Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Reviews & Burgers: Spiced Beef Patties in Pita Pockets with Sweet Potato Fries & Tzatziki for Two Great Mystery / Thrillers

I am still working on reading and reducing the stack of review books by my nightstand and I am a bit delinquent on getting some of them posted. Here are two great reads--especially for anyone interested in mystery/thrillers with strong female lead characters. Although the characters and settings are different ... a cop and a lawyer, Nashville and Nova Scotia ..., both books are the kind of absorbing reads that once you start, you will want to keep reading until you are done--even if it means missing a little sleep along the way! With the reviews, a tasty dinner (somewhat) inspired by the books.

"So Close the Hand of Death" by J.T. Ellison, is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series, following the Nashville homicide lieutenant as her nemesis, "The Pretender" draws closer, threatening Taylor and those she loves. Meanwhile killings are going on in different locations of the country, copying infamous serial killers--Son of Sam, the Zodiac Killer and the Boston Strangler. With murders in so many places, it obviously not the work of one person and Taylor, fiance FBI profiler John Baldwin, and her team are working frantically to find the killers. The action is non-stop throughout the book and author Ellison makes it feel very real and authentic. J.T.
Ellison used to work both in the White House and for The Department of Commerce and was a financial analyst and marketing director for defense and aerospace contractors in the private sector before quitting and moving to Nashville. There she followed her passions for writing, forensics and crime--researching her books with the Nashville police and the FBI.

Although the book is part of a series, it does stand just fine on its own--although it will leave you wanting more Taylor Jackson. I started with the fifth book in the series, "The Imortals" (my review is here), but I got so caught up with the characters that I bought the first four books and read those too. A good stay-up-late-until-you-finish-it-and-then-desperately-wish-there-was-more kind of read.


The second book, "Indefensible" by Pamela Callow is the second book in a series, with a third coming out soon. In this mystery/thriller, attorney Kate Lange defends her boss and senior partner of her law firm for the murder of his ex-wife, when everyone, including his partners and even his children thinks he did it. The book is suspenseful, although most of the action really gets going in the second half of the book. It can stand alone, but references to the earlier book and the things that happened made me wish I had read the first book ("Damaged"), before starting this one. No matter, I loaded it onto my Kindle right after finishing this one and it is equally as good.

Author Pamela Callow, grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the setting of her books. A degree in English Literature, then law school and acceptance to the Nova Scotia Bar lead to an interest in public policy and a Master's Degree in Public Administration, followed by a stint as a strategy consultant before staying at home to raise her family and starting a career in writing. Right now there are planned to be four books in the Kate Lange series, and I intend to read my way through all of these well-written, legal thrillers.

I always cook alongside my book reviews and it was a bit difficult coming up with a dish inspired by both books for this post. Although Taylor Jackson does seem to enjoy food and several meals were eaten in the book, the only real food Kate Lange ate was takeout Indian at the beginning of the book. Since Taylor seems to love a good burger, I decided to fancy one up. I was going to make an Indian-spiced burger, but tastes of a "chakchouka" (a mixture of red bell pepper, tomato, garlic and harissa popular in North Africa and the Middle East), and tzatziki from the farmers market made me decide on a more global burger. It might be a little fancy for Taylor's burger tastes but it should be multi-cultural enough to please Kate. These Spiced Beef Patties in Pita Pockets tasted great with some Alexia Crinkle Cut Sweet Potato Fries with Sea Salt and Pepper (which I received from the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program) and Tzatziki.

Spiced Beef Patties
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 3 full sandwiches)

1 lb lean ground beef, preferably local (I used Maui beef)
1/2 cup sweet onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp chopped mint
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

4 whole wheat pitas, cut in half
8 slices of tomato
lettuce, shredded
red pepper or prepared chakchouka

Mix all ingredients through pepper together. Make into 6 oval shaped patties that will fir into pita pockets. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add burgers and cook until done to your liking.

Open pita pocket halves and place shredded lettuce and a spiced beef patty in each half. Add 2 tomato slices and 1 tablespoon of chakchouka spread. Serve warm.

Notes/Results: These turned out very well--moist and tender burgers with good flavor from the onion, garlic and spices. The sweet and spicy taste of the chakchouka spread was delicious on them. I bought mine at the farmers market but I plan to play around with making my own sometime--it's great on burgers, sandwiches, crackers, pita bread, etc. The Alexia Sweet Potato Fries taste great but texturally I like my fries crispier than these--they were a little soft for my taste, even pre-heating the pan and cooking them a bit longer at a higher temperature. I am a bigger fan of the brand's Oven Fries and Oven Reds but wanted to try something new with my coupon for a free Alexia product from the Tastemakers program. I did like dipping the sweet fries into the cooling tzatziki. All in all, a delicious dinner that I think either of our heroines would have enjoyed--I know I did.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: Copies of these two books were provided by the PTA Reviewer Rewards Program for me to review if I chose to do so. I also received a coupon for a free Alexia product from the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. There was no monetary compensation involved with any of the items and as always, my thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

Happy Saturday!


  1. I love the spices you put in these burgers...very middle eastern which is exactly the kind of thing that I adore! And obviously anything paired with SP fries is worth eating. :P

  2. yummy! I just made some sweet potato fries in the oven recently :)

  3. Good reviews...I like a good mystery. The sweet potato fries look crispy. I know when I make them it's hard to get them crisp and get the moisture out. The spices in the burger sounds like the only way to go...awesome!

  4. Well thought out reviews and menu! I bought one of those special pans with holes all over for cooking oven fries. It does help but I hate having "1 purpose" tools around.

  5. I haven't read either author!

  6. great food as ever and you always amaze me how you read so many books :-)

  7. delicious looking patties lovely combination

  8. Thanks for the lovely review of my legal thriller series! I love your recipe choice for Kate - you are bang on, and in fact, I just indulged my tzatziki craving last week (at Kate's urging)... and had the Alexia sweet potato fries (with pan-fried tilapia). You really hit the nail on the head! Thanks again for taking the time to read my books AND come up with this delicious combo. I'm going to definitely give it a try!

    Pam Callow


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)