Monthly Archives: February 2012

It’s Madness. Marshmallow Madness.

You’ll never see this kiddie confection the same way again.

BUY IT! - Masrhmallow Madness
When you’re a kid there is stuff that never crosses you mind. Some things are just off your radar. Sure, a five or six year old might ask “why is the sky blue or why can’t I eat my dinner out of a bowl like Sparky”. But, what about a seemingly unanswerable question like, “where do marshmallows come from?”. Now that’s a mystery worth unraveling.

I wonder if caterer/blogger/author, Shauna Sever has ever asked? One thing I can tell you for sure is that that she definitely has the answer. Her new cookbook, Marshmallow Madness, pulls back the veil of secrecy that surrounds the creation of these popular sweet treats and opens up a world of puffy possibilities.

Shauna’s book is jam packed with marshmallow recipes that will have you looking at these childhood delights in a whole new way. Of course, there is the basic, standard, classic vanilla marshmallow recipe. It’s right up front where it should be. But, do a little page turning and be prepared to raise an eye brow (or two). Did I just hear someone say, Mango-Chile-Lime Marshmallows? I thought so.

Both kids and adults are sure to love the super creative and imaginative recipes in the book. To get you in the marshmallow mood, the cover even has a squeezable feel to it. There is no doubt you would be the talk of your next bonfire if you showed up with some Salted Peanut or Maple-Bacon Marshmallows to sandwich into your S’mores. Tongues would certainly be wagging.

Once you make a homemade batch, it may be tough to go back to the bag of Stay Pufts. The good news is with so many new recipes to try, you won’t have to.

NOTE: Over at Serious Eats they are holding a “Marsh Madness” marshmallow competition. Sixteen bloggers will be dueling it out in a no holds barred marshmallow cooking challenge. You can check in each week to see who’s creations are outshining the rest of the pack. You can also keep tabs on all the marshmallow madness on Twitter by using #marshmadness.

BUY IT! - Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious RecipesAuthor: Shauna Sever
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books (February 28, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1594745722

BUY IT! - Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes

Gumbo Fit For A Mardi Gras King


“People who come back from heaven all say the same thing… Try the gumbo”.


Gumbo. Just say the word and watch me start to drool. Everybody has his or her favorite. And, I’m sure there are as many variations as you would care to count. But, there’s only one that could get me to make a forty minute car ride into the city for absolutely no other reason.

In the Chicago loop, next to the “el” tracks on Wabash, tucked away on the seventh floor of an otherwise ordinary looking downtown professional building, is my personal gumbo mecca. The place is appropriately named, Heaven on Seven.

It’s housed in an old school Chicago building. A small convenience counter selling newspapers, gum and assorted sundries greets you when you make your way through the revolving doors. An attendant still directs you to the correct elevator. Even though the only place to go is up.

When the elevator doors push back you can only hope that the line of other salivating diners doesn’t stretch the full length of the hall. Usually it does. It’s a small space, compared to the mega eateries opening today. The line does move.

There’s usually a way to avoid the wait. It’s not a big insider secret. The counter. Yes, a full on coffee shop counter. And, most times there’s one vacant seat. You can settle in to a cramped stool, order a cup of gumbo and a jalapeño corn bread muffin and watch the frenetic pace of a Chicago dining landmark.

Since moving, I sometimes get an uncontrollable urge for their thick, super rich, Andouille laden stew. Especially around this time of year. But, at Heaven on Seven “It’s Mardi Gras All the Time”.

Mardi Gras Beads

I have been mostly disappointed with all other surrogate gumbos I currently have access to (although some have come close). I figured this year I should try my hand at creating the real thing.

Back in 2000, chef/owner Jimmy Bannos put out a cookbook containing some of the restaurants signature dishes. During the planning and editing process, someone made the very unselfish decision to include the world’s best gumbo. Thank you.

The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It's Mardi Gras All the Time!

Lucky for me I had a signed copy my wife gave me years ago sitting on a shelf in the kitchen for just this very occasion.

As I read through the recipe it became immediately clear that making great gumbo doesn’t happen by accident. This isn’t for beginners. The recipe itself includes no less than four ingredients that have their own individual recipes (something like, see page 134). No one said this would be a stroll through Jackson Square.

I’ve got a great cast iron Dutch oven that was meant for this. I figured it would be best to approach the process in two parts. I made all of the side recipes and prepped on the first day. On day two, I put it all together.


Usually I would post the recipe here, but, it’s pretty widely available in print and on the web. You can find it without too much trouble. So instead, here’s the recipe for the Roasted-Garlic Puree that you’ll need for the finished product.

Roasted-Garlic Puree

1 cup, garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 300. Place all of the garlic in a small ovenproof dish. Cover completely with the olive oil. Cover dish with foil and place in oven. Roast 1 hour or until garlic is soft and golden brown.

When finished strain the garlic from the oil. Place the garlic in a blender or small food processor. Puree until smooth. Add a small amount of the infused oil to get a nice pasty consistency. Store the finished puree in a small container and top with a thin layer of the oil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep for a few days. You can store the infused oil separately. The oil would be an amazing base for a great Caesar salad dressing.

There a lot of ingredients in the gumbo recipe. So, be careful to follow the directions carefully. Double check.

My gumbo in all of it’s deliciousness.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I have to say it was right on! It turned out great. I was shocked at how close it was to the restaurant version. Amazing!

Oh, you can’t have Jimmy’s gumbo without a corn bread muffin or two.

Corn Bread Muffins

The Bottom Line: I’m not sure I’m going to make this on a weekly or even monthly basis. But, now that I’ve got this in my back pocket, I have a cure for the gumbo shakes should they arise. It would be WAY easier if Jimmy would just ship down a quart or two every year. Order up!

Buy IT! - The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It's Mardi Gras All the Time!Author: Jimmy Bannos & John Demers
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN-10: 1580081681

Buy IT! - The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It's Mardi Gras All the Time!

Recipe adapted from: Roasted-Garlic Puree, The Heaven on Seven Cookbook, Jimmy Bannos and John DeMers ©2000, Ten Speed Press


The Queen of Creole Cooking Knows Her Stuff


When people call you “the queen of…”, there are expectations.

Lena Richard - New Orleans Cookbook

There are lots of self-proclaimed experts running around today, tooting their own horn. Saying you’re an expert is easy. Proving it, is another matter.

Lena Richard, is a true expert using anyone’s yard stick. From the time she open her cooking school in 1937, up until the time of her death in 1950, Lena reigned as the undisputed Queen of Creole Cooking.

Her simply titled, New Orleans Cookbook, is still an timeless guide to the cuisine, techniques and food culture of one the country most delicious regions. Written back in 1940, this classic is a throw back to a time when molecular gastronomy might have been a condition that would send you to see a doctor rather than a culinary style. This book is the “anti Modernist Cuisine. 139 pages of cooking ease and not a drop of liquid nitrogen in sight.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Lena was not only known for her simple, yet elegant dishes, but, for being a trailblazer too. From 1947 to 1949 she appeared on New Orleans TV in her own cooking show. No big deal today. But, back in the 1940’s, in the south, it was a huge deal. She ran and operated four separate restaurants during her life. In Lena’s places blacks and whites sat side by side. Like I said, a trailblazer.

Chapters in this little gem of a cookbook run the gamut from compotes to pastries to stuffings and everything else a southern cook could want to serve their family or guests. The chapter on, Uses for Leftovers (a full five paragraphs long), perfectly sums up the simplicity of the time.

If you are a lover of New Orleans cuisine or history this is a cookbook that deserves a special place in your collection. Thankfully, it’s still available for all to savor.

BUY IT - New Orleans CookbookAuthor: Lena Richard
Paperback: 158 pages
Publisher: Pelican Publishing
ISBN-10: 1565545885



BUY IT - New Orleans Cookbook