Posted on September 28, 2014 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: At least once a year, we have Book Club Week at one of my group blogs, Mystery Lovers Kitchen. I love book clubs–love belonging and love visiting. And I love recommending books for clubs to consider:). This time around I suggested MURDER WITH GANACHE, the fourth in the Key West food critic mystery series.
As you probably already know, MWG is a cozy mystery starring Hayley Snow, a food critic who lives on a houseboat in Key West. Her extended family is descending on the island like a category 3 hurricane for her best friend’s wedding. When her stepbrother disappears into the spring break party scene, she must put the baking of cupcakes and other wedding chores on hold in order to search for her brother. The book features Hemingway cats, and cupcakes, and wedding drama, but in the end it’s about finding and embracing family in whatever form they come.
If you are going to choose MURDER WITH GANACHE for one of your book club selections this year (and I hope you will–I love this book, and there are so many things to talk about), as the hostess, you must resign yourself to providing something chocolate.
You might choose hot fudge pie or chocolate cake, both swoon-worthy, but here is an easy alternative. This recipe began as Chocolate Nutella Fudge from the Tasty Kitchen–until I read the list of ingredients on the Nutella package. At that point, thinking there must be something better, I searched for a substitute, and found an organic chocolate-hazelnut spread that is really quite incredible.
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (make these good quality, as it will show)
1 cup Nocciolato (organic chocolate-hazelnut Spread–I used the whole 9.5 oz jar)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon sea salt or pink salt
To make the fudge:
Line an 8 by 8 inch pan with two layers of parchment paper, overlap on the sides.
Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. (The pan should not touch the water.)
Scrape the mixture into the papered pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with sea salt. (I would have used some of Krista’s pink sea salt if I’d had it on hand–so pretty!)
Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours. Lift the fudge out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into bite-sized pieces and arrange on a pretty plate. Store leftovers (if there are any) in an airtight container in the fridge. This can also be made ahead and frozen.
As for what to discuss while enjoying the fudge, here are some questions to get things going:
1. Hayley’s mother says that “life develops around the kitchen table” and that “kids need to understand how food connects the people in their lives.” Hayley’s stepmom insists that life develops at work–who cares whether a mother uses a cake mix or serves macaroni from a box? Where would you stand in this argument?
2. Hayley’s parents have a disagreement about social justice on the way to the marina. How do you feel about the homeless people as presented in the book? Have you had any personal experience with homeless folks?
3. When Hayley’s brother Rory gets into trouble, the family struggles with how much to tell the police. They wonder whose side the cops are on. How do you think you might react in a similar situation? Would you trust the police to have your interests at heart?
4. Hayley says “Food meant comfort and love and even peace in my family.” If you had to sum it up, what would you say food meant to your family?
5. Hayley tells Rory “I’ve discovered that family has less to do with biology than it does with who cares enough to make the effort.” Does this statement ring true for you? Talk about a person who isn’t a blood relation in your life who feels like family.
6. When spirits are low, Hayley and her mom make comfort food for the extended family–spanakopita and Greek salad and strawberry whipped cream pie. What menu would you design to cheer up a troubled family member or friend?
If you’d like to read some of the reviews on MURDER WITH GANACHE, you can do that right here. I was completely delighted this spring, when Woman’s World magazine selected MURDER WITH GANACHE as a pick for a foodie book club. As you can see in the photo, they also recommended reading with a daiquiri in hand:). Sounds like a good idea, right? Recipe here.
And, if you think your book club might like signed postcards from the Key West mysteries, leave a comment today with your email.
Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mystery series. DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS will be on bookshelves on December 2. You can preorder it now, from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite independent bookstore.
Posted on September 20, 2014 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: We’ve had a big problem in our house this summer: way too many green beans.
Of course I put the problem out to my Facebook friends. And got some amazing recipe suggestions back, ranging from Asian style to good old-fashioned southern green beans cooked a long time with bacon (I think that might have been Kathy Reel,) and, I was reminded about how delicious pickled green beans are.
One of the best Bloody Marys I was ever served used green beans as the stirrer for the drink. (I like interesting items in my Bloody Marys, especially olives, pepperoncini, and pickled green beans or okra. The night I got one with a shrimp on a skewer, I thought maybe they had gone off the deep end.)
This recipe for pickled dilly green beans is an easy one, but the results need to be stored in the refrigerator. If you want to put some by for the winter months, you would need to cook the jars of beans in a boiling water bath. Don’t fool around with this, as I would hate to see friends done in by botulism!
4 1/2 cups of green beans
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
5 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Four large heads of dill
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Two cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or two hot peppers
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a sauce pan and simmer until the ingredients are well combined. Nestle the dill sprigs, the peppercorns, the garlic cloves, and the red pepper into clean quart canning jars.
Wash the green beans, clip off the ends, and blanch them about three minutes in boiling water. When they are still green and firm, dump them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When the beans are cool, arrange them in the canning jars. Divide the hot vinegar mixture between the two jars and seal the lids. Refrigerate.
Posted on September 4, 2014 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: Even Kenny Chesney said it when he performed at a free concert at the Hogs Breath Saloon two years ago: It’s hard to choose healthy foods in Key West! (Actually, I don’t think it’s only Key West–it’s eating out everywhere.)
Anyway, there’s a new restaurant in town that used to be the Paradise Cafe, where we bought our Cafe Con Leche in the morning and our Cuban mix sandwiches at lunch. It’s now called Paseo.
Hayley Snow reviews this restaurant in MURDER WITH GANACHE (2/2014). Of course she has to order a little of everything, including the fat and juicy Caribbean roll and the roast pork dinner. But I always enjoy the Caribbean salad so I decided to try making the dish myself. It’s not only colorful and healthy and easy–it’s delicious!
Caribbean Salad a la Paseo
2-3 skinned chicken filets
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
4 Tbsp soy sauce
Red cabbage, shredded
Cooked beets, slivered
Cilantro, cleaned and chopped
Mix together the sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce, and marinate the chicken filets in a glass bowl–an hour at least or even overnight. Grill the chicken until just done and set aside.
Wash and dry the lettuce, tear into pieces, and put a nice amount on each plate as the bottom layer. (I included some arugula and red leaf lettuce, but Paseo uses romaine.) Cut about a quarter of the red cabbage into slivers and layer than in next. Cut cooked beets into matchsticks and put them on top. Tomatoes and avocado are not part of the Paseo dish, but I added some around the edges. Cut the chicken into strips and place them on top of the salad.
Vinaigrette: 1 teaspoon French mustard (don’t use the yellow stuff!), 3 tablespoons vinegar (red wine or balsamic), 6 tablespoons good quality olive oil, splash of water. Whisk it all together until emulsified, taste to see if it needs salt.
I bet even Kenny Chesney would love this!
TOPPED CHEF is on bookshelves on now, followed by MURDER WITH GANACHE. DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is coming December 2 with more Key West adventures and food..
Posted on August 11, 2014 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: As many of you already know, I have a particular fondness for Key lime pie, as it became the murder weapon in the first food critic mystery, AN APPETITE FOR MURDER. Naturally Hayley Snow is suspected when the victim turns out to be her ex-boyfriend’s new squeeze.
“Are the cops looking at any other suspects?” I asked.
“Not that they’ve mentioned. You are in the unfortunate position of having a decent motive and no alibi. And you’re a cook with more than a passing knowledge of key lime pie.”
So what do we do now?” I asked. “I swear I never touched the girl. Or fed her any poison. I’ve never even made a key lime pie. To be honest, I’m totally freaked out by the idea of meringue.”
So you can understand that when the Key West Citizen publicized a booksigning last winter for THE ULTIMATE KEY LIME PIE COOKBOOK, we had to go meet David Sloan and buy a couple of signed books. I told him about how I love food and recipes and he was happy to share a pie from the cookbook. He offers hundreds of options for combinations of crusts, fillings, sauces, and toppings, but I’ve chosen a traditional crust with a classic filling.
TRADITIONAL GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Combine the crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter until crumbs are coated. Press evenly into a nine-inch pie pan. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before filling.
CLASSIC KEY LIME FILLING
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup Key lime juice
Preheat the oven to 350. combine eggs and milk and mix well. Slowly mix in the Key lime juice. Pour mixture into the prepared crust. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool, then chill until firm.
Serve topped with whipped cream or meringue and enjoy your little taste of Key West!
Posted on December 31, 2012 - by Lucy
Happy New Year Friends!
I had a wonderful tour of the cats inhabiting the grounds of the Hemingway House this week, thanks to my new friend Donna, and today my husband and I marched in the Dachshund Parade along with Tonka, who is by no means a wiener dog.
It’s always fun to find out what’s new in town. I adore the cafe con leche from the Cuban Coffee Queen, paired here with a glazed donut from the new donut shop next to the movie theatre.
Speaking of food, I’ve done lots of good cooking and eating over the last couple of months. Recipes for the best bloody Mary, an easy and tasty 15-bean soup, a gorgeous pomegranate, olive and walnut salad, and pesto pizza, are all posted over at Mystery Lovers Kitchen. Lots more to come, as I’ll be the regular Thursday correspondent on that site. Also busy with my fabulous friends at Jungle Red Writers–and starting work on the fourth food critic mystery. But more about that soon–I just wanted to wish you much happiness and many good books in the new year!
Love from Lucy
Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of TOPPED CHEF, which will hit bookshelves on May 7:
Posted on September 28, 2012 - by Lucy
I’m delighted about the reviews that have been coming in for DEATH IN FOUR COURSES.
Here’s one from Phil Jason in the Florida Weekly: “I’ll say it unashamedly: “Death in Four Courses” is mouthwatering. Hay- ley Snow is delicious. This humor- seasoned food for thought will tickle your mental taste buds.”
And from Booklist: “This enjoyable mystery series, with its attractive tropical setting, is also seasoned by the appealing characters and meals. The novel, done in the style of the Joanne Fluke series, is sure to attract food-fiction fans and will also appeal to Key West readers, although the combination of the two here is unique.” Booklist
And from Story Circle Book Reviews: “By the second book, Hayley has settled into her role more, though we rarely see her at her computer and we agonize with her over looming deadlines. Then magically she turns in that stunning article. Would that it were that way in real life. Still Hayley and the series show growth, and I’m eagerly looking forward to Topped Chef, next up in the Hayley Snow series.
From Shirrel Rhoades in the Key West Citizen: “The Food Critic series may feature Key West cuisine but I’d compare these tasty books to Chinese food: After reading one, in a half hour you’ll be wanting to read another.”
And I have new recipes up on Mystery Lovers Kitchen–fried okra from me, and recipes for roach poison and cough remedy from my grandmother’s recipe box: here’s a photo of the recipe for poison, in my grandmother’s handwriting. I can’t help saying that the handwriting was on the wall that I’d become a mystery writer–way back in my gene pool:).
And here’s Screw the Roux stew, which is one of the dishes Hayley makes in DEATH IN FOUR COURSES. I guarantee this will turn out to be a family favorite.
And last but not least, Back to School Hotdog Casserole: (embarrassing to admit, but this one actually appeared in a cookbook!)
As always, happy reading and I will so appreciate anything you do to help spread the word about the food critic mysteries!
Posted on July 8, 2012 - by Lucy
I realized that since joining the wonderful mystery writer/recipe blog Mystery Lovers Kitchen, I’ve been lax about posting recipes to this blog. But I have been cooking–and eating–so here I’ve gathered a few of my favorites.
Good for anything granola–I call it that because I’ve served it everywhere from a wedding brunch to a sailboat and it’s always popular!
I served these scalloped potatoes at our bi-monthly supper club–they were rated swoonworthy, even if not on anyone’s diet.
These stuffed mushrooms are an oldie but goodie–an easy appetizer that’s a step up from cheese and crackers.
My mother-in-law loves these stuffed peppers. In fact the whole family does too!
When we go out to an Italian restaurant, guaranteed either my husband or I will order the broccoli rabe. Here’s my version–easy and good for a family supper.
Don’t forget this strawberry-rhubarb coffee cake–it’s one of the recipes coming in DEATH IN FOUR COURSES–September!
I’m a huge sucker for sesame noodles, but this recipe is my favorite outside of what you get in a Chinese restaurant.
I know it’s not exactly pea soup season, but bookmark this for the fall–pea soup and cornbread, couldn’t be better on a cold night!
New recipes are posted every day of the week on Mystery Lovers Kitchen, from my fellow writers Krista Davis, Avery Aames, Ellery Adams, Cleo Coyle, Sheila Connolly, Wendy Watson, and Peg Cochran, plus lots of guests too. Please stop by! And we’ve got less than two months to go before the publication of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES! If you haven’t already, I’d love to have you follow me on Twitter, or facebook, or Pinterest.
Posted on November 27, 2011 - by Lucy
We made it through a wonderful Thanksgiving, but now I have a sheer million things to do to get ready for Christmas and the big launch of AN APPETITE FOR MURDER. One thing I’d hate to give up is baking cookies. If I only get around to making one kind of Christmas cookies, this is the recipe I turn to. They always turn out well–don’t skimp on the butter or the chilling part of the process. And then have fun with decorating–my favorite are the little green Christmas trees. But as you can see below, one year I made them for a Hanukkah party and they got snapped up in spite of the bilious blue icing!
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2.5 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
cream butter and sugar. then beat in the egg and vanilla. in a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt, then mix with butter/egg/sugar mixture. chill dough for 3 hours. preheat over to 350. roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface, dip cutters into flour before each use. place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 ” or until lightly browned. let cool and frost.
Creamy vanilla frosting: mix 3 cups powdered sugar with 1/3 c butter softened. stir in 1.5 tsp vanilla and about 2 tablespoons milk. beat until spreadable. add color and sprinkles as desired.
Posted on November 21, 2011 - by Lucy
As my husband would gladly tell you, I’m a sucker for gnocchi. I almost always order it if it’s presented on a menu and about half the time, it’s a disappointment. So when I was invited to help cook an Italian extravaganza with Nikki Bonnani and Hallie Ephron, I jumped at the chance.
By the time I reached Hallie’s kitchen, a good bit of the work was already done. We were using Nikki’s grandmother’s recipes, beginning with escarole soup, studded with homemade croutons and tiny little meatballs. Next came the made-from-scratch red sauce crammed with big meatballs and delicious Italian sausage. And then the potato gnocchi–Nikki was kind enough to share the family recipe. And we finished up with flash-fried bow ties drenched in powdered sugar. I’ll save that story for another time!
- Boil potatoes with skins. Cool. Peel. Put through ricer.
- Make a well with ~4 cups of flour
- Break eggs into the middle of the well one at a time (use ~3-4)
- Add salt
- Add potatoes a little at a time (~4-5 potatoes)
- Beat eggs and little by little incorporate the flour until you have a ball of dough
- Add more flour as necessary and knead until not sticky
- Roll into long logs about 1/2 inch in diameter and cut into 1 inch pieces
- To make gnocchi, push down on each little piece with 2 fingers and roll the dough into hollow logs. Drop them into boiling, salted water without crowding. They should finished shortly after they rise to the surface.
All I can say about this is call Nikki if you get stuck! it was a lot of work but oh my, were they delicious! Here they are floating in that heavenly red sauce….I’m pretty sure you’ll find a scene like this in book three of the Key West food critic mystery series…
Posted on November 2, 2011 - by Lucy
You don’t see tomatillos at the grocery store that aren’t past their prime too often, so I seized on the ones I noticed at the farmers’ market a couple of weeks ago. The green sauce I make isn’t hard and freezes just fine so you can save it for supper later in the season. Or whip up these yummy enchiladas if you have access to half a roasted chicken.
For the green sauce:
20 or so medium tomatillos (Remove the paper husks and then wash them)
1/2 box organic chicken broth (or homemade of course if you have that lying around:)
1 onion, quartered
1-3 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed well, stems removed, coarsely chopped
Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and chicken broth in a pan and simmer about ten minutes until the veggies are soft. Cool and pulse in a food processor, adding the cilantro at the end. The sauce should be smooth rather than chunky. Set that aside. If you’re cooking the enchiladas right away, oil a 9 x 13 inch pan and pour the sauce in. Preheat the oven to 350.
For the enchiladas:
1 package tortillas (whole wheat tastes just as good as white and is better for you:)
1/2 roasted chicken, deboned, de-skinned, and shredded
2-3 green or red peppers, halved and sliced
1 onion, halved and sliced (white is fine but red is prettier)
4-5 ounces cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
Saute the onions and peppers in a tsp of olive oil until soft, then combine them with the chicken, cheese, and sour cream. Spread a heaping spoonful in the center of each burrito skin and roll tightly. Nestle these into the sauce in the pan. Bake for 1/2 hour or until bubbly. Serve with an extra dollop of sour cream if desired.