Showing posts with label pickles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pickles. 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.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Pickled Sweet Peppers & Pickle Juice Gravy with Biscuits for Cook the Books April/May Selection: Buttermilk Graffiti

May is wrapping up this week and so is the deadline for Cook the Books April/May book pick, Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee, a foodie memoir and journey through America's food scene hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. (See her announcement post here.)

I was already a bit of an Edward Lee fan from his season of the PBS series, The Mind of a Chef and his stint on Season 9 of Top Chef, and his battle on Iron Chef, but I had not ever read any of his writing, something I was happy to rectify with this book. Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting Pot Cuisine is Lee's second book, following Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen and his unique perspectives and passion for food and the people who cook it made it a win for me. I like his appreciation for the people he meets in his cross-country explorations and how descriptive his writing and storytelling is--it isn't surprising to read that he graduated magna cum laude from NYU with a degree in English literature before turning his skills to cooking. I really enjoy his approach to food too--with his unique combinations of cuisines and ingredients. He made me want to hang out with him in the car and in the kitchen.

As usual, I struggled with my time management these past two months and had to return my library print copy of the book. I ended up using an Audible credit and listening to half of it before finishing up with print again when a library e-book came available. I liked both reading and listening to Lee's prose, although I would have enjoyed him narrating the book (even though the narrator David Shih did a nice job). I felt like I could pick up and put down the book and appreciate each chapter as I meandered through it. The recipes included are an added treat. Buttermilk Graffiti was an enjoyable road trip and I put a library hold on Smoke and Pickles because I want to hear more from Lee.

I marked several recipes from the book to try like Amok Trey (a fish curry wrapped in banana leaf), Russian Pickled Watermelon, Mango Fries with Jalapeño-Mint Aioli, Miso Creamed Corn, and Chanterelle Hummus to name a few. It ended up being the unusual Pickle Juice Gravy that wouldn't leave my head and so I made his Pickled Sweet Peppers mainly to use the brine in the gravy. Lee partners his gravy with pork chops and the Miso Creamed Corn, but I opted to eat my gravy over biscuits (Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Mix from a box). ;-) I was not disappointed and have a new addiction. Who knew?!

Edward lee says, "The briny pickle juice livens up the traditional gravy with a surprising but delicate acidity." and If you make Pickled Sweet peppers, you will have some delicious brine. Most people discard the brine when they finish the pickles, but I never do. It is a great way to add flavor to vinaigrettes, braises, and this simple but addictive gravy."

Pickle Juice Gravy
Slightly Adapted from Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
(Makes About 2 Cups
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus 1 Tbsp cold butter to finish the gravy
5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used non-chicken bullion paste) 
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (I upped this)
1/4 cup pickle juice from Pickled Sweet Peppers (recipe below), or to taste (I ended up using about 1/3 cup)

Melt the 5 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk to combine, then cook the roux, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until a rough paste forms. While whisking, gradually add the chicken stock.

Bring the gravy to a low boil, then reduce the heat and season with the salt and pepper. Gently simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Stir the pickle juice into the gravy. Finish it by adding the remaining 1 tablespoon cold butter and swirling it into the pan until it just melts. Serve hot.

Pickled Sweet Peppers
Slightly Adapted from Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
(Makes 1/2 Quart)

10 small sweet peppers, seeded and thinly sliced, any mix of bell, cherry or Italian sweets
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 whole star anise pod
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 large strip lemon peel

Thinly slice the sweet peppers and pack them into a jar. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, star anise, and peppercorns and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the lemon peel, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Pour the pickling liquid into the jar, close the lid tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Discard any excess liquid. The peppers will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Notes/Results: I love pickles and pickled vegetables and I love gravy, so I supposed it only stands to reason that I would love Pickle Juice Gravy and I DO! I would eat it on a stick, or really just from the ladle as it really doesn't need anything else. The acidity it adds is perfect--it keeps the gravy from being heavy and one note, and the simple pickles with their black pepper and star anise notes are tasty too. (You'll see them on shrimp tacos later this week.) I used a mock chicken broth for my gravy and it worked fine--although I needed no extra salt, but extra black pepper was a definite must and I upped the amount of brine to 1/3 cup. A runny-yolked fried egg or poached eggs would be welcome on top, but I was perfectly content with my box-mix biscuits, slices of pickled sweet peppers, and plenty of the gravy. I will definitely be making this 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.

Linking up Buttermilk Graffiti to May's Foodies Read. You can check out the May Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

The deadline for this round of CTB is this Friday, May 31st and Debra be rounding up the entries on the Cook the Books site soon after. If you missed this round and like food, books, and foodie books, join us for June/July when we'll be reading Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, hosted by Simona of briciole.  


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.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Greek Mezze Platter with Marinated Herbed Feta

Ina Garten is known for throwing store-bought dishes and ingredients into her meals, something that helps during this busy time of year when you want to minimize your time spent in the kitchen. At I Heart Cooking Clubs our theme this week is A Helping Hand!--Ina recipes and meals that get a helping hand from any source we like. I decided to make her Greek Mezze Platter with most all store-bought ingredients that get a few special touches and are "artfully arranged" (we must use 'good' ingredients and arrange them artfully when cooking with Ina!). Since I just made a Greek-inspired soup Lemony Chickpea and Noodle Soup this week, I had leftover thyme, pita bread and some homemade hummus that I could put to good use.

I made a few very small changes to Ina's platter besides reducing the size by about half. She calls for store-bought hummus and I had homemade, she calls for olives with pits and I bought pitted olives from the deli olive bar, and she toasts her pita into chips and I'm a warm, soft, grilled pita fan so I just toasted mine over my gas burners to warm, soften and mark it just a bit. In the feta, she calls for crushed red pepper flakes and I have become fond of Aleppo pepper for it's slightly tangy flavor and more moderate heat. Otherwise I left things the same and it made for a quick and tasty light dinner.

Greek Mezze Platter
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten via
(Serves 8)

Marinated Herbed Feta (recipe below)
6 roasted red peppers, store-bought
8-10 stuffed grape leaves, store-bought 
1 cup hummus, store-bought (I used homemade)
1 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
good olive oil
toasted pita chips for serving (I used grilled pita bread)
4 sprigs fresh thyme

Artfully arrange the marinated feta, red peppers, stuffed grape leaves and a small bowl filled with the hummus on a platter. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the hummus and add a drizzle of olive oil. Place the pita chips on the platter and arrange the sprigs of thyme over the red peppers, for decoration.


Ina says, "Most marinated feta consists of cubes of feta swimming in a large jar of olive oil, which I think makes the feta oily. Instead, I slice it and sprinkle it with thyme, fennel, crushed red pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The flavor is much cleaner and brighter. Serve this with toasted pita triangles or on a Greek mezze platter with hummus, olives and stuffed grape leaves."

Marinated Herbed Feta
from Ina Garten, via Food

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme 
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used Aleppo pepper)
1 1/2 pounds Greek feta, drained and sliced 1/2-inch thick 
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup green olives with pits, such as Cerignola (I used pitted green olives)
1/2 cup good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the dried thyme, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Lay the feta slices overlapping on a 9 × 9-inch square serving plate.

Sprinkle the feta with the entire herb mixture. Nestle the fresh thyme sprigs and olives among the feta slices. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve at room temperature. 

Got a hankering for marinated feta? Both Diana Henry and Ottolenghi have terrific recipes as well. 

Notes/Results: This platter is practically effortless and is perfect for a holiday appetizer or a light meal or starter. Both of my nearby grocery stores have fairly extensive olive bars that carry stuffed grape leaves, roasted red peppers, and olives of all sorts, and there are so many great brands and kinds of store-bought humus--although is is hardly any effort to make your own. I never think to toast pine nuts to serve on top of my hummus and it adds so much great nutty flavor and texture and "curb appeal" to a dish, I'll try to remember to do it. Between that and leaving time to marinate feta (I used a nice sheep's milk feta) a few hours or the the night before, it makes the store-bought ingredients feel special. I reduced the amounts of ingredients to feed 3 to 4 instead of 8 and it made a great dinner for a couple of evenings noshing. 

Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's A Helping Hand theme--where we make Ina Garten dishes that get a hand from store-bought ingredients or other helpful things that lessen the fuss and holiday cooking time.

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.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Disrobed" by Syl Tang, Served with a Recipe for Avocado Toast with Cream Cheese, Pickled Onions, Egg & 'Everything Bagel' Seasoning

A little break from all of the fiction I've been reviewing, I am excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Disrobed: How Clothing Predicts Economic Cycles, Saves Lives, And Determines the Future by Syl Tang. It's a quick, informative and entertaining read that may make you think twice before you go shopping. Accompanying my review (sorry Syl Tang but I had to do it!) is the new "blood diamond" of the breakfast table--avocado toast. In this case, my toast is deli-inspired with cream cheese, pickled onions, hard-boiled egg and "Everything Bagel" seasoning blend.

Publisher's Blurb:

We may not often think of our clothes as having a function beyond covering our naked bodies and keeping us a little safer from the elements. But to discount the enormous influence of clothing on anything from economic cycles to the future of water scarcity is to ignore the greater meaning of the garments we put on our backs. Disrobed vividly considers the role that clothing plays in everything from natural disasters to climate change to terrorism to geopolitics to agribusiness. Chapter by chapter, Tang takes the reader on an unusual journey, telling stories and asking questions that most consumers have never considered about their clothing. Why do banker’s wives sell off their clothes and how does that presage a recession? How is clothing linked to ethanol and starvation on the African continent? Could RFID in clothing save the lives of millions of people in earthquakes around the world?

This book takes an everyday item and considers it in a way that readers may not have previously thought possible. It tackles topics relevant to today, everything from fakes in the museums to farm-to-table eating, and answers questions about how we can anticipate and change our world in areas as far-reaching as the environment, politics, and the clash of civilizations occurring between countries. Much like other pop economics books have done before, the stories are easily retold in water-cooler style, allowing them to be thoughtfully considered, argued, and discussed.

Hardcover: 182 pages  
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 16, 2017)

My Review:

I have a fascination for how often seemingly different things link together so when I read the description of Disrobed, a book that looks at how what we wear and fashion trends can influence and impact economic cycles, the earth, our safety, and even what we eat, I was excited to hop on the book tour for it. I wasn't familiar with the author Syl Tang, who is both a journalist and a futurist, predicting trends and documenting the effects on world events. 

Disrobed is a quick (less than 200 pages) and thought-provoking read, that although is full of facts and details, keeps them entertaining and doesn't get bogged down. The book kicks off with how clothing trends predicted the 2016 election (as well as  the 2008 election). It shows how every fashion choice we make can have lasting ramifications. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned from Disrobed with Tang's almost conversational style. Even the chapter titles and taglines: "Can Clothing save the Lives of Millions?: Can existing wearable technology alter the death rate of natural disasters?" or "Burkinis and the Clash of Civilizations: How terrorism, clothing, and travel became inextricably linked." drew me in and had me anticipating each chapter. It's obvious Tang put in a lot of research--there are over 30 pages of notes supporting her findings and arguments in the back of the book. Most of her points are covered well, but it also inspired me to hit up Google to find more information on some of the topics I wanted more detail on. 

Although I have some interest in fashion, you don't need to be a fashionista in order to appreciate Disrobed. Those with an interest in current events, technology, the environment, and the world will find it fascinating reading. Tang says that "clothing has the ability to take the pulse of the world in any given moment..." and also points out "That clothing is a part of so many aspects of our daily lives, our messaging, our choices, our struggles, and our wars provides an unparalleled tool." She leaves how the reader uses that tool up to them. I have a feeling that I will be thinking about Tang's points, observing fashion's impact more closely and thinking about the choices I make and the small actions (microactions) I take that can contribute to a huge global impact.


Author Notes: Syl Tang is CEO and founder of the 19-year old HipGuide Inc. A futurist, her focus is how and why we consume, with an eye towards world events such as natural disasters, geo-political clashes, and pandemics. She has written hundreds of articles on the confluence of world events and soft goods for the Financial Times, predicting and documenting trends such as the Apple watch and other smart wearables, lab-made diamonds, the Department of Defense’s funding of Afghan jewelry companies, the effects of global warming on South Sea pearls, and the unsolved murder of tanzanite speculator Campbell Bridges. Her brand consulting work focuses on helping companies including Diageo, Revlon and the State of Michigan. She is behind the launches of some of the most well-known beauty, beverage, automotive and urban development efforts including category changers such as frozen alcohol and mineral makeup. In addition to developing her site, in 1999 she created the first mobile lifestyle texting product in the market and predicted mobile couponing as it exists today. Her company HipGuide is a case study taught in universities around the world, from Dubai to Nova Scotia to Purdue, through a textbook series.

Find Syl on Twitter, as well as Instagram, @hipguide and @disrobedbook.


Food Inspiration:

You might think there is no food in a book about clothing but in fact there is. There's a discussion on the boom in speakeasy style bars and 'mixologists' pouring botanically infused cocktails.  a whole chapter "Is Your Cotton Shirt Causing Starvation?" that centers around its tagline "Food or clothing; we might not be able to have both" that talks about how some of the popular food trends and topics are related to clothing trends--like foraging, farm-to-table, GMOs, and how the competition for land to grow food or cotton for clothing could be causing famine somewhere in the world.  

I found the inspiration for my book-inspired dish in my favorite breakfast which turns out to be  not the best choice for the planet--or as Tang puts it--"Why avocado toast is the new blood diamond." I won't go into all of the details but it is both interesting and entertaining and more than a bit sobering, the effect the avocado toast craze has had. Tang notes that the Instagram craze "led to a surge of an additional ninety-six thousand households buying avocados," as well as avocado thefts in New Zealand, a deforestation of pine trees to make room for avocados in the mountains of Mexico, the funding of drug cartels, and even cites a Wall Street Journal that "equates the fruit to conflict diamonds."

I do love me some avocado toast and probably average eating it twice a week, once at my local coffee shop, and once at home copycatting my local coffee shop's recipe. Will I stop after reading this book? Likely I will not, but I will think more about it and maybe switch my avocado buying to local avocados (when I can find good ones). This is my favorite avocado toast recipe but since I have already posted it, I wanted to do something different and also find another use for the bottle of Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend I grabbed the last time I was in Portland and got a chance to go to Trader Joe's. I added cream cheese (or technically labne or yogurt cheese), pickled red onions, and softly-boiled eggs--so the yolks are still 'jammy' to round out my toast.

There is no real recipe for this toast. Although if you have no Trader Joe's near you and didn't happen to grab their Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend the last time you were near one like I did, you can easily make your own using this recipe from Food Network. You can also find the recipe for Rick Bayless's lime-pickled red onions here.

Basically, I spread my bread of choice with a thin layer of labne (or use cream cheese), topped it with thinly-sliced avocado, some pickled red onions, a few slices of the "jammy-yolked" hard-boiled egg, and sprinkled the Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend on top.

Notes/Results: Probably no avocado toast will hold the same space in my heart as my regular one with spicy garlic aioli, but this is a great alternative. I had experiment with the pickled onions on avo toast before and love the tart lime with the creamy slices of avocado, and it only gets better with the cream cheese, hard-boiled egg, and seasoning spice. A great mix of flavors and textures and a satisfying breakfast of lunch--I would happily make it again. Yes, I do feel a bit bad about making and eating avocado toast after listening to Tang's arguments--there definitely is a cause and effect to all of our choices and microactions. OK, maybe I'll go down to once a week avocado toast...

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.

And at Souper Sundays, hosted right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup


Note: A review copy of "Disrobed" 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.