Showing posts with label Sheila Connolly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sheila Connolly. Show all posts

Friday, January 12, 2018

Green Chile Crockpot Stew

I borrowed this recipe from Facebook friend and fellow author Jeri Westerson (whose latest book, Season of Blood, was just released!), who said she found it on Facebook. Its creator is unknown (apparently to both of us), but I changed half the ingredients anyway, so it’s mine now!

It’s a good recipe for a cold winter night, if you have the time to slow-cook it. Don’t worry about the precise measurements, especially if you’re using leftover meat and don’t have quite enough. And you can decide how spicy you want it to be, depending on which chiles you include, and how much of them.

Ingredients:

2 russet potatoes, peeled and 

   diced (about 4 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for cooking
1 onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-1/2 to 2 pounds meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) previously cooked and shredded
2 4-oz. cans jalapeno peppers (mild or spicy)
4-1/2 cups broth (beef or chicken, depending on your meat)
1 Tblsp freshly ground cumin seeds
1 tsp Mexican oregano

Instructions:

Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a bowl and cover them with water.




In a skillet, heat 2 Tblsp of oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 6-8 minutes.




Take one can of the peppers and puree them in a blender. Add 1 cup of broth, and blend on high until the mixture is smooth. 


Irrelevant note: this is really old school--the
blender was a wedding present! And the
crockpot was my mother's!

In your crock pot place the shredded meat, the pureed peppers, the onion-garlic mixture, and the spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. 




Drain the diced potatoes and add them to the pot.




Add the remaining can of green chiles (if you want), and enough stock to barely cover the ingredients. Continue simmering for 60-90 minutes.




Dish up and dig in! If the stew looks more like soup to you, serve it with some crusty bread. The dish is guaranteed to keep you warm!



Available now!

Suspense Magazine says: "Connolly sticks to what she knows best: How to write a drop dead awesome book that keeps readers entertained from beginning to end!"

And there are a few surprises along the way...

Find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores everywhere!



Friday, January 5, 2018

The Liss Ard Menu

The next book in my County Cork Mysteries, Many a Twist, will be released next Tuesday. All the familiar characters will be there, and a few will spill some secrets, but there will also be some new faces.

While the heart of the story is always Maura’s pub, Sullivan’s, a lot happens in and around an upscale local hotel, based on a real one in Skibbereen, known as the Liss Ard Estate. It started out as a manor house for one of the important local families, but since then it’s served many purposes under many different owners, and right now it’s a hotel (a fate many of the big old manor houses share).




According to their website, the Liss Ard Estate “is a place of enchantment and relaxation set on 163 acres of gorgeous countryside and an amazing 50-acre lake! The country house was built in 1853 by the O'Donovan chiefs and it became the last of their Georgian style houses to be built.”

A smaller building, Lake House, was added to the property as a summer residence for the O'Donovans.

It also has a high-end restaurant (and they report that they serve “an exquisite Afternoon Tea,” by appointment only—I haven’t tried it yet). The menu makes delicious reading, even though I have to laugh at some of the terms they use, like “burnt figs.” But their flavor pairings are intriguing.

So I decided to try to replicate one of their main courses, in honor of Many a Twist. Of course I had to tweak it a bit, but I’m aiming for the spirit of their dishes.

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil and Crispy Onions

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of mushrooms)




Note: wild mushrooms seem to flourish in late fall in Ireland. I assume the Liss Ard chefs use what is available. These are some that I’ve seen (and no, I didn’t cook any of them).


I have no idea what these are, and, no, I didn't eat
any of them! But they were thriving in November.
5 cups broth (chicken, beef, or 
   vegetable)
2 Tblsp finely chopped shallots
3 Tblsp butter
2 Tblsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups uncooked rice (preferably Arborio)


Directions:

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a slow simmer and hold it at that temperature.

Melt the butter in another saucepan and add the oil.  Add the shallots and sauté until they are translucent (do not brown).  Add the chopped mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms give up their juices.




Add the rice and stir until the rice grains are well-coated with the butter-oil mixture.  



Add one-half cup of the simmering broth and stir until the rice absorbs all the liquid (make sure you get all the grains clinging to the sides of the pan).  Then add another one-half cup of liquid and continue to stir over low heat, making sure the rice doesn't stick to the bottom. Continue adding the broth and stirring, but wait each time until all the broth is absorbed before adding any more (yes, this takes some time, and a lot of stirring, but the result is worth it).

Toward the end it will take longer for the broth to be absorbed after each addition, but you will notice that the mixture is becoming creamy.

After about 20 minutes, taste a single grain of rice to see if it is cooked through. If the core of the grain is still hard and white, continue adding liquid and testing until it's done. In total it should take about 30 minutes.  Don't worry if you didn't use all five cups of the broth—rice can vary. Taste a bit and add salt only if needed.

Crispy Onions

Ingredients:

1 large yellow onion (or two smaller 
   ones)2 eggs
2 Tblsp whole milk
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
vegetable oil for frying (to a depth of two inches in your pan)

Instructions:



Slice the onion into quarter-inch slices, then cut each slice into quarters. Toss to separate the small pieces.




Heat two inches of oil in a deep-sided skillet or fry pan (I used my mother’s crock pot, which doubles as a fryer) to 350 degrees.

In a mid-size bowl, mix the eggs and milk together. In a second bowl, mix the flour and spices together.

Gather up a handful of onions at a time, and dip them into the egg mixture. Let the excess liquid drip off. Then place the onions in the flour and toss to coat. Again, shake off the excess (if they seem too gummy, you could use a sieve and shake well).




Place the onions in the hot oil (watch out for spatter!) and cook until they are golden brown. (Do not crowd or they might boil over—you can do this in batches, but be sure to let the oil reach the proper temperature before adding the next batch.)



Crispy onions!

Remove the onions from the oil and place on paper towels to absorb the oil.



You will note that the Liss Ard dish includes truffle oil. I actually have truffle oil! (And truffle butter too!). I’m not sure where it goes. Use sparingly, because it has a strong flavor. You can sprinkle it over the cooked risotto to amplify the taste of whatever mushrooms you’ve used, or over the onions, or both.

The risotto is creamy, and the onions add a nice bit of crunch as well as flavor.



And here's the book!

How far would you go to protect your family? 

Pub owner Maura Donovan hasn’t seen her mother for over twenty years, so when she suddenly shows up in Maura’s pub, Maura’s not sure what to expect. Her mother made a new life for herself back home and has taken up a position working with the new owners of the Crann Mor hotel just outside Skibbereen. Then her new boss is found dead in the hotel gardens, dumped down the hillside behind the hotel.

Now, trying to rekindle the relationship they’ve lost, Maura must investigate the man’s death in order to clear her mother’s name. It’s not so easy though, as long-time residents of County Cork, including her employee Mick, and the family of the deceased hotel owner, have bottled deep dark family secrets not meant to be uncorked. And someone will kill to keep them that way.


The reviews have captured the heart of the story.

“Plenty of puzzles with a strong feeling for life in small-town Ireland.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Connolly vividly evokes rural Ireland, and her characters seem like real human beings trying their best to navigate their lives.”
Publishers Weekly


Coming January 9, 2018, from Crooked Lane Books. Available now for preorder!



Monday, January 1, 2018

Around the Kitchen Table and Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!

Sometimes a new year brings changes and that's the case for Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. We're waving a teary farewell to Victoria Abbott. We hope she'll still drop by once in a while to tell us what she's doing. On a happier note, today we're welcoming Denise Swanson to the kitchen. Many of you know Denise from her beloved Scumble River Mysteries. She has a tasty new series coming, too. But we'll let her tell you all about that!

Today on Around the Kitchen Table, we're chatting about our "possibilities" for the upcoming year and maybe give you a few insights into what is coming up in the publishing world.

One commenter will win this cute Around the Kitchen with MLK authors tote bag. See giveaway below.




From Daryl:  Well, the publishing world turned a bit topsy-turvy this past year. I lost two contracts, but I gained two new ones. So as I  keep a positive mental attitude about what the future may hold, I continue to write and drum up new characters. I love living with my characters. They bring me joy. They help me problem solve. I find wonderful resolution solving cases and serving up justice to the "bad guy." What's coming for me this year?  The 6th Cookbook Nook Mystery, PRESSING THE ISSUE, will come out in February. Because this is through a new publisher, it will have a different look and the paper version will only be available on Amazon, through print on demand. I hope that won't put you off. It's still the same gang of characters and set in Crystal Cove. The Renaissance Fair  has come to town and Bailey is planning her wedding at a vineyard, hence the title using the word: pressing (grapes).  I don't have the cover yet, but it will be available SOON. In June, the paperback version of the first French Bistro Mystery, A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, comes out. In July, you'll see the release of the 2nd French Bistro Mystery, SOUFFLÉ OF SUSPICION. Better get my PR dancing shoes ready!

🍏

From Krista:  Those of you who aren't involved in the publishing business might not know that one publisher decided to cut back on cozy mysteries, and another cut them altogether. We have lived through some turbulent times! I'm pleased to say that I have a new series, the Pen and Ink Mysteries. By day, Florrie Fox manages a bookstore and by night, she's creates adult coloring books. She's a doodler, too, and doodles the clues she's thinking about. You can find them on the cover of the book, which can be colored! COLOR ME MURDER will be released on February 27th.

The Domestic Divas have moved to a new publisher and will be back on May 29th in THE DIVA COOKS UP A STORM. Sophie and friends are back (including Natasha). When a neighbor dies under odd circumstances, everything points toward his wife as the killer. Sophie is the only one who can't believe this woman killed her husband. But is she right?

I am also happy to announce that the ink is drying on a new contract for two more Wagtail books!

🍀

From Sheila: Once upon a time, in a universe far, far away, the publishing world was simple. It was made up of a handful of long-established and well-respected publishers, and any new writer's dream was to be accepted by one of them. But then the Internet was invented and things changed. And even those of us who were published by the Big Six (and then the Big Five) were sometimes orphaned. It happened to a lot of talented people. Publishing is a business, and decisions were based on sales numbers, not whether we were talented, hardworking writers.

But the good news is, we at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen have survived, and we've found new publishing homes, or in some cases created our own. We write because we love to write, so we're still writing. I will miss some of the characters from series that did not go on, but I can have some of them drop into new series, or I can go ahead and publish more books in a series myself. There are a lot of opportunities these days.

The County Cork Mysteries have been picked up by Crooked Lane Books, and the newest one, Many a Twist, will come out this month. I've got a new series coming from St. Martin's Press: the Victorian Village Mysteries, starting with Murder at the Mansion, which will appear in June--and that's where some of the characters from the Museum Mysteries will appear now and then. I'm planning to continue the Orchard Mysteries with Beyond the Page Publishing in the fall, and the Relatively Dead series as well.

Our characters become our friends, and a part of our lives. We can't just let them disappear, so we find new ways to get their stories into our readers' hands. We hope you'll continue to enjoy their company.

🍒

From Peg: You know the saying, when one door closes, another opens. As those posting before me have already said, the publishing world is changing...again. Nothing is a constant in today's world. But I'm pleased to say that a lot of new opportunities have opened up as well!  I'll be continuing my Cranberry Cove series with Beyond the Page--like Daryl and Sheila with two of their series. I'm also debuting a brand new historical mystery series, Murder, She Reported, with the Alibi imprint of Random House. It will be ebook only. It's a new profit model for writers, and I'm excited to see how things turn out! The series is set in 1938 NYC and my protagonist, Elizabeth"Biz" Adams, is a debutante turned crime photographer for the Daily Trumpet. The first book comes out on July 31.  I will also continue my Lucille Series for at least one more book--when Lucille and family and friends go to Italy and have fun with gondolas in Venice, motorbikes in Rome and a close encounter with Michelangelo's David in Florence!  Wishing you lots of exciting possibilities in the year to come!

🌷

LESLIE: Like my blog sisters, I too was affected last year by the post-merger decision of Penguin Random House, home to Berkley Books, where we all started our mystery careers, to significantly cut paperback original fiction. (Not just cozies and not just mystery; it was a business model change, not a reflection on sales or on readers' tastes or buying habits.) As a lawyer, I can understand those changes; as a creator, I know how they can mess with the mind. Fortunately, I can cook and soothe my sore head and twisted tummy with tasty food! My Food Lovers' Village Mysteries moved to Midnight Ink, and the 5th, As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles, will be out in June 2018. I've got a lot of proverbial irons in the proverbial fire---and I'm looking forward to a smokin' New Year!

🍸

LINDA: Okay, you've heard it all before, the news about the topsy-turvy publishing world. I look around at the demise of series written by friends, series I was hooked on, and think, what's going on! Obviously, I wasn't consulted. Nor was I consulted about my own series. The third book in the Dinner Club Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime, MARINATING IN MURDER, comes out in March, 2018 but I'm sad to report, that series  has not as yet been renewed, and I don't expect it to be. I'm happy to report though, that I'm writing a new series for a new publisher, Crooked Lane, where a number of us has happily landed. It's called the Castle Bookstore Mysteries and the first one (working title is The Body at the Blye) appears in Nov., 2018 and along with the new everything, I'm a new person, too. Hope you'll make note of the name Essie Lang, that's me, and that's who's now immersed in the life of bookstore co-owner, Malin Stahr, and the day to day business of bookselling, and murder, in spectacular Blye Castle, on Blye Island in the Thousand Islands. Here's to great reading adventures for us all in the New Year!


🍴

LUCY: I too have found a new home with Crooked Lane, this for two more books in the Key West food critic mystery series. DEATH ON THE MENU will be out on August 7, and I'm busy writing #9. After that, who knows? I have two other projects in the works that are not cozy mysteries. Hopefully I can get them in readable shape and find homes for both. I look forward to many more books from my friends at MLK--and we are so grateful for you, our readers and friends!



CLEO: Marc and I have been writing professionally for decades and non-professionally (as a vocation) since we were children. What we know for sure about this sort of life is that nothing is sure. When we entered the publishing business, it was described as a volatile landscape, full of seismic changes—that was more than thirty years ago. And so it goes. With few exceptions, the artist’s life has more in common with a roller coaster than a carousel (which explains why you sometimes see authors throwing up hands and screaming). Our philosophy: never lose your love of storytelling; make friends with risk (there are virtues in it); try not to take yourself too seriously; and always be game for a wild ride. For now, our ride is continuing with our longtime publisher, and we sincerely thank our readers (along with so many kind booksellers and librarians) for the priceless treasure of their support. If you are among them, we hope you will continue to enjoy our upcoming works. Our 17th Coffeehouse Mystery will be published in April, read more about it here. Our 18th is now underway and scheduled for release next year; and our 6th Haunted Bookshop Mystery finally has a firm pub date of October 2, 2018 (and will be available for pre-order soon). If you'd like to keep in touch, subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss updates to our writing life. Whether you read our works or that of our co-bloggers, we thank ALL READERS for supporting your favorite authors. You can give us no better gift. We wish you all a happy, healthy, and industrious New Year!

🍓


And from our newest writer, Denise Swanson: Happy 2018! It's wonderful to begin the new year with a new project and joining Mystery Lovers' Kitchen has got to be one of the most fun. Like many of my fellow cozy mystery writers, 2017 brought a LOT of changes for me. After 17 years and 25 books, I left Penguin Random House. And in September my new publisher, Sourcesbooks, debuted a reboot of my long-running Scumble River series, dubbing it Welcome Back to Scumble River. While the titles are no longer Murder of a.... and the covers are markedly different, the characters and setting are exactly the same. In my most recent book, Dead in the Water, Skye experiences a tornado, a kidnapping, and she gives birth!

April of 2018 will bring about my new culinary mystery series, Chef-to-Go. In the first book, Tart of Darkness, you'll meet Dani Sloan a former HR consultant and the brand new owner of the Chef-to-Go culinary business. She and her three boarders, college girls from the nearby university, immediately get elbow deep in a murder.

My third series, the Dime Store mysteries are on hiatus for a year. I may bring them to another publisher or I may publish them myself, but Dev and the gang will continue to solve mysteries in Shadow Bend, MO.

🌺

Victoria Abbott Well, it's good-bye from me and alter ego Mary Jane Maffini. We are still hoping to have more book collector mysteries following all the turbulence in the industry. MJ is finishing the seventh in her Canadian Camilla MacPhee series and we have several projects in the planning stages. Sign up for our newsletter if you want to stay in the loop. Just click here

We have loved being part of Mystery Lovers Kitchen and the fabulous group of friends and readers here and we'll be popping to get recipes and the news. You will really enjoy having Denise Swanson here 'in the kitchen'. I know you'll welcome her with open arms.


Giveaway

Leave a comment and tell us what are you looking forward to this coming year. 
Remember to include your email so we can contact you if you win the tote bag.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Irish Seaweed

The holidays aren't over yet!

And your treat for this week is . . . seaweed!

No, I’ve never tried eating it, that I can remember. But when I was most recently in Field’s supermarket in Skibbereen, I found that they’d added a new display rack, and it was devoted to seaweed. Not just one kind, but a whole slew of them, neatly packaged. 





I had no idea what I was looking at, but I figured I should give at least one of them a try. Since I had no clue what they tasted like or how to cook them, I picked the one that I thought had the prettiest name: Dillisk.

Then of course I googled the stuff to make sure I wasn’t going to poison anyone. It turns out that dillisk is also called dulse, which rang a faint bell. Wikipedia says “it is a well-known snack food" (sold at seaside stalls by periwinkle sellers). Uh, not at my house. But it’s been harvested and eaten for at least 1,400 years. 

And it’s good for you! It has plenty of minerals and vitamins. You can pick it by hand along the shore when the tide is out and eat it straight from the rocks, or dry it and eat it that way, or grind it into flakes or powder. Pan-fry it, bake it, microwave it, and add it to soups, chowders, sandwiches, salads or breads.

Enough information? Okay, I’m going to make . . . Irish Dulse Soda Scones.


Dulse Scones

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce dried dulse
1 pound plain white flour (3 cups)
1 tsp bread soda (I just happened to 
   bring some back from Ireland)
1 tsp salt
12 fluid ounces buttermilk
1 egg, beaten

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Grease a baking sheet.

Soak the dulse in water for a few minutes. Drain it and then slice into fine strips.



Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the dulse and mix.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in most of the buttermilk and mix (your hand works well for this!).

After a bit the dough will come together (add the rest of the buttermilk if needed).



Turn out the dough on a floured surface and form a round, about 1” thick (this will be about 8 to 9 inches across). Brush the top with the beaten egg, then cut into roughly triangular scones (you should have about a dozen). Or if you must, cut out rounds.



Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Serve warm with butter.



What do they taste like? That’s hard to define. There’s a bit of saltiness, and something vegetal going on, but the don’t really taste like anything else. But their flavor is not too strong. You will note there’s no sugar in this recipe, but adding jam would be fine.


Oh, right--Many a Twist comes out next month. This one was fun to write, because everyone in the story has secrets, plus there's a body (and he had secrets too, before he died). And a lot of questions will be answered!

Find it for preorder at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

www.sheilaconnolly.com

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Pudding

Most of us here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen turn to our old favorite recipes at the time of year (or variations upon them), and I’m happy to add mine.

At my house when I was young, the Christmas menu was as set in stone as the Thanksgiving menu: standing rib roast, with potatoes cooked in the drippings in the pan; something green like peas; creamed onions for one die-hard member of the family (nobody else would eat the things); and for dessert, chocolate steamed pudding.

Pudding is kind of a deceptive term, that we usually associate with goopy milky glop, and is no doubt a tribute to the English origins of the dish. The English often use the term pudding for any dessert. But this is officially a pudding. The virtue of this recipe for holiday meals is that you mix it up, put it in a pudding dish or steamer mold, stick it in simmering water, and ignore it for a couple of hours while you deal with the rest of dinner.

I was once again reminded of this dish when I picked up a cookbook in a secondhand store in Ireland: Winter Puddings, a collection of sweet/dessert recipes adapted from the Cordon Bleu Cookery School and published in England in 1971. Perfect for the season, right? And of course it included a number of recipes for steamed puddings of various flavors.

In the past I’ve made the chocolate version, as well as a cranberry variation, but what caught my eye this time was a Steamed Ginger Pudding. Of course the details of the recipe were given in British units with some ingredients I seldom use (suet?? is that like, uh, lard? or what we feed the birds?), but I soldiered on. After all, I possess more than one pudding mold, and they must earn their keep.


Cordon Bleu Steamed Ginger Pudding

Ingredients:


10 oz flour (this turned out to be two cups)

(Note: if you watch the Great British Baking Show, you know that ingredients there are often measured by weight, and in their honor I have a kitchen scale and now use it regularly)

1 rounded tsp ground ginger (really? is that all? I added a tablespoon—I like ginger)

a “good pinch” of mixed spice (oh, heck, I don’t know what that is—how about some cinnamon and a dash of ground clove?)

1 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt

5 oz shredded suet (seriously? Beef fat? I substituted butter, at room temperature)

1 large egg, beaten

6 fluid oz (6 Tblsp) golden syrup or treacle (alas, both are hard to find locally. I could have brought both back from Ireland, but together the cans weighed about five pounds, and my suitcase is always pushing the limits. Plus they’re liquid, and I’m not sure how the government feels about that these days.) I used dark molasses.

about 6 fluid oz milk (I’ll assume whole milk), at room temperature

Instructions:

Sift the flour, spices and baking soda into a bowl.



Add the butter, then mix. Pour in the beaten egg and molasses and mix.



Pour the milk into the bowl. Stir well: the mixture should drop easily from the spoon (not too thick).



Find yourself a pudding basin (or use a metal bowl that will stand up on its own) and generously grease it.

I have two. The one on the right was the one I
grew up with, so that's what I used.

Pour the batter into the basin, level it off, and cover the top of the basin (or bowl) with a piece of greased waxed or parchment paper held on by string. (Or clamp the lid on over the paper, if you have that kind.)




Stand the basin in a large pan of boiling water. The water should reach somewhere between half-way and two-thirds up the side of the container (it shouldn’t be floating!). 

Cover the large pan and steam the pudding for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours (yes, really). Do not let it boil, merely simmer. If the water is boiling off and the level is sinking, replace it with more boiling water as needed.

See how much it rose?
When you open the basin/bowl, if all has gone well the pudding will have risen to the top. Let it cool for a bit, to make it easier to handle, then invert the mold onto a plate, and it should slide out easily. Serve it warm, sliced into wedges, with a sauce if you like. If you use Redi-Whip, I won’t tell.

And it even came out of the mold!




If you’re feeling adventurous, the cookbook also contains recipes for Rich Fig Pudding, Chocolate Pudding, Spotted Dick (don’t ask), Valencia Pudding, and Six-Cup Pudding. 

May your holidays be merry, and may you get whatever you wish for!

The three wise men, er, meerkats

www.sheilaconnolly.com


Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas Salad

Christmas salad? Really? Isn't this the wrong season? Well, it is red and green and white, and I have an excuse—a new toy. Meet my spiralizer.



It all started in Skibbereen a couple of weeks ago, when we had lunch at the café attached to the West Cork Arts Center. Those nice people were responsible for the amazing red (beet and carrot) soup I wrote about here a while back. They make good food there, including desserts, which of course we had to investigate thoroughly.

They had a beet salad on the menu. Have I mentioned before that I don’t like beets? Well, I’ll have to edit that opinion: I don’t like the gummy sweet kind my mother used to serve. But the simple raw version is growing on me, so I tried the salad.

What was intriguing was that the beets formed a kind of spaghetti-like cluster on top of the greens. You’d think by now I’d have every kitchen gadget known to humankind, but somehow I’d missed the spiralizer. So now I have one (a rather rudimentary version, I will admit—I will have to investigate further options).

Before I tackled the beet recipe I had to experiment with the little critter. Carrots bombed—too tough. Turnips worked once I peeled them. So did potatoes. The zucchini was a pleasant surprise--it worked very well. Apples were a disaster—they fell apart. But the raw beets, once peeled, came out fine. (Note: I now have a stash of vegetable strings in the fridge. Not all would I want to eat raw, so I parboiled the tougher ones for a couple of minutes before refrigerating them. Haven’t gotten to all of them yet, but I fried up the potato strings and they cooked up nice and crisp.)

Turnip


Zucchini

Potato

I tracked down whichever salad green has the red stems (the packages weren’t much help—mostly they say something like “Leafy Medley. The Irish call them “mixed leaves” on menus) which was what the café used, and which fit the holiday color theme. Putting the salad together is simple:



--wash your leaves if necessary and spin dry. Array on individual medium-size plates.

--shred the beets.

--make a nest of your shredded beets (or whatever other vegetables you’re using) on top of the leaves.

--sprinkle with sunflower seeds (the white note)—toasting them briefly gives them a slightly mellower flavor, if you have the time and space in your oven.

--drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette (or any non-creamy dressing)

--Serve!



In hindsight I think marinating the shredded beets in the dressing would have been a good idea, but not for too long or they’d get soggy and limp.



The result? A pretty, easy-to-make dish to add to your holiday table.



And a giveaway! While the next County Cork Mystery, Many a Twist, will be out next month, I thought it would be more appropriate for the season to give away a hardcover copy of Cruel Winter, which takes place during a blizzard and involves cooking for a group of stranded strangers who are snowed in at the pub--and one of them might be a murderer.

Leave a comment by the end of Sunday and I'll pick a winner!