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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Twisted Candles Peach Crisp for a Nancy Drew Dinner Party!

I might have stolen it, but I honestly don't think I did. And yet there it is in my possession, has been for many years, The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking by Carolyn Keene, first published in 1973. Inside the front cover, there's a stamp from the Dover Public Library Children's Room in New Hampshire. Hm. I'm pretty sure that there was a yard sale of some kind and I was the first to snatch up the volume, as slim and elegant as the Titian-haired Ms. Drew herself. I'm going to go with that.

Tell us, Nancy--what is the clue in the cookbook?

For me, I just set out to make a meal for some good old friends one evening. I didn't clue them in as to what exactly I would be serving from the cookbook, stolen from Chapter Four (the menu listing of Picnic and Patio Get-Togethers). I suppose I could have done something somewhat more refined like the Souffle Gruen and Lilac Inn Consomme as a starter, but I love anything on a patio and chose items from that instead. There are some hair-raising cliffhangers too, like what would happen if we ate the Leaning Chimney Cones, baloney stuffed with cream cheese and chopped pimentos? The Diary Chicken Salad with mayonnaise, Mandarin oranges, white grapes, pineapple rings and a banana?

Throughout the whole meal, I made some concessions, some modern updates (I never used any margarine for example, only butter). 

During the cocktail hour on the sundeck, I served Miss Hanson's Deviled Eggs (positioned on plum tomato slices to anchor them and topped with a slice of olive) as an appetizer when our guests arrived. I added a little Penzey's Shallot Pepper to the yolk mixture for a satisfying bite. We drank a few adult versions of the Scarlet Slipper Raspberry Punch, laced with vodka. Here, we kept the raspberry gelatin, but omitted the "raspberry drink powder mix" and "frozen lemonade concentrate" and a whole cup of sugar on top of that! Instead we used cranberry raspberry juice, light lemonade, and a little lemon zest.

Crossword Cipher Chicken (a whole chicken cut into eight parts) with crushed Ritz crackers (which subbed for "unsweetened cracker crumbs") was baked for an hour. I used only about half a stick of butter to dip the chicken before breading it with the crackers, onion powder, parsley flakes and grated Parmesan, as opposed to two sticks of butter that the recipe suggested.

Same went for Shadow Ranch Barbequed Beans that I made the night before: the recipe also called for two sticks of butter. Don't you miss the 70's? I didn't add any sugar, except for half the amount of dark brown sugar and lightened it up with a can of vegetarian beans and pork and beans, instead of two cans of the latter. I did throw a piece of bacon in though.

Emerson Cookout Potatoes with bacon, a blend of cubed cheeses and onions baked in the oven while the chicken cooked too and was then served alongside. It was a lot of food but, perhaps not so mysteriously, everything disappeared! If you do happen to have any of the potatoes left over, they'd be great heated up the next day with some scrambledeggs.

We finished the dinner with this recipe for a delicious Twisted Candles Peach Crisp. What a ball--it's no mystery why we love our old friends!

Twisted Candles Peach Crisp


1 stick(4 ounces) butter
2 16-ounce cans sliced peaches
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon


Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Let butter soften outside the refrigerator. Drain peaches and dry them on paper towels.

Mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl. Put the softened butter into this mixture. Combine ingredients with a fork until well mixed into a dough.

Place peaches in the bottom of the baking dish. Spread the dough over them. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 50 minutes.
Makes 6 servings

Detective Dynamite:

“For an extra delicious taste, add a scoop of ice cream to each serving. This recipe can even be used as a birthday cake. Insert a tiny candle in each portion and light before serving.”

Thanks to for posting this recipe and others from The Nancy Drew Cookbook! 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Boeuf en Daube

I was so enamored with Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse I decided to make the Boeuf en Daube featured in it. Fantastic! Funny thing is, the protagonist Mrs. Ramsey is rather concerned her dinner will fall to ruin because the children are late to the table—but the dish is really best when refrigerated overnight, re-heated over a low flame and served at leisure. Similar to Boeuf alla Bourguignon (from Burgundy, 'natch), this preparation of beef is from the Provence/Languedoc region in the South of France.

“Mrs. Ramsay...peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats, and its bay leaves and its wine, and thought, This will celebrate the occasion...” 

Or any occasion you like!

Boeuf en Daube 

Adapted from


2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 cloves garlic, minced and divided
4 slices bacon, chopped into lardons
1 small red onion, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
3 ounces (85 grams) shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 ounces (57 grams) roughly chopped pitted olives of your choice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine + additional wine as needed
1/2 cup beef broth or water
1/4 cup brandy
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves
10 sprigs parsley
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
cooked egg noodles and/or crusty bread and butter for serving (optional)


Place the beef, olive oil, and half the minced garlic in a sealable gallon-size plastic bag. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour (or overnight in the refrigerator). 

While the beef is marinating, you can prep your veg.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. 

Spoon out the bacon and reserve, but leave the fat in the pan.

In batches, add the marinated beef to the pan and cook for about five minutes, turning the meat so all sides are browned but not burning your garlic. 

Transfer the cooked beef and garlic to a bowl.

Add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, olives, capers, and remaining garlic to the Dutch oven. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the tomatoes, wine, broth, and brandy to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer, scraping up all the yummy browned bits. 

Return the beef and bacon to the Dutch oven.

Add the thyme, bay, parsley, and peppercorns to the Dutch oven. If you don’t like them floating around in there, you can make a bouquet garni by wrapping them in cheesecloth (or a coffee filter or empty tea bag), tying it closed with butcher’s twine.

Cook in the oven for 3 hours, until the beef is so tender you can pull it apart into shreds with a fork.

If you find your stew doesn’t have enough liquid once it’s done, add a bit more wine; if you have too much liquid, thicken it with a teaspoon of cornstarch that’s been whisked with a little water to make a slurry.

Do enjoy!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Oysters Rockefeller

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I was in 5th grade when I first read Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder and I remember feeling like I'd woken up in a whole new world. My mother and her friends all read Christie’s exciting books and Sleeping Murder had just come out in paperback. Entering a copy seemed a portal, or at least a glimpse, into adulthood. I was so intrigued—and also a little terrified—by the story of a young woman brought to live in a new home that seems more than a little familiar to her. I have never looked at Playtex rubber gloves the same way again.

In Christie’s books, so often the air is rich with cyanide, pistol smoke, and the perverse, ringing shock of discovering a dead body at a reserved English country house. Among the self-satisfied men in pressed flannel and women dressed in sphinxlike smiles, at least one of them has murder lurking in their desperate hearts when committing le crime passionnel—the crime of passion.

So what else to serve on Valentine’s Day but the impassioned oyster, long considered to be an aphrodisiac? Do these Oysters Rockefeller right and your beloved might be so enamored, they might let you...get away with murder! At least enjoy them as Hercule Poirot perhaps did in Christie’s fiendishly clever Murder on the Orient Express. In Karen Pierce's fabulous book, Recipes for Murder, she reveals Poirot does confess on the famous train that “the food was unusually good...”


Check out Karen Pierce’s Recipesfor Murder—66 Dishes that Celebrate the Mysteries of Agatha Christie for an Oysters Rockefeller recipe...or shucks, consider the one I’ve included below.

Oysters Rockefeller 

Adapted from Gourmet

“The original recipe for oysters Rockefeller, created at the New Orleans restaurant Antoine's in 1899, remains a secret to this day.” 

Makes 8 first-course servings

1 garlic clove

2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach

1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed

1/2 cup chopped green onions

3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 pound (about) rock salt

24 fresh oysters, shucked, shells reserved

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1. Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Finely chop garlic in processor. Add spinach, watercress and green onions to garlic. Process, using on/off turns, until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.

Step 2. Combine butter, breadcrumbs, Pernod, fennel and hot sauce in processor. Process until well blended. Return spinach mixture to processor. Process, using on/off turns, just until mixtures are blended. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)

Step 3. Sprinkle rock salt over large baking sheet to depth of 1/2 inch. Arrange oysters in half shells atop rock salt. Top each oyster with 1 tablespoon spinach mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until spinach mixture browns on top, about 8 minutes.

Do enjoy!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Venetian Pancakes


I’d like to tell you about my secret love affair with British authoress Barbara Pym. I’m not sure how we met, but in the last year I have delighted in the companionship of all of her wonderful books.

The stories (written mostly in the 50’s; a few posthumously published) are deceptively simple, revolving around the goings-on in small English villages—like Agatha Christie, but without the murder—and involve above all, I think, the little earthquakes we all experience in our daily lives and our attempts to connect to others and reveal what is in our hearts. In the meantime, there are one’s concerns about the handsome new vicar, jumble sales and sherry parties, which character will wind up with whom—and how they all come together to eat!

I recently discovered both Barbara’s sister Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt published The Barbara Pym Cookbook, compiling actual recipes that Barbara made and featured in her books. I’ve enjoyed making many of these dishes myself, so look here for further posts about what to serve at your next supper or afternoon tea. In the meantime...use these thin Venetian pancakes (like crepes!) to layer in your favorite lasagna recipe instead of pasta sheets—or butter them up with cinnamon and sugar for a different kind of treat. As Sybil Forsythe remarks in A Glass of Blessings, they needn’t be “thin enough to read a love letter through.”


Adapted from The Barbara Pym Cookbook


2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour, sifted


Beat together eggs and milk, then add to flour and stir just to combine. Spread a thin amount at a time on a lightly greased griddle or in a skillet and cook through. Slide your pancake out on a plate and repeat. Makes six or seven large, thin pancakes.

Do enjoy!