Showing posts with label Judy Alter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judy Alter. Show all posts

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Green Noodles and Pesto

A warm welcome to our guest, Judy Alter, whose first cozy mystery, SKELETON IN A DEAD SPACE, will debut on August 29th!

I didn’t grow up eating much pasta. I don’t think my father, with his British taste and sense of propriety, liked the messiness of spaghetti, and I’m not sure I ever saw him eat lasagna. When I had spaghetti as a child, it was because my folks were going out and my best friend and I were left to heat canned Spaghetti-Os, which we thought were manna from heaven. Oh, yes, we also heated canned spinach to go with it. There you have our two favorite foods. My taste has improved a bit since those days, and I love pasta, especially with a rich, red meat sauce. But there are so many other things to do with it.

    My former sister-in-law served something she called meatless spaghetti, claiming she invented it one night before she and my brother married when he was coming for dinner and she had no money for groceries. She used what she had on hand, melting butter in the skillet, adding cooked spaghetti and lots of lemon juice. I “improved” on the idea by using spinach noodles and adding scallions and mushrooms. Now I also add chopped artichoke hearts and a frozen “ice cube” of homemade pasta. I frequently served “green noodles” as my children were growing up. The dish was a household favorite.  It’s light enough for summer and is a nice one-dish meal.

Green noodles

1 16-oz. pkg. spinach egg noodles
1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I always buy whole and slice them myself—seems fresher)
4 scallions, chopped
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
1 ice-cube size piece of pesto, thawed (see note)
Juice of one lemon or to taste
Grated fresh Parmesan

Cook and drain noodles. Melt butter in the skillet. (My oldest daughter, Megan, weight-conscious in high school and to this day, used to insist that was too much butter, and it may be but it’s good.) Sauté the garlic. mushrooms and scallions in the butter. Add  lemon juice to taste—I like lots; the mushrooms soak up the lemon and are delicious. Add artichoke hearts and pesto. Add noodles and toss to coat. Make sure all is heated through, and then serve topped with Parmesan.

    My daughter-in-law, Melanie, does a slightly different version for her daughters, Maddie and Edie, both of whom at a very young age loved sour things like pickles and capers. Mel cooks angel hair pasta and butters it liberally; then she adds lemon juice and capers. I watched in amazement as she dumped capers in out of the jar, not bothering to drain them (as I always do, with some difficulty). “Oh, yes,” she said, “the juice adds a really good taste.” I tried it, and she’s right.

Note: I make a batch of pesto when I’m in danger of losing the basil crop to frost and pour it into an old-fashioned ice-cube tray. When frozen, pop the cubes out, put in a baggie and store in the freezer. One or two cubes defrost fairly quickly at room temperature.  You don’t want to microwave them.

My favorite pesto recipe is plain and simple:

2 c. basil, packed
½ c. Parmesan, shredded
½ c. olive oil
1/3 c. nuts—I don’t like pine nuts much and prefer to use pecan pieces
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
Lime juice to taste—but don’t get it too runny.

Put it all in the food process and blend.
I have done this with cilantro, and it’s great.

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter has written fiction for adults and young adults about women in the nineteenth-century American West. Now she has turned her attention to contemporary cozy mysteries, and the first, Skeleton in a Dead Space, will launch August 29 from Turquoise Morning Press. Judy blogs about cooking at Potluck with Judy,, and about writing and life in general at Judy’s Stew, You can write her at

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Judy Alter Cooks Her Way Through Life

A very warm welcome to author Judy Alter. The recipient of numerous awards for her westerns and juvenile fiction, Judy has accomplished the impossible by having a cookbook published!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Judy.

1. Congratulations on having a cookbook published! I thought only TV cooking stars and celebrity chefs were able to publish cookbooks. Tell us how it happened for you!

A friend was writing a book with recipes in it, and her agent said to ditch the recipes. I said recipes were really big in books right now, so she said, "Okay, we'll write a cookbook together." I went home and began to write, realizing that my life fell into four distinct cooking periods: a childhood in a very meat-and-potatoes household in Chicago, with a Canadian father who preferred pot roast, no fish, and nothing you picked up in your hands but a mother who was an excellent cook and taught me well. Then I married a Jewish man and moved to Texas--two new cultures, and though the husband is long gone, I love Jewish food. Then there were the years I raised four children as a single parent--the casserole years. And in this final cooking phase, I live alone, entertain often, always experiment on guests and find that cooking is a great relaxation for me. Meanwhile my friend confessed that her mother never cooked and when I asked how she fed her children, she said, "I took them out." Needless to say, it became my book. State House Press, loosely related to McMurry University, told me they could only publish things with a historical aspect, but I assured them I am old enough that some of my recipes are historic.

2. What's a typical weeknight dinner at your house?

Depends. If I eat alone these days, it's a meat and a steamed vegetable, because I am on Weight Watchers. If I have company, I may experiment on anything from a casserole to what I call the $8,000 leg of lamb (someone once jokingly offered me that much for the recipe). Last night for my daughter and her husband it was Hebrew National hot dogs, German potato salad, and tossed salad with blue cheese dressing.

3. Name three things you always have in the refrigerator.

Cottage cheese (my breakfast), white wine, Paul Newman's Own Vinaigrette. (Actually these days I pretty much make my own dressings, but my youngest daughter used to list those three as the things we could live on when she and I were living alone).

4. Do you have a secret indulgence that you sneak on occasion?

Chocolate.I recently discovered a chocolate bar with chopped peanuts and jalapeno in it. Unfortunately, it's not the dark chocolate that I love and is so good for you.

5. What is your most memorable meal and where was it?

Oh, gosh--I've had lots of wonderful meals in some fairly posh restaurants but I think my most memorable meals are when my family is gathered around me and usually then it's tacos or fajitas or a family favorite called Doris' casserole. I have four children, all happily married to people I adore, and seven grandchildren.

6. You've written quite a few westerns. What made you decide to
switch to mysteries?

I've always been an avid mystery reader, and I just wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I've written one that my mentor from grad school (who taught genre lit) says is good but so far haven't placed it. A sequel awaits revision. Besides the market for the kind of westerns I wrote has fallen away. I wrote mostly fictional biographies of well known women, like Libby Custer.

7. Will your mysteries include recipes?

Strangely enough, the protagonist is not a good cook, but she's getting better, especially when a policeman who can cook comes into her life.

8. Would you mind sharing a recipe with us?

Here's Doris' Casserole.

Doris' Casserole

First layer:

1 lb. ground beef
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed in garlic press
2 tsp each sugar and salt (I cut back on those but sugar is important in tomato-based sauces-my mom taught me years ago it sort of rounds it off.)
Pepper to taste

Brown ground beef in skillet. Drain grease and return to skillet. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes, until it thickens a little.

Spread in a 9 x 13 pan.

For noodle layer:

5 oz. (approximately-they don't come in this size pkg.) egg noodles
3 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 c. sour cream
6 green onions chopped, with some of the tops included

1-1/2 c. grated cheddar

Cook egg noodles and drain. While the noodles are hot, stir in cream cheese, sour cream, and green onions. Spread over meat mixture. (I gave this recipe to one friend who insisted that it was backward and the noodles should go first-I finally convinced her, and her family loved it too.) Top with grated cheddar, bake 35 minutes at 350 or until bubbly and cheese is slightly browned.
Supposed to serve 8, but you'll be lucky if you can feed six with it. Freezes well.

Thanks again for joining us at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, Judy!

Visit Judy at her website.

and her blog, Judy's Stew.