book review, recipe

The Female Persuasion + Faith Frank’s Feminist Steak

I don’t remember where I first heard about Meg Wolitzer’s new novel The Female Persuasion, but I remember getting immediately excited and adding to my TBR on Goodreads. Even though I didn’t really like The Interestings, the description of this one seemed right up my alley. If I didn’t like it, I decided, Meg Wolitzer probably wasn’t for me. As luck would have it, I didn’t have to wait long to read it — I was the first one to receive it when it arrived at the library on New Book Tuesday, April 3. I rushed to pick it up.

In it, Wolitzer explores feminism from the inside-out. Greer is a shy college freshman when she attends an event where Faith Frank is speaking. A prominent figure in the women’s movement for decades, Faith captivates the room. Greer, too, is inspired and decides to approach Faith, making to a connection that will shape her ideas, her career and her future.

Aside from Greer, the story also follows her boyfriend Cory and her best friend Zee, whose lives provide a contrast to her own. For the most part, Greer lives in Faith Frank’s bubble. Together, they work at an organization that is meant to empower women, putting on summits and funding special projects that help women around the world. Wolitzer is very conscious of her white feminist outlook, something that comes through in Greer’s questioning of whether or not their work is actually making a difference.

This novel received a lot of buzz before it’s release, partly I would imagine because of the topic in the current political client and partly because of Wolitzer’s success with The Interestings. It’s currently sitting at just under 4 stars on Goodreads; I gave it 4 stars myself. Less than a month from it’s release, the buzz continues – Jezebel reported last week that Nicole Kidman has already signed on to star in the movie.

The meal I prepared to go with this novel draws its inspiration from a steak dinner that Faith Frank hosts at her home. At one point in the novel, she admits, not exactly jokingly, that steak is all she knows how to prepare. The guests praise her steak, calling it the best they’ve ever had. One of them even suggests she open a restaurant called Faith Frank’s Feminist Steakhouse, where “every steak would come with roast potatoes, creamed spinach, and the promise of equality.”  

I found a recipe online by searching “steak for a crowd,” and settled on a delicious-sounding balsamic-marinated steak adorned with “unstuffed” mushrooms from the Food Network. The recipe was quite simple and started with 8 hours in a balsamic vinegar-based marinade.

After the steak was well-marinated, I removed it from the marinade, patted it dry and sprinkled both sides with salt and pepper. Then, it cooked under a preheated broiler for about 6 minutes, before turning for another 7-8 minutes (15 minutes total). In the summer, the steak could also be cooked on the grill.

After turning the steak halfway through, begin cooking the mushrooms. In a large skillet, I heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil. To that, I added about a pound of mushrooms, cooking for 10 minutes, and then the breadcrumbs, butter, chopped rosemary and salt and pepper. I cooked for another few minutes until the breadcrumbs also turned a golden brown.

When the mushrooms were done, and the steak was rested, I sliced it against the grain to serve. As you’d find in Faith’s Franks fictional steakhouse, I also served them with a simple roasted sweet potato and some creamed spinach (which I bought pre-made).

The steak definitely had amazing flavor, and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it again – whether for Scott and myself or for a group of guests. 

Have you read Meg Wolitzer’s latest novel yet? What were your thoughts? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Balsamic-Marinated Steak with Unstuffed Mushrooms

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Inactivate Time 8 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 50 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1 2 to 2 1/2-pound 1 1/2-inch-thick London broil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 whole sprigs rosemary plus 1 teaspoon chopped leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms halved
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons prepared drained horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Pierce the meat all over with a fork and place in a large resealable plastic bag. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the Worcestershire, vinegar, garlic and whole rosemary. Seal the bag, pushing out all the air. Shake the bag a few times and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat the broiler and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle both sides with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Broil, flipping once, until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F, about 13 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest at least 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs, butter, chopped rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, another 3 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Stir together the sour cream and horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Slice the steak against the grain, top with the mushrooms and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve with the horseradish sauce on the side.

Recipe Notes

Slightly adapted from: Food Network

London broil can refer to several different cuts of beef from the top round or part of the flank steak. The overnight marinating should tenderize any of those cuts, but we found a London broil from the top round to be an especially tender and tasty cut for this dish.

For a true Faith Frank’s Feminist Steakhouse experience, serve with roast potatoes, creamed spinach and the promise of equality.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Astonishing Color of After + Matcha Belgian Waffles

When Leigh Chen Sanders finally kisses her longtime best friend Axel, she knows that her life is about to change. By the time Leigh arrives home, high on the magic of her first kiss, life as-she-knows-it really has changed — in a way she never could’ve imagined. In Emily X.R. Pan’s debut novel The Astonishing Color of After, Leigh goes on a journey that begins on the day she kissed Axel, the day her mother took her own life.

Leigh is half-Taiwanese and half-white, and following her mother’s suicide, her father decides it would be beneficial for her to meet her maternal grandparents and discover her heritage. Beginning at her mother’s wake, a series of signs lead Leigh to believe that her mother, in death, has become a red bird. As she travels to Taiwan, she becomes almost obsessed with finding her mother the bird and seeks her out wherever she goes.

As an artist, Leigh sees the world through a unique lens, describing all of her moods in colors. Her outlook allows her to get wrapped up in this magical realism around her – her mother the bird and her otherworldly experiences in Taiwan. As a reader, it’s easy to get wrapped up in it, too. The journey yields both pleasure and disappointment, as one would expect.

I was impressed by the originality of Pan’s storytelling and the care with which she handled the topics of depression and suicide. The novel is in no hurry to get to the end, a bit meandering and repetitive at moments, but it’s a beautiful and heartbreaking story worth a read.

Prior to her mother’s suicide, Sunday morning waffles were a family tradition in Leigh’s house; her mother was always the one to make them. After, Leigh and her father reminisce about her experimenting with Taiwanese flavors, making less appealing red bean waffles and matcha waffles (which were pretty good, actually), before settling on more traditional Belgian waffles with berries and cream.

The matcha waffles intrigued me. I found a recipe on the Matcha Zen Blog and set about acquiring some culinary grade matcha (available on Amazon) as well as a waffle iron (borrowed, again, from my coworker). The recipe should be pretty recognizable to anyone who regularly makes waffles or pancakes, with the exception of the addition of matcha powder.

I beat 2 eggs in a large bowl until fluffy and then added just 1 tablespoon of matcha powder, beating further to remove lumps. I added the rest of the ingredients – flour, milk, vegetable oil, a bit of sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla – and mixed until smooth. I ended up with a batter that was a lovely shade of green.

I filled the bottom of the waffle iron with 1 cup of batter, closed it, flipped it, and waited a few minutes until cooked. My first waffle cooked a little longer and browned, hiding some of the beautiful green of the matcha.

The subsequent waffles I cooked a touch less (about 2 minutes) so they retained their green color.

The matcha aroma was stronger than the flavor, which was more subtle than I would’ve expected. They were delicious with syrup; the original recipe also recommended serving with fruit.   

4 from 1 vote
Print

Matcha Belgian Waffles

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBS culinary grade matcha powder
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 TBS white sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Turn on the waffle iron. 

  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy. Add culinary matcha powder and beat until there are no lumps.

  3. Add other ingredients and mix until smooth (about two minutes).

  4. Pour into waffle iron and cook according to waffle iron's directions. Serve hot with syrup and fruit.

Recipe Notes

From: Matcha Zen Blog

of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Palate Cleansers

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, a literary list with a new bookish topic every week. This Tuesday’s topic is a freebie, which means I get to do whatever I want! This week I’m going to focus on some of my favorite palate cleansers.

And while this means something in the food world (my other favorite topic), I’m actually referring to those in the book world. Book palate cleansers can mean be used for various reasons. You just finished an intense read and are looking for something easy or fun. You’ve been having trouble getting into everything you pick up and need a story that will draw you in. You’re a little stressed in real life and want a book that is the exact opposite, an escape.

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book review, recipe

Bel Canto + Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze

I read somewhere once that Bel Canto is the book you should start with if you want to give Ann Patchett a try. As a result, it’s been on my TBR and my bookshelf for a while now. You may recall that I actually read her newest novel Commonwealth first, but this is the novel that caused me to truly fall in love with Ann Patchett’s writing and storytelling.

At first glance, this wouldn’t seem like a novel I would enjoy. Not much happens by way of plot – in the beginning, a group of rebels interrupt a birthday celebration in order to capture the unknown South American country’s president and take on a whole mansion-full of hostages. That is sort of where the plot gets stuck, until the very end. The real story is in the growth of the characters – all of them so rich and well-developed. The setting, too, is unique, and it’s one that really lets the characters come to life, almost unexpectedly.

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of interest

Show Us Your Books – April 2018

It’s the second Tuesday of the month, and you know what that means – another edition of Show Us Your Books! Before I share what I’ve been reading over the past month, I wanted to let you know about a contest I’m currently hosting. In the Hungry Bookworm Spring Giveaway, I’ll be sending one lucky winner a brand new copy of America The Great Cookbook: The Food We Make for the People We Love from 100 of Our Finest Chefs and Food Heroes by Joe Yonan.

It’s a beautiful cookbook, full of delicious recipes and would be a wonderful addition to your home, or a perfect Mother’s Day gift. If you’d like to enter, you can do so here until April 21, 2018.  

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of interest

Spring Giveaway: Enter to Win!

Though the weather in the midwest isn’t exactly cooperating, I’m forging ahead into spring! I bought some beautiful bright red tulips to decorate my kitchen. I’ve also decided to celebrate the warmer weather ahead with a cookbook giveaway!

I have an extra copy of the brand new America The Great Cookbook: The Food We Make for the People We Love from 100 of Our Finest Chefs and Food Heroes by Joe Yonan that I’m itching to share! I have a copy myself, and it’s an absolutely gorgeous cookbook.

See? The cover is intricate and bright, making it an eye-catching addition to any cookbook collection. And inside, you’ll find beautiful photo spreads featuring 100 American chefs and their delicious dishes.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of this cookbook, hit the button below. Additional entries can be earned by sharing the contest with your friends on Facebook and Twitter or following me on Facebook or Instagram. The giveaway will run for two weeks, and I’ll randomly select a winner on Sunday, April 22, 2018 and notify them via email.

Enter Contest

Good luck!

___________

This contest is only available to US residents. If an email address is not provided, or the winner does not provide a mailing address within one week, a new winner will be chosen.

book review, recipe

Life of Pi + Dhal Soup

I rarely re-read books, primarily because there are so many new ones I want to read. My TBR list never stops growing – and it’s only gotten worse since I started blogging. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to make it a point to re-read more of my favorites. Or, more specifically, books that I enjoyed so much I bought a copy (with the intention of reading them again or lending them out for others to read). Anyway, when the Book Challenge by Erin included a category of “books that take place on a mode of transportation,” the first book that came to mind was Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The challenge only allows for one re-read, and this was one I owned – and remember liking, so I decided to give it another go.

For the majority of the story, 227 days worth of it to be exact, Pi survives on a lifeboat with fellow passenger Richard Parker, who happens to be a Bengal tiger. Pi and his family were traveling from India to Canada with a cargo ship full of zoo animals when it shipwrecked, stranding Pi with an unusual boatmate. Though the premise promises adventure, it took a little bit to get into – the narrator describes how he stumbled upon Pi and learned his story. Pi also goes through a bit of a spiritual exploration prior to their scheduled journey, which slows things down even while providing some humor.

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book review, of interest, recipe

Fandom Foodies Linkup: #MagicalRealFood

Starting today and all April long, I’ll be hosting #MagicalRealFood, a link up through Fandom Foodies dedicated to food found in and inspired by magical realism. According to Wikipedia, magical realism is “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”

When magical realism is done well, it’s absolutely one of my favorite types of fiction. But magical realism can also be found in other types of art outside of literature – movies, television shows and video games can all have elements of magical realism as well. It’s more common than you may think!

If you’d like to participate, here’s how:

#MagicalRealFood is open to everyone, seasoned fandom foodies and novices alike!

Create a recipe post (this can be on a blog, Tumblr, Instagram – anywhere you can type up a recipe with a photo) and share your link on the official linkup page (below). When sharing your creation on social media make sure to use the custom hashtag! I’ll be checking all month and sharing some of my favorites, so be sure to remember to include #MagicalRealFood when posting.

Note: The recipe post must be of your own creation (meaning don’t link-up to someone else’s recipe/post). If the food you made was adapted from another source or a variation on an existing recipe, make sure you give proper credit!

Alright, let’s dive into some #MagicalRealFood!  

book review, recipe

The Wedding Date + Cheese and Crackers

If anyone recalls the early 2000s rom-com, The Wedding Date, starring Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney, that is the first thing that came to mind when I heard the title of this book. Liberty Hardy praised it last month in the All the Books! podcast. It sounded like a light-hearted read and when I noticed it was available on NetGalley, I put in a request.

Jasmine Guillory’s novel The Wedding Date has a setup that is reminiscent of the movie – someone is invited to attend a wedding in which a former lover is significantly involved and they can’t bear to do it alone, so they find a complete stranger to accompany them. But, the similarities end there. Rather than hiring his date, Drew gets stuck with her in an elevator. The two of them bond over “the perfect snack” of cheese and crackers, which Alexa (a woman after my own heart) was carrying in her purse. He decides to see if this chemistry means something – not to mention the aforementioned dreaded wedding – and asks her to be his date.

Because it’s so like a rom-com (in setup and plot), it was as light-hearted as I expected. What I didn’t expect was the subtle and realistic ways Jasmine was able to work in issues of race and (male) white privilege. The relationship issues also seemed realistic, particularly those that arise due to long distance, but in some cases, I’ll admit, the rom-comminess seemed to prevent a quicker solution to problems that probably just required some honest communication.

Still, while it’s light, it’s not “fluffy.” A book like The Wedding Date makes a wonderful vacation read because it’s amusing and easily devoured. As a bonus, it may inspire you to make some fancy cheese plate, and that’s never a bad thing.

A lover of all things cheese, I have eaten more than my share of cheese and crackers. I’ve enjoyed cheese platters at parties, but I’ve never made my own. I was excited by the prospect. When Alexa and Drew meet in the elevator, they are limited by a lack of utensils and can only eat whatever cheese they can break off the block, accompanied by crackers straight out of the sleeve.

I knew I had to do better. I bought a slate cheese board specifically for the occasion, and now I have an excuse to make cheese platters more often (if I need one…). I researched all of the elements that should go into a delicious, effortless-looking cheese board, and it came out pretty wonderfully, if I do say so myself. Here’s what I learned:

How to Make the Perfect Cheese Board

First, determine which types of cheese you’ll be including. Typically, four kinds of cheese are enough and you should choose one each of the following: soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard.

Soft cheeses include mozzarella and brie.

Semi-soft cheeses include blue cheeses like Stilton, Gouda, and Jarlsberg.

Semi-hard cheeses include Manchego, Comte and provolone.

Hard cheeses include aged cheeses, such as cheddar, parmesan, or asiago. I opted for Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar, which is a delicious cheddar that has parmesan in it.

Once you’ve settled on your cheeses, you should choose crackers, meats and other accompaniments that go well with each cheese. I used the Cheese Pairings chart at the bottom of this article to help me choose.

I went with prosciutto and water crackers (to accompany the brie and mild-flavored comte) and salami and whole wheat crackers (to accompany the more-strongly flavored cheddar and blue cheese). I also included apricot jam for the brie, which I have to say, I had never had together before – I wholeheartedly recommend it. Lastly, I bought mixed nuts to fill in the gaps and provide another snacking option.

What are some of your favorite things to include in a cheese plate? I’d love to hear in the comments below – as I’m sure there will be many more of these in my future! 🙂

_____________________

I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

 

of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Books That Take Place In Another Country

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, a literary list with a new bookish topic every week. This Tuesday’s topic is Books That Take Place In Another Country; for me, that is anywhere other than the United States.  

I love this topic because one of the best parts of reading is the ability to experience a life that’s different from your own. They also provide the opportunity to travel without leaving the comfort of your favorite armchair. While foreign settings often just feed my desire to travel, the food inspiration they provide at least allows me to experience the culture in some tangible way. I decided to look back on books I’ve already read, and when I’ve done a review (and recipe), I’ll link to it below.

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