Spring means all those beautiful greens are back: young green leaves, shoots of grass, and a blaze of wildflowers. In this part of the world (Europe) the countryside is crisscrossed with ancient green lanes, many of which are thousands of years old. I take delight in following them, going from one village to the next, even crossing all of Europe. Well…okay. We’re in our sixth week of confinement in France, and walking on those lanes is only a dream at the moment. But, I know they are out there, waiting for me.
Spring also means lighter menus with new green shoots of dandelion, purslane, plantain, and lamb’s lettuce in my salads. In my latest romantic mystery, The Turkish Affair, my heroine Anne Pierson goes out to gather these shoots with village women. Anne is also a vegetarian like several heroes and heroines in my romances. Why? Because so many of us know that animals have feelings, are affectionate, loving, and can feel as stressed, or depressed, as humans. And we hate the cruelty of meat production.
One of my favorite spring recipes uses polenta, made from white or yellow corn that has been dried and ground into meal. Traditionally polenta is an Italian dish, but its wonderful flavor has made it a favorite everywhere in Europe and North America. I’m not going to tell you how to prepare polenta from scratch because you can find that elsewhere — here, for example: (https://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Polenta).
However, I’m a lazy cook, so I prefer to buy ready-made tube polenta — it can sometimes be found in the Italian food section of supermarkets, always in natural foods stores, or in Italian specialty shops. Many recipes call for frying it, but to keep calories down, I prefer to slice it, top each slice with Swiss or goat’s cheese, a few herbs (whatever you have on hand) a slice of tomato, a tiny dribble of pure olive oil, a tiny bit of fresh garlic (never dried), salt and pepper. Then I put these slices into the oven and bake them until the cheese melts. Served with a green salad (made with your own dressing of olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice), this is an easy, delicious meal. If you like mushrooms, you can top baked polenta slices with mushrooms cooked in a little red wine and herbs. Honestly, polenta is so incredibly versatile and so delicious.
A Swan's Sweet Song
The air sizzles when a country music star and renowned playwright meet, but can opposites fall in love?
The instant Sherry and Carston meet, there's desire and fascination in the air...but they're complete opposites. Smart-talking Sherry Valentine has fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, ever in the limelight, ever surrounded by clamoring fans, male admirers, and paparazzi, her spangled cowboy boots carry her from one brightly lit stage to the next. But Sherry’s been on the star circuit for far too long now, and she wants a change: is it too late for her to begin an acting career?
A renowned, but reclusive playwright, Carston Hewlett cherishes his freedom, the silence of the deep woods surrounding his home, and his solitary country walks. Long-term commitments have been out of the question for many years, so why is he so fascinated by a flashy country music singer? Perhaps a very short, but passionate, fling will resolve the problem.
When their names are linked in the scandal press, and Sherry's plans to become an actress are revealed, Carston is furious. Is their budding relationship doomed?
More About J. Arlene
Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.
Web site: http://www.j-arleneculiner.com
Storytelling Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/jarlene.culiner