Friday, June 21, 2019

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King

Please join me in welcoming Crystal King to Let Them Read Books! I read and enjoyed both Feast of Sorrows and The Chef's Secret, and I recently had the chance to interview Crystal for the Historical Novel Society. I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about cherries in Renaissance cooking with a recipe for Sour Cherry Coriander Ice Cream with Honeyed Pine Nuts! Yum! Read on and enter to win a set of both books!

A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.


The Chef's Secret + Renaissance Cherry Ice Cream = Summer
By Crystal King, author of The Chef’s Secret and Feast of Sorrow

One of the best things about the summer, in my opinion, is the variety and flavor of the fruits that appear in the warmest months of the year. Cherries are one of my favorite fruits of all. I’m not the only one that has grown up with a love of cherries. Millions of people all over the world, through the centuries, have loved this tiny fruit. The first record we have of the cherry was that Roman consul, politician and military conqueror Lucius Licinius Lucullus brought them to Rome from Turkey in roughly 72 B.C. I wrote my first novel, Feast of Sorrow, about the first century ancient gourmand, Apicius, whose name is on the oldest known cookbook—a cookbook which includes instructions on how to preserve cherries.
The famous Renaissance Italian chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, also shared a number of cherry recipes in his cookbook. Who was Scappi? We don’t know much about his life. We know he died in 1577, so we can roughly guess when he might have been born. We know who he worked for as a chef, which included a number of cardinals and popes. We know he was born in Dumenza, on the northern border of Italy—almost in Switzerland—and that he lived in a few other places, in Milan, Venice, Bologna, and for most of his life, in Rome. He had a nephew named Giovanni, who became his apprentice in the Vatican kitchen, and a sister named Caterina. And finally, he published a cookbook, L’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, with over 1,000 recipes in it, with instructions and images that would inspire chefs for more than 200 years after it was printed.

The rest?

That’s the fun part. I had the opportunity to make it all up in my novel The Chef’s Secret. But one of my favorite things about writing about historical chefs is that I get to learn about and experiment with the flavors of that time.

Renaissance nobility were considerably richer than the peasantry, with a gap between the rich and poor nearly on levels that we see today. But back then, one of the ways we saw the disparity was in what people ate. The wealthy could afford luxurious spices and most importantly, sugar. Scappi’s cookbook contains 900 recipes with sugar in them and many of the dishes were so laden with sugar that we might find them cloying today. Spices were also one of the ways that the nobility showed off their money, and if you could afford exotic spices, you used them liberally. Around 600 or so dishes in Scappi’s cookbook call for cinnamon, for example. Cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and cloves were omnipresent, even in dishes we would consider savory—like fried chicken!

Not long after I finished writing The Chef’s Secret, I came across an article in NPR's The Salt about Hannah Spiegelman, who creates ice cream based on flavors from various historical period. I knew I had to reach out to her. She combines two of my loves--history and ice cream. Her website A Sweet History catalogs all her delicious creations.

I like to think that Scappi would swoon just as much as I did if he saw this recipe. There are a few steps to making it, but I promise, it’s worth it. The candied pine nuts make this ice cream truly heavenly.

Sour Cherry Coriander Ice Cream with Honeyed Pine Nuts

Cherry Puree:

        1 lb. sour cherries

  1. Rinse and pit cherries.

  2. Place the fruit in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a spoon to help mash the fruit. When the fruit is bubbling uncover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the fruit has released its juices. Continue mashing the fruit with a spoon as necessary.

  3. Transfer the fruit to a blender and let it cool for 10 minutes. Blend until smooth.

  4. Pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve.
Honeyed Pine Nuts
        ½ cup pine nuts
        2 tbsp. honey
        ¼ tsp. sea salt

  1. Combine pine nuts, honey, and salt in a small pot over medium-high heat. Cook until nuts are golden, about 3-5 minutes.
Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool completely before breaking up the nuts.

        1 1/4 cups sour cherry puree
        1/2 cup buttermilk
        1 teaspoon lemon juice
        1 1/2 cups milk
        1/2 cup cream
        3/4 cups sugar
        1/2 cup corn syrup or glucose
        1 tbsp plus 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp of water
        1 tbsp coriander  
        1/2  cup honeyed pine nuts (see recipe below)

  1. Whisk the cherry puree with the buttermilk in a small bowl and set aside in the fridge.

  2. Put the cream, milk, glucose, sugar, and coriander in a medium saucepan, and place it over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking occasionally until the mixture come to a full rolling boil. Once the mixture has reached a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.

  3. After a minute, add the cornstarch slurry and cook for another minute and then remove from the heat.

  4. Immediately pour the dairy mixture into a metal or glass bowl. Nest the hot bowl in an ice bath, stirring occasionally until it cools down.

  5. When the base is cool to the touch, mix in the cherry mixture and whisk until it is combined. Strain it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits of fruit.

  6. Chill the base in the refrigerator for 4 hours to overnight.

  7. Churn the base according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

  8. Layer with honeyed pine nuts as you put the ice cream in a freezer-safe container. Harden in the freezer for at least 6 hours.
If you make this recipe, let me and Hannah know! She can be found on Instagram and Facebook. And if you share on Twitter, make sure to tag me @crystallyn!

About the Author:

Crystal King is the author of THE CHEF’S SECRET and FEAST OF SORROW. A culinary enthusiast and social media professional, her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart-nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her M.A. in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston.


The Chef's Secret is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a set of Feast of Sorrow and The Chef’s Secret! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

The Chef's Secret


  1. LOVED this post! And now I'm hungry! Thank you so much for hosting Crystal's blog tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

    1. My pleasure! Crystal's books will definitely make you hungry!


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