Sunday, May 20, 2018

Moroccan-Inspired Red Pepper, Chickpea and Couscous Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie Sundays)

I was craving red pepper soup, preferably creamy and with lots of flavor. I also had an onion, a large carrot, a cup of coconut milk and some dried Israeli couscous that needed to be used up. With those items, plus two cans of chickpeas from the pantry and a mix of almost all of my favorite Moroccan spices, the result was this tasty, creamy, and comforting vegan soup.  


I like a pureed red pepper soup, but also having the chickpeas and pearl couscous in this one give it a more interesting texture. You could leave the soup brothy, but in that case you want to chop your veggies and the red peppers more carefully and concisely. 


Moroccan-Inspired Red Pepper, Chickpea and Couscous Soup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6 to 8)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ras el hanout or your favorite curry
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
4 sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 (16 oz) jarred red peppers, drained (chop them if you leave the soup brothy)
1 (14 oz) can chopped fire roasted tomatoes and their liquid
5 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
1 cup coconut milk (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute until vegetables soften and onion turns translucent--about 6 minutes. Add garlic, parsley, and all spices and saute another 2 minutes--until spices are fragrant. 

Add drained red peppers, the tomatoes with their juices, and the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes--until vegetables are soft. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Bring pureed soup to a low boil and stir in chickpeas and Israeli couscous and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, stir in coconut milk if using and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until warmed through. Serve and enjoy.


Notes/Results: This soup made me happy with its bright color, warm and earthy flavor and creamy texture. You can thin it our with more broth and/or more coconut milk but I thick the thickness of it. You could use any curry as well but if you don't have or can't find a ras el hanout blend, here is a recipe. I like to take it and punch it up with extra of my favorite spices. The Aleppo pepper is quickly becoming a favorite as it adds just enough heat to satisfy without being over-spicy. I would happily make this soup again.


 We have two great dishes in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look!


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog made Spicy Lentil Soup and said, "I always try to come up with a recipe for Cinco de Mayo! This year I'm making a spicy salsa lentil soup that is easy, tasty, plant based, gluten free and healthy. Since I retired, "easy" is the main ingredient in my recipes. ... Adding a jar of mind, medium, or hot salsa to a basic lentil soup really jazzes it up, gives it a little bite and some additional flavor."


Simona of briciole used Sichuan chili spice and other ingredients to make a Mild Chili Oil that she  used in vinaigrette to dress a salads and vegetables. She said, "The recipe that mostly inspired me blends chili oil and a vinegar and soy sauce mix to make a vinaigrette: I left the two separate so I can apportion each depending on the vegetable I am dressing: for example, a bit more vinegar on farm-fresh butter lettuce, less on roasted asparagus."


 Thank you Judee and Simona for joining me at Souper Sundays this week!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up her in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).



 Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Eric Ripert's Seared Ahi Tuna with Sauce Vierge

This is a Friday night dinner that is quick and simple to make and full of flavor. The fact that it includes many of my favorite things like fresh ahi tuna, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and fennel makes it even better. Normally I am leery about taking away too much of the deliciousness of seared ahi by adding a lot of other ingredients, but fish is usually in good hands with Eric Ripert, so I was excited to try his recipe for Seared Ahi Tuna with Sauce Vierge from Food & Wine Magazine.


I used local fennel and local ahi tuna--the pieces are a bit flatter than some tuna steaks but they sear quickly and taste delicious.


Food & Wine says, "This light, easy tuna recipe evokes the flavors of southern France. The fish is crusted with herbes de Provence, then drizzled with Ripert’s take on sauce vierge, an oil that he flavors with sun-dried tomatoes, basil and capers."

Seared Ahi Tuna with Sauce Vierge
Slightly Adapted from Eric Ripert via Food & Wine Magazine
(Serves 4)

Sauce:
8 drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tbsp drained capers
2 Tbsp finely chopped basil
2 Tbsp finely chopped scallion greens
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Tuna:
Four 4-oz sushi-grade tuna steaks
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp herbes de Provence
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 fennel bulb—trimmed, cored & thinly sliced
1 lemon, quartered
lemon

Make the sauce vierge:
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.

Prepare the tuna:
Season the tuna steaks all over with salt, pepper and the herbes de Provence. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Add the tuna and sear over high heat until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the tuna steaks to a cutting board and slice them 1/4-inch thick.

To Serve: 
Arrange the fennel on plates, top with the tuna and drizzle with the sauce vierge. Squeeze the lemon over the tuna and serve.

 
Notes/Results:  OK, this sauce vierge may be my new favorite sauce--it's so good and simple--just olive oil with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, basil, green onion and capers. I made a full batch of it and just half the fish recipe. I would use it on any fish and I don't eat chicken, but I think it would be excellent with it, and even just on the fennel, or other veggies, it would be great. I thought the herbs de Provence might be too much for the tuna and the sauce but it all went together really well--the cool, crisp bite of the fennel was perfect as a base. This will end up being one of my favorite Eric Ripert dishes and I will happily make it again.


Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is From the Sea
 
And 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.

 
Happy Weekend!
 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Between Earth and Sky" by Amanda Skenandore, Served with a Recipe for 'Three Sisters Succotash' with Wild Rice {and a Book Giveaway!}

I'm excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Between Earth and Sky, the debut historical fiction novel by Amanda Skenandore. accompanying my review is a recipe for Three Sisters Succotash, inspired by my reading. There's also a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post.


Publisher's Blurb:

In Amanda Skenandore’s provocative and profoundly moving debut, set in the tragic intersection between white and Native American culture, a young girl learns about friendship, betrayal, and the sacrifices made in the name of belonging.

On a quiet Philadelphia morning in 1906, a newspaper headline catapults Alma Mitchell back to her past. A federal agent is dead, and the murder suspect is Alma’s childhood friend, Harry Muskrat. Harry—or Asku, as Alma knew him—was the most promising student at the “savage-taming” boarding school run by her father, where Alma was the only white pupil. Created in the wake of the Indian Wars, the Stover School was intended to assimilate the children of neighboring reservations. Instead, it robbed them of everything they’d known—language, customs, even their names—and left a heartbreaking legacy in its wake.

The bright, courageous boy Alma knew could never have murdered anyone. But she barely recognizes the man Asku has become, cold and embittered at being an outcast in the white world and a ghost in his own. Her lawyer husband, Stewart, reluctantly agrees to help defend Asku for Alma’s sake. To do so, Alma must revisit the painful secrets she has kept hidden from everyone—especially Stewart.

Told in compelling narratives that alternate between Alma’s childhood and her present life, Between Earth and Sky is a haunting and complex story of love and loss, as a quest for justice becomes a journey toward understanding and, ultimately, atonement.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington (April 24, 2018)


My Review:

I am a big fan of historical fiction and I especially enjoy books that focus on time periods or events that I know little about, so after reading the summary of Between Earth and Sky, I clamored to be on the book tour. Set in Wisconsin in the late 1800s and then again in 1906, the novel starts with the main character Alma, finding a newspaper article  "Indian Man Faces Gallows For Murder Of Federal Agent." The name of the accused, Harry Muskrat, is one Alma immediately recognizes, he was a childhood friend that she grew up with as they both attended the Stover School, a boarding school created by her father after the Indian Wars (the collection of conflicts fought over decades between white America and the various Native American tribes). The purpose of the school and the other schools like it was to 'better' Native American children by making them drop their culture and assimilate them into white America. Alma is the only non-Indian student, used an example of deportment for the children, who are thought of as "savages" by so many. Alma just wants to blend in and befriend these children, like Harry, and doesn't really understand what being forced to straddle the two worlds does to her classmates. Alma gets her patent attorney husband to help her friend, but Harry, or Asku as Alma knew him, doesn't seem to want to be helped. 

I was quickly caught up in Alma's story--both as a child and as an adult. The chapters alternate time frames well as Alma's story slowly unspools, revealing the secrets she is hiding from her husband and from herself. It is tough reading at times--mainly due to the anger and emotion drawn from how the Native American children were treated--taken from their families, forced to give up their personal and cultural identities--even being forced to take new names and being punished for speaking their tribes' languages. Alma is a character that you can't help but feel for--she holds her father up to a high ideal, and believes that what is being done will ultimately benefit her friends. The author obviously did her research on the different tribes--the descriptions of the school, town, the reservation, and the languages, are painted vividly and make the story come alive. As mentioned, I knew very little about these off-reservation boarding schools that existed primarily from the late 1870s into the 1930s and even beyond as like much of the Native American experience--it was glossed over or left out of the American history classes I took. The book had me googling for more information and will keep me thinking hard about this sad piece of history long after I turned the final pages. While not an easy read, Between Earth and Sky is a compelling one and I recommend it highly.
 
-----

Author Notes: Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and registered nurse. In writing Between Earth and Sky, she has drawn on the experiences of a close relative, a member of the Ojibwe Tribe, who survived an Indian mission school in the 1950s. Between Earth and Sky is Amanda’s first novel. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Readers can visit her website at www.amandaskenandore.com. You can also connect with her over Facebook or Twitter

-----

Food Inspiration:

The food fits the era in Between Earth and Sky and it's fairly austere at the Stover School and fancier in Alma's family's circle of society and in her present day. Mentions included tea, cornbread, potato salad, fried chicken, mushy green beans, apples, stew, toast with soft-boiled eggs, bread, minced meat and breadcrumbs, potatoes, churned butter, rolls, candy (lemon drops, peppermint sticks, caramels), sauce soubise (an onion-based sauce), terrapin (turtle) soup, cordials, mousse,roasted duck, lemonade, sherry, a ham sandwich, wild rice, punch, popcorn, candies and nuts, peanuts, butter cookies, molasses, cherry pie, turnips, canned beets, roast, gummy apple cobbler, pork, mushy potatoes, corn liquor, winter squash, corn, beans, and tea with maple sugar. 


Nothing mentioned really grabbed me, so I pulled my inspiration from squash, corn and beans--the "Three Sisters" that Native Americans planted together according to Iroquois legend--so that they thrive together--like three sisters who are inseparable. The beans and corn made me think of succotash--traditionally lima beans and corn, but I'm not a huge lima bean fan and I saw a recipe for Three Sisters Succotash online at EatingWell.com. I combined parts of that recipe--the summer squash and green beans, with the a traditional recipe for Heirloom Succotash that I found in a historical cookbook, Our Founding Foods by Jane Tennant, which pretty much consisted of fresh lima beans and corn kernels, cooked in butter and cream. I kept that recipe's creamy base, added herbs, garlic and onion to give it more flavor, and switched out the dairy to make it vegan. I served it with wild rice--also mentioned in the book--for a light but satisfying, not really traditional but nodding to it, dinner.


Three Sister's Succotash
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen, inspired by Eating Well & Our Founding Foods by Jane Tennant
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 Tbsp olive oil or vegan butter
1 small yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp celery salt
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
about 1/2 cup non-dairy cream or coconut milk
about 2 cups lightly steamed frozen whole green beans (I used these)
about 2 cups lightly steamed frozen corn kernels (I used these)

Heat oil or vegan butter over medium heat in a large non-stick pan. Add onion and saute until onion softens and turns translucent--about 6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, sage, celery salt and a dash of salt and pepper and saute for another minute, then add squash and stir to mix with spices. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until zucchini has softened to your taste--I like mine on the crisper side. Stir in coconut milk, green beans and corn and cook until heated through and veggies are cooked to your liking. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot with wild rice.


Notes/Results: This combination of recipes and ingredients, with the additional of the herbs, garlic and onions, made for a great dinner for someone who doesn't eat meat. Served with the rice, I used it as my entree, although it would make a tasty side dish too. I like the combination of the thyme and sage. I feel that without the herbs and the garlic, it would have been too mildly-flavored, but between all of the ingredients and the slightly nutty flavor of the wild rice and sweetness of the corn and coconut milk, it worked. You could also add broth and more coconut milk and make it more like a soup--the half cup of liquid makes it more stew-like. The ease of the steam-in-the-bag green beans and corn (I'd use fresh if I had it available) made the dish come together quickly and easily--especially if you put the rice in the rice cooker. I am looking forward to having the  leftovers for dinner tonight.


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 "Between Earth and Sky" 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.

 

***Giveaway!***

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

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me a period of history you enjoy reading about and/or why you'd like to win a copy of Between Earth and Sky."


There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or publisher Kensington Books (@KensingtonBooks)
and/or author Amanda Skenandore (@ARShenandoah).    

(Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Thursday, May 24th.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Simple Persian (Adassi) Lentil Stew for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

When I was looking for Middle Eastern recipes to pair with my book review earlier in the week, I went to Sirocco: Fabulous Flavors from the Middle East by Sabrina Ghayour.  I ended up making her Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts, but I tagged several other recipes to try. Having a hankering for curry and a half-package of Puy lentils, I decided to make her Persian "Adassi" Lentil Stew for my soup this week. 


Ghayour notes that they usually enjoy this soup in the cold winter months--which we don't get here anyway and remarks on the amount of flavor from so few ingredients. She also notes that it gets better and better the longer it keeps and the flavors intensify--perfect since I eat my soup batches throughout the week. You can make this one thinner like a soup or thicker like a stew or dal. I kept mine in the middle and I added a can of coconut milk at the end, as I was craving that too. My small changes to the recipe are in red below.


One interesting thing about this stew to me is the way that the lentils are cooked somewhat like risotto, with ladlefuls of the hot liquid stirred in and absorbed before more liquid is added. I'm not sure of the purpose of that--other than maybe they cook more evenly?--but I tried it that way.  

 
Persian (Adassi) Lentil Stew 
Slightly Adapted from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour
(Serves 4)

3 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
1 large onion, finely diced
1 1/3 cups Puy lentils
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 heaping Tbsp medium curry powder
flaky sea salt
1 1/2 quarts or so hot water from a kettle
(I added I can coconut milk)
(I added 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper)

Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat (or medium heat, if you are cooking on an electric stove). add the oil and fry the onion until translucent. Add the lentils and stir for 1 minutes. then stir in the tomato paste and curry powder, season with salt, and add a couple of tablespoons of water to hydrate the mixture (spices absorb moisture quickly). Stir well for about a minute, until the ingredients are evenly mixed in. 

Then, in stages, stir in a few ladlefuls of hot water at a time, stirring well and allowing each ladleful of water to be thoroughly absorbed by the lentils before adding the next. Once all the water has been absorbed, taste the lentils to check you are happy with the texture and that they are cooked thoroughly. If not, add another 1-2 ladlefuls of water until you are satisfied. (At this point I stirred in a can of coconut milk and seasoned with a bit of extra salt and some Aleppo pepper.)


Notes/Results: A simple soup, but great flavor from the curry and another demonstration of why Puy lentils are my favorite for soups. I love the texture and body they give it--staying firm rather than melting into the liquid or getting mushy, like other lentils do. I really didn't notice what gradually adding the liquid to the lentils did or didn't do for the soup--I'll have to look into it more. Since there are few ingredients and a good amount of curry, use a curry you really like for it as the flavor stands out. They one I use the most is on the milder side of medium, so I added a bit of Aleppo pepper for a little kick. At the end, I liked it as it was but felt it would be even better with coconut milk added to make it creamy. I thought it made it even better, but you can certainly leave it out. I served my soup with a prantha--Indian flatbread I stock in my freezer but think it would pair well with any bread or flatbread or rice, I would happily make it again.


We have two great dishes in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look!


Quilt Lady of Chasing My Life Wherever It Leads Me shared her Mexican Cobb Salad with Jalapeño Ranch Dressing. The salad is a combination of chicken, tomato, avocado, cheese and chiles on a bed of lettuce and she recommends whipping up the creamy dressing that tops it, the night before you serve it.

   
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared Conch Chowder and said, "It's getting very hot here in north Florida and so what do we have for dinner?  Hot chowder! Why not. It's a nice light meal after a hearty lunch so we were satisfied. This chowder was prepared in Marathon Florida. ... While I can't take credit for making this chowder I think I would be willing to do so in the future. It's packed with fresh conch, roma tomatoes, celery, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, broth, sherry, turmeric  and a healthy dose of red pepper. Gives it the kick that Chardonnay soothes after a few spoonfuls."


Thanks for joinin me at Souper Sundays this week!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on the post you link up to be included.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).



 
Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Moment Before" by Jason Makansi, Served with Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts

It's Wednesday and I am more than ready for it to be Friday. But, I  am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Moment Before, the debut novel by Jason Makansi. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts, inspired by my reading.



Publisher's Blurb:

A woman and her beloved Syrian father, separated forty years earlier when he is swept up in a geopolitical odyssey from hell, are almost reunited by a lawyer struggling to save his Illinois hometown from financial ruin.

The unflinching story of an American-Arab’s life in limbo.

Tricked by the two people closest to him, Elias Haddad leaves his beloved daughter Cheryl Halia for what he believes is a short trip home to Syria to visit his dying father. Largely ignorant of Middle East politics, Elias is detained upon arrival in Damascus and conscripted into Assad’s army, beginning a forty-year geopolitical odyssey from hell which culminates in his captivity in Guantanamo during America’s post-9/11 War on Terror.

In her search for her father, Cheryl meets John Veranda, an idealistic lawyer who risks his family’s land, his marriage, and his aspirations for his hometown’s future for a relationship with Cheryl neither are prepared for.

Stuart Eisenstat, a dedicated federal bureaucrat, thinks he’s doing an old friend a favor when he picks John’s hometown as the perfect site for relocating Guantanamo detainees only to come face to face with the personal cost of America’s global ambitions.

Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Blank Slate Press (March 6, 2018)
Language: English


My Review:

The plot of The Moment Before is what made me sign up for the book tour. I think any chance to personalize the immigrant experience and help us see the very real individual people and families that are behind broad sweeping political decisions. The Moment Before focuses much of the story on a father, Elias Haddad, who against the wishes of the family that sent him away from Syria and to the U.S. as a young man to keep him safe, attempts to return to visit his ailing father. He doesn't make it, being immediately detained in Damascus, forced into Assad's army, and then tossed around, country to country, as a prisoner before ending up in Guantanamo. Meanwhile, his daughter Cheryl, grows up without him, alone with her cold mother who doesn't seem to want to do anything to find Elias. Cheryl reaches out to several people to find her father--including a young attorney, John Veranda, working for a senator, who she later crosses path with again. 

I don't want to go into a lot of the plot details as there is a lot going on in the book and I think it would involve spoilers for some of the drama. In addition to Cheryl, Elias, and  John, we get the stories and perspectives of John's friend & DOHS contractor, Cheryl's mother, and Father Moody--a friend of the family who got a young Elias into the U.S. and may be involved in his disappearance. It does get a bit convoluted between the different perspectives and the back and forth in time from 1959 through 2012 as the story is woven together. I found myself frequently checking back to the chapter headings with the dates to understand where I was in time. I was pulled more to the stories of Cheryl and Elias, they are the most poignant and my heart broke for both of them. Other characters and their actions made me very angry, and some sections although they added to how everything comes together, just weren't quite as interesting. 

The Moment Before is not always an easy read--both in complexity and subject matter--primarily the injustice of Elias's experience and what it does to his family. It is a book that made me think and is both timely and relevant. There is beauty, sorrow, and hope in Jason Makansi's writing and this story hasn't left my mind since I finished it.

-----

Author Notes: Jason Makansi, author of four non-fiction books relating to business, energy/environmental issues, and mathematical modeling, has published short stories in a variety of literary journals and collections. He is a 2009 alumnus of the Sewanee Writers Conference, has reviewed short story collections for The Short Review, and is currently a contributing editor for River Styx literary journal and Associate Editor for December literary magazine. In his spare time, he plays the viola in community orchestras, plays piano for fun, and rides his bike as often as he can. The Moment Before is his first novel.

-----

Food Inspiration:

There's not a lot of food focus in The Moment Before, but there are some mentions that stand out--particularly the baklava that Cheryl makes with her father--their special ritual. There's also the stuffed grape leaves and stuffed cabbage, shish kabobs, and fruits she and her father enjoy. Even years after he has disappeared, his coat smells of za'atar. There is mention of more grape leaves and hummus, served at a meeting. Cheryl works at a diner known for their sodas, ice cream, hamburgers and French fries and chocolate milkshakes. Other food mentioned included coffee, beer, punch, multiple types of kibbe, pizza, iced mochas, and bread.


I didn't have the time or patience to make baklava or stuffed grape leaves this week--I needed something quick and simple and decided to pick a dish with flavors and spices of Syria and the Middle East so I turned to Sirocco: Fabulous Flavors From the Middle East by Sabrina Ghayour. There were plenty of recipes to choose from, but I saw the Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts and was happy to see them use Aleppo pepper--since I just happen to have a jar and like the gentler heat they lend. I am a huge fan of nuts and spiced nuts for snacks, so while not directly related to the book, this dish seems to fit. (Just snack one handed if you are reading while enjoying these nuts--they are a bit messy!)


Ghayour says "We produce a huge variety of nuts in Iran and I really love snacking on them--although I find myself eating way too many at times. We don't roast them with seasonings as is done in the West, but I do like spicy, sticky coatings on any kind of nut. These spicy nuts are a great snack, added to salads and even chopped up and sprinkled over desserts." 

Sweet-Spiced Roasted Nuts
From Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour
(Serves 6)

2 1/4 cups raw nuts of choice (I used cashews, almonds, pecans & walnuts)
4 Tbsp melted butter
4 Tbsp brown sugar
good squeeze of lemon juice
2 Tbsp Aleppo pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place nuts on the sheet and toast for 10 minutes.

Put the melted butter in a bowl, add the sugar, lemon juice, spices and a generous sprinkling of salt and mix well. Add the toasted nuts. Coat the nuts well in the mixture, stirring to break up any clumps of sugar or spice. Once they are evenly coated, place the nuts back on the baking sheet and toast for another 5 minutes. Using a spoon, turn the nuts, then return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. 

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Once fully cooked, they can be stored in a glass jar or another airtight container in a cool, dry place, but should be consumed within a few days.


Notes/Results: These nuts are so good! A friend once told me that she thinks of spiced nuts as fall and winter treats but these with their sweet-salty mix and gentle boost of heat (not mouth-burning, it just gets you in the back of the throat a bit) are perfect year round. Sabrina Ghayour serves them with iced hibiscus tea (pictured is iced Hibiscus Coconut Tea from The Republic of Tea--one of my favorites), but I think they would go well with a cold crisp wine, any iced tea, a cocktail or beer. I will definitely make these again--they are downright addicting. 


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 Moment Before" 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.