Archive for September, 2014


Posted on September 28, 2014 - by

Best Fudge #Recipe for #Bookclubs


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.

Nocciolato Fudge

Ingredients

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.

In a stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, chocolate chips, hazelnut spread, and butter.

Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. (The pan should not touch the water.)

Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

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.

Follow Lucy on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

DEADLY ADVICE, the first advice column mystery (written as Roberta Isleib) is finally available as an ebook.


Posted on September 24, 2014 - by

Cooking School

 

Lucy with Chef Norman

LUCY BURDETTE: Last winter at an artisan market at The Restaurant Store, where I was signing books, I met Chef Norman Van Aken. It was great timing, as I was writing about a chef for DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, and he lent me some “telling” details about his career. As often happens at these events, he bought my book and I bought his–a new memoir called NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY. It went onto my TBR pile and only last week made its way to the top. He had quite a wild life, hurtling across the country to work furious stints at different restaurants, including many in Key West. Unlike many of today’s young chefs, he never went to culinary school. He learned from the chefs above him and he studied cookbooks to stretch his recipes and his techniques. The book was very entertaining reading, and would especially appeal to lovers of Key West or foodies or people who’ve wondered about what the cooking life might be like.

Reading Chef Norman’s memoir got me thinking about one of my early jobs. During and after college, I worked in a restaurant called the Alchemist and Barrister in Princeton, New Jersey. A bunch of us college kids waited on the tables in the front of the house, while two big black men from Trenton, named Moses and Joe, worked the stoves in the back. We waitresses were young and cute (or so we thought) and we learned that the tips were better if we wore stacked heels and clingy black dresses. In the kitchen, the cooks slaved at the stove and the grill, finishing fifths of hard liquor across the evening, pretty much toasting themselves by the end of each night.

Lucy with Chef Joe

There were three specialties of the house–a blue cheese burger with red relish, a prime rib, and seafood Newburg in a gloppy orange sauce. If we servers had to return a prime rib to the kitchen because it wasn’t done to the diner’s satisfaction, the chefs became enraged. I can remember Chef Joe (though we never called him anything but Joe) turning a rejected slab of too-rare meat over on the plate, dosing it with a scoop of au jus and yelling: “You’ve got to cook it at the table, baby, cook it at the table.”

The whole restaurant staff drank like proverbial fish, including the owners. One night, after a fight between the cooks and one of the bosses–I’m guessing it had to do with a raise–both the chefs walked out. Either we had to close the business, or someone else had to cook. It certainly never occurred to me (or probably any of the other waitstaff) that the cooks had a reasonable beef and we should back them up and walk out too. Instead, I volunteered to take over at the stove–we stuck with burgers and salads, none of the fancier dishes the restaurant was known for. I’ve never been so hot and tired in my life. And I wasn’t paid very well for the rescue either. And that unglamorous evening was the closest I came to professional cooking. But strangely enough, I write about it now…


Posted on September 20, 2014 - by

A Mess of Green Beans

 

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!

Ingredients

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.


The beans can be eaten any time after 24 hours. Of course I had to sample one right away. The marinade will get stronger and more delicious as time passes.

Recipe for Bloody Mary right here...

 


Posted on September 15, 2014 - by

Be Bold, Be Fiercely Bold

by Janet Snow, from Lucy Burdette’s Key West food critic mystery series

 

Did you happen to see the swimmer Diana Nyad splash ashore on Smathers Beach in Key West? She is one amazing lady–64 years old and this was the fifth time she tried to swim the 100-plus miles from Cuba to Key West. The first four times she had to turn back because of bad weather, poisonous jellyfish, and sharks. Two years ago her face was so swollen from jellyfish stings I bet her own mother wouldn’t recognize her. But she went back to try again and this time she made it. And here’s what she said when she staggered out of the water:

“I have three messages for you:

1. We should #NeverEverGiveUp
2. You’re #NeverTooOld to chase your dreams
3. It’s #NeverASolitarySport … it’s a team ”

If that didn’t get your juices revving, I’m not sure what would! I’m not as old as Diana, but I will be, and I don’t want to look back and think about all the things I didn’t try when I was younger.

My daughter Hayley is another role model for me–she’s pursuing her dream about working as a food critic in Key West. She’s finding her way and I’m so proud.But, here’s the problem. I met the top caterer on the island when we were down for Hayley’s dear friend Connie’s wedding (MURDER WITH GANACHE, published 2/2014.)

What can I say other than we really hit it off? So I’ve been offered a dream job too. But do you think Hayley will kill me if I take the job? Just for the winter mind you…

Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


Posted on September 10, 2014 - by

Hayley Snow: A Character’s Work is Never Done @LucyBurdette

by Hayley Snow from Lucy Burdette’s Key West food critic mysteries
As many of you know, MURDER WITH GANACHE was published last February. Hooray! I was very proud of my part in this book. We made it through spring break, a family reunion, and a wedding, and hardly anyone died. I don’t mean to joke about that because murder is a very serious thing and not one bit funny at all.

It’s just that we characters get a little slap-happy sometimes, you know? My writer and I threw a big launch party and visited some book clubs and went all over the world online. And we got some very good publicity too!

Isn’t this the coolest thing ever? It was featured in Woman’s World, the March 10 issue. Of course they didn’t mention me or Evinrude or Miss Gloria, but if the ladies who buy the magazine read the book, they’ll find out soon enough who’s who.

So you might think that I could rest on my laurels for a while–eat some good meals and write up a few easy reviews. But no, that’s not how this mystery business works. We’re on to the fifth Key West adventure–in fact it’s due out in December.

And I found some notes on my writer’s desk that made me very, very nervous. Things like: What would make Hayley’s life more difficult? What would test her physically, emotionally, morally? What might expose her deeper side to the world?

Good gravy, can a character not get a rest? What do you think, how worried should I be?

You can find Lucy Burdette’s Hayley Snow Key West mysteries wherever books are sold. Find out more about the books on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.


Posted on September 7, 2014 - by

Deadly Advice #ebook #mystery #RobertaIsleib

LUCY BURDETTE: I have often wondered whether the mystery series I wrote before the food critic mysteries might have gotten more traction if it had been published in the era of ebooks and social media. No way to tell, of course, but the happy news is that the first book in the series, DEADLY ADVICE (written as Roberta Isleib), is now available for Kindle.

The book stars Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a clinical psychologist and advice columnist living in Connecticut. She works out of an office in New Haven (in the same building where I had my private practice,) and she explores many of the places on the Connecticut shoreline that I’ve grown to know and love.

Although this series is a little edgier than the food critic mysteries, the books are close to my heart because they draw so much from my previous career as a psychologist. In a poignant coincidence, given the terrible news two weeks ago about Robin Williams, DEADLY ADVICE opens with the mysterious suicide of Dr. Butterman’s neighbor. She feels doubly troubled about this death, thinking she should have noticed something was wrong–both as a professional and as a neighbor.

In addition to my sleuth’s background, that opening scene is also rooted in my graduate school days. During my final year, newly separated, I lived in an anonymous apartment complex with only a nodding acquaintance of the other residents. Each morning, my taciturn next-door neighbor left for work at 7:30, returning by six. Some nights she’d cook one hamburger on the grill outside her door. Medium well, I’d think, considering the time it sat on the coals. How sad, I’d think. Is that me? I’d wonder next.

One evening, I came home from the library and noticed a small U-Haul parked in front of her apartment. An older couple was loading the contents of her place into the van. Over coffee the next morning, I skimmed the newspaper as usual, and noticed a small article near the bottom of an interior page. Based on this paragraph, I realized that my neighbor had shot herself several days earlier. Her body had lain in the apartment next to mine for over forty-eight hours before someone found her.

I felt shocked and sad. Isn’t this every single woman’s worst nightmare—dead two days and no one even notices you’re gone? As you can imagine, this incident has always haunted me.

Years later, that’s where DEADLY ADVICE began. When Dr. Rebecca Butterman returns home to find her neighbor an apparent suicide, she’s wracked with guilt.  As a psychologist and advice columnist, she’s an expert! She should have been able to help the young woman. But the neighbor’s mother suspects foul play, and soon persuades Rebecca to investigate the possibility of murder.

When Rebecca Butterman is troubled, she cooks. Like Hayley Snow in the Key West mysteries, she loves to cook, to eat, and to share meals with her best women friends. But she doesn’t think so much about the meaning of food the way food critic Hayley does. She’s too busy puzzling over what makes people tick…

In honor of the launch of DEADLY ADVICE as e-book, I’m happy to share one of Dr. Butterman’s favorite recipes, beef carbonnade. She would tell you to start the dish the day before you plan to eat it so it can sit in the refrigerator overnight, allowing the flavors to blend. She would also tell you that serving this meal to sad people might make their world a tiny bit brighter.

We hope you enjoy the book and the stew!


Posted on September 4, 2014 - by

Caribbean Salad a la Paseo #KeyWest #Recipe

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

Lettuce
Red cabbage, shredded
Cooked beets, slivered
Cilantro, cleaned and chopped
Avocado
Tomato

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.

Cover all that with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro, to taste. And serve with vinaigrette.

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..

And click here to follow Lucy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.



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