Archive for December, 2014


Posted on December 27, 2014 - by

Mojitos for the Holiday Season

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:


This one was very good too:


This one took the prize for the most bilious color (though I drank it
anyway):

And this was the daiquiri that I was forced to order when the bar was out of mint:

And here’s my recipe:

Ingredients
one lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
4 to 5 sprigs mint per glass
2 teaspoons sugar
1 to 2 ounces rum, depending on how strong you want the drink
Club soda
Ice
Bitters

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 19, 2014 - by

Florida MWA panel at the FL Library Association Conference

May 14, Thursday, Florida Library Association Conference,

Caribe Royale, 101 World Center Drive, Orlando, FL 32821

7:30 Breakfast; 10:30 Panel


Posted on December 17, 2014 - by

Cuba: Taking Things for Granted @LucyBurdette

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.

We expect roads that can be traveled and trains that run and horses on farms. In Cuba, every kind of transportation shares the road.

Mid-fifties Chrysler

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

Festive Coconut Shrimp for a Book Launch #recipe @LucyBurdette @penguincozies

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!)

Dip the shrimp in flour, then egg, and finally coconut, and set them on a plate until you have prepared all of them.

Now heat the vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed skillet. When the oil is hot, fry them several at a time until they are crispy and brown. This will only take a few minutes.

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.

And big congrats to my Mystery Lovers Kitchen blog sisters, Krista Davis for THE GHOST AND MRS. MEWER and Cleo Coyle for ONCE UPON A GRIND!

DON’T FORGET: Mysteries make great stocking stuffers!


Posted on December 5, 2014 - by

Trimmings is Launched!

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



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