Showing posts with label arugula. Show all posts
Showing posts with label arugula. Show all posts

Friday, July 4, 2014


by Sheila Connolly

I was going to give you a recipe for how to cook a weed, but that didn’t sound quite right for the Fourth of July (even though it is a native species of weed!), so you may see that one in coming weeks.

Happy Independence Day! 

Between Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, I’ve been spending a lot of time (in my head, at least) with the Revolutionary War recently. Maybe it was the early influence of Johnny Tremain (written by Esther Forbes and published in 1943; Walt Disney made a movie of it in 1957), which was required reading for my sixth grade English class, but I’ve always found the whole thing romantic—those ill-equipped farmers without uniforms or decent weapons standing up to the might of the well-trained, well-supplied British Empire in defense of their homes and livelihoods and maybe even some ideals. It’s a great story with a happy ending, isn’t it?

Back to the food. Summer has finally arrived around here, and there are parties and fireworks to watch this week (plus that annoying Hurricane Arthur), and mosquitoes to swat, so I’m going to keep it simple. Here’s a nice recipe for a salad with a few little twists.

Pea Shoot and Hazelnut Salad with Mustard-Honey Vinaigrette


1-1/2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar (flavored if you like)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper


1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
5 oz. baby arugula (or any other small greens you prefer)
3-4 oz. pea shoots (available in packages at your market!)
4 large radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (the white part only)

Right up front, I’ll give you a choice: you can prepare your own hazelnuts:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast until they are fragrant and the skins blister (12-15 minutes).   Transfer them to a kitchen towel and let cool slightly, then rub the nuts together vigorously to remove the skins. Chop the nuts coarsely.

Or you can just buy a package at your market--much simpler! Although the toasting is a good idea because it brings out the nuts’ flavor.

In a large bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey and shallot. Add the olive oil and whisk until blended. Season with salt and pepper.

Arugula--looks like oak leaves, doesn't it?
Pea greens
n another bowl, toss the arugula, pea shoots, sliced radishes, sliced fennel, and chopped hazelnuts. Add the vinaigrette and toss again to cover. Serve.

As with any salad, you can add whatever greens are fresh and available. Can’t find pea shoots? Try thin slices of sugar snap peas.

Razing the Dead involves a body (or two or three) found near the site of the Paoli Massacre, a notorious battle from the Revolutionary War, fought outside of Philadelphia. The monument shown on the cover is based on the real one, in Paoli, and is the second-oldest military monument in the country (after the one at Concord, MA, naturally).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Julie's Fish Delish!

Wow, it's great to be back! I missed everyone here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen during my sabbatical. Thank you, Sheila Connolly, for stepping in for me and thank you all for making Sheila feel welcome. I was lucky enough to read her new release, Fundraising the Dead, while it was in production and I think Sheila's got another hit on her hands with Nell Pratt.

As for me, I found out that my next Manor House Mystery will come out in June, 2011 under the title Grace Interrupted. Berkley came up with that one and I really like it. I'm still being far behind schedule writing the next White House Chef Mystery, but I intend to meet my deadlines one way or another. On top of all the other book-related busy-ness going on, I got my galleys for Buffalo West Wing (comes out in January) and those are due back to Berkley as we speak. Almost done... about two more chapters to proof and then I can turn them in. Nothing like waiting to the last minute, huh?

While I was out, I did manage to take a lovely trip with my husband and I *know* I'll be sharing tidbits, pictures, and food stories about that trip in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, however, I want to share a brand-new recipe. Just came up with it. You may remember that last March my husband and I headed down to Disney with two of our daughters. One of my favorite things about vacation is the food and we were able to visit a couple of Disney restaurants we hadn't tried before. One of them, in Epcot, is the Coral Reef restaurant where Robyn ordered the trout. I had a taste and... Holey Moley! Was it fabulous! Although my dinner was great, hers was spectacular. To this day she says it was the best meal she's ever had.

She tried recreating the dish here at home, but didn't have too much luck. I listened to how she'd prepared it, and decided to try again myself. Instead of trout, however, I substituted tilapia. Why? Well, because I had it on hand.

But the bigger question is - does it measure up?

I think it does. Robyn thinks it does. My husband who doesn't care for fish asked for seconds - twice. Whether it exactly matches the flavors of Disney's creation, I can't say. But this is one recipe we will use again and again. It's pretty darned fabulous. And easy.

Julie's Fish Delish

5 or 6 Tilapia filets
Olive Oil
6 (or so) cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano (My brother-in-law, Mitch, gave me fresh-dried from his garden)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Small handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I prefer grape tomatoes)
2 cans of cannellini beans, drained (Italian white kidney beans)
Handful of washed, dried arugula

Drop a couple of glugs of olive oil (I didn't measure, exactly) into a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 3 - 4 of the minced garlic cloves and heat until they're golden. Add the chopped onion. Also heat until golden.

Now, add the tilapia filets and cook over medium, turning carefully and repeatedly until these are gently cooked, but not cooked through. You can put the burner on low and cover if you like. Just keep an eye on them and don't overcook.

Ready a baking dish and preheat oven to 300. I used a cookie sheet lined with foil turned up at the sides and it worked fine. The tilapias don't take up a lot of room and I thought they'd be lost in a 9 x 13 pan.

Anyway, once they're mostly done, remove the filets to your baking dish (don't discard the flavored oil in the frying pan - we'll use that in a minute) and top the filets with butter. I like butter so I used about three tbsp, maybe even a bit more. Dot butter atop fish and place in oven.

Head back to your frying pan. Add the rest of the minced garlic and maybe a little more olive oil, if you think it needs it. Get that garlic nice and hot, then add the drained cannellini beans. Cover and allow to simmer until the beans are soft and a little smooshy. Add the halved tomatoes, cover and allow the flavors to blend.

(NOTE: when I experimented I only used one can of beans, hence the picture isn't quite accurate. I doubled the recipe above to account for two cans.)

Check your filets in the oven. Cooked through? Hot enough? Great!

Rip up the arugula. Add it to the frying pan, warm it for a few minutes then spoon out the mixture onto your dinner plates. Top the mixture with a tilapia filet and serve.

Truly delicious! I can't wait to make this one again.
Experimenting is always fun. Especially when things turn out this well.

Have fun, and enjoy!

Grace Under Pressure, first in the Manor House Mystery series
Buffalo West Wing, fourth in the White House Chef series (coming January, 2011)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do you love spaghetti?

Ah, summer.

Minutes away from its official start.
And isn't it lovely?
Birds are a-plenty.
Flowers are springing up everywhere.
The scent of barbecue is in the air.
And in just a couple of weeks, when The Long Quiche Goodbye comes out... [Yep, just a couple of weeks], I'll share a special barbecue dry rub by Charlotte's grandfather, Pépère. It's mentioned in the book, as are a number of other recipes that I'll be bringing to the blog in future weeks.

In the meantime, I tried an experiment this week. That's what has been such fun about our year-long blog. [Can you believe it? MLK's almost ready to celebrate its anniversary, thanks to all of you who are reading it and spurring us on!]

But over the past year, I've dallied with new recipes every week. Each with cheese in them. And I have to say, I've never had so much fun in the kitchen. This week, I wanted to use a vegetable that I adore and make it really sizzle. Do you love spaghetti???

Spaghetti Squash. It's an ugly thing, oblong and yellow, and hard to cut in half, but that's what you have to do in order to cook it properly.

Once you've done that, the magic begins. Spaghetti squash is exactly what it says it is. A squash that, when cooked properly, turns into spaghetti-like strands of yummy, buttery-tasting squash that can fool you into believe it's spaghetti. Fool you! Add butter and Parmessan and you'll think you're eating spaghetti and it's really a vegetable. No starch! How wonderful is that? careful, use a sharp knife, and go slowly to split this gourd lengthwise down the middle.

In addition, spaghetti squash can be a main course or a salad, which is how I prepared it this week. Both ways! As a main course AND a salad, using the same ingredients in both, except I added arugula to the salad. My husband tells me the entree is one of the best things I've ever cooked.

That drew a frowning eye from me, of course, because there are lots of things I cook well. What he meant was...back-pedaling quickly...I cook lots of things well and this fell onto his favorites list. Okay, I'd accept that. He loved it. What's not to love about Italian sausage, garlic, and a squash that tastes like spaghetti?

I do this experimenting all in the name of cheese. What fun!

No, it wasn't barbecue, but we enjoyed our meal al fresco, served with a crisp Pinot Grigio, listening to the birds sing their praise of another beautiful day.



(serves 2)

2 cups cooked spaghetti squash

½ cup shredded Parmessan plus 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup zucchini, diced

¼ cup snow peas, diced

2 tablespoons shallots, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tablespoons oil

1 roma tomato, diced

4 sausages – Italian

1 more tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon dried basil


Slice open a spaghetti squash lengthwise, taking care because it’s a tough gourd and wiggles. Once open, place each half face down in a tupperware filled with one inch water. “Bake” in microwave 10 minutes. Remove from oven and scoop out the seeds. Then using a hard spoon, scoop out the meat of the squash, which will form strands like spaghetti. Set aside. * If using an oven, set both squash face down in an inch of water in a baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. [May be made a day ahead and reheated.


Next, in a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and add diced zucchini, snow peas, shallots, garlic, and roma tomato. Stir fry until browned on both sides.

In a second saute pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and 2 Italian sausages. Stir fry, until browned on both sides.

While they are cooking, toss warm spaghetti squash with 1 tablespoon butter and ½ cup shredded Parmessan cheese.

Set 1 cup of spaghetti squash on each plate, top with the stir-fried vegetables. Adorn with two of the sausages. Sprinkle each plate with another tablespoon of Parmessan and adorn with basil.

And now for the salad - the only difference is in presentation and the addition of ARUGULA.



(serves 2)

2 cups cooke

d spaghetti squash

½ cup shredded Parmessan plus 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup zucchini, diced

¼ cup snow peas, diced

2 tablespoons shallots, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tablespoons oil

1 roma tomato, diced

2 sausages – Italian

1 more tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 cup arugula


Slice open a spaghetti squash lengthwise, taking care because it’s a tough gourd and wiggles.

Once open, place each half face down in a tupperware filled with one inch water. “Bake” in microwave 10 minutes. Remove from oven and scoop out the seeds. Then using a hard spoon, scoop out the meat of the squash, which will form strands like spaghetti. Set aside. * If using an oven, set both squash face down in an inch of water in a baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. [May be made a day ahead and reheated.]

Next, in a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and add diced zucchini, snow peas, shallots, garlic, and roma tomato. Stir fry until browned on both sides.

In a second saute pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and 2 Italian sausages. Stir fry, until browned on both sides.

While they are cooking, toss warm spaghetti squash with 1 tablespoon butter and ½ cup shredded Parmessan cheese.

Set ½ cup of argula on each plate. Top with 1 cup of spaghetti squash, then top with the stir-fried vegetables. Adorn with 1 of the sausages, diced into bites. Sprinkle each plate with another tablespoon of Parmessan and adorn with basil.

Lest I forget, I'm running a contest and lots of people have entered, but there are lots of prizes, so if you haven't, join in the fun!

"You Be The Sleuth" Contest!

As I said above, my first book in A Cheese Shop Mystery series, The Long Quiche Goodbye, debuts July 6. To celebrate its release, I'm running a contest from June 9 to July 6! You be the sleuth! Track down the recipe on my website that includes eggs, Edam, and white pepper. Enter your answer by clicking on this link: CONTEST ENTRY FORM.

One of you will win a $25 gift certificate at your favorite bookstore. Two of you will win signed copies of The Long Quiche Goodbye. Three of you will win a Long Quiche Goodbye magnet. You can ask friends for help. Spread the word and share the fun. And while you're there, consider pre-ordering a book on my booksellers page.

Here is the link to my website to help get you started.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Open-faced sandwich appetizer

I don't know about you, but I always like to try something new when I'm entertaining. Changing things up - just a little - makes it fun for me.

Easter Sunday meant dinner for 17 and although I prepared the usual ham, sausage, kraut, potatoes, and vegetables, I decided to have a little fun and try out a few new recipes. My guests have learned that they risk encountering a "Julie's Surprise" when they visit. I've had plenty of disasters - which is how the term "Julie's Surprise" originally came to be. But over the years I like to think I've improved a bit and maybe even gotten a little bit smarter.

This year, for example, I dispensed with the tried-and-true broccoli casserole, and included a tasty Brussels Sprouts dish, and another featuring fresh green beans. I'll share those recipes in the coming weeks.

But today I'll start with an appetizer.

This month's MORE Magazine (April, 2010) has a whole section on sandwiches. Some of them sounded wonderful and I'm eager to try them out. When I was trying to come up with my Easter menu, I knew I needed something new on my appetizer table, and I remembered the MORE article. I pulled it up and realized, belatedly, that although the PLT Sandwich was photographed open-faced, the recipe called for it to be a traditional - 2 bread - sandwich. No problem, I decided. I'd just have to adapt.

I did. And the results were terrific!

I made two versions. One all vegetarian, one with pancetta (the "P" in MORE's PLT). The tomatoes are wonderful when roasted, so do take the time to prepare these. I roasted tomatoes and my mixed vegetables the day before Easter and spread them cold over the toasted bread.

Open Faced Sandwich Appetizers

1 double-pack of fresh mini-loaves, sliced. (Buying fresh-baked bread from the grocery store makes things super-easy. I buy the two-loaf pack and ask the bakers to slice it for me. As you can tell, I got these two loaves at the fabulous price of 99 cents. You can't beat that.)

12 (give or take) plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 yellow pepper, sliced and cut into bite-size pieces
1 green pepper, same
1 red pepper, same
6 large white mushrooms, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 purple onion, sliced
2 healthy handfuls of arugula

I roasted my tomatoes separately - drizzling a little olive oil on them, sprinkling them with salt and then baking in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and a half until the tomatoes shriveled and turned a little brown. I used parchment paper to keep them from sticking and this was a really good move (MORE suggested it).

I placed the other, sliced veggies in a shallow roasting pan and drizzled these with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt, as well. I actually use this maneuver fairly often. We love roasted veggies in this house and use them on everything. This time for an appetizer, but sometimes we use them as an easy and delicious side dish. Roast these in the same oven for about an hour and a half as well. They may take a bit longer. When the peppers are soft and the onions begin to brown, they're done.

Toast your bread by placing it in a single layer and baking it in the oven. Here's where I would change my method in the future. I baked these until slightly brown - about 12 minutes. Going forward, I think I would toast them for only about 4 - 6 minutes. Mine were *crispy* - and although that wasn't a bad thing, I think I'd like them a bit better with a little less crunch.

When the bread is toasted, coat with mayo, rip up some arugula, pat into place. Follow up with the roasted tomatoes and vegetables. Return the open-faced sandwiches to the oven and bake for about 6 - 8 minutes (see why I shouldn't have toasted so vigorously earlier?) and when hot, remove from oven and serve immediately.

I made a meat version with pancetta as well. I baked the pancetta separately for about 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven, and also chilled it before using. On the pancetta sandwiches, I didn't use the mixed veggies. I just topped the arugula/tomato sandwich with that tiny piece of "Italian bacon."

These were absolutely great. My guests enjoyed them and my kids told me to definitely make them again!

More next time!


Author of the White House Chef Mysteries and, coming soon, the Manor of Murder Mysteries. First book - GRACE UNDER PRESSURE. Pre-order now for a June 1st release!

New April Contest!!!!
Are you interested in winning Williams-Sonoma’s Ultimate Grilling Rub Collection? It’s easy to enter! Just send an email to with
“Contest” in the subject line.

Grilling Rub   CollectionReally, really want to up your chances?You’ll get one extra entry if you follow us on Twitter, one extra if you subscribe to our posts (in the right hand sidebar under “Subscribe”), and one extra for becoming a follower (by clicking the “follow” button in the right hand column under our book covers and blog roll.) Just send us an extra email at and let us know what you’ve signed up for. If you’re already a follower or subscriber, let us know that, too!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Perfect Fall Salad!

Each week is turning out to be a mini-gourmet experience for me and my husband. Starting on Monday, I try to come up with some new cheese dish for this blog and/or The Cheese Shop Mysteries. Ah, research. Such an undertaking...not. It's so much fun! And tasty!

So this week, I saw a salad with zucchini and lentils in the local newspaper and I thought, gee, I like those things, but what else could I add to zing it up? Cubes of America Grana.

What is grana? It is a cow's milk and tastes and "acts" like parmesan. Hard, flavorful, grainy with a hint of fruitiness. It is offered by Bel Gioioso (found in local markets). The company started in 1979 when the owner's family moved from Italy to Wisconsin.

Anyway, I made the following salad, and, get this, my taste-tester husband said it's possibly the best salad he's ever had. He eats a lot of different salads, so I took that as a total compliment.

Remember, it's always fun to play with your food.

Take a recipe.
Put a spin on it.
You might find something you
absolutely adore because of one addition.
Be daring and enjoy!


Salad for two


1 small zucchini, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 cup lentils
1 Tbsp. chopped chives (do with scissors)
1 clove shallots, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
1 small tomato diced
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup torn arugula leaves
1 Tbsp. pine nuts
1 oz. Bel Gioioso American Grana, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


Dice zucchini, pour into colander, sprinkler with 1/2 tsp. salt and let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and boil in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes. Drain under cool water and dump onto a paper towel to drain.

Mix the lentils, chives, shallots, olive oil, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Stir in the zucchini, the chopped tomatoes and the vinegar. Fold in the arugula leaves, pine nuts and lentils.


If you prefer more arugula, this may be served on top of a bed of arugula. In that case, you might want to add another tablespoon of olive oil.
And if you'd like to learn more about The Cheese Shop Mysteries, come visit me and my growing cast of characters at Avery Aames website.
Say Cheese!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Welcome Guest Blogger - Jessica Conant-Park!

Guest Blogger Jessica Conant-Park, author of the Gourmet Girl Mystery series

What an honor to be asked to come hang out with the lovely women of Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen! Since I co-write the Gourmet Girl mystery series (with my mother, author Susan Conant), I feel a major kinship with this group. And, well, being here is a good excuse to write about food. My series is set in the Boston restaurant scene and follows Chloe Carter, a twenty-something half-hearted social work student who would much rather be frequenting local restaurants or browsing gourmet food shops than studying somatoform disorders and marching at the State House. Chloe’s love life and academic life are a constant challenge, but she does hook up with a hot young chef, Josh, and gets an inside look at the tumultuous and chaotic world of professional restaurants. The books are a blend of cozy mystery, chick lit, humor (well, at least, I think so… I suppose it depends on how weird your sense of humor is), romance, and food, and there are tons of recipes at the end of the book so that you can cook up some of the delicacies that you’ve read about. The fifth in the series, COOK THE BOOKS, will be out next February/March.

I also do a Food Fiction newsletter with Michele Scott (of the Wine Lover’s mystery series) and we dole out food news, recipes, guest author spots, and lots of great contests. Stop by our site and sign up for the newsletter and our August giveaway!

Now, on to food! Summer is a glorious season for cooking and I find it so much easier to whip up something absolutely delicious and full of flavor in a fraction of the time it takes in winter. Relying on fresh produce and herbs means you need very little else to doctor up a dish. I’ve been glaring rather sharply at my tomato plants recently, begging them to hurry up and produce perfect tomatoes, because if I eat one more vile, pink tomato this year, I’m going to scream. Even those supposedly “vine ripe” tomatoes that cost a fortune at the grocery store have been flavorless… I’ve had it and refuse to buy another. My way around this? Grape tomatoes. These little guys are working out just fine and are proving to be a pretty good substitute (for now) for the coveted Beefsteak tomatoes I’m craving.

My other garden favorite is arugula. Yes, I’ll admit right off the bat that there is one giant drawback to growing your own: washing it. You must wash the leaves over and over again in a salad spinner. Then wash them a few more times. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly care for little spiders and grains of dirt in my food… So, suffer through the washing and you’ll be rewarded with a spicy, crispy, bitter-in-a-good-way treat. The store bought variety is also perfectly good, but I still recommend a thorough washing, too. My father spent years lamenting what he considered to be the severe neglect and under appreciation of the potato. Hah! Everyone knows about the boring old potato. If you ask me, arugula is much more neglected. I think we should be tossing it into practically everything. Stir a bunch into hot pasta and tomato sauce and you will have a much improved winter meal; mix with your favorite dressing as a salad; or add a few leaves to an otherwise mundane sandwich.

I’ve been making a lot of pasta salad this year, and one of my favorites makes use of both arugula and grape tomatoes. Simply cook cheese-filled tortellini and drain it well. (Never rinse pasta under water, as you need the starch from the pasta to make salads work well.)Toss it with a good glug of olive oil, and add in a generous handful of fresh arugula (the heat will wilt it nicely), grape tomatoes sliced in half, more fresh basil, and salt and pepper. If you like some heat, a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes or freshly minced cayenne would be fantastic. Toss in some parmesan cheese. I highly recommend that you pay a little extra for a fresh wedge of parm that you run over a grater. Well worth the cost. That’s it! Let your salad rest so it comes down to room temperature and the flavors a chance to come out.

So until those fat and fabulous tomatoes start showing up on my plants and in the farmer’s markets, I’ll be doing what I can with the littlest tomato out there, and washing and re-washing my arugula.
Jessica Conant-Park

Wonderful idea. Delicious and easy! Thanks for joining us at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, Jessica!

***Don't forget to enter to win our weekly Mystery Lovers' Kitchen contest. The prize is a $25 gift certificate to the Williams-Sonoma kitchenware and gourmet food store. Just sign in to this blog and leave a comment or send an "Enter me!" e-mail with your first name and state to We announce the winners right here every week.