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The Book Tour Stops Here: Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin and Egg-Filled Croissant Cups with Swiss Cheese & Herbs

Posted Mar 06 2013 5:00am
Never underestimate the power of scent. According to Eva, "from the longer and more beautiful Evangeline", the main character in Scent of Darkness: A Novel by Margot Berwin , "Human beings are defenseless against scent. They can't from it because they can't see it, or touch it, or hold it. All by itself it crawls into their brains, and by the time they're in love with it, or the person it is coming from, it's too late. They are tied to it forever, through the long tight leash of memory."

Scent of Darkness Synopsis: "Evangeline grows up understanding the extraordinary effects of fragrance. Her grandmother, Louise, is a gifted aromata, a master in the art of scent-making and perfume. When Eva was a girl, Louise carefully explained the way lavender under her pillow would make her dream of the man she would marry; eucalyptus would make her taller; almondine, fatter; and jasmine, she promised, would wrap her entire life in a mystery. When Eva is eighteen, Louise passes away and leaves her the ultimate gift—a scent created just for her. The small ruby vial of perfume with a stopper thin as a human hair is accompanied by a note in Louise’s slanted script: “Do not remove the stopper, Evangeline, unless you want everything in your life to change.” 

From the moment Eva places a drop on her neck—the essence of fire, leather, red velvet rose and jasmine—men dance closer to her; women busy their faces deep into her hair; even the cats outside her bedroom cry to be near her. After a lifetime spent blending into the background, Eva is suddenly the object of intense desire for everyone around her. Strangers follow her down the street, a young boy appears at her door asking for a favor, and two men, one kind and good, the other evil and seductive, fall deeply, madly in love with her." -- TLC Book Tours

Hardcover 240 Pages / Pantheon Publishing January 2013

My Thoughts: I really liked the magical themes of the story and the mystery that surrounded Eva's scent. The writing is so descriptive and sensual, I could almost feel the sultry heat of the bayou. Some of the images in the book, blood, a festering wound on Eva's wrist, were a little too descriptive--not a book to linger over lunch with. ;-) I wanted to like Eva more, finding myself constantly frustrated with her throughout the book. I had to keep reminding myself that Eva was only eighteen because I kept getting angry with how immature and needy she could be. I can understand some of her motivation--after being mostly ignored most of her life by her mother and others, to suddenly be the object of such intense desire from everyone you come in contact with would be overwhelming and would easily go to anyone's head. I did like some of the supporting characters--especially Levron, a fourteen year-old neighbor that Eva grows close to. I wanted a deeper look and more understanding of Gabriel, the young medical student Eva falls for,  and I wish his character had garnered more exploration. Although a bit disjointed and unsettling, I found Scent of Darkness to be truly original and and intriguing read. 

Margot Berwin  is the author of the best-selling novel Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire. Her work has been translated into nineteen languages. She earned her MFA from the New School in 2005 and lives in New York City.  Scent of Darkness is her second book.

For my book-inspired dish, I went back and forth with what to make. Although not a food-centered book (probably a good thing with all of the blood imagery), ;-) mentions of food are sprinkled throughout the story. There are the scents of herbs and spices and the food of New Orleans (chicory-spiked coffee, seafood gumbo, fried chicken, black-eyed peas and catfish po'boys...) where Eva travels with Gabriel. Earlier in the book, Gabriel cooks up a bunch of herbs to cover Eva's scent, then makes a pasta dish with vegetables and sausage that he finds in the refrigerator. In New Orleans, Eva's young neighbor Levon brings her frosted cupcakes--a white one covered in multi-colored sprinkles and later a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and Eva eats eggs for breakfast a few times at Johnny River's--an old diner, and the waitress takes to calling her "Eggs." 

In the end, I was torn between cupcakes and eggs and happened to open up a little cookbook sent to me to review several months ago Bake It In a Cupcake: 50 Treats with a Surprise Inside by Megan Seling. There I found a recipe that incorporated both---little croissant cups filled with Swiss cheese, an egg and topped with fresh chives. I added a couple of additional aromatic herbs--rosemary and tarragon to capture the power of fragrance theme so prevalent in the story.

Egg-Filled Croissant Cups with Swiss Cheese and Chives (Herbs)
Adapted From Bake It In a Cupcake by Megan Seling
(Makes 6 Cups)

1 (8oz) tube premade croissant dough
6 slices Swiss Cheese (3-or 4-inch squares work fine, use more if you like a lot of cheese)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (I used a mix of chives, rosemary & tarragon)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and spray 6 muffin cups with nonstick baking spray. 

Open the tube of croissant dough and roll it out onto a lightly-floured surface. It will be perforated for croissants, and we want to eliminate holes while working with the dough as little as possible (overworking the dough will make it tough). Dust your hands with a little bit of flour so they don't stick to the dough and lightly pat the perforations out of the dough. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 6 equal squares. Place one square of dough into each muffin cup and press it into the cup to completely cover the bottom and sides of the cup. Press the dough so a little bit sticks up over the edges of the cup--the edge will help hold the egg in.

Put a slice of Swiss cheese in the bottom of each dough cup and sprinkle with just a bit of salt and black pepper. Crack one egg into each cup. I prefer to use a fork or chopstick to break the yolk and slightly beat the egg, but you can skip this step if you'd like your yolks to remain intact. Sprinkle the eggs with some of the chives (and/or other herbs), salt, and pepper and place the pan in the oven.

Bake for 20-24 minutes, until the edges of the pastry have turned a deep golden brown and the egg has completely set. I prefer a medium-hard yolk, so I bake the croissant cups until they no longer jiggle but the yolk is still soft to the touch--remember the egg will continue to cook a little bit longer when out of the oven but still in the tin. Allow the cups to rest in the tin for for about 5 minutes before serving. 

Notes/Results: Easy comfort food with good flavor. I chose to use ramekins rather than metal baking cups for prettier presentation. These were quick to put together, I didn't roll out my croissant (or in this case Pillsbury Crescent Rolls) dough--just pressing two triangles together to cover the perforations before putting the squares/rectangles into the cups. A mix of herbs--in this case chives, rosemary and tarragon added lots of herbal flavor and smelled delicious cooking. Although I liked the Swiss cheese, I think these would be even better with a smoked Gouda or maybe a flavorful Pepper Jack cheese. Good for breakfast or a light dinner, I would make these again.      

Note: A review copy of Scent of Darkness was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

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