Treats for the Heat

Cream of Blue Crab and Wild Mushroom Bisque

Fortunate culinarians have a source from which to gather wild mushrooms. If you are not one of these lucky few, there is always the supermarket.  When wild mushrooms are unavailable, dried ones reconstituted in hot water may be used. Save the water in which they soak to enrich broths and stocks.

From “Fun, Funky and Fabulous:  New Orleans’ Casual Restaurant Recipes” by Jyl Benson (Pelican Publishing Company). This book is filled with creative recipes from affordable restaurants, and is a perfect guide if you are going to New Orleans and are looking for fabulous food. If not, these easy recipes can be made by home cooks.  Fifty mouthwatering color photos and funky art make this book a real winner.

Serves 8 as an entrée, 16 as a soup course.

2 sticks plus 3 tablespoons salted butter

4 ribs celery, medium dice

1 onion, medium dice

2 green bell peppers, medium dice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups heavy cream

3 quarts crab or seafood stock

3 pounds fresh, wild mushrooms such as chanterelle, chicken of the woods, porcini, oyster, or shitake or 9 ounces dried, reconstituted in hot water

1 pound jumbo lump Gulf crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage

Melt 2 sticks butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic. Stir in the flour, blending thoroughly. Cook, stirring constantly, until a light blonde roux is achieved, four to five minutes.

Add the bay leaf, thyme, hot sauce, wine and stock, whisking constantly to incorporate.

Add the cream and whisk to incorporate. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture starts to thicken, about 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and purée the mixture using an immersion blender. Set one-fourth of the mushrooms aside; add remainder to the puréed soup and cook until mushrooms are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, add remaining three tablespoons butter to a skillet set over medium high heat. Add remaining mushrooms and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Turn off fire under soup; gently stir in crabmeat. Allow to sit until crab is heated through. Serve each portion garnished with some of the sautéed mushrooms.

Great-Grandma’s Popcorn Balls

In the late 1800s, corn was dry and popcorn was often used as croutons in soup or salads, or crushed and used as cereal with milk, but the most popular treat was to add sticky, sweet syrup and form the popcorn into balls.  This eventually led to the creation of the classic confection Cracker Jack, which is easily prepared at home. Corn’s history began with Mesoamerican farmers who bred a non-descriptive grass into a staff of life so prolific that it represents nothing less than one of humankind’s greatest achievements. From the simple foodstuff of Native Americans, to food that helped the Pilgrims survive, to shaping the heartland of this country, corn is a staple that is here to stay.

From Cynthia Clampitt’s “Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland” (University of Illinois Press)

2  1/2 quarts popped popcorn

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup white corn syrup

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place popcorn in a large bowl.  Mix sugar, water, corn syrup, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan.  Cook to 250°F, or until a few drops form a hard ball when dropped into cold water.  Remove from the heat.

Stir vanilla into the syrup and pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring constantly to mix well. With buttered hands, shape into balls. Cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and tie together with yarn. Makes about 12 balls.

Lime and Mint Water

This limeade is like no other and is as refreshing as it sounds.  Pati Jinich learned it from a friend who made it with wild mint from her yard, and some limes from her lime tree.  By using the lime almost in its entirety, along with the whole mint leaves, you get the most from both. This delightful cooler can be made up to 12 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated (just stir before serving) and served at BBQ or fiesta.

From “Pati’s Mexican Table” by Pati Jinich (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), who is the host of the PBS series “Pati’s Mexican Table.”

1 lime, quartered and seeds removed

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

6-8 fresh mint leaves

3/4 cup sugar, or to taste

6 cups water

ice cubes

Place the lime, lime juice, mint, sugar, and 2 cups of the water in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a pitcher.

Return the strained mixture to the blender or processor along with 2 cups of the water, and puree again until smooth. Strain again into the pitcher, then add the remaining 2 cups water and give it a good stir. Chill the drink before serving or serve it immediately. Either way, pour into glasses filled with ice. Serves 4.

Editor’s note: For more edible delights by Sheilah Kaufman, go to