Showing posts with label spices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spices. Show all posts

Friday, January 22, 2016

Clean Sweep Week Khmeli Suneli

No, that’s not “hello” in some obscure language. Well, the language may be obscure, but the translation is “dried spices,” and it’s traditional mix used in Georgian cuisine. Not the US one, the other one. Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia (yes, I can just see your eyes glaze over), next door to Russia, which has made the lives of the Georgians rather complicated politically. What matters here is that it lies at the crossroads of multiple cultures, and its food has reaped the rewards.

Why am I talking about this? Well, this is MLK's Clean Sweep Week (I dubbed it McGyver Recipe Week), and this spice was lurking in there. There was a reason, really: until a few years ago, my daughter worked at the New England Mobile Book Fair, and down the street from that is a Russian market—and I mean seriously Russian. You can’t read the labels on most of the packages, because they’re in Russian. One day recently I decided, what the heck, let’s drop in and see what it’s about.

It was a strange experience. They have some rather exotic products, like packages of chicken feet (I passed on those). But the spices looked intriguing, so I bought a couple. Which I haven’t used, until now.

I tried to read the label, really. I thought it might be smart to know what was in the stuff before I fed it to anyone, but I would have been lost without Google Translate and a lot of guessing. Actually, the stuff is kind of what anybody decides it is. The most common ingredients for the spice blend seem to be coriander, dill, basil, bay leaf, marjoram, blue fenugreek, parsley, saffron, black pepper, celery, thyme, hyssop, mint and hot pepper, in whatever combination you choose. I think mine has mint, coriander, dill, basil, bay leaf, marjoram, fenugreek, parsley, saffron, and hyssop (I have never cooked with hyssop). Consider it the Georgian version of curry powder, which is equally variable.

Next I needed a recipe. I don’t have a Russian or Georgian cookbook, so I looked online, and the recipe that appears most often is Chakhokhibili. Stop laughing: it’s easier to make than to pronounce. Of course, predictably, no two recipes I found were the same, but they all seemed to agree that the dish involved chicken (parts or chunks), onions, lots of garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and of course, the khmeli suneli. Beyond that, you can add pepper flakes, a dash of vinegar (red or white) or lemon juice, and fresh herbs.

Sounds like every Georgian family’s favorite dish. I decided to go for it!

Georgian Chakhokhbili

1 lb boneless chicken, chopped 

into medium-size pieces
2 medium onions, diced coarsely
4-5 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 Tblsp khmeli-suneli spice mix
salt and pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
Dash of sugar


Mixed fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, tarragon, basil, dill)
Red pepper flakes
Hot peppers (red or green)


Sautee the chicken pieces in oil over high heat.

When the chicken is browned, add the onion and garlic. Lower the heat and cook until the onions are soft.

Add black pepper and the spice mix and stir together.

Add the tomatoes and a dash of sugar. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

Any or all of the optional ingredients can be added now--just be sure to simmer for a short while to combine the flavors.

This is most often served with bread (to sop up the sauce) but you could also use rice.

This is a dish I would make again. The flavor is a little spicy, a little sweet, and not quite like anything else I’ve tasted. The whole thing is easy to make, and is a good hearty meal for a cold night. 

That’s Georgian for “I hope you’ll try it.” (if I can trust Google Translate)

I'll take a week off from reminding you that A Turn for the Bad will be released on February 2nd, and tell you about something completely different: Edgar Allan Cozy, a series of short stories from New England writers inspired by Poe's own stories, but with a modern twist. It's to celebrate his birthday this week: he was born January 19th, 1809.

You can find it on Amazon.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Spicy Fish

by Sheila Connolly

Redfish was back this week in my market (okay, flash-frozen then thawed). I loved working with it for my recent Blackened Redfish recipe, because it stands up well to cooking and has a pleasant flavor. The filets are small, but that means they cook fast, so it’s a quick and easy dinner dish.

A pound of filets

 Spicy Fish

4 Tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced

1 cup flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tblsp dry mustard
1 Tblsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder

2 Tblsp cooking oil

1 lb fish filets (skinned)
Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tblsp lemon juice

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until the garlic just begins to brown (about 3 minutes—do not burn!). Place in a small bowl and set aside to cool for an hour.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and spices.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat the cooking oil over medium-high.

Dredge the fish filets in the flour-spice mixture and shake off the excess. Season with salt and black pepper. Place the filets in the pan and cook until they begin to brown lightly (1-2 minutes). Turn the filets in the pan, then immediately remove the pan from the heat and let the filets rest in the pan for about a minute.

Remember that garlic-flavored oil? Whisk it with the lemon juice to make a kind of vinaigrette, the spoon it over the fish when you serve—it really brightens up the flavor.

I decided to serve orzo on the side, but that would have made a rather blah plate of food. So I took some cauliflower and broccoli and a red pepper that I had on hand and cut them fine, then steamed them in the microwave while I cooked the orzo (which takes longer than you’d think), then blended them at the last minute. Love the colors!

Told you it was easy!

It's been a busy month, with not one but two new books!

Picked to Die is the latest in the Orchard Mystery series. You can find it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Seeing the Dead is the sequel to last year's Relatively Dead, and it looks like it's now part of a series (ebook only). Look for it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Apples & Chicken

It's apple week. We're celebrating apples. How fun is that? And in a minute, I'll turn to apples, but first I have to share that I was at Bouchercon Conference this past weekend where I was lucky enough to connect with librarians, booksellers, and lots of author pals and fans.

Some were bloggers and guest bloggers from Mystery Lovers Kitchen, like Lucy Burdette, Sheila Connolly, Mary Jane Maffini, Hannah Dennison, Rochelle Staab, and Julie Hyzy!

Authors: Tammy Kaehler & Lucy Burdette

Me, Julie Hyzy & Sheila Connolly

Rochelle Staab & Julie Hyzy
Myself, Mary Jane Maffini, Hannah Dennison & Gigi Pandian

By the way, Julie won the Anthony for best mass market paperback novel.  Woo-hoo to Julie.

Others were simply fabulous friends who happen to be fabulous authors.

Cleveland was an interesting city. It was blowy the first day, wet the next, but I still made it out to take pictures, which I've shared on my Facebook pages.  And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was fabulous! We went there our opening night.

You can't "read" them all, but what an array of signatures on this "art" guitar!  Wow.

Now, I'm back and getting ready to crack down on my writing.

But first, back to APPLES!

Do you love them? I do - in all sorts of colors. Red, yellow, green, red-yellow, this list goes on.

I decided to make something really simple. Here's why. In A COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERY series (which comes out next July...9 months and counting), I'm writing a new character, Jenna Hart, who is an avid reader and admitted foodie, but she is not a cook. She's never had the confidence, never taken the time. When she moves home to Crystal Cove to help her aunt start up the Cookbook Nook and café, she needs to find herself and expand her likes and abilities. Cooking is one of those things. But simple is the best way to start for a new cook, don't you think? Here's what her aunt and chef-friend tell her: five items or less. Possible? Sure.

With apples and chicken, it was easy. This recipe turned out like baked apples. Warm, lovely. Not a lot of color after the apples were cooked, but homey and yummy.

I went to my local greengrocer, Tapia Brothers.  They have fabulous produce and boxes upon boxes of freshly picked apples. Yum.

Now, the interesting thing about apples is they're pretty going into the oven, but once baked, the color sort of drains out. Luckily not the flavor, and by simply adding a bright green vegetable, the plating becomes beautiful and inviting. Enjoy.


1 roasting chicken, cut up
1 large onion, sliced
3 apples (I used Gala), quartered, seeds removed (no need to take the skin off)
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons Bouquet Garni [Penzey's Spices is a combo of rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill, marjoram, sage and tarragon] If you don't have you can make a combination of any of the above.]

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

So pretty going into the oven
Line a 9 x 13 pan with enough foil that you can pull it over the chicken. Place the chicken on the foil. Season with spices. Add the onions and apples, already sliced or quartered.

Fold the foil over the chicken and seal with a crimp so no steam will escape.

Bake for at least one hour. I did not do the following, but if preferred, open the foil, remove the onions and apples, and turn the oven to broil. Broil the chicken for 5-10 minutes until chicken turns golden.

Plate chicken, onions, apples and add a vibrant green vegetable.

You're done.

[If you prefer your apples a little sweeter, before baking, sprinkle the dish with 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar. But these apples were so sweet, the dish didn't need it.]

After baking, the color from the apples disappears. They become "baked." But oh, so sweet!


REMINDER: To save this recipe (and any that are posted on MLK,  
click the Print Friendly button below 

(it looks like this but don't hit this one).  Choose PDF to print. 

The 4th in A Cheese Shop Mystery series: 

You can pre-order the book HERE. 

You can learn more about me, Avery, by clicking this link.

Chat with me on Facebook and Twitter.

And if you haven't done so, sign up for the mailing list
 so you can learn about upcoming events, releases, and contests!

Also, you probably know about my alter ego.
Daryl's new series: A COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERY series
debuts July 2013

"Like" Daryl's page on Facebook and "follow" Daryl on Twitter.
"She" doesn't say all the same things "Avery" does. Promise.

Say cheese!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Penzeys Peachy Pork Picante

by Sheila Connolly

Here's one more recipe celebrating Penzeys Week!

When I was young, my family used to get the F.A.O. Schwartz catalog each holiday season (catalogs were few and far between back then), and my younger sister and I would pore over it, marking our choices—lots of them.

That's how I felt when I discovered the Penzeys spice catalog.  So many wonderful choices!  So many new spices to try!  It was hard to restrain myself, and my spice rack overflowed.  I even bought a jar of galangal once, just because the name was so lovely (and, yes, I've used it, in a ham glaze that was delicious).  I've bought bags and bags of their dried chile peppers and never been disappointed. I currently have five kinds of Penzeys cinnamon in my pantry, and I've been having a ball comparing them.

So it was hard to settle on one recipe here.  In the end I went with one of my family's favorites—another one of those dishes that is quick to make and tasty.  It's also one that gets share a lot—I first had it at a friend's house in Ohio several years ago, and I think it sneaked into The New Yorker once (not a typical place to find recipes!).

It's a great showcase for Penzeys Taco Seasoning.  Most often you see taco seasoning in the form of a small packet in the "foreign" food section of your grocery store.  You'll find several brands, at a range of prices—and usually it's barely enough to make one meal.

At Penzeys it comes in a 4-ounce bag, so you can use as much as you like.  What's more, it's the best I've found.  It's flavorful, well-balanced, and not too spicy (you can always add a little chile or cayenne if you prefer it hotter).

For this recipe you can use whatever kind of pork you have on hand—it does not have to be expensive, as long as you trim off any fat and gristle.  Nor does it have to be cut in tidy, precise cubes!  This is supposed to be easy.


1 pound pork, cubed
3 Tblsp Penzeys Taco Seasoning
1 14-oz. jar of salsa (or more)
6 Tbsp peach preserves

Toss the pork cubes with the taco seasoning to coat them.  Use as much as it takes to lightly coat the pork pieces.  Sauté the seasoned pork pieces in hot oil. 

Add salsa.

A note about salsa:  like the taco seasoning, you can find many brands on the shelf.  For this dish I prefer one that's chunky, because it makes the texture more interesting.  A full jar is about right.  Of course you can use a more liquid salsa, but then it's more like a sauce.

Add the peach preserves.  This may seem unlikely, but the preserves dissolve nicely in the salsa.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, over very low heat.  You don't want to overcook the pork because then it becomes too tough and chewy. 

Serve over cooked white rice.

Mystery Lovers Kitchen is looking for cookie recipes!

Please send your recipes to:
KristaDavis at KristaDavis dot com

We'll choose 10 finalists, whose recipes we'll bake and post here on the blog.
Then you, our readers, will choose the overall winner!

What does that winner win?
A fabulous collection of cookie decorating supplies, that's what!
Pastel Sanding Sugar

Primary Sanding Sugar

Powdered Food Colors

Cute Flower Cookie Stencils

Don't delay. Enter today!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The PENZEYS Week Kick-Off: No Crust Cranberry Pie

Welcome to Mystery Lover's Kitchen's special Penzeys week! At this time of year, it seems like dishes call for spices and herbs even more than usual. The Mystery Lover's Kitchen bloggers are friends and discovered that we all use Penzeys spices. Each of us has our favorites, of course, so we thought we would dedicate a special week to our favorite spice store. For those of you who haven't heard of them, Penzeys has stores all over the country, as well as a lovely catalog and an online ordering site.

All cooks have their favorite spices and for Ella Mae LeFaye, nothing beats the fresh, pure tastes of Penzeys spices. This is the time of year to she loves to fill her Charmed Pis Shoppe kitchen with the scents of vanilla, orange, cloves, rosemary, thyme, and more.

Today, Ella Mae wanted to share a very simple no crust pie with you. That's right, you don't have to mess with a crust and with cake-like nature of this pie, you won't miss it! Tart cranberries blend with crunchy pecans and are flavored with Penzeys spices.

This is the pie for folks who don't normally like pie. Enjoy!

    Charmed No Crust Cranberry Pecan Tart
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup white sugar
    2 cups fresh cranberries
    1/2 cup chopped pecans
    1/2 cup butter, melted
    2 large eggs


¼ teaspoon PENZEYS pure almond extract
¾ teaspoon PENZEYS pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon PENZEYS ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon PENZEYS ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9-inch pie pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the cranberries and the pecans, and toss to coat. Stir in the butter, beaten eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. Add cinnamon and cloves. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. It will look more like cake batter than pie filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm. A scoop of vanilla ice cream or real whipped cream tastes great on this pie.

Do you have a favorite spice? The one you love to uncap and sniff before sprinkling it over your food?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cowboy Burgers with Blue Cheese or Cheddar

Congratulations to 
Cleo Coyle with a new Coffeehouse Mystery 
Sheila Connolly with a new Orchard Mystery
Both with new books out this week! 
What a great month to dive into a new cozy!!! 
Tasty and fun.

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Do you love to barbecue? You all know I do. Have I gone on  and on and on about them this summer. I find such solace outdoors, listening to the wind, to the birds. Drinking in the aroma of the barbecue. Ahhh.

Earlier in the summer, I shared a steak with blue cheese. But what about a burger? With blue or cheddar.  I adore a good burger. Juicy. With or without a bun. A crisp salad. A hearty red wine like a Sin Zin Zinfandel, with upfront flavors of black cherries, blueberries, vanilla and spice. Fabulous!

Now, you probably know which cheddar you prefer, but not every blue is the same, so here are a couple to choose from...depending on your palate.
From the heart of Emmentaler cheese territory in Switzerland comes Blause Wunder Blue cheese.
I read about this cheese in Culture Magazine and had to try it. It was totally different from typical blue cheeses. The exterior rind of the cheese is powdery blue in color. Inside the semi-soft meat of the cheese is a bone white/gray interior, shot through with fine blue vein lines. The magazine said the cheese offered flavors spice imparted and an underlying sweetness. I thought it was a mild blue cheese, lovely for eating with appetizers. Mild for a cowboy burger.

 Another choice is Bayley Hazen Blue. This comes from Cowlgirl Creamery in California. It iis a buttery, natural-rind blue cheese made with raw Ayrshire cow’s milk. These cows graze from late spring to early fall. Though it is drier than many blue cheese, and the flavors are spectacular, offering all the hints of the grasses that the cows feed on and a hint of anise. It’s a strong enough cheese to hold its own against a fat juicy burger.



(4 burgers)
2 pounds hamburger (15-20% lean)
1 sweet yellow onion
¾ cup (6-8 ounces) crumbled blue cheese  or shredded Cheddar (plus more to adorn burger) 
4 tablespoons Penzey's Bouquet Garni (mixed herbs *)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper


Heat oven to broil or prepare barbecue to a medium high heat

Peel and chop onion small bits. 

Shred 6-8 ounces of cheddar cheese.

I used Penzey's Bouquet Garni herbs. If you can't find Penzey's at your store, you can mix together your favorite herbs. [*Suggestion: 1 tablespoon dried basil, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1 tablespoon dried parsley.] Add salt and pepper.
In medium bowl, mix hamburger, onion, cheese and spices.  Mold the mixture into four thick patties.  [Keep them thick in order to keep them rare to medium rare.  If you desire medium to well-done, make the patties flatter.]  [By the way, I saw Ina Garten making burgers, on a rerun, and she was adamant that you not pat the burgers too hard or they won't stay juicy. So be gentle.]

In an oven or on the barbecue, cook the burgers approximately 4-5 minutes on each side.  Pressing on the burger with the back of a spatula will give you an idea of “doneness.”

Adorn burgers with extra cheese. 


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