"Cutting For Stone" by Abraham Verghese & spicy parmesan-garlic twists

Spicy parmesan-garlic twists: an easy yet impressive side dish | www.paperplatesblog.com

Some stories are notable for how their characters' paths cross and diverge in ways that are sometimes delightful and convenient, plot-wise, but often also too perfect to be real. In Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese tests the limits of such interactions, sprinkling logical crossings with a few well-placed coincidences. The results is a story of love and betrayal that crosses continents and decades.

Marion Stone, surgeon, is our narrator. He and twin brother Shiva are two sides of the same coin, one a silent genius, the other a hard-working romantic. They are born to an Indian nun and English doctor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1954. Their mother dies in childbirth. Their distraught father leaves, never to return.

The twins grow up near Mission Hospital (called "Missing" thanks to the local's mispronunciation), where their father was a surgeon and their mother a nurse. Hema and Ghosh, two Missing physicians, adopt the boys and build a family around them that includes others who work in and around the hospital. As the boys grow into men, Ethiopia's political climate boils over. Marion is framed and exiled, landing in New York City where he trains as a surgeon and eventually makes good on a promise he never thought he'd fulfill.

Along the way, the twins' relationship stretches and, eventually, snaps. They go from Marion thinking of the two as ShivaMarion to barely speaking to each other following an unspeakable betrayal. But years go by and in a moment of need, they find their way back to each other — and one makes an unbelievable sacrifice to save the other. 

Cutting For Stone's plot is driven largely by the way characters' lives intertwine. Sometimes the intersections are expected, built on years-long relationships. Other times, a person enters (or re-enters) another's life at just the right moment to drive the plot forward. What better way to capture those twisted, intimate relationships than with garlicky, red peppery, cheesy breadsticks?



(Makes about 8 twists.)

For the dough:

  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

For the seasonings:

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • three large pinches dried oregano
  • red pepper flakes, to taste


Prepare the dough about two hours before you plan to make your twists. 

Start by mixing water and yeast in a large bowl until yeast is fully dissolved. Add flour and salt and mix with a large spoon until the mixture comes together to form a shaggy dough. Turn the dough and remaining dry ingredients onto a clean surface and knead together for about five minutes, until the tough is somewhat tacky but not sticky. Allow the dough to rise for about an hour and a half by covering with an overturned bowl, or by placing in another bowl and covering with a kitchen towel.

When ready to make the twists, preheat the oven to 500ºF. Mix cheese, garlic, dried oregano and red pepper flakes, if using, in a bowl and set aside.

Cut down into two equal pieces. Place one half on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to about a 6" by 6" square (if you can't make a square shape, at least try to make it symmetrical). Brush the surface liberally with melted butter. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over half the buttered dough, then fold over the empty half and press together to gently seal. Using a pizza cutter, slice the stuffed dough into 1"-wide strips. Grab a strip at each end and twist in opposite directions, starting slowly, until twisted all the way through. Snip off excess dough at the ends and pinch slightly to keep from unraveling, if necessary. Place twists side by side on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush lightly with butter. 

Repeat with remaining dough and seasonings.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fluffy and slightly golden. Serve warm, plain or with marinara sauce.

Pizza dough recipe via The Kitchn. Twist-making technique via Spoon Fork Bacon.

Amina is the creator of PAPER/PLATES. Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.

The TBR List: August 21

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona

Last Friday night, I was taking in this gorgeous sunset over the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. Tonight I'll be attending a wedding reception in downtown Chicago. Who knows what next week will bring. And that is why summer is amazing.

Hope you have a great weekend -- here are some of my favorite links from the week:

- Cara Nicoletti's book of recipes from literature, Voraciouscame out this week. Need to get a copy.

- These nesting bowls are lovely.

- I'm thrilled that there's a word for anger sparked by chewing sounds.

- Supposedly the 100 best novels written in English. Do you agree?

- Sugar is the devil. (So is soda pop, which is full of it.)

- Halal Guys is in Chicago! Gimme that hot sauce.

- Little boy rips library book, writes cutest apology ever.

- A global tour of sandwiches.

- This short documentary about a scallop diver is worth watching.

Amina is the creator of PAPER/PLATES. Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.

"The Vacationers" by Emma Straub & Plum Bistro’s Mac & Yease

The best-ever vegan 'mac n cheese' | www.paperplatesblog.com

The Vacationers by Emma Straub follows the Franny and Jim Post on a two-week vacation in Mallorca with their two children, Sylvia and Bobby, Bobby’s girlfriend, and Franny’s best friend and his husband. Mallorca, an idyllic Spanish island, is the perfect contrast for a family trip fraught with simmering tensions. Each character is harboring their own secrets and motivations, but as the two-week vacation progresses, close-kept truths are inevitably revealed, and friends and family alike must negotiate the consequences.

The Vacationers has everything I look for in a summer book: the story is intriguing, the pacing is superb, and each sentence has been polished to a high gleam — enough so that it’s hard to put The Vacationers in the category of a ‘beach read,’ although the framily dysfunction of the Posts and company would be your perfect poolside companion.

The most surprising reader criticism I saw leveled at The Vacationers is that the characters were unlikable, but this could be a due to Straub’s storytelling method — at some point or another, the story is told from each character’s perspective. As a result, the reader is privy to all of the thoughts (kind and unkind) and regrets (or lack thereof) lurking within each character’s mind.

But whatever flaws or harbored grievances each character was revealed to have was what made the characters so human to me. It is these rampant imperfections that make Straub a master storyteller as she artfully captures the struggles bound up in what it means to be a family, how hard it can be to have real and honest relationships.

For a pairing, I had to put The Vacationers with Plum Bistro’s Mac & Yease, the best vegan mac and cheese I’ve ever had — and possibly the best non-vegan mac and cheese I’ve ever had. The Vacationers would be equally at home by the pool or in a book club, while Mac & Yease would satiate any mac and cheese craving. Both give all the satisfaction of giving into the craving with none of the guilt.

[Editor's note: The recipe is complex, so instead of reproducing it here, we recommend you get it straight from the source at the link above.]

Want more Emma Straub? Check out her first book (and our first Emma Straub pairing!) for Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures and champagne cake with cherry glaze.

Get more Caryn by following her on Twitter.