Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sunday Brunch: what are your favorite ingredients? #giveaway



MARY JANE MAFFINI  Welcome to our monthly Sunday Brunch conversation in which we chat merrily among ourselves and with our lovely readers.  No surprise that the topic is often food.  One of the joys of being part of Mystery Lovers Kitchen is the variety of food, flavors and approaches in our posts.  We live in different parts of the US and Canada. We bring varied backgrounds and influences to ‘the kitchen’ and it shows up in a fantastic range of recipes.  I never get bored reading MLK and over the years I have happily enjoyed dozens of my colleagues’ recipes and tips. 

Brunch is all about flavor and fun!  Today I’m curious about what flavors (herbs, spices, ingredients) you love and rely on in your kitchen, whether you’re baking, making a main dish, a salad or whatever.  I’m leaving out flour, salt and pepper, although feel free to argue that point.





 I was chatting recently about this with my friend, Linda Wiken aka Essie Lang (who was until recently part of MLK). Linda keeps a live basil plant in her kitchen all year long, replacing that plant whenever she needs to. Great idea, Linda. I think I’ll steal it.

In my own kitchen, I'd be lost without lemon, garlic, green onions, thyme, paprika and butter.  On the sweet side, lemons again, toasted almonds, vanilla and Penzey’s cocoa.    

I asked my daughters what ingredients they associated with my kitchen. I then had to dial it back to assure them there were no wrong answers! After a lot of thought my daughter Virginia said, "Toasted almonds, vanilla and lemon."

Victoria said, 'Lemon and cheese' without missing a beat. Good catch because lemons are in everything and cheese shows up in mains, salads and desserts. I did wonder why no one has even noticed all that thyme over the years.   

My mother and my mother-in-law were both inspired cooks and there was often a delicious hint of lemon in their wonderful meals.

I've had many lemon-influenced recipes here on Mystery Lovers Kitchen over the years. Here's a link for Lemon Meringue Tiramisu  from a few years back. 

So, now my friends, what are the ingredients (and flavors) you love and can’t live without?  I hope you readers will join in and share your favorite flavors because there will be a fabulous book giveaway for some lucky commenter.  


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VICKI DELANY:   I'd say it depends on the season. Unquestionably tomatoes and basil in late summer and fall.  I love little more on earth than a fresh sun ripened tomato. When they're in season, I cook with them all the time, and more often than not using fresh basil as well.  Here's a link to a pasta made with fresh tomatoes that I make quite a lot. ( Mystery Lovers' Kitchen: Summer pasta (mysteryloverskitchen.com). I also use that abundance of tomatoes and basil to make tomato soup and pasta sauces to freeze to enjoy over the long dark winter.

During that long dark winter, you'd likely find me using curry powder, cumin, garam masala., and chili spices as well as plenty of hot peppers. I love a nice rich curry and I often make big batches in my slow cooker to enjoy over several meals. 

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LESLIE KARST: One word: CUMIN! It’s amazing how much of this spice—in both its powdered and whole seed forms—I go through in a year. Perhaps because I grew up in Southern California on a diet of Mexican cuisine, the craving for comino seems to be in my blood: that warm, earthy flavor, with a hint of citrus, leather, and pepper. But as I started to branch out in my cooking adventures, I soon realized that cumin is also a key ingredient in other cuisines, such as Indian and Middle Eastern foods. (In fact, it originated in the Levant thousands of years ago, and was brought to Latin America by Spanish and Portuguese colonists.) For one of my favorite Mexican recipes using cumin, try these Calabacitas, and for an Indian-inflected meal using the spice, this Turkey Tikka Masala is terrific.



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LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I have been thinking, thinking, thinking: Is there a flavor profile, as the pros say, that defines our kitchen and cooking? Honestly, I have to say no. Like Vicki, we play up the bright, fresh flavors of the summer and fall, which means lots of tomatoes and summer squash and fresh herbs. This past winter, we went on a French cooking spree, heavy on the shallots, tarragon, and a splash or two of white wine. When I scroll down my list of posts, I see that herbs and spices often predominate -- Ginger Spice Muffins and Chai Spice Coffee Cake -- which makes sense not just because I write the Spice Shop mysteries but because it was visits to sniff and grab a cup of spice tea at Market Spice in Pike Place Market as a college student and later a young lawyer working in downtown Seattle that got my spice buds drooling. Fresh herbs add big flavor and often, color, that we love, as in these Cheddar Rosemary Crackers and this Roasted Mushroom, Tomato, and Herb Salad. Bottom line: If you come to our house, you might get French food, Italian, Greek, Indian, Chinese, or distinctly American, but you can count on getting LOTS of flavor! 


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LUCY BURDETTE: This is not so easy to answer MJ! I will have to go with unsalted butter, cheddar cheese, onions, hot sauce, and whatever's in the garden. Here's an example that's easy and so so delicious: Scottish cheese shortbread. So delicious that I could be tempted to sneak the entire plate myself...



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MADDIE DAY: I love this topic! I grow garlic every year, so it's always in the kitchen. Like Leslie K, this native southern Californian also loves cumin. Like Lucy, we always have a big block of Seriously Sharp Cabot cheddar for things like Cheesy Biscuits, and like Mary Jane, I keep a live herb plant inside all winter, but mine is rosemary. I also always have Asian condiments at hand: sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and more, so I can throw together an Asian noodle salad


And like all of us, fresh produce in season! A BLT or a Caprese salad when the tomatoes are sun ripened in my garden? Can't be beat. When tomatoes are in abundance, I roast them with garlic and olive oil and whiz them into a sauce, which I freeze for the winter. I pick a few dozen pounds of blueberries every summer and freeze them for use all year long. 


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CLEO COYLETwo words for you, chocolate and coffee! Of course, after nearly 20 years writing the Coffeehouse Mysteries, the “coffee” part of that answer should be no surprise.


Cleo's Chocolate Ricotta Muffins
click the photo for the recipe!
We love using coffee and chocolate in our cooking and baking, whether we’re marinating steaks for the grill (using brewed coffee) or deepening the rich flavor of chocolate in our Chocolate Ricotta Muffins (via a little instant espresso powder). 

Right now, Marc and I are finishing up our upcoming Coffeehouse title HONEY ROASTED, which adds another amazing ingredient to our answer for you because we've enjoyed using honey in our kitchen for years. Stay tuned for a deliciously fun new Clare and Co. culinary adventure! ~ Cleo 



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PEG: This  topic makes me think of my grandmother--her house always smelled like basil.  Whenever I smell the herb, I immediately think of her.  Personally, I can't cook without garlic and onions.  No, I mean it.  I put garlic and onions in virtually everything (except desserts, of course!)  When it comes to spices, chili powder and cumin are a must since many of hubby's favorite dishes require one or both.  And I always keep a bag of lemons on hand--they brighten everything and are the star in many other recipes as well--for instance, the lemony Madeira cake I made recently. 


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TINA KASHIAN: I love this topic for our Sunday brunch! Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking often starts with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onions, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. These ingredients, minus the onions, go into my hummus recipe. Next would come vegetables, beans, and whole grains like bulgur. Cooking tastes best when it's fresh, flavorful, and healthy. And along with Mary Jane Maffini, freshly squeezed lemon juice is my favorite ingredient. I guess great minds think alike! 
 

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MAYA CORRIGAN: Butter, garlic, onions, yogurt, and crusty bread are staples in our house. At the moment, we have nine different fruits in the house for two of us, and that's typical. As for spices, we love Old Bay Seasoning, which originated in Baltimore. My Five-Ingredient Mysteries are set in the Chesapeake Bay area, where this seasoning is used liberally on crabs, shrimp, chicken, and fish, as well as corn and fries (Chesapeake fries, not French fries). In the early 1990s, McCormick took over marketing Old Bay, so it's more readily available outside the Mid-Atlantic than it used to be. In looking over the recipes on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, I noticed a number that Lucy posted with Old Bay as an ingredient, and tomorrow I'll be posting one for a local Chesapeake specialty: peel 'n eat shrimp. 



 GIVEAWAY!


To be entered in this week's drawing,
leave a comment (with your email address) 
to join our discussion:

What are the ingredients (and flavors)
you love and can’t live without?  

Comments Open through
Wednesday, May 19.



>  NO GRATER CRIME by Maddie Day
(Advanced Reading Copy) 

>  ORGANIZE YOUR CORPSES
by Mary Jane Maffini 

>  HUMMUS AND HOMICIDE
by Tina Kashian 


Comments Open through
Wednesday, May 19

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44 comments:

  1. For me, it means having onions, an assortment of cheeses, chocolate, fresh out of the garden veggies, cinnamon and a wide array of peppers from sweet to super hot. Most times I've found it's not the main ingredient that is the maker of a dish, but rather how other flavors enhance or bring out the true quality of it

    Thank you for the great opportunity to win some wonderful books by some fabulous authors! Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.

    Hoping your Sunday is all you wish it to be.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. I agree, Kay! It is often not the main dish but the other flavors that enhance it. That acounts for the many different tastes of chicken dishes! Thanks for coming by. Hugs. MJ

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  2. Reading through everyone's signature flavors and seeing all the luscious dishes, I am craving it all! My signature flavors would have to be garlic, onion, and jalapeno peppers.

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    1. Brenda, I am always jealous of those who bravely use jalapenos! Hugs. MJ

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  3. Happy Sunday ladies. Oh fun to know what your favorites in your kitchen are. I would have to say in my kitchen, can always find - cheese, lemons, garlic, onions, cinnamon, unsalted butter, fruits and teas. My husband loves coffee
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

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    1. I share those faves, Lori! And I like coffee and tea so could fit right in. Hugs. MJ

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  4. Wonderful Sunday post. I would have lemons always and herbs such as basil and veggies for roasting as well as many different teas. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks! We love roasted veggies, lemon and herbs! Hugs. MJ

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  5. Love this subject. All of your answers are really cool. My favorite three spices are rosemary, thyme and basil. Love them all in sauces and on meats and fish. I can't do without my coffee and chocolate (only the finest chocolate, Godiva or Lindt). PS: Made notes from all your answers. Thanks!!
    lindalou64(@)live.com

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    1. I keep a Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt bar hidden in my office desk so no one else steals it!

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  6. What a delightful variety of interests and flavors. Mine include salad ingredients of all types, tomatoes, greens and pesto. Lemons and a variety of tea with tea biscuits. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  7. I think my favorites are Cinnamon, brown sugar, honey , lemons. Fresh veggies whatever is in season and fresh fruit. We have a bunch of citrus trees in our yard so I get plenty of that. But right now we are enjoying fresh creole tomatoes. Yum!1cow0993(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Carol, Lucky you! My dream is to live in a house with a yard full of citrus trees! Mango and avocado would be nice too.~Maya

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  8. Loved reading the posts from the authors & others. My kitchen staples also are unsalted butter, garlic, onion, cheeses, assorted breads, lemon, rosemary, thyme, basil. Depending on the time of year, fresh fruits & vegetables. Would enjoy the opportunity to read any of the books offered. Thank you! charlenemwilson89@gmail.com

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    1. I'd be very happy in your kitchen, Charlene! Hugs. MJ

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  9. Gotta have real maple syrup. After always tapping our own trees I couldn't have anything else. I love when a recipe calls for real syrup instead of maple flavoring or extract.
    kozo8989(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  10. Onions, garlic, real maple syrup, cheeses (sharp and/or creamy)
    As to tomatoes--I remember fresh from the garden tomatoes from my childhood. Is it my memory or do few have that full flavor today> Even buying locally grown they are a disappointment.
    Fruits can also pale in comparison to memory. Again, even locally grown strawberries are a disappointment.
    Do my tastebuds need a tune up?
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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  11. Always have several varieties of cheese to eat! And crackers. And wine. And I keep a shaker of Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning from Ville Platte, LA right by the stove.
    patdupuy@yahoo.com

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  12. I simply can't do without lemons, especially on fish. And I love Basil, too. I'm going to grow some tomatoes this summer.

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    1. We live in a condo and I'm thinking of trying some of those container tomatoes on the deck! The growing season in Michigan is so short.

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  13. Fresh veggies and Fresh Fruit flavors. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

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  14. I like spicy so cayenne, curry, and red pepper flakes. For something sweet it’s vanilla and cinnamon.

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  15. Cheeses, eggs, butter, yeast are basics. Then there would be cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, herbs de Provence, rosemary and thyme. All you people adding lemon at the end make me sad as a I have a citrus allergy, but I can often substitute a good vinegar or splash of wine.

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  16. Onions, garlic, all kinds of spices (I have at least 50 different spices in my kitchen), lemons, vanilla, pure maple syrup and dark cocoa powder

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  17. Lemons, garlic, basil, rosemary, most kinds of cheese, fresh vegetables and fruits are always available in my kitchen. I also use lots of extracts, vanilla, rum, almond are probably the top three. If I'm baking, cardamom is my secret ingredient. It adds a special flavor to keep people guessing.

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  18. I like to use fresh produce when it’s in season but year round I’d sY onions, garlic and mushrooms.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

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  19. The smell of baking or freshly baked bread or rolls is probably the homeist (not sure if that is a word, but you must know what I mean) aroma in our kitchen.
    LRJ

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    1. the end of my comment above: So, I have to say flour and yeast are my favorite ingredients. LRJ

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  20. My very favorite ingredient is Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. It is a seasoning spice mixture without salt. I put it in every recipe that is not sweet. I usually buy 10 - 12 bottles at a time since we do not have a Trader Joe's in our town. At $1.99 a bottle, it is a great deal. Other recipe items I use frequently are fresh veggies and fruits, all sorts of dried beans and peas, onions, cheese, eggs, and butter.

    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

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  21. I always have garlic, onions, EVOO, lemons, butter and a variety of spices. I really like to roast vegetables this time of year.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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  22. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, garlic, ginger, and rosemary are my all time favourites, not all together of course, but I couldn't be without any of them. All of these remind me of my mom, who was a cook at a high school as well as at a seniors home. When my mom passed away, my daughter wrapped most of these items in a piece of cloth to be buried with her. She was known for her sewing and cooking. Today I made a recipe of my m-i-l's (who has also passed) for rhubarb muffins. The smell of cinnamon is working it's way through the house and brings all of the memories flooding back.
    sandra shenton 13 at gmail dot com

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    1. Sandra, you reminded me that it's time to harvest that rhubarb and muffins are a perfect use for it. Hugs MJ

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