Showing posts with label tortellini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tortellini. Show all posts

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 http://foodfiction.weebly.com/ 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!

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