Corn, lobster and guac, oh my — three new cookbooks offer summertime fare

TITLE: Lobster: 55 Fresh & Simple Recipes for Everyday Eating by Brooke Dojny (Storey Publishing, $14.95, 144 pages)

GENERALLY SPEAKING: If you have ever been intimidated by the thought of cooking lobster, this new cookbook might just ease your fears. Author Brooke Dojny does an excellent job of explaining all things lobster, including the lingo, how to buy, cook and store lobster, hard shell versus soft shell and various cooking methods. You'll also find many notes helping you convert how many cups of lobster are needed versus how much whole lobster you should cook. Plus, let's just get this out of the way now: Dojny states that lobsters do not scream when you cook them. The high-pitched sound you may hear when the lobsters hit the water is steam escaping from their shell. If you are still uneasy about this, all the recipes can be made with purchased, cooked lobster meat. Just expect to pay more.

FOR: Those who love lobster, especially those afraid to cook them at home. There are also recipes for desserts that don't include lobster.

RECIPES: Tangy tarragon lobster salad in its shell, gratin of lobster and spinach with black pepper toasts, Rhode Island red lobster stew, lobster quesadillas with chunky guacamole, lobster mac and cheese, classic lobster stew, lobster gazpacho, baked stuffed spectacular, softly scrambled eggs with lobster, lobster pasta with tomato-caper cream sauce, lobster and corn risotto with roasted tomatoes, lobster and arugula pizza and lobster fra diavolo.

TITLE: The Crockin' Girls Slow Cookin' Companion by Nicole Sparks and Jenna Marwitz (the Five Star Institute, $32.95, 376 pages)

GENERALLY SPEAKING: Either you love your slow cooker and use it frequently or it's just another appliance taking up space in your kitchen. If you are part of the latter, glancing through this cookbook may change your mind. These recipes look delicious and, best of all, easy. There are recipes you never thought you could make in your slow cooker, everything from dips to desserts. It's important to mention there are two oversights with regard to this cookbook. The first is really a pet peeve of mine in that none of the recipes give the number of servings. The second oversight is not one mention is made to what size of slow cooker is needed for the recipes. In some of the photos, one with an oval shape is depicted, but some of the recipes look like they could use a smaller 4-quart type. If you use a slow cooker often, this may not be a big deal to you, but for someone just starting out it could mean disaster.

FOR: Busy families and anyone who wants a good meal on the table with minimal effort.

RECIPES: All-day mac and cheese, hickory smoked brisket, crockin' enchilada casserole, Swiss steak, sweet and sour ribs, zesty shredded chicken barbecue, ranch potatoes, cowboy beans, frito pie, groundhog cheese dip, Nicole's corn chowder, Idaho dip, apple cinnamon steel-cut oatmeal, apple butter, creamy apricot chicken, most amazing pork chops, pork chop and rice casserole, peanut clusters, tapioca pudding, triple chocolate mess, apple crisp and homemade applesauce.

TITLE: I Love Corn by Lisa Skye (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99, 142 pages)

GENERALLY SPEAKING: Who knew you could use corn in so many recipes? From appetizers to main dish accompaniments to sides to desserts. Yes, desserts. There are some very creative recipes in I Love Corn that are sure to please a wide range of palates. All recipes use fresh corn, mostly off the cob. While there are kitchen gadgets to strip the kernels off the cob, a sharp knife will do just fine. There is great information on how to buy, store and cook — and de-kernel — fresh corn.

FOR: You really need to love corn for this cookbook to appeal to you.

RECIPES: Corn-poached halibut with tomato and charred jalapeno chutney, corn pudding with bacon and leeks, grilled New Zealand venison with corn, cocoa and chipotle relish, corn "ceviche" in corn water, roasted salmon with corn salad and salsa verde, poached peaches and rhubarb with warm corn shortcakes, popcorn pudding with salted caramel corn and butterscotch sauce, Yankee corn bread, cornmeal cake with honey and bananas, warm Jersey corn salad, lobster and corn bruschetta and sweet corn soup.

>>Moderate

Lobster Quesadillas With Chunky Guacamole

For the guacamole:

1 ripe avocado

¼ cup finely diced red onion

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the quesadillas:

1 ½ cups shredded pepper jack cheese

1 cup cooked lobster meat, chopped medium fine (about 5 ounces)

8 (6-inch) flour tortillas

About 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

To make the guacamole, pit and peel the avocado and cut the flesh into chunks. Combine in a bowl with the onion, lime zest and cilantro. Use a large fork or potato masher to coarsely mash the avocado, leaving some chunks visible. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can be made up to 2 hours ahead. (If held any longer, the avocado will darken.)

To make the quesadillas, toss the cheese and lobster together in a bowl. Place four tortillas on a work surface and divide the lobster/cheese mixture among them, spreading it out evenly. Top with second tortilla, pressing firmly.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the quesadillas with oil and cook, in batches, until the cheese melts and the tortillas are crisp and golden, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side.

Cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve, topped with guacamole.

Serves 3 to 4.

>>easy

Groundhog Cheese Dip

1 pound ground beef

1 pound sausage

1 pound Velveeta cheese

1 pound Mexican Velveeta cheese

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles

½ jar salsa

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Brown ground beef and sausage; drain and place in the slow cooker. Cube cheese and place in the slow cooker. Mix together the remaining ingredients and place in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 hours or until cheese is melted. Stir frequently and serve with chips.

>>Moderate

Sweet Corn Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium-sized white onions, chopped finely

2 medium-sized carrots, chopped finely

4 medium-sized shallots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

15 ears fresh corn, kernels removed (about 11 cups)

2 pieces star anise

10 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in a bunch

5 quarts corn or vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook until caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the corn and cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the star anise and thyme and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the star anise and thyme. Working in two batches, pour half of the soup into a blender. Secure the lid by covering it with a towel and holding down while pureeing. Pour the remaining soup into the blender and puree. Strain it thoroughly through a fine-mesh sieve and serve.

Serves 4.

Corn, lobster and guac, oh my — three new cookbooks offer summertime fare 07/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 4:30pm]

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