Cooking the Books: A Catered Doggie Wedding by Isis Crawford
Bernie and Libby Simmons have plenty of experience catering for all sorts of occasions out of their cafe, A Little Taste of Heaven. Being asked to provide the refreshments for a dog wedding, however, is a first even for them. They’d certainly be more hesitant if the person asking wasn’t one of their employees, Googie. His girlfriend, Jennie, is opening a doggie daycare center called Woof Woof and wants to celebrate the grand opening with a wedding ceremony for her 8-month-old golden retrievers.
The sisters are pretty surprised to discover that the guest list has over 100 people on it, but Jennie is determined to make a success of her new business, having sunk all her money into the venture. Unfortunately, the proprietor of the store next door is less than happy about having so many potential canine neighbors. Renee Hickenloop owns the upscale boutique located right next to Jennie’s daycare and is certain that the sound and smell and, worse, possible waste products of the dogs coming to Woof Woof will chase away her discerning clientele. She isn’t shy about complaining either.
So when menacing letters, graffiti, and worse start to threaten everyone involved with the doggie wedding—Bernie and Libby included—the sisters immediately suspect Renee of being behind the campaign of intimidation. Their dad, former police detective Simon Simmons, isn’t so sure. Renee seems more the type to call the cops on Jennie for any supposed infraction than to dirty her hands with misdemeanors herself. All the Simmons, however, agree that Renee’s live-in boyfriend, Ivan, definitely seems like the type to indulge in a little criminal mischief on behalf of his beloved.
But then a corpse shows up before promptly disappearing just as mysteriously. While the Simmons know that almost anyone could kill if pushed far enough, none of them can see either Renee or Ivan engaging in such a convoluted coverup over what’s essentially a silly business dispute. Unfortunately, the cops have their sights set on Jennie as the poor dead person’s killer. Jennie insists that she’s being framed and begs the Simmons for help both in preserving her freedom and in saving her fledgling business. Will Bernie and Libby be able to clear their friend’s name and bring the real killer to justice, or will they find themselves trapped in a tangled web of crime?
This was the most complex case I’ve encountered in the Mystery with Recipes series yet, as our sassy siblings try to sort through their many suspects in the course of figuring out whodunnit and, perhaps just as importantly, why. The banter between the women was sharp and fresh as they combed the town of Longely, interviewing suspects and investigating. Simon, with his wealth of experience, provided the more thoughtful interludes as he assisted his reckless offspring on their journey to the truth.
There were six recipes included here. While none of the dishes were actually included in the text, they were all delightfully summery. I decided to try out this composed salad:
Mango, Avocado, And Shrimp Salad
Preparing the Dressing
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
Fresh cilantro, minced, to taste (optional)
Dash of hot sauce
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stir well, and set aside.
Preparing the Salad
¾ pound cooked shrimp
3 small mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 ripe medium avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and diced
2 green onions (both green and white parts) stem removed and minced
Arrange all the salad ingredients on salad plates.
Remove the garlic clove from the reserved dressing, garnish each salad with dressing, and serve at once.
I am absolutely obsessed with this salad! It is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted, with all the flavors balancing each other perfectly. It’s important to get ripe, sweet mangoes as well as ripe avocados for this dish. The sweetness of the tropical fruit is nicely balanced by the richness of the smooth avocado, with the diced bell pepper and minced green onions providing both crunch and a savory pepperiness. Add the delicious shrimp on top and drizzle with the bright dressing for a perfect, light dish that you can serve as either an appetizer or a main course.
I like cilantro, so I put a lot of that in the dressing. Since I also like garlic, I decided to crush the clove before adding it to the olive oil and hot sauce mix so that the garlic flavor would be more pronounced. Afterward, I dusted on a little flaked sea salt and pepper, which I recommend adding to taste. Cutting up the mangoes is probably the most time-consuming part of this otherwise very easy dish; the results far exceed the amount of work put into it, in my opinion.
Next week, we head north a ways to investigate a chilling murder while whipping up a decadent frozen treat. Do join me!