Cookbook combines hobbies

Published 1:30 am Wednesday, October 8, 2008

If I had to name my two favorite hobbies, they would be cooking and reading. It isn’t often that I get to combine the two, but, with one of my favorite authors, Patricia Cornwall, I get to do just that.

In her murder/suspense books the lead character, forensic pathologist, Kay Scarpetta, at some point in every book, cooks for herself, friends and family. Somehow Cornwall, blends the cooking scenes seamlessly into the storyline making it clear that Scarpetta’s method of using cooking to clear her mind is also her own.

Unfortunately, until several months ago, I could only imagine the taste of the many dishes that Scarpetta concocted and served up while she solved her cases. In digging through cookbooks at an old bookstore, I found one titled “Food to Die For” by Patricia Cornwall.

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And there they were, Kay’s stew, grilled pizza, her faboulous pasta dishes and two of my favorites so far, wild rice salad and Gruyere salad.

The original wild rice salad has cashews in it, but I changed them out for pecans.

Wild rice salad with pecans

1 cup wild rice

4 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped red, yellow and green bell pepper

3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

2 green onions, chopped


3 tablespoons rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar (I use rice)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

1 clove garlic minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a strainer, rinse the wild rice under cool running water, drain well. In a 3 quart saucepan, place the wild rice and chicken broth, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 to 50 minutes, until tender. Drain off any excess liquid and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat add the bell peppers and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add the pecans and green onions, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the nuts begin to brown. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl toss together the pecans, peppers and wild rice.

For the dressing, place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Pour over the rice, toss until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to let flavors blend.

Marinated Gruyere Salad

4 ounces thinly sliced gruyere cheese

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

6 cups of mixed salad greens

Cut the gruyere into strips that are 2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide. Arrange the cheese strips in a shallow bowl. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar, parsley, mustard, salt and pepper, shake well to combine. Add the onion to the dressing and pour over the cheese. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to several hours.

To serve arrange the greens on the salad plates, using a slotted spoon arrange the cheese strips over the greens, stir the remaining dressing in the bowl and drizzle it over each salad. Serves six.

Christina Hall writes a weekly column for The Democrat. She can be reached at