For the love of Hydra: Greek Bruschetta

I fell hard for bruschetta when I went on a fast and furious trip to the Amalfi Coast and Capri seven or so years ago. The fresh, plump tomatoes, the fragrant basil and the olive oil. Oh, the olive oil.

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But in November, I went to Hydra (pronounced he-dra, not hy-dra), the small Greek Island off Athens where no cars (except the mini garbage truck), motorcycles, scooters and bikes are allowed. Where Leonard Cohen once lived. Where the elite park their yachts in high season.

But in November, little is open, the island is at its sleepiest, and locals get to know you quick—wondering why you are visiting at this off-season time. Here, I fell in love with the welcoming people, the chanting monks, the soothing water, the plentiful cats, the fresh seafood, and the ever-present oregano.

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At one of my favorite restaurants (not many were open), I had a surprising bruschetta type dip. What made it different? Subbing oregano (of course) for basil, adding green peppers, and all were finally chopped, almost like a tapenade. Pair it with a cold Greek beer, red wine and grilled calamari and we have a little piece of island heaven. (My mouth is watering thinking about this bit of love.)

 

 

So obsessed I was, I made it for an appetizer at Thanksgiving and for a neighbors Candy Cane Lane party. Both times, it was devoured. Now, I’m sharing it with you. (How holiday does this platter look!)

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To maximize the flavor, get those tomatoes in the olive oil with the oregano and garlic. I chop all organic and ripe tomatoes into small pieces first. If you have access, get a mix of grape tomatoes for the color and tomatoes on the vine, roma or heirloom. Just make the pieces small, no bigger than your pinkie nail (assuming your pinkie nails aren’t dragon nails).

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Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little sea salt and enough quality olive oil to coat. Then mince that garlic and chop the oregano and drop it in, stirring in that yummy flavor. While it’s marinating, chop your green pepper and red onion as small as you can, and if you want to add a bit of basil, now is the time.

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After adding these final ingredients, drizzle more olive oil over the mixture. You should have enough olive oil and tomato to create a nice juice. Give it a taste and add more salt (I’m heavy on the salt!) And pop it in the refrigerator. It’s ready to go now, but I like it best after it has settled for a couple hours or even overnight.20191222_165851.jpg

When you are ready to serve, slice the baguette in 1/3 inch rounds. My trick to evenly broil with flavor is to pour a small layer of olive oil in a Tupperware dish, sprinkle in some garlic powder and dried oregano. I drop the rounds in the olive oil (they don’t have to be evenly coated with oil, but mostly), then turn olive oil side up on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. Pop under the broiler long enough to brown.

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This, unlike traditional bruschetta, should be spooned on the bread by the eater—like a dip. If you do in advance, the bread will get soggy. (Note: an alternate to French baguette is fresh pita—how I had it in Hydra—which was more like Naan bread available in America then our pita.)

This colorful dish is perfect for the Christmas table, or a summer barbecue.


Greek Bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano, minced (feel free to add to more sprigs)
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, chopped (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic -minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (to taste)
  • ¼ green pepper finally chopped
  • 1 small package grape tomatoes (prefer red, yellow, and purple), chopped
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 large red onion, diced
  • 1 French baguette, sliced in 1/3 rounds*
  • Dried crushed coregano
  • Garlic powder

Instructions

  1. In a serving bowl or medium bowl, combine your tomatoes, garlic and oregano with olive oil to coat. Then sprinkle with salt, and add red onion and green pepper. Stir to combine. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve—an hour or 24 hours.
  2. Cut the baguette into 1/3 inch slices. When you are ready to serve, dip each bread round in olive oil spiced with garlic powder and crushed oregano. Arrange into one layer on a baking sheet with olive oil side up. Place under a broiler until the top of the bread is lightly toasted.
  3. Serve with the Greek Bruschetta in a bowl and the rounds placed on a surrounding platter.

Note: an alternate to French baguette is fresh pita—how I had it in Hydra—which was more like Naan bread available in America then our pita.


Confession, I’m not much of a measuring type cook, and I’m not great at writing recipes down… so each time it’s a little different. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

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My, My… Too Many “Mys”

I’ve spent the last three days combing MY manuscript for the word MY. With first person POV, it’s like I, over used. A crutch. MY crutch.

Starting from page one, I found far too many uses, but after seeing MY highlighted so many times in a paragraph that it looked like those annoying caution lights on your way home–road closed due to flooding. MY overused three times out of 10…. that’s three times too many.

MY use of MY sometimes aids in a too frequent I sentence pattern.

In this usage, opt for MY over I.

  • NOW: I rolled over to check the time on my phone; just after one.
  • UPDATE: My phone lit two minutes after one.

Check those Is. Remove when you can. We all know you are watching, hearing seeing, listening, etc.

  • NOW: I watched the white peaks come and go in the ocean, almost glowing as they reflected the moon.
  • UPDATE: The white foamy peaks came and went, glowing from the moon’s reflection.

Show not tell.

  • NOW: I rested my hand on her hair.
  • UPDATE: My hand rested on her hair.

Back to MY. MY advice, highlight all those MYs and remove those road blocks when you can.

  • NOW: My mom stirred and I rolled back, resting my hand on her back.
  • UPDATE: Mom stirred; I rested my hand on her back.

One more shot at editing MY.

  • NOW: I tucked the dolls into my suitcase with my books, and lifted the fabric of the suitcase to tuck the letter inside. That’s when I found the notebook, worn smooth as if it had been handled hundreds of times.
  • UPDATE: Before resting the dolls beside the books in my suitcase, I slipped the letter in a small tear in the fabric lining of the suitcase, revealing a notebook, worn smooth as if it had been every day for the last thirty years.

What do you think of the rewrites to Losing Oneself? What are your thoughts to the usage of My and I? I’m open to suggestions and thoughts… and observations.

Inspiration #3 Read, Read & Read

There is only one thing that inspires me more than life: reading.

With every amazing book I read, I’m inspired to write.

With every well-crafted story, I learn.

With every author’s bio, I believe in the possibilities.

If you want to write, READ!

The "H's" and then some

The “H’s” and then some

The following are a few of my favorite books that I have either found 1) inspiring, 2) learned from or 3) thrilled by the author–and in no particular order.

New(ish) as in I read roughly this past year:

Yes, Yes Cherries, Mary Otis (triple threat)

Johnathan Unleashed, Meg Rosoff (love the character building)

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman (character, character, inspiring, inspiring)

Watching Edie, Camilla Way (POV lesson)

Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst (POV lesson and voice!)

How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran (gritty character and badass author)

Butterflies in November, Audur Ava Olafsdottir (inspiring and characters!)

The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle (inspiring)

 

Older (as in I read more than a couple years ago, but not in school):

Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

Anything by Raold Dahl

The Stranger, Albert Camus (okay, I read it in high school, but still love)

Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver (I was living in Minnesota)

Lush Life, Richard Price

Love Medicine, Louis Erdrich (I was living in Minnesota)

The Van, Roddy Doyle (my Irish period)

I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

 

And the list goes on…. Read on while you write on. The two go hand in hand.

The "Ts" and then some...

The “Ts” and “Vs” and then some…

 

 

 

Inspiration #1 Being Open

With an open mind, inspiration can be found, uncovered, discovered, and waiting in virtually every waking (and some sleeping) moment of the day.

I truly believe this — with an open mind, open heart, and good memory (or a pen and paper at hand), I can be inspired by a blade of grass, a glass of beer, or a barely spoken word.

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Inspiring in June 2016:  The sunset over Maas in Maastricht.

 

Inspiration #1: Sunset in a foreign city.

Walking across a bridge in a world away from home, pausing to reflect on the beauty seen for the first time by me, but seen by many others for hundreds of years is breathtaking. The thought that millions of other people have crossed this particular bridge and paused at the same spot to drink in the beauty, hold hands, or even light a cigarette doesn’t cross my mind.  To me it is old, yet fresh–as if I am the first to discover its secrets.

 

 

Geeking Out at the LA Times Festival of Books

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Geeking it at the LA Times Book Festival

I am a book nerd, an author geek, a voracious reader, a genuine fan of the written word. I’m in awe of authors who have published novels, especially good ones.

“Why do you get so excited when you meet authors? You act like they’re celebrities,” my son asked as we walked away from the signing tent at the LA Times #bookfest with personalized (to my son) autographed books from John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) and Ransom Riggs (Hollow City).

I realized that I was a bit of a blubbering idiot talking to them. Rambling. In awe.

I’ve meet numerous celebrities and have never been fazed. But when I met Judy Blume, I acted like a giggly 16 year old (I was 19).  Not exactly celebrities, but I think authors deserve great respect — and maybe they’ll tolerate a little geeking out from a fellow writer and fan.

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Ransom Riggs and my son

 

Thank you for your query

A cool black parchment type envelope with a crisp query letter to a cool San Diego-based agent who is part of a prestigious agency — a big first step…. and it felt good. Really good.

And when a familiar self-addressed envelope arrived at my house, that felt oddly okay. I knew it wasn’t a sure thing — his focus is on children’s books — but I had to try.

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for your query.

After careful consideration, Mr. X didn’t find your work was the right fit for him at this time time. I should add that he’s not actively seeking new clients, so that played a large part in his thinking.

We wish you the very best…. etc.

Dear Mr. X,

I am still thrilled to have heard from you, even a rejection. It is posted above my computer, encouraging me to push on. I shall charge on….

#RejectionsCanInspire