Hillary Manton Lodge is releasing her fourth novel this month, Reservations for Two (WaterBrook Press). The food-themed romance incorporates travel and ambition and matters of the heart. Hillary opened up about the book and shared her favorite recipe for food-loving fiction fans!
This is your second book in your Two Blue Doors series. Can you tell us where this book picks up the story and what its connection is with the first novel?
Reservations for Two picks up exactly where A Table by the Window leaves off, without a breath in between. Juliette’s in Provence, deciding that wants a restaurant and a relationship with Neil – she doesn’t want to compromise. Neil flies to meet her in France, and the two of them travel through France and Italy together, visiting Juliette’s family and looking for clues to her grandmother’s life during World War II.
The first book features Juliette’s decision to leave her job as a food writer and open the restaurant, Two Blue Doors, with her brother Nico. Book two sees that dream come to fruition as they prepare to open their doors.
Where did you get the inspiration for this book?
The series was first inspired by my internship with the now defunct food and travel magazine, Northwest Palate. My time with the magazine sent me into the heart of the Portland restaurant scene, and it was a whole new world to me. I loved the characters I found and knew it would be a fantastic setting for a story.
Why do you think readers will connect with your characters?
Juliette, I think, is a fantastic character because she’s smart and driven, but she certainly doesn’t have all the answers. Even when she has no idea what to do, she’s doing something – she’s trying, she’s striving, she’s cooking. In book two her mother is very, very ill, and her family needs her. Readers will identify, I think, with the way she wrestles to find balance between work, love, and family.
As for the rest of the characters – Neil, her parents, her siblings – they’re such an eclectic mix of personalities. I hear regularly from readers who see their own loved ones around Juliette’s table.
Food is central to this series. Do you consider yourself a foodie? If so, what are your favorite dishes you make at home?
Oh, I’m a total foodie. I can’t deny it. I love good food, both at home and at restaurants. I try not to be a food snob and I don’t always succeed. My favorite dishes to make at home are fairly eclectic; I’ve got a version of Jaime Oliver’s chicken in milk that’s really delicious, and a French lentil salad that’s particularly good with a poached egg on top (did I mention there’s bacon in it? Because there totally is). I also love the simplicity of a last-minute frittata.
Would you like to share a favorite recipe with us?
I’ll share the basic frittata recipe; it’s so handy because it’ll work for any meal. Serve with fruit and toast for breakfast, or a salad and crusty bread for lunch or a light dinner. And the great thing about a frittata is that you can kind of clean out the fridge with it. While some kind of onion and starch is always a good idea, any kind of stray vegetables and ends of cheese can be thrown in as well. Frittatas are traditionally served at room temperature, but they’re very good still warm from the oven.
1–2 tablespoons butter
1 onion or 2–3 shallots, diced fine
6–8 small fingerling potatoes, peels on, diced
1 ½ roasted red peppers, patted dry with paper towels and
2 handfuls of fresh spinach, washed, dried, and rough chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or ½ teaspoon dried
Pinch red pepper flakes
8 eggs, lightly beaten with 1/3 cup whole milk
5 ounces mild cheese, such as fontina, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Melt the butter in an oven-safe sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, using medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the potatoes and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, stirring until the potatoes have browned. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low, and allow potatoes to steam until just cooked through, for about 5–7 minutes.
Add the roasted red peppers, tossing them with the onions and potatoes until they’ve dried. Add the red pepper flakes, thyme, and spinach, allowing them a moment to blend with the vegetables and butter.
Pour the egg mixture into the pan, and stir just enough to evenly distribute the vegetables. Sprinkle cheese on top.
Allow to cook for 3–5 minutes, until the frittata is set along the bottom and sides but is still liquid at the center.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 5–10 minutes (time will depend on the amount of moisture remaining in the vegetables). The frittata is done when the eggs have set across the top and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan.
Allow the frittata to set for 5 minutes. Serves 6.