Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's Eat! Part v

Well, this is the last post in my writing paired with food series--the last one until next harvest season, that is. And this week I'm really excited to welcome another good friend.

L.K. MADIGAN writes good, very good, EXCELLENT books. Her latest, THE MERMAID'S MIRROR is no exception.  Here's what another very fine author says about this book: "A poignant, enchanting story about a girl's search for her true self. I love L. K. Madigan's dreamy, fairy-tale-like underwater world." Malinda Lo.

And you will too. Here's a slightly salty taste of what's in store when you open The Mermaid's Mirror and read. 

     "She was too tired to struggle to the surface again. She was not even sure which direction was up. She knew she should try to remain relaxed in order to surface. Now it felt strangely comforting to relax and allow the boiling waters to toss her. Black dots danced at the edge ofher vision.
     I wonder if I'm going to die, she thought, but there was no longer a sense of panic to the ida. This is where Dad almost died.

     At that moment, Lena felt something touch her arm, then a hard object was pushed into her hand. She clamped her fingers around it automatically.
     Before she even had time to wonder about the object, Lena felt two small hands grasp her beneath the arms and pull her out the the deadly grip of the Cauldron." 


Below is quick snapshot of L.K and me last year at her debut book signing for FLASH BURNOUT at Books Inc. in San Francisco.  This book won her the William Morris Award. Congratulations again and your fans are looking forward to that next super book.

So now about this food thing . . . What else would go with The Mermaid's Mirror if not a tasty fish of some sort. Here's one of my favorites

Grilled Snapper with Salsa

Make this salsa a day ahead:
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
2 lg. tomatoes, chopped
1/2 med. onion, chopped (I like sweet whites.)
I'm no Snapper!
3 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp. salt (I like Kosher.)
1/2 cumin

Roast whole peppers either on barbecue or center rack of 400 degree oven.About 10 min. Skin should be blackened or split so it peels easily. Let cool. Cut in half, seed and stem. In food processor puree all ingredients to a sauce. Chill overnight.

Rub fish with salt, pepper and lime juice. Barbecue or broil until flaky. Top with warmed salsa. I usually have enough to use cold on chilled cooked shrimp. Yummm.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's Eat! IV

I'm excited to feature KIMBERLY DERTING in my series where I pair good writing and good food to celebrate both at this harvest season. 

I read THE BODY FINDER this month and truly enjoyed how Kimberly wove a wonderful love story with a tense mystery. It didn't take me long to finish because setting the book aside wasn't an option. I had to know how it ended. You will too.  

Here's a small taste of what you'll find: "She heard her father gasp at the same time she recognized what she had uncovered. She felt his strong hands reaching for her from behind, pulling her firmly by the shoulders away from the fresh dirt and gathering her into his strong, safe arms . . . away from the sound that was calling to her . . .
     . . . and away from the girl's face staring up at her from beneath the soil. "

Chilling, right? But then there are some soft and beautifully written scenes that show a friendship slowly ripening into romance.  And there's humor that serves to heighten the tense parts. I stumbled on Hilary Wagner's post about writing funny in dark moments and thought I'd link to that post for those of you who write. Adding a minor character or giving humorous dialog to your MC is a great way to involve your reader more deeply in your life and death scenes. To see how that's done, read Kimberly's story. She manages it very nicely.

Now, let's eat. 

Since The Body Finder is such a layered, light and dark story I started searching for layered food to pair with it.  Here's what I came up with. What do you think?

Bruschetta  With Black Olive Pesto, Ricotta, and Basil

1 loaf country bread with thick crust, sliced into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1/2 medium garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium clove, minced
1/2 C. pitted kalamata olives (Here's your dark stuff.)
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 small shallot, minched
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 ricotta (Here's your light stuff.)
ground black pepper
2 tbs basil leaves, finely shredded

Place bread on grill or foil-lined baking sheet. Grill or broil until deep golden, 1-2 minutes. Flip and repeat. Lightly rub 1 side with garlic, brush with olive oil, and season with salt.

Process garlic, olives, olive oil, shallot and lemon juice in food processor until uniform pasta forms about 10 seconds, scraping bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Combine ricotta, salt, and pepper to taste in small bowl. Divide  pesto on toast. Spread to edges. Top with ricotta and carefully spread over pesto. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with basil. Makes 8-10 Buon Appetito!

I'm making this for dinner guests and telling them to get their copy of The Body Finder. Let me know if you try the bruschetta and really be sure to tell me what you think of Kimberly Derting's book. Did I do good at the pairing this week?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's Eat, Part III

It's the Belle Époque, a last period of elegant dress and luxurious dining before WWI. Into this world of privilege steps Lia Milthorpe and her twin sister, Alice, to do battle--one each knows will end in death, but for which one? Will Lia find the meaning of the prophecy and save the world?  Only MICHELLE ZINC, author of the trilogy, knows.

I don't do reviews. There are already so many well-qualified reviewers online that I prefer to "feature" authors I enjoy reading. I love how Michelle has managed to capture the language and flavor of the period without making the prose seem contrived or difficult. I feel that this is one the greatest strengths of her both GUARDIAN OF THE GATE  and PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS, the first book in her trilogy. She manages to pull me in that world of beautifully dressed men and women who dine, rather than eat and who carry themselves with grace even when confronting evil. Doesn't that whet your appetite?

Here's a quick peek at the story if my description hasn't grabbed you.

"Sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy that has divided her family for generations, her twin sister, Alice, works to hone the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the the only thing she wants. There's also Lia's beloved James." Guardian of the Gate

Be sure to stop by her PROPHECY WEBSITE to read excerpts and listen to the great play list. You might also want to read some the  * * * * * REVIEWS readers have posted about Guardian. 

So we've got a fight to the death between twin sisters, a mysterious prophecy to grapple with AND love all presented in some beautiful prose. What more does a reader need?

The only thing I can think of is some suitably paired Belle Époque cuisine. My palate immediately demanded Pheasant, so I went to my shelf, which bows a bit from hefty books about preparing food. I've only made this dish once. It's labor intensive and bagging the pheasant took days--actually I can't shoot anything except my foot. I'm not a hunter, so I did my "pheasant bagging" at a market. My guests said this dish was fab, so I'm passing it on as the food I'd select to compliment this lovely novel.

Breast of Pheasant Sous Cloche (Under Glass)
From Roy Alciatore of Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans (circa 1940), found in A Treasury of Great Recipes, by Mary and Vincent Price 
2 pheasants
1/2 lemon
4 Tbsp plus 2 Tbsp butter
2-1/2 cups brown sauce
2 Tbsp truffles, minced
1/4 cup Madeira
4 slices bread
For the Pheasant:

1. Preheat oven to moderate (350°F; 175°C).
2. Rub the cavities and skin of 2 ready-to-cook pheasants with the cut side of 1/2 lemon. Season inside and out with salt and pepper.
3. In a heavy pan melt: 4 tablespoons butter. Brown the birds on all sides.
4. Place pan in the oven. Baste birds with pan juices every 10 minutes and roast about 30 minutes for average-sized pheasants. Remove and keep warm.
For the Sauce:
In a saucepan heat: 2-1/2 cups brown sauce. Let it simmer until it has reduced about one-quarter. Add: 1/4 cup Madeira and 2 tablespoons minced truffles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the Presentation:
1. Cut into rounds: 4 slices bread and toast them.
2. Sauté: the 2 pheasant livers gently in 2 tablespoons butter. Mash well and spread liver and butter on the toast rounds.
3. Carve pheasants so you have 4 breasts.
4. Place a roasted breast of pheasant on each round of toast. Cover with the sauce and place glass bell over each dish. Serve at once.
Yield: Serves 4

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's EAT! Part II

During this harvest season my blog is going to be all about food and how it combines with reading and writing. If you have some food/literary metaphors share them here or if you're blogging about something that's similar, please let me know. I love to link to other blogs with similar themes. And speaking of that, my favorite Canine Couch Potato, Buddy, just alerted me to his interesting "foodie" brain teasers. Pop over for a visit and find out how your brain's working. When you've enjoyed his wonderful site please stop in at 
Sunny Room Studio and read about the Prairie Cook. So lovely.

Next week: I start pairing food I love with books I love, so pop in, have a bite and read along. My good friend and great writer, Michelle Zinc, The Guardian of the Gate will be here.

But this week it's all about . . . 

My Great Tomato Saga

It all began with a tiny seeds back in April. I put them into planting mix, added water to keep them moist and

by June I had sprouts . . . lots of sprouts.
By July I had bushes . . .  way too many. 

August came and so did round green, juicy fruit . . . more than I'd expected.

Last week I harvested of twenty pounds of tomatoes with the promise of more to come. How many ways can you eat a tomato? As of today my count is 1,342.

What we couldn't eat went into jars. I'll love having these pre-seasoned veggies come mid-winter when soup sounds like the best idea for dinner, or I have a stew craving and I have to go to a book signing for some wonderful writer I adore.  

While I was peeling, slicing, and preparing the tomatoes I couldn't let my writer's brain sleep. I kept thinking how much this process reminded me of writing a story.

Two years ago I wrote this. "What would happen to an affluent, happy family if they lost everything?" That was the seed for my second book, The Princess of Las Pulgas. In the first year I didn't match my tomatoes' success. I had one huge dud of a rough draft. The book didn't start in the right place, it sort of sagged in the middle, and who would even care about the end? Back I went to that seed stage again. 

I kept asking myself that "what if" question I'd first written, and finally the answers started to come. Fruit set this time around, so that at least the book started where it should and the middle got me to the end and at last readers actually cared what happened to my poor characters. Still this story wasn't growing the way I wanted it to, so hew, hack, cultivate and . . .  rewrite. 

Three drafts later I got it. Three drafts later my editor liked it. Three drafts later I went back to cooking comfort food. Mine happens to be Chicken Paprika--a simple dish that you can assemble and leave to simmer. There's only one drawback. It doesn't require tomatoes. Here's the recipe anyway, just in case you're hungry, and really need some time to write that scene that finally has settled into your head.

Chicken Paprika

1/8 lb. sweet butter
3 chopped onions
1broiler chicken, cut into serving pieces
Hungarian paprika
Salt and pepper

Brown the onions in butter. Add the chicken and brown about 4-5 each side. Add salt, pepper to taste and the paprika until the chicken has reddish color. Cover. Set timer and return to desk to write for 45 minutes. You should be able to create a great first draft of that scene you've just been inspired to write while you added the seasoning. Remove chicken and add a pint of sweet cream to liquid and onions in pan. Stir to blend. Serve over rice. Sit down and reread that scene while you savor your chicken.

Does anyone know how to say Buen Provecho in Hungarian?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's EAT!

Ye Olde Peach Tree.
Some readers will remember when it was flowering.
Now that most schools have students corralled in classrooms again and  peaches hang reddening and almost ripe on low branches I'm waiting for that sudden shift of light that will signal the arrival of fall.

Already, the bar-b-que on our deck is covered more often than not and I'm looking up recipes that don't involve squash. In another month the garden will have broccoli and cabbage starts and the elephant eared leaves of the squash plants will be replaced with the winter crop of green parsnip sprouts.

De Squash
I can't help it; I get excited about food and about cooking as much as I get excited about writing then reading something I'm satisfied with, and I've come to think that cooking and eating is a lot like writing and reading.

Today's Harvest
Here's what a renowned chef and restaurateur said. Every morning the cuisinier must start again at zero, with nothing on the stove. That is what real cuisine is all about." Fernand Point (1897-1955)

Well, to me that sounds a bit familiar. Every morning I start from scratch with nothing on the page. For me that is writing.

Today's Havest in the Pot/Moong Dal with Chicken and Veggies
M. Point believed that cuisine shouldn't be "static." He believed that a chef should start with the base created by other great chefs, build and refine to "suit changing tastes in changing times." Jean Troisgros, another famous restaurateurs, says of M. Point, "He knew how the old classic recipes were prepared, but he was not especially concerned with following them 'to the letter.' He built on them and created his own recipes. It all came out of his head..."

That rings some bells for me as a writer/reader. I've enjoyed the classics, treasured their language and adored their characters. While I've internalized the stories of those creative geniuses of the past, what I write today is aimed at the tastes of our time.

As a cook and a writer I enjoy trying something new, testing it, tweaking it, redoing it to make it better, asking for opinions from "tasters," and then thoroughly enjoying it when I've made it the best I can.

I've come up with only a few comparison of food to writing and reading. Can you food lovers/writers/readers come up with more?  I'd love more. Also here's the recipe for the Moong Dhal with fresh vegetables if you'd like to give it a try.