Sunday, October 2, 2011

Flat-Out Delicious

Kitchen-dwellers, I am delighted to introduce today's guest blogger, Jessica Park.  If you are not friends with Jessica on Facebook, do yourself a favor and start stalking her.  Honestly, reading Jessica's status updates is often the highlight of my (admittedly dull) days.  She's also a fantastic writer (see below) and an enthusiastic foodie.  So join me in welcoming Jessica to the kitchen!


Hello, Mystery Lover’s Kitchen! I love coming here to visit and was so happy to get an invite from Wendy. Now that I’m not writing culinary mysteries, it’s hard to have an excuse to beg for a chance to guest blog, so Wendy saved me the humiliation! But, I’m still as food-obsessed as ever, and getting back into fall cooking after months of fresh summer salads and grilling. This is a dish that is now on the menu once a week, and I really can’t get enough of it. Obviously anything with bacon is always good, but the combination of bacon against the artichoke hearts, capers, and lemon is really awesome. Yes, I know. This dish sounds really strange, but I assure you that it’s delicious.

Fast, Easy, One-Pot, Scrumptious, Perfect-for-Weeknight-Suppers Shrimp Reminiscent of Scampi But Amped Up and Better

Serves two. Or so. I don’t really know. Depends how much you eat.

3 slices of bacon, chopped into ½” strips
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
2 T. butter
One big handful of cabbage, sliced into thin strips
1 ½ cups chicken broth
¼ cup canned tomato puree or a good handful of chopped fresh tomato
5 canned artichoke hearts, cut into quarters
2 T. capers
One big squeeze of lemon juice
2 springs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
12 fresh or frozen shrimp, deveined and tails off (Do not skimp on the shrimp. Frozen can be absolutely fabulous, but avoid cheap brands where the shrimp are covered in frost. You get what you pay for.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the bacon over medium-high heat until just browned. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the shrimp, and cook at a medium simmer, stirring occasionally until the cabbage is wilted and tender without being soggy (about 15-20 minutes).  There should be a very nice amount of broth, so add more stock if you need it. Add in the shrimp and season, and then cook for a few minutes until the shrimp are no longer translucent, about 3-4 minutes. If you’ve used fresh thyme, pull the springs because no one needs to chew on little twigs.

Note: Good quality shrimp will release a wonderful flavor into this and limit how much you need to doctor the dish. If you need an extra kick, you can add a splash of white wine and/or a good sprinkle of Cajun seasoning.

Serve over polenta cakes:

If you feel like hanging out stirring a pot of polenta for ages, be my guest, but there is nothing wrong with these delicious rolls. Cylinders. Whatever they are. 

Slice into ½” thick patties (about 4 per person), dust with flour, and fry in a little olive oil over medium-low/medium heat until lightly brown and crispy on both sides. These take longer than you’d think, so plan on at least six minutes per side.

This dish would also be perfect over rice or pasta, of course, but I’m a polenta nut.

Seriously awesome book!
My latest book, Flat-Out Love has nothing to do with food. Although the family in this novel does enjoy regular takeout…. But I hope that you food lovers will consider checking it out nonetheless. It’s a young adult book in many ways because the main characters are college students, but there is a much broader story about the complex family structure that truly makes this book accessible to readers of all ages. By some miracle, Flat-Out Love has spent the past five weeks as the #1 Top-Rated Romance on Amazon’s Kindle, and I’ve been amazed at what lovely reviews the book has been getting. It’s available for most e-readers and also in paperback from Amazon.

Flat-Out Love is a warm and witty novel of family love and dysfunction, deep heartache and raw vulnerability, with a bit of mystery and one whopping, knock-you-to-your-knees romance.

It's not what you know--or when you see--that matters. It's about a journey.

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side ... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well ... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Flat-Out Love comes complete with emails, Facebook status updates, and instant messages.

Jessica Park
Facebook: jumby24
Twitter: JessicaPark24


  1. Hi, Jess!! Glad to see you here!

  2. Bacon and shrimp together? I'm in! This sounds delicious, Jessica. Thanks for sharing it and for hanging out at the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen today!

  3. Love the recipe. Will have to try it.

  4. Bacon and shrimp and polenta? Flat out delicious is right! Welcome to MLK, Jessica. Lovely to have you.


  5. Hi, all! This really is a good (and unique dish), so please let me know if you give it a whirl.

    Also: Can you substitute swordfish for the shrimp? Sure. Other seafood? Sure. Portabello mushrooms for the cabbage? Yep. Do whatever you want. I’M NOT A TYRANT, YOU KNOW! (Sobbing….) Really, this is a pretty flexible dish, so play around with your favorite ingredients .

  6. I don't know why my profile picture above is a furious-looking exclamation point. That's very tragic.

  7. Welcome to the Kitchen, Jessica! Mwah!

  8. Jessica - It's a pleasure to see you back in the Kitchen. Love the recipe--must try it your way, with warm polenta patties. I'm also thrilled to hear about FLAT-OUT LOVE, which sounds like a flat-out winner of a read. Your reviews are awesome--and, I'm not surprised. You're a sparkling brilliant writer. Warmest congrats and come on back to our little ol' Internet corner, anytime!

    ~ Cleo

  9. Thank you, thank you for having me! One of my favorite blogs with such an awesome group of hosts and visitors.

  10. FLAT OUT LOVE sounds terrific, Jessica. Your intriguing teaser has me on my way to buy and read the whole story. Wishing you tons of sales! Then I'm heading to FB to friend you for your entertaining updates. Great post.

  11. Great to see you here, Jessica! You make a fabulous exclamation mark. We should all aspire to that. I love the sound of this recipe and can't wait to try it and read your new book.