its place, along with local Roma tomatoes and cucumber. I also pickled my red onion in the olive oil and red wine vinegar before using them--I like the softened flavor. Extra capers make me happy, as did the very creamy French sheep's milk Feta I used. Just a great little salad that I will happily make again. 

This post with its Tessa Kiros recipe is linking up to Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs where we have the opportunity to cook a recipe from our current chef, Jacques Pépin or any of our former IHCC chefs. You can see what recipes and chefs the other IHCC participants chose to may by checking the picture links on the post. 

Note: A review copy of "The Antigone Poems" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.