The Ruby of the Sea

Today I’m revealing the title and cover of my third novel, THE RUBY OF THE SEA. Perhaps not as food-centric as THE PROMISE KITCHEN or THE WELCOME HOME DINER, food lovers will not be disappointed. Especially if you enjoy a bit of Cuban heat in your recipe repertoire.

The novel is about the indelible bond between three sisters, a historic Key West lighthouse they once called home, and the secrets, passions and lies of the past, which collide with the present in a most harrowing way. Of course, all of my characters LOVE to eat!

Here’s an excerpt in the second chapter that one of main characters, Delphina, is enjoying a Cuban specialty that her mother-in-law just made. I hope this will whet your palate:

“…First, she ladles a mound of steaming white rice upon a plate. Then, long-simmered beans and sauce are spooned over the top. The color of henna, a deep reddish-brown, they appear to be flowing down a mountain. She embellishes the dish with a garlicky, bell pepper sauce–a beautiful contrast of color, texture and flavor.

I dig my fork into this masterpiece and stir everything up until the rice, beans, pork and sweet peppers lose their individuality, morphing into a singular bliss. Bringing the fork to my mouth, I inhale the scent of cardamom and oranges, Lita’s secret ingredients. My baby in my arms, comfort food at my side, why do I continue obsessing over that silk?”

The link for the recipe she is eating (Slow-Cooked Pork, Black Beans and Rice) is here.  Delicioso! The pre-order link for this latest will be added to the site in a couple of weeks!

Cuban Pork and Beans

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Farmer’s Market Succotash

In my part of the world, September welcomes an excess of riches at Farmers Markets across the state. Whenever I see lima beans, I’m reminded of a traditional stew of the Indian-Americans made from corn kernels, lima beans, and tomatoes. Living in the wintry climate of Ann Arbor, it’s a luxury using all fresh vegetables for this particular recipe and I try to make a batch each September.

Carrots with Issues.

Recently I had a friend of 30-plus years come to visit, which included a trip to the Farmers Market. We revel in the ridiculous, and these dysfunctional carrots kept us laughing through the day.

I also purchased a couple of bunches of fully functioning cauliflower with intentions of making Roasted Curried Cauliflower with Grapes and Almonds.

The carrots with issues are slated to be used in a recipe for Carrot Soup with Thai Flavors.  Maybe the heat will help them sort through their angst.

But back to the following recipe. Not a fan of okra? Substitute it with some fresh sliced Japanese eggplant (the long skinny variety) or squash– just don’t cook those vegetables as long as you would cook the okra. No fresh lima beans or okra? Just use frozen, following packaging cooking times.

Recipe: Farmers Market Succotash

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 medium sweet onion chopped
  • 2 cups fresh okra, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups freshly shucked lima beans
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2-2 cups water, stock or wine
  • 4 cups (4 ears) fresh corn kernels cut from the cob
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon, reserve, and add onion to bacon fat. Sauté over medium heat, stirring, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add okra and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Then add tomatoes and lima beans and simmer mixture until vegetables are just tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add stock, wine or water in 1/2 cup increments when mixture becomes dry.
  3. When vegetable are just tender, stir in corn and garlic and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Crumble reserved bacon over the top and serve.

Active time: 15 minutes

Simmer time: 40-45 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 6 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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The Down and Dirty of Putting Up Pesto (a no-recipe recipe)

Every year I make a big batch of pesto and freeze it.  I’ve just come down from an agonizing month of final run edits for my 3rd novel, and don’t have it in me to measure ingredients. And I sure as hell won’t go the traditional way of concocting this herbaceous bliss by blending my ingredients in a mortar and pestle (hence, the name).

Labor Day weekend is allowing me time to spend a few hours putting up pesto, insuring a bad winter day will be brightened by this taste-of-summer treat. So the clock’s ticking and I’m moving fast.

A bridal bouquet of basil. Oh, the fragrance–my aromatherapy preference!

At the farmers market today, I purchased six huge bunches of fresh basil. (My tiny plot failed because of Michigan’s cold and rainy spring.) After trimming the leaves from the stems, and washing the leaves twice, I pureéd them in my processor with lots and lots of extra virgin olive oil. (All told, I used a quart of Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata extra virgin olive oil. Of course, a good Italian or Spanish oil is fine, too.)

I’ve a mish-mash of assorted nuts, mostly pine nuts (my favorite for pestos), but I wanted to use up the stragglers. Soooo, I fattened up the pile of pine nuts with almonds and pecans and toasted the lot in a dry pan to enhance their innate nuttiness. After that, into the food processor they went. I pulsed the batch several times to ensure they were finely chopped, but not overly so.

The basil/evo purée, chopped nuts, Reggiano and sauteéd garlic–– all ready to be combined to taste!

In that same nut pan, I sautéed halved buds from two fat cloves of garlic in EVO until fragrant. Most recipes use raw garlic but, of late, I prefer removing their bite and enhancing their sweetness with a bit of heat. Process the cloves with the oil and pour into a bowl.

All that’s left is the Parmesan, and this is where I splurge. You can find loads of cello-wrapped American-made wedges of Parmesan in USA grocery stores everywhere, and they’re less than half the price of true Parmesan. But the flavor is incomparable and doesn’t hold a candle to the real stuff. It makes or breaks a pesto, at least for this girl, so it’s worth it.  Two-plus pounds of stamped (that seal of authenticity) grated Parmigiano Reggiano did the job.

I also like having frozen pesto cubes to add as last-minute seasonings to winter soups and paninis.

Each ingredient has its own bowl and––not wanting one ingredient to overtake another––I mix them all to taste, adding kosher salt, at the end, to taste. Voila–I’ve twelve snack-sized  baggies stuffed with pesto. Better yet, omit the disposable plastics and use Tupperware &/or ice cube trays. I also used a mini cube tray, which makes it easy to add a last minute flavor bomb to cold-weather soups, such as minestrone.

See me doing the happy dance come February, when my book is released and I can thaw a bag of summer goodness to add to a dish of pasta!

Speaking of, the cover and title of the novel will be revealed in October, and the publication date is set for February 5th. You readers will be the first to know everything, and I’ll put you at the top of the list for my advanced reader copy giveaways (beginning in October) for the book.

If you want a bona-fide recipe for pesto, click here.  I wrote the recipe for the newspaper ten years ago, almost to the day. The recipe takes a deeper dive into the world of magnificent pestos!

Happy Labor Day!

 

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