Cooking the Books: A Cozy Appetizer

The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
Recently, CNN posted an article about the boom in culinary mysteries. The article posits many reasons for people’s enjoyment of culinary cozies, but leaves out the one that brings me back time and again—I just like food. I like reading about it, preparing it, and, most of all, eating it. So it’s odd that I’ve never cooked anything I found in a mystery. Some of the recipes, after all, look absolutely delicious.

With that in mind, I decided to prepare courses directly from cozy mysteries, adding the one thing I like in a cookbook that you don’t find in the mysteries—pictures. Here’s an appetizer from Avery Aames’ debut cheese shop mystery, The Long Quiche Goodbye. This smoked salmon and mascarpone risotto is suitable for either a main course (serves four) or an appetizer (serves 8).

If you’re not familiar with cooking risotto, you may find it odd that you absolutely must taste the rice after the last of the stock has been absorbed but before the other ingredients are added. A wide variety of factors make Arborio rice absorb more or less liquid, and if you’re not careful you might end up with crunchy rice. I had to add 3/8 cup of extra water to get my rice to the correct consistency. Unlike long grain rice, Arborio should also be stirred frequently while cooking. In fact, risotto is one of the few things you cannot over-stir!


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, chopped
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (I used a dry Sauvignon Blanc)
2 3/4 cups chicken stock (I substituted vegetable stock because we don’t eat meat, just fish)
1 1/2 cups spinach, julienned
1/4 cups fresh chives, minced
4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped into bites
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a 6-quart saucepan. Add shallot and onion and cook until wilted, approximately 3 minutes. Add rice and stir for 30 seconds. Add wine; stir to sizzling. Add 1 cup stock and bring to boil. Turn heat down immediately and simmer.

Risotto simmering in chicken broth
I used vegetable stock, which is much browner than chicken stock


When rice absorbs most of the liquid, add 1 cup more stock. Repeat until all stock absorbed, approximately 10 minutes. Add water if needed (up to 1/2 cup) until rice tastes right. (Add 1/8 cup at a time, stir in, let rice absorb, then taste again.)

Add spinach, chives, and salmon. Mix and cook 3-4 minutes. 

Risotto cooked ready to add cheese
Ready for cheese, please!

Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and rest of butter.

Set on warm plates, garnish with chives. Serve IMMEDIATELY. 

Go make your own! This plate’s all mine!


Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill.  She's the author of the romantic suspense novels Twisted and Lost, blogs at Women of Mystery, and can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.



  1. Katrina Niidas Holm

    What a fabulous idea for a post! What did you think of the end result? Any changes you’d make to the recipe next time around? I’m always hesitant to make the recipes that get included in the culinary mysteries I read because I always find myself wondering how good of a cook the author actually is…

  2. Stephanie Treanor

    Delish! Congrats guys on a successful launch! the site looks amazing 🙂

  3. Laura K. Curtis

    @niidasholm –
    I liked the risotto, but I thought the smoked salmon was a bit strong. I’d definitely do this dish again, but I would use asparagus instead. Before this it would never have occurred to me to put mascarpone into risotto, but I will definitely do that in the future!

  4. Noelle

    OMG, I need this book and so does a friend of mine! Thanks for highlighting it~

  5. Laura K. Curtis

    LOL, Noelle! Are you a cheese fan? I know I am. In fact, I have been known to drive 1/2 hour or more for a good cheese since we don’t have a true cheese shop in my town.

  6. Leslie Elman

    Love this! I always figured authors had to be pretty brave to include recipes in their books. Good for you for putting this one to the test. What’s the next course?

  7. Terrie Farley Moran

    Laura, I am intimidated by the sheer number of ingredients and yet you make cooking look so easy. Next time I read a “recipe” cozy, I might be brave enough to try one that has say, five or so ingredients.

  8. Laura K. Curtis

    @Leslie –
    I don’t know…but there are so many delicious recipes out there I know I’ll be trying some more!

    @Terrie –
    My favorite cookbooks are by Mark Bittman, who used to be the food writer for the NYT. He calls himself “The Minimalist” because he doesn’t really think recipes should have more than, oh, five ingredients. And if you think about it, what do your favorite foods have? Mine are cookies: butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate chips. Only four ingredients! Or potato chips: potatoes, oil, salt. Three-ingredient perfection!

  9. Terrie Farley Moran

    Thanks Laura, I’ll look for one of Bittman’s cookbooks.

  10. Terrie Farley Moran

    Whooo Hoo!
    The Long Quiche Goodbye won the Agatha for best new book!!

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