Please welcome our guest author
Connie is the national bestselling author of A Spoonful of Murder, the first in the soup lover’s mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. A Broth of Betrayal was just released on April 2, 2013. Connie was born and raised in
New England. She now lives with her family on the other coast. Visit her website and blog at http://www.conniearchermysteries.com
* * *
Thanks so much to the authors of Mystery Lover’s Kitchen for inviting me to their blog. I’m thrilled to be a contributor, but I have a confession to make. When I was a young newlywed, I was completely hopeless in the kitchen. For one thing, my mother, for all her virtues, had no interest in the domestic arts. In her defense, it was an era of prepackaged frozen vegetables that one dipped into boiling water to heat. To make matters worse, my Dad believed in eating only unadulterated beef – roasts, steaks, hamburgers, sans breadcrumbs or any additives that might lighten up all that mammal flesh. On my own as a college student, I ate anything and everything that was quick, cheap, instant and preferably free.
When I say I was hopeless, I’m not exaggerating. I hadn’t a clue what uncooked spinach looked like and if the supermarket hadn’t placed its signs just so, I was lost. I knew spinach was dark green and mushy, but I could just as easily have purchased parsley by mistake. Besides, raw spinach looks nothing like the stuff in those plastic pouches. I was flummoxed by parsnips and leeks. What the heck are those things? I’ve never seen them before!
So when I found myself at home all day with an infant, I figured it was high time to give cooking a try. After all, somebody in the family had to do it. I bought a cookbook and summoning my courage, embarked on my first attempt -- beef stew. Sounds simple, right? Not for me. When the list of ingredients called for a bay leaf (What in heaven’s name is a bay leaf?) and Worcestershire sauce, believe me, I needed help.
As the years went by, I can humbly say, I eventually became a fairly decent cook, but even so, the concept of soup still eluded me. I was sure making soup had to be the most difficult and esoteric accomplishment. Then somewhere along the way, maybe by reading that cookbook (hello!), it finally dawned on me that nothing could be simpler – as simple in fact as chopping up whatever might be in the vegetable drawer and adding broth or meat and spices. I was off and running. From that point on, I couldn’t stop. Each concoction produced a new and unique bowl that I tested (ad nauseum) on my family. Now, of course, I love making soups and inventing new recipes.
Then, through a series of twists and turns, I found myself writing a mystery series about a soup shop with an expert and creative chef to whom I could attribute some of my more successful experiments. When I told one of my daughters about the series, she said, “Mom, that is so perfect! You are the soup lady.”
In deference to the season, not to mention the flu season, here’s one of my favorites -- a simple soup, but loaded with vitamin C and guaranteed to alleviate, if not cure, cold and flu symptoms.
1 tbl. vegetable oil
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 ½ to 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth or chicken bouillon
1 tbl. brown sugar
fresh basil (10-12 leaves)
1 tbl. grated orange peel
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in vegetable oil for a few minutes until softened.
Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and add to the pot with the chicken broth.
Add the orange zest and brown sugar. Stir and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes until the ingredients are cooked. Puree the mixture with a wand or in a blender. Add 10 to 12 freshly torn basil leaves to the pot. Simmer a few more minutes, add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and garnish each bowl with a fresh basil leaf.