Tuesday, September 20, 2016

#bookclub Herbed Black Bean Pasta Salad

 LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Oh, how I love book clubs! I’ve belonged to two, in different communities, each for about eight years, and that once-a-month gathering was such a treat. People—men and women in the first, women only in the second—who loved books as much as I did, who cherished time reading and discussing, and who introduced me to their faves and welcomed the chance to meet mine. That is true friendship.

Wine and food help, too.

As an author, I enjoy visiting book clubs. Readers ask great questions! Even readers who don’t read a lot of mysteries dive in, finding themes and symbols, relating to the characters and their problems as if they knew them. And that satisfies me deeply, because one of my goals as a storyteller is to illuminate a bit of life. Maybe we haven’t found a dead body on the doorstep, thank goodness, but we’ve all faced loss and grief, dealt with secrets and betrayal, and felt the ache of love and loneliness. If my characters’ responses help a reader make a little sense of some aspect of this human experience, I’m beyond happy.

This salad, from KILLING THYME (out October 4), is great for bookclubs where a light dinner is served, or for a potluck, because it’s hearty without being heavy, easy to transport, and doesn’t need to be served hot. It’s also colorful and a little unusual, always a plus! At home, it’s terrific by itself or as a side dish, especially with chicken or salmon. Whole-grain pasta and beans make it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians—something Laurel keeps in mind when stocking Ripe’s deli case. (Or she would, if she lived anywhere but on the page!)

You’ll love the color the turmeric and fresh herbs add—and the combination of fresh herbs in the salad and the dried herbs in the dressing gives an extra punch of flavor.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of KILLING THYME, out October 4! TWO winners will be chosen!

Herbed Black Bean and Pasta Salad

For the salad:
1 pound regular or whole-grain penne pasta
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow or green bell pepper, chopped
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
¼ to ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend blend (below)
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse in cool water to stop the cooking. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans and chop the vegetables and fresh herbs. Place the beans, veggies, and herbs in a large bowl. Add the pasta and stir to mix.

To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a blender or a small food processor, or use an immersion blender, and mix until smooth. Add the dressing to the salad mixture and toss gently until well combined. (You may fear not having enough dressing, but don’t worry—it will surprise you!)

Serve warm or chilled, by itself or over a bed of chilled hearty greens, such as a mixture of spinach, arugula, romaine, or other sturdy lettuces.

Serves 8 to 10.

Pepper’s Italian Herb Blend 

This is a good basic blend that you can adjust for your own taste. Remember that blends take a few hours for the flavors to meld; because of the mildness of these herbs, you can use the blend generously right away, and taste how the flavors improve over time.

3 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 teaspoons dried marjoram
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes or garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried rosemary (break the needles with a mortar and pestle or in a small bowl with the back of a sturdy spoon)

Mix herbs in a small bowl. Yield: about 10 tablespoons, just over ½ cup.

Discussion Questions for KILLING THYME 

KILLING THYME releases October 4. I hope this recipe and these questions make it the perfect choice for your next book club meeting! (Find discussion questions for my other books on the For Book Clubs page of my website.)

1. Pepper’s had her challenges hiring staff for the Spice Shop, but she’s back to a full crew now. Do Matt and Cayenne seem like good additions?

2. Lena, Pepper’s mother, makes her first appearance in the series in KILLING THYME. Oh, mothers and daughters! Discuss.

3. Lena says of Bonnie, once called Peggy, that she craves home and community, but repeatedly makes choices that keep her from getting what says she wants. Do you know anyone like that?

4. In this book, Pepper experiences tensions with both Kristen, her life-long best friend, and Sandra, her key employee. Do you think she handles them well?

5. Mr. Adams is both sweet and crotchety, pained by some changes in his neighborhood and pleased with others. How has your neighborhood changed, and how do you feel about those changes?

6. Pepper’s new bridal registry could give the Spice Shop’s bottom line a nice boost. But at what cost? Discuss weddings and the Bridezilla-Momzilla phenomenon! What’s the most unusual wedding gift you received?

7. Pepper’s relationship with Tag reaches an unexpected place of peace in this book. Should they get back together, or not?

8. Do you have a favorite use for thyme?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of KILLING THYME. TWO winners will be chosen, on Thurs, Sept. 23. The discussion questions may prompt some comments, even though you haven't read the book yet! 

From the cover of KILLING THYME. coming October 4 and available for pre-order now: 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. When Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But when Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Thanks for the great recipe it has given me several ideas for new combos for salad. Thanks for the giveaway & chance to enjoy the new book in this wonderful series! doward1952@yahoo.com

    1. Oh, fun -- you're already planning variations! I read recipes that way, too!

  2. Excellent recipe! Book clubs are definitely fun. And I'm so looking forward to the book! EMS591@aol.com

  3. I love cooking with herbs and spice and thanks for the herb recipe. This books sounds sp interestingherThanks for a chance to win.
    ninaathouse at yahoo dot com

    1. Sorry wrong emal
      ninaatmyhouse at yahoo dot com

    2. The Italian Herb Blend is so flexible -- many uses. Enjoy!

  4. I enjoy the Spice series a great deal. Not only are the mysteries well written and entertaining, I enjoy learning about the spices. dbahn(at)iw(dot)net.

  5. I've been looking forward to this one for a while! Would love to be one of the lucky winners! Thanks for the chance! And thanks for sharing the recipe. Love the new cover!

    Rlewis11797 (at) yahoo (dot) com

    1. Thanks, Bec! That Arf, he's got personality, doesn't he?

  6. I'm not sure how I missed this series but it sounds fabulous.. I love the dog on the cover!
    afarage (at) earthlink.net

    1. Oh, I love Arf -- so glad my cover artist has a way with dogs (and cats, on my Food Lovers' Village covers).

  7. This cozy series is delightful and enjoyable. Thanks for this lovely giveaway and great recipe. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  8. What a wonderful title and great feature and giveaway. The recipe is perfect and the book intriguing. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. I know I will enjoy this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. We don't have any reading groups here in my town. I mean, I am sure there is but wish there was more listing/postings. I tried to start one up but no one seemed to show interest other then one other gal. Oh well. Thank you for the lovely giveaway and congrats on the new release. lady(dot)janel(at)Hotmail(dot)com

    1. Hmmm. Is there a bookstore or library nearby that might have an on-going reading group, or be interested in starting one? Or a helpful bookseller or librarian might be able to connect you with an existing group.

  11. I can't wait for this, I love herbs great review thanks
    Penney penneyw(at)sbcglobal.net

  12. A very attractive and tasty sounding dish.
    Now all I need is a book group to share it with.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

  13. looks amazing. - mollie. iemercedez@aol.com

  14. The recipe sounds great and I am anxious to try it. Can't wait for the new book.

  15. No better way of Killing Thyme than curling up with a wonderful cozy. And thank you for the lovely recipe. I'm looking forward to trying both the book and cook creations

  16. What a great looking recipe! So colorful and flavorful... thanks for sharing! I love black beans and bell peppers separately, so together, yum. I'm just about to start reading Guilty as Cinnamon, so I'll be all set to start Killing Thyme when it comes out. Thanks for a great giveaway!

  17. The black beans in my cupboard are calling to me to make that recipe. The book looks like fun---I love the recipes you include.

    1. Canned beans are a staple in our house, too -- one of the few foods I buy in cans. (Also tomatoes, and pumpkin!)

  18. Thanks so much for the great recipe and my husband has been on me to look for a recipe for the beans that i threw in the cart and i threw the wrong ones in now this is the perfect recipe for him to make. Thank you so much ptclayton2@aol.com

    1. "The perfect recipe for HIM to make" -- I caught that pronoun, PT!

  19. LOVE the recipe, thank you. I have never been in a book club, but looks like a lot of fun. I'm not sure that I can round up that many friends at the same time for an actual club. Ideas? Book clubs online? Thank you for any info. konecny7(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Online book clubs could be fun -- meet via Skype or Facetime, maybe? Or Google Hangouts? For a live club, check with your local library and bookstore -- they may have one, know of one looking for members, or be willing to help you start one. In my experience, best to have at least 5 and simply set a date -- first Tues at 6 pm -- and make it a commitment, rather than trying to work around everyone's schedules. Good luck, and have fun!

    2. Thank you!! Sounds like great advice. I'll put out a FB notification and see what happens.

  20. Wonderful recipe, Leslie! Can't wait to try it. Hugs. MJ

  21. I can't wait to read this book sounds wonderful debbiesherwood50@gmail.com

  22. I can't wait to read this book sounds wonderful debbiesherwood50@gmail.com

  23. The herb blend sounds great. This is one of my favorite series, and I can't wait for the release of the new book. Thanks for the chance to win! cking78503(at)aol(dot)com

    1. Thanks, Chris -- the herb blend is very flexible, and has so many uses!

  24. I've preordered your book but I can cancel if I win. I may try this. I have t found a pasta salad I'm crazy about. suefoster109atnetzero.net

    1. Sue, you're not alone in not finding the right pasta salad recipe. In my experience, the trick is to make sure you don't overcook the pasta -- even slightly undercooked is fine -- then rinse and stir quickly in a colander to get rid of the heat and stop it from continuing to cook. And thanks for the pre-order!

  25. Wonderful post for Book Club Week, Leslie. Delicious and healthy recipes with a good book that gives food for thought. Cheers!