Posted on January 22, 2015 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: I have a new obsession in Key West–this is hot pepper jelly made by the Pickle Baron, a local company here on the island. They also make bacon jam (bacon jam!!), and all kinds of pickles.
|one of the Pickle Barons|
John and I put the jelly on our sandwiches all week–it has just the right smoky heat to raise cold cuts to the next level. Then I remembered of my favorite hors d’oeuvre–a recipe for hot pepper jelly cheese puffs that I got years ago from my good friend Cathy Crook.
These puffs are positively decadent and delicious. There’s one drawback: They look like little thumbprint jam cookies so it takes a while for the party guests to catch on that you’re talking cheese, not sugar. Once a few people taste them, however, word spreads like wildfire and the plate will be snatched clean. So gobble a couple before you put them out.
HOT PEPPER JELLY CHEESE PUFFS
Mix the first 3 ingredients until they hold together in a ball–either by hand or using food processor. Wrap in parchment paper or Saran wrap and chill 1/2 hour.
Fill with Pickle Baron’s Habanero hot pepper jelly (or other jelly, or mild pepper jelly if you can’t take the heat.)
Return puffs to the oven and bake until golden. (5-7 more minutes.)
And watch them disappear off the plate!
Lucy writes the Key West food critic mysteries:
DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is here now!
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Posted on January 15, 2015 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: Say it’s the pit of winter and the short days and cold temps are bringing you down. Nothing cheers me up like a new dessert:). So I started to think about my favorite gingerbread recipe which I found many years ago in Moosewood’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook. Three things made it special: fresh ginger, molasses, and honey.
Could I transform this into a rolled cake stuffed with cinnamon-scented whipped cream that would appear fancier than gingerbread and fit for a party or a special family meal? Taste testers said I did–here’s the new recipe:
Ingredients for the Cake:
4 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1-2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp powdered mustard
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
Whipped cream filling:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp sugar, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Grease a 15 X 10 inch baking pan, then line it with parchment paper; butter the paper and set aside.
Saute the grated ginger in the butter. Cool.
Let eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Separate the whites from the yolks.
With your stand mixer or mixer, beat egg yolks on high speed until thickened, about 3 minutes.
In a small bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites on medium speed. Add a pinch of cream of tartar and continue beating on high until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into yolk mixture.
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake in a 375 pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes.
Turn the cake onto the towel, peel off the parchment, and roll the cake up in the towel.
(You are rolling the towel right in with the cake–which I found fun and amazing…)
In a mixing bowel or cuisinart, combine the cream and vanilla and beat. When this begins to thicken, add cinnamon and sugar to taste, then beat until thick.
Roll up the cake again. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve the cake slices with dollops of leftover whipped cream—or in the case of my family, with ice cream AND whipped cream. (ALWAYS ice cream, and preferably chocolate:).
DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is in stores now!
Posted on January 8, 2015 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: Our daughter and son-in-law visited Turkey this fall and look at what they brought back to us: samples of one of my favorite desserts, baklava. Isn’t that the best gift ever? Those tasty nuggets inspired me to try making it–again.
Quite a few years ago, I was asked to help our son’s elementary school class make baklava. (They must have been studying food from various countries around the world.) Though I’ve always been a fan of this pastry, I had never had the nerve to try making it myself. Believe me, if a group of schoolkids could make it, anyone can:). The only problem we had was discovering occasional brush bristles in the finished pastry–this I blame on poor quality pastry brushes and intense paint strokes…
1 pound package of phyllo dough, thawed overnight, then brought to room temperature
1 pound walnuts or mixture of pistachios and walnuts (I used 1/3 salted pistachios and 2/3 walnuts)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
12 ounces honey
Chop the walnuts and pistachios finely in a food processor and then add the sugar and cinnamon and pulse to combine these. Set this aside.
Remove the phyllo dough from the package and unroll it on a clean counter. Butter a 13 x 9″ baking dish and layer in 8 of the phyllo sheets, one at a time, buttering each sheet with a pastry brush dipped in the melted butter.
As you work, cover the remaining sheets of phyllo with a damp towel so they don’t dry out. (Don’t sweat any little tears–they won’t show up in the end.)
Pour 1 cup of the nut mixture over the eight layers of phyllo and spread this evenly to the edges. Continue to layer eight more sheets of dough, painting each with melted butter.
Spread another cup of the nut mixture over the top. Repeat the layers and the nut mixture until all the nuts are used, ending with phyllo.
Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle honey over the dough until it does not absorb any further. To the left is the honeyed pastry before it has soaked in. (I used a full one pound jar of local honey.) Then sprinkle with some ground up pistachios if you like that look. (I did.)
Let cool and sit for six hours or overnight, then serve at room temperature, well wrapped. Oh the agony of waiting! But it’s worth it. My guests told me this was the best baklava they had ever eaten. My hub and I had to agree.
These little squares could make a splendid addition to an party cookie platter!
Answer: Many layers!
DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is here now!
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Posted on January 1, 2015 - by Lucy
This has been occurring on New Year’s Eve day for the past eight years, much to the chagrin of the Key West police, who have plenty on their hands already, getting prepared for New Year’s Eve on Duval Street.
I was planning to sew a costume like this for Tonka. But then I checked on ebay as time grew short–and became the winning bidder on this costume.
And then I found hats for me and John–a hamburger and a hot dog. Weren’t they such good sports about dressing up as lunch meat? We marched from the Courthouse, up Southard Street to Duval, then right on Duval to Appleruth Lane. (Dachshunds have short legs so it was a short route:).
There were dogs dressed as lobsters….
and dogs with their mothers in funny hats…
And dogs in disguise
And dogs in blue tutus just like their owners
And this is my good friend, Officer Steve Torrence, who is also a character in the Key West mysteries. (He’s a good sport even though he isn’t a fan of this parade:).
And if you think this is material I can’t use, you haven’t read the fifth Key West mystery, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS!
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you’re out there doing something fun and even a little bit silly! xo Lucy and all the Key West gang
Posted on December 27, 2014 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: Before visiting Cuba last month, I had never tasted a Mojito, never mind made one. But now it’s my new favorite drink. And I think it would be a perfect holiday libation, what with the red and green coloring–red from the bitters, and green from the mint.
First I’ll take you on a tour of some of the drinks I tasted (all for your benefit of course, in order to bring you home something spectacular.)
Here was the one that was most perfect:
And this was the daiquiri that I was forced to order when the bar was out of mint:
And here’s my recipe:
Start by crushing several slices of lime, several slices of lemon, the mint, and 2 teaspoons of sugar in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass. Add the rum and stir. Fill the glass with ice. Fill the ice with club soda. Mix and add a splash of bitters on top.
This might be the perfect drink to sip on while reading a Key West mystery!
Cheers! Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Happy New Year!
Posted on December 17, 2014 - by Lucy
|Photo by Raymond L. Blazevic|
LUCY BURDETTE: In a year of unusual experiences, we had one more last month, the opportunity to take a trip to Cuba.
In Key West, only ninety miles from Havana, Cuba, we hear a lot about the island. In fact, frequently we read news stories about Cubans who’ve attempted to reach the US in a variety of homemade, unseaworthy vessels— even windsurfers. “Cubans who do not reach the shore (dry land), are returned to Cuba unless they cite fears of persecution. Those Cubans who successfully reach the shore are inspected by Department of Homeland Security and generally permitted to stay in the United States.” (Wikipedia)
Whether it’s fair or not, it saddens me when they take such a risk to attempt to make a new life, get so close, but get sent back to whatever they were running from. Or worse yet, die of exposure or rough seas. At any rate, that line of news has led us to an intense curiosity about Cuba and what life could be like for its inhabitants.
As you may know, Americans are not allowed to visit that nation on our own. However regulations have recently loosened up to allow American tourists to visit as part of an educational group. So when the chance came to travel over with the Florida Keys Tree Institute, we grabbed it.
I thought I’d share just a few things that after this trip, we realize we take for granted in our country:
We can leave the country any time we have the money and a passport.
We can start our own businesses. As Cuba is not a democracy, entrepreneurship is not officially condoned. However, the regulations about running a private business are also loosening, of course with the understanding that the government taxes them heavily. Raoul Castro apparently cares much less about the specifics of what people do than that they pay their taxes. He was aware that things had to change for the island to thrive. But the government still owns many hotels, restaurants, and museums.
We expect good food and good service in a restaurant. We ate several unimpressive meals at a government buffet or restaurant. But when we visited private restaurants, called paladars, the food was immensely superior to the government buffet.
We expect email, and wifi and iPhone service. More about that tomorrow, but though the Cuban folks who could afford it were answering phones and checking email, we had none. Nada, nothing.
In Havana all the old cars are a big draw, many of them serving as taxis or else as stages for tourist photos –for the right price of course.
We expect doctors to make a lot more money than waiters. In Cuba, everyone is paid the same salary regardless of their job—an amount that is roughly twenty-five dollars per month. Of course, underneath the surface is a thriving black market and system of barter. The folks who work in the tourist industry and have access to tips do much better. (And by way, we expect the same money to be used for everyone–not so in Cuba, where tourists must use a special money called “Cucs”.)
We expect Hemingway’s home to be in Key West! But one of my highlights was visiting Finca Vigia,
|photo from Wikipedia|
his Cuban oasis outside the city of Havana, where he lived for twenty years with his fourth wife, Mary. The house is now a museum. The weather was rainy so they were not willing to open the doors and windows to risk damage to the history they are working hard to preserve. We were able to peer into the window and see the typewriter on which he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Also his private bathroom where he weighed himself daily and recorded the results on the wall… His fishing boat, the Pilar, was there, too.
|Photo by John Brady|
Hmmm, do we expect our capital city to be in good order? The city of Havana is a complicated place, gorgeous facades still stand but many are crumbling into ruins. Many also are being restored.
We expect art to be on walls in museums. One of our last stops brought us to the neighborhood of Jose Fuster, whose ceramic work pays homage to Barcelona architect Antonio Gaudi. He has gradually replaced the facades of the homes in the area with the most fantastical ceramic murals. We were enchanted!
|Batista’s Gold Phone|
I won’t try to summarize the politics and history of this island–I’m sure I could not do justice to the complications of the Spanish American war (which name our guide noted should have included Cuba, as it was fought there,) Batista’s reign of terror, the Revolution, the US embargo, the emergence of the Soviet Union, the effects of the collapse of the socialist countries, the entrance of Venezuela into the picture. There is a lot of chatter about when or if the embargo will be lifted, and how a country which is way behind in terms of infrastructure and technology could handle the influx of tourists.
I can say that my impression of Cuba as a land where people are suffering and waiting their chance to escape a communist dictator has many more shades of gray than expected. But I can also say that the people were thrilled to hear Obama’s speech on immigration while we were visiting, especially this line: “We were all immigrants once.”
And I’ll end with our fabulous guide Renier’s steady refrain over the week: “In Cuba, everything is possible, but nothing is guaranteed.” (Kind of like life, right?)
Posted on December 7, 2014 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: I am so excited about DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS hitting shelves this week! So of course, I spent a long time thinking about what recipe would be festive enough for the launch of a brand new book.
First I looked at the recipes in the back of the book. But you’d already seen Chef Edel’s cheesy polenta with spring vegetables and Parmesan crisps, as well as the decadent Key lime parfaits, and Hayley’s mom’s spaghetti Bolognese recipe. Obviously, a recipe for hot dog casserole was not up to the big day, LOL. (Though I did get some fan mail last week in which a reader told me her husband had already made that dish and the whole family gave it a thumbs up!)
Then it hit me – coconut shrimp! In the fifth Key West mystery, Hayley’s mom is working as a caterer at Small Chef at Large for the winter season. (Based on the real-life Jennifer Cornell.) During one of the scenes, they are preparing coconut shrimp for a wedding:
My mother, swathed in a white apron, stood before an eight-burner gas range, fishing shrimp out of boiling oil and placing them on paper towels to drain.
“It smells wonderful in here,” I said. “What’s on the docket tonight?”
“It’s a wedding at the Oldest House on Duval Street,” Mom said. “The bride is a woman after my own heart—after choosing her man, she’s focused her heart and pocketbook on the menu.” Mom clapped her hands. All business.
“Will you taste this sauce, honey?” she asked, clip-clopping across the kitchen in her green clogs to grab two bowls of dipping sauce. “Jennifer usually serves the coconut shrimp with mango chutney, but I was thinking something a little more spicy and Asian might be a fabulous contrast.”
She handed me a small plate containing a piping-hot shrimp coated in a crispy coconut crust.
So here’s my attempt to replicate that recipe and celebrate the new book.
Ingredients (dinner for two people, hors d’oeuvres for four)
1/4 pound large Key West pink shrimp, peeled and deveined (You may leave the tails on for a little extra visual oomph)
1/2 cup flour
One egg, beaten
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut, with more as needed
Vegetable oil (I use canola)
Prepare the shrimp by washing and peeling and deveining, and then pat them dry. Prepare three shallow bowls, one for the flour, one for the beaten egg, and the third for the coconut. (If you notice in the photo with the raw shrimp, the ones on top are Argentine pinks, while on the bottom are the Key West local pinks. We preferred those!)
I served the shrimp with two sauces, one simple mango chutney from a jar.
The other, a combination of 2 tablespoons of Thai sweet chili sauce mixed with 2 tablespoons of orange marmalade.
If you plan to serve these for dinner, add white rice and a green salad.
DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS can be found wherever books are sold.
DON’T FORGET: Mysteries make great stocking stuffers!
Posted on December 5, 2014 - by Lucy
This has been a whirlwind week–so exciting to celebrate the launch of a new book. #13 for me–but it never gets old! I thought you might enjoy this interview from Jungle Red Writers…
Today all the Reds are humming Christmas carols and wearing Santa hats to celebrate the launch of Lucy Burdette‘s fifth Key West food critic mystery, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS. Lucy herself is simply floating so we thought of some questions to ask about the new book…although she did edit out some of our best suggestions like: What do you really think of skate? (Hallie) and Have you ever eaten cod cheek? (Hank)
REDS: Seriously, tell us what are the best–and hardest–things about writing a cozy mystery series?
LUCY: I’ll start with the hardest part: Suspension of disbelief. My readers must be persuaded to suspend disbelief in every way—characters, plot, setting, everything! For example, what business does a food critic have solving murders? Since Hayley Snow’s profession does not explain her involvement with criminal investigation, the sleuthing must evolve because of her relationships with other characters and because of her own personality and history. Challenging!
What I enjoy most is learning more about the characters with each book I write. Do you know that I had no idea Miss Gloria would become such an important character when I started out? A series is always full of surprises…and so is the Key West setting.
REDS: Speaking of relationships, this story has a lot to do with Hayley and her mother. What do you find most interesting about this duo?
LUCY: I love writing about the push and pull of the mother-daughter relationship over time. Hayley is “finding herself” as a true adult, and her mom is revealing herself as a regular person with flaws and fears, not just a mother. I lost my mother when in my early twenties so I think I get extra satisfaction imagining the transition of Hayley and Janet Snow’s relationship–how it changes and matures in ways that I didn’t have the chance to experience.
REDS: What’s so special about Key West during the Christmas season?
LUCY: So many things! It’s funny how just a string of white lights around the trunk of a palm tree looks festive. But Key West does a lot more than that. They hold a lighting decoration contest, a lighted boat parade, the hometown holiday parade..
And don’t let me forget to mention the Winter Wiener Wonderland which is a parade of costumed dachshunds. (I marched in that last year with John and Tonka—we all wore hot dog costumes.) It was so much fun to work all of those events into the book!
REDS: What was the best thing you ate while in training for this writing this book and the book launch?
LUCY: Now you’re getting to the heart of the matter:). The recipes in the back of the book are mine, except, of course, for the Jungle Red cocktail, which is Susan’s brainchild. And I’m crazy for the Scarlet O’Hara raspberry cupcakes (which are also wonderful with mocha icing…)
Thank you readers for all your support! The new book can be found wherever books are sold, including independent bookstores, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
Burdette infuses the mystery with Key West spirit and holiday fun along with delicious food references and recipes. This strong series continues a unique blend of island mayhem and sparkling characters surrounding a layered mystery. Booklist, December 1, 2014
Posted on November 30, 2014 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: These are what I call special occasion biscuits, because they are loaded with butter and sour cream, so you wouldn’t want to eat them every day. Not that you’ll have the chance, because they are most likely to be snapped up right after you serve them. They are definitely lovely enough to find a place on your holiday table, but could also accompany a hearty soup–and call that dinner!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
four scallions, cleaned and chopped
one half teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp or so of milk as needed
Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the chopped scallions and mix well. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Now add the the sour cream and stir lightly until the mixture is moistened and holds together in a shaggy dough. You may need to add a tablespoon of milk, if the mixture is too dry.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, then shape into a rectangle about one inch thick.
Serve hot with more butter, and honey if you like!
And don’t forget, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS will hit bookshelves on December 2–just in time for Christmas stockings! You can preorder the book here.
(PS, we’re really excited about the first review: Burdette infuses the mystery with Key West spirit and holiday fun along with delicious food references and recipes. This strong series continues a unique blend of island mayhem and sparkling characters surrounding a layered mystery. )
Booklist, December 1, 2014
Posted on November 20, 2014 - by Lucy
CAT HAIKU by Lucy Burdette, in honor of Yoda on Cat Week!
White whiskers on gray
Purr box sputtering to life
What else but Cat Week
Cats are smart and secretive and mysterious and quiet stalkers–and yet so adorable that we forgive them anything. And so they go together with cozies like butter with hot biscuits, or chocolate cake with cold milk, or fresh tomatoes with basil and olive oil… You get the picture!
I’ve had a cat in my life ever since the year I turned 13. I was desperate for a date with Mickey Dolenz for my birthday, but my mother was smart enough to give me a kitten instead. (Yoda, seen above doing his best trick, is our current feline denizen.) All my fictional characters have had cats too–Cassie had Cashbox, and Dr. Rebecca Butterman had Spencer, and Hayley has Evinrude, of course!
|Evinrude posing for DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS|
We each put our own special spin on Cat Week, but to my mind this theme cried out for a fishy recipe. Yoda the cat loves tuna fish, so I thought he would love crab meat too. And that would give me the chance to snap a photo of him eating daintily from a treasured crystal goblet that belonged to my mother. Right?
He’s a cat after all, so this is the closest he came to posing.
Now on to the recipe…
Yoda’s Crab Cakes
One pound crab meat, picked over to remove bits of shell
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
Two scallions, finely minced
One half small hot pepper, minced
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon red and black cracked pepper
About 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
One egg, well beaten
Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries. Murder with Ganache is in stores now.
Death with All the Trimmings will be on bookshelves December 2. Pre-order it here.
Yoda the cat says: “Buy the darn books so she can get off my case and keep me in catnip.”