Friday, October 19, 2018


All right, you’ve probably had your fill of Irish recipes and apple recipes lately, so I thought I’d try something different. Here’s one that’s neither Irish nor American: it’s (drumroll please) Australian!

My husband was doing research in Australia in 2005, and I told him that if I couldn’t come along, I’d never allow him to mention the place in my presence again. He gave in. I spent two weeks in Australia, ranging from Sydney to Mount Gambier (on the south coast) and back again. Not in populated areas, although Sydney was delightful, but in open country, where there was about one car per hour on the highways, which boasted signs for koala crossings. I could go on, but there isn’t room. But it was well worth the trip! (And yes, I do have relatives there, if a fourth cousin counts.)

The entrance to the vintage amusement
park on the other side of the harbor
The Troy family plot in the Waverly Cemetery--
my father's grandmother was a Troy

Fruit bats hanging in the trees in Sydney
(they're big!)

We ate in ordinary places, not high-end restaurants. We were invited to dinner at the home of more than one of my husband’s colleagues. I don’t actually remember what we ate, except for the ice cream in one small town, where I sampled several flavors, including bunya nut (no, I have no idea what it is).

Anyway, I bought a cookbook: The Food of Australia: Contemporary Recipes from Australia’s Leading Chefs. Lots of varied and interesting recipes, with pretty pictures. Of course, many of the ingredients aren’t available in the U.S., like yabbies (which seem to be something like shrimp) or tamarillo (known in some places as a tree tomato) or Illawarra plums (a berry that grows on a type of pine tree).  But in many cases it’s easy to find an appropriate substitute.

One recipe that appealed to me is Spinach and Mushroom Risotto. All of the ingredients are available except for the specific varieties of mushrooms, and these days there’s usually a good variety available in local markets. And, despite the title risotto, this is not one of those rice dishes where you have to stand over it and stir for half an hour.

Spinach and Mushroom Risotto
(from The Food of Australia, adapted for local ingredients)


4 thin slices of pancetta or prosciutto
7 Tblsp olive oil
2 large onions, diced into half-inch pieces
5 cloves garlic
2 cups Arborio rice (this is the best choice for any risotto)
4 pounds brown mushrooms
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
chopped fresh basil (to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. fresh spinach, blanched (do not overcook!)

Mushroom stock: you can make it yourself, or try to find a prepared version (which is what I did).

4 Tblsp olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 pounds sliced mushrooms, washed, drained and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock


To prepare the mushroom stock, heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onions, garlic and thyme until the onions are transparent. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute until they begin to release their juice.

Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock (discard the vegetables).

Of just buy a box of the stuff at your supermarket.

For the risotto:

Note: I made a half-recipe, which still seemed like a lot of risotto! I’m not sure I own a pan large enough to make a full recipe.)

Optional garnish: Lay the pancetta or prosciutto slices on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, to make them crisp. Crumble them into fair-size pieces, since this is a garnish only. But they do add a splash of color and a bit of crunch.

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until transparent, then add the rice and toss to coat the grains with olive oil.

Add the brown mushrooms (whole or chopped into large pieces, depending on their size) and mushroom stock and stir gently. (Note: mushrooms vary widely in flavor. Brown mushrooms have become widespread in stores, but I can’t swear that they taste like the Australian variety. But whatever you do, don’t use the bland white ones, which have next to no flavor.)

Cover the pan with waxed paper and simmer over medium-low heat until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is cooked through (taste a few grains—they should be chewy but not crunchy). Look, no endless stirring! (Yet another note: when you mix all these together, there seems to be very little liquid to cook the rice. Don’t worry, the mushrooms will release some liquid, and it all works out in the end.) It took my mixture about 25 minutes until the rice was soft.

Add the Parmesan cheese, basil, salt and pepper (taste!). Finally, fold in the spinach.

Garnish with the pancetta/prosciutto and an exotic mushroom (if you have any).

Coming next week! By the end of this week it should be up on most sites for pre-order in both print and e-book formats.

And there's jacket copy!

Winter still has a firm stranglehold on the small town of Granford, and newly married orchard owner Meg Chapin is restless to begin her spring pruning and planting, while Seth busies himself with a new project of his own. But their relative peace is shattered when a gunshot breaks the winter silence and they discover the body of a dead woman on their land. What’s just as troubling is that the state police have hushed up the murder and are warning Meg not to investigate.

Never one to sit by idly with a killer on the loose, Meg starts digging for clues and probing for answers as discreetly as she can. When the victim turns out to have been an undercover reporter doing a story on the blossoming trade in illegal drugs in the area, Meg’s stunned to learn that this very modern crime has come to sleepy Granford. Deciding that this particular seed of evil hits too close to home, especially for a murder that occurred literally in her own backyard, Meg is determined to nip it in the bud before the town she knows and loves turns rotten . . .

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Roasted Cod with Fresh Tomato Salsa @lucyburdette

Roasted cod made by Jean-Pierre Moulle
LUCY BURDETTE: As you may have seen on Facebook or Jungle Red Writers or Instagram, I was lucky to go on a wonderful trip to Paris and Bordeaux last month, guided by former chefs at Chez Panisse. This fish dish was served as an appetizer and it was exquisite! My version didn't completely live up to the French memory, but for a quick and easy dinner, John and I both liked it a lot. (I will show you more French food pictures aka foodporn after the recipe.)

Ingredients for two servings 

Small shallot, diced
3 to 4 small or one large tomato, chopped
Tablespoon of capers
Olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons 
5 or so basil leaves, slivered
Half of one lemon

Sprinkle of dried pimento or paprika*

Half pound fresh cod

Prepare the ingredients of the salsa, mix in a bowl, and set this aside to marinate.

Preheat the oven to 400.  Spread a piece of parchment or foil in a pie plate with a little olive oil. Place the cod on the oiled parchment and sprinkle with pimento or paprika. Roast for approximately 15 minutes until the fish is white all the way through and flakes easily. 

Divide the fish into two pieces, and spread the tomato salsa over the top.

*We were introduced to a local French red chili pepper powder with a wonderful zip called Piment d'Espelette, but assuming you don't want to spring for that, a sprinkle of good paprika or cayenne would do.

Now for more food...
In the kitchen, aren't the vegetables gorgeous?

Roast baby lamb, potatoes cooked in duck fat, vegetable terrine

Salade nicoise with fresh tuna
Incredible cheese everywhere!

And chocolate!
Now if only I could figure out which characters are going to France, and why!

Death on the Menu, the 8th Key West food critic mystery, is available now from Crooked Lane Books. You can order it wherever books are sold!

A DEADLY FEAST will be out next May!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Happy early Halloween! Spider donut #recipe from author @DarylWoodGerber

From Daryl:

Happy early Halloween.  You like to plan ahead, right? I always do.

If you're having a party soon, these are perfect little treats. I found the idea on Pinterest and thought I should share with you. If you have little ones living with you or visiting you, they're a real hit. These are NOT gluten-free. 

Now, if you can find little chocolate donuts that ARE gluten-free, please tell me about them. I miss a good donut. I can make cake donuts gluten-free, but to be able to buy them and not do the hard labor, heaven!

PS  I did use gluten-free pretzels. See note about breakage below.

What you will need: 
Mini chocolate donuts
Curved Pretzels
Candy eyes, which I found at Michael's Art Store
To assemble:  Set donuts on your prep area.  Press candy eyes into the "face."  Break pretzels to form curves. Mind you, this isn't easy. I ultimately used scissors and started by cutting inside the loops first. Lots of breakage, but pretzels are tasty even if they're broken.  Insert 6 "leg" pretzels into donuts.  You can insert 8 if you want to be correct--spiders have 8 legs---but it might get crowded. That's it.  So easy!

Next book: Wreath between the Lines, Nov. 8  BUY LINK
*E-book available for preorder.
* Paperback isn't available until the day of release, November 8th, so you won't SEE it online yet. But it WILL BE AVAILABLE!


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A SOUFFLÉ OF SUSPICION, the 2nd French Bistro Mystery.
Can Mimi prove her chef innocent before the chef gets dusted?
Click here to order.

A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the 1st French Bistro Mysteries, in all formats.
Can Mimi clear her name before the killer turns up the heat?
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WREATH BETWEEN THE LINES, the 7th Cookbook Nook Mystery.
Jenna Hart is busy decking the halls and ducking a killer
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PRESSING THE ISSUE, the 6th Cookbook Nook Mystery.

The annual Renaissance Fair serves up a helping of crafty courtiers,
damsels in distress, and medieval murder . . .
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FOR CHEDDAR OR WORSE, the 7th Cheese Shop Mystery.
Finally there's going to be a cheese festival in Providence!
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GIRL ON THE RUN, a stand-alone suspense.
When a fairytale fantasy night becomes a nightmare, Chessa Paxton must run for her life...but will the truth set her free?
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DAY OF SECRETS, a stand-alone suspense
A mother he thought was dead. A father he never knew. An enemy that wants them dead.
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