Suzi’s Blog

Cookbook Review: Infusing Flavors by Erin Coopey


Three years ago, Erin Coopey wrote a brilliant book, The Kitchen Pantry, devoted to making your own condiments at home. Yes, homemade mayo and mustard and salad dressing. Fresher, brighter and surely healthier.

She’s back with Infusing Flavors, a book literally infused with clever ideas to make you a better cook and a happier eater. Infusing Flavors offers you ideas for your own oils, vinegars, sauces, bitters, waters, soft drinks, shrubs, … Well, I could go on for a couple of lines here. Here are two key points. First, this book gives you templates so you can try the recipes in the book and then let your imagination fly. Second, you learn here how important infusing can be, how you can accelerate your food flavors and achieve spectacular dishes, ones that make you proud and well as happy. And, very happily, you can achieve all this with only a modest effort.

What is infusion? You take a liquid, say oil, and you take flavor enhancers, say some herbs and flower petals, and you combine them. It’s that simple. You may need a little patience for the flavors to marry, but that’s part of the fun. Do your infusing, wait a week and taste. Then wait another week and taste again and experience the wonders that a little time can perform. And, there are no “rules” here. Early infusion and mature ones can be enjoyed with equal relish. And you will.

This slim book, less than 200 pages, can only be described as flavor packed. Here’s a sample of the recipes you can enjoy:

Chamomile-Lavender Tisane [aka herbal tea]

Mango-Lemongrass Iced Tea

Rhubarb Bitters

Tomato-Balsamic Shrub

Homemade Ginger Ale

Dandelion Punch

Watermelon and Hibiscus Agua Fresca

Lemongrass-Infused Rice Vinegar

Citrus-Infused Chicken Broth

Ginger-Infused Honey

Spice-Infused Caramel Sauce

These are bold ideas, ones I have not seen before and I bet you have not either. That Tomato-Balsamic Shrub, for example, is destined for your Sunday brunch cocktail table for sure. There seems to be no limit to Erin’s imagination and the ideas are brilliantly accented with inspiring photographs.

This is not a book to buy and put up on your bookshelf. No, this stays on the counter or the island, a reference you can turn to every day. Once you’ve thumbed through a few times, you’ll have a sense of the lay of the recipe land here. So, when you have some ingredient in your fridge you want to use, you brain is going to remind you the book has just the match you need or perhaps a recipe that can adapted. This is a book that will keeping your thinking every time you do open the fridge.

So, you want to buy some copies of Infusing Flavors. One for you, of course. But, if you want the perfect gift for a foodie relative or friend, there just is nothing better. This gift will go on giving for a lifetime. If you do give this as a gift, bundle it with some lavender and lemons. Give everyone a head start to Infusing Flavors.



Salted Caramel Brownies from The New York Times and Baked


Suzi is serving this brownie every week at Cooking by the Book. Teams come here to cook a meal together and then gobble up their creations for lunch or dinner. Suzi put these brownies on the menu, knowing that folks would home in on the idea of a brownie and caramel and salt. They do.

This recipe appeared in the New York Times and was credited to Baked, the quite remarkable bakery chain that began in Red Hook. Luckily for me, a new Baked is here in Tribeca and I can walk three blocks to buy a brownie any day. But, but, I must say that having the smell of these baking in your own kitchen is a treat. And to sample them warm and gooey, well, that’s just an incomparable over the top dessert.

The caramel here has a secret ingredient: sour cream. How does it taste? Doubly caramel!

Like brownies? Be prepared to fall in love all over again.

Salted Caramel Brownies

Yield: about 12 depending on your knife skills, and your avarice!


For the caramel:

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

½ cup heavy cream

¾ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ cup sour cream

For the brownies:

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces plus more to grease the pan

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate 60 to 72% cocoa, coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

5 large eggs at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Coarse sugar and flaky salt for sprinkling


Make the caramel: in a medium saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat, stirring gently, until an instant read thermometer reads 350 degrees or until the mixture is dark amber in color, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, slowly pour in heavy cream and salt (it will foam up) and whisk. Whisk in sour cream (it may look lumpy at first) and set aside to cool. Taste and add salt if needed to give the caramel a good balance of salt and sweet.

Make the brownies: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use butter (or baking spray) to lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter or spray the parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

Melt chocolate and butter together, either in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, or in a microwave at low heat, working in 30-second bursts. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted and combined. Whisk in sugars. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Using a sturdy whisk, add eggs one by one, whisking just until combined. Stir in vanilla.

Gently pour chocolate mixture over flour mixture. Using a spatula, fold together just until few streaks of flour are visible; do not overmix.

Pour batter into the pan and let settle. Drizzle caramel sauce over batter until the batter is almost covered. (you may not use all the caramel.) On the surface, use the tip of a butter knife or icing spatula to swirl the batter and caramel together. Don't worry if it looks messy.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. At the 30-minute mark, shake the pan gently to test for doneness. When done, the brownies will be barely set in the center and puffed, but not dry, around the edges. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with coarse sugar and flaked salt.

Let cool to room temperature before cutting. After cutting, if desired, drizzle any remaining caramel over the top. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Source: The New York Times, 2016


Maria Sin Sangre from The Craft Cocktail Party by Julie Reiner


Ordinarily, you can tell if I have made a recipe here or am just supplying you with an exciting one from a cookbook. I can’t actually test and taste everything, so sometimes you are going to be the one enjoying that first taste. You can tell which scenario is in playby the picture. If I made it, I photograph it. If I haven’t made it, I use a photo, typically much better than mine, from the book.

Well, here, I made this wonderful cocktail. But, my photos of cocktails and soups are famous for being bad, and this cocktail is really good, so I’ve used the book’s lovely picture. It’s a gem, just like the beverage.

This is author, and bar owner, Julie Reiner’s variation on the Bloody Mary. No tomato juice here, hence the Sin Sangre in the title. No, you muddle cherry tomatoes with basil leaves and simple syrup. No vodka either. It’s tequila. And, only God and Julie know why, there is a splash of sherry.

The picture and the story and the ingredients were too powerful a pull for me to resist. My wife Suzi is a Bloody Mary fanatic. Her response after the first sip? “More.”

The flavor profile here is intriguing. The basil is powerful, the tomatoes sweet but earthy, and the simply syrup provides an underlying brightness. Then the tequila and sherry give you a jet-powered culinary shove.

Try this once and you, too, will simply say, “More.”

Maria Sin Sangre

Yield: 1 cocktail


  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 6 basil leaves
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces blanco tequila (I recommend El Tesoro)
  • ½ ounce dry sherry (I recommend Williams Humbert medium-dry)
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • Garnish of basil leaf and cherry tomato, if you desire


In the bottom of a shaker, muddle the tomatoes and basil in the simple syrup. Add the tequila, sherry, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and shake with ice until chilled. Double strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a coupe glass.

To create the garnish, pierce a small hole in the top of the tomato and insert the stem of the basil leaf like a flag. Make a slit in the bottom of the tomato and perch the tomato on I the rim of the glass.

Source: The Craft Cocktail Party by Julie Reiner [Grand Central Life and Style, 2015]