It’s been awhile since I cooked something adventurous. Since we’re always looking for flavorful vegetarian dishes, I decided to work with eggplant (totally forgetting that by itself, it’s just not flavorful). Last night, I tackled a recipe from Food & Wine Magazine, one that didn’t look complicated (just work-intensive, like so many of their recipes). The recipe is in a section of the magazine that highlighted the “new” red wines.
I made Mushroom Stuffed Eggplant from their April 2011 issue (pg 134). This recipe apparently pairs well with Xinomavro which was compared to Oregon Pinot Noir (but the Xino tends to be more tannic, and goes best with hearty dishes), but not having a plane available to hop to Greece for a bottle or two (and not wanting to go wine hunting after a grueling yoga class), I settled for a solid Pinot Noir that I know and like a lot, from Blackstone. I can usually get it for under $6 on sale at Vons. (But the whole wine thing is another blog post!)
Well, I made the stuffed part – I did what I was told, cut the meat of the eggplant out (which is NOT easy -I needed to drink a full 4 oz of wine to get through it) leaving a 1/4″ thick shell. Then I salted it and let it sweat for 30 minutes (while preparing the stuffing – dry baguette cut into cubes and mixed with red wine; cut mushrooms and sauteed them on the stove; sauteed the cut up eggplant on the stove; sauteed a yellow onion with garlic and a bit of cumin on the stove, mixed those three together. Then I wiped out the eggplant shells, rubbed them all over with olive oil, put them cut side down in a pan with 1/4 cup of water, covered them with foil, and baked for 45 minutes.
Yeah. 45 minutes. By the time that was done baking, in happy anticipation I lifted off the foil and prepared to turn the eggplant over to stuff them.
Except, the eggplants were flat. And soggy. And burned to the pan. All three, which kind of blew my mind. WTF? I downed a short glass of wine to think this out. Quickly ditching the whole “stuffed” thing, I got out my trusty 8×8 pan, sprayed it with cooking spray, and then mixed the stuffing together – bread cubes, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and garlic. Checking the recipe, I noticed it called for “young” pecorino.
Um. Excuse me? “Young” pecorino? Not only not knowing what that is, nor where I would be able to purchase it, I tossed in the scant handful left of Trader Joe’s shaved cheese mix (parmesean, romano, and asiago cheese) plus another half cup of mozzarella. A teaspoon of salt and pepper each, and then into the oven it went.
The recipe wanted me to up the oven temp to 425. I saw that as a waste, so kept it at 350 for 15 minutes, then put it under the broiler 4″ away from the flame for 4 minutes. It came out crispy on top, tender inside, and nicely cheesy.
I did make substitutions along the way – the recipe called for a red onion, which I forgot to buy, so I subbed a yellow onion. It also called for a full pound of mushrooms – I knew I had an 8 oz package in the fridge, so thought I was set. It wanted a day-old baguette – um, sorry, baguettes NEVER last more than one meal at my house – so I bought a fresh one, cut it up, and toasted the cubes in a dry pan on the stove on really high heat for about five minutes. Oh, and it also wanted a full teaspoon of cumin added. We’re not big cumin fans at my house, so I only added 1/4 tsp.
Taste-wise, it gets a solid B (and maybe that was because I didn’t “follow” the recipe). Overall it was bland except for hints of the cumin and of course the terrific cheese I’d sprinkled in (though on second thought, perhaps a sharper cheese like feta would have been better). Prep-wise, it gets a definite D. I think I could take this recipe and modify it for people who actually work and don’t have a year to spend in the kitchen making dinner. This might be a really great stuffing for bell peppers; the recipe itself wanted more of a punch taste-wise (perhaps that was the cumin’s job?), and bell pepper would certainly add that. Even browned spiced ground beef or turkey (not too much, maybe a scant cup) would give it the extra oomph it needs.
But – yeah, overall kind of bland and that definitely could have been my fault. But it makes me think – why did the F&W folks pair a wine that goes best with hearty dishes with THIS dish? O.o
I don’t think I’ll be doing much with eggplant in the future. As my hubby says, eggplants are just not worth the effort. Except for Eggplant Parmigiana, but I prefer to order that one out!
So – four of us from Crescent Moon Press have decided to do a book giveaway as well as try our hand at Romance Trading Cards. They were THE big thing at the last Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention, held April 6th – 10th here in Los Angeles, and I think you’ll see a lot more of them in the future. Here’s mine…
The idea being you can give a snapshot of your hero, your heroine, and what they’re like. I kept mine to my bookcover and the blurb as I’m still learning how to juggle photos and etcetera, but for a first time, 5 minute creation, I really like it.
Now for the contest. If you go to Jean Murray’s blog here, there’s another trading card to check out. Visit the next one on the list, and the next, and you too could all win FOUR ebooks – DEMON SOUL PLUS three other Crescent Moon Press books!
1. Leave a meaningful comment on my blog to enter your name in drawing.
2. Leave your email address in your comment section (to avoid spammers, please use at for @, dot for .)
3. To increase your chances of winning, go to Author Jean Murray’s website and see her other SOUL REBORN Trading Card.
4. You may enter up to 4 separate comments on each of the participating author sites to increase your chances (each site will lead you to the next!).
Here’s just one of Jean’s trading cards…enjoy!
Cover of DEMON SOUL
Okay, YAY! It’s now available in paperback at Amazon! Here’s the link… DEMON SOUL .
I am SO pleased that it’s live. It’s given me the kick I needed to make this day brighter. I’m currently giving some characters hell in the second book of the series and it’s rough going right now so something like this (and, okay, lunch with the hubby works too!) really makes my day. Now the one thing that would make my life complete(r) – when DS is available on all the other platforms, too. I’m ready for that, universe!
Okay, here we go – the last RT 2011 update. I’m actually going back to Friday, since I didn’t have my notes with me yesterday.
Friday morning I went to a panel on creating out of this world Science Fiction. But really, it ended up being a panel on world-building. I learned that when you’re creating a world, you can’t just take your home town and put it on a different planet. You need to come up with political, social, religious, and economic structures for your planet (or your area of the planet), and you cannot ignore the weather as that, too will affect the inhabitants. L.E. Modesitt, Ann Aguirre, Melinda Snodgrass and Kate Elliot were the panelists (since my sons are huge L.E. Modesitt fans, it was a thrill to be there). Another thing – when dealing with sci fi in particular, stay away from what Modesitt calls “techno-porn”, digging into how things work. Keep it gray, amorphous, and it won’t date the book as fast. When you think about it, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and Modesitt himself all have timeless stories. That’s what you want, timeless, so your book can still be on the shelves 20 years from now and still feel fresh, not dated.
From there I went to a panel with Merrilee Heifetz, a VP with Writer’s House; Anne Hoppe, a Harper Collins Executive Editor; and Sally Willcox, a film agent with CAA. They were talking about taking a book to film, the options process, and how few options actually make it to the silver screen (less than 2% of the million options that happen in a year). This was nothing new to me, having been around the Hollywood scene for a couple decades now; but I did accomplish my objective, pressing my bookmark into each of their hands. Go, me!
I sat in on the TOR Spotlight and got a ton of L.E. Modesitt swag which I had him autograph on Saturday. I also learned that TOR is very interested in romance in their sci fi, and they do want Space Opera. Yay! An interesting side note – Modesitt does not have an agent. He’s married to TOR, as he puts it, and sees no reason to get an agent at this point. He’s doing well with approximately 20 books in print (I don’t think any of his books have gone out of print, actually). Nice!
From there I went to The Many Faces of the Undead with Caridad Pinero, L.A. Banks, Kerrelyn Sparks, and Jeanne C. Stein. On the social side, since I just did a blog post with Caridad it was wonderful to meet her in person. She’s warm, funny, and so smart! We talked until it was time to start the panel.
The interesting thing I took away from this panel was that, since the Vampire has so many advantages, you have to give them vulnerabilities. Which is why one of the panelists stuck to all the traditional trappings of vampires – they die during the day, can’t go into the sun, etc. All the panelists had different ways of handling their vamps, and it was fascinating to listen to. The main thing is once you set those parameters for your characters, then you have to stick with them and make them work. I think it was Kerrelyn who said the one device she wished she hadn’t done in her first book was the garlic thing – now she thinks it’s kind of silly. So if you’re writing supernatural creatures, be careful of the restrictions you put on them, and make sure you give them weaknesses that make them vulnerable.
After that panel was the book signing and I’ve already talked at length about those two hours, so I’ll skip it here.
The Vampire Ball was interesting. Heather Graham and Helen A. Rosburg sponsored the ball and put on a show. Unfortunately the show was done while we ate, and it was very difficult to hear (not to mention follow the story line). And the story line was incoherent – too many writers, I’m thinking. All in all, the dinner was nice – the show, not my favorite way to spend forty minutes.
And now it’s Sunday morning. Time to pack up all my free books and get ready to head on for home.
I apologize, I don’t have my notes with me from yesterday so I’ll have to add those tomorrow.
But – yesterday I had my very first booksigning ever. For my very first published book, DEMON SOUL, pubbed by Crescent Moon Press. It was amazing! No, I didn’t sell out, and that’s okay – the lovely NY Times bestselling author in two genres next to me didn’t sell any more books than I did, so that made me feel better.
What I did do though was get up off my ass. I stood, and hooked my bookmark to my pen, and leaned over the table to people as they walked by. “Here, you need this!” or “This is for you!” Most people smiled, only a couple refused; and I spread my brand a little more. I even sold one book that way (in total, I sold 4. Don’t laugh!). I could have sold more if I’d had a physical book; several people, including men, expressed interest in the physical book. Hopefully they’ll go to Amazon and buy that way, we will see. But at the end of the day I must have given away more than a hundred bookmarks and pens. Which spreads the brand.
I know – many authors say they’ve never bought a book from a bookmark, and I’m one of them. But readers are not authors, and if the blurb is catchy enough, the bookmark striking enough, you’ll pull in new people. If nothing else, you’re spreading your brand, and that’s never a bad thing, right?
I was so into my “friendly marketing mode” that I even talked to Selena James for about five minutes about her conference experience and then about my book. It wasn’t until she walked away that I realized her affiliation with Kensington. Now, she’s the exec editor for Dafina Books, and as such not a publisher for me, but still – I learned that when in marketing mode, it was easier to be relaxed even in front of the biggies. Heather Osborn of Samhain Publishing also got a pen, a bookmark, and we had a brief conversation.
Another thing I learned while pimping my book out was how to succinctly state what the book is about in an organic, unplanned way. This is not your elevator pitch, my friends – this is a conversation with readers. Hooking them verbally is different than hooking them on paper. I don’t know why but it is. The basics are the same but the delivery is different…words that I’d never put together with the novel were tumbling out. I got good at it very fast, and enjoyed it which I didn’t think I would.
The best thing about the day? I had a gal from England buy my book. She downloaded it on her newly-won-at-a-raffle Kindle, and came back to show it to me…her plan was to read it on the plane on the way back home. SWEET!!! Am I allowed to happy dance?!!
Buy Link: at Amazon or at All Romance eBooks and search for DEMON SOUL.