I must admit, I was captivated by this book from the first sentence. After all the main character’s first name is Morgan.
Her surname is Christopher (name of my middle son) and her boyfriend’s name is Trey (name of oldest son). There’s a Jon in there somewhere, I’m sure!
The extra pull is that the novel is set in my adopted state of North Carolina jumping back and forth from the early forties and to the present. But it is the writing that really captures the reader. You feel like the characters are your peers. You find yourself dancing in a time warp while you are cheering for the heroine(s).
This is my next pick for our Super Supper Book Club. Gather your readers, give them the title and dole out the recipes for what will be a roller coaster discussion and meal.
Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit; she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold―until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.
After a year, you get your hands on a cell phone for the first time. Who do you call?
Was it brave or crazy for Jesse’s family to aid Anna?
Does Morgan ever come to accept that alcohol is a problem for her, or does she simply comply with her parole requirements?
My Southern inspiration for this Super Supper Book Club menu is Jesse’s family’s Sunday dinner. I take the liberty of substituting Anna’s least favorite vegetable (collard greens) with my delicious recipe for Swiss chard. I exchange corn on with cob for creamed corn. In place of stewed tomatoes liberated from the family’s root cellar, I substitute slow roasted cherry tomatoes.
The author didn’t mention a dessert, but I bet the farm, there was strawberry shortcake somewhere, sometime on Sundays. My swaps are allowed, because all these recipes are rooted in my love of the South. Lest there be controversary during the discussion, keep those paintbrushes close to allow everyone to express themselves.
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Super Supper Book Club Menu: “Big Lies in a Small Town” by Diane Chamberlain
Easy Garden Art Focaccia Bread Recipe – Farmer’s Market Edition!
This garden bread art recipe was inspired by traditional Azerbaijani outdoor cooking and my love for all things fresh from the Farmer’s Market! Join me as I revisit my focaccia bread that first appeared in “Canvas and Cuisine: The Art of the Fresh Market”
Sometimes inspiration just hits! For me it started with the Azerbaijan cooking vlogs that constantly show up in my Facebook feed.
I used to look forward to seeing friends and kids of friends and grandkids of friends.
Now, I peer into the screen waiting to see my adorable Azerbaijan friends as they emerge through the green door of their tiny house to forage through the woods, harvesting as they go.
The only sounds you hear are the rustling of leaves and chirping birds. He throws down a metal pan, slices some logs and before you know it there is a working oven in the middle of a field or by the side of a stream or at the top of a ridge! She uses a clever wooden board to chop everything from onions to a whole leg of lamb. He makes tea out of the flowers he picks as he passes the field.
I’m inspired by everything that they cook – always outdoors and always on an open fire. But what gets me the most is how she (Lord, I wish I knew her name) bakes bread at almost every meal using nothing but her hands and a covered skillet.
And even more, it makes me crave fresh baked bread almost daily.
Let’s face it…I have every modern tool known to man starting with electricity and ending with a machine fitted with a dough hook and still, I find bread making to be daunting.
I’m over it! If my Azerbaijan friend can bake gloriously delicious-looking bread over an open fire, then I can certainly take my bread baking to a new level using my state of the art kitchen. Right?
I have a really good recipe for focaccia bread in my book “Canvas and Cuisine: Art of the Fresh Market”. The dough comes together quickly and rises when requested. It bakes in about 15 minutes and has just enough crumb to distinguish itself from flatbread. It’s my go-to bread recipe, so I decided that my focaccia dough would be my canvas. My morning trip to the Farmer’s market yielded all sorts of treasurers. I purchased peppers and multi-colored carrots. I gathered my favorite purple-green tomatoes and all sorts of herbs. When I laid out all of these, I saw my plan come together. I would create a flower garden using veggies and herbs to decorate my bread. I would make my Azerbaijan friend proud!
It’s all in the planning, so I laid out my design on parchment paper while the bread was rising. This was the smartest thing that I did, because I could change things around on paper that I would have been stuck with when placed on the bread dough.
I used red onions for flower petals and chives for stems. I sliced the carrots using my mandoline and cut olives, red cherry bomb peppers and grape tomatoes into thin slices. Sage and parsley leaves pulled everything together and my flower garden was born. In the end, it worked like a charm and my pals oohed and awed at the results. I must admit I was pretty impressed with myself!
My Azerbaijan friend started me on this journey. (I feel I have more to come!!) The Farmer’s market furthered my vision. And here’s my take from this experience. Inspiration can be found anywhere; you just have to open your eyes.
What’s going to inspire you this week??
Garden Art Focaccia Bread Recipe
6 – 8
20 Minutes plus a few hours for bread to rise
INGREDIENTS FOR GARDEN ART FOCACCIA BREAD
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 ¾ cups warm water
5 cups unbleached all-purpose
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Tried it? Tag it!
I would love to see what you did with this recipe. Share your creation by tagging #inthekitchenwithjorj and with Scrumptious Possibilities With Jorj, my free private home cooking group.
Place the yeast and sugar into a small bowl. Stir in the warm water. Place the bowl in a warm place until the yeast is bubbling and fragrant, about 15 minutes. I use the proof setting on my warming drawer for this.
Use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to combine the flour, salt, ½ cup of olive oil and the yeast to form a dough. Once the dough comes together, continue to knead the dough in the machine until smooth. Stop the machine and check the dough every couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, hold its shape around the dough hook and spring back when you indent it with your finger. This takes anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes using the mixer. If you are kneading by hand, knead until you can’t knead anymore!
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead it by hand for an additional 30 seconds. If the dough is too sticky, you can sprinkle with additional flour. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. I use my warming drawer for this step, too.
Pour the remaining cup of olive oil onto a 12 ½ x 17 ½ x 1-inch jelly roll pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, stretching it out to fill the pan. Turn and coat with oil on both sides. Use your finger to poke indentations into the dough. These will be the “nooks and crannies” to hold the seasoning in the next step. Place the dough in a warm place to rise again, for 1 hour. Yep, the warming drawer is still the best place!
Preheat the oven to 400°. Transfer the pan from its warm place. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, sea salt, thyme, and rosemary. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan before cutting into squares.
How’s that for a preview of what I’m reading this month? Ruth Ware has been touted as the Agatha Christie of our times, and with titles like The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game behind her, you will most definitely agree.
This is my next pick for our Super Supper Book Club. Gather your readers, give them the title, and dole out the recipes for what will be a roller coaster discussion and meal.
POT BOILER PLOT: When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss – a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious “smart” home fitted with all modern conveniences, and, even more, by the picture-perfect family that lives there. What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare.
I already cooked up some questions for your Super Supper Book Club gathering…
• If you read an ad for a job that offers an extraordinary salary, would you be wary or curious?
• When you first meet Jack, are you smitten, or do you think he is too good to be true?
• At what point is a smart house too smart for our own good?
My ghostly inspiration for this Super Supper Book Club menu is Heatherbrae House itself. Almost a character in the book, the house holds the key to comfort and the uncomfortable. A haunted house turned into a smart house; it sits in a remote area in the Scottish Highlands where the food traditions are steeped in history. This spirited menu grabs a taste from the past and updates conventional Scottish dishes just in time for our book discussion. Choose as many or as few recipes as your group likes. As you’re dining and discussing, don’t forget to look over your shoulder for any shadows lurking in the corner of the room. You never know who (or what’s) listening…..
This Month’s Super Supper Book Club Menu for Turn of the Key Features:
Bangers ‘n Mash Hand Pies with Mustard Dipping Sauce Canvas & Cuisine page 186 Sausage-Stuffed Party Bread At Home Entertaining page 372 Dill Roasted Salmon with Horseradish Caper Sauce At Home Entertaining page 379 Fish and Chips with Roasted Tomato Ketchup At Home Entertaining page 210 Wild Rice, Lentils and Sautéed Mushrooms At Home Entertaining 381 Raspberry Shortbread Tart Sunday Best Dishes page 315
Raspberry Shortbread Tart 60 minute cuisine MAKES 12 SERVINGS
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1 medium orange, about 3 tablespoons (reserve zest for tart)
2 pints fresh raspberries, about 4 cups
¼ cup apricot jam
Combine the sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Stir in the raspberries. Reduce the heat to low. Cook until the raspberries have broken down into the sauce, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the jam. Simmer until the jam melts into the sauce, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
6 ounces sliced almonds, about 1 ½ cup
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 2 ¾ cups
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon table salt
1½ cup unsalted butter (3 sticks), chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 medium orange, about 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 325°. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet. Bake until they just begin to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Place ¼ cup of the flour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the toasted almonds. Pulse to form fine crumbs. Pour into a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining flour, cornmeal, and salt.
Place the butter into the bowl of the processor. Add the sugar, orange zest and vanilla. Pulse until creamy. Add the egg yolks and pulse. Add the dry ingredients and pulse until the dough just comes together. Pour the dough out onto your work surface. Divide the dough in half. Coat the bottom of a 12-inch fluted tart pan with vegetable oil spray. Press one half of the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Wrap the second half of the dough in plastic. Refrigerate both for 30 minutes.
Prick the bottom of the tart with the tines of a fork. Place onto a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven. Spread the filling over the top. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the filling. Bake until the top of the tart is golden, about 30 to 40 minutes more. Cool completely. Sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar. Remove the rim from the tart pan and transfer to a platter.
This December, I am reminded that yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year and it’s because of family, friends and all of you. My little food blog at Jorj.com brings me joy 365 days a year. Every Monday, I get to tell a story and bring you with me. I’ve been writing cookbooks forever, and I thank you for being the most important part of my journey as an author.
Here are some of my highlights from 2018!
I have a fifth grandchild on the way!
I taught cooking classes in Boone, North Carolina and was overjoyed at our culinary team being able to serve so many hungry souls at the nearby Hospitality House. Now, my heart is full.
The entire extended Morgan family went glamping in Montana at the PawsUp Resort (our dude, we’re on a dude ranch photo went out as my Xmas card this year)
I tasted Italy in a once in a lifetime trip to Sorrento and the Almafi Coast
Sue and I finally made good on our threat to combine her love of art and my love of food into CANVAS and Cuisine: the art of the fresh market. It’s our chance to raise money for charities that mean a lot to us, as well as pay homage to Marti and Wayne Huizenga, the inspiration for this book!
I couldn’t live my dreams without you, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for following me. I promise amazing things in the year 2019 – let’s continue our kitchen adventures and see where the yummy road takes us next.
Happy Labor Day! I know we all tend to dine out on holiday weekends, and that can get a little old. Deep down, we’re just looking for an easy, fresh and healthful recipe that enables a chill night at home. My Moroccan Sheet Pan Chicken is great for that. For one thing, the nice bottle of white you’ll need to make it, only calls for one cup…the rest you can sip on during dinner. I recommend picking up a second bottle of the same wine as it’ll pair perfectly with this dinner.
The ingredients for this one are a little expensive, but not if you think about quantity. This slow roasted platter of veggies, sweet dates, olives and sumptuous chicken, simmering in a delicate orange and peppery sauce leaves you with surplus spices and Medjool dates.
Dates are the sweetest, yummiest breakfast ever…you can add the turmeric and other Asian spices left over for future sheet pan dinners. Here’s what the spice rub for your chicken will look like when you mix it according to recipe instructions:
This recipe hails from North Africa – one of the few places I still haven’t gone, yet fantasize about in my upcoming cookbook Canvas & Cuisine. I love how Moroccan food pairs sweet with tart, better than most anywhere else. Salty olives with sweet dates, hot spices with cooked brown sugar . . . I can’t think of a bigger treat for dinner. This is a one-pan meal, ideal for serving with a bowl of lemon-infused jasmine rice.
Moroccan Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet ‘n Salty Carrots and Chickpeas
serves 4 to 6
30 minute cuisine
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 whole orange, cut into thin slices
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
½ pound pitted dates, about 1 ½ cups
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
8 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can mix and match with boneless breasts)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 more for veggies
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges
1 pound baby carrots, about 12 to 14, cut in half
1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Mix together all the spices in a small bowl. This will make more spice mix than you need, but it will keep well in an airtight container. Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. Add two to three tablespoons of the spice blend into the bag. Seal and shake the bag to coat the chicken. Add the orange slices. Place the bag into the refrigerator and marinate for at least 2 hours and as much as overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the chicken from the bag and place into a baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the top of the chicken. Season with some of the salt and pepper.
Place the onion, carrots, garlic and chickpeas into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the spice blend and 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Lay the veggies around the chicken. Plop the olives and dates in and around the chicken and vegetables. Pour the wine over everything.
Bake until the chicken is cooked through (when the internal temperature reaches 165°) about 30 to 45 minutes. Pluck the chicken pieces from the sheet pan and place onto a serving platter. Spoon the pan juices, fruits and veggies over the chicken pieces. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
The best way to ensure all the chicken cooks at the same time is to make sure that the pieces are of similar size. If you have chosen to cook chicken breasts, you might cut each breast in half to match the size of the thighs.