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Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Food Wars by Judy Alter

Saving Irene

Irene Foxglove wishes she were a French chef. Henrietta James, her assistant, knows she is nothing more than a small-time TV chef on a local Chicago channel. And yet when Irene is threatened, Henny tries desperately to save her, wishing always that “Madame” would tell her the truth--about her marriage, her spoiled daughter, her days in France, the man who threatens her. Henny’s best friend, the gay guy who lives next door, teases her, encourages her, and shares meals with her, even as she wishes for more. Murder, kidnapping, and some French gossip complicate this mystery, set in Chicago and redolent with the aroma of fine food.


Irene in Danger

Want a French recipe? Irene will teach you to make salad niçoise. Want murder and mayhem? Irene seems to attract both. With one week until her wedding, Henny James is convinced Irene’s arrival from France will ruin the biggest day of her life. If Irene doesn’t, Henny’s mother might, clashing with Irene over everything. Henny has one week to save Irene. But then, she has more on her mind, like smuggled cocaine, a murder, a kidnapping, the constant sure knowledge that she and everyone around her is in danger, and the dreaded possibility she and Patrick might have to cancel the wedding.

Can Henny save the wedding? Recipes included.


Salade Niçoise

Here’s one recipe from the books you might like.


Salade Niçoise is built around tuna—in France, undoubtedly fresh tuna, but a high-quality, canned variety is perfectly acceptable. Henny likes to do it with canned albacore in olive oil.


Olives, green or ripe, are traditional, but Henny omits them because olives are on the short list of things she just doesn’t eat, along with bell peppers. If you like them, you may want to add strips, preferably of red peppers. Anchovies are a truly French contribution to the salad, and if you like them, they add a wonderful zing. Julia Child added an anchovy filet, twisted, on each hard-boiled egg quarter and scattered capers and chopped parsley on the finished salad.


The thing about this main-dish salad is you can create it to your taste. Choose the vegetables you prefer, but with an eye to color and appearance. Suggestions include tiny baby potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cut in quarters, if necessary; haricort vert (those tiny French green beans); artichoke hearts quartered; cherry tomatoes; hard-boiled eggs. Sometimes Henny adds tender, young asparagus spears if in season. She believes in simplicity—too many vegetables spoil the presentation.


Pour a little dressing over the potatoes when they are warm—they’ll absorb it better. Each vegetable and the tuna should be seasoned with a little dressing before becoming part of the arrangement. Lay out the vegetables and tuna in an attractive pattern, either on a platter or individual plates, on a bed of lettuce. Some cooks group ingredients; others prefer a more casual arrangement. Pour any remaining dressing over. If you need another batch of dressing, by all mean make it. You don’t want soup, but you don’t want a dry salad.


Vinaigrette is the traditional dressing for Salade Niçoise. Here’s the one Henny frequently uses (enough for two individual salads):


¼ c. olive oil

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper


About Judy Alter

After an award-winning career writing historical fiction about women of the nineteenth-century American West, Judy Alter turned her attention to contemporary cozy mysteries. Several of her Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and Blue Plate Café Mysteries were published by Turquoise Morning Press and are still available. When her publisher went out of business, she became an indie publisher and barely looked back. Find her and a list of her books at Her avocation is cooking, and she is the author of Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books, Gourmet on a Hot Plate, and Texas is Chili Country.

Where to find Irene in Danger and Saving Irene

Irene in Danger: An Irene in Chicago Culinary Mystery - Kindle edition by Alter, Judy. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @

Saving Irene: A Culinary Mystery (An Irene in Chicago Culinary Mystery) - Kindle edition by Alter, Judy. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @



Kait said...

Yum, there is nothing deadlier than a professional chef – add in a wedding, delicious. Looking forward to Irene in Danger

Susan said...

Love your series, Judy. I've read both books and they rock! Irene is an extraordinary character, and I laugh at her antics.

Michele Drier said...

Judy, another great recipe from the cottage! Salad Nicoise is a go-to for me during the summer.

Molly MacRae said...

Thanks for the recipe and the new book, Judy. May you have a happy new year full of good food and good books!

Nancy Nau Sullivan said...

Great, Judy!! Chicago is a mecca for the culinary arts and perfect setting for story. Good luck to you! Nancy

Marilyn Levinson said...

Happy New Year, Judy! Irene in Danger sounds like a fun read. Your Salade Nicoise sounds delicious.

KM Rockwood said...

New year, new additions to my TBR list!

judyalter said...

Thanks, all. Kait, this chef is less deadly than likely to be dead. She has an extraordinary affinity for murder and mayhem. Susan, thanks for liking the series--I'm glad Irene makes you laugh. I always hoped to write humorous mysteries--such an oxymoron. Michele and Marilyn, salade niçoise is a favorite of mine, but I love how it illustrates the different way Henny and Irene approach food. They nearly come to blows over Lobster Thermidor--Henny will not cook a whole live lobster, while Irene is disdainful of the thermidor she makes with tails only. Nancy, Chicago is my hometown, although I've been a Texan for over fifty years. I will admit I had some of the best food ever on my last visit to Chicago. Kathleen and Molly, thanks for your good wishes--I hope you like Irene.
And to all, a happy happy new year!