Category Archives: Book Reviews

HAM!

Ham

A Savor the South Cookbook

By Damon Lee Fowler

ISBN:978-1-4696-3589-7

Retail: $20

 

This outstanding cookbook  series is coming to an end. However,  do not worry, as the series nears the projected finishing line of twenty books, there  is not winding down on quality. This next volume tackles an icon of the southern table, Ham and was well worth the wait

Author Howler is the skilled author of nine cookbooks and the editor and recipe developer of Dining at Monticello. He lives in Savannah GA.

 

Ham is discussed for all of its glory starting with the smokehouses of Thomas Jefferson , to today’s southern classics and to that glorious Italian version of ham, Prosciutto. Fowler takes us into the smokehouses where the very walls capture aromas and flavors of the hams and then, after years, bounce those accumulated scents and tastes back into the pork hindquarters that are hung inside each year.

 

While I worked at Mt. Vernon, we visited the smokehouse often. It was one of my favorite places on the plantation—I loved the scent of good food coming, carefully cared for, cured, into its own, to be presented at George Washington’s own table. When I cook ham, my own kitchen is redolent with the scent and flavors of history. It’s an aroma that brings everyone into the kitchen to try to cadge a bit of the outer ham “just to taste” before I slice and serve it.

Such is the continuity of ham in the south and anywhere this prince of pork products is loved and eaten. Fowler not only pays homage to Ham as a premiere food of the American South, he also recognizes it s place in other cultures and provides recipes from China, France, Italy and Spain and introduces us to their historic ham types and ways of preparing ham.

 

I read the front of the book with its history and terminology explanations with great interest. One could say I devoured it (except for the groaning sounds of those who hate puns.) As with the others in the series there are 50 plus, in this case, 55 recipes. Although, I cannot say I loved them all, most are wonderful and all of the recipes are explained so that both beginning and expert cooks can use them all with ease.

 

Why was I at odds with some of them ,especially with his basic baked ham? Simply because  I prefer my own (apple juice and cloves) way of  making it. However, his method is classic and  if you are new to ham, new to the possibilities of this fabulous meat, try his way.

 

Many of his other recipes will likely become classics in my own home. I especially liked his rendition of the Monte Cristo sandwich (an item that seems to be making a comeback in restaurants) and his ideas for combining southern classics—like his grilled ham and pimiento cheese sandwich. YUM! This recipe includes a very nice recipe for pimiento cheese as well. Classic ham biscuits, prosciutto and asparagus and lots of other ham and asparagus are just some of the other many delicious suggestions he offers (with full recipe) for using this most versatile meat. I could not help but chuckle as I read his recipe for ham bone soup—it called to mind the story of why cat and dog are rarely friends—all because of a fight over a hambone. Yes, even the bone, the leavings of a ham are worthy of use and can produce sublimely delicious offerings for your friends and family. Lunch, brunch, supper, soups are some of the categories in the book.  No desserts with ham—but then again, many lovers of ham (like my husband) will just as soon skip the sugary desserts for a second helping of whatever heavenly ham dish crossed the table as a main course.

As a side note, I am quite fond of the cover of this volume–I love the decorative red rose made from a thin slice of ham–says it all about the love affair the South (and I ) have with ham.

 

This slim volume is a very worth addition to the collection and deserves a place on your cookbook shelf.

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Girl Scout Presentation!

On Saturday, Aug 19, I read my book, Rosa and the Red Apron to a group of Girl Scouts at the Lowe’s Food in Monkey Junction in Wilmington, NC (Lowe’s obtained permission to use photo on FB) . Thank you, Alexandra , for inviting me!
It was a fun way to spend a morning.
We had such a good time! The girls enjoyed acting out the book with me as I read it. We did not have time to talk much about writing–Lowe’s had arranged a wonderful cookie decorating session for them–yummy!
I am available to speak to scout groups on writing, on cooking, on story performance and speaking! I have some dates left before the end of the year. More open in January and February!
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Cake Decorating Taken to New Heights!

gravity cakes

Gravity Cakes

By Jakki Friedman and Francesca Librae

Robert Rose Press

ISBN: 978-0778805496

Suggested Retail: $24.95

 

Review by Joan Leotta

 

The authors of this book note that “gravity cakes” (which might be better called, cakes that defy gravity) are popular now in most of Europe and will soon be the next “big thing” on our shores.  No wonder! These cakes are so much fun! As you can see by the cover, the design of the cake gives the illusion that something is being poured out onto the cake. Others make it look as though a piece is being taken out. This book presents 45 cakes ideas with gravity-defying designs. The inspiration of r this book is said to be the friendship of the co-authors. Jakki Freidman is a professional baker and Francesca Librae is an international reporter now residing in party-central city of New Orleans. The pair bring baking expertise and spectacular ideas to cake design.
You can use their delicious cake recipes as the basis for the designs, or simply follow the directions on a box cake mix for the prime material. Best of all, the introduction to the book carefully explains the process so well,  each design is explained and accompanied by step by step photos, so that once you have tried the techniques, using a couple of their patterns you will be able to create your own designs. The co-authors have a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Gravitycakes/ where they post pictures of their newest creations and encourage you to send in photos of your designs to share with the community.

If you have children, if you love to entertain, if you simply like to put beautiful things, amazing things on your dinner table, well then, this is the book for you.

Have fun!

 

Measurements are given in both Metric and US styles.gravity cakes

Teachers Can and Do

I always hated, and never believed,  that old chestnut that teachers are people who cannot actually do what they teach–nonsense! Teachers are those who share with us the technology (so to speak) of the art or craft  they have fallen in love with. They want to share with us what they love, share the how-to and the mystery of it.

They become educators when they draw out of us our desires to pursue a field to the limit of our ability, usually thanks to their support, inspiration, and ministrations of technique and method.

As a working journalist, story performer and more I want to share with others what I have learned and to inspire others to follow their dreams in whatever field they desire–esp in

writing and story performance. Yep, I talk and write for audiences. It’s that simple!

This month I have had the opportunity to be a teacher and to share my love of these two modes of communication on Donna Washington’s Blog, in Ruby for Women Magazine (writing only in that one. March starts a three-part series for those who want to get started in writing) and here, on this blog by reminding you that I have two new publications out this month–My children’s book, Rosa’s Shell and my book of poems, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon.

PS Today the literative.com site has one of my writings up as the prose winner of their winter contest!

https://literative.com/writing-contest-winners/cold-snap-creative-writing-contest-winner/

Do check it out!

I’m happy to come and and talk to your school or group about writing (for adults, for children, poetry) story performance (or to give a story performance!)

Please do contact me and let me know if you would like me to come! Those who do, if they are fortunate enough also share what they know by teaching!

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Good Things Worth Waiting For

Finishing Line Press has informed me that my book will be at least 8 weeks late–today is the day it was supposed to come out.

I just got my galleys on Monday and am sending them back on Tuesday the 17th, checking  and rechecking.

Please be patient!

 

 

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Fiona McVie Interviewed Me

Fiona McVie in the UK interviewed me and that interview is live today!
Click on the link to connect.
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Picture Book by Joan Leotta

C. Hope Clark Shares a Secret

C. Hope Clark’s newest series is set in one of my favorite places in all the world–Edisto Island, SC. We spent many happy holidays there as a family and Joe and I welcomed the new Year there for several years running. The place is magical. And if we are to believe Hope there is mystery lurking in every corner as well.

Never fear, Hope’s heroine solves all the mysteries and the miscreants are punished. Of course, what happens when a good mystery is solved? Celebration! And there is no better way to celebrate than with a meal of Edisto shrimp. Hope has shared heroine Callie’s fave recipe with us in this post–you may not be able to buy Edisto shrimp where you live, but do look for the freshest, wild caught domestic shrimp you can find.

 

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Callie Jean Morgan’s Favorite Lowcountry Meal

By C. Hope Clark

Writing a mystery series set at a beach I am often enticed to visit the coast and as many seafood restaurants that my stomach can bear. In South Carolina, we do mainly shrimp and crab with a wide assortment of fish easily caught off our shore. While I could eat my weight in crab, one of my absolute favorite coastal recipes is shrimp and grits.

Non-Southerners often turn up their noses at grits, but just let them taste them in this concoction, and man-oh-man, their tongues will slap their faces silly wanting more. Every dignified South Carolina eatery has a shrimp and grits recipe on the menu, each with a spin or twist of its own, some almost too rich to finish.

In my newest release, Echoes of Edisto, (released August 5, 2016), with all that I throw at Callie Jean Morgan, she needs this sort of comfort food. Something to coat her belly, relying on the harvest caught in her beloved Edisto waters. Food from her home territory she loves so dang much.

Echoes is the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries, and the South Carolina coast is learning to love the stories. Information about the books greets every Edisto tourist in their rental, a local magazine keeps a feature ongoing about the series, and every single visitor’s center in South Carolina contains an Edisto Beach Tourist Guide which flaunts the Edisto Island Mysteries.

So let me introduce you to shrimp and grits, to entice you to visit . . . and pick up the books. This recipe is one I learned on Edisto Island, which I’ve adjusted a bit for my own taste so that you never fail to lick the bowl clean.

CALLIE’S SHRIMP AND GRITS

Serves four.

 

FOR SHRIMP ROUX:

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and whole

3-4 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt (by taste)

Black pepper (by taste and optional)

Cayenne pepper (by taste)

6 tablespoons bacon drippings (or half bacon droppings / half olive oil)

½ cup diced onion

½ cup diced pepper, sweet banana or bell

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups chicken broth or chicken bouillon

Crumbled bacon

 

FOR GRITS:

2/3 cup grits (regular, not quick 5-minute grits)

2 cups water

½ cup cream (preferably the heavy stuff)

No salt

 

Peel the shrimp, careful with removing all shell and legs, and place meat in bowl. Drizzle with lemon juice. Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. (NOTE: the saltiness in the shrimp and roux is the reason you avoid the salt normally cooked into grits.) Let set so flavors mingle.

 

In a skillet, cook enough bacon to make 6 tablespoons of drippings, 6-10 slices depending on the fattiness of the bacon. Remove bacon. Sauté onion and banana and/or bell peppers in the grease, medium heat, until translucent. No more than 10 minutes.

 

Gradually sprinkle flour over vegetables, stirring in one tablespoon at a time to avoid lumpiness. Stir constantly. Stir all for 2-3 minutes until browned.

 

Add shrimp, liquid and all, to skillet. Add 1 ½ cup broth gradually, stirring constantly, letting liquid mix well with the browned flour. You’ll see the soft brown gravy start to happen. The shrimp should turn opaque and pink after 2-3 minutes. Add remainder of broth, if needed, to thin the gravy and avoid lumping.

 

Either start grits halfway through this process, or complete roux and set aside to remain warm, but do not fix grits in advance of the roux. You want the grits to be fresh, hot and creamy. Bring water to a boil then add grits. Lower to medium-high and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Once completed, add the cream and stir for another 2 minutes. Remove from burner.

 

Put grits in a bowl. Ladle roux in the center. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

 

Oh good gracious, a meal to die for . . . oh wait, I don’t want to give away the story!

 

BIO

  1. Hope Clark is the creator of The Edisto Island Mysteries as well as the Carolina Slade Mysteries. She is also an avid presenter, speaker, and teacher about writing and earning a living as a writer, in much demand at writers’ conferences and libraries. Her latest project, beside yet another Edisto book, is honoring a request to read her own Edisto stories for the Books for the Blind program. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com