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Saturday, August 18, 2012 - Page updated at 11:30 a.m.

Taste
Novelist Susan Mallery offers this blackberry bliss

By Providence Cicero

MY IDEA of hot fun in the summertime is a pile of romance novels and a lounge chair, preferably by the water — almost the very illustration gracing the cover of Susan Mallery's "Barefoot Season." The prolific Bellevue-based author may be best known for her "Fool's Gold" series set in the Sierra Nevada of California.

"Barefoot Season" begins a new series about a fictional Northwest locale called Blackberry Island, where the two female protagonists, who are also antagonists, operate an inn with a restaurant attached.

Mallery grew up in Los Angeles sneak-reading her mother's Harlequin romances. She earned a degree in accounting, but at a job interview she blurted out to the recruiter that she really wanted to write romance novels. After a very long pause, he confided, "I write fantasy," and encouraged her to go off and give it a try.

That was roughly 20 years and 120 novels ago. Mallery cut her storytelling teeth writing about topics as diverse as wildcats and Arab sheiks. The former required research, the latter, she says, involved pure fantasy: "Hunky royal guys, a lot of shopping and sex in the oasis."

Mallery promotes her books through an extensive website where her insatiable fans can learn more about the author, her toy poodle, Nikki, and her fictional characters. One of the links takes readers to recipes.

Why recipes? "Food is what women do," says Mallery. "We cook. We feed people. When someone is sick or hurting, you bring them food. When you're falling in love, you have a favorite restaurant."

The idea began with a recipe-gone-wrong that she blogged about. "Disaster is a great marketing tool, it turns out. The story got a big response."

As Mallery sees it, the recipes are "a value-added for readers. It gives us something to talk about." They also provide a tangible way for readers to connect with her. After all, she says, "I can't take everyone to lunch."

Mallery admits she is not a great cook. "I have a 40 percent success rate with recipes, which means there's a 60 percent chance we'll be ordering pizza. My husband is very patient."

Last summer she tested his tolerance for weeks while trying out blackberry recipes for the new series. "Couldn't you have called it Red Meat Island?" her husband grumbled. Perhaps to mollify him, she came up with this Blackberry-Chipotle Sauce for pork chops. After all, what romance writer wouldn't want to please her man?

Providence Cicero, Seattle Times restaurant critic, co-hosts "Let's Eat" with Terry Jaymes at 4 p.m. Saturdays on 97.3 KIRO FM. Reach Cicero at providencecicero@aol.com.

Blackberry Chipotle Sauce

2 cups fresh (or frozen) blackberries

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons to ¼ cup canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped (the more, the hotter)

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Heat the blackberries and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. When they're warm, mash them with a potato masher or wooden spoon. Lower heat and continue cooking for a few minutes. Pour the mixture into a wire mesh strainer over a bowl or measuring cup. Discard solids, reserve liquid. Yields about 1 cup of liquid.

2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic, sauté until onions are translucent. Add the blackberry juice, chipotles, cumin, vinegar and salt. Simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly.

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