Cooking the Books: A Just Clause by Lorna Barrett

We're back in Stoneham, New Hampshire, the fabled Booktown that gives this bestselling mystery series its name. It’s just a few days before the first Wine and Jazz Festival, which has several of our cast of characters in a tizzy of organization. Our heroine, Tricia Miles, is in a different sort of tizzy, however. Thriller author Steve Richardson—who she met and flirted with on the cruise detailed in the preceding book, Title Wave—is coming from out of state to the mystery bookstore she owns for a reading and signing.

Tricia isn't sure if she wants to pick up where they left off, as she knows long-distance relationships are more complicated than she has time or energy for. But any worries over her own romantic life are tossed out the window when her father shows up unexpectedly, announcing that he's left her mother and needs money and a place to stay.

John Miles’s previous visit some months earlier hadn't gone very well: he'd left abruptly with a list of outstanding debts as well as a good number of items that did not belong to him. Tricia's older sister, Angelica, is especially steamed, as she had to cover for him with the townsfolk. But then, a woman with a checkered past is found murdered right after Steve’s signing, and John becomes prime suspect.

The Miles family had already undergone significant upheaval in Title Wave. Their complicated and occasionally messy relationships come to the fore again here in an intriguing story that nearly overshadows the murder mystery at its heart. It’s so great to read of the strong bond between the sisters as they work together to not only solve the mystery but also repair the damage inflicted by a lifetime of secrets and misunderstandings.

And, of course, I got to try out a delicious recipe while enjoying the prose! All four of the recipes presented had to do with zucchini, so after some deliberation, I decided to try out this one:

Zucchini and Bacon Quiche


1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie dough round

¼ pound sliced bacon, coarsely chopped

2 medium zucchini (¾ pound total), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ⅛-inch-thick slices

½ teaspoon salt, divided

¾ cup whole milk

¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup (4 ounces) Swiss cheese, coarsely chopped


With the oven rack in the middle position, preheat to 450°F. Fit the pie dough into a 9 ½-inch deep-dish pie plate and lightly prick all over. Bake according to package instructions, then transfer the crust in the pie plate to a rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

While the crust bakes, cook the bacon in a large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until just crisp. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate, reserving the fat in the skillet. Add the zucchini and ¼ teaspoon salt to the fat in skillet and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is tender and starting to brown, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.

Heat the cream, milk, pepper, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a 1- to 2-quart saucepan until the mixture reaches a bare simmer, then remove from the heat.

Whisk together the eggs in a large, heat-proof bowl, then gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined. Stir in the bacon, zucchini, and cheese together and pour into the piecrust. Bake until the filling is just set, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the quiche pan to a rack to cool slightly before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

I knew from cooking through Title Wave that I could trust in Lorna Barrett’s palate, but I did not expect to be so wowed by this quiche! Quiches and I have a hit-and-miss relationship, but this “Zucchini and Bacon Quiche” was a huge hit not only for me but also for my lovely assistant Karin, as well as for my family, all of whom wanted more. The zucchini and bacon balanced each other perfectly, and I loved how the recipe instructs you to cook the zucchini in the bacon fat. Apart from eliminating waste, that step truly allows the flavors to meld together without sacrificing either the brightness of the zucchini or the salty crunch of the bacon. I am definitely adding this recipe to my repertoire, even if I may never be as adept as Angelica at making a quiche from scratch.

Next week, we travel to the west coast and try out another savory recipe. I know, who even am I? Sweets will follow soon thereafter, I promise. In the meantime, do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Title Wave by Lorna Barrett


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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.

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