Thursday, September 16, 2021

Spooktacular Reading: The Reds share their faves by Jenn McKinlay

Jenn McKinlay: As autumn creeps in with the start of school, the shortening days, and the crisp snap to the air, let’s talk about one of my favorite things about the changing of the seasonal guard...horror novels! 

For Sale on Amazon

October always brings me back to this genre. With the rapid approach of Halloween, I long for the thrill I felt when I first heard The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving when I was a kid. I mean, schoolmaster Ichabod Crane in the ride of his life from a headless horseman - does it get any better? No, it doesn’t. 

That being said, there are so many great horror novels being published these days that I’ve been on an absolute binge, devouring Stephen Graham Jones, Simone St. James, Riley Sager, and Grady Hendrix.

So, do tell, Reds, who else is a fan of horror novels? If not, why not? If so, what are some of your favorite books? 

LUCY BURDETTE: No, no, no! I have to say I mostly read to relax, and horror is the opposite of that for me. Anything with rotating heads, zombies (unless it’s a Key West bike ride), chainsaws...scares me to death. 

HALLIE EPHRON: I’m not a big horror fan, either. But I did LOVE a book that’s one part Southern Gothic, one part horror, and one part mystery: Joe R. Lansdale’s “Edge of Dark Water.” It’s got a truly memorable bogeyman and a cast of utterly delightful young people. And I’ve set aside an as yet unread copy of Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill because so many people have recommended it.  

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I suppose it depends on what you class as horror. There is a lot of very weird stuff in Ben Aaronovitch's novels, but I love them. I like Jim Butcher's books, too, but I think both of those series straddle horror and urban fantasy. I used to read Dean Koontz, but I have never managed to read a Stephen King novel. My tolerance for anything scary is so much lower these days...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, did you read Riley Sager’s SURVIVE THE NIGHT? It’s amazing--but you have to read the whole thing. Do not make decisions until you read the WHOLE thing. I think it’s genius. Ah, horror, though? No, I’m not big on gruesome. I agree, Lucy, no chainsaws. Or the like.

Carrie, yes, The Stand, of course, are those horror?  What do you all classify as horror? Big suspense in a scary house? Sure. Seething simmering creatures that rip people’s heads off and leave bloody gory gunky stuff around and turn you into devils? Nope. But--ah, well, Rosemary’s Baby, one of the classics of all time. 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I love… I guess what you’d call legacy horror? I read everything Stephen King comes out with, and I adored Peter Straub, Tom Tyron and Richard Matheson. Shirley Jackson - THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is a masterpiece, with one of the best opening paragraphs ever written:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

 I can’t read that without getting a chill up my arms. 

RHYS BOWEN:  I am the world’s biggest horror wimp! I will not read horror, watch horror. I can handle silly horror like giant tomatoes eating New York but anything slightly supernatural really does haunt me for ages afterward. I am someone who is still scared of the dark! I need a chink of light in the room where I sleep. I put it down to growing up in a big spooky house that my brother and I swear was haunted. 

As I get older I become even more of a wimp about what I can handle in a book. Do some of you feel that way?

It's not blood. It's ... tomato juice.

How about you, Readers? Any horror fans in the house?

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Sweepstakes: Why I love them! by Jenn McKinlay

 Jenn McKinlay: My publisher is BIG on doing sweepstakes. They put together a smattering of authors they are about to unleash upon the world and offer up a collection of their titles for a prize. My books have been included with everyone from Charlaine Harris to Kristan Higgins. Pretty great, right?

But what I love most about it is that in this new world order, where there are no conferences, it's one of my few opportunities to meet other authors as we join forces to promote our work through the sweepstakes. And this Detective Starter Pack crew is exceptional so now I get to share them with you!

Detective Starter Pack sweepstakes! The sweepstakes is running September 15—September 25 and one entrant will be selected to win the featured books, as well as a murder mystery game! 

Enter here:

Today just happens to kick off this sweepstakes, so I thought I'd introduce my fellow sweepstakes authors by asking them to tell us what they find most difficult about writing mysteries, so here they are to tell you.

What's the hardest part when writing a mystery?

Jennifer HawkinsFor me, it’s making sure the motivations on the part of the murderer are believably intense, and also something the reader can, maybe not sympathize with, but will have some emotional resonance with.

Olivia BlackeWriting a mystery is like trying to solve a crossword puzzle without any prompts. Once you’re able to fill in all the blanks, you have to make sure that the puzzle you’ve created is challenging enough that people who can solve it feel like they’ve had to work for it, but with enough clues that it’s fair. My goal is that at least some people think they know whodunit early in the book, then make them keep second-guessing themselves until the big reveal, but I want the majority of readers to get to the end and realize that the answer was obvious all along, but they missed it.

Jennifer J. ChowI think it's finding the balance between giving too much info while also making the mystery puzzling for the reader.

Jenn McKinlay: The middle, always the middle, no matter the genre. I hate middles. But, also, with mysteries, I struggle with trotting enough suspects across the page. I have discovered for a mystery, it really is a case of the more the merrier.

So, how about it Reds and Readers, what do you think the hardest part of writing a mystery is?

 One of BookRiot's Best Upcoming Cozy Mysteries for the Second Half  of 2021!
When murder follows Mimi Lee to her romantic island getaway, she     puts on her best sleuthing hat with her sassy cat in tow in this  adventurous cozy mystery by Jennifer J. Chow.

 Mimi Lee just found an extra perk to being a pet groomer at Hollywoof  (other than cuddling animals all day long, that is). Pixie St. James, one of Mimi’s clients and the investor behind Hollywoof, has offered her and her boyfriend, Josh, a getaway at her vacation home, nestled on beautiful Catalina Island. With the island just outside of Los Angeles but still far enough from the hustle and bustle, Mimi, Josh, and their cat Marshmallow (who, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a dingy pet hotel) are excited for their relaxing stay.
That is, until Pixie’s last renter, Davis D. Argo, turns up dead. Mimi and Josh’s romantic getaway immediately turns into an enormous buzzkill, especially when Pixie asks Mimi for help. The police suspect Pixie, and Mimi knows a thing or two about wrongful allegations. Mimi figures it couldn’t hurt to snoop a little since she’s already there, and soon discovers that a valuable item is missing. Except Pixie isn’t the only one in the neighborhood who has been robbed. There is something strange happening on the island, and Mimi won’t stop until she finds out what it is.

A charming tea room owner and her excitable talking corgi will need to work together to bring a killer to heel in this delightful cozy mystery. 

For ex-accountant Emma Reed and her beloved corgi, Oliver, opening Reed’s Classic Tea & Cakes in the idyllic village of Trevena in Cornwall has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  Her cakes are popular, she has a host of wonderful new friends, and even a potential new romance.  There’s even time left over for plenty of long country walks with Oliver, who is not only the cutest corgi on record (at least to Emma), he happens to talk (at least to Emma).  What could be better?   

How about being asked to help cater the local Daphne DuMaurier literary festival?   

But when the festival organizer is found dead and foul play is suspected, Emma, Oliver and their friends are plunged deep into a poisonous mix of village jealousy, family tension, money troubles, and secret love affairs.  Emma quickly realizes it’s up to her and her intrepid corgi to discover a canny killer whose bite is worse than their bark.

Amateur sleuth Odessa Dean is about to discover the only thing harder than finding her way out of an escape room is finding an affordable apartment in Brooklyn in this sequel to Killer Content.

Odessa Dean has made a home of Brooklyn. She has a fun job waiting tables at Untapped Books & Café and a new friend, Izzy, to explore the city with. When she's invited on a girls' day out escape room adventure, she jumps at the chance. It's all fun and games until the lights come on and they discover one of the girls bludgeoned to death...

The only possible suspects are Odessa and the four other players that were locked in the escape room with the victim. She refuses to believe that one of them is responsible for the murder, despite what the clues indicate. In between shifts at the café, Odessa splits her time interviewing the murder suspects, updating the bookstore's social media accounts, and searching for the impossible--an affordable apartment in Brooklyn.

But crime--and criminally high rent--waits for no woman. Can Odessa clear her and Izzy’s names before the police decide they're guilty?

Spring has sprung in Briar Creek, but it is not all sunshine and roses, in the newest Library Lover's Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of One for the Books.

Spring is livening up Briar Creek after a long, cold winter, and newlyweds Lindsey and Sully could not be happier. Even though the upcoming mayoral election is getting heated, everything else in town is coming up daffodils...until a body is found.

Ms. Cole, a librarian and current candidate for town mayor, is shocked when she opens her trunk to discover a murder victim who just so happens to be a guy she dated forty years ago and the founder of the baking empire Nana's Cookies. As the town gossip mill turns, a batch of rumors begins to circulate about Ms. Cole's rebellious youth, which--along with being a murder suspect--threatens to ruin her life and her budding political career. But Ms. Cole is one tough cookie who will not go down without a fight.

Has the campaign for mayor turned deadly? It is up to Lindsey, Sully, and the rest of the crafternoon pals to see how the cookie crumbles and figure out who is trying to frame Ms. Cole for murder and why.

Now go enter the sweepstakes! GOOD LUCK!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

When a Celebrity Comes to Town by Ellen Byron

Jenn McKinlay: It's a fabulous day for us when our dear friend Ellen Byron comes to to visit the Reds! Let's all bask in her latest Cajun Country Mystery and read about her recent adventures with Hurricane Ida, shall we? 

Ellen Byron: New Orleanians will tell you that their city was truly the first foodie city. They’re not wrong. While cities like New York have a storied history of fine restaurants, The Big Easy has been home to legendary locations like Antoine’s since the mid-1800s. And New Orleans has had star chefs before star chefs were a thing. Leah Chase, Paul Prudhomme, and of course, Mister “Bam!” himself, Emeril Lagasse.

 Emeril is from Massachusetts, not Louisiana. But he does have some bona fides in that his father was French-Canadian, as were the original Acadians expelled from Canada in the mid-eighteenth century. (Say the word “Acadian” fast and you get “Cajun.”) Lagasse’s culinary path took him to New Orleans, where he followed in the footsteps of legendary Cajun chef Paul, replacing him as Executive Chef at the iconic New Orleans eatery Commander’s Place. Emeril ran the Commanders Kitchen for over seven years, until he left to launch Emeril’s, his flagship restaurant.

I had my first Lagasse meal at Emeril’s in the mid-1990’s. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed visits to other outposts like Nola in the French Quarter and Delmonico’s on St. Charles Avenue. I used the Lagasse empire, which includes locations in states from Nevada to Florida, as inspiration for the empire created by Phillipe Chanson, the star chef in my latest Cajun Country Mystery, Cajun Kiss of Death




Phillipe isn’t Emeril, of course. While Phillipe has the famous chef’s business smarts, he leans more toward the late Anthony Bourdain in his charisma and personality, although he’s much sketchier than either Bourdain or Lagasse. And to justify why a celebrity chef would open a restaurant in a tiny village like the Pelican of my series, I had to look beyond the big cities to small towns turned foodie destinations because a famed chef made the specific choice to plant his or her culinary flag there. (El Bulli, famed restaurant once lodged in the picturesque Spanish town of Roses, is the classic example.)El Bulli - Wikipedia

 On a recent trip to NOLA, I walked by Emeril’s. Due to the pandemic, the restaurant was shuttered, its windows covered with sheets of metal. 

 Hurricane Ida has pushed back the September 2nd reopening and a new date hasn’t been announced as of my writing this post. (Nola and Delmonico’s are also closed with no start date listed but Meril’s, his latest venture, is open.) I know there will be visits to Emeril’s New Orleans eateries in my future. And If I ever have the chance to meet him in person, I’ll share how he helped inspire the plot to Cajun Kiss of Death. But luckily for him, he’s had way better luck than Phillipe Chanson, the chef in my mystery.


Readers, what’s a famous restaurant in your town?



Cajun Kiss of Death Synopsis


The next shot from Cupid’s bow may be fatal in USA Today bestselling, Agatha Award-winning author Ellen Byron’s hearty and delightful seventh Cajun Country mystery.


In Pelican, Louisiana, Valentine's Day has a way of warming the heart, despite the February chill. But the air at Crozat Plantation B&B turns decidedly frigid when celebrity chef Phillippe Chanson checks in. And when the arrogant Phillippe--in town to open his newest Cajun-themed restaurant--perishes in a fiery boat crash, Maggie Crozat's dear friend JJ lands in very cold water.

Did JJ, proprietor of Junie's Oyster Bar and Dance Hall, murder Phillippe because he feared the competition? Might Maggie's mother, Ninette, have bumped off the chef for stealing one of her cherished recipes? Or was the culprit a local seafood vendor, miffed because Phillippe was somehow able to sell oysters for a remarkably reasonable price, despite an oyster shortage?

Maggie had planned to devote her February to art lessons in New Orleans, a present from her sweetheart, Bo. But now she has to focus on helping her friend and her mother cross a murder charge off the menu. Meanwhile, Maggie receives a series of anonymous gifts that begin as charming but grow increasingly disturbing. Does Maggie have an admirer--or a stalker? And are these mysterious gifts somehow related to Phillippe's murder?

Blood may be thicker than water, but this case is thicker than gumbo. And solving it will determine whether Maggie gets hearts and roses--or hearse and lilies--this Valentine's Day.


Purchase link: Cajun Kiss of Death by Ellen Byron: 9781643857381 | Books



Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. She writes the Catering Hall Mystery series, which is inspired by her real life, under the name Maria DiRico. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. She’s written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. Ellen is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America. 











Monday, September 13, 2021


Jenn McKinlay: It goes without saying that the Reds are each other's biggest fans! So I am just over the moon, ecstatic, and positively thrilled to announce our Hank's latest book HER PERFECT LIFE will be released into the wild TOMORROW!!!

This book has already started to buzz hard with starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly and was declared “A spectacular thriller” in a rave review from Library Journal! It's Hank's second pandemic launch and the publisher says it's her “Most personal book yet.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐



It’s about sisters, betrayal, guilt, fame, and revenge. Everyone knows television reporter Lily Atwood, and that may be her biggest problem. She has fame, fortune, and beloved daughter; and her devoted fans have even given her a hashtag: #PerfectLily.  But Lily also has one life-changing dark secret—and if anyone finds out, she fears her career and happiness are over.  Problem is: how do you keep a secret when you’re always in the spotlight? And when an anonymous source begins to tell Lily secrets about Lily’s  own life --she learns the spotlight may be the most dangerous place of all. 

There is a BIG launch party tonight so don't miss out! 

Register here: 

If you can’t come, boo, but Hank can still sign and personalize a book for you! Just click on the link. 

We all have questions for Hank--and we know you will, too! YAY, Hank--and we know this will be fabulous. Scroll down for the questions--and Hank's insightful answers.

JENN McKINLAY: Congratulations, Hank! This is so thrilling (intended)! We Reds have been fortunate enough to be a tiny bit in the loop during your writing process, and I have to ask is your protagonist television reporter Lily Atwood based on someone(s) that you’ve met during your own illustrious career as a reporter or was she inspired by something else? What was the spark that inspired her story? 

HANK: Oh, thank you! I am overwhelmed and nervous, just saying.  But I know exactly where this story came from.


When I worked in Atlanta, in the 80s, I was anchoring the weekend news. I came home after the eleven PM news one night, around midnight or even later, and my house was surrounded by police cars. Someone had broken into my house. The police caught him, and he confessed to them that he had chosen my house to break into--because he knew I was live on television, and not home!  Isn’t that chilling?

Because he knew where I was, he knew where I wasn’t. That understanding of the deep vulnerability of being a television reporter haunted me. And that was the beginning of the story.

And led to the irony in the title.

HALLIE EPHRON: Your titles always have multiple meanings and shades of meaning that reveal themselves to the reader. A case in point: “perfect” paired with “life”? Did the title come to you as you were writing, or did you start with the title and spin a story from there.

HANK: Oh, great question, dear Hallie!  In this book, the title did not emerge until about the middle of writing it. It was initially titled “The Next Caller” because one of the key elements is that an investigative reporter, who gets a lot of news tips from sources, gets a call from an anonymous person who appears to know some secrets about the reporter herself! 

 I thought it would be fascinating to turn the tables--to have someone whose life revolves, in a way, around telling secrets--begin to understand how it feels like to be in the spotlight. 

She has such a perfect public image that her fans have hashtagged her #PerfectLily. But soon she knows her seemingly-perfect life is about to be ruined. And that the spotlight may be the most dangerous place of all.

And once I thought the phrase “Her perfect life..” 

I thought--OH! Of COURSE.

LUCY BURDETTE: Yes big congratulations on everything Hank! Jenn stole my question about your spark, but here’s another one. You’ve talked about not plotting ahead while you’re writing. How much do you know when you start out? Do you use any turning points or character sketches or any kind of structure?

HANK: NO IDEA. Nothing. I know there would be a celebrated reporter who had a dark scary secret. What was it? NO idea! 

 I did have an image of a college freshman, a girl, who comes home for the holidays, and seems sad, and her mom finds her notebook, which has a calendar with the days crossed off.  And I thought--is she counting the days until something? Or after something? 

And that’s all I had.  (And that’s on page one, so no spoilers. ;-0) 

Lily’s seven-year-old daughter Rowen was a huge surprise to me. And she was a joy to write--mischievous, funny, confident, articulate, polite--and she pushes Lily a bit. And Lily pushes right back. And they are wonderful together. Until..what if that spotlight shines on little Rowen?  

(And oh, thank you, Lucy!)

RHYS BOWEN:  Many congrats on the new book, Hank. My question: do you become emotionally involved with your heroine? Identify with her? Or can you remain detached as you do in your job?

HANK: Thank you! Hmm. I BECOME her, as I write.  It’s almost like method acting. I know when I’m  writing Lily, I have good posture, and my brain presents Lily words, and I know what she wants, and her secrets, and I make her decisions. When I write Greer Whitfield, the ambitious/brilliant/complicated producer, my eyes narrow a bit, and Greer phrases come out. . And for college girl Cassie, well, I can’t talk about that. (HER PERFECT LIFE takes place in the past and the present.)  

But I DO identify with Lily’s concern for her personal life in a public arena. People who watch her on television think they KNOW her--she’s in their living rooms every night!--and they think they’re her friend. How dangerous is that? And Lily is an investigative reporter, like I am. She does a lot of good--but someone’s scheme is thwarted in every story she does--so she’s made a lot of enemies. And, like my burglar, they know where she lives.  

DEBORAH CROMBIE: It is such a fabulous cover, Hank! Everytime I see it I have to just gaze at it for a moment. Were you pleased with it? Is that how you imagined Lily? Did the cover design go through many iterations? 

HANK: Oh, totally totally totally. Thank you, dear Debs!  I GASPED when I saw this. And yes, we went through many iterations. I kept saying: elegant, classic, Mona Lisa, Grace Kelly, luminous,  mysterious, sophisticated. And then wow. Designer Katie Klimowicz at Forge hit a grand slam home run. Even the paper stock is incredible. (And here’s a secret--in the original version, her eyes are blue. I asked for green. And poof! Green.)


 JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: After these great questions, I'm afraid anything I might ask about HER PERFECT LIFE will slide into spoiler territory! So I'm going to ask about launching a BIG book in Fall '21 - you're doing a mix of Facebook Live, streaming, podcasting - and of course, you're still blogging here and at Career Authors and highlighting other authors with First Chapter Fun and The Back Room. Just typing that makes me want to lie down with a cold compress. How do you manage such a packed schedule and how - since I've seen this many times - do you keep delivering 100% at every event?

HANK: (Please don't make a list like that! It is a lot, but it's a lot of fabulous. xoxoo) Truly, I adore it, and it's part of the crazy-wonderful life as an author. And these days, all the more necessary to stay connected. And aw, thank you for the wonderful links!

And we all have packed schedules, right? But remember was it--Willie Mays? Someone like that? Who was asked: "Why do you always play the best you can in every game?" And he said: "Because there might be a little boy in the stands who's never seen me before."


And speaking of schedules:

All right, Readers, it's your turn to put Hank in the hot seat! What do you want to know about HER PERFECT LIFE? 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sunday Recipe: Summer Cherry Tomato and Zucchini Tart

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Readers, you're in for another delicious treat as our friend Celia Wakefield presents the best possible way to eat all those zucchini and tomatoes overflowing your garden and filling up the farmers' market. I got to have this at a luncheon following a home Eucharist led by the Reverend Canon Eleanor Prior, who only looked a little bit taken aback when we started peppering her condensed sermon with comments and questions. 

With or without an accompanying religious celebration, this savory tart will put the essence of September on your palate. 



Good morning my dear Reds and readers. I love it when Julia’s turn comes around and she asks me for a recipe to share. I wanted to check up on how long I have been writing for JRW on Julia’s page, but went down the site search engine rabbit hole and realized this was a task to put down. How am I? Happy to say much, much better over this time last year. My beloved, who will attain his 95 birthday this month, is so much improved in his health, though at his age there is concern on long term issues. Still enough of that, all is well right now. 


What have I been cooking, same old, same old, same boring! I needed a brain jolt, which I got a couple of weeks ago when Sam Shifton, NYT cooking head honcho, chef, and bottle washer wrote about no recipe recipes. I only read the Cooking section emails as I have refused on principle to pay for a second subscription. Plus one can get plenty of ideas from reading the articles, not to mention that Sam (or his crew when not washing up after him), usually adds in a non cooking article which just cries out to be read, and I have not been disappointed there yet.This gave me a new lease on my cooking life which added to having some real  activities to look forward to, in addition to enlarging our social circle of two, would involve bringing food.


The first outing was to an annual barbecue for the St. Luke’s volunteers who work at the Preble Street Soup Kitchen in Portland. St. Luke’s is the Episcopal cathedral in Maine which both the Hugo-Vidal and Wakefield families attend, when not sheltering from the plague. There is no more soup kitchen work per see, that’s now in our past life, but they do still need volunteers so St. Lukes is still involved. However our hosts brines, marinades and smokes briskets, pork and chicken each year and invites us to feast at their lakeside camp. We bring the rest. Today’s recipe was my offering and more on that later.



I’m not sure if there is a corner of the world that hasn’t experienced some topsy turvy weather this year. We certainly have up in our NE corner. August usually arrives with beautiful sunny days, hot enough to be outside in comfort after the swelter of July. Not this year. We have had swelter day after day. We retreated indoors to our Heat Pump providing dry, cool air, which does defeat the outdoor point of summer. But it was time to think up non heat generating food and as there is plenty of zucchini and tomatoes on the farm stands that gave me the idea of todays recipe for a Zucchini, Cherry tomato tart. I made it as finger food for the barbecue and cut it into bite sized pieces. It was most successful.


Let’s make it again. My cousins were visiting Maine from Vermont. We invited them to lunch and I wanted something easy so that I spent the time with them, not with the kitchen. I wasn’t sure what the weather would produce, but the tart plus antipasti from our Portland Italian store, Mucicci’s gave me necessary freedom with all food prepped for service in advance. Our trip through the summer social circle concluded with more friends for whom I made a seafood salad of mussels, shrimp, tiny potatoes and shucked corn.The salad was a great success, but a request for the dressing from one of the guests left me searching for the original recipe which I adopted for our meal. As I cook without recipes, creating some accuracy on amounts was needed, and here is part of my reply to the request.


Dressing, Well my recipe measurements are always a bit vague, however here is the recipe from which I worked!

I used at least a 1/4 C of olive oil, about a Tbsp lemon (half a large lemon), 1 tsp Dijon mustard approx, 1Tblsp frozen basil which had been prepped for pesto, 3-4 cloves baked garlic, (I bake several garlic heads in foil with olive oil at a time and store in the fridge), good squeeze of TJ'c Balsamic glaze instead of the sugar. (You can get Balsamic glaze in WhF too). I hope this helps.

I used tiny potatoes which I boiled, an ear of shucked fresh corn, about 2 C tiny frozen shrimp, which I cooked in vermouth and water with parsley and 5 Spice powder, and of course the mussels.


My guests came with six pounds of mussels which we cooked with vermouth plus seasonings, let them cool and mixed them with more dressing into the potatoes, corn and shrimp. There’s no photo as it really was a one color dish with some freshly chopped parsley on top. The vermouth is an old Julia Child trick. In Mastering the Art .  .  She wrote that is no white wine was opened or available use vermouth instead. And it works.





But back to my original tart recipe, having written the back story already. I know that tart conjures up baking, but for once I bought my tart pastry ready made. I won’t bore you to death with how I am not THAT baker, but I can make pastry however it was the 90+degree week and way too hot to make pastry so I bought frozen pastry shells and defrosted one. A rectangle is easier to work with for finger food and the pastry allowed me to remold and roll out to a rectangle. Once rolled it went into a foil lined pan. Then I pricked the rectangle all over, covered it with parchment paper, (foil works too), and sprinkled it with metal pastry weights. Into the oven for ten minutes, remove paper and weights, being careful not to burn oneself. Sigh! Return to the oven for five minutes plus just to finish. Buy or make some bread crumbs. I choose to make mine but Panko will work well.


This can all be done in advance. Next step is the assembly and the baking. I chose small zucchini and cherry tomatoes of different colors for contrast. I found a tip for grating Mozzarella on Google. Put the ball in the freezer for about twenty minutes plus and it grates just fine. Because this is a no recipe tart, be ready to eyeball your tart as you assemble as the quantities are approximate


Summer Zucchini & Cherry Tomato Tart




Packet of short crust pastry (the sort already in ready-made pie pans works well)

1 baking sheet at least 9”x13” for the pie tin pastry. 

Line your pan with foil for easy removal, and spray lightly with oil spray. A pan or baking tin with a small lip works well, but this can be made free form too. As we are using zucchini cut into lengths, a square or rectangle works best.


2 small zucchinis, cut into thin slices lengthwise

Green box of cherry tomatoes, mixed colors if possible

1 Cup grated Mozzarella ball

Cup of fresh toasted breadcrumbs or Panko crumbs

3/4 - 1 Cup Parmesan / Pecorino Romano grated cheese



You have 2 choices for pastry:


1)    Make a shortcrust pastry using1 3/4 cups Flour, 1 stick + 1Tblsp unsalted butter, 1 egg yolk,

    1/2 tsp salt, 2-4 Tblsp water to mix into dough*. I make pastry in the food processor.

2)    Buy frozen shortcrust pastry, defrost 1 pie pan if already rolled

    Fold pastry in four, and reroll into a rectangle or square to fit the pan.

3)    Chill the pastry until ready to blind bake it.

4)    Heat oven to 350 degreesF, cover pastry with parchment or wax paper and add pie weights

5)    Bake for 10 minutes, 

6)    Remove paper and weights, and bake another 5-10 until pastry is firm but not colored.

7)    Cool pastry until ready to assemble


    Cover pastry with a thin layer of breadcrumbs. These keep the pastry from getting soggy as it bakes.

    Set the zucchini slices on the breadcrumbs in a single layer

    Cover zucchini with a layer of grated mozzarella 

    Cut cherry tomatoes in half across and add to the tart,

    Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheeses


Bake in a 350 degreeF oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating once.


Serve warm or at room temperature. The leftovers are great, but heat in the oven. Nuking doesn’t improve pastry.

My pastry recipe is the one I have been making since I received these Robert Carrier Cookery Cards for my Twenty first birthday, and that’s a long time ago!