On the Menu: A delicious meal prepared by Flynn, Patterson, and Lippman

On the Menu: A delicious meal prepared by Flynn, Patterson, and Lippman

Aunt Effie’s Salmon Ball by LAURA LIPPMAN

My Aunt Effie—actually my great aunt—was a Capital-C Character, an old-fashioned steel magnolia with a hearty laugh and the first person who ever assured me I was funny. Also, maybe the last. Aunt Effie was the middle of three girls, brought up in an all-female household in Smalltown, Georgia, my great-grandmother having been widowed at a relatively young age.

Aunt Effie herself was widowed twice and she learned to take care of herself, ending up in another all-female household with her daughter and granddaughter. Well, there was a poodle name John, but they painted his toenails, poor thing.

On top of everything else, she was a terrific hostess, and two of my favorite recipes come from her: cheese straws and a so-called Salmon Ball, although I despaired years ago of ever learning how to roll this concoction in slivered almonds, so I just mix it up and put it in a small dish. In fact, it makes a great hostess gift. It’s really simple and everyone loves it. Not quite a health food, but you can substitute low- fat cream cheese for the hardcore stuff.

Because my household is peripatetic, I often find myself in a different city than the one where I keep all my family recipes. But my Aunt Effie’s salmon ball is very forgiving, which is one reason I like to make it.


On the Menu: A delicious meal prepared by Flynn, Patterson, and Lippman

1 teaspoon dried minced onions (available in the spice aisle)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 large can salmon, around 15 ounces

8 ounces cream cheese

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

1 teaspoon liquid smoke— if you can find it

Slivered almonds (optional)

Chopped parsley (optional)

1. Soak dried minced onions in lemon juice for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, drain salmon and mix thoroughly with cream cheese.

3. Add lemon juice and onions to salmon mixture, along with Worcester- shire, horseradish, and liquid smoke. You can add more or less according to your taste.

4. If you are nimble and wildly ambitious, you can form the mixture into a ball and roll it in slivered almonds and parsley. Frankly, I started omitting that step years ago because I could never get it to look right, although I suspect it might work better if you slightly chill the salmon mixture first. Me, I just put it in a nice piece of crockery and refrigerate for several hours. Serve with crackers; it also pairs well with a dry martini or the cocktail of your choice. Eat the leftovers on bagels.

Laura Lippman is an award-winning crime writer who has written ninenteen books, the most recent of which is the New York Times best seller After I’m Gone. She lives in Baltimore and New Orleans.

Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

Beef Skillet Fiesta by GILLIAN FLYNN

Be warned: I am no gourmet. I come from a long, proud Midwestern tradition of meals made from snack chips and canned soup. My characters tend to follow suit: They like their food simple and tasty. So here’s my favorite stove-top recipe, Beef Skillet Fiesta, which my mom cooked for her family and I now cook for mine.



1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup diced onion

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 12-ounce can corn

11/4 cups beef bouillon

1/2 cup thin strips of green pepper

11/3 cups Minute rice

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet and drain. Add onion and cook until tender.

2. Add salt, chili powder, pepper, tomatoes, corn, and bouillon and bring to a boil. Stir in green pepper. Bring to a boil again.

3. Stir in rice, remove from heat, and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes.

4. Fluff with a fork.

5. Serve with cottage cheese. (The cottage cheese part isn’t strictly required, but highly recommended—cottage cheese makes everything better.)

Note: If you prefer regular rice to Minute rice, cook the rice separately and spoon the Skillet Fiesta over it.

GILLIAN FLYNN is the author of the #1 New York Times best seller Gone Girl, the New York Times best seller Dark Places, and the Dagger Award–winning Sharp Objects. She is also the screenwriter for the film adaptation of Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck.

Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake by JAMES PATTERSON

Here’s one “killer” Alex Cross always loves to catch—Grandma’s Killer Cake! A special family recipe dating from the 1940s, this decadent cake seems to get better with age; it is tastier on day two. And you need to be a good detective around the house after it has been made, sitting there in its glass-domed cake stand, staring back at you with deadly temptation, because a piece seems to mysteriously disappear every time I go into the kitchen. Not to be caught red-handed, so looms the “Killer Cake Killer”!



Chocolate Cake_Patterson_credit Steve Legato

2/3 cup butter?

2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs?

2 cups flour?

11/3 cups buttermilk

11/3 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 / 5 cup hot water

31/2 squares bitter chocolate, melted gently

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/2 cup butter?

3 squares bitter chocolate

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup milk?1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs. ?
  2. Blend in flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Add baking soda mixture, followed by chocolate and vanilla extract. ?
  3. Pour batter into one 9-by-12-inch pan or two round 9-inch springform pans. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool. ?
  4. Combine all frosting ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a full boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Let cool. You can put saucepan on ice if necessary to cool quickly. ?
  5. Remove the cake from the pan, frost, and serve. ?

James Patterson has sold 300 million books worldwide, including the Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He supports getting kids reading through scholarship, Book Bucks programs, book donations, and his website, readkiddoread.com. He lives in Palm Beach with his wife, Sue, and his son, Jack.



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