Signature Dish Meets New Style Book Publicity

The food: sesame-crusted salmon on salad

The story:

About a month ago, a publicist from a company called BookSparksPR contacted me to ask if I would like to “take part in a blog tour” for a new novel to be published in early August – Georgia’s Kitchen by Jenny Nelson.

Once I figured out what a blog tour was, I agreed to review the book, partly so I could experience new style, social-networking-type book publicity first-hand, though I opted to observe and report on some aspects of the tour (giveaways! a virtual blog visit! facebook and twitter updates!) from a distance.

So here’s the nicely designed and tasteful (yeah, I did that) book cover of Georgia’s Kitchen:

And here’s my review:

Georgia’s Kitchen is a light-hearted work of commercial fiction about a 33-year-old chef who, after getting fired from her job in a high-end New York restaurant and dumped by her lawyer fiancé, miraculously scores a job cooking at an esteemed chef’s about-to-open trattoria in Tuscany. She jets off there for the summer to lick her wounds and refine her craft, only to be courted by the handsome owner of the vineyard next door.

A press release that came with the book calls it “reminiscent of Julie and Julia and Under the Tuscan Sun,” which is quite the stretch, since both of those books are non-fiction memoirs told in the distinctive 1st-person voices of their authors.

What this living-the-good-life women’s novel (told in the 3rd person) reminded me of was Sex and the City (TV or movie version), re: the sex, drug (cocaine) use, swilling of expensive wines, name-dropping of NYC bars and restaurants, and the handy gal pals (one a fashionista) who take Georgia to a spa to cheer her up.

The novel also made me recall Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer,

a novel with a similar fluffy and entertaining tone about a Pasadena pastry chef, who, like Georgia in this book, has parental issues to work through when she’s not cooking, brooding about her love life, and aspiring to chef-ish greatness.

Georgia cooks plenty of (mostly Italian) food in Georgia’s Kitchen. In what I thought was the novel’s most vivid and well-realized scene, she prepares a torta a strati alla primavera or savoury “spring layer cake” – a layered, moulded creation made of risotto, organic spring vegetables, pesto, and a chilled basil-mint sformato – that she hopes will be chosen as the Tuscan trattoria’s signature dish.

The talk in the novel of signature dishes started me pondering if I have one. Seeing as I’m no chef and never will be, I think the closest thing to a signature dish in my current repertoire is the sesame-crusted salmon on salad main dish (pictured at top) that I have often made for dinner à deux and for company.

The recipe for it comes from Bonnie Stern’s cookbook Simply Heartsmart Cooking. Her version of it can be found here For the summery edition I made today, I substituted nectarines for orange sections, yellow peppers for red, and toasted black and white sesame seeds for regular ones.

Until I come up with a new signature dish – maybe some of chef Georgia’s brilliance will rub off on me now that I’ve read the book! (or maybe I need to go to Tuscany to be inspired) – this lovely, colourful main course salad will do just fine.

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