Cooking the Books: Six Feet Deep Dish by Mindy Quigley

It could be the stress of opening up her dream restaurant, but chef Delilah O’Leary is having a hard time keeping her fiery temper in check as opening night draws near. When her laidback fiancé and primary investor, Sam Van Meter, is nonchalant about a mistake that renders their restaurant signage unusable, Delilah flips out on him, causing the usually conflict-averse Sam to both reconsider their engagement and take off for parts unknown.

So it’s a discombobulated Delilah who’s hosting a soft launch for friends and family later that very same evening. Most things go well, but when her only waiter, Carson Callahan, takes off to schmooze with their pretty wine consultant instead of doing his job, Delilah decides that she’s had it with him too. She leaves the party and goes looking for him on the Geneva Bay, Wisconsin shores on which the restaurant is situated in order to give him a piece of her mind. But it’s not Carson she finds out by the dark waters. Instead, she comes across her aged Aunt Biz holding a gun over the newly dead corpse of Biz’s live-in caretaker, Jeremy.

Aunt Biz has no idea what just happened. She’s been getting on in years, and her memory has been getting worse in recent months. Fortunately, Delilah isn’t the only person incapable of believing that her aunt would hurt a fly. The police detective on the case, Calvin Capone, is pretty sure that one of their small town’s most respected and formidable teachers would never resort to murder to get her point across—a viewpoint shared by most of the people who know the now retired Aunt Biz.

Who, then, had it in for the seemingly mild-mannered Jeremy? Delilah doesn’t feel right about opening her restaurant with the pall of his murder hanging over them, so she decides to do a little snooping to help hasten things along. But when it becomes apparent that Sam has disappeared in the immediate wake of the murder—and that Delilah is growing increasingly attracted to Detective Capone—she’ll have to work extra hard to keep her own volatile emotions under control in order to figure out who killed Jeremy and tried to frame Aunt Biz for his murder.

While Delilah is not my favorite cozy heroine—honestly, the condescending way she treated Sam made me doubt that she’d ever liked him at all—I did enjoy the writing and overall message of this culinary mystery. The supporting cast is both diverse and entertaining, though as a restaurant veteran myself, I did wonder how small her restaurant was that she could manage with essentially just one server. The food descriptions were outstanding, however, and make me hungry even now just thinking about them.

Fortunately, the recipes for six of those delicious food and drink items are included here. I decided to try out this one, which I edited for use with any pizza dough you have at home (though do snag a copy of the novel to see the full recipe!):

Auntie Biz’s Pissaladiere

Ingredients

Pizza Dough

¼ c. olive oil

12 anchovy fillets

3 pounds onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. thyme leaves, chopped

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. fine sea salt

¼ c. Nicoise olives, pitted

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Finely chop two of the anchovy fillets. Add onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and the chopped anchovies, then cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in the salt, and continue cooking for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be pale golden and very soft; lower the heat if they start to turn dark brown at the edges or stick to the skillet. Remove the bay leaf, remove the filling from the heat, and let it cool completely.

Heat the oven to 400°. Spread the cooked onions evenly over the [rolled out] dough, and top with the remaining anchovies and pitted Nicoise olives. Bake until the edges and underside are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

I don’t know why I didn’t realize that slicing up three pounds of onion was going to be as painful as it was; even with my tried and true tear-avoidance processes, three pounds was rather overwhelming. It was well worth it, though, in making this deliciously savory onion, anchovy, and olive tart. The only thing I would change is that I’d probably cut up more of the anchovy fillets to be cooked down with the filling, as the ones placed on the tart felt a little too overpowering in their concentrated saltiness versus having that rich flavor diffused throughout the sweetness of the onion. Overall, this was a unique, not-too-difficult dish to put together that can be served as an appetizer or a light main course. And frankly, it’s just a beautiful dish if I do say so myself.

Next week, we stick around the Great Lakes to bake up a sweet treat while investigating a festival gone deadly. Do join me!

See alsoCooking the Books: The Fragrance of Death by Leslie Karst

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