THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES
But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface . . .
Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow.
Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions, if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own.
Stephanie’s Summer Slaw
“We’re first-timers,” Sandra told the server when we were seated and had ordered iced tea. “What do you do better than any other kitchen?”
“Oh, easy,” he replied. He wore black, like all the front-of-house staff, including a knee-length black apron, and a man bun. I’d thought—hoped—man buns had gone out of style. “Crab cakes. The chef makes his own spice blend. There’s nothing else like it.”
We’d see about that.
“They’re served with our house slaw—red cabbage with green beans, white beans, and cherry tomatoes—and toasted Seattle sourdough. A little retro and a lot of fun.”
“Sold,” I said. “In fact, that spice blend sounds intriguing. Is it in any other dishes?”
The server pointed to two other items and we ordered one of each to share. Fingers crossed that we weren’t being too obvious.
— from The Solace of Bay Leaves, Spice Shop Mystery #5 (October 2020)
Summer just screams for salads. On hot days, a little cooking—say, boiling water and cooking up some green beans—is manageable, but any more stove time than that? “Fohgeddaboudit!,” to quote Vinny Delgado, owner of the Wine Merchant in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and a good pal of Pepper Reece, the star of my Spice Shop mysteries. (Those names so perfectly suited to their jobs? They’re called “aptonyms,” and they always make me smile.) And a big bowl of salad in the fridge always makes me smile and appreciate the abundance of the world around us.
One question readers often ask authors of foodie mysteries is where our recipes come from. This one, I’m delighted to say, came from a reader, Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen, a professional cook and cookbook author. We’re Facebook friends and last year, she posted photos of a lunch she’d catered at a workplace in Northern California, where she lives. The picture of this slaw jumped out at me and I asked what was in it; she told me the ingredients, though I had to figure out the amounts myself when I set out to make it.
When Pepper and Sandra go on a spice spy mission in The Solace of Bay Leaves, determined to suss out whether a new chef has stolen the recipe for a spice blend they created for their customer Edgar, chef of Speziato, I needed a dish they could try and find not quite right. (Speziato means spicy in Italian.) For the fictional version, I switched out an ingredient. I’m sharing the tastier version, with the ingredient Stephanie recommended—which is just what Pepper and Sandra suggest! The recipe isn’t in the book, but when you read it, I think you’ll quickly be able to figure out the difference!
Red cabbage is always a challenge for me because it seems like I always end up with So Much Cabbage. Choose a small head, and plan on having extra for another dish or to toss into green salads.
Do hunt down Citrus Champagne Vinegar. I’ve used both the Trader Joe’s version and the O brand, made in Stephanie’s own valley. I might prefer Trader Joe’s slightly, but both give an excellent zip! And what’s a summer salad without a little zip?
½ pound green beans, trimmed
3 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
1-15 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1-1/2 tablespoon citrus champagne vinegar, or more to taste
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, lemon-infused olive oil, or half of each
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in the green beans. Cook 2-3 minutes, then drain and rinse immediately with cold water. Cut in 2-3 inch lengths.
Toss the green beans, cabbage, white beans, and tomatoes in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and seasonings; adjust to your taste. Pour over cabbage mixture and mix well, to coat the vegetables with the vinaigrette.
Keeps well in the refrigerator 2-3 days.