By Leslie BudewitzAs a college student and later a young lawyer working in downtown Seattle, I tried to eat my way through the city’s famed Pike Place Market at least once or twice a week. I’d start at the front entrance with a slice of pizza from DeLaurenti’s walk-up window, browsing the covers of the magazines at the First & Pike Newsstand---eyes only until my hands were clean! I’d sip a sample cup of tea at Market Spice while watching the fishmongers throw salmon and amuse the crowd with their comedy routine, pick my produce and cheese for the week, and end with dessert—a hazelnut sablé from Le Panier, the French bakery, or a Nanaimo bar from a now-departed shop in the warren off Post Alley—then head back to school or my office.
So naturally, when I thought about setting a mystery series in Seattle, the Market beckoned. Despite her name, Pepper Reece never intended to run a spice shop. But when her life fell apart, she found unexpected solace—and employment—in spice. Every season, she and her staff create a few blends to show off the Market’s fresh produce. Here’s a pairing for all seasons.
Herbes de Provence
A savory touch, to transport your taste buds.
2½ tablespoons dried oregano
2½ tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried crushed lavender flowers
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried sage
Mix spices in a small bowl. Store in a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Makes just over half a cup.
As with all herb blends, experiment with your own touches. Let your taste be your guide. Other frequent additions: rosemary, sweet marjoram, or fennel seed. (Marjoram and oregano are distinct herbs but closely related and can be substituted for each other in some recipes.) Try a blend with whatever combination of the suggested herbs you have on hand. Then, next summer, grow a pot of lavender on your deck or in a sunny window!
Herbes de Provence are spectacular sprinkled on sautéed potatoes, rubbed on chicken before grilling, or best of all, in roast chicken and potatoes. Add them to a lamb or a vegetable stew—think eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini, maybe some cannellini (white beans). Use them to season homemade croutons or tomato sauce.
Wrap a teaspoon of Herbes de Provence in cheese cloth and tie with kitchen string to make an herb bouquet, also called a bouquet garni. Drop it into a small jar of olive oil for a few days to make an infusion for salads or sautées.
Potato and Broccoli FrittataPepper drew inspiration for this recipe from the potatoes and broccolini in the Market. A hybrid of traditional broccoli and gai lan, also called Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale, broccolini has long, slender stalks with small florets and kale-like leaves, and a peppery taste that holds up well when cooked. If you can’t find it, use traditional broccoli or broccoli raab. Traditional broccoli can be hard to find with the stalks intact, but the search is worth the effort. Use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to cut out any knots and peel off the tough skin. Those stalks carry a lot of flavor and vitamins and minerals.
If you don’t have a chance to pop into the Spice Shop for Herbes de Provence, make your own with whatever you have on hand. And don’t skimp on the Parmesan! If you need to cut it because you’re watching sodium—Parmesan is naturally low in fat—reduce the amount that goes in the egg mixture. The cheese on top broils to such lovely salty, crunchy perfection—you don’t want to miss that!
For dinner, serve with a green salad and crunchy bread, and a white wine—a light non-oaky Chardonnay, a Pinot Grigio, or any white with a clean, crisp touch.
8 to 10 small white potatoes (about 10 ounces total), scrubbed and quartered
1 cup vegetable broth
¼ cup olive oil
8 ounces broccolini, trimmed and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
8 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the potatoes and broth in a large (10- to 12-inch) ovenproof skillet. On the stove top, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, turning the potatoes often, until almost all of the stock has been absorbed and the potatoes are tender.
Preheat your broiler. If yours has variable settings, use the high setting and leave the rack in the middle of the oven. If your broiler is not particularly hot, raise the rack.
Add the olive oil, broccolini, onion, and Herbes de Provence to the potatoes in the skillet. Continue cooking on the stove top on medium heat for about 2 minutes, turning frequently, until all the vegetables are coated with oil and herbs. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover the skillet, cooking about 3 minutes, until the broccolini has become mostly tender.
Beat the eggs with half the Parmesan and the salt and pepper. Check the heat in your skillet; you may need to turn it way down to avoid frying the eggs in the next step. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Cover and cook on the stove top over medium-low until the eggs are lightly set, about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top and place the pan under the broiler, until the top is bubbly and golden, and the eggs are just set throughout, about 5 minutes.
Let cool slightly before slicing into wedges.
Makes 8 servings. Wedges reheat beautifully for breakfast or lunch.
From the cover of ASSAULT AND PEPPER:Pepper Reece, owner of the Seattle Spice Shop, thinks she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murderer ends up in the mix…
After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars.
But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on her doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest Tory Finch, one of Pepper’s staffers, for murder.
Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list…
INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES!
ASSAULT AND PEPPER, March 3, 2015 (Berkley Prime Crime)
available for pre-order now
Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). Visit her website---and sign up for her newsletter---or join her on Facebook or Twitter, @LeslieBudewitz.