Showing posts with label Leslie Karst. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leslie Karst. Show all posts

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aurora’s Gnocchi by Guest Author @LJKarst #recipe

Today the writers and cooks at MLK are delighted to welcome guest Leslie Karst! We love her books and can't wait for the new one. Meanwhile, enjoy her gnocchi recipe and add a comment to be entered in the giveaway for DEATH AL FRESCO!

Leslie Karst: The protagonist of my Sally Solari culinary mysteries comes from an Italian-American family who runs an Italian seafood restaurant out on the historic fisherman’s wharf in Santa Cruz, California. I’m not Italian, however, and my cooking expertise leans more to the French end of the spectrum. As a result, I’ve deemed it prudent to conduct research prior to writing many of the food scenes in the books (e.g., when Nonna prepares her Sunday gravy, in Dying for a Taste).

Happily for me, this research is ongoing. So when I was asked by a friend if I wanted to come to his house for a gnocchi-making demo by 90-year old Aurora Leveroni, I readily responded “Si, certo!” (This recipe has yet to appear in any of my books, but is sure to turn up soon.)

yours truly with Aurora and the finished product

The word “gnoccho” (the singular form) most likely derives from either “nocchio” (a knot of wood) or “nocca” (knuckle). These small dumplings have been eaten on the Italian peninsula since at least the days of the Roman Empire, when they were made of semolina and eggs. [See here.] After the potato was brought to Europe from the New World, the Italians incorporated it into their dumplings, creating what we now think of as the traditional potato gnocchi.

Aurora, who grew up in San Francisco, learned this technique from her mother—née Marie Dell-Era—who was born in the Lake Como region of Northern Italy.

We made a recipe for 30 servings, using five pounds of potatoes, but my directions here cut that amount in half. These are the ingredients:

2 ½ lbs. Idaho or Russet potatoes
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tbsp. olive oil
2-3 cups unbleached flour

Boil the potatoes with the skins on, until well done. (Waxy varieties such as Yukon Gold should not be used, as they have too much water content.) Do not pierce them or cut them in half, because you want as little water as possible to be absorbed (you could roast the potatoes at 400 degrees till tender instead—in which case you should pierce them first with a fork—but Aurora uses the boiling method and hers came out great).

As soon as the potatoes are done, peel them and put them through a ricer while still hot (or you can grate them over the large holes of a box grater):

Add the egg, salt, baking powder, and olive oil to the riced potatoes, and mix well. Using your hands is best. Then slowly mix in unbleached flour. The amount of flour will vary, depending on the weather, moisture content of the potatoes, type of flour, and other unknowable variables, but you want to keep adding it until the dough stops being sticky and is easy to work.

Transfer the dough to the counter to knead as you would for bread, three to four minutes.

The next step is to cut off pieces of the dough and roll them into long “snakes,” about ½ inch thick. Work from the center out, as you would if rolling out a baguette:

Next, cut the snakes into ½ inch pieces:

You can use the gnocchi as they are now if you like, but Italian gnocchi are typically made with ridges. To shape her gnocchi, Aurora uses the fork method, rolling the uncut, rounded sides of the pieces lightly on the back of a fork to make indentations:

Here’s a close-up of what the gnocchi look like after being shaped:

At this point you can either cook the gnocchi or freeze them for later use. If you’re not going to eat them right away, spread them (not touching) on a lightly-floured cookie sheet, sprinkle a little more flour on top, and put the sheet in the freezer. (See photo at top of this post.) After they are frozen, they can be transferred to zip-lock baggies and kept in the freezer until use.

Cooking the gnocchi is easy. Simply drop the frozen morsels into boiling, heavily salted water. Stir them once so they don’t stick to the bottom, and then wait until they rise to the top, which means they’re done. Drain them, and they’re ready to eat.

Gnocchi are best served with a simple sauce, so as not to overwhelm their delicate flavor. I served the bag that Aurora gave me drizzled with brown butter and topped with crispy sage (fried in the butter) and grated Romano cheese:

Buon appetito!

Leave a comment for a chance to win a hard cover copy of Leslie’s newest Sally Solari mystery, Death al Fresco!
About Death al Fresco

It’s early autumn in Santa Cruz and restaurateur Sally Solari, inspired by the eye-popping canvases of Paul Gauguin, the artist for whom her restaurant is named, enrolls in a plein air painting class. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered during one of their outings when Sally’s dog sniffs out a corpse entangled in a pile of kelp.

The body is identified as Gino, a local fisherman and a regular at Sally’s father’s restaurant, Solari's, until he disappeared after dining there a few nights before. But after witnesses claim he left reeling drunk, fingers begin to point at Sally’s dad for negligently allowing the old man to walk home alone at night. From a long menu of suspects, including a cast of colorful characters who frequent the historic Santa Cruz fisherman’s wharf, Sally must serve up a tall order in order to clear her father’s name.

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. She now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. The next in the series, Death al Fresco, releases March 13th.

You can visit Leslie on Facebook , and you can go to her author website  to sign for her newsletter—full of recipes and fun Italian facts!—and to purchase all her books.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Spaghetti alla Carbonara from our guest, Leslie Karst. #recipe #mystery #giveaway

It's our pleasure to welcome our friend, the dynamic Leslie Karst, as our special guest here today.

Leslie has a wonderful recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara which we can't wait to try and a fabulous giveaway.  Make sure you read to the end and leave a comment to get in on the giveaway action. 

Now here's Leslie on the background to this delicious dish.

One of my sleuth Sally Solari’s favorite dishes to whip up for company is spaghetti alla carbonara. Not only is it about as simple as it gets to make—thus allowing Sally the luxury of enjoying pre-dinner cocktails along with her guests—but the combination of bacon, olive oil, butter, cheese, and eggs makes this pasta sinfully rich and delicious.

The origin of this dish’s name is hotly disputed, but most folks agree that it likely has something to do with the Italian word carbone (charcoal). Some claim the dish was invented by coalminers; others argue it was originally cooked over a charcoal flame; and still others assert that the name derives from a kind of charcoal-cooked ham that was once used for the pasta.

Whatever its history, this rich, creamy dish from Rome makes for a delicious and quick-to-prepare meal. Serve it with a green salad or fagiolini al burro (baby green beans sautéed in butter), and a loaf of warm, crusty bread. (Don’t be alarmed by the use of raw egg; the hot pasta heats it enough to cook, and the result is a silky, custardy sauce.)

Here’s a sneak-preview of the recipe from my brand new Sally Solari mystery, A Measure of Murder:

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
(serves 4-6)


1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound pancetta or bacon, cut crossways into ½” strips
4 eggs
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley [I used green onions for the meal photographed]
salt and freshly-ground black pepper


Bring a large (at least 4 quart) pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt, and cook over high heat until al dente (still slightly firm in the center, 8-10 minutes), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and oil in a heavy skillet. Add the bacon and fry over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown. (This can be done in advance, but reheat before service if the oil and butter have hardened.)

In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, beat the eggs with the grated cheese.

Drain the cooked pasta and immediately dump it—without rinsing—into the serving bowl. Toss until the pasta is coated with the egg and cheese mixture. (I used whole wheat spaghetti, hence the darker color.)

Add the pancetta or bacon (along with all the butter and oil), and toss again.

Serve garnished with the parsley and freshly ground pepper. (See the  photo at top of post.)

Now here's a bit about the very tasty Sally Solari culinary mysteries series:

A MEASURE OF MURDER, book two in the Sally Solari culinary mystery series, was just released on February 7, 2017 (Crooked Lane Books). It's still warm to the touch!

Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, she joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard—and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident.

Now Sally's back on another murder case mixed in with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin, set aflame right as Sally starts getting too close to the truth. Can Sally catch the killer before she’s burnt to a crisp, or will the case grow as cold as yesterday’s leftovers?

“Engaging characters, terrific writing, and a savory blend of musical and culinary erudition...polymath Karst sauces her plot without masking its flavor. And she’s a dab hand with the red herrings.” Publishers Weekly starred review

We're intrigued!  Now just who is Leslie Karst? 

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. She now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. She and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai‘i. Visit her online at and at

As well as a hardcover copy of A MEASURE FOR MURDER, Leslie is offering this great Sally Solari swag! 

Leave a comment and don't forget your email addy and you could be the lucky winner.  The winner will be announced on the sidebar later this week!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Nonna's Sunday Gravy #recipe @ljkarst #giveaway

Lucy Burdette: I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of Leslie Karst's new book, Dying for a Taste. I loved it and hope you enjoy it too--along with this amazing-sounding sauce! Welcome Leslie!


Nonna’s Sunday Gravy by Leslie Karst

Nonna Giovanna is the 86-year-old grandmother of my protagonist, Sally Solari. Tiny but feisty, Nonna is never happier than when, having spent the day cooking, she gets to scold guests in her thick Tuscan accent that they need to eat more: Mangia, mangia! Luckily for Sally’s family, however, when it’s Nonna’s mouth-watering Sunday Gravy on the menu, not much scolding is ever necessary.
This hearty, tomato-based stew is called “gravy” by many Italian-American families, as it’s traditionally eaten as two separate courses.

The sauce (i.e., “gravy”) is served over pasta as the primo, or first course:

And the braised meat is served as the secondo, or second course, with a vegetable or salad contorno (side dish):


(The following recipe is excerpted—with slight changes—from those included in Dying for a Taste. But unlike in the book, you get photos of the process, here!)


¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ pounds beef chuck or short ribs (slightly more if bone-in)
1 ½ pounds pork chops or shoulder (slightly more if bone-in)
1 pound sweet Italian sausages
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (2-3 cloves)
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onion (2 med. onions)
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 28-oz. cans plum tomatoes
½ bottle hearty red wine (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
salt and black pepper

cooked penne, rigatoni, or spaghetti
grated Parmesan, Romano, or other hard Italian cheese


Cut the beef and pork shoulder into three pieces each and season with salt and pepper.

In batches, so as to not crowd the pot, fry the beef, pork, and sausages over a medium-high heat in half the olive oil (2 tablespoons) until golden brown on all sides. Nonna Giovanna likes to prepare her Sunday gravy in an enameled Dutch oven, but any large, heavy pot will do. (Note that it’s best to avoid cast iron, as the acid in the tomatoes can leach out the iron, imparting a metallic taste to the gravy. As you’ll see from my photos, however, I forgot this important fact, only remembering after the dish had been braising for several hours. Since my pot is well-seasoned, however, the dish tasted fine. But don’t you make the same mistake!) Remove the meat to a large plate once browned.

If needed, add the rest of the olive oil to the pot, and sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat until the onions are just beginning to brown.

Add the can of tomato paste and stir into the onions and garlic, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the paste turns a deep, reddish brown (about 5 minutes).

Add the two cans of tomatoes, with juice, to the pot. Using a fork and sharp knife, cut the largest tomatoes into quarters and the smaller ones in half.

Then add the wine, sugar, and herbs, and stir.

Add the meat (along with any liquid on the plate) back to the pot, and stir to cover the meat. If needed, add water so that the liquid in the pot just covers the meat.

Simmer over low heat, partially covered, for 3 hours, stirring occasionally to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When done, the meat should be almost falling apart and the sauce fairly thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the meat from the pot if you are going to serve it as a separate course. If not, you can cut the meat into smaller pieces and mix it into the sauce, being sure to remove any bones.

Serve the gravy over cooked pasta, topped with grated hard Italian cheese. Garnish with more of the chopped herbs, for added color and flavor. (See photos at top of post.)

Buon appetito!

Readers: Does your family sit down together regularly for a traditional meal prepared by your nonna (or abuela, or nana, or babushka)? If so, I’d love to hear about the dishes you eat! Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of DYING FOR A TASTE!

BIO: Leslie Karst is the author of the culinary mystery, Dying for a Taste, the first of the Sally Solari Mystery series (Crooked Lane Books). A former research and appellate attorney, Leslie now spends her days cooking, gardening, reading, cycling, singing alto in the local community chorus, and of course writing. She and her wife, Robin, and their Jack Russell mix, Ziggy, split their time between Santa Cruz, California and Hilo, Hawai‘i. Visit her at Leslie Karst Author for more.


SYNOPSIS: After losing her mother to cancer, Sally Solari quits her job as an attorney to help her dad run his old-style Italian eatery in Santa Cruz, California, but soon finds that managing the front of the house is far from her dream job of running her own kitchen.

Then her Aunt Letta is found stabbed to death at Gauguin, Letta’s swank Polynesian-French restaurant, and Sally is the only one who can keep the place afloat. When the Gauguin sous chef is accused of the crime, however, Sally must delve into the unfamiliar world of organic food, sustainable farming, and animal rights activists—not to mention a few family secrets—to help clear his name and catch the true culprit before her timer runs out.