Simona of Briciole, a foodie blog that illustrates Italian culinary terms and Lisa of Champaign Taste in Illinois had the brilliant idea to start a quarterly food blog event based on the delicious inspiration found in books. Novel Food is now in its fifth round and after perusing past roundups that beckoned with Italian murder mysteries by Magdalen Nabb, Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, Turkish Delight inspired by the White Queen in C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe", and artichoke dip inspired by Rebecca Wells' "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood", I was lured to my bookshelves to find something to read and then cook from.
I recently posted a list of foodie fiction titles (which I have moved here to my other Crispy Cook 2 blog so I can keep updating it frequently) and decided to read Diana Abu-Jaber's second novel, "Crescent" (NY: W.W. Norton, 2003). The book is a beautifully woven tale about an Iraq-American woman who is the chef at a Lebanese restaurant in Los Angeles that feeds a pan-Arab contingent of homesick students, professors and locals. She starts a romance with a haunted Iraqi professor of Arab literature that pulses between strong undercurrents of emotion for their respective families, their love for each other and their personal identities. Throw in spicy restaurant and kitchen scenes and it's a winner all the way through.
"Crescent" inspired me to look up some Arab recipes and I settled on a Yemenite Eggplant Salad that I found on Ashbury's Aubergines website. This purple website is all eggplants, all the time, and at last count had 3,116 eggplant recipes to peruse. The photo below shows only a small remnant of the salad and zhoug condiment that was left when I managed to pry away the bowl from my hubby, who tells me that this is one of My Top Five Best Recipes. Whoa! He ate the eggplant salad in a double dinner that night, first on top of leftover GF pasta, followed by heated up rice. I liked it on salad with more fresh garden tomatoes cut up in it.
The zhoug is like a parsley-hot pepper-cilantro pesto and was not as hot as I had thought it might be, so I would add the full amount of hot peppers next time (I was a chicken and only used two jalapenos). It was delightful swirled into the smoky eggplant salad, which was sort of a punched up version of Babba Gannoush. We also smeared it onto sauteed tofu cubes for another winning supper.
There is still time to enter Novel Food if you feel like poking into a good book and cooking up something wonderful. The event runs until September 20th so be sure to check in with Simona or Lisa at the links above to find out how to participate.
Happy Reading and Eating!