Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guest Launch! Love Served Hot by Mellanie Szereto!

Please welcome my pal and fellow Sextet member, Mellanie Szereto to the blog! I had the pleasure of critiquing Love Served Hot, and enjoyed the story very much. The only thing lacking was the recipes for the scrumptious dishes served in the story. Today, I get my wish for at least one of them!

Thanks for letting me take over your blog today, Cheryl!

Hi, everybody! Read on to find out how you could win a $10 Amazon gift card!!!

My bio:
When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-seven years, their two children, and two cats. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and PASIC.

Facebook page: Mellanie Szereto

Besides giving everyone a peek at my newest release, Love Served Hot, I’m sharing the recipe for my heroine’s favorite dish. Here’s a hint about why it’s her favorite!

As acting director of her uncle’s retirement village, Lilith Montgomery must hire a chef for the new restaurant. She’s interviewed several candidates, but instantly decides on the sexy Irishman whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Her rotten luck with relationships makes her determined to resist her attraction to him, even if it means sneaking into the kitchen at night for a taste of his delectable entrées.
Flynn Hastings is finally getting his life back on track after a year of anger and guilt over his sister’s death. He’s returned home to be near his family and has found the perfect job—with one small problem. His boss makes him want to cook in more than the kitchen. Putting aside his hard and fast rule about mixing business with pleasure, he sets his sights on Lilith, hoping their budding friendship turns out to be more than a flash in the pan.

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Plating two modest servings of iron skillet-seared salmon on beds of rice, Flynn added a sprig of fresh dill to each. He dropped a couple handfuls of pasta into the pot of boiling water and gave it a stir. The timer in his head set itself, the ticks so automatic he no longer had to check his watch.
He returned to the dining room to set a dish at Ms. Montgomery’s place, reciting the information she’d likely want to know. “Entrée number one. Dilled Salmon with Spinach and Brown Rice Pilaf. High in Omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbs, and iron. Moderate sodium content. Most vegetables and fresh mushrooms can be substituted for the spinach. And it’ll be served with a variety of sides.”
The aroma rising from the table made his stomach rumble. Taking the seat across from her, he waited for her to taste the offering.
She lifted the fork to her lips. Several moments passed with no indication of her like or dislike of the fish. The only movement of her face was an occasional blink and rhythmic chewing.
A bite of rice followed, her reaction as stiff and bland as the first one. He might’ve expected unresponsive behavior from a food critic, but not from a potential employer.
Unable to restrain his need to know if the food warranted the lack of emotion, he flaked off a piece of salmon and settled it on his tongue. The texture was perfect—not tough or chewy. A mix of mild fish flavor, salt, black pepper, and freshly chopped dill spread over his taste buds. It tasted exactly the way it had the thousands of times he’d prepared it.
Could the rice be the problem?
He slid the fork under the grains, certain he had the right proportion of spinach to rice. Leaning over the plate, he lifted the bite to his mouth. The rice was firm but not crunchy, the spinach and seasonings adding enough hint of flavor to complement the earthy tone of the dish.
Taking a peek at his dining partner, he finished chewing. He’d no more than swallowed when she shuddered and closed her eyes. They opened again, staring straight at him with a slightly glassy look as she pulled in a shaky breath.
Please don’t tell me she’s allergic to—
“Oh my.” She fanned her fingers at her face as she squirmed in her seat.
No cayenne. No hot pepper sauce. No peppers, period—not even black in the rice—and only the lightest dusting of freshly cracked on the fish.
Sifting through the ingredients in his mind didn’t help identify the culprit. “Are you all right?”
Her tight smile didn’t reassure him. She lifted her napkin to dab at her lips, not quite hiding her quick exhale. “Um, yes. I’m fine. Good. Shall we try the next?”
Wasn’t she going to comment on the entrée? Or had she decided to wait until she’d completed the taste testing to evaluate the samples?
“Good” could’ve referred to the dish, couldn’t it?
Pushing up from his chair, he paused before setting off for the kitchen again. The dish had been better than good, and he shouldn’t put too much stock in her response. Confidence in his cooking skills had never been an issue for him.
Drain and dish up the pasta.
Ladle the sauce.
Position the port.
He was on his way in less than two minutes.
His judge slid her now-empty plate to the side and drained her glass.
She had to have inhaled the rest of her salmon and rice while he was gone. That fact alone eliminated the possibility of a known allergy to the fish.
Her gaze seemed glued to the dishes in his grasp. “This must be entrée number two. Campanelle and Portabellas with Roma Tomato Sauce.”
Flynn bit the inside of his cheek to keep from groaning aloud as he placed the pasta dish between her utensils. Her husky tone suggested she might prefer food to sex. A combination of the two would certainly be interesting.
Just what I need—to lose this gig before I get it. Focus, damn it!
He’d already risked making a bad impression with the stupid stocking comment, no matter how sexy her legs were. Adjusting the front of his chef’s coat to hide his body’s reaction to her voice, he refilled her glass and then rounded the table to sit opposite her again.
“Thanks.” This time she hesitated a couple seconds before picking up her fork and knife. “Tell me more about the vegetarian selection.”
Curious to see if her expression became an unreadable mask, he launched into a full description. “The pasta is made from chickpea flour instead of semolina. Higher protein, fewer carbs. Whole wheat or whole grain is another possibility, but I’d add a protein to the sauce to make up the difference. The ports are seared in olive oil for good fats. Freshly grated Parmesan for vegetarian, or without for vegan.”
She held her loaded fork near her chin. “Chickpea pasta sounds fairly expensive and not readily available. What protein options would you use?”
“Cannellini works really well. Marinated and sautéed tofu is another. Black beans.”
She gave a curt nod. The ruffled edge of the sauce-covered campanelle disappeared between her teeth. She looked more thoughtful than with the first entrée, her tongue sneaking out to lick her lips. Her fork clinked against the porcelain plate, and he held his breath for her verdict.
Her sudden gasp as she grabbed the edge of the table didn’t bode well. The small squeak probably meant she was in pain, and her fingertips turned white from her death grip.
Stumbling out of his seat, he rushed to her side. “You’re not all right. I’m not a doctor, but I’d guess acute appendicitis. Or maybe a really bad case of acid reflux.”
She shook her head, sending her strawberry-blonde ponytail swinging back and forth. “Fine. I’m fine. Really. I just, um, bit my tongue.” Her chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm as she straightened in her seat. “You’re hired. Can you start work on Monday?”

Campanelle and Portabellas with Roma Tomato Sauce

1 lb. campanelle pasta
12 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar (more or less, to taste)
1 cup Marsala (I prefer Taylor New York) or burgundy wine
6 oz. sliced portabella mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan

To peel tomatoes: Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, plunging into a bowl of ice water. Let stand 2 minutes. Remove tomatoes from ice water. Skin should peel away easily.

Sauce: In a medium saucepan combine chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, and sugar. Cook over medium heat for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Marsala. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer at least 20 minutes.

Pasta: Prepare campanelle according to package directions—ten minutes cook time for al dente.

Sautéed Portabellas: Preheat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Carefully lay mushroom slices flat in pan. Cook until lightly browned. Turn over to brown second side. Remove to warm plate.

Assemble: Place a bed of campanelle on plate. Top with sauce and a mushroom slice. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.

Options: Add cannellini, black beans, or sautéed tofu to the sauce with the Marsala.

Enjoy—the book and the recipe! Leave a comment with the name of your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!


  1. Great excerpt and can't wait to try the recipe! Congrats on the new book!

  2. Thanks for hosting me today, Cheryl! I love pasta, and this is one of my favorite sauces, especially when I have lots of fresh tomatoes from the garden!

  3. buttermilk chocolate cake from good

  4. Yummy book and yummy recipe, Mel!! Can't wait to try it! Congrats on your success with Love Served Hot! You rock, baby!

  5. GREAT EXCERPT!! I'm a Foodie. So Romance and Cooking is my cup of tea. One of my favorite Recipes is my own Carrot Cake. It's too die for. It's the coconut and pineapple. Pop that bottle of Champagne for the Launch!!

  6. Thanks, Donna! Carrot Cake is another of my favorites! Toasting with you!!! :)

  7. Congratulations, Donna! Thanks for commenting and enjoy!