September 30, 2015

Arugula Pesto

I adore arugula – I eat it in salads, I put it in sandwiches, I chop it up and put it on top of pasta instead of parsley... So when I read a tantalizing description from Antonia and her Daughters by Marlena de Blasi about pesto made with wild arugula (or rucola, as the Italians call it) – I knew I had to make it.

Now, my version differs quite a bit from Marlena's. For starters, she made hers using a mortar and pestle and it had walnuts and just boiled new potatoes.

However, the first time I decided to make this, I didn't have any walnuts or potatoes handy. The closest thing I had to either pine nuts (the traditional nut used with pesto) or walnuts were slivered almonds. So in they went and I have to say that everything worked fantastically well. I think I might even like it better than basil pesto. And since I always have arugula on hand, it's a snap to whip up this dish.

Arugula Pesto


1 packed cup of arugula leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove (or if warding off vampires, use 3, like I do :))
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt

1. Place garlic clove, slivered almonds, and parmesan cheese in food processor and pulse until a rough paste.
2. Add arugula leaves and pulse until well blended.
3. As the leaves are blending, slowly stream olive oil and then lemon juice through the tube and incorporate until smooth.
4. Lastly, as the entire mixture is blending, add the salt.

Enjoy over pasta, as a spread on a crostini or on warm, crusty bread.

September 28, 2015

Book Review: Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell

Publication Date: July 7, 2015

Source: Vine

Everyone thought we were dead. We were missing for nearly two months; we were twelve. What else could they think? –Lois

It's always been hard to talk about what happened without sounding all melodramatic. . . . Actually, I haven't mentioned it for years, not to a goddamned person. -Carly May

The summer precocious Lois and pretty Carly May were twelve years old, they were kidnapped, driven across the country, and held in a cabin in the woods for two months by a charismatic stranger. Nearly twenty years later, Lois has become a professor, teaching British literature at a small college in upstate New York, and Carly May is an actress in Los Angeles, drinking too much and struggling to revive her career. When a movie with a shockingly familiar plot draws the two women together once more, they must face the public exposure of their secret history and confront the dark longings and unspeakable truths that haunt them still. Maggie Mitchell's Pretty Is beautifully defies ripped-from-the-headlines crime story expectations and announces the debut of a masterful new storytelling talent.

Pretty Is isn’t a conventional, edge-of-your seat thriller with a twist to amp up the suspense. If there is a twist, it has to do with what happened in the cabin in the woods all those years ago between the two girls, Lois and Carly May, and their abductor, the handsome and enigmatic Zed. Although Lois and Carly May were eventually rescued and returned to their parents the circumstances of their abduction still haunt them even into adulthood. The narrative skillfully alternates between Lois, now a novelist and English Lit professor, and Carly May, a B-list actress. The book circles intriguingly around the truth, revealing some details, withholding others as Lois and Carly May grapple with the aftermath for the first 100 or so pages.

Then, just when the reader’s curiosity is at its unbearable peak, Pretty Is goes deep into the woods, with text from the book Lois wrote about that summer, veiled as a novel. Which is fact and which is fiction? The reader is forced to ask. What really happened? Why did Zed abduct them?

Not all of the reader’s questions are answered by the end; however, there is a satisfying sense of resolution and closure.

Multi-layered, complex, and engrossing, Pretty Is is an unexpected and different kind of “thriller.”

Maggie Mitchell has published short fiction in a number of literary magazines, including the New Ohio Review, American Literary Review, and Green Mountains Review. Originally from upstate New York, she now lives in Georgia with her husband and cats. Pretty Is is her first novel.

September 25, 2015

Marrakech - Walking in The Red City

I have been dreaming of going to Marrakech for a long time now and this year, I finally got to visit for my birthday. Never have I been in a more intriguing and colorful place. 

Badi Palace - Badi means incomparable. In its day, the grounds were paved with gold, crystal and turquoise. Now it lies in ruins.    

Marrakech is called "The Red City" because all the buildings are painted in various shades of red or salmon pink. It is against the law to paint them any other color.

The old part of town, the Medina, is composed of labyrinthine cobbled streets with no names.  They just twist and turn under wooden slats that keep out the hot sun.

Piles of firewood outside a house means it belongs to a baker.

Every street has carts of beautiful vegetables or herbs or fruit for sale.    

Donkeys are a common sight on the streets of Marrakech, traveling right alongside cars and motorcycles.

The dyers market, where freshly dyed skeins of wool are hung from the ceiling .   

A caleche

Djemaa El Fna is the vast square in the heart of the medina. Music beats here night and day. It is a frenzied outdoor theater of snake charmers, chained monkeys, peddlers, storytellers, dancers, musicians, acrobats...    

When the sun goes down, the food stalls go up. This is my soup guy. Every night he would serve me harira soup for about 30 cents.

Berber musicians

I always made sure to be covered from neck to foot, usually wrapping myself in colorful scarves.

Proper footwear is very important. The streets of Marrakech, especially in the medina, are cobblestoned and the passageways of the souks are often wet because merchants are constantly cleaning in front of their markets by tossing a bucket of water on the ground. 
When the proprietor of the riad where I was staying saw my boots, she nodded in approval, saying that I wore the perfect shoes for walking around in the Red City.