Showing posts with label dips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dips. Show all posts

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Eighth Sister" by Robert Dugoni, Served with a Recipe for Smoky Eggplant Spread, Marbled Rye Toasts & Pickled Veggies

I can't believe how quickly this week has flown by, and that it's is already Thursday. Just one more day until the weekend can begin. If you are looking for a suspenseful weekend read, try the latest Robert Dugoni book, The Eighth Sister. I'm reviewing it as today's stop on the TLC Book Tour and I am pairing my review with a recipe for a Smoky Eggplant Spread, accompanied by toasted marble rye and pickled vegetables, and inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A pulse-pounding thriller of espionage, spy games, and treachery by the New York Times bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series.

Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.
Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.
Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 9, 2019)

My Review:

I am a huge fan of Robert Dugoni's Tracy Crosswhite series and feel like I am often anxiously awaiting the newest one. I hadn't ventured into Dugoni's other books because of my over-full TBR lis, but when I heard this was the start of a new series, I quickly jumped on the tour. Me being me and me being very anal retentive about reading series books in order, I was bit dismayed to learn that Charlies Jenkins, the main character in The Eighth Sister, is a secondary character in the author's David Sloane series. I think that there is enough explanation of the relationship in this book that you don't need to have read the David Sloan books first, but dogonnit, Dugoni made me curious, and now I want to and thus the TBR pile grows again ;-)

Charlie Jenkins is ex-CIA and living in Washington with his younger wife, young son, and a baby on the way. Disillusioned by his service to his country and how it ended, he is running a security firm with his wife when his old bureau chief tracks him down and asks him to reactivate and go undercover in Russia to find the leak behind a very secret spy ring known as the Seven Sisters, before more of these undercover agents are killed. Charlie doesn't want the assignment but his business is going under and he needs the money. so he heads to Moscow. Things do not go well and soon he is fighting to get out of Russia and to clear his name. 

Dugoni does an excellent job of building the pace and suspense throughout the story. making it a fast read for a thick book, as I didn't want to put it down and may have chewed down a couple of fingernails. I don't generally choose spy novels to read but i liked the way The Eighth Sister was both a spy thriller and a legal thriller with both the scenes in the filed and the courtroom scenes equally gripping. Charlie Jenkins is a great character, as were the supporting characters--his wife Alex, son CJ and the aforementioned David Sloane, and I look forward to spending more time with them in future books. I find Russia fairly fascinating and Dugoni's afterword about his inspiration for the book including a trip he made to Russia with his family in 1998 and some of their experiences was an interesting read as well. If you have not read Dugoni, you can't go wrong with either his Tracy Crosswhite books or this new series and I have a feeling his other books are equally as well done. (I'll let you know!)


Author Notes: Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series, which has sold more than 4 million books worldwide. He is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane Series; the stand-alone novels The 7th CanonDamage Control, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, for which he won an AudioFile Earphones Award for the narration; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for the International Thriller Award, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. His books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Connect with Robert on his website, Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration

There is so much action in this book and Charlie has little time to eat, but there were a few food mentions like pastries and veal with onions, junk food--chips, donuts, candy, granola bars, crackers, cheese, juice and chocolate bars, strong Turkish coffee, lamb with rice, scrambled eggs with onions and pepper and bread, cinnamon rolls, Thai food--chicken pad Thai, tom yum soup, and phat khing, and homemade tacos. 

There is one scene where Jenkins is meeting with his Russian contact Federov and they share a plate of appetizers at a restaurant:

"The man set a plate of appetizers on the table. speaking while gesturing. 'Rye bread bruschetta with eggplant spread. marinated mushrooms, and pickled vegetables. Naslazhdat'sya.'

Federov picked up a piece of the bruschetta and spread the eggplant with a butter knife. 'Please,' he said, gesturing to Jenkins. 'You will enjoy.' 

Jenkins chose the bruschetta and spread, mimicking whatever Federov ate."

There were marinated mushrooms mentioned and of course vodka. So I decided to make my book-inspired dish as a nod to the appetizer plate and especially the eggplant spread. 

When I looked up Russian eggplant spread, I found many recipes for it, often called Baklazhannaia Ikra (poor man’s caviar) or eggplant caviar. The recipes varied slightly in ingredients and sometimes spices and i ended up going with one of the simplest--just eggplant, onion and tomato paste with oil, salt and pepper. The flavor comes more from the roasting of the eggplant and the caramelizing of the onions.

Smoky Eggplant Spread
From Emily Han, via
(makes about 4 cups

2 large eggplant (about 1 lb each)
olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
about 6z/3/4 cup tomato paste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prick the eggplants all over with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven, turning over once, until soft, about 1 hour.

Let the eggplants cool in a colander in the sink, where their juices can drain. When cool enough to handle, press any excess liquid out. (This step helps to reduce any bitterness.)
Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.

Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the flesh. Discard the peel. Using a large knife, chop the flesh very finely. (Avoid using a food processor, as you want the eggplant to be more textured than a purée.)

Add the eggplant to the onions along with the tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a couple good cracks of black pepper. Turn the heat to low-medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes. Add more oil as necessary to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. (Be liberal with the oil; any excess will rise to the top as the mixture cools, and you can remove it then, if you wish.)

Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. Adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Notes/Results: With so few ingredients, I was surprised just how flavorful this eggplant spread was--and how good. Slightly smoky, and a bit sweet from the onion, it was really good hot, warm and cold and I think it will make a fabulous sandwich spread. I served mine on marbled rye toast points and with a small assortment of pickled and marinated veggies from the olive bar at my local grocery store (including some very spicy marinated mushrooms), which made a nice contrast to the eggplant spread. I will happily make this spread again.

I'm sharing this post with 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 "The Eighth Sister" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Impossible Girl" by Lydia Kang, Served Up with a Recipe for Smoked Oyster Pâté {Plus a Book Giveaway!}

Happy Wednesday! Here's to getting over the hump of this week and sliding closer to the weekend. Today I am very excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for The Impossible Girl, the new historical mystery novel by Lydia Y. Kang. Accompanying my review is an easy recipe for a Smoked Oyster Pâté, inspired by the many oysters in the mid 19th-century New York City setting. There's also a Rafflecopter giveaway for an opportunity to win a copy of The Impossible Girl at the bottom of the post. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. 

As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 18, 2018)
Publication Date: September 18, 2018

My Review:

OK, to get it out of the way and get on to the book review ... I LOVE the cover of this book! The color, the design, the way it fits the slightly macabre mystery vibe--Lydia Kang has some very cool book covers. I am also fascinated by early medical practices and oddities and as in her previous historical thriller, A Beautiful Poison (reviewed here), the author makes good use of her medical degree and detailed research in The Impossible Girl. Cora Lee has a very big secret, she is the whispered about medical oddity, a girl born with two hearts--something that both physicians and side shows would pay a large amount of money to display. This makes Cora's job as ironic as it is unusual--she is the city's best and only female grave digger or ressurectionist, with her gang she digs up the bodies of wealthy, deceased New Yorkers with medical abnormalities, from a young woman with a four-inch tail and an unusually tall gentleman with "abnormally long limbs and fingers," to a woman with a neck tumor that has hair and teeth. Cora has a list of these potential finds and waits for word of their passings, but it seems like the bidders for these bodies are impatient as mysterious deaths are claiming Cora's list and rumors about the "impossible" two-hearted girl are growing. 

There is history, science, mystery and romance in The Impossible Girl. Cora is a great character and I happily followed her story, looking for clues as to who in Cora's circle might be betraying her. I had some parts figured out, but there were surprises and Lydia Kang had me fully engaged and entertained by Cora's world. Her research is detailed and her vivid descriptions and writing bring the history and certainly the science to life. If you like mysteries that lean to the dark side and explore both the underbelly and the higher societies of New York, and you don't mind a bit of murder, medical details, and creepy grave robbing thrown in, you will enjoy this one--it's a fun ride and a great book for a dark October night. (Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a copy for your shelves below!)


Author Notes: Lydia Kang is a physician and the author of A Beautiful Poison. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine. She currently lives in the Midwest with her family, where she continues to practice internal medicine. Visit her at

Connect with Lydia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Food Inspiration:

There is a lot of food in The Impossible Girl--a good portion of it oyster-related (see note below). Mentions included pork joint, pastries, flour, boiling soup, meat pies, pudding, blueberries and blackberries, coddled eggs, currant buns, moldy bread, a dinner of pork roast, boiled potatoes and flour biscuits, bread and cheese, peppermint candy, roast goose, roast beef, clam soup with extra bread and butter, mutton and taters, "fine Croton water" (The Old Croton Aqueduct was a large and complex water distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842), malt liquor, brandy and German lager, cakes, raspberry cordial, coffee, a warm, sweet loaf speckled with raisins, and sweet buns, punch, baked eggs, tiny pies--both savory and sweet including oyster, egg and ham pies, treacle, cheese and crabapple jelly, beef tea (broth), jam, buttery gruel, gin, wine, baked eggs, tea, slices of roast ham and bread, apples, chicken, whiskey, rum, iced cake, and plain buns from the bakery. Oyster mentions from the various saloons included a plate of raw oysters and oysters fried, baked, stewed, roasted, stuffed in a fowl, oyster pie, and duck in oyster sauce, and a steaming plate of oysters, dotted with black pepper.

Sometimes a book calls for a certain dish or ingredient. In this case it was definitely oysters as their consumption at seedy oyster cellars and bars were a key setting in the book. Here's a fun article from the New York Times on the abundance and popularity of oysters in the mid 19th-century: City Lore: When the Oyster Was Their World by Mark Kurlansky. I knew I wanted my dish to center around oysters and since good, fresh or fresh-frozen oysters are not that easy to get reasonably here, I wanted to make something with canned oysters. Other criteria was it had to be fast-to-make and something I would eat (oysters and I are a bit tentative in our relationship--we hang out very occasionally if we must, but don't gravitate to each other). My mom used to make oyster stew, but it's just too humid for that and so I decided to forgo any historical accuracy of recipe and go for a more modern and easy dip. There were plenty of recipes to be found but I liked the sound and ingredient list of the Smoked Oyster Pâté recipe I found at Food52. I made two tiny changes--noted in red below.

Smoked Oyster Pâté 
Very Slightly Adapted from Waverly via
(Serves 4-6)

1 8 oz tub cream cheese
3 Tbsp milk (+ more if needed)
4 Tbsp green onions, finely chopped white and some green parts
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
2 tsp Tabasco sauce, or to taste (I used about 3 tsp)
(I added 1 tsp lemon juice, or to taste)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 (4 oz) can smoked oysters, drained and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, pour the cream cheese, milk, green onions, Worcestershire, Tabasco, garlic, and parsley. Stir to combine. If the mixture seems too thick, thin it with a teaspoon or two more milk. (It should be thick but everything should be evenly blended.) Fold in the oysters. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes/Results: I found this to be a tasty little spread. I realize that oysters are not everyone's 'thing' and if you detest them or can't eat them this is likely not the recipe to win you over but, if you are lukewarm or on the fence it could move you into the oyster appreciation camp. It's hard to argue with cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco and what they do with the smoky oysters. I did add extra Tabasco as well as a bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten things up and liked it it with the hint of lemon. The flavors on this one do get better after it sits, so make it ahead. Food52 recommends buttered and toasted baguette slices which would be nice but I also liked the crunch of the poppy seed & black pepper crackers and crisp cucumber.   

I'm sharing this post with 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 "The Impossible Girl" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



The publisher is generously providing a copy of "The Impossible Girl" to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me a period of history you enjoy reading about OR a food you like that others don't AND/OR why you'd like to win a copy of "The Impossible Girl."

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii)
and/or author Lydia Kang (@LydiaYKang). (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Wednesday, October 3rd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Good Luck!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Story of Our Lives" by Helen Warner, Served with a Recipe for Bagels and Lox with Homemade Veggie Cream Cheese

Happy Tuesday. I'm excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Story of Our Lives, a novel by Helen Warner. Accompanying my review are Bagels and Lox with a recipe for homemade Veggie Cream Cheese, inspired by my reading. 

Publisher's Blurb:
They think nothing can tear their bond apart, until a long-buried secret threatens to destroy everything.
Every year they have met up for a vacation, but their time away is much more than just a bit of fun. 

Over time, it has become a lifesaver, as each of them struggles with life’s triumphs and tragedies.
Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they were girls. They have seen each other through everything—from Sophie’s private fear that she doesn’t actually want to be a mother despite having two kids, to Amy’s perfect-on-the-outside marriage that starts to reveal troubling warning signs, to Melissa’s spiraling alcoholism, to questions that are suddenly bubbling up around the paternity of Emily’s son. But could a lie that spans just as long as their friendship be the thing that tears them apart?

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Graydon House (February 6, 2018)

My Review:

I am a bit of a sucker for good women's friendship stories, especially when they span years or even decades and give you a front-row seat to see how different characters and their relationships grow and evolve. The Story of Our Lives covers the years between 1997 and 2007 in the lives of Sophie, Melissa, Amy and Emily, who became friends during their first year of university. The women gather annually for a 'girls' weekend away, where they reconnect and share (or don't share--there are some big secrets being hidden) what is happening in their lives. Each character faces different personal and professional challenges that run the gamut from relationship and marital challenges, infidelity, pregnancies, miscarriages, and postpartum depression, addiction, domestic abuse, and career issues. Although some of the subject matter is heavier in tone, the author keeps it from bogging down too much and happy moments occur frequently. For the most part, the four main characters are likable and relatable, although some grew on me more quickly than others. 

With a few chapters devoted to a year (each year has a 'news bite' with a major story from that year which is interesting to think back on) and often featuring an emphasis on one of the characters and their perspectives, the 400+ pages moved quickly and the story flowed well. There are no big surprises and a few things that were easily predictable, but the writing and characters are engaging and I found myself sorry to have the book end. The Story of Our Lives is a great 'escape' novel--the weekends away are often set in beachy locations in Britain and it makes for a relatively quick and enjoyable read. If you are a fan of women's fiction, contemporary fiction, and stories about the highs and lows of friendships and relationships, you'll enjoy this one.


Author Notes:  

Helen Warner is head of daytime for Channel 4, where she is responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talk show Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children.


Food Inspiration:

At first I feared there wasn't going to be much food inspiration in The Story of Our Lives as food mentions seemed few and far between, but some finally appeared including bacon, pizza, salmon, pancakes, green olives, asparagus, home-made canapés, crisps, croissants with homemade strawberry jam, gin and tonics, champagne, cava, and all manner of other alcohol.

It was the mention of a beach breakfast Amy made that gave me my book-inspired dish:

"Amy had prepared a feast of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, beautiful, exotic fruit salads, plus bread and croissants she had freshly baked herself." 

I love bagels with lox and it gave me a great excuse to make a batch of Veggie Cream Cheese from a recipe I had recently pinned from Veggie cream cheese or schmear is one of my favorite things to get at a good bagel place and I liked the idea of making my own and pairing it with the smoked salmon--along with capers and a sprinkling of Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel Seasoning Mix.

I made a couple of small changes to the recipe--using fresh thyme because I had a bunch left over from this week's soup, replacing the salt with celery salt, and adding a lone stalk of celery I had sitting in the produce drawer. 

Veggie Cream Cheese
Slightly Adpated from Meghan Splawn via
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 medium carrot, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
(I added 1 small stock celery, peeled & Cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 medium scallion, cut into 4 pieces
1 small clove garlic, smashed
1 small sprig dill (I used thyme)
1/4 medium red bell pepper, seeded & quartered
1/2 tsp kosher salt (I used celery salt)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp olive oil

Place carrots (and celery) into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped (about 5 pulses). Add the scallion, garlic, leaves from thyme sprig, bell pepper, salt and pepper and pulse until finely chopped (about 5-7 pulses). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. 

Add cream cheese and olive oil and pulse until the cheese and vegetables are completely incorporated (about 7-10 pulses). 

Serve immediately or store tightly-covered in the fridge for up to a week. 

Notes/Results: I have made lots of different flavored cream cheeses and don't know why I never tried a veggie cream cheese before. It is really good and tasted much fresher than the store-bought version. I like the way the flavors of the different veggies come through and the pop of flavor from the garlic, celery seed and thyme (I am sure the dill in the original would be fabulous too.) I think it tastes even better after sitting overnight in the fridge as the flavors meld. It paired well with the salmon and capers--the flavors are all strong--so they didn't overpower one another. I used a regular cream cheese but you could easily use a lower-fat substitute or even sub in a vegan cream cheese if you are avoiding dairy. In addition to using it on bagels, the recipe author recommends it as a sandwich spread, on crackers or stirred into hot pasta and I think it would be delicious in any of those applications. I will definitely make it again.

I'm sharing this post with 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 "The Story of Our Lives" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "A Hundred Small Lessons" by Ashley Hay, Served with Herb-Grilled Prawns with Green Goddess Dressing (+ a Giveaway!)

I'm happy to be on the TLC Book Tour for A Hundred Small Lessons, a novel by Australian author Ashley Hay. Accompanying my review are some recipes inspired by my reading for Ina Garten's Herb-Grilled Prawns paired with her Green Goddess Dressing. There's also a chance to a win a copy of this book for your own at the end of this post.

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of the highly acclaimed The Railwayman’s Wife, called a “literary and literate gem” by Psychology Today, comes an emotionally resonant and profound new novel of two families, interconnected through the house that bears witness to their lives.
When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.
In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (November 28, 2017)

My Review:

A Hundred Small Lessons is a character-driven book about life's journeys--both the beginnings and the ends. It's about two women and their families who occupy the same Brisbane house at different times. After a fall, elderly Elsie is moved by her children from her home to a nearby care facility while Lucy and her husband Ben buy the house and settle in with their toddler son, Tom. The story alternates primarily between Elsie and Lucy with much of Elsie's story looking back at her life and Lucy's more focused on the present day as her life moves forward and she adjusts to the changes that motherhood brings. Lucy feels a connection with Elsie, finding photos, a teacup and other possessions that belonged to her. She also feels Elsie's presence in the house, something her husband discounts and adding to tension brewing between them. Elsie is finding it hard to let go of her house, the memories of her beloved husband who died decades ago, and the regrets she has about her life--especially her strained relationship with her daughter.

The writing is quietly and deeply beautiful. There are no big moments or huge bursts of drama here, but the way that Hay writes about the small moments, the ones we often take for granted, gives them a resonance and an importance and made me want to keep reading. On the other hand, I was a bit unprepared for how much Elsie would make me think of my own mom and her end of life, so there were times when I would have to set the book down and walk away from it. In the end, I enjoyed this glimpse at two lives, separate but connected, and the lyrical way the author tells their stories. This is my first book by Ashley Hay but I will definitely explore her writing more.


Author Notes: Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

You can connect with Ashley via her website or Facebook


Food Inspiration:

It's not the foodiest of books but there was food to be found in A Hundred Small Lessons including breakfast, morning tea, chicken, biscuits (homemade peanut butter cookies and store-bought biscuits), champagne, Moscow Mules, cake, fried egg, a red frankfurter, beer, homemade bread with jam and honey, lamb, steak, wine, peanut butter and hard-boiled egg sandwiches, lime pickle, Duchess potatoes, gravy, cheese, ice cream, fig trees, a "rich, seafoody thing," brandy, soup, sausages, egg, sultans, raisin toast and milk, and seafood.

For my book-inspired dish I took inspiration from a lunch prepared by an artist, Ida, who Elsie sits for and who thinks they need a celebration at the finishing of her portrait of Elsie. 

"So she sat at the wide green kitchen table, and she ate the luxurious prawns, and the fresh sweet tomato, and the thick slices of bread. And she let the size of the artist's words wash over her one last time--let them soak into all the chinks and crevices of herself she hadn't known before this work began."

Prawns sounded good--especially grilled prawns and so I found a recipe from Ina Garten for Herb Grilled Shrimp. Ina accompanies it with Mango Salsa but I wasn't really feeling the fruit and seafood combination so instead I made the Green Goddess Dressing she has paired with her roasted shrimp. I served the shrimp and dipping sauce with sweet local cherry tomatoes and slices of baguette for my take on Elsie and Ida's lunch. 

Get the best shrimp you can. I like to buy Kauai shrimp or other local shrimp when it is available and keep it in my freezer. When it isn't available, I usually buy my shrimp from Whole Foods as they track to ensure that both their farm-raised and wild shrimp are responsibly caught or farmed and free from preservatives among other things.

Herb Grilled Pawns
Slightly Adapted by Ina Garten via
(Serves 6)

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, small-diced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 lbs prawns or jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per lb), peeled, tails left on, & deveined

Combine the garlic, onion, parsley, basil, mustards, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Add the shrimp and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals, and brush the grilling rack with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. Skewer the shrimp. (Ina uses 5 or 6 shrimp on a 12-inch skewer for a dinner serving, I used 3 shrimp on a 6-inch skewer for appetizers.)

Grill the shrimp for about 1-1/2 minutes per side or until pink and just cooked through. Serve with Ina's Mango Salsa, Cocktail Sauce, or her Green Goddess Dressing (recipe below). 


Green Goddess Dressing
Adapted from Ina Garten vis
(Makes about 2 cups)

1 cup good mayonnaise (I use Just Mayo vegan mayonnaise
1 cup scallions, green & white parts chopped (about 6 to 7 scallions)
1 cup basil leaves, chopped (about 18 to 20 basil leaves)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp anchovy paste
2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream or yogurt

Place all ingredients except sour cream into the jar of a blender and process until smooth. Add the sour cream and process until just blended. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Notes/Results: I had been craving good shrimp and these did not disappoint. They were plump and tender and had great flavor with the mustard and the herbs. I made just a small batch of the shrimp but made the entire Green Goddess dressing recipe--which was delicious. I like my shrimp with different sauces than the standard cocktail sauce and green goddess dressing makes an excellent partner to the sweet shrimp and I am sure I will be using it on salads the rest of this week. Together it all made for a tasty light dinner and I will happily make the shrimp and the dressing again.

I'm linking up this post to I Heart Cooking Clubs where the theme is It's Five O'Clock Somewhere!--cocktails and/or nibbles to enjoy with them--like these delicious shrimp. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

I'm also sharing this post with 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 "A Hundred Small Lessons" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of A Hundred Small Lessons to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) and briefly tell me about a small lesson you have learned over the years or if you don't want to go that deep, tell me about a favorite cocktail or appetizer or tell me why you'd like to win a copy of A Hundred Small Lessons.

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or publisher Atria Books
(@AtriaBooks). (Note: You can still get the extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Saturday, December 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!