Wine and food help, too.
As an author, I enjoy visiting book clubs. Readers ask great questions! Even readers who don’t read a lot of mysteries dive in, finding themes and symbols, relating to the characters and their problems as if they knew them. And that satisfies me deeply, because one of my goals as a storyteller is to illuminate a bit of life. Maybe we haven’t found a dead body on the doorstep, thank goodness, but we’ve all faced loss and grief, dealt with secrets and betrayal, and felt the ache of love and loneliness. If my characters’ responses help a reader make a little sense of some aspect of this human experience, I’m beyond happy.
This salad, from KILLING THYME (out October 4), is great for bookclubs where a light dinner is served, or for a potluck, because it’s hearty without being heavy, easy to transport, and doesn’t need to be served hot. It’s also colorful and a little unusual, always a plus! At home, it’s terrific by itself or as a side dish, especially with chicken or salmon. Whole-grain pasta and beans make it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians—something Laurel keeps in mind when stocking Ripe’s deli case. (Or she would, if she lived anywhere but on the page!)
You’ll love the color the turmeric and fresh herbs add—and the combination of fresh herbs in the salad and the dried herbs in the dressing gives an extra punch of flavor.
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of KILLING THYME, out October 4! TWO winners will be chosen!
Herbed Black Bean and Pasta SaladFor the salad:
1 pound regular or whole-grain penne pasta
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow or green bell pepper, chopped
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
¼ to ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
For the dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend blend (below)
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse in cool water to stop the cooking. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans and chop the vegetables and fresh herbs. Place the beans, veggies, and herbs in a large bowl. Add the pasta and stir to mix.
Serve warm or chilled, by itself or over a bed of chilled hearty greens, such as a mixture of spinach, arugula, romaine, or other sturdy lettuces.
Serves 8 to 10.
Pepper’s Italian Herb BlendThis is a good basic blend that you can adjust for your own taste. Remember that blends take a few hours for the flavors to meld; because of the mildness of these herbs, you can use the blend generously right away, and taste how the flavors improve over time.
3 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 teaspoons dried marjoram
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes or garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried rosemary (break the needles with a mortar and pestle or in a small bowl with the back of a sturdy spoon)
Mix herbs in a small bowl. Yield: about 10 tablespoons, just over ½ cup.
Discussion Questions for KILLING THYMEKILLING THYME releases October 4. I hope this recipe and these questions make it the perfect choice for your next book club meeting! (Find discussion questions for my other books on the For Book Clubs page of my website.)
1. Pepper’s had her challenges hiring staff for the Spice Shop, but she’s back to a full crew now. Do Matt and Cayenne seem like good additions?
2. Lena, Pepper’s mother, makes her first appearance in the series in KILLING THYME. Oh, mothers and daughters! Discuss.
3. Lena says of Bonnie, once called Peggy, that she craves home and community, but repeatedly makes choices that keep her from getting what says she wants. Do you know anyone like that?
4. In this book, Pepper experiences tensions with both Kristen, her life-long best friend, and Sandra, her key employee. Do you think she handles them well?
5. Mr. Adams is both sweet and crotchety, pained by some changes in his neighborhood and pleased with others. How has your neighborhood changed, and how do you feel about those changes?
6. Pepper’s new bridal registry could give the Spice Shop’s bottom line a nice boost. But at what cost? Discuss weddings and the Bridezilla-Momzilla phenomenon! What’s the most unusual wedding gift you received?
7. Pepper’s relationship with Tag reaches an unexpected place of peace in this book. Should they get back together, or not?
8. Do you have a favorite use for thyme?
9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?
10. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of KILLING THYME. TWO winners will be chosen, on Thurs, Sept. 23. The discussion questions may prompt some comments, even though you haven't read the book yet!
At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…
Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun.
While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. When Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth.
But when Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.
Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook, where I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.