03 September 2011

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

Summary: After five years abroad, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, has returned to England to avenge the murder of his mentor. To uncover the murderer's identity, he must infiltrate the infamous secret Hellfire Club. But the Duke has no ideas that even more difficult challenge awaits him - in a mistaken, romantic-minded young lady. 
Charlotte Lansdowne wistfully remembers the Robert of her childhood as a valiant hero amoung men. Too aware of his own flaws, Robert tries to dissuade Charlotte from her delusions, even as he finds himself drawn to her. When Charlotte takes up a bit of espionage - investigating a plot to kidnap the King - Robert soon realizes that she is more than the perfect partner in crime. Caught in a dangerous game full of deadly spies and secret rites, Robert and Charlotte must work together to reveal the villain ... and confront their true love. (source: book cover)

Comments: I have to admit this book, starting out, was my least favorite so far. Charlotte was, again, at the beginning, annoying and amazingly childish. She's just about too much to take. Robert is obsessed with getting revenge for his mentor to the point that he would join the Hellfire Club, which would seriously put his reputation in danger, but he does it anyway. Charlotte's time as a Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen is an interesting idea. Henrietta and Penelope make an appearance as well as Miles which gives us some continuation of the plot line from the previous books. Penelope is acerbic, perhaps even more than ever and makes a terrible mistake that will cost her. At a certain point in the book Charlotte is forced to stop being such a baby and grow up, and thankfully, she does which makes for a much more enjoyable story.
The story between Eloise and Colin is still moving forward as well and doing so rather nicely which means something bad is bound to happen. Up next, Betrayal of the Blood Lily.

01 September 2011

Croque Monsieur

Ready for the broiler
Croque Monsieur
3 tbs butter, unsalted
4 tbs all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (or thereabouts)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1 lb Fontina, grated
1/4 c Parmesan, grated
Dijon mustard
1/2 lb ham, sliced thin
10 slices of firm white bread (remove crust or not, as you like)

First toast the bread - in the oven. It takes about 5 minutes at 375 and then flip for 3 minutes more.
Mornay Sauce - melt the butter, once the butter is bubbly, add flour and cook together for a few minutes to cook off the flour taste. Add a small amout of the milk first and stir in, let it cook for a bit. Then add the rest of the milk. You can heat the milk and this process will go quicker, but I never bother to do that. It's the same method I use for making macaroni and cheese. You have to heat this over medium heat and it requires pretty much constant stiring so you don't burn the mixture. But given a few minutes, it will thicken until it coats the back of a spoon. Once this is accomplished, remove it from the heat and add about 8 ozs. of Fontina and all the Parmesan.  You could use Gruyere, which is more traditional, or as I have before, use a combination of Fontina for melt-ability and cheddar for flavor. Set aside.
Now assemble the sandwich. Take once piece of toasted bread and coat with Dijon mustard, add a slice or two of ham, a little grated cheese and top with another piece of bread. Then do the fun thing - top sandwich with the mornay sauce and top with a little more grated cheese.
Sure, it's white on white, but it taste amazing. 
Now for the finish - heat the sandwiches in the over for a few minutes in the oven, that I'm sure you left at 375 degrees. If you want to broil to get the cheese on the top brown and bubbling - go for it.

30 August 2011

Peril at End House - Agatha Christie

Summary: Perched on the rocky cliffs of the Cornish coast, the imposing structure known as End House looms over the quiet hotel where retired detective Hercule  Poirot is vacationing. Though the house is intriguing, its reckless young mistress, Nick Buckly, is even more so. She has narrowly escaped a recent series of life threatening accidents, and something tell the Belgian sleuth that these so-called accidents are more than just coincidences or a spate of bad luck. Someone is trying to do away with poor Nick. But who? And what is the motive? In his quest for answers, Poirot must delve into the dark history of End House. The deeper he gets into his investigation, the more certain he is that the killer will strike again. And this time Nick may not escape with her life (Source: Book Jacket)

Comments: Another stunner by Agatha Christie. In reading her books in order (although, I might be out of order at this point, must check), I've started to see some patterns that I find interesting. First, many many references to those books of detective fiction her characters mention. It's quite amusing, if you think about it. It's a self-referential parody and I just love to see it, especially, when voiced by her imminent detective M. Poirot. Other themes, such as Hastings having implicit trust of military men. It's repeated in many stories, but sometimes he's right and largely, he's wrong. Poirot does not exclude anyone from review based on their title, wealth, or status. He's rather democratic in that way. This was indeed a page turner, read in a day (it's way to damn hot outside), and I didn't see the end coming, so I won't spoil that for anyone else. Empathetic characters, some drug dealing, a murder, and Poirot and Hastings, what more could you need?

29 August 2011

Eggs Benedict & um, Ribs. Really?

One of the reasons, or perhaps the only real reason, I write in blog form is that it makes it easy for me to find things again. No matter if it's a name of a plant and when I planted or when it typically blooms or what I thought of a book (ie. should I read it again) or some recipe that I like and make often. This is the place that I can have both the words and pictures together. I'm hoping that eventually I will not need all my recipe books or garden journals, but can use this blog to keep up with things. Right now, it's serving its purpose. I needed the recipe I used to make hollandaise sauce to make Eggs Benny (too cutesy?), and guess where the easiest place to find it was? Right here. Just what I wanted.
I cannot even think about how many times I made this recipe after first reading it in Cook's Country magazine  - I stopped trying long ago to keep up with it, but it is just amazing to me that something that seems so complex can be made simple and still amazingly flavorful.
But you know, America's Test Kitchen has this way about them. I've read for about a hour this evening regarding ribs. I would like to cooks some on the grill next weekend and so I'm reading several parts of The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue: A Practical Guide for the Outdoor Cook this evening. I'm trying to decide between the Texas Beef Ribs, the Baby Back Ribs, and the Short Ribs. Oh and BONUS, I found what I think will be my recipe of choice for German Potato Salad (chapter on sides). Lucky me. That's just one of my favorite things in the entire world. I really have no idea why that is, but it is. Right now, the Texas Beef Ribs are seriously in contention. That may change when I get to the store and look at costs, but what will be, will be. Looking forward to some ribs, with garlic bread, and german potato salad next weekend. Lucky me.

Midnight Riot

Summary: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he'll face is a paper cut. But Peter's prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter's ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Comments: This is the first book by Ben Aaronovitch featuring Peter Grant, who is a charming character if there ever was one. He's funny, snarky, and gets easily sidetracked, but does eventually make sense of the strange world he finds himself in. His mentor, well, more accurately his master, is Thomas Nightingale, the epitome of the British gentleman, always dressed to the nines. Oh, and he's a wizard. When Peter asks if he's like Harry Potter, the reply was "No, I'm not a fictional character." Very dry humour this. 
The magic-ness of the books seems to fit into our world without much problem. Oh, some people protest, but most don't seem phased that their are gods and goddess wearing real clothes, driving mini Coopers, just hanging out. The river gods/goddesses take on a good bit of the book and it's a creative plot device. This is not my typical type of book, especially when babies get tossed out of the (closed) second story window and die, but thankfully, Aaronovitch does not go overboard with the gore. I'm looking forward to spending time with Peter and
Nightingale and what every uncanny they come up with.

28 August 2011

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose

Summary: Determined to secure another London Season without assistance from her new brother-in-law, beautiful Mary Alsworthy accepts a secret assignment from Lord Vaughn on behalf of the Pink Carnation: to infiltrate the ranks of the dreaded French spy the Black Tulip before he and his master can stage their planned invasion of England. Every spy has a weakness, and for the Black Tulip that weakness is black-haired women - his "petals of the Tulip." A natural at the art of seduction, Mary easil catches the attention of the French spy, but Lord Vaughn never anticipates that his own heart will be caught as well. Fighting their growing attraction, impediments from their past, and, of course, the French, Mary and Vaughn find themselves lost in the shadows of a treacherous garden on lies ... (source: book cover)

Comments: So Mary Alsworthy loses her lover to his sister in the last book (The Deception of the Emerald Ring), and instead gets her own book and to my great pleasure Lord Vaughn. Mary, beautiful, intriguing, poor, and still pretty ticked at her sister and brother-in-law. To get away from them is most important and to have a season to find another man willing to marry a beautiful, but penniless woman. So she agrees to help the Pink Carnation via Lord Vaughn, whom no one, not even me, trust is truly what he says he is. Mary turns from spoiled girl into a calculating woman. And Vaughn, well, he's just Vaughn, as black and silver as he's ever been and as he always will be. Enigma. One of the things I like about the series is there is very little real time between them in both the worlds. Eloise and Colin are still circling around each other as she studies into his family history and hopes to get into his future. The story was well written. Ms. Willig has done another solid job of keeping up with this series.