Friday, February 19, 2010

Ann Macela's Kitchen Magic

I have had the pleasure of moderating about 50 panels at various conferences. One of my favorite groups was a romance panel at Love Is Murder in Rosemont, IL, a few years ago. In that group was Tess Gerritsen, Ann Macela, Evelyn David and Margot Justes. Three of those women have become friends, and I have a wonderful email from Tess afterwards that I still save! Ann's books have garnered so many awards and commendations it is clear her writing has magic that extends beyond her paranormal storylines. She is also one of the smartest people about the career of writing that I've seen. Truthfully, her books are among my all-time favorite romances, and I always get a signed copy of her new ones. Her characters have powers, including one that can work magic with computers, something I'd love to have! Ann and her characters have a great sense of humor, as you'll see from her post. Enjoy! -Amy

Hi, all,

First a word about “vintage” recipes.

Two of my favorite series, Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout, and the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brian, are full of food. And they have their own cookbooks!

The Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout and the Editors of the Viking Press came out in 1973. I have actually made several dishes from this book. I’m no Fritz Brenner, but they tasted fine to me! I have no idea if the book is still available. Mine is definitely not for sale.

Lobscouse & Spotted Dog by Anne Chotzinoff and Lisa Grossman Thomas was published in 1997. The authors really did their research and say flat out that some of the recipes are not for the faint-of-heart.. I will confess, I have not tried any of them, but they are a lot of fun to read. With titles like “Boned Larks in a Pie,” “Dog’s Body,” and “Quaking Pudding,” you have to wonder how our ancestors lived to have us!

I have a lot of fun writing about meals in my stories. I think you can learn a lot about people by what they eat—or wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot spoon. So, somewhere in my stories, the hero and heroine sit down for a meal. The most fun I had writing about a meal was in Your Magic Or Mine? where the hero—not an adventurous eater at all—sits down with the heroine and her parents and learns how chicken salad can be wonderful.

In my first book, The Oldest Kind of Magic, the heroine throws together a quick meal for herself and the hero after a hard day at the office. This is my own recipe, but I’m sure there are cookbooks around with various versions. This is one of those where you throw in whatever you have, and it can be elegant or another way to disguise leftovers. This, a little salad, maybe some bread, and a nice glass of wine, and some nice company makes for a good meal.

Two-pot pasta

You will need a pot to cook the pasta and one for everything else. I use a Corning Ware casserole, fairly deep, that I can heat on the stove burner.

Fill up the pasta pot with water and put it on the stove to heat.
I do not use salt in the pasta, but do what you’re used to.

While that is heating, chop any selection of the following and anything else you’d like to add in whatever amount seems reasonable:
Garlic; onions—yellow or green; mushrooms; green peppers, or red, or yellow; zucchini; broccoli; other vegetables to taste; black olives; tomatoes—sun-dried tomatoes are good, but so are fresh or canned. Dried must be rehydrated.
Anything else you can think of.

Cooked meat—leftover chicken, beef, porkchops, Italian sausage—this is a good way to get rid of leftovers. Or you can broil or braise uncooked meat. The reason for cooking it beforehand is to shorten the cooking time. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
Fresh shrimp—peeled.
I take all of the skin off, including the tails. It’s easier to eat that way. Look out, because shrimp should be added at the very last and they cook quickly. Do not overcook the shrimp or they’ll be like rubber. Do NOT used cooked shrimp unless you add them just before you put the dish on the table.
No meat at all.

Pasta sauce—from a jar or homemade.
But it’s good without the sauce too. In fact, we prefer it this way. The individual tastes come out and aren’t overwhelmed by the tomato sauce.

In a good-sized Corning Ware casserole:
I use a larger one, depending on what all I’m putting into it and how many people I’m feeding.

Pour some regular olive oil into the bottom.
Add some spices to your taste like oregano, basil, etc. Spice Islands makes a mix called “Italian” that has a lot of good stuff. I also add a little bit of cayenne pepper for a little zing.

Pasta: Start the water heating while you chop up the ingredients.
I recommend a type that can be measured like penne, ziti, or shells. If you use spaghetti or linguini, that’s fine. But the others are easier to serve. When it’s just my husband and me, I use 2 cups of uncooked penne or shells. That gives us 2 generous servings each, or some for the next meal.

After this, it’s all timing. If you have very quick cooking pasta, then start the veggies first.

When the water is boiling, add pasta. Start your timer for the pasta.

Heat up the Corning Ware. When the oil is hot, add the yellow onions and garlic, green peppers and mushrooms. Stir. When I use green onions, I add them at the very last thing before serving so they’re a little crunchy.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. You may need to cut down the heat, but everything cooks very quickly, and you’ll get used to the timing by practice.

If you’re adding shrimp, they take 5 minutes to cook, so watch your timing.

When the pasta is done, drain it and dump it into the Corning Ware. Stir.

Take to the table with a big serving spoon. Don’t forget the Parmesan cheese. I prefer the shredded variety, not the ground, for more cheesy taste.

Be creative. Just about anything can be added to this dish if you like it.

Happy Reading and Eating!

Ann Macela


Anonymous said...

Sounds so good and since I'm into a healthier food outlook, I'm going to try this next week - especially since I'm trying to go meatless more often, thanks, Ann.
ps...I've often thought that Jayne Ann Krentz should write a cookbook too, a la Rex Stout! chrisf.

Web Master said...

Nero Wolfe Cookbook is available new & used on Amazon and lots of other bookstore sites.

Ann Macela said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Let me know what you think of it.

One of the best things about this is that you can scale it for just yourself or a whole bunch of people.

And, if it's just you, you can eat right out of the Corning Ware! Hardly any dishes!


Janice said...

I had forgotten all about Nero Wolfe!
Your recipe sounds good, I love books with cooking in them especially if they give you the recipes.

Debbie Pfeiffer said...

OMG, Ann, I was going to have to set up some covert ops to come and relieve you of that Nero Wolfe Cookbook, until Amy posted that it's available online. I MUST have it! I'm a huge fan, and have almost all the paperback versions of that series, done in the very same style. Btw your pasta recipe sounds very much like mine! Great minds...
Now off to do a little online cookbook shopping. Too bad--I was going to offer you a swap of the New Ground Beef. :)

Amy said...

Hi all:
It was actually the that posted about where to find the cookbook - but I want one too now, so I'm off to Amazon! :)