Jun 27 2012 3:30pm

Author Beth Harbison Dishes on the World’s Oldest Profession—with a Menu, Too!

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth HarbisonToday, we’re pleased to welcome author Beth Harbison to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Beth’s brand-new release, When in Doubt, Add Butter, tells the story of a private chef who’s happy to cook for other people’s dates—not her own. Of course, her own recipe for life goes awry. But Beth is here to share some of her own recipes for a romantic meal.

Some people might be ashamed to admit this, but in my former life, prior to becoming a full-time author, I worked in the service of men. I was a young single mother and had to do whatever was necessary to support my child, even if that meant working a job that many might consider demeaning.  I don’t see it that way.  In fact, I’d argue that there’s a certain wisdom in going into the world’s oldest profession (arguably—it’s definitely one of the oldest professions) and helping to fulfill people’s most basic needs.

I said men, but truthfully there were women occasionally too. Unfortunately, they tended to get jealous when I was better able to satisfy their men than they were, so I preferred it when they weren’t there. 

It was hard work. But cooking was a passion of mine—still is—so it was satisfying as well. Even now I sometimes harken back to the days when my job involved accomplishing something from start to finish every day, instead of the slow chipping and shaping that writing is. A book takes months—a meal, hours.  So it’s fun to revisit my roots, so to speak, this way.

(Yes, cooking—what did you think I meant?)

Sugar Grilled Asparagus
Lemon Pepper Grilled Shrimp
Herb Roasted Tomatoes with Romano Cheese
Strawberries with Chocolate Balsamic Glaze

suggested wine: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay

The beauty of grilling a romantic meal for two is that if you do it at night it’s essentially cooking over very flattering firelight. Just make sure you have the coals ready to go so you don’t ruin your look with soot and black ash smeared across your face.

Unless you’re into the whole Pirate thing, in which case, go for it!

Sugar Grilled Asparagus

Grilled asparagus is tender and smokey and goes wonderfully with the lemony shrimp. Also, like the shrimp, it is as good chilled as it is warm.

12 spears fresh asparagus, peeled or thin
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of sugar
salt and pepper or any seasoning of your choice

Toss the asparagus in the olive oil, sugar, and seasoning. There is no need to marinade—though it won’t hurt it to sit while you prepare other things - it’s ready to grill.

Cook for about ten minutes, turning frequently, until it has nice dark brown patches from the coals.

Lemon Pepper Grilled Shrimp

I like to use jumbo or colossal shrimp for this recipe, and the marinade is easily halved or doubled, depending how much you want to make. The key is adding enough freshly ground or cracked pepper, which can be murder on the wrists but makes a tremendous difference in the taste of the dish.
If you get distracted and want to take a break between cooking and eating, these are also delicious chilled.

1 lb. jumbo shrimp
1/2 c virgin olive oil
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
2 T freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c butter
3 T fresh lemon juice

If the shrimp are frozen, thaw them for half an hour in a brine of 6 cups of water, 1/4 cup of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Rinse well and drain. It’s okay if they’re still frozen in the middle, as you’re about to marinade again.

Combine the olive oil, 1/2 c lemon juice, and pepper in a bowl.

Peel the shrimp down to the tail and devein. Marinade in olive
oil, lemon, and pepper mixture for half an hour.

Heat the grill or broiler.

Remove the shrimp from the marinade and skewer them on a stick,
if you like.

Grill or broil for 3-5 minutes on each side, painting with marinade, until the shrimp
is cooked through (it will curl into a nice C shape). Take them off the grill and let them sit while you prepare the tomatoes and dip.

Meanwhile, melt the 1/4 c butter and combine that with the lemon
juice to use as a dip for cooked shrimp.


Herb Grilled Tomatoes

This is an old Italian recipe with a mellow taste that beautifully compliments the lemon shrimp. It’s particularly good with fresh garden tomoatoes or meaty heirloom - or “ugly” - tomatoes from the grocery store.

2 large ripe tomatoes
2 T olive oil
1 t fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 T Romano cheese, grated

Combine the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper, and toss the tomato slices in it. Grill quickly over hot coals on both sides - about two minutes per side - then top, still hot, with grated romano.


Chilled Strawberries with Chocolate Balsamic Glaze

The bold punch of balsamic on sweet strawberries provides the perfect, satisfying end to a meal.

10 large, ripe strawberries
1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 good dark chocolate bar (Hershey’s Special Dark will do)

Clean and chill the strawberries and drain them in the fridge so they’re dry.

Meanwhile, bring the balsamic vinegar to a simmer over a medium hot stove. Reduce to 1/4 cup and then gently stir in two bite-sized squares of dark chocolate, stir until melted and drizzle over the strawberries.


Now that the meal’s done, here’s a bonus dessert: An audioclip of a sizzling scene from When in Doubt, Add Butter:

“His skin was hot against my knuckles...”


BETH HARBISON is The New York Times bestselling author of Always Something There To Remind Me; Thin, Rich, Pretty; Hope In A Jar; Secrets of a Shoe Addict and Shoe Addicts Anonymous. She grew up in Potomac, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C., and now shares her time between that suburb, New York City and a quiet home on the eastern shore.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
This cracked me up. What a fun post! Also, these dishes sound DELISH. I especially want to try the sugar grilled asparagus and the chocolate balsamic glaze. Sounds perfect for summer.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
The chocolate balsamic glaze looks amazing, and easy to do. Thanks!
Jennifer Proffitt
3. JenniferProffitt
My motto in life is "When in Doubt, Add Butter" such a great title and the recipes sound delicious!
Amanda Hill
4. Amandabella
I can very much relate to this! Women oftentimes get all bent out of shape when their hubbies rave over my food, its so weird because if they tried they could easily do the same.
I am making the Strawberry Dessert tonight!
Can't wait to read this book, a little afternoon delight :)
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