This 3rd installment of the Greek to Me Mystery series sees our heroine, Georgie Nikolopatos, coming to terms with all the turmoil of the past books. With her mostly amicable divorce finalizing and her daughter returning soon to Bonaparte Bay, on the US-Canadian border, from the sunnier climes of Greece, Georgie is looking forward to hosting a nice Greek-influenced Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel she runs for her mother-in-law. All she needs is for the contractor to finish a long overdue renovation of the restrooms. Her plans, however, are put in serious jeopardy when the body of her divorce lawyer is found amidst the demolition.
When the no-good son of her beloved cook is arrested for the murder, Georgie reluctantly finds herself drawn to investigate, especially when other crimes—violent or otherwise—start breaking out around her. Worse, ugly surprises having to do with the events of the first two books show up when least expected. Soon, Georgie needs to put her life on the line not only to expose a network of ruthless criminals, but also to save the lives of those she loves.
I hadn’t read the first two books in the series, but I felt right at home starting with this one. Susannah Hardy does a terrific job of updating the reader without giving away any of the previous mysteries, and the caper here is absorbing and well-plotted. I also enjoyed all the Thousand Islands trivia, though I ultimately decided against making either the dressing or local cookie favorite in favor of trying out this basic Greek recipe instead:
Tiropita (Greek Cheese Pie)
*Makes about 24 rich, cheesy triangles.
¾ lb. feta cheese, drained and crumbled
8 oz. (1 c.) ricotta cheese
¼ c. grated romano or parmesan cheese
2 eggs, well beaten
1 t. ground white pepper
½ t. ground nutmeg (or 10 to 12 scraped of a fresh nutmeg on a tiny grater)
½ lb. phyllo dough
2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare a baking sheet by covering with parchment paper.
Using a fork or spoon, mix cheeses together in a good-sized bowl, then add beaten eggs and spices and mix well.
Unroll phyllo and lay three sheets on a cutting board. Cover unused portion of dough with a barely damp kitchen towel (really squeeze the water out, or the phyllo will get too soggy.) Using a pastry brush and a very delicate hand, liberally brush the top of the three-sheet stack with melted butter. With a sharp knife, cut the stack into three lengthwise strips.
About an inch from the end of each strip, place about a tablespoon of the cheese filling. Bring one corner of the phyllo over the filling to the opposite edge of the dough, forming a triangle. Gently flip the tiropita up and over, side to side, aligning the edges and encasing the filling, until you reach the end of the strip and have a triangle several layers thick. (The technique is just like folding an American flag. See the author’s website for photos.) Brush the triangle with a bit more butter, and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch of space around each savory pastry. Repeat with the remaining phyllo (covering the unused portion with the barely damp towel) until filling is used up. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until flaky and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature, as an appetizer or light lunch or supper, with a salad of romaine, ripe tomato, onion, and cucumber, dressed with a vinaigrette. Also delicious with tomato soup.
I’ve experimented with phyllo dough before, but this was the first time I felt like I really knew what I was doing, courtesy of Ms. Hardy. I would actually recommend the use of a pizza cutter to help keep the strips even; it certainly worked out very well for me! These tiropita were very tasty—on their own and as a side with soup or salad—but I found that my very favorite way to eat them was with a small bowl of applesauce for dunking. I’m quite sure that this recipe easily allows for different sweet and savory fillings, and am very much looking forward to experimenting with them soon.
I’d also like to express my appreciation once more for my lovely assistant Karin, who, upon picking up the book for me for the first time while I was wrist-deep in butter, glanced at the title and repeated it aloud in the exact same exaggerated British accent I automatically use when thinking of it. Thanks for making me feel a little less eccentric, Karin.
Next week, I virtually (literarily?) travel to the warmer climes of Texas to visit the second in a cozy series and try out an accompanying Tex-Mex recipe. Do join me!
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.