Showing posts with label fish tacos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fish tacos. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Shadow Writer" by Eliza Maxwell, Served with a Recipe for Shrimp Tacos

Happy Friday! I love a short week. I also love a good mystery thriller and I adore shrimp tacos, and this post has all three. I am happy to be the last stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Shadow Writer by Eliza Maxwell and I am pairing my review with some delectable Shrimp Tacos. Enjoy! 

Publisher's Blurb:

Every writer has a story. Some are deadlier than others.

Aspiring author Graye Templeton will do anything to escape the horrific childhood crime that haunts her. After a life lived in shadows, she’s accepted a new job as protégé to Laura West, influential book blogger and wife of an acclaimed novelist. Laura’s connections could make Graye’s publishing dreams a reality. But there’s more to Laura than meets the eye.

Behind the veneer of a charmed life, Laura’s marriage is collapsing. Her once-lauded husband is descending into alcoholism and ruin and bringing Laura nearer to the edge.

As the two women form a bond that seems meant to be, long-buried secrets claw their way into the present, and the line between friendship and obsession begins to blur, forcing each to decide where her loyalties lie. Running from the past is a dangerous game, and the loser could end up dead.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (May 1, 2019)

My Review:

The Shadow Writer is my first book from Eliza Maxwell and it won't be my last. I was drawn by the premise and the fact that one of the main characters, Laura, is a book blogger. Graye is a young aspiring author with a tragic background who works her way into a position as Laura's personal assistant. Laura's life might seem enviable to those looking in, except for her alcoholic husband, a famous author whose work has deteriorated after his big break and initial success which Laura heavily influenced. Graye was David's teaching assistant before coming to work for Laura, and although he was once her idol, she is no longer impressed. 

The story is a bit of a slow burn with the plot slowly unraveling secret by secret, and told by the perspectives of Laura, Graye, and Sister Margaret, the nun who helped raise a young Graye after her family tragedy. There were plenty of twists and turns that had me guessing and the tension was steadily built throughout the book. Although there were some suspenseful moments, it was the several smaller dramas that brought the thrills rather than one big "aha" moment. If you like psychological thrillers and domestic thrillers, with intriguing plots, add The Shadow Rider to your summer TBR--it will bring some good chills to a hot summer evening. 


Author Notes:  Eliza Maxwell is the author of The Widow’s WatcherThe Unremembered GirlThe Grave Tender, and The Kinfolk. She writes fiction from her home in Texas, which she shares with her ever-patient husband, two impatient kids, a ridiculous English setter, and a bird named Sarah. An artist and writer, a dedicated introvert, and a British-cop-drama addict, she enjoys nothing more than sitting on the front porch with a good cup of coffee.

Connect with Eliza on her website, Facebook, and Instagram


Food Inspiration: 

There was not a lot of food inspiration in The Shadow Writer but mentions included, pasta and wine, a taco stand with shrimp tacos, Thin Mints, champagne, margaritas, a frosty pink drink, salad, bread and gruel, a facetious mention of "salmon with a side of poison" for a murder mystery event, pizza, coffee, a root beer and a club sandwich, and fresh cherries.

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to make some fish tacos like the ones Laura and Greer enjoyed at a roadside taco stand early in the book. Not a lot of description was given--other than them each getting a plate with two over-stuffed shrimp tacos, so I just did my own thing, pairing Mark Bittman's Spanish-style Simplest and Best Shrimp with a bunch of taco fixins' and adding some of these tasty pickled sweet peppers from Chef Edward Lee.

Mark Bittman says, "Excuse the superlatives; this spin on a Spanish tapa is my favorite, and everyone I serve it to loves it. The shrimp juices infuse the oil, and the sum is beyond delicious. It’s good with bread, over rice, tossed with pasta, or stuffed into tacos.

Other seafood you can use: similar-sized scallops (or larger, though they’ll take longer to cook)."

Mark Bittman's Simplest and Best Shrimp
From How to Everything via
(Makes 4 Servings)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
3 or 4 big cloves garlic, cut into slivers
About 1 1/2 lbs shrimp (20 to 30 per lb), peeled, rinsed, and dried
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/ 2 tsp hot paprika
chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Warm the olive oil in a large, broad ovenproof skillet or heatproof baking pan over low heat. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Add the garlic and cook until it turns golden, a few minutes.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, some salt and pepper, the cumin, and the paprika. Stir to blend and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish and serve immediately.

I served my shrimp on grilled corn tortillas with cabbage slaw, cilantro, salsa, pickled sweet peppers, guacamole and lime juice.

Notes/Results: I think if you aren't over-stuffing your tacos and needing multiple napkins for the ensuing mess, you just aren't having the full taco experience. These shrimp tacos were definitely the full experience--full of ingredients and flavor. They made for a quick and easy and pretty healthy dinner. Mark Bittman's shrimp were a definite win--I loved the cumin and paprika along with the garlic. I will definitely be making them again. 

Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's them is Take It Outside with outdoor-friendly recipes from any of our 19 featured chefs like Rick Bayless

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 Shadow Writer" 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, April 17, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Beyond the Point" by Claire Gibson, Served with Hawaiian Ahi Poke and a Recipe for Avocado Salsa

Happy Wednesday! I am very excited to be today's TLC Book Tour stop for the debut novel, Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson. My review of this story of three friends brought together by their time at West Point is accompanied by a dinner inspired by one in the book of Hawaiian Ahi Poke with Avocado Salsa and Corn Tortillas and Mango.

Publisher's Blurb:

Three women are brought together in an enthralling story of friendship, heartbreak, and resilience. Set at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, this is an amazing debut novel.
Duty. Honor. Country. That’s West Point’s motto, and every cadet who passes through its stone gates vows to live it. But on the eve of 9/11, as Dani, Hannah and Avery face four grueling years ahead, they realize they’ll only survive if they do it together.

Everyone knows Dani is going places. With athletic talent and a brilliant mind, she navigates West Point’s predominantly male environment with wit and confidence, breaking stereotypes and embracing new friends.

Hannah’s grandfather, a legendary Army general, offers a stark warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but she moves forward anyway, letting faith guide her path. When she meets her soul mate at West Point, the future looks perfect, just as planned.
Wild child Avery moves fast and doesn’t mind breaking a few rules (and hearts) along the way. But she can’t outpace her self-doubt, and the harder she tries, the further it leads her down a treacherous path.

The world—of business, of love, and of war—awaits Dani, Hannah, and Avery beyond the gates of West Point. These three women know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But soon, that adage no longer rings true—for their future, or their friendship. As they’re pulled in different directions, will their hard-forged bond prevail or shatter?

Beyond the Point is a heartfelt look at how our closest friends can become our fiercest battle buddies. After all, the greatest battles we fight rarely require a uniform.

Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 2, 2019)

My Review:

I jumped on this tour because having spent time at a local university and community college, I am always intrigued by books with more revered university settings, and then when you add that the three women, Dani, Avery, and Hannah, meet as plebes at the West Point just added to the appeal. My dad was in the Navy well before I was born and my nephew is in the Navy now, but military life is a world I know little about. Although Beyond the Point covers those subjects well, it is friendship that is at the heart of this novel. Dani, Avery and Hannah all play basketball, but otherwise don't seem to have much in common and each has her own reason for attending West Point and joining the Army. The book is told from their alternating perspectives and covers their final year in high school as they apply to the Point in 2000, through their four years there as their friendship forms and strengthens, then through 2007 as their lives take different paths. 

The characters are well written, not perfect, but easy to root for and the depiction of their friendship and how they come together feels realistic, as does their friendship after graduation as their lives separate and that closeness is put to the test. I found myself caught up in their stories and that the 500+ pages went by quickly, in fact I wanted more time with Hannah, Avery and Dani. There is heartache and heartbreak in their stories, but there is also humor and hope. 

This is the author's debut novel and she paints a vivid portrait of military life and the sacrifices it requires of soldiers and their families. The afterword tells of Gibson's inspiration--she grew up at West Point with her father, a lieutenant colonel, on the faculty. Her passion for the subject and appreciation for the cadets, particularly the women, shine through and there are excerpts and photos of her interviews with three Women of West Point. I found myself as engaged by the afterward as I was with the book. If you like novels with strong female characters, stories about friendship, and books with a military setting, add Beyond the Point to your reading list.  


Author Notes: Claire Gibson is a writer and journalist based in Nashville, Tennessee. Born and raised at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, she grew up captivated by cadets and always dreamed of writing a story that honored her childhood home and the women that inspired her there. Her stories have been featured in The Washington PostThe Christian Science MonitorThe Tennessean and Entrepreneur Magazine, among many other publications.

Find out more about Claire at her website, and connect with her Twitter and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There was plenty of food in Beyond the Point, mostly meals eaten at West Point or shared with family and friends. Food mentions included pie (like strawberry-rhubarb, pumpkin and chicken pot pie), barbecued ribs, a salad of spinach and chard with lemon-garlic dressing, crusty homemade baguettes with soft salted butter, cake, three kinds of cheese on a platter, homemade cinnamon rolls, pierogies, lemon-pepper chicken, pancakes and eggs, homemade chili, brownies and ice cream, vegetable lasagna, roast chicken with tabbouleh, grilled salmon with mango slaw, and cookie dough ice cream, pizza, Cheez-Its, spaghetti, French toast and coffee, gin and tonic, oatmeal, green juice, lemonade, cereal, Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream, filets mignons in butter, roasted broccoli, salmon, Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, roasted corn, fresh broccoli, creamed spinach, and acorn squash stuffed with mushrooms and rice, a Middle Eastern dinner of lamb with sauces, tandori bread, yogurt sauce, chopped mint and preserved lemon, falafel, rice and steamed greens, meatloaf with red sauce, fish and chips, an undressed Caesar salad with chicken, a Nutella crepe, fettuccine noodles with butter, fried chicken, apple fritters, eggs over easy, a smoothie and Subway sandwiches. 

For my book-inspired dish, I ended up recreating an island meal shared by Dani, Hannah, and Avery and put together some local Hawaii favorites. I liked the fact that the three women were together and when poke comes up in a book, you know I am going to feed my addiction.

"Dinner's ready."

"Avery came to the patio holding a bowl of ahi tuna poke that she'd purchased from a shop on the way home from the beach. She placed it at the center of the patio table. Dani emerged from the kitchen, her hair back to a large, natural Afro. She added a bowl of mango, corn tortillas, and her famous avocado salsa to the assortment. With her strange restrictive diet, Dani had become quite the chef. Avery put a pitcher of margaritas on the table, and suddenly, a memory came to Hannah's mind."

I left out the margaritas--I rarely drink on "school" nights, and I grabbed poke from the grocery store and frozen mango (none of the fresh ones were ripe). All I needed to do was chop the ingredients for the salsa, open a bag of cabbage mix and toast some tortillas on my gas stove, and dinner was served. 

Avocado Salsa
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 to 4)

1/2 red onion, diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ripe avocado, chopped
the juice of two limes
a generous glug of olive oil
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss until well mixed. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: I topped the grilled tortillas with the cabbage mix, the avocado salsa and the poke for poke tostadas which were delicious. I am not that big on fruit and fish combined, so I ate the mango on the side. Everything was fresh and vibrant and it was a very low effort meal--perfect for a busy week. My leftovers came together in a salad for lunch today as both the poke and the avocado in the salsa are best as fresh as possible.

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 "Beyond the Point" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, 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.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Ina's Roasted (Or Pan-Seared) Salmon Tacos with Cabbage-Cucumber Slaw & Mashed Avocado

I was craving tacos and salmon and Ina Garten has a recipe the combines both and sounded great for an easy Friday night dinner. I made a few small changes to the recipe, including reducing the quantities and pan-searing the salmon as I didn't want to bother with turning on the oven for a couple of pieces of fish.

Roasted Salmon Tacos
Slightly Adapted from Cooking For Jeffrey by Ina Garten &
(Serves 6)

Ingredients for the slaw:
3/4 lb green cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1/2 seedless cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed & very thinly sliced
1/4 cup good white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp minced fresh dill 

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Ingredients for the salmon
olive oil, for greasing the pan
1 3/4 lbs center-cut fresh salmon fillet, skin removed
2 tsp chipotle chile powder (I used a chipotle-garlic spice blend)
1 tsp grated lime zest 

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
4 ripe Hass avocados, seeded and peeled
3/4 tsp Sriracha


At least an hour before you plan to serve the tacos, toss the cabbage, cucumber, vinegar, dill, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the cabbage to marinate. 

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush a baking dish with olive oil and place the salmon in it. Mix the chile powder, lime zest, and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl. Brush the salmon with 1 Tbsp of the lime juice and sprinkle with the chipotle seasoning mixture. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until the salmon is just cooked through. (Note: I followed Ina's steps for seasoning the fish but pan fried mine in a bit of mac nut oil in a hot pan--searing the salmon on all sides and cooking it until just cooked through.)

Wrap the tortillas in 2 foil packets and place them in the oven with the salmon. (I toasted mine over my gas grill) Roughly mash the avocados with the remaining 2 Tbsp of lime juice, the Sriracha, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  

To serve, lay 2 warm tortillas on each of 6 plates. Place a dollop of the avocado mixture on one side of each tortilla, then some large chunks of salmon, and finally, some of the slaw. Fold the tortillas in half over the filling (they will be messy!) and serve warm.

Notes/Results: I was intrigued by Ina's combination of the different components but it all worked together amazingly well for some really good salmon tacos. I liked the slaw as I am a big dill fan (you could sub in cilantro or another herb if you aren't) and the touch of sriracha in the guacamole--it wasn't too spicy but there was a nice warmth in the back of my throat. They are pretty messy, so have forks and napkins handy--but they are worth a little mess. I think this is one of the healthier Ina recipes I have cooked/come across, so not only are these tacos the way to her husband Jeffrey's heart (our IHCC theme for the week), I think more recipes and dinners like this would be good for Jeffrey's heart health too! ;-) It all goes together quickly once you have your slaw chilled and tastes great and so I would happily make this recipe again.  

Linking up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where we are cooking The Way to Jeffrey's Heart this week--Ina's recipes that her husband Jeffery loves--which I think pretty much means any Ina recipe! You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.  

Since this recipe features slaw--a salad, and tacos are sandwich-like, I am linking to Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen. Every Sunday, I round up delicious soups, salads & sandwiches that are linked up on that week's post. You can see the details of how to join in on this week's post.

 Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review & Recipe: "Everything We Left Behind" by Kerry Lonsdale, Paired with Ahi Poke Tacos and Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw

Even with the holiday on Monday, it takes some effort to get over hump day and a step closer to the weekend. A good book and a tasty dinner certainly help. Today I have an over-due review for Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale and I'm accompanying it with some quick and delicious Ahi Poke Tacos with Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw.

Publisher's Blurb:

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. 

She’s married and has a child of her own.
Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

Lake Union Publishing (July 4th, 2017)
350 Pages

My Review:

I reviewed Kerry Lonsdale's first novel, Everything We Keep, last August for TLC Book Tours (here's my review and book-inspired fritters recipe) and I really enjoyed the story and the mystery around what happened to James. I then read her second book, All the Breaking Waves, on my own and loved it. When I heard she was writing a follow-up to the first novel, I was excited to learn more about James's story, so when her publisher contacted me and asked if I would like to read and review Everything We Left Behind, I immediately said yes. I feel more than a bit bad that it has taken me so long to write and post my review. I did a quick reread of the first book, devoured this one and knew what dish I wanted to make, but July and August flew by before I knew it. Luckily I took plenty of notes. ;-) 

My first recommendation is to read Everything We Keep, before starting this one. It is possible to read Everything We Left Behind without it, but you won't have the complete background and the story flows better when you have been introduced to Amiee, James's fiancée, and the other characters and get their perspective on what's happened. I won't go into a lot of the details (the small spoilers if you have not read the first book are in the cover blurbs) but this book is about James coming out of his fugue state not remembering the previous six years he spent as Carlos living in Mexico, or his two sons and current love interest. This book is set in Mexico, California and Hawaii and goes back and forth both in time and in perspective between James and Carlos as the story unfolds. It's a bit mystery, romance, and family drama mixed together and Lonsdale keeps the story interesting and made me feel strongly for James's plight and for those who love him. The human mind is so fascinating and although there are novels out there that deal with memory loss, this one has a more unique take on it. Does it get a bit soapish at times? A bit, but it makes for a great beach and end of summer read, it certainly kept me turning the pages, and it has me looking forward to the third book coming out next year. 


Author Notes: Kerry Lonsdale believes life is more exciting with twists and turns, which may be why she enjoys dropping her characters into unexpected scenarios and foreign settings. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an aging golden retriever who’s convinced she’s still a puppy.


Food Inspiration:

There is food to be found in Everything We Left Behind. Food mentioned included, egg salad sandwiches, gummy bears, Oreos, mahimahi tacos and some "famous beer-battered fish tacos," pink lemonade, tangerines, margaritas, grilled steaks and hot dogs, salad and potatoes, hot chocolate and pastries, oatmeal, coffee, an orange--peeled in one long curl, kalua pig, poi, taro smoothies, chicken on the barbecue, salad, a citrus and mango-flavored beer, pancakes, papaya, grilled zucchini, pineapple, Dragon fruit, apple-bananas, salmon, a Spam and pineapple sandwich, ice cream, and Scotch.

I knew that I wanted to go with a fish taco since it was mentioned as something that James made in Mexico and Hawaii. Although poke wasn't mentioned, I thought that it is something that Kauai-dwelling Natalya would introduce him to and I decided to make Ahi Poke Tacos. If you aren't familiar and haven't seen my various poke posts, poke is a Hawaiian salad of cubes of raw fish--often ahi and various seasonings and other ingredients. Going with the more Asian feel of these tacos, I made a Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw to put in the tacos and eat alongside them. 

These Ahi Poke Tacos are really more of a suggestion than a recipe. If you don't do raw fish, send your poke to me and you can use a non-raw poke variation like cooked shrimp or tofu, or use your favorite cooked fish--it won't be a poke taco but it will still be good. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with grocery stores that have poke at their fish counters, it is easiest to buy your favorite kind. If not and you want to make it, here are a couple of recipes (Hawaiian Poke with Black Sesame Seed, California Roll Poke) to get you started--there are plenty recipes online too as poke has become quite popular in the last couple of years.

For the tacos, I used flat-bottomed crispy taco shells--because with the poke is in chunks, plus the other goodies stuffed inside, they hold up better than regular crispy taco shells. I placed the Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw in the bottom of the taco shell, layered in the poke, sliced avocado and topped it with some of my favorite Sriracha-Garlic Mayo, sliced green onion and chopped cilantro. Easy peasy! In addition to the cabbage slaw in the taco, I served it and some simple black beans with the taco.

Miso-Ginger Slaw
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen  
4 cups cabbage--green or purple, shredded
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp white miso
1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
2 tsp honey or agave syrup
1 Tbsp finely minced or crushed fresh ginger

Place the cabbage, pepper and almonds into a large bowl and toss together. 
Place all dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk until completely blended or place ingredients into the blender and process until smooth and well-blended. 

Toss the cabbage mix with the dressing before serving. The longer the dressing sits, the softer the cabbage and pepper become, so if you like a crisp slaw, toss just before serving, or if you like a softer, less crisp slaw, toss together and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. 


Sriracha-Garlic Mayo Sauce
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use vegan garlic mayo)
2 1/2 Tbsp sriracha, or to taste
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder (I use roasted garlic powder)
1/2 Tbsp pickle or caper juice + more to taste and thin as needed to drizzle

Stir together ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and add additional Sriracha or seasoning as desired. 

Cover and chill until ready to use. Will keep for about a week to ten days in fridge.

Notes/Results: If you love sushi and raw fish, you will love poke and if you love poke, there is no reason you won't love these tacos. They are so fresh-tasting and delicious, along with being a good mix of texture--the tender fish, the creamy avocado, and the crisp cabbage slaw make them a pleasure to eat. I completely forgot to put the sauce on them until after I took most of the pictures, but it adds a nice little kick to the mix, so I definitely recommend it, or you can use your favorite salsa or hot sauce. Much as I like just eating poke on its own, or with rice and veggies in a poke bowl, poke tacos may be my new favorite way to enjoy it. I have made them a handful of times now and I am sure I will continue to enjoy them--in fact I really want one right now. ;-)

I'm linking this post up 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 "Everything We Left Behind" was provided to me by the author and the publisher. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Shrimp Tacos, Black Bean, Radish & Cheese Salad, and Red Hibiscus-Vanilla-Lime Agua Fresca for the Food 'N Flix and Cook the Books: Frida Kahlo Crossover Event

The best laid plans... I planned to be timely and do two separate posts for this month's Food 'N Flix and Cook the Books Crossover Event, but that just did not happen in a month where I swear I blinked and it was over. So the end of the month has me scrambling (as usual) and posting two dishes inspired by Frida Kahalo and from the Frida's Fiestas cookbook accompanied by a glass of simple Jamaica (Red Hibiscus) Vanilla-Lime Agua Fresca.

The wonderful Debra of Eliot's Eats is hosting both the Food and Flix movie pick of Frida (see her announcement post here) and the Cook the Books pick of The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo (see the announcement post here). 

I first saw Frida with friends when it came out in 2002, after a dinner of Indian food. (Unfortunately there were no decent Mexican restaurants nearby the old Indie theater, so what can you do? It worked much better thematically when we saw Monsoon Wedding!) Because of this movie, I will forever picture artist Frida Kahlo as Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina as her husband artist Diego Rivera no matter how many pictures I see of the real people. I remembered all the color (I love the way the paintings 'dissolve' into the movie scenes) and the basic story, but this time I got it from Netflix and watched it for the food. We don't see a lot of specific dishes in the film beyond Diego's favorite mole dish and some mentions of sopa Azteca and pozole, but there is plenty of food and drink (mostly tequila of course) pictured throughout, including lots of tropical fruits and veggies, Chinese food, a diner breakfast of cinnamon buns, eggs and bacon, a wedding feast, and corn being shucked. 

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo on the other hand, is as much or more about the food as it is the story of Frida's life, told from the notebooks and sketchbooks supposedly found in Frida's home Casa Azul in Mexico City. The author, F. G. Haghenbeck, writes the novel as a special notebook; “El Libro de Hierba Santa” (“The Sacred Herbs Book”) where Frida's story is shared through her memories and recipes. Frida Kahlo led a very colorful life in more ways than one and the book is at times sad, at times humorous, at times a bit magical. It really does make a nice companion to the movie--providing more detail to parts and spinning out on its own for others. At times I didn't love the way it was written (and maybe that was due in part to the translation and word choice?), but overall it was easy to get swept up in the story. The recipes and food descriptions were my favorite part of the book and I will probably go back and make some of the recipes like the pico de gallo (if I ever find nopales), the pumpkin tamales, and the Mango Tepozteco Ice Cream which intrigued me with the addition of the sour cream and egg white.

I chose not to cook from the book for this round because a couple of month's ago I stumbled across a copy of Frida's Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Diego Rivera's daughter Guadalupe Rivera and journalist Marie-Pierre Colle for $5.00 at the thrift store. It is a gorgeous book with illustrations from Frida's work and photographs by Ignacio Urquiza.

I wanted something simple, meat-free and relatively healthy so I went with a dinner of Shrimp Tacos, accompanied by Bean, Radish and Cheese Salad. To drink, I made a simple Jamaica (Red Hibiscus) Vanilla-Lime Agua Fresca.

Shrimp Tacos
Adapted from Frida's Fiestas
(Serves 8)

1 medium onion, chopped
4 serrano chiles, chopped (or to taste--I used half & de-seeded them)
4 Tbsp butter
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb cooked shrimp (I used large shrimp)
24 small-medium corn tortillas
(I added fresh lines to squeeze on when eating)

Saute the onion and chiles in butter until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes). If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit of broth or water.

Add the shrimp and cook until they are just warmed through--about 2 minutes. 

Grill or warm the tortillas and fill with the shrimp mixture. Serve piping hot. Or serve the shrimp mixture with the tortillas on the side.


Bean, Radish and Chese Salad
Adapted from Frida's Fiestas
(Serves 8)

5 cups cooked black beans, drained
10 radishes, cut in quarters (I thinly sliced mine)
3/4 lb panela cheese (or Munster) cut in cubes (I used Cotija cheese)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp chopped cilantro
salt to taste

For salad: Mix the beans, radishes, cheese and cilantro in a large salad bowl and toss with the dressing.

For the dressing: Whisk all the ingredients together, seasoning to taste.

Jamaica (Red Hibiscus) Vanilla-Lime Agua Fresca
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen, Adapted/Inspired by The Vanilla Chef
(Makes 2 Quarts)

1 quart water
2/3 cup (about 1 ounce) dried hibiscus flowers
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
3/4 cup agave or honey, or to taste 
1/3 cup lime juice, or to taste
1 quart very cold water
lime slices

Bring a quart of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the hibiscus flowers and the vanilla bean to the boiling water. Remove the pan from the stove and allow it to steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a large glass pitcher. (You can save the vanilla bean for another use if you like). Add the agave or honey and stir well to dissolve. Add the cold water and lime juice and adjust sweetening as needed. Chill and serve over ice with slices of lime to garnish.

Notes/Results: This turned out to be quite the tasty meal! simple ingredients but really fresh and good flavors. I made half-ish quantities of the taco and salad recipes and the minor adjustments I made worked for me. First I used half the serrano chiles and I removed the stem, seeds, and membranes before chopping. I like a bit of spice but I find serranos are usually pretty spicy. These tacos had a definite kick still, so I know if I had doubled them as the recipe was written the tacos would have been too spicy for my tastes. I also think the squeeze of lime was perfect with the buttery shrimp and tomato. For the bean salad, I used my mandoline to thinly slice the radishes instead of quartering them. I am not big on chunks of radish, but I do like thin slices. Cotija cheese, a bit more crumbly than panela is readily available at my local grocery store and it was easier than driving into the Latin market to buy some panela. With the tacos, beans salad and the sweet and tart agua fresca, it was a perfect light dinner that was pretty quick to make. I would definitely make all three recipes again. 

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo is my thirteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the September Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month. 

I'm linking this salad up to this week's Souper Sundays post here at Kahakai Kitchen. If you aren't familiar, Souper Sundays is my weekly soup tribute that includes sandwiches, and salads and is open to anyone and everyone who wants to share a soup, salad, or sandwich post that week. You can see the details for joining in on the current weekly post or here--we would love to have you!

Submissions for both Food 'N Flix and Cook the Books are due tomorrow, September 30th. Debra will be rounding entries up on her blog for Food 'N Flix and on the Cook the Book's site respectively. If you missed out and like food, books, and foodie books, join us at Cook the Books where our Oct/Nov pick is Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer, hosted by Simona of briciole, and if you are a fan of food, movies, and making food inspired by movies, I will be hosting October's Food 'N Flix fun film: Beetlejuice, here at Kahakai Kitchen