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Cookbook review: 'The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook' shares recipes, mystery writing tips
Shrimp Scampi by Kathy Reichs in "The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook." - photo by Ginny Romney
"THE MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For," edited by Kate White, Quirk Books, $24.95, 176 pages

In the eclectic The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, readers may find a tasty recipe to try, but as they peruse the offerings of mystery authors such as Mary Higgins Clark, Richard Castle and Gillian Flynn, they might find a book for their to read list, too.

The cookbook is divided into several sections, including breakfast, appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, side dishes and desserts. Authors provide a recipe, usually a favorite or one connected to a story they wrote, with an anecdote explaining why it is included.

Interspersed among the courses are sections from the books editor, Kate White, discussing such things as poisons fictionally employed by mystery writers, the role of food in Edgar Allan Poes and Sherlock Holmes lives, and how medical examiners can use the contents of a persons stomach to pinpoint the time of death.

The recipes include Simple, Speedy Gluten-Free Banana Bread and Past as Prologue (vegetarian) Chili. Other recipes are naturally allergen free or can be modified to accommodate food allergies and sensitivities, and its nice to see specific diversity and acknowledgment.

The skill level for the recipes ranges from beginner to expert Raymond Bensons Zillion Calorie Mac and Cheese calls for little more than a box of macaroni and 12 or more slices from a 16-slice pack of Kraft Deli Deluxe American cheese slices, while Gerald Elias Traditional Umbrian Porchetta calls for an entire pork picnic shoulder and a pig liver, which cooks for 7 to 8 hours.

The variety in skill level, ingredients and cuisines makes the cookbook not very cohesive ultimately, it feels more like a potluck than a banquet. One could come up with a dinner party from this book, but it wouldnt come together naturally. There arent very many photos to go along with the recipes, either.

Regardless, the cookbooks stories and tidbits are interesting enough to read without a meal in mind, and trying the recipes may be intriguing enough to inspire readers to check out a novel or two.


Shrimp Scampi by Kathy Reichs

I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and own a beach home on a barrier island outside Charleston, South Carolina. Like my character Temperance Brennan, I constantly shift between the two locations. Whether in the piedmont or the low country, one thing remains constant: My family and I eat a lot of seafood. Especially shrimp.

Shrimp is plentiful year-round in my neck of the woods. And versatile. I am always scouting new ways to prepare it. At times, I feel like Forrest Gumps pal, Bubba. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saut it, deep-fry, pan-fry or stir-fry it. Theres shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich you get the idea.

Point of information: Though I love eating, I hold no fondness for chopping and slicing and dicing. Quick and easy, thats my kind of cooking.

This recipe for shrimp scampi has been one of my favorites for decades. The only labor-intensive part is peeling the little crustaceans. Even that can be skipped if you prefer.

Yield: 4 servings

2 pounds fresh shrimp (the bigger the better)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic (feel free to ramp it up)

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (anywhere from 18 teaspoon on up)

teaspoon dried crushed oregano (or go with fresh if you have it)

2 tablespoons fine fresh bread crumbs

cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Set the broiler to high.

2. Peel and devein the shrimp, and either leave the tails attached or remove them (I leave them on). Rinse and pat dry.

3. Mix the remaining ingredients and toss with the shrimp to coat evenly.

4. Line a baking dish or cookie sheet with foil and arrange the shrimp on it in one layer.

5. Place the shrimp 3 to 4 inches under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes. It is not necessary to turn them as they cook.

6. Baste the shrimp and serve hot over rice.

Kathy Reich's first novel, "Dj Dead," was an international sensation, and she has written 17 other Temperance Brennan novels. She is a producer of the TV series "Bones" and co-author of the young adult Virals series.

from "The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook," edited by Kate White; reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.