Jenni L. Walsh Loves Ancient Rome & Crockpots

This week, in honor of Crystal’s soon-to-be-published novel FEAST OF SORROW, which gave me such a vivid and enticing glimpse into Ancient Rome, we are attempting to recreate meals inspired by the Apicius Cookbook (aka the man who created the first ever book of recipes). So far this week, Amy and Lynn have done a stellar job. And me……
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Penguin Pie

It is food and cooking week here at the Ball, and I’ve enlisted Random Penguin to help me share the pie crust recipe handed down to me by my very busy mother. I should make it clear that I am not an Iron Chef type cook. My kitchen utensils are pretty much limited to a wooden spoon and a can opener. I also don’t have time these days to putter about in the kitchen. However, I do have a fondness for pie and I don’t like store bought crust.

Perhaps I am not alone, and there are others of you in my predicament. If so, have no fear! This crust is so easy, even a penguin can make it.

RP pie crust


1 cup + 2 Tbsp unsifted flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 Tbsp cold water (the colder the better)

Stir the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.

Beat oil and water together with a fork until emulsified.

Stir water & oil mixture into flour and form it into a ball.

Then simply roll out between two sheets of wax paper, place in your pie pan and trim the edges. Fill and bake as you would any pie crust.

That’s it!! Quick and easy and surprisingly good. Double for two crusts. Put anything you want inside the pie.

Random Penguin is fond of apple cranberry.

RP apple pieHe’s also smart enough to realize that pie goes better with coffee in a favorite mug. Note that the whipped cream went in the coffee instead of on the pie, because as much as Random Penguin and I like pie, there is nothing in the world like a perfect cup of coffee.

RP pie with coffeeWhat’s your favorite quick and easy recipe?


Deb Dana’s “Very Slightly Messy Manual”

As you may recall from one of my earlier posts, I have a semi-problematic cookbook addiction. Rather than accept responsibility for my problem, I am going to shift the blame onto someone else: my brother.

Several birthdays ago (as in, ahem, approximately 23 birthdays ago), my brother bought me my very first cookbook, KidsCooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual, published by Klutz Press.

The book came with a set of four measuring spoons — tablespoon, teaspoon, half teaspoon, and quarter teaspoon — each one a different color to correspond with a different measurement, and the instructions featured goofy cartoon animals and spoke directly to the kids who would be cooking from it.


Needless to say, I loved this gift. Who couldn’t love a gift with recipes like this?


And characters like this?


It was, shall we say, my gateway cookbook. With it began my unhealthy habit of buying way too many cookbooks enthusiastic support of the cookbook industry.

Some of the recipes were aimed at children’s palates specifically (see: “Non-Yukky Vegetables” and “Home-Baked Fish Sticks”), but others could appeal to kids of all ages. To this day, Deb Dana’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies stem from this cookbook, with only minor variations. (Seriously. Those cookies are delicious.) And what adult doesn’t enjoy a good old “Egg in a Frame?”


I have lived in four different cities since my brother bought me this cookbook and have accumulated numerous other tomes, from famed chefs and bakers alike. At this point, I have essentially memorized any recipes I still make from KidsCooking. And yet that folksy little cookbook, with its spiral binding and card stock pages, is probably the most meaningful cookbook on my entire bookshelf, and I can’t ever see myself letting it go.

What about you? What was your first cookbook? Do you still have it?


News Flash, August 30

Deb Kristina is thrilled to announce her second novel, THE LIFE YOU’VE IMAGINED, will be released in August 2010. It’s about three friends and a mother who learn to cope with life as it is (not as they planned) in Haven, Michigan.

Deb Meredith will be at the Decatur Book Festival Labor Day weekend. If you’re in Atlanta, you can catch her on a mystery panel Sunday September 6 at noon at Eddie’s Attic.

Don’t forget to welcome the 2010 Class of Debutantes starting tomorrow! Come by to say hello to Joelle Anthony, (RESTORING HARMONY), Alicia Bessette (ALL COME HOME), Maria Garcia-Kalb (101 WAYS TO TORTURE YOUR HUSBAND), Sarah Pekkanen (THE OPPOSITE OF ME) and Emily Winslow (THE WHOLE WORLD).

Table Manners MalleryFounder Deb Mia’s third novel, TABLE MANNERS, is out August 4! She has an amazing contest going on (anyone can enter!). TABLE MANNERS is the sequel to her debut novel and national bestseller, GOOD THINGS, and is a wonderful read even if you haven’t had a chance to read Mia’s other books yet. It’s a selection of the Doubleday, Literary Guild, Rhapsody, and Book of the Month Club book clubs and received a wonderful cover blurb from New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery. And yes, there are recipes in this book too, this time from notable chefs, bakers and chocolatiers from Washington and (gasp!) Paris. Check out her website at www.miaking.com or go to amazon.com now!


News Flash for Sunday August 3, 2008

Deb News:

After The Debs (minus Gail) finish storming San Francisco they’re off to storm NYC (at least three of them, Deb Jenny, Deb Danielle and Deb Gail) for the Backspace Conference August 7th.

Deb Eileen is beyond THRILLED to have her first blurb for her upcoming YA What Would Emma Do? from one of her favorite authors. “Not since Judy Blume’s Margaret introduced herself to God has there been such a funny, genuine, conflicted, Wanna-Be-Sorta-Good-Maybe-Later girl as Emma in Eileen Cook’s new novel, ‘What Would Emma Do?’ Cook’s tone as she takes on the big ones — life, love, faith and friendship — is pitch perfect.”- Jacquelyn Mitchard, author ‘The Midnight Twins’ and ‘The Deep End of the Ocean’

Deb Jess is extremely pleased to share a review of Driving Sideways from Nancy McKenzie for the Internet Review of Books: “Riley deftly weaves a story about … potentially depressing topics within the framework of a funny book without being insensitive—no easy task.”

Deb Jess, Deb Danielle and Deb Lisa danced the night away at the Harlequin Ball. (With none other than Ward Gardiner (Bushee.) Seriously.

Pictures to come.

Founder News:

CALLING ALL FOODIES OR FOODIE WANNABES! If you love to cook or try new recipes, check out Deb Mia‘s “Food That Makes You Go Mmmm … The TABLE MANNERS Recipe Challenge” and you could receive a $10 amazon.com gift card and a signed copy of the novel when it is released in August 2009. For more details, visit Mia’s blog on amazon.com by clicking here. It’s “first come, first served,” so be sure to hurry on over if you’re interested!

Friends of the Debs:

The Debs are thrilled to announce that this Monday, August 4th, Seize a Daisy will present “Amy MacKinnon and Tethered.”

Congratulations to Deb pals and Rita nominees Jane Porter (Odd Mom Out) and Hank Phillippi Ryan (Prime Time) — we’ll be cheering for you!


Mangia by Deb Jenny

There cannot be a more perfect summer food than an heirloom tomato. I anticipate the arrival of real tomatoes from late October until mid- to late- July, when I finally am able to stockpile the real deal and am left to contemplate ever more uses of the tomato while supplies last. And when they’re gone, I crave them like a junky, and resist the urge to purchase those falsely perfect specimens of tomatoes at the grocery store—the flavorless, mealy, sad-sack imitations that they are.

Due to plenty of rain and unusually cool temperatures at times this summer, last Saturday was the first day at which my favorite tomato pusher (and yes, it does reach the level of addiction that justifies this moniker, what with the cost of an oversized Brandywine sometimes reaching $5 a tomato) had his stockpile at the ready.

I get greedy with tomatoes. And crave fresh bruschetta (and folks, that is pronounced with a hard “k” sound, like brus-K-etta, not with a “sh” sound). And fresh tomato sauce, which I make in bulk and freeze for the winter.

My latest addiction is smoked tomatoes, and I’ve had my smoker at the ready. Drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with fresh rosemary, smoke for 3 or 4 hours, and eat it straight from the smoker, hot and flavorful. Or put on top of fresh bread. Makes a lovely topping to a sandwich.

Here are two recipes that rely upon summer’s best tomatoes, combined with my favorite type of cooking, Italian. Combine with a glass of Sangiovese (I’m partial to reds) and maybe a salad made with all local greens and vegetables, and you have a perfect summer meal. Buon appetito!

Basic Bruschetta
(from the New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins)

•12-14 fresh ripe plum tomatoes (about 1-3/4 pounds) *I use heirloom tomatoes
•2 tbl. minced garlic (I roast mine first: take about 4 cloves of garlic, drizzle with oil in small bowl, cover with foil and bake at 400° for about 25 minutes)
•2 tbl. minced shallots
•1 c. fresh basil leaves
•1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
•salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
•1/3 c. plus 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
•3 cloves garlic, slivered
•8 thick slices round peasant bread

1. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and place in a bowl. Toss with the minced garlic and shallots.
2. Chop the basil coarsely and add to the tomatoes, along with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and 1/3 c. olive oil. Set aside.
3. Heat the 1/4 c. olive oil in a small skillet. Saute the slivered garlic until golden, 2-3 minutes. Discard the garlic and reserve the oil.
4. Toast the bread and cut each slice in half. Arrange the slices on eight small plates. Brush the garlic-flavored oil over each slice, spoon the tomato mixture over the bread, and serve immediately. The mixture should be at room temperature.
makes 8 portions

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella (Penne alla Caprese in Crudo) (from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich)

from the author: I like to eat the pasta hot with room-temperature sauce, but you could just as well serve it all cold. In that case, toss the tomatoes and pasta while still hot, then set them aside until you’re ready to serve them. Finish the pasta by tossing in the basil and bocconcini and serve. I can go ondetailing recipes with minimal changes in the ingredient list or techniques but what I want to leave with you is not only recipes but the understanding, and hence the liberty and confidence, to deviate from the recipe path and come up with a version of the plate that reflects your personal taste and local produce. When you reach this point, cooking is truly a joy.
•1 pound ripe and juicy cherry tomatoes, rinsed, dried and cut in half (I often use heirloom tomatoes if cherry tomatoes aren’t available. Also, even though it changes the color of the dish, the orange cherry tomatoes fresh from the farmer’s market are fabulous in this)
•1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the finished pasta if you like (the higher quality the better)
•1 tsp. sea salt, preferably coarse (and do NOT use more than this or it will be too salty. Be sure to stir the sea salt well in the mixture so it dissolves thoroughly)
•pinch crushed hot red pepper
•4 cloves garlic, peeled
•1 pound penne (I like to use Farfelle, the bow-tie pasta)
•10 fresh basil leaves, shredded (for variation you could try mint, or even fresh sorrel would be lovely)
1/2 pound bocconicini (bite-sized fresh mozzarella), cut in half
Toss the tomatoes, oil, sea salt and crushed red pepper together in a large bowl. Whack the garlic with the side of a knife and toss it into the bowl. Let marinate at room temperature, tossing once or twice, for 30 minutes.
While the tomatoes are marinating, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-qt. pot over high heat.
Stir the penne into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 10-12 minutes.
Remove the garlic from the marinated tomatoes and toss in the basil. Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl, and toss well to mix. Check the seasoning, adding salt and more crushed red pepper if necessary. Gently stir in the bocconcini and serve.
Makes 6 servings

*from the author: coarse sea salt: The melting of salt is a chemical reaction that draws the liquid from the tomatoes. The larger the salt crystal, the more liquid it will draw out. And that’s exactly what we want—more juice to use as a sauce for our pasta.


Here’s a Little Something to Warm You Up by Deb Mia

Now, I know you probably won’t believe me, but it’s freezing in Hawaii right now and I’m layered in fleece, double socks, and long johns as I write this. It’s getting so bad that I placed an order with LL Bean for a bunch of hats to wear when we sleep (no joke). Granted, I live up in the mountains and not at the beach, but still! This is Hawaii, for Pete’s sake!

And yes, it’s true that my definition of “freezing” may be quite different from that of my fellow Debs who live in bona fide “freezing” temperatures, but you have to remember that these little sugar cane houses aren’t built for cold weather. There’s no heat, no A/C, no double pane windows. I can see into my garage (correction: car port) from my kitchen by looking under the gap beneath the front door. So when an unexpected storm passed through a couple of weeks ago (leaving a nice dusting of snow atop Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa), it left in its wake two sick kids and one sick husband. And me, trying to not freak out (and I’m not doing a very good job in that department, let me tell you).

So clearly anything I make this holiday season needs to be EASY. As in, easy peasy lemon squeezy. As in, so easy my 7 year old daughter could do it (if she wasn’t sick and if she was allowed to use the oven, which she’s not). This recipe has become one of my favorites and was given to me by a prominent local foodie, Joan Namkoong, for my upcoming novel, SWEET LIFE (Berkley, September 2008). It’s guaranteed to warm you up this holiday season plus the sugar hit will put you in joyful mood as you pick up discarded tissues all around your house.

Mango Crisp
Serves 8

  • 5-6 cups firm, ripe mango, sliced (if you can’t get mangos, you can easily substitute with ripe peaches, nectarines or plums)
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons raw white or turbinado sugar


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, frozen for 10 minutes
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1½ cups quick cooking oatmeal
  • 2 cups raw white or turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Place fruit in a 9” x 13” baking dish or deep pie dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar; mix together.
  3. Mix flour, oatmeal, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a bowl.
  4. Quickly and carefully grate butter by hand or in a food processor. Toss grated butter with flour mixture using two table knives (or cut cold butter sticks into 8 to 10 pieces and blend into dry ingredients with a pastry blender) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Once butter is evenly incorporated, place mixture on top of fruit. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until top is browned and crisp. Remove from oven and cool.
  6. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

To the 2008 Debs, I wish you every publishing and personal success!


Debutante Mia