Showing posts with label pie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pie. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Golden Child" by Claire Adam, Served with a Recipe for Trinidad Macaroni Pie

It's only Wednesday and it's been a long week already, so in order to ease over the hump and into a hopefully better end of the week, I'm reviewing an interesting debut novel, Golden Child by Claire Adam. Accompanying my review a comfort food dish that hails from another country, but would be appropriate for carb lover's anywhere, Trinidad Macaroni Pie.

Publisher's Blurb:

A new novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint, SJP for Hogarth: a deeply affecting debut novel set in Trinidad, following the lives of a family as they navigate impossible choices about scarcity, loyalty, and love.

Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.
When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters—leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.
Like the Trinidadian landscape itself, GOLDEN CHILD is both beautiful and unsettling; a resoundingly human story of aspiration, betrayal, and love.

Hardcover: 288 Pages
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth (January 29, 2019)

My Review:

I signed up for this tour because I enjoyed A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, Sarah Jessica Parker's first imprint SJP for Hogarth (my review is here) and liked that once again SJP selected a novel that gave me a glimpse of a different culture. Golden Child is set in Trinidad and I think it might be the first book I have read that is set there, and it's a country I know little about. I found myself caught up in the author's vivid descriptions of the country and its people particularly, the Deyalsingh family, who this novel is centered around. Clyde is the father, a man who works hard and does not like to take charity or ask favors from others. Joy, the mother, stays at home and has a large family who (with the exception of her mother and uncle), mostly irritate Clyde by coming about so often. We meet the family when one of their two thirteen-year-old twin sons does not come home. The boys may look alike but are very different with Peter being very intelligent and Paul, who was a difficult birth and lost oxygen, being slower to develop and different. How much of that difference is nurture versus nature is unclear as from the beginning, Clyde and Joy are told he is "retarded" and treat him quite differently from the revered Peter. Paul grows up hearing that he is slow and mentally challenged and that Peter needs to look out for him, and it is too often mentioned directly to him or about him within the family and their community. The story is set mostly in the eighties and moves back and forth from the time Paul goes missing, to the twins birth and childhood, and the aftermath of Paul's disappearance and is told from the viewpoints of several characters, primarily Clyde and Paul. 

It is the writing that makes this novel engrossing, as there is not a lot of action. We find what happens to Paul and how Clyde, Joy, and Peter react to it, especially the choices that Clyde makes. I don't want to go into detail as to what happens and the devastating decision that is made so as not to give spoilers, but I will say that life in Trinidad, for this family is dangerous and difficult and Golden Child is not an easy read. Like A Place For Us, it made me melancholy (I'm wondering if SJP is becoming the new Oprah of somewhat sad and depressing  book club picks?), but it also made me think and I am still thinking about it. It's a book that is and will continue to get mixed reviews and provoke plenty of discussions at book clubs. It's a hard one to predict who will like it and who won't, but I'm glad I read it. I found Golden Child to be an excellent debut novel from a talented author and new voice that I look forward to reading more from.


Author Notes: Claire Adam was born and raised in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. She lives with her husband and two children in London, England. GOLDEN CHILD is her first novel.

Connect with Claire on Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

There was quite a lot of emphasis on food in Golden Child, much of it Trinidadian dishes that along with the smaller neighboring island of Tabago, takes its roots and inspiration from Indian and South Asian, African, European, Chinese, Creole and Caribbean, and Latin American dishes and ingredients. (Here's a good wiki article on the cuisine.) Set in the eighties, and for the most part in a economically challenged community, the food is fairly basic with a lot of packaged food used and purchased by the characters in the story, or simple family dishes made at home.  

The diverse food mentions included roti, melongene (eggplant), curry, choka (stew), cucumber salad, lamb gyros, frozen yogurt, arepas (white corn cakes),fish, pink cotton candy, sweet-cake with grains of brown sugar on top, curries of shrimp and chicken, rice, pie, green salad, yams, watermelon, chicken feet, cheese, eggs, macaroni, Carib beer, Solo Orange and Red Solo drinks, Flavorite ice cream (vanilla and rum 'n' raisin), roast beef, pork, Kentucky Fried Chicken, chadon beni (a pungenet cilantro-like herb), scotch bonnet peppers, peanuts, sugarcane, pelau (a chicken, pigeon peas and rice dish), buss-up-shut (a type of paratha roti flat bread), corn-soup, callaloo (a taro-leaf like greens dish), roast corn, soursop juice, jams and chutneys, chennets (a Caribbean fruit), "doubles" (a spicy curried chickpea and flat bread street-food snack), tuna salad sandwiches, a chicken and chow-mein dinner, coleslaw, bread fruit and pepper mango.

Seeing several mentions of macaroni pie in the book, I looked it up and found that it is considered classic Caribbean comfort food and that it is similar to a baked macaroni and cheese. When I realized I had everything I needed to make it with a couple of minor adjustments (ditalini pasta instead of elbow macaroni and powdered milk instead of evaporated), I knew it was going to be my book-inspired dish. There are plenty of recipes online, I riffed on Genius Kitchen's Macaroni Pie from Trinidad. My changes are in red below.

Trinidad Macaroni Pie
Slightly Adapted from Oolala via Genius Kitchen
(Serves 4)

8 oz elbow macaroni (I used ditalini)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (I used reconstituted powdered milk, same amount)
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp white pepper or to taste (I used black pepper)

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish (I used an 8" x 8")

Beat eggs until fluffy and combine them with mustard powder, then combine the macaroni, eggs, cheese, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.   

Pour into the greased baking dish and bake until firm, about 30 minutes. (At about 5 minutes before it was done I sprinkled more cheddar cheese on the top and turned the broiler element on and broiled it for about 5 minutes until golden brown.)

Notes/Results: Honestly, I have always been more of a stove top macaroni and cheese fan, liking the creamy consistency, but it turns out that I really like macaroni pie. The big difference is the fact that you don't have to melt down cheese and make a sauce, you just toss it all in a bowl and pour it into the pan. Super quick and easy. I liked the pop of flavor the added mustard power gave, along with the extra-sharp cheddar. I'd happily 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 "Golden Child" 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, January 29, 2019

Tropical Pineapple Pie for Cook the Books December/January Pick: "Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers" by Sara Ackerman

Yes, I hosted this round of Cook the Books (the best virtual foodie book club going ten years strong!) and yes, I am posting (as per usual), right before the deadline. ;-) Having been on the TLC Book Tours Instagram Tour for Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman last year, I was more than excited to make it our December/January selection. Historical fiction set during World War II is my jam, and the fact that this novel is set on the Big Island of Hawaii made it an obvious pick as I have been long wanting to host a Hawaii-based book for our group. My book-inspired dish, Tropical Pineapple Pie, gave me a chance to crack open a cookbook that was given to me when I started my new job in August.

But first, let's talk about the book. Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is a touching and engaging story about Violet, a teacher in the small community of Honoka'a, Hawaii (north of Hilodealing with the effects of the war on her community and the disappearance of her husband the year prior. Violet is especially worried about her daughter, Ella, who is withdrawn and suffering and seems to know something about what happened to her father. Violet and her friends (roommate and fellow teacher Jean and Japanese Setsuko, whose husband has been taken away to a internment holding area on the island) band together to make and sell pies to the soldiers who are stationed on the island as they prepare to be shipped out to battle.

Author Sara Ackerman was born and raised in Hawaii and she paints a vivid picture of wartime life and the impact on the islands. The story is told from both Violet's and Ella's points of view and mother and daughter are likable characters that are easy to root for, as are their friends and the supporting characters of soldiers and townspeople. The book has secrets, drama, romance and friendship, not to mention a pet lion named Roscoe and lots of pie. Since I read a lot of World War II-set novels, I loved this glimpse of Hawaii at war that isn't centered around Oahu and Pearl Harbor (although I am very much looking forward to Ackerman's second book, The Lieutenant's Nurse, due out in March that is set on Oahu and on the attack and its aftermath).

Although the pies that Violet and her friends bake and sell to the soldiers (especially the chocolate honeycomb pies and coconut sweet potato pies) are a focus of the food in the book, there was plenty of other food to be found including coconuts, vanilla ice cream, corn, pineapple, Okinawan sweet potatoes, coffee, banana pancakes, cornflakes, rice balls, mint, sweet potato soup, okolehao (Hawaiian moonshine), rice cakes, poi, chocolate pudding, kale, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, cucumber, meatloaf with sauce and sage, sushi made with canned sardines, Spam casserole, passion-orange juice, peanuts, Saloon pilot crackers with chunks of salted codfish, creamed corn, beef stew and white rice, Spanish casserole, roasted fall vegetables, hamburgers, manapua, chop suey, porridge, malasadas (Portuguese donuts), steak fry, tomatoes, musabi, ginger, guava, chicken hekka, honey, sugarcane lemonade, Coca Cola, chili and rice, ham sandwich with pickles, tomato, lettuce and onion, Spam sandwiches, red potato salad, apples, papio (fish), taro, and watercress (slightly steamed and sprinkled with sea salt), opihi (shellfish) ohelo berry pie, mashed potatoes, roast pig,cornbread stuffing casserole, pumpkin pie, frosted gingerbread men, champagne, roasting marshmallows, toast with grape jelly, lemon baked ahi, steak and eggs, and lilikoi (passion fruit).

I'm not much of a baker or a pie maker, but it was what was calling me for this book so I popped open a few of my Hawaii cookbooks and looked for easy, no-bake pies. My team had three cookbooks at my desk when I started my job in August and I found a couple of likely recipes that had the right vibe in Celebrating in Hawai'i: Favorite Recipes for Holidays and Special Occasions by Muriel Miura and the Star Advertiser. I went back and forth between a Guava Chiffon Pie and the Tropical Pineapple Pie which finally won out because of Mr. Macadangdang's trucks full of coconuts and the mentions of pineapples in the book. The pie had a bit of a retro feel to it and I liked the idea of the toasted coconut crust.

Tropical Pineapple Pie
Slightly Adapted from Celebrating in Hawaii by Muriel Miura
(Makes 8-10 Servings)

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 can (7 oz) flaked coconut (I used 7 oz packed dry coconut + 2 Tbsp coconut condensed milk)
1 can (13 1/2 oz) pineapple tidbits, undrained
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar 
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1 package (3 oz) lemon-flavored gelatin
2 egg whites
2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup water

Brown coconut in butter, stirring constantly over moderate heat. Reserve 2 tablespoons for topping. Press remaining mixture onto bottom and sides of 10-inch pie pan, Set aside to cool.

Drain pineapple and pour syrup and lemon juice into a small saucepan. Set pineapple aside. Beat together sugar, eggs, and salt. Stir egg mixture into pineapple syrup until well-blended. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in pineapple and chill until mixture begins to thicken.

Beat egg whites, dry milk, and water until soft peaks foam. Fold into chilled mixture and pour into coconut crust. Garnish top with reserved coconut flakes; chill until set, about 4 hours. 

Notes/Results: I was drawn to the recipe because of its old-fashioned feel and I love the way it looks, but flavor-wise, it was only okay for me. I wanted a stronger pineapple taste. The toasted coconut crust was my favorite part although I had to improvise a bit when I couldn't find canned coconut at my grocery store. Without canned, in order to get the toasted dried coconut to stick together enough to form the crust I added sweetened condensed coconut milk to it, pressed it into the pie pan and broiled it for a couple of minutes to get it to hold together. It made for a chewy, toasty crust that went well with the filling and that I would use 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.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is my first foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2019 event. You can check out the January 2019 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 Thursday, January 31st and I'll 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 February/March when we'll be reading Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, hosted by Claudia of Honey From Rock.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Almost Sisters" by Joshilyn Jackson, Served with a Recipe for No-Bake Lemon Icebox Pie

It's Wednesday and it's a bit hazy and humid. Not quite a hot and muggy Alabama summer, but still a great time to review a southern novel with summery feel like The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. And, what better way to accompany my review than a slice of tart-and-sweet No-Bake Lemon Icebox Pie.

Publisher's Blurb:

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality–the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 29, 2018)

My Review:

The Almost Sisters is my first Joshilyn Jackson novel, but I had heard great things about the book and her writing, so I assumed that I was in for a treat and I was. I loved the book and I think I found a new author to enjoy. The Almost Sisters is sweet, but a bit snarky, sentimental and touching, but without being too much so. Leia is the main character, a single, thirty-eight-year-old graphic novelist who finds herself pregnant by a one-night stand with Batman--or an attractive stranger dressed like him at a convention. She keeps the news to herself until her second trimester, when she's about to confess all at lunch at her 'perfect' stepsister's house. But before she can tell anyone, Rachel's unexpected marriage troubles and a plethora of calls and texts from people from the small southern town Leia's grandmother Birchie lives in interrupt her, and Leia finds herself headed to Birchville, Alabama with her thirteen-year-old niece, Lavender, in tow to hopefully sort it all out out. Things are worse than Leia expects when she discovers the truth about the disease that is taking the Birchie she knows away and some well-hidden secrets with big ramifications from Birdie's past come spilling out. 

Leia is a delight of a character--prickly and funny, hiding a lot of hurts behind her art and the graphic novel she created and self-published that became a hit and now has her under contract to write a sequel. All the family drama isn't helping her creative block--from her secret pregnancy to Birchie's and Birchie's best friend Wattie's troubles, to her niece and Rachel--who heads down to Birchville to protect her daughter and escape her own issues. Leia has always lived under the shadow of Rachel and her strong personality and we don't get drawn into Rachel's life and character as much, but that's OK, because this is Leia's and ultimately Birchie's story. The supporting characters are quirky and interesting and the small southern town of Birchville is almost a character itself. I don't want to go into a lot of details beyond what I've shared and what is in the publisher's blurb because Jackson weaves together the characters and plot points so well and then unfolds the story and the secrets in such an appealing and engaging way, that you should just read it on your own. The whole memory loss and dementia aspects hit me a little hard at times--anyone who has dealt with an aging and ailing parent or grandparent can relate to that pain--but there is so much charm, humor and hope in the book, that the sadder moments didn't pull me down. I liked the glimpse of the south that Jackson gives through Leia--both the 'surface' south with all of its charm that Leia loves, and the more hidden south, with its prejudices and other issues that seethe below, and that she discovers when she looks at Birchville with new eyes. Although how Leia relates to life is through her love of superheroes and villains, art, graphic novels, and comics and that's not really a world I know much about, it isn't overdone and comes off as charmingly nerdy and fun. 

The Almost Sisters drew me in from the start and kept me turning the pages. I'd gladly go back to Birchville and these characters again. This book has all the pleasure of a good summer read that sweeps you away, while still hitting on some tougher issues. I look forward to exploring more of Jackson's novels.


Author Notes: Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her websiteFacebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

It's the south so of course there was plenty of food in The Almost Sisters. Food mentioned included tequila, beer and wine, Easy Cheese, shrimp scampi, beef medallions, breakfast eggs, homemade jam, a fish fry with fried catfish, salad with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and homemade ranch dressing, cheese grits, fried okra, cornbread, and icebox pie. There was an unfortunate salmon en papillote with asparagus and cherry tomatoes, sweet tea, homemade soup, hush puppies (don't add jalapenos and cheese at the church), pecan pound cake, Fiddle-Faddle, meringues, macarons, chicken soup, Cornish game hens, sliced tomatoes, tea with cinnamon and lemon, cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, chicken casseroles, mac-n-cheese, cake pops, a skinny vanilla latte, Nana's Lemon Bars, homemade biscuits, marrow broth and fried chicken livers, pancakes and bacon, carrot sticks, toffee cookies, blackberry jam, tea with bourbon, fudge, wild caught salmon and beets, hot cocoa, cake stuffed with strawberries, ham and potato casserole, muffins, lemonade and gingersnaps, sweet potatoes, oatmeal with berries, fried tomatoes, lady peas with bacon fat and collards, corn pudding, frozen "emergency casseroles" and chips.

So I actually decided on icebox pie as my book-inspired dish within the first several chapters of the book, starting with the mention of the food at the annual church fish fry which goes awry when Birchie has a public meltdown. Later, Leia ruminates that it is hard to reconcile this ailing and different Birchie with the grandmother who made her icebox pie. I liked the idea of this southern staple dessert and have been meaning to make one. As I read on, I found that later in the book icebox pie is in a couple of more negative scenes and mentions. Ah well, I had already bought my ingredients and so we'll just think of the positive memories icebox pie had for Leia. 

I found plenty of different recipes for icebox pie and quite a few for lemon icebox pies--which seems the most classic flavor. It's a busy and humid week here, so I looked for an un-baked version that was as quick and easy as possible. I ended up with a Betty Crocker recipe from the website that looked both simple and tasty. Although I have made and have no problem making a graham cracker crust, buying one was actually cheaper than buying a box of graham crackers that I likely wouldn't use the remainder of--and it shaved an hour+ off of my no-baking time. Plus, I watched The Kitchen on Food Network this weekend and Geoffrey Zakarian's tip for easy summer desserts was buying graham cracker pie crusts. I figure if an Iron Chef says to do it, I am OK. ;-)

No-Bake Lemon Icebox Pie
Filling Recipe from
(Serves 8)

Crust: (if making--as mentioned, I bought a Keebler crust to save time)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs--from 10 to 12 whole crackers
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel (I used about 1 1/2 Tbsp)

Crush graham crackers in food processor or in sealed food-storage plastic bag with rolling pin. In medium bowl, mix crust ingredients. Press evenly into un-greased 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate 1 hour.  

In large bowl, beat Filling ingredients until smooth. Spread evenly in crust. Refrigerate 4 hours but no longer than 8 hours.

Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Notes/Results: It's really a shame that this pie is so good and so easy to make because I fear I may be making it again or dabbling in a variety of flavors of no-bake icebox pies this summer. There is just enough lemon in this one to make it tangy and refreshing, but the sweetened condensed milk sweetens it so it has a good balance. It also has a nice almost cheesecake like texture that I like. Since I was zesting lemons anyway, I zested all of mine before I squeezed them, added extra to the pie, and sprinkled some on top to garnish before freezing. I froze (instead of refrigerating) my pie about 5 hours before slicing (I was trying to catch decent light for photos) and it was just a bit soft. Since it was warm and pretty humid yesterday, my pie and my whipped topping rosettes got a bit melty quickly which is why some of the pics have slightly 'blobby'-looking whipped cream in them. Looks aside, it still tasted delicious. At about 7 hours of freezing, I inspected things (and maybe ate the first piece I cut and set aside...) and the firmness was optimal. The recipe says not to refrigerate it over 8 hours, but for me, I am going to leave it in the freezer as I like that almost-frozen texture. I would definitely make it again--probably with a homemade graham cracker or maybe a shortbread crust the next time.

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 Almost Sisters" 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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Another Man's Ground" by Claire Booth, Served with a Recipe for Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie

Happy Tuesday! I'm happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Another Man's Ground by Claire Booth, the second book in a Branson, Missouri-set mystery series. Along with my review, I am sharing a recipe for a sinful Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie, inspired by my reading. 

Publisher's Blurb:

It starts out as an interesting little theft case. Branson, Missouri’s new Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to look at stands of trees that have been stripped of their bark, which the property owner had planned to harvest for the booming herbal supplement market. At first, Hank easily balances the demands of the investigation with his fledgling political career. He was appointed several months earlier to the vacant sheriff position, but he needs to win the fast-approaching election in order to keep his job. He thinks the campaign will go well, as long as he’s able to keep secret the fact that a group of undocumented immigrants – hired to cut down the stripped trees – have fled into the forest and he’s deliberately not looking for them.

But then the discovery of a murder victim deep in the Ozark backwoods sets him in the middle of a generations-old feud that explodes into danger not only for him, but also for the immigrants, his deputies, and his family. He must rush to find a murderer before election day, and protect the vulnerable in Branson County, where politicking is hell and trespassing can get you killed.

In Another Man’s Ground, her next novel featuring Sheriff Hank Worth, acclaimed author Claire Booth delivers a taut, witty mystery that will grip readers from the opening pages to the breathless conclusion.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (July 11, 2017)

My Review:

Last year I reviewed The Branson Beauty, the first book in the series and really liked the main character Sheriff Hank Worth and the Branson Missouri setting, and so I was excited to read Another Man's Ground which takes up shortly after the first book left off. (Note: It is possible to read this book without reading the first book as the author provides an update and the basic back story, but I would recommend reading The Branson Beauty first--it's good, you'll enjoy it, and you'll get to know most of the key players and supporting characters.) In this book, Hank goes to investigate a report of tree bark theft (it's slippery elm that was bringing the owner good money as it was sold to be processed as an herbal supplement) but the investigation takes a turn when a body is discovered on the neighboring property, and the body of a child is discovered soon after. As if the investigations aren't complicated enough, Hank is fighting a recent nemesis for his role of Sheriff--although he was appointed to the role, the coming election will determine whether he keeps his job. If Hank doesn't win, it could be difficult for him to stay in Branson where he and his surgeon wife and kids have come back to live with his recently widowed father-in-law.

Hank is a great character--he is steady, an overall good guy with a great sense of humor, a talented lawman and good boss, husband and father. I like that the two main women in his life, his wife Maggie and his Deputy Sheila are strong women. The supporting characters, especially Hank's team are well-written--even though we don't get to spend much time with many of them. Claire Booth does a good job with writing the cases and the investigations--they seem real and there are enough twists to keep it interesting. I never quite have everything figured out, which I value in a mystery. Although there is a lot going on in the book between the police work for the different cases and Hank's foray into the political arena, it never feels like too much and the pacing is good, especially as the action and tension ramp up to the conclusion. If you like good mysteries, police procedurals, and small town settings, this is a series you will enjoy. I look forward to the third book.   


Author Notes: Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways.
For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

There is not a focus on food in these books, but there is food to be found--examples include: mentions of sassafras and ginseng, coffee, lasagna, green beans and vegetables, tri-tip steak, granola bars, a luncheon with dry chicken and limp salad, iced tea, soda, a peanut butter sandwich, a Ruben sandwich, bacon, cereal, biscuits and gravy, homemade raisin bread, tossed salad, ham and cheese sandwich, chocolate chip cookies and grape soda, pork chops, cookies, carnitas, chile verde, beef jerky, a Sonic burger, candy bar wrappers, a Snickers bar, iced raspberry Danish, protein bars, and lemonade. 

For my review of the first book, The Branson Beauty, I made a vegan version of the Pecan Delight candies that Hank loves. I was going to go another direction for this book but I kept coming back to those candies and thinking about how I could do something different with the ingredients. I thought about a milkshake or ice cream but then I thought about a Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie

When I was growing up, I used to melt ice cream and stir in sprinkles and put it in a pie plate--calling it ice cream pie. This is a few steps up from that with a Pecan Sandie cookie shortbread crust, chocolate ice cream, caramel, toasted pecans and chocolate drizzle. Rather than make a large pie, I made 4 small pies in my mini tart pans.  

Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 4 Individual Tarts or 1 9-inch Pie)

1 1/2 cups of Pecan Sandies cookie crumbs (about 14 cookies
2 Tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter

Filling & Garnish:
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and separated for filling & garnish
5 cups chocolate ice cream, softened enough to be stir-able
1/3 cup caramel ice cream sauce + extra for garnish
1 cup whipped cream
chocolate sauce or melted chocolate to drizzle

To Make Crust: In a small bowl, mix together Pecan Sandies crumbs, sugar and salt and add the melted butter. Stir to combine well. Press mixture evenly into (lightly greased) pie tin or mini tart tins--making sure the bottom and sides are covered with a thin layer of the cookie mixture and chill for 1 hour before using.

To Make Filling: Reserve about 20 or so of the best-looking pecan halves for garnish and chop the rest. Put the softened ice cream into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the chopped pecans and caramel until well mixed. 

To Assemble Pie: Spread the topping evenly on the chilled crust. Freeze pie for 2 to 3 hours before serving. When read to serve, top pie with whipped cream and reserved pecans and drizzle with the caramel sauce and chocolate sauce or melted chocolate if desired. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I am not going to claim that this is the prettiest pie, but it is decadent and delicious between the Pecan Sandies in crust, the caramel topping, chocolate ice cream, pecans and chocolate drizzle. I should have been a bit more patient with my crusts and pressed them down so that they were thinner--so I could have fit more ice cream in them, but overall, I am pretty happy with the flavors in this and how it turned out. They are pretty rich--I could only eat half of one but I am happy to keep the rest in the freezer and pull them out when a craving strikes. I would happily make them again--especially the crust which was delectable.

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 "Another Man's Ground" was provided to me by the publisher Minotaur Books and 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, August 30, 2013

Ottolenghi's Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie

This may not be the prettiest Yotam Ottolenghi dish I have made in the past several months of cooking with him but it is full of the usual great flavors his recipes always seem to have. This Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie from Plenty, makes me think of dolmas or dolmades, those tasty little grape leaves stuffed with rice and rolled. There is no rice in the pie, but the thick texture from the yogurt and rice flour make it almost seem that there is. The herbs--mint, dill, parsley and tarragon, and toasted pine nuts add layers of flavor and texture. 

Ottolenghi says, "Whenever I walk into a bookshop I find myself in the cookery section within seconds; it's an urge I can't control. On a recent visit to a secondhand bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, the capital of bookshops, I came across a real treasure, Classic Turkish Cookery by Ghillie Başan, published in 1995. This book offers a fantastic introduction to one of the world's most accomplished cuisines and it is packed full of recipes you just know you must try. It is there that I came across this unusual savory cake originating from the Turkish part of Cyprus. It makes a substantial snack or a light starter."

Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4)
20 to 25 grape leaves (fresh or from a jar)
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp)
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (I used 1 Tbsp)
1 cup Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve
2 1/2 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 Tbsp finely chopped tarragon
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 Tbsp finely chopped dill
4 Tbsp finely chopped mint
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup rice flour
3 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs (preferably panko)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the grape leaves in a shallow bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes. Then remove the leaves from the water and dry them well with a tea towel. Use scissors to trim off and discard the bit of hard stalk at the base of each leaf.

Sauté the shallots in 1 tablespoon of the oil for about 8 minutes, or until light brown. Leave to cool down.

Take a round and shallow ovenproof dish that is roughly 8 inches in diameter, and cover its bottom and sides with grape leaves, slightly overlapping them and allowing the leaves to hang over the rim of the dish. Mix the melted butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; use about two-thirds of this to generously brush the leaves lining the dish.

Mix together in a bowl the shallots, yogurt, pine nuts, chopped herbs and lemon zest and juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add the rice flour and mix well until you get a homogenous paste. Spread this paste evenly in the baking dish.

Fold the overhanging grape leaves back over the top of the filling so they cover the edges, then cover the filling completely with the remaining grape leaves. Brush with the rest of the butter and oil mix. Finally, scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the leaves crisp up and the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warmish or at room temperature, with a dollop of fresh yogurt.

Notes/Results: I really like the flavors in this dish--some fresh, herby and tangy from the yogurt and lemon juice. I also like how the grape leaves crisp up like the little sheets of roasted nori (seaweed) that I like to nosh on. I kept the recipe mostly as written except for reducing the oil and butter. I still had plenty to baste with and I don't feel the dish suffered at all for it (and my thighs and heart suffered less!). Seasoning was a bit tricky--I didn't want it to be too salty with the jarred grape leaves so I probably slightly under-seasoned but it actually ended up working out well with the toppings. Ottolenghi recommends topping the pie with a dollop of fresh yogurt but I had some feta in the fridge that I wanted to use. With crumbled feta on top and slices of lemon to squeeze over the dish it ended up pretty perfectly seasoned--and I think more fun than the yogurt. Trickier than the salt amount was successfully cutting and serving it--definitely pull out your sharpest knife, it's a bit unwieldy and not that easy to cut through all those leaves. ;-) This recipe does take some prep with all the fine chopping, grape leaf prep, sauteing shallots, toasting nuts and assembling, but it is easy enough. I liked it warm but it tasted even better to me cold, after sitting in the fridge. Light but satisfying, I would make this again. 

"Pies and Tarts!" is the theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can check out the dishes that everyone made by going to the post and following the links.

Happy Aloha Friday and have a great Labor Day holiday weekend!