Have just finished Tricky Twenty-Two, and must say I really don't know how Janet Evanovich has so consistently accomplished putting out one completely hilarious novel after another. I know, I know, it wasn't all that long ago I reviewed Turbo Twenty-Three, but somehow this one had gotten skipped. Her characters are just over-the-top, the situations original to say the least, and the plots excellent. You might say "light and fluffy" but way better than that. I've read them all, and now will be starting over from the first, One for the Money. To give you an idea, for those not Evanovich cognoscenti, from this book, on the locale:
"The funeral home is on the edge of the Burg, short for Chambersburg (NJ). Originally the Burg was a mob enclave, but most of the mob has now moved on to classier neighborhoods...I grew up in the Burg, and my parents still live there. Houses are modest. Bars are plentiful. Crime is low. Gossip is rampant. The funeral home is the Burg equivalent to a country club. It's free entertainment for everyone but the immediate family of the deceased. People in the Burg go to viewings for the cookies, not for the dead guy in Slumber Room No. 2."
Our heroine, Stephanie Plum, does bond enforcement (sometimes known as bounty hunting) for her cousin, Vinnie. On her family and friends:
Grandma is "catfishing" the internet, using Stephanie's picture. There are uncomfortable complications. Her "father has developed coping methods over the years. He puts his head down at the dinner table and plows through the meal, listening to no one. Once in a while he'll pick his head up and look like he wants to join the Foreign Legion."
Stephanie's mother deals with stress by ironing, and when things are going too haywire, she takes a nip or two from her hidden bottle of Jim Beam. "My mother was in the kitchen ironing. Never a good sign. My mother ironed when she was upset. She'd iron the same shirt for hours if she had nothing else to iron."
Then there's Ranger, representing temptation, who gives her odd jobs, and loans her fabulous cars from his security company, which don't usually last long before getting blown up or crashed. And then Joe Morelli, her hot policeman boyfriend, on again off again.
She usually has Lula, a former street "ho", for back-up. "Lula mostly works as my wheelman. She's four inches too short for her weight, her clothes are three sizes too small for her generously proportioned body, her hair color changes weekly, her skin is a robust dark chocolate." Also she has lots of attitude and drives a red Firebird.
Stephanie doesn't cook at all, however in this particular book she is considering less stressful occupations and actually imagines herself, albeit briefly, as a pastry chef. She bakes a chocolate cake, but is not thrilled with the experience. When it was mentioned they were serving Vodka Rigatoni at the murder victim's wake, I thought, what a great idea! Made it with a slight adaptation, in that I added some left-over seafood, and cut it in half (the whole amounts are given here). Loosely based on Nigella Lawson's recipe.
Vodka Rigatoni con Pesce
- 1 large onion
- 2 tablespoons garlic flavored oil
- salt (for pasta water, to taste)
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 pounds penne rigate (or other short preferably ridged pasta)
- ½ cup vodka
- 1 cup shrimp, peeled and halved
- 1 cup white fish, in chunks (I used ono and ahi)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 fresh basil leaves, slivered for garnish
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- If you are cooking this just before you eat, put the water for the penne on to boil before you start the sauce. You will need a big pan, enough to take the pasta and its sauce later.
- Finely chop the onion, either by hand or in a processor. In a large pan, heat the garlic oil and add the finely chopped onion and a good sprinkling of salt. Cook the onion fairly gently for about 15 minutes without letting it catch and burn, which just means giving it a stir every now and again. It should be very soft and almost beginning to caramelize.
- Tip in the cans of diced tomatoes and continue cooking over a gentle heat, simmering for another 15-20 minutes. If you're cooking this ahead, and I always do, stop here.
- Reheat the almost-finished tomatoes (or just continue as you were if you're making this in one unbroken fluid movement), stir in the fish and shrimp if you're using, and cook 5-10 minutes (unless you're using left-overs, in which case just enough to heat through), then the heavy cream and take the pan off the heat. When the water for the pasta comes to the boil add a good measure of salt and tip in the penne. Set a timer for 3-4 minutes less than the packet instructions for cooking it, as you want to make sure it's cooked al dente and will need to start tasting early.
- Drain the cooked pasta, tip it back in the pan and pour over the vodka, and add the butter and some more salt. Turn the penne in the vodka and melting butter and then tip it into the tomato sauce unless it is easier to pour the tomato sauce over the pasta: it depends on the sizes of pans you are using. Add in the grated Parmesan.
- Toss the pasta in the sauce until it is evenly coated and turn out into a large, warmed bowl. Sprinkle the basil on top.
This should be considered comfort food. Maybe that's why they served it at the wake? Perfect with a simple salad of asparagus and greens. Vodka Rig is now on the dinner rotation. Will dish this up at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, as well as with I Heart Cooking Clubs for pasta month. Be sure to visit for some good food and books.
And, as a P.S. to Ms. Evanovich, you really do not need Lee Goldberg, or anyone else to co-author on other series. Better without, in my humble opinion.