Another Turn of the Page: Boo!

“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1

I may have mentioned before, many times, that October is my favorite month. The days shorten, the leaves change, the air becomes cooler and crisper. It is a great time of the year for your imagination to run wild because October not only has Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) but also Samhain, when Pagan Celts, about 2000 years ago, celebrated the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain this separation between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. To ward off the ghosts and spirits people would don costumes and light bonfires. Sound familiar? Today we don costumes and light our jack o’lanterns for fun but in the past it was serious stuff. So keep those candles burning. October also has National Cat Day (10/29) and National Fossil Day (10/13). And among many others it is Bat Appreciation Month, Feral Hog Month, Pizza Month, Popcorn Popping Month and Squirrel Awareness Month.

I chose the quote listed above because it is the source for two book titles. By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie and Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Dame Agatha gets all spooky in this one, starting out with an old lady in a tranquil nursing home calmly saying that the milk is not poisoned TODAY and inquiring about the body walled up in the fireplace. But Bradbury’s book of the nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to a sleepy Midwestern town in Illinois is one of my favorites. I recommend the book as well as the movie.

Our book group did not get an assignment to read spooky books so our selections are all over the map. Hope you find one for yourself in the mix.

  1. The Saboteurs (Isaac Bell #12) by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul (2021) 400p.
    Clive Cussler died in February of 2020. From what I can tell this book was already in the works and Clive teamed upped with authors in the past so this would not be an exception. In this one, Isaac finds himself saving a senator from an assassination attempt in San Diego. This leads him to Panama to investigate a native insurrection group that’s determined to sabotage the construction of the Panama Canal.
  2. The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict (2021) 341p.
    The little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian–who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true. Belle was a Black woman who passed for white her entire life.
  3. Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis (2017) 418p.
    The story is split between the past and the present. Billy Harvey is a Chicago cop who busts a high end prostitution ring with his partner. Shortly there after he is the only survivor in a shootout that claims this partner and assistant district attorney, both of whom he was sleeping with. One problem, he has lost his memory of the events leading up to the shootout. This was previously reviewed by Pete in our group who lent it to Dan. Both of the them enjoyed it.
  4. JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty (1992) 402p.
    The author, a former CIA operative known as “X,” offers a history-shaking perspective on the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. His theories were the basis for Oliver Stone’s controversial movie JFK. Prouty believed that Kennedy’s death was a coup d’état, and he backs this belief up with his knowledge of the security arrangements at Dallas and other tidbits that only a CIA insider would know. This was reviewed by Dan last month who gave it to Sue, his wife, to read for this month. Dan really liked it, Sue said it only got interesting when it got to the assassination otherwise she was bored. You decide.
  5. “Hello” LIED the Agent and other Bullshit You Hear as a Hollywood TV Writer by Ian Gurvitz (2006) 342p.
    Ian Gurvitz takes the reader through the trying process to get a half-hour comedy show picked up by a network. In his personal journal, he details two years of his life dealing with the constant rewrites, the executives, the pitch meetings, the table readings, the studios, and the networks.
  6. The Surrogate by Louise Jensen (2018) 321p.
    Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives them one last chance because Lisa suggests she be a surrogate. But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets. And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye. A psychological thriller with twists and turns.
  7. The Whisperer (Inspector Sejer Mystery #13) by Karin Fossum (2020) 336p.
    Karin Fossum is Norway’s Queen of Crime but I am embarrassed to say I have never heard of her. This is the 13th mystery in her series but reads like a standalone. Ragna Reigel is the Whisperer, a woman who lives a small routine driven life. A botched surgical operation on her throat has left her vocal chords damaged and unable to speak normally, only able to whisper. The book is basically a character study. We know early on that Ragna has committed a terrible crime but it is only revealed at the end.
  8. Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio (2013) 400p.
    In 1917 May Dugas was placed on trial for extortion. She was considered at the time as one of the most dangerous women in the world by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Beautiful, resourceful, cunning, May used all her wiles to seduce men and gain an advantage in life. The novel opens at her trial and flashes back on her notorious career.
  9. Dark Sky (Joe Pickett #21) by C.J. Box (2021) 351p.
    Game Warden Joe Pickett, agrees to take a Silicon Valley CEO on an elk hunt into the Bighorn Mountains. Little does he know that someone with a grudge against the CEO is hunting them. Meanwhile Nate Romanowski is going up against thieves who deal in the illegal falconry trade.
  10. Her Heart for a Compass by Sarah Ferguson (2021) 549p.
    Yes, that Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. This is her first adult novel. In it, she chronicles a young noblewoman’s coming of age during Victorian England. The character is based on one of the Duchess’s ancestors.
  11. The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate (2020) 388p.
    A historical story based on real articles written in the late 1800’s (post Civil War) by former slaves searching for members of their families, many of whom they last saw in sale pens and auction yards, as they were being sold off to new owners. Three women, a former black slave, a mulatto and a white, are brought together as they make a dangerous journey to Texas.
  12. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (2019) 270p.
    The author, a single Mom trying to make end’s meet, turns to a job in housekeeping. She works days and attends online classes at night. Her resulting experience is an expose of upper middle-class America and what it is like to be in service to them.

The Foodies Cook Dinner

Up until now I have regaled you with the many restaurant adventures we had while in Bellingham and Orcas Island, Washington. Except for CARNAL, all of our meals out ended up being big lunches. By the time dinner rolled around we were either still full from lunch or just weren’t in the mood to go back out. After all we had this wonderful lodge with a full kitchen and wonderful decks and grounds with walking trails. We had great views and good friends who certainly knew how to prepare food..

House and Deck
Deck on the water w/ these views to the right and left

Dinners usually ended up being scrambled eggs and toast, or frozen pizza. Cheese and crackers, fruit and of course, wine. However one night we decided to put some of our cooking skills to work. Earlier in the day we had gone to the weekly Farmer’s Market in Eastsound. It was small and close to the end of season but the veggies we found looked pretty good. Curt bought a bag of fingerling potatoes and Barbara purchased some freshly picked broccoli. That broccolini at CARNAL was still in the back of our minds. Even with a pretty well-stocked kitchen, at least with dishes and utensils, we didn’t have all the extras needed to properly cook meat and besides timing would have been an issue. So we stopped at a local grocery and picked up a rotisserie chicken. Back at the lodge that evening, we got to work.

Six in a kitchen is pretty crowded so by the time I took these shots, Curt had the potatoes in the oven, Barbara was doing the broccoli, Kenn was cutting up the chicken, Michael was opening wine and Pam was getting all of the dishes ready. I was taking pictures.

Cooperative Cooking

The chicken was easy. Well at least the cooking of it. Kenn made sure all of the pieces were equal portions and he even presented a separate platter with bones, carcass and skin (Darn! missed a picture of that plate). I think he was making sure nothing would go to waste, a true hunter.

Curt made use of the juice that surrounded the chicken in the pan. After quartering the potatoes, he rolled them in olive oil so they were well coated. Put them in a 375 – 400 degree oven and roasted them till they were a nice golden brown. Once they came out of the oven he drizzled them with the roast chicken juices and once again gave them a good stir.

Along with the broccoli, Barbara had bought a red onion. She thinly sliced it and sauteed it in olive oil. Once the onions started to brown a bit she added the peeled stalks of broccoli. Once the broccoli started to brown she added about 2 Tbls.of water and covered the pan for several minutes. If you do this make sure it doesn’t overcook and get mushy. You want the broccoli (or broccolini) to be crisp but tender. Salt and pepper to taste and wa-la, a simple yet great vegetable dish.

Along with a couple of bottles of wine, we tucked in. Were there leftovers? Ha! Everything, though fairly simple, was so good we practically licked the platters clean.

Eating in Eastsound

I keep going back to the eating we did on our recent trip to Bellingham and Orcas Island. The town closest to where we stayed on Orcas was Eastsound. It is the biggest town on the island and it reminded me of Bar Harbor, Maine or the many towns on Door County in Wisconsin, like Fish Creek or Egg Harbor. In Eastsound we ate twice at a restaurant called The Madrona Bar & Grill.

On our own I don’t think we ever would have found Madrona but our friends who live in Bellingham had been to Orcas before and had knew where this eatery was hiding. The sign for Madrona hangs on the corner of a building that houses a completely different business.

If you look around the corner and down the length of the building you can just see where the entrance is located. Way down there where those two people are standing, the lady in the tan jacket and the guy behind the post on the right.

Here is a better picture of these two hungry people waiting for our table, our friend Pam, who brought us to Madrona, and Curt, my husband from behind the post.

This was our second visit and from this shot you can tell it was a rainy, gray day but the view was still great and the food was still good.

The view just to the right.

Inside was a cozy bar and grill with tables. The first day on the island we ate there and sat at a table but on Sunday it was more crowded so we had to sit at the bar. The only issue I have with sitting at a bar is, with a large group, it is difficult to converse. The people at the far ends get left out a lot. The pictures below are from the website when it was not crowded.

Madrona serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and the menu is fairly ambitious for a bar. Both of the times we were there was for lunch but this link will take you to the full menu.

We tried both of the soups on the menu and both were excellent. The chowder had a lot of potatoes but also good sized pieces of clams. The crab bisque was savory. Both with a hunk of crusty bread would have been a fine lunch on their own.

New England Clam Chowder and Crab Bisque

Of course they had fish. I imagine the ice cream shoppes out here probably have fish. Caesar salad is common in many of the restaurants and this one was no exception. This one had Sockeye salmon as its add on. The other common denominator is fish & chips. Madrona’s fish & chips was a beer battered Rockfish.

Sockeye Salmon and Beer Battered Rockfish

A couple of starters and a side was lunch for another member of our party. There were enough onion rings to go around. All three of these were great with a cold beer.

Coconut Shrimp ( top), Pan fried Oysters (bottom)
Onion Rings

Both times we ate at this restaurant I didn’t order seafood. However, the sandwiches I had were some of the best I have had in awhile. On the first visit I had the Madrona Burger which was definitely a four napkin sandwich. On it was smoked bacon, melted Tillamook (a dairy in Oregon) cheddar, red onion, tomato, buttered lettuce and roasted garlic aioli, served with a pile of fries. It was one of those messy burgers that are so good you don’t care how you look eating it.

The sandwich I had the 2nd time was the bacon, lettuce and tomato. The same great smoked bacon that had been on the burger and the bread was from a multigrain boule. With this I ordered the cole slaw. It was also a really good sandwich even if it wasn’t as messy as the burger.

Madrona Burger and BLT

I don’t know about you but having a great lunch in a bar, a couple of beers and being with good friends on a rainy day was just a perfect afternoon.

Finding the Bistro, Oyster and Wine Bar at Buck Bay

Friday on Orcas Island and the foodie group heads out to find lunch. I am not sure what our original destination was but as we drove through Eastsound, probably the biggest town on the island, Curt said, “Let’s find the Bistro on Buck Bay.” He had found a listing in one of the guidebooks that mentioned the Bistro, Oyster and Wine Bar at Buck Bay. Buck Bay was way out on the left arm of the island near the town of Olga. But since we were on a small island that meant about 18 miles. We called the members of the other car and told them the plan, plugged the address into our GPS and off we went.

The address took us to a fish market on the water. Lots of cars, lots of people, picnic tables, tents but no “Bistro”. So we reconnoitered and came to the conclusion that indeed the “Fish Market” was the Bistro. We found a place to park and joined the line at the big door in the barn.

Once inside we found a counter, a chalkboard with the selections for the day and a lot of happy hungry people. Here is the online menu but the chalkboard had the current list of what they were out of and today’s substitutions.

Once it was our turn we were told that after we ordered to find a seat and listen for our name to be called. The day we were there they were out of dungeness crab but instead halibut tacos were listed. So along with 1/2 dozen oysters, that is what Curt ordered. I had a bite of those tacos and they were very good.

Fish Tacos

I ordered the the crab cakes and they came on a china plate with edible flowers as garnish. I guess that is the touch of the bistro. They were small but filling. I was not disappointed.

Crab Cakes

Pam and Kenn both had the halibut fish n’ chips with slaw and fries. They were quite pleased with their choice and declared it wonderful. Lots of fries so they shared those but not the fish; it was too good.

Halibut Fish n’ Chips

Barbara and Michael went with the Caesar Salad. This was a combination of kale, house ceasar dressing, anchovies and bread crumbs. Barbara added seared halibut to hers and Michael added blackened prawns. They thought it good but maybe a little too much kale.

Caesar Salad w/ Blackened Shrimp

Even though this wasn’t a traditional bistro, this was the best dining we had on the island. The food was good and fresh, the day was sunny and we were eating outside. And behind us was Buck Bay, the namesake of the restaurant and probably where most of our dinner came from.

The foodies dine al fresco

A Carnal Gift

For us, one of the best things about travel is the food. Our recent trip to Bellingham, Washington and Orcas Island was no exception. I have written about our old foodie group here before and this trip was a reunion of those diners. Traveling with another couple, we joined our friends who now live in Bellingham. Instead of cooking a big meal they told us that they would be treating us to a new restaurant in Bellingham called CARNAL. Knowing we were going there, even before we left Green Bay, we, of course, checked out the menu. We thought it curious that at the top of the menu, and with a whole page dedicated to it on their website, was their house made beef jerky. We knew then that this was going to be a different sort of restaurant. But we are always game to try something new.

menu at CARNAL

Not a lot of choices on the menu but we were a party of 6 so lots of opportunity to try a variety of dishes. After ordering a bottle of wine, a dry Riesling, we went with two small plates to start. The first was the Gem Lettuce Salad. Simple but tasty with a buttermilk herb dressing.

Gem Lettuce Salad

Along with this we ordered Fried Chicken Wings which came with four wings but we asked them to add two more which was no problem. These were fried with a chicken bone honey, plum vinegar and black pepper. They were excellent and would have made a really fine main dish.

Fried Chicken Wings

To round out the appetizers we ordered the large plate of Grilled Broccolini. It seemed unusual that this was listed in the large plates alongside all of the meat dishes but it probably was the vegetarian alternative. No matter, covered with smoked sunflower seeds, it was delicious and we quickly devoured it.

Grilled Broccolini

On to the main event. Another bottle of wine was ordered first, this time a Syrah.

Three of us ordered the Hanger Steak. As the menu states it was served on walnut glazed sweet potatoes and accompanied by a leek, collard green beef jus. It was wonderful but unfortunately everything on the plate was the same color so not a visually interesting dish but by far the winner of the night. My deep apologies that the best entree was the worst photo.

Roasted Hanger Steak

Pam ordered the Slow Cooked Beef Short Rib and though she said it tasted good, she expected something labeled as “slow cooked” to be super tender and falling off the bone. It did not fall off the bone. I agree with the flavor, as she offered tastes to the rest of us. A peach and caramelized fennel puree completed this dish.

Slow-cooked Beef Short Rib

Sadly we now come to the disappointing dish of the evening and two of our party ordered this. On paper it sounded pretty good and different, which is probably why the two most adventurous eaters among us ordered it. This was the Grilled Pork Collar with marinated cucumber, kiwi and lemon grass. If you check the menu, there is no mention of mint, there is no mention of this being a salad but indeed that is what they were served. The meat was shredded and buried in mint leaves. It may have been grilled but who knows. It was also extremely salty. I have to say, that once Curt told the waitress that the dish was not what he expected, she offered to replace it with another menu item but since we were all well into eating he declined.

Grilled Pork Collar?

But even this couldn’t dampen our spirits. We’ve been together over thirty years, through thick and thin, good food, and mediocre food and it has all been part of the journey.

By the way, before we left I bought a bag of jerky to take home.

More food adventures to come!

Another Charity Dinner

We did it again, joined friends in bidding at a charity auction for Unity Hospice, a nonprofit hospice in our area. There are many items to bid on but we always bid on the dinner for eight, cooked and hosted by a former chef in the Green Bay area. The two couples who do the actual bidding are pretty determined and once again, despite having to bid against someone they knew, they were successful. The ironic part was the opposing bidder was going to gift it to our group but hadn’t shared that bit of news. No matter, we eventually won and the money goes to a good cause. Because of Covid our previous dinner was in 2019.

The theme this time was Love Around the World, Fun, Fellowship and Food from 10 Different Countries. Hearts were in evidence in the decorations and the food since “caring is at the “heart” of Unity’s patient-focused mission.”

Our centerpiece
Our name tags

Before coming to the table we had an appetizer and wine on the deck of our chef’s house. And the heart theme began right away. Snowpeas with a savory cream cheese formed into a heart shape and scattered about the plate were tiny deep red hearts, which had been punched out of a red cabbage leaf.

Snowpeas w/cheese, Tiny Red Cabbage Hearts

Then we were called to dinner.

The first of eight courses was Armastus, Love from Estonia. This consisted of a seeded crostini (heart shaped), proscuitto, avocado, radish slices and sprouts. It was very delicate.

This was followed by a beet salad, L’Amour, Love from France. Yellow beets, red beets and pink & white chioggia beets, citrus slices, chevre (goat cheese) and pistachios amidst a beet sauce.

These first two course were light and refreshing but now things started to get serious. Next up was Amore, Love from Spain. Shrimp on shredded green mango, passion fruit/habanero dressing and tiny purple potato chips around the sides. The shrimp was very good, the chips were marvelous.

Cinta, Love from Indonesia, was a heart-shaped piece of tuna (and pieces of tuna throughout the salad) with Pomelo, a lovely citrus fruit, and chili,coconut, lime and peanut crisps.

At this point we were presented with a palette cleanser. A lemon ice served on a circular block of ice with rose petals within.

Next we moved on to Liefde, Love from The Netherlands. This was our chicken dish. The chicken was with peppers and onions on couscous. Around the outside, pureed chickpeas with harissa and preserved lemon. I didn’t find this to be the prettiest of the dishes but it certainly tasted much better than it looked.

Rak, Love from Thailand was a lettuce wrap with beef bulgogi. We ate it by rolling it up and dipping it into the kampot pepper dip. A little lime squeezed on the wrap brightened the dish.

On to course seven. Whew! This had all been wonderful and now we were at Lo Affeto, Love from Italy. I love Italian food and this was Pork Sugo, a shredded pork shoulder in a tomato wine sauce. It had been cooked for hours and there was no way I was going to ignore it even if I was getting quite full. Notice the heart-shaped pappardelle. Buona!

And now to the finale, the dessert. This was just Love, yes, love from America. On the toothpicks with golden hearts was a pound cake, a strawberry, a banana, a nut roll and marshmallows. We dipped these into a dark chocolate fondue. Perfect!

And we were done. In between each course was good conversation, laughter and stories and tales. Our wine and water glasses were always kept full. I think we are already wondering what our chef may do next year. If she is willing to participate again you can be assured we will be bidding!

Another Turn of the Page: Ah! September

“That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning,
as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”

— Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose)

It is hard to believe we are more than halfway through September. It was always a bittersweet month for me. I loved the cooler temperatures,which are starting to be a thing of the past. The leaves had started to take on their wonderful color but hadn’t yet fallen and filled the yard and the tomatoes, I waited all summer for, had finally ripened. But in the early years when my husband was still teaching, September was a lean month. Even though I was working he had the summer off and his first paycheck of the new school year did not arrive till October 1, so we were still in our budgeting mode. Those tomatoes that we waited so long for all seemed to ripen at once and we canned and froze a lot of sauce. With school starting it was a busy month for both my husband and son. Being a librarian I had already survived a busy summer of reading programs and longed for a bit quiet reader advisory to adults who ventured into the library again now that the children were back in school. But these days nothing is like it used to be. Our library still had virtual reading programs this past summer. I think they are starting storytimes again but people are coming back slowly. The library seems much too quiet, even for a library. Kids are going back to school but the coronavirus is still around and everyone fights about what to do: masks, no masks, requiring vaccines or not and what to do when someone gets sick. I never though my life was simpler, there really aren’t good old days, but it certainly was different. Now I don’t want to get too negative here. We still have school, libraries, people making a difference, people who care and we still have books. Thank God, we still have books. Here are some of the ones we read this month:

  1. Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson (2021) 324p. Bree Cabbat is momentarily distracted while she watches her daughter’s play rehearsal. When she looks behind her to the car seat where she had her infant son, he is gone. Her fear becomes all to real when she is contacted and discovers something far more sinister awaits her than just a ransom demand. Before her son is returned, she must complete a task, one that will have repercussions she can’t imagine.
  2. Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon (2020) 451p. This historical novel set during WWII tells the story of Nancy Wake, the unsung French Resistance leader who was #1 on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list by the end of the war.
  3. The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel (2020) 388p. Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when she notices a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. It’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names. In 1942, she forged identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But in this book, in code, she recorded their real names.
  4. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (2017) 403p. The third book in a row, set during WWII. It is the spring of 1939, in Radom, Poland, and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing horrors overtaking Europe which will soon be on their doorstep.
  5. JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty (1992) 402p. The author, a former CIA operative known as “X,” offers a history-shaking perspective on the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. His theories were the basis for Oliver Stone’s controversial movie JFK. Prouty believed that Kennedy’s death was a coup d’état, and he backs this belief up with his knowledge of the security arrangements at Dallas and other tidbits that only a CIA insider would know.
  6. Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell (1997) 128p. This novella, by the author of Gone With The Wind, was written when she was only 16. It only came to light 60 years after the author’s death. It shows the promise that was to come in her classic novel. Her heroine in this is strong willed and believes in her honor over her life, and the two men that love her are as different as night and day. There are shades of Rhett Butler in both of these men, and hints of Scarlett in the heroine of this tale.
  7. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (2021) 476p. Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. By the author of The Martian.
  8. Clark and Division by Naomi Harahira (2021) 305p. And yet another novel set during WWII. Set in 1944 Chicago, this mystery is the story of a young woman searching for the truth about her revered older sister’s death. It brings to focus the struggles of one Japanese American family released from mass incarceration at Manzanar during World War II.
  9. Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad (2019) 304p. No we didn’t plan this but when we got to our last book of the morning it was set in 1940, one year into WWII. It tells the story of Source Columba. This was the code name for the program to air-drop thousands of homing pigeons in France during the German occupation. It was hoped that French Resistance fighters would use the pigeons to send strategic information to England about German troop movement and the location of their planes and tanks. The pigeons would carry the messages in tiny canisters attached to their legs. Strange but true!

Tomato Season

Why do all of the tomatoes seem to ripen in one week? We wait all summer for them and then they come in such a rush there is no way you can keep up just eating them fresh. When we were first married we canned or froze spaghetti sauce. Later our sauce made way for dried tomatoes in oil. Then we were on a roasted tomato sauce kick. But the latest method for putting up a lot of tomatoes is to make the sauce for Shakshuka. Once again, my intrepid husband found this dish in his browsing of foodie sites and his passion for cookbooks.

Shuk is an open-air marketplace with stalls and stands selling vegetables, meats, breads, fruit,nuts, yogurts, cheeses but also there are cafes and restaurants.
Shuk is the heart of Israel’s towns and cities where you will meet a wide range of people: Persians, Yemenites, Moroccans, Iraqis, Syrians, Russians, as well as Palestinians and many others, all searching for good food.
Shuk is a melting pot of classic dishes from many origins.
Shuk is a cookbook by Einat Admony & Janna Gur, from which our recipe is adapted.

In Israel, if you ask what the top iconic dishes are, people will mention Shakshuka next to hummus and falafel. It is a simple eggs-in-sauce dish that was brought to Israel by North African immigrants. It has since become a midweek breakfast or go to lunch, always served with bread to mop up the sauce.

So this past Saturday our kitchen became a one man Shakshuka sauce factory. I stayed out of it except for some picture taking. Many containers now fill a portion of our freezer waiting to be thawed out for an evening dinner when we will add some chunkier pieces of onions, peppers, tomatoes or eggplant. Poach a couple of eggs in the hot sauce and have dinner. Eggs not your passion? You can certainly add sausage or grilled chicken. There are also green and yellow variations of Shakshuka but since we were blessed with tomatoes this is the recipe for,

Spicy Red Shakshuka

Onions, peppers and tomatoes for two batches of sauce

In a food processor, separately, mince 2 medium yellow onions, I large red pepper, 8 large ripe tomatoes (1.75 pounds) or in our case, the equivalent in plum tomatoes.

Onions and Peppers

The original recipe called for a spice mixture called Filfel Chuma, a close relative of Harissa. But we didn’t have that. So this is our substitute:
Spice Mix
1/2 Tbs Harissa
1 tsp sugar
1/2 Tbs paprika
1/2 Tbs cumin, ground
1 tsp caraway seed, ground ( we were out of caraway so we substituted 1 Tbs. Kümmel, a caraway liqueur or you could use caraway extract)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced
1 Tbs lemon juice (Save for later, do not add to spice mix)

Dry spices & Caraway liqueur

At this point you are ready to go. Heat 2 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions and peppers and cook until just softened. Add 2 Tbs tomato paste and saute for another 2 minutes.

Onions and peppers

Stir in the diced tomatoes, a tsp salt and all of the spice mixture. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the sauce is thick and shiny. Add the lemon juice just before serving.

At this point you can go in two directions. The first is to let it cool and put it into freezer containers for later use. Or transfer a large amount into another pan, and like I mentioned earlier, add some fresh onion and pepper chunks, and cook until they are soft. With a large spoon create little wells in the sauce. For each well, break an egg into a cup or ramekin and slip it into a well. Cover and simmer till the whites are set. Add some roasted eggplant between the eggs, sprinkle with a little olive oil and warm it through. Serve the shakshuka directly from the skillet and have plenty of crusty bread.

Another Turn of the Page: August!!!

“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”
― Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

August has been weird. Even with the Delta Variant getting worse, Afghanistan becoming unstable, all of the issues at the border and a climate change report that looks grim, I still feel comforted that Joe Biden is in charge and not the other guy. Our little book group was smaller this month because of vacations being taken, grandchildren visiting, a knee operation and other health concerns. The weather again goes from really hot days to pleasant days to incredible storms. But those eight that came last Thursday to our book gathering were as enthusiastic as ever and we had some really interesting books reported on. You know things are good when notes are being taken and members ask for a repeat of the title and author. Every time we get together I am grateful we made it through the worst of last year and still can share our varied reading.

  1. Devoted by Dean Koontz (2020) 380p. An autistic boy, a Golden retriever with a special gift -throw in a hired killers, corrupted police officials, and maybe an infected Zombie like killer, and you’ve got classic Dean Koontz.
  2. John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman (2014) 672p. Our reviewer said this book read more as a history of film making than a biography. She found herself skimming page upon page of intricate details of production/direction of his movies. The actual parts relating to John Wayne on a personal level were few and far between.
  3. Dance for the Dead (Jane Whitfield #2) by Thomas Perry (1998) 324p. Jane Whitefield is a one-woman witness protection program. She helps people disappear, mainly women and children fleeing abusive men or criminals fleeing other criminals. Even though you should read the first book in the series just to get the gist of how she operates, this book is much better and a page turner. Our reviewer Paul, said he never saw the end coming.
  4. 19th Christmas ( Women’s Murder Club #19 ) by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro (2019) 344p. While out shopping with her family, Detective Lindsay Boxer encounters a man who is disrupting holiday shoppers as he flees in a panic. Once in an interrogation room, the man spills that he has news of an upcoming ‘big event’ that is set to happen on Christmas Day.
  5. The Eagle’s Claw: A Novel of the Battle of Midway by Jeff Shaara (2021) 352p. Told in the form of historical fiction, this is the story of the Battle of Midway. Shaara tells the Japanese story through the eyes of the Admirals Yamamoto and Nagumo. The American side is told through the eyes of Admiral Nimitz and the head of the Radio Intercept Station in Hawaii – Cmd Rouchfort.
  6. Bitter Harvest by Ann Rule (1997) 352p. This book tells the story of Dr. Debora Green, a very bright Kansas physician whose life unraveled into a nightmare of murder and virtual insanity. After her trial for the murder of two of her children and the attempted murder of her husband, Michael Farrar, psychiatrists attempted to answer why something like this could have happened. Author Ann Rule is the queen of true crime.
  7. Facing the Mountain: The True Story of Japanese American Heroes in WWII by Daniel James Brown (2021) 560p. From the author of The Boys in the Boat, this is the true story of Japanese-American men who served in the Army during World War II and their families who were locked behind barbed wire in relocation camps. Following the lives of four of these young men, the book explores the pain and suffering of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the most decorated in American military history.
  8. The Soul of an Octopus: A surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (2015) 261p. Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With a true passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures, the author chronicles her growing appreciation of this mollusk. Truly an amazing animal.
  9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) 305p. This is a multi-generational saga that follows the descendants of two half sisters, Effia and Esi, across three centuries, beginning in eighteenth-century Ghana and arriving at the present day. We learn of the children of these two women through the generations, alternating between Africa and America. As we meet each new descendant, we see how the legacy of slavery plays out across history.
  10. At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmile (2016) 336p. A coming-of-age novel that begins in the summer of 1911. Clare Ross’s father passes away, and since her mother has been missing for a long time, she is sent from Scotland to France by her family’s friends, the Crepets. Clare is 15, lonely, frightened, and confused, when she meets the Crepet’s son, Luc, who is 19. Luc is a student at the university in Paris. That summer will live in their memories forever, as they become friends and Luc teaches Clare to see the world through the eyes of an artist.

A Needed Break

With all the craziness going on in my life right now a break to refresh and renew was just what I needed. Back in February I registered for a Paper Marbling and Book Binding class at The Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek. Fish Creek is in Door County, WI which is a very busy tourist area when there isn’t a pandemic going on.

Entrance to The Peninsula School of Art

The art school has been around for 55 years. I have lived about an hour away for 40 years and have visited their gallery but just never thought about taking a class. However as the pandemic was starting to slow down and the school started posted upcoming classes again, I felt by summer things should be good. So in February I signed up and crossed my fingers that the class wouldn’t be cancelled. It wasn’t! We did have to show proof of vaccinations and when outside the classroom we had to be masked but I was fine with that.

The class was small, only five students, but that was probably because not everyone is okay with getting back to a normal life. However, a small class meant more individual help and the teacher was also free to change things up, which she did. Our instructor was Carey Watters, who is an Associate Professor of Art at UW-Parkside and she was very knowledgeable and had a very laid back style. The official class description said we would be marbling for one day and then do bookbinding for the remaining days but the class got so into the paper marbling that we just did it everyday. And we got better everyday because of that approach.

The school has been doing some major construction lately so we were in one of the new classrooms. Matter of fact, we were the first to “break it in”. Art can be messy, we did a good job.

1. Classroom 2. Paint mixing table 3.Marbling pans and paint 4. Cutting table 5. Drying room

To me, Paper Marbling is very much like glazing and firing ceramics. In ceramics you apply the glaze, which usually is dull or chalky looking. It may have properties that you are aware of but you can’t see until the firing. Upon opening the kiln after a firing, you finally get to see what it is supposed to look like. It may be wonderful with color and pattern or it may be dull and boring. In paper marbling a similar thing happens. First off you have a tray with a mixture of water and carrageenan, which is a seaweed gelling agent that creates a viscous surface for you to put your colors on. You do this with with eye droppers or flicking bristles on a brush. Sticks and rakes mix up the colors and create patterns. Other agents like gall, spread out the paint. But nothing looks too dramatic until you pull the paper. The colors you are seeing in the following pictures is mostly the dried paint in the bottom of the pan. Try to focus on the surface. Click on picture to enlarge.

Top Row: 1.Gel in pan w/ a few drops of paint. 2. Color #2 added. 3. Another color and probably some gall. Bottom Row: 4. Surface after a stick has been drawn through. 5. Using a rake to draw through the paint.
6. Laying down the paper
The pulled paper with marbling adhered.

Looks pretty different, right? That was the hard part. Combining colors, techniques and envisioning how they would go together for a good final piece. And taking the color of the paper into consideration. The above piece was done by our instructor. My first try is below.

By the 4th day I started to get the hang of it.

I even got out of my comfort zone and went pink!

Afternoons while our paper dried we learned book binding techniques. Even though I have been making books for awhile I learned 4 or 5 new things which is good and will probably improve my future books. The books in class were small samplers using some of the chipboard we marbled.

1. Pamphlet stitch. 2. Stab Bound. 3. Saddle Stitch. 4. Secret Belgium Stitch. 5. Sewing. 6. 3 finished books.

It was a good four days spent learning, creating, laughing, eating, and just enjoying time away from “reality”. In the mornings in another classroom a class of littles were making pop-up books. All masked up, they came over to visit and see what the grownups were doing. Mostly we were marbling so it was fun to show them how the “magic” happened. One day after a few visits they all arrived with pop-up thank you notes. It was a wonderful finish to the week.