Monthly Archives: February 2018

Furiously Happy


furiously-happyI loved this book: the cover, the end papers, the writing. And I wanted Jenny Lawson to be my friend. (Next best thing- I’m following her on Twitter, and thank fully, she posts regularly.) This was one of those books that I was reading at night, shaking the bed with my silent laughter while trying not to wake my husband. So the next morning, I asked, “Could you feel the bed shaking last night while I was reading this book?” He said, “No, but I heard you laughing.” So much for my lame attempt at late night bedroom etiquette.

The book is a memoir, and shouldn’t be funny because it’s about mental illness and physical pain, but Jenny Lawson’s unique way of looking at the world  and the way she describes it is hilarious. Here is the book’s dedication:
“This book is dedicated to my daughter, the giggling witness to the strange and wonderful world her family has created out of insanity (both real and hyperbolic). God help us when she’s old enough to write her own memoir.

Amid the insanity and hilarity are many truths. Lawson ruminates on her adequacy as a parent, worrying about whether or not she makes the grade, as most parents do. In this context, she observes that her daughter, Hailey, was often bored, not having her life scheduled from moment to moment by her parents. Lawson’s views on this particularly resonated with me, because I couldn’t agree more:
“… boredom is good. It makes up most of your life and if you don’t figure out how to conquer it when you’re a kid then you’re sort of fucked as an adult.”
At some point earlier in my adult life, I thought about things that I was grateful for, and one of them was that my parents had let me be bored, to figure out how to amuse myself, because I never would have survived my summer jobs through college if I had a low threshhold for boredom. Four summers on an assembly line! And later, correcting papers for 34 years!

IMG_4243                 The endpapers. Midnight Cat Rodeo. You’ll just have to read the book.

THE BEAUTY: Meet Rory the Dead Raccoon. He’s the reason for the cover and the end papers. When she was little Jenny had Rambo, a rescued, orphaned raccoon. Her father was a taxidermist, yada, yada, yada, and Rambo lived on. In adulthood,  Jeremy Johnson, Jenny’s friend who was also a taxidermist, made Rory so awesome. Jeremy not only made Rory, but a smaller version, Rory Two. So Jenny has two furiously happy raccoons who never let her down. They’re always glad to see her and give her high fives to celebrate her accomplishments, big and small. I want one. Really. Only one. What a more perfect visual expresion of “furiously happy” could there be?



Jenny expresses her opinions on food in “An Essay on Parsley, Wasabi, Cream Cheese, and Soup.” On parsley, “not a fan.” In fact, she reports that seeing it less on her plate in restaurants nowadays tells her that Americans are eating more sushi and less “Americn food.” (The quotes are mine, not hers.) That of course segues neatly in wasabi. “No one ever finishes it.” (Italics and words are hers.) Cream cheese? I’m not going there. You’ll have to read it yourself. Jenny was at a patio party once where she heard they were serving soup as an hors d’oeuvre. Wondering how that was even possible, she spied the waiters handing out flat-bottomed spoons with one slurp of soup in them. And it wasn’t even warm soup. It was gazpacho!


2 cucumbers, halved and seeded, but not peeled
red bell peppers, cored and seeded
8 plum tomatoes
2 red onions
6 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces tomato juice (6 cups)
½ C white wine vinegar
½ C good olive oil
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess.

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

I am a lifelong tomato lover. When I was little and we went on family vacations, my poor, shy, father would have to order a BLT for me for breakfast because I didn’t like traditional breakfast food. He wasn’t always successful, but he always tried. Talk about being a good parent! So I love pretty much all food that centers around tomatoes. Had I known about gazpacho when I was seven, I would have loved it for breakfast.



One of Us is Lying


Book-Cover-One-Of-Us-Is-LyingA friend whose taste in books is similar to mine recommended this book, and I’m so glad she did. Some of my favorite books have been YA recently, (young adult) as is this. It really transported me back to my own high school experience, although, I truly don’t remember the drama as it appears here, but I know it’s true to form. It has to be. I read it in a book. Five students arrive at detention one September afternoon, the usual suspects and some unlikely transgressors, but only four make it out alive. This is not a spoiler, it’s on the the inside front cover summary. The book continues from there chronologically, from the point of view of each of the characters involved. I have to admit, I did have an inkling about the who and why-dunnit, but it didn’t spoil the ending for me at all.

THE BEAUTY: One of the characters plays piano, and this piece, “Variations on the Canon,” represents a touching scene in the book. You’ll see. The piece is meaningful to me because when my husband and I were dating, we once heard this playing in a store or restaurant. He turned to me and asked, “Who wrote this?” I replied, “Pachelbel.” “Taco Bell?” he exclaimed. And believe it or not, because of this lovely piece of music, we actually went to a Taco Bell for the first time. Also, I came down the aisle to this music at our wedding.

THE FOOD: It had to be something with peanut oil, so I had very wide latitude in selecting a recipe to represent this book. Through this blog, I’ve become fond of homemade Indian cuisine.

Vegetable Pullao
Serves 4-6

For the garam masala
1 T cardamom seeds (if you can’t buy the seeds then buy cardamom pods and shell them yourself)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp black cumin seeds (you can use regular cumin seeds if black aren’t available)
1 tsp whole cloves
1/3 of a whole nutmeg (you can break a whole nutmeg by placing it on a cloth and               bashing it with a meat mallet or rolling pin)
a medium stick of cinnamon, about 2in-3in, broken up into 3-4 pieces

For the pullao
1 C basmati rice
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
3 T peanut oil
½ tsp brown mustard seeds
1 hot green chili, finely chopped
4oz potato, peeled and cut into ¼” dice
¼ carrot, peeled and cut into ¼” dice
1½ oz green beans, cut into ¼” segments
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1¼ tsp salt
1 pint water

For the garam masala, put all the garam masala spices in a clean coffee grinder
or other spice grinder and grind as finely as possible. Store in a tightly lidded jar,
away from heat and sunlight. This makes about three tablespoons.

For the pullao, wash the rice in several changes of water then drain. Put the rice in a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain

Peel and finely grate the ginger. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan (with a tight
fitting lid) set over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mustard seeds. As
soon as they begin to pop – a matter of seconds – add the chilli, potato, carrot and
green beans and stir. Add the turmeric and garam masala and stir for one minute.
Add the ginger and saute, stirring, for another minute. Drain the rice and add it to
the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir the rice very gently to mix it into the
other ingredients and coat it with the oil and spices. Cook this way for two

Add the 1 pint water and the salt and bring to the boil. Cover the pan with a very
tight-fitting lid (if you don’t have a very tight-fitting lid then cover the pan with foil
then a lid) then turn the heat to very low and cook for 25 minutes. After this time
try a grain of rice to see if it’s cooked – cook for a few more minutes if necessary.

Once it’s cooked you can leave it with the lid on and the heat turned off for up to
half an hour before serving. Or serve at once on a serving plate. I served this as a main course, but it woud be good paired with a simple protein like grilled chicken.

The Woman in the Window


u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az8458JDs9D0t2hphI9KAc!+WsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuThis was one of those “highly anticipated” novels of 2018, coming out on January 2. A debut novel, it was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list its first week on the market. In the fall of 2016, an 8-house bidding war was going on over the rights to this book. In the end, William Morrow won out, as did A.J. Finn, with a $2 million, 2 book deal. In addition, 37 international publishers are interested, and the film rights were secured by Fox 2000 Pictures before the book was even published. William Morrow may have had an unfair edge on the other houses, as Finn is the nom de plume for Daniel Mallory, who was a Vice President and Executive Editor at Morrow until five days before the book’s publication.

The reader is introduced to Anna Fox, a middle-aged woman living alone in a big house on the upper east side of Manhattan. This woman has a drinking problem, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  As we learn more about Anna it becomes glaringly obvious that something catastrophic has caused Anna’s agoraphobia, but we can only guess as to what that is. This truly was a page-turner and I finished the book in one sitting. (Yes, I am aware of  how blessed I am to be be able to do this.) There were many references to old, black and white noir films, like The 39 Steps, Double Indemnity, Gaslight, The Vanishing, to name a few. Anna spends her days, and nights watching them, and her neighbors, and therein lies the plot. I have to say, I did not see the ending coming at all, and in that regard, it was very satisfying. And somewhat scary. I look forward to seeing what A.J./Daniel writes next, now that he has left his day job. After his book tour, he claims that he will find a larger apartment in Manhattan, and buy a French Bulldog.

THE BEAUTY: I thought this was going to be more difficult that it was, seeing as how there was a lot of darkness in the book. On the roof of Anna’s home, her husband, Ed, had a roof garden built for her. So, I googled roof gardens in Lenox Hill, New York, and found this lovely piece of property for sale by the Corcoran Group, a steal at $936,000.
The condo is a one bedroom, but I think I could sublimate my dream Manhattan penthouse for this modest little gem. I ❤️ New York.

THE FOOD: Anna isn’t much of an eater. She’s so dedicated to her red wine that she doesn’t have the time, or the inclination, to cook. But she did reminisce about a chicken tagine at a restaurant called The Red Cat. There’s a Red Cat in Chelsea near the Highline, but they didn’t have tagine on the menu. Nor did they at The Red Cat Kitchen on Martha’s Vineyard. I had made a chicken tagine once, yeas ago, but didn’t keep the recipe. So I combined a couple to come up with this.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olive
Servings: 4

¼ tsp saffron threads
2 T warm water
2 large yellow onions, chopped
½ C coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus
more for garnish
½ C coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley,
plus more for garnish
4 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
6 T olive oil
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1½ cups cracked green olives
2 preserved lemons, thinly sliced
½ C chicken broth

In a small bowl, soak the saffron in the warm water for 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the onions, the 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup parsley and 2 Tbs. of the lemon juice. Add the cumin, ginger, turmeric, the saffron and its soaking liquid and the salt. Process to a pulpy puree. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag. Add the garlic and 3 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs, seal the bag and massage to coat the chicken with the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Put the olives in a large, heavy fry pan and add water to cover. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the olives and set aside. Thoroughly dry the pan.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the lemon slices and sear until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil to the pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off the excess and reserving the marinade. Working in batches, sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to another plate.

Pour the broth into the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Stir in the reserved marinade and add the chicken and any juices. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 40 minutes.

Add the olives, the reserved lemon slices and the remaining 2 Tbs. lemon juice to the pan with the chicken. Cover and simmer until the chicken is falling-off-the-bone tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish the stew with chopped cilantro and parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Quick Preserved Lemons
Yield 1/2 cup (serving size: 1 teaspoon)

Preserving lemons typically takes 4 to 6 weeks to acquire the right consistency and flavor. However, this quick method bypasses the lengthy preservation time and is a great substitute for the real thing. Use the rind to accent a variety of dishes, from seafood to vegetable stir-fries.

1 C water
2 T kosher salt
2 lemons, washed and quartered

Combine water and salt in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Add lemons; cook 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced to ½ cup and lemon rind is tender. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.

Mash the pulp in a sauce or a stew, or use it to baste chicken or lamb. These can be made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. To distribute the flavor, chop before adding to a dish.

The Woman in Cabin 10


28187230If there are readers out there who don’t have a vague inkling of what this book is about, I’d be very surprised, so I’ll spare you the tedium of a detailed summary. Suffice to say that this murder mystery takes place during the maiden voyage of the Aurora, a super-luxury liner traveling through the fjords of Norway. It’s all about food and drink, spa treatments, with the occasional lecture about the aurora borealis, and rubbing elbows with the very rich, if not so famous. It put me in mind of Agatha Christie’s, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. A murder has been committed – or has it? The only person reporting the murder is Lo Blacklock, a journalist for a travel magazine, who views this trip as a career-promoting opportunity to advance in her company. That is, if she doesn’t blow it. After an investigation by the Johann Nilsson, the ship’s security officer, it seems that Lo is the only one on the ship who saw and heard anything out of the ordinary. Nilsson reduces Lo to a modern- day Cassandra by intimating that a combination of the drugs she takes for anxiety/drepression, plus excessive alcohol consumption and a recent traumatic event at home, has rendered her an unreliable witness at the very least, and more likely, a full-out hallucinating, hysterical mess of a woman. Ware has laid out boldly, a mental health issue that women have been dealing with since way before the drugs to treat these conditions were invented. A pharmaceutical industry that ignores the condition and assigns blame to the individual on the basis of gender. Hallucination is not a side effect of depression. Just because a woman suffering from depression says she saw something that no one else has seen, doesn’t mean that the woman didn’t see it, it means, in this case, anyway, that the investigator in charge of security needs to ignore his underlying prejudice, and ask more questions, in short- do his job. There are twists and turns that set me off the trail of whodunnit, and that, aided by skillful writing, kept me reading non-stop, until I reached the conclusion. I wish all books did that for me.



It was so obvious that some image of the Norwegian fjords would be the image for beauty, that it’s almost embarassing how quickly I found and posted this image. I can feel my blood pressure going down as I gaze at it again. Now that’s powerful medicine.


I find it somewhat odd that in a book about luxury cruising, finding mention of specific foods would be so hard. The first multi-course dinner onboard the Aurora began with “beet-pickled razor clam with a bison-grass foam and air-dried samphire shards.” Not making that one! Samphire is a succulent associated with water bodies and is reported to be rather salty, so air-dried samphire, I’m guessing, would be very salty as well. Also mentioned was fugu, the pufferfish that when consumed might possibly kill you because of its toxins. Not making that one either. The third, specific food was a sandwich that room service left for Lo in her stateroom when she missed lunch in the main dining room. It was “prawn and hard-boiled egg on heavy rye.” Hmmmm. Not making that one either. So I was left with a dessert that the guests enjoyed in the lounge after their second dinner on the ship. Petit fours! I know. It’s ambitious, but I am always up for a culinary challenge, even if it is in my weakest area of expertise: baking.

Petit Fours

Overview: The first step is to make the pound cake. After the cake has cooled completely flip it onto another piece of parchment paper. (Remove the baked parchment paper.) Cut it in half horizontally. This is called torting. You can find YouTube videos that will show you how to do it without expensive kitchen tools.

Once the cake is in two pieces, spread the bottom layer with raspberry or any other jam.(Ingredients in bold print are not listed in the ingredients, so you will have to lan to buy them if you plan to use them.) Then spread a layer of Buttercream Frosting on top and return the top layer of cake to cover the bottom layer. Frost the top layer, smoothing it out so that the fondant will cover smoothly in the next steps. Cut off the edges so that all of your squares will have smooth sides.

To prepare the now-assembled cake for freezing, lift it by the parchment paper and place it back in the sheet pan. Cover with another pan, and place in the freezer for an hour.

Prepare the Petit Four Icing and another baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Place a cooling rack that is larger than the baking sheet on top.

Take the petit four sheet cake out of the freezer and slide onto a working surface. Cut it into squares, around 1.”  Use a ruler to mark the edge of the cake and gently drag a knife on the icing to make cutting lines using a straight edge to get them perfect. Move the now cut petit fours one by one to the prepared cooling rack.

Butter Pound Cake

2¾ C sugar                       3 C all-purpose flour
¾ C salted butter, softened 1tsp baking powder
¾ C shortening                      1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract             ¾ C evaporated milk
5 eggs                                       ¼ C sour cream

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Cream together the sugar, butter and shortening until smooth then beat in
vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk
together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Add this flour
mixture and the evaporated milk to the original mixture alternately. Beat for
2 minutes on medium speed, then fold in the sour cream. Pour the batter
into a prepared half sheet pan. (Parchment on the bottom, spray sides with
cooking spray.)

Bake at 325°F until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean –
approximately 25-35 minutes. Check on it after 25 minutes.

For The Buttercream Frosting
Yield: 4.5 cups

1 C salted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
½ C Crisco shortening (just under 4 oz. on a kitchen scale)
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 lbs powdered sugar
1 T of vanilla extract
2-4 T of milk (add to get consistency to pipe or spread)

First, cream the butter and Crisco in a mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for a
couple of minutes until smooth and creamy. Add in the vanilla and cream
cheese and mix again until very smooth. Gradually add the powdered
sugar until it’s all combined. It will be very stiff. Then begin adding milk until
you reach the desired consistency for decorating (2-3 tablespoons.)

Petit Four Icing (Poured Fondant)

6 C powdered sugar, sifted
½ C water
2 T light corn syrup
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ C white chocolate chips

Start by bringing water in the bottom of a double boiler to boil. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, water, corn syrup
and extracts.

Continue whisking or stirring the until the mixture becomes smooth and
consistent. It should be thin enough to drizzle from a spoon, but not so thin
that it all runs off the cake. When the temperature reaches 92° F, it’s good.

When it’s ready, add in the white chocolate chips and stir until melted. Turn down the heat but keep the water steaming underneath to keep the icing from setting up.

Put the frozen petit fours on a cooling rack set over a cookie
sheet that is lined with wax paper. Spoon the icing over the top to cover the
cakes. Decorate by piping icing in floral, or other shapes on each petit four,
or sprinkle edible mini shapes (stars, sprinkles, etc) on each one.

This recipe was way too much work, so I won’t be doing this again. The hardest part was covering the cut cakes with the poured fondant, even though I had watched several YouTube videos of people demonstrating how to cover them. I am not a confident baker, so my technique was wanting. Jim liked them better than me- they were too sweet. Also, I bought the fancy tool for torting, but couldn’t use it because my sheet cake wasn’t thick enough. I cut a couple of cakes in half and spread raspberry jam between the layers. Really made a difference, so don’t skip that step if you can help it.


A Gentleman in Moscow


This book reminded me of the film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, in its lavishness, eccentricity, and cast of low-key, but idiosyncratic characters, most notably, the Count, Alexander Iliyich Restov, or “Sasha” to his friends. This book truly had everything I love in a novel: interesting, actual locations, introspective musings by characters I like, lots of food, literary, historical and art references, and an underlying moral to the story, that is uplifting. And of course, a love story, in this case, underplayed and unexpected. As a fan of Rules of Civility, I expected the writing to be impressive, and I was not disappointed. The following excerpt (the Count is enjoying his lunch in the grand dining room of the Metropol hotel) encapsulates a lot of the things I loved about Towles’ writing, although it is a bit long. (But then, so is the book!) The Count’s impeccable taste buds are legendary in his little universe:
“Turning his attention to the okroshka (cold soup), the Count could tell that any Russian in the room might have been served by his grandmother. Closing his eyes in order to give the first spoonful its due consideration, the Count noted a suitably chilled temperature, a tad too much salt, a tad too little kvass, but a perfect expression of dill – that harbinger of summer which brings to mind the songs of crickets and the setting of one’s soul at ease.”
I frequently find myself casting the movie version of the books that I read, and this one was no exception. One of the hotel’s semi-permanent guests is a 9 year-old, enormously precocious girl called Nina Kulikova. In the movie she would be played by a twelve year-old Saorsie Ronan, the age she was  when she was in Atonement. Now that I think of it, she was in The Grand Budapest Hotel, too. I had trouble casting the Count. The best I could do was Henry Cavill, although I did consider Hugh Jackman for a time.


When I did a search of sights to see in Moscow, this was the image that immediately caught my eye.


St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, begun in 1554, was built by Ivan the Terrible, the first Tsar of Russia. It has 9 chapels within it, the 9th of which was dedicated to St. Basil, who was buried in the cathedral in 1557. What a unique and beautiful building.


It had to be okroshka, but not just because of the excerpt above. Truth is, I wanted to make kvass, which is a fermented drink that Russians reportedly drink like Coke. The most fun recipes to make are those that take me far from my comfort zone.  It’s an adventure for me. Granted, it all takes place in my kitchen, and there’s very little danger involved, but it’s still an exciting journey.

Bread Kvass
Serving: 20-24

2.5 gallons or 10 qt of water
1 lb or 9 slices of classic black, dark or rye bread
1 handful of raisins
1.8 lb (4 cups) of sugar
1.5 tablespoons of active dry yeast
6 large plastic soda bottles

DAY 1: (best if prepared in the evening)

Fill a giant stock pot with 2.5 gallons of water (or divide it into two large pots)
and bring to a boil. While waiting, toast the bread slices twice on the darkest
toaster setting. Darker bread makes darker kvass.

When the water starts to boil, remove the pot from heat. Add a handful of raisins
and the toasted bread to the pot, cover with the lid and let it stay overnight or at
least 8 hours.

DAY 2:

Carefully remove the toasted bread and discard it. Quickly warm up the kvass on
the stove, until it is around 95°F. Don’t use water hotter than 110°F, or it will kill
the yeast. If the water is cold, the yeast won’t activate.

In a medium bowl, mix together 4 cups of sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of yeast,
add them to kvass mixture and stir.

Cover with plastic wrap or lid and leave the mixture on the counter for another 6
hours, stirring every couple hours.

Using a strainer lined with cheese cloth, pour kvass into a Pyrex 4 cup
measuring cup, then pour the kvass from the measuring cup into the bottles.
Squeeze some of the air out of the bottle before loosely covering with the lid.
Refrigerate overnight. Check the bottles to release air if they expand. The
following day once the bottles are completely chilled, you can tighten the lids.

DAY 3: enjoy

It’s best to store kvass in plastic soda bottles since they are designed to hold
pressurized drinks.

IMG_4229 IMG_4230 IMG_4232
1. Double-toasted bread      2. Yeast and sugar working       3. Kvass!
in boiling water.                     their magic.

Okroshka with Kvass
Serves 2-4

3 C of okroshka kvass not sweet kvass, chilled
4 oz ham steaks, finely cubed
2 medium potatoes peeled, cooked and finely cubed
2 hard boiled eggs, cubed
½ long english cucumber finely cubed
5-6 radishes finely cubed
1/2 tsp salt
1 C sour cream to dollop when serving
2 green onions sliced
bunch of dill chopped about 1/4 cup

Hardboil the eggs and cook the potatoes until cooked, but not overcooked
and soft. Peel and cut into small cubes. Cool the eggs and cut into cubes.

Cut the ham, cucumber, radishes into the smallest cubes you can.

Slice the green onions and dill and set aside for when you are garnishing.

Place eggs, potatoes, ham, cucumber, radishes and salt in a large bowl.
Add the chilled kvass and stir together.

It’s best to refrigerate for an hour to allow the soup to get really cold, before
serving with the sour cream, dill and green onions. When mixing the sour
cream, stir quickly so it doesn’t curdle.

We had this for lunch in February when it was 20º outside, and it was delicious- like nothing I’ve ever tasted. I can imagine how refreshing this would be on a hot summer night.




The Immortalists

51U8yycY-9L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_THE BOOK: When I finished reading the last page, I paused, and thought, what is this book about? Some themes were obvious: family, siblings, finding your own way into adulthood, choices. But there also seems to be so much more going on underneath all that, and I attribute that to the CHOICES this author made in crafting her story. For example, when I came to a plot point that I found implausible, (there were two, actually) I thought that the character simply would not have acted in that particular way based on what information the author had revealed about her. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what the author didn’t say about each of the characters was just as important as the things that she did. And that’s what made those two sticking points ultimately work for me, because in life, we think we know our loved ones, our friends – ourselves, and can predict what they will do. But in fact, there is much that is unknown to others beneath our veneers. That, coupled with the fact that different people will interpret observable behavior in different ways, makes it nearly impossible to be completely surprised by the actions of even those closest to us.

When the novel begins, the Gold children are surreptitiously making their way to a house in their neighborhood in 1969’s New York City. Having heard the rumors of a traveling psychic who arrived on Hester St., they have to sneak past their father’s tailor shop on the way to their destination. Eleven year-old Daniel leads the way, followed by Varya, the eldest at thirteen, Klara, 9 and Simon, 7. What the pyschic tells each child, shapes their lives in ways that are both interesting and exciting to read about.

I read this book in one sitting. (Late night reading due to insomnia, followed by reading well  into the next day, which turned out to be a snow day!) I never lost interest in the story, and could not wait to see what would happen next. I think the writing was masterful, because I didn’t notice it as it propelled me through the narrative. I think it would be a good book for group discussion, because right now, I wish I had someone to talk to about it while it’s still fresh on my mind.


In a scene near the end of the book, Varya finally tells her elderly mother about that long ago visit of the Gold children to the psychic. When Gertie, her mother, pooh poohs the predictions the psychic made for each child, she calls it junk, as in “How could you believe such junk? After everything I gave you: education, opportunity- modernity! How could you turn out like me?” Finally, Varya understands that her parents, immigrants, gave their four children the freedom of uncertainty. The freedom of an unsure fate. Her parents had few options when they were young, and their choice to emigrate to America was a scary, and unselfish beginning to a lifetime of unselfish choices that gave their four children opportunities for a better life. Varya’s mother and father abandoned their dreams in order to support their family. Varya and her siblings had choices, and the luxury of self-examination. Especially now, while a DACA decision deadline approaches in the immediate future, the beauty is the immigrant stories that contribute to the fabric of American life.


Varya’s friend, Ruby, lives on the sixth floor of their apartment building. Her family is Hindi, and Varya frequently trades her own mother’s kugel for some of Ruby’s mother’s spiced buttered chicken. They eat their delicacies on the fire escape and talk about the strange woman who has reportedly come to town.


For the marinade
Part 1:
1½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 C full fat yogurt
1 T lemon juice
1 T Mexican chili powder (do NOT use chilli pepper! They are not the same!)
3 – 4 drops liquid smoke

Part 2:
2 T garlic paste or 6 garlic cloves
1 T garam masala
3 T butter (melted)
1 T Mexican chili powder
2 T ginger paste
1 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil

To Marinate, Part 1: Place cubed chicken in a nonporous bowl with yogurt, lemon juice, chili powder, salt and liquid smoke. Thread the chicken pieces onto some pre-soaked bamboo skewers to marinate. This makes getting the pieces out of the marinade much easier and less messy. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Marinate, Part 2: Mix in garlic, garam masala, butter, chili powder, ginger paste, lemon juice and oil. Replace cover and refrigerate to marinate for another 3 to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken on an oven sheet and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

1 T butter
1 T garam masala
1 T ginger paste
1 T garlic paste
1 green chili pepper, chopped

To Make Sauce: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 1 T garam masala. When masala begins to puff and bubble, mix in ginger, garlic paste and green chile peppers. Saute 5 minutes.

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 T Mexican chili powder
½ T garam masala
1 drop liquid smoke

1⁄2 tablespoon honey or 1⁄2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves
1 cup heavy cream

Then stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, salt, ½ T garam masala, and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring in honey, fenugreek and cream.

Place cooked chicken in sauce mixture. Simmer on medium-low heat for about an hour or until liquid is reduced by ⅓.

Salt to taste and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro (optional).

**Be careful with the liquid smoke, it can easily overpower the dish.
When you simmer the sauce, be careful not too reduce it too much, or it will become a bit too red and “tomato’y”. Butter Chicken should be a nice orange color.

**You will need to go to an Indian grocery store for the fenugreek leaves though. Standard grocery stores will not carry them. Do NOT use seeds instead of leaves! Fenugreek seeds are very bitter whereas the leaves are more sweet. (I think the dish would have been fine without the fenugreek, but I had it, so I used it.)

We give the dish 2 enthusiastic thumbs up.