Sunday, August 22, 2021

What to Make When It’s Too Hot to Do Anything #giveaway @mysterydenizen



LUCY BURDETTE: I am so super-excited to welcome today's guest to the blog: Julie Williams. She will offer a recipe, of course. And talk about finishing her mother Sheila Connolly's The Secret Staircase. We loved Sheila and still miss her here on MLK, so it's a treat to welcome Julie!

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for that very special book!


JULIE WILLIAMS: Hello, mystery lovers! I’m dropping in today to share an easy summer recipe and say a few words about The Secret Staircase, the last book by my mother, Sheila Connolly, which is out this week. 

I live in Chicago, and it's been hot here. Not as hot as in some parts of the country, but the temp is often still hovering around 90 degrees in the late afternoon, and the air feels like soup as I grudgingly take my daily walk around the neighborhood. When dinnertime rolls around, I am loathe to turn on the oven or even boil water, and I don't have a grill. So... what's in the fridge? I have been hitting the local farmers’ markets in earnest lately, trying to be more conscious of the seasons and the specific gustatory joys they bring, and I remembered a recipe using little tomatoes that I discovered in a restaurant a decade or more ago. (What restaurant, you ask? The memory is entirely gone. Somewhere near Boston? Anyway...) I particularly love this summer salad because it requires no cooking, it comes together quickly, and it surprises the taste buds with its contrast of sweet-tangy balsamic vinegar, creamy goat cheese, crunchy onion and fresh baby tomatoes. You can make a batch a day ahead and keep it in the fridge, but I prefer to eat it as soon as it’s ready – the discrete chunks of goat cheese in the mix are a delicious surprise.

I should mention that The Secret Staircase isn’t really a book about food. It’s the third installment in my mother’s Victorian Village series, and the primary focus is the renovation of an old house – which is interrupted, surprise surprise, by the discovery of a body behind the kitchen wall. But part of the editing process to get the book into its final form was adding sensory detail – places, people, objects, food.


 One of the elements I enjoyed building into the book was our hero Kate Hamilton's enjoyment of eating. She’s harried, she’s busy, but she is also something of a sensualist, and relishes stopping for a bite whenever she can, even if it’s a simple takeout pizza at the end of a long day. Part of this arc is Kate’s discovery that the humble luncheonette in town, run by Ted Wilson (a minor character who serves on the board of Kate's town restoration project), makes better food than Kate had realized. Kate used to hang out at Ted’s lunch counter as a bored teenager, probably consuming root beer and french fries exclusively, so she doesn't expect much from the place. But when she returns to the town as an adult and finds few local options to feed herself (she's not much of a cook), she discovers that Ted's food is delicious, full of fresh ingredients and satisfying flavors. I imagine this dish on Ted's lunch menu – only in July and August, of course, when his rooftop tomatoes are perfect and abundant.



You might read this recipe and find yourself thinking, "That's it? I'm done?" But on a busy weeknight, you'll be saying, "That's it! I'm done!" I made this one evening last week, next to a few fried breakfast sausages, and that was dinner. I handed the baby (a very willing eater of most foods) half a grape tomato, to see how she liked it. She put it into her mouth, made a face, took it out of her mouth, and handed it back to me. Dear reader, I ate it anyway. It was that good.



Five-Minute Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

1 pound grape/cherry tomatoes

Half a red onion

Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Fresh basil leaves (about a dozen)

4 oz. Goat cheese (a small log)





Process:

Rinse the tomatoes and slice them in two. Dice the red onion, fairly small. Place the onion and tomatoes together in a bowl, and splash on some olive oil and balsamic vinegar (more vinegar than oil). [photo 2] Tear up the basil leaves by hand, or chiffonade (roll up and then chop into ribbons) if you're feeling fancy. Turn the mixture a few times with a spoon, and let sit briefly. Just before serving, crumble some goat cheese (more or less than 4 ounces, depending on how much you love goat cheese) into chunks and sprinkle on top. Toss lightly and serve. 




And: I’m giving away a copy of The Secret Staircase! To enter, comment below with your favorite easy dish to make in hot weather.


About The Secret Staircase:

Kate Hamilton is feeling good about her plans to recreate Asheboro, Maryland as the Victorian village it once was. The town is finally on her side, and the finances are coming together.

Kate's first goal is to renovate the Barton Mansion on the outskirts of town. Luckily, it's been well maintained in the century since the wealthy Henry Barton lived and died there. The only substantial change she's planning is to update the original kitchen so that it can be used to cater events in the building. But when the contractor gets started, he discovers a hidden staircase that had been walled in years earlier. And as Kate's luck would have it, in the stairwell is a body.

After her initial shock wears off, Kate is relieved when the autopsy reveals that the man had died around 1880. Unfortunately, it also reveals that his was not a natural death—he was murdered. And serious questions remain: who was he and what was he doing there?

Kate begins a hunt to identify the man and figure out what he was doing at the Barton Mansion. But when a second body is found—this time from the present day—Kate realizes that real dangers lie in digging up the past...


Link to book at publisher 

Link to book on Amazon 


Find Julie: 

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IG: https://www.instagram.com/mysterydenizen/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mysterydenizen


91 comments:

  1. I love Sheila Connolly’s books and am so sad she is gone. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading this one.

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  2. This sounds delicious, Julie! I would have to omit the onions in mine but would probably add diced cucumber for some crunch.

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    1. I was thinking fresh corn might be good, too. The crunch is nice!

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  3. I love making salads using convenience items. Rottiserie chicken is a God sent item for protein for our family. It is wonderful to add to a salad for a main dish or to make chicken salad sandwiches. So sad to have lost such a wonderful author before her time.

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    1. Rotisserie chicken is indeed a miracle of our time!

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  4. Chicken salad is an easy summer meal. i also love cold pasta salad. I have so enjoyed your mom's Orchard Series. I'm sorry for your loss.
    clarksrfun at gmail dot com

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  5. Chef Salad, Shrimp Salad, or Sub Sandwiches. I have always loved my crockpot, especially for summer meals. I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for providing this summer receipe and a look into your mother's book.

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    1. Ooh, a good sandwich on a crusty roll in the summertime -- it's hard to beat.

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  6. This sounds delicious! My go to is Tuna salad and served on croissants. Tuna, bread and butter pickles, onions, and mayo. Thank you for the chance.

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    1. Yum! Sounds kind of like the ham and cheese sandwiches you get on the street in France -- simple and perfect.

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  7. I enjoy a kale salad with tomatoes, basil, cucumber and avocado. So refreshing and easy. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  8. When it's really hot in the summer,we often aren't really hungry. A good old smoothie is quick easy and refreshing.

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    1. Definitely this. I am also a fan of the cheese and crackers meal, usually while standing at the kitchen counter and staring into space.

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  9. Thank you for finishing your mom's book!!!! Can't wait to read it. My favourite summertime dish is pasta salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions,zucchini and feta cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette. Simple is better especially with all of the produce from the garden.
    sandra shenton 13 at gmail dot com

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    1. That sounds delicious! I hope you will enjoy the book.

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  10. My husband would love that salad, but I'd have to take out the onions or he'd stink for days. My favorite dish when it's hot is whatever salad I can make with the ingredients I have on hand. Kkcochran (at) hotmail (dot) com

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    1. I can relate. "Whatever's in the crisper" salad is often surprisingly good!

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  11. I'm so sad that she's gone and would love to read this book!

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    1. I know she would have looked forward to everyone reading it.

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  12. We do a lot of tuna salad, or something quick on the stove like hamburgers, eggs, etc.- anything that doesn't use the oven and heats up the house.
    kozo8989(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. Sounds lovely! I make a cottage cheese salad in the spring and early summer - green onions, radishes, and a good sprinkle of black pepper and Fox Point seasoning blend. A scoop of it is great along side any sandwich or burger.

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  14. Goat cheese makes anything taste great!

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  15. Welcome, Julie! What a treat to have one last book from your mother. Simple as the salad is -- and perfect for summer evenings -- she'd have admired your inventiveness in the kitchen in recreating something remembered from so long ago!

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    1. We used to have it together at home, many years ago. It felt like a true discovery!

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  16. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Julie...I love the combination...and thanks for finishing your mom's book to share with her fans. But I especially loved the baby and tomato story. Best wishes for wonderful reviews and great sales.

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    1. It is funny to discover what a baby will and won't eat... And what I am willing to eat once she has rejected it! :)

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  17. Mine is a FRESH FRUIT salad, with endless possibilities, a bit of fresh mint & topped with yogurt. But which to choose? Noosa has Strawberry Rhubarb, T J has Passion Fruit/Guava, and several have Pineapple. If you stir in a bit of sour cream, it cuts the sweet, but gives a creamy topping. ENJOY! (Miss Sheila, glad to have you join!)

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  18. I usually just make a salad
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

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  19. So sorry for your loss. I loved your Mother's books. In the summer, I enjoy more fresh fruit as well as chilled pasta salads. Thanks for finishing this book.

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  20. So nice to see you here, Julie, with your delicious salad and your mother's book! I feel as though I'm saying hello to Sheila, again. My goodness the world misses her, but you've done a fabulous job, and I love saying hello to you! I'm a bit further south, in Champaign, IL, where we sweat in the same lovely heat and humidity, but have fields of corn and beans instead of the lake.

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    1. Hello to you too, Molly! If one can't be near a body of water, corn fields are also a pleasing sight. :)

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  21. Speaking of sandwiches, this tomato salad would go swimmingly on a baguette spread with sweet butter to make a delicious sandwich!

    I am so so happy that you've finished your mom's last book. What a treat and a beautiful way to bring her back to all of us!

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  22. It's a treat to have one more piece of your mom to share with the world.
    This sounds quite tasty. Yes, fresh corn would be a lovely addition. Corn and tomatoes are a proper match.
    Living in south Florida we are used to it being hot most of the year. That's what a/c and electric bills are for. So today with it 89 with a real feel of 101 at the moment, I'm making soup with some of Roberta's Rancho Gordo beans and lots of lovely veggies.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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    1. Yum! Beans and veggies, delicious and nutritious.

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  23. I loved Sheila's County Cork mysteries and this Victorian village series, and thank you for one last book. Rotisserie chicken is a favorite added to salads with fresh veggies or for a quick chicken salad. Yum! charlenemwilson89@gmail.com

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    1. A chicken I don't have to cook myself is always pleasing. :)