Suzi’s Blog

Cookbook Review: The Slider Effect by Johathan Melendez


The first time I saw a slider, I thought it was a cute idea. And then I took the bite, the one big bite that got it all in my mouth at once, and I instantly knew what sliders were really all about. Rather than “fight” with your burger, unable to get it all in your mouth as the buns shift around and that slice of tomato shoots out and attacks your tablemate, rather than that struggle with gooey fingers, you just ingest the entire slider in one oversized bite. You immediately sample all the flavors at once, just as they were meant to be: the bun, the meat, pickles and tomatoes and other veggies, the sauce or sauces.

Sliders are the perfect marriage of American burgers with that wonderful tapas-bite-sized food concept. Now, the slider community is expanding. It ain’t just burgers anymore.

In The Slider Effect author Jonathan Melendez travels around the world, down almost every possible pathway, to offer you slider ideas with impact and promise. About the only ingredient not put into sliders here is Mac and Cheese. But this book, so filled with ideas, may inspire you to craft your own Mac and Cheese slider, or maybe Volume 2 by Jonathan is already being written with a new round of even more outrageous combinations.

There are two major portions to this book. First, recipes for sliders using meat, poultry, seafood and vegetarian cores. Second, chapters for Buns, Rolls and Biscuits and for Sauces, Spreads and Condiments.

I actually think you should begin with those last two chapters, to get a survey of the key packaging and flavoring that will frame your slider.

Yes, a “slider” is made with a tiny hamburger bun except when it isn’t. Except when that outside is:

  • Everything Bagel
  • Braided Challah Buns
  • Whole Wheat English Muffins
  • Waffle Buns
  • Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuit
  • Pretzel Buns
  • Rosemary Parmesan Focaccia Buns
  • Crusty French Bread Rolls
  • Sweet Pineapple Hawaiian Rolls
  • Classic Potato Rolls
  • Baked Potato Buttermilk Biscuits

And while a standard sauce could be mayo or mustard or ketchup, what if you used:

  • Homemade Aioli: Roasted Garlic, Siracha, or Cilantro and Lime and Green Onion
  • Hummus
  • Spicy Pumpkin Chutney, Cajun Remoulade
  • Arugula Pumpkin Seed Pesto
  • Chimichurri
  • Buttermilk Ranch
  • Sweet and Spicy Strawberry-Rhubarb Tomato Ketchup
  • Thai Peanut Sauce

Now, imagine you are having a party. Imagine pitchers of sangria and margaritas and beer surrounding a few trays of different buns and different sauces. It’s a slider party and it’s a sure success whatever fillings you desire.

Oh, fillings. Those meat and poultry and seafood and veggie fillings? Here’s a sample of what Jonathan suggests for you:

  • Chicken Fried Steak
  • Grilled Steak and Potato
  • Mediterranean Lamb
  • Vietnamese Banh Mi
  • Buttermilk Fried Chicken
  • Turkey Meatloaf
  • Roast Chicken Salad
  • Grilled Fish Taco
  • Salmon Cake
  • Shrimp Fajita
  • Roasted Beet
  • Fried Zucchini
  • Vegetable Tempura

Now, in some case Jonathan does have a specific combination of bun and sauce in mind but he does list alternatives and you are completely encouraged to mix and match. There are literally thousands of combinations available to you here in The Slider Effect, enough for a hundred slider parties to be sure.

The subtitle of this book is a phrase you know: You Can’t Eat Just One. That’s sure the truth. You won’t want to stop with just one. And you won’t want to stop with just one kind. This is a book to open, meander and experiment with. Don’t worry how you start cooking. Just, just slide into it. One very open mouthful at a time.

Cookbook Review: New Cake Decorating from Betty Crocker


How many of you bake cakes from scratch and decorate them fabulously?

How many of you bake cakes from scratch?

How many of you bake cakes from a cardboard box?

How many of you eat cake?

Ah, at last, someone answers “yes”, thank goodness.

I do bake cakes, from scratch, and I frost them. But decorating a cake has always been something I deferred to my local bakery. I have the artistic skills of a bad kindergarten student with defective crayons. I’m terrible. My wife Suzen won’t even let me try anymore and I am never, never to present one of my cakes to dinner guests. Too embarrassing.

Now, now all can that can change. I can finally do a superior job of decorating, dinner guests can be thrilled, and my wife will no longer be cringing.

After decades of cake miasma, what has happened? We have the wonderful New Cake Decorating book from Betty Crocker. And I do mean wonderful. Many cake decorating books are designed for people with inherent skills, and I’m just not one of those. I’m not. I need basic help. I need some serious guidance. And I need to path that will lead me to more and more ambitious cake projects.

That’s just the approach New Cake Decorating follows. The book is filled with new, colorful ideas ranging from the simple to the “major project” variety. You can start simple, learn, and graduate to very complex projects. Thankfully, even the simple cakes are beautiful. Here is the Splattered White Chocolate Cake:



Now, even I can do that kind of decorating. I just have to pretend I’m Jackson Pollock. Instead of just letting frosting dribble off that spoon, in the next level you can cleverly use the spoon as an instrument to shape the decoration in Rainbow Petal Sheet Cake:




There are many projects here to build your skills, leading you up to the grand finale like the Princess Castle:




The book is filled with idea, techniques, and of course recipes. The basics are thoroughly presented:

  • How to frost a layer cake
  • How to make and drizzle glaze
  • How to frost a cupcake
  • Chocolate decoration aplenty: curls, shaving, cut-out shapes, dipping, candy pieces, piping, molded pieces, and glazes [don’t try to do all these at once!]
  • Decorating with fresh flowers and fruits.

In a half dozen pages, you have a striking set of ideas to transform your cakes from basic to photogenic.

The cakes/frosting recipes are grouped into interesting chapters.

Whimsical and Fun offers a Tie Dye Cake with vertical columns of color, a Maple-Walnut Chocolate Cake with drizzles of maple syrup, and a Pink Champagne Cake. There’s a spice cake made from scratch with dulce de leche frosting, perfectly delicious now and surely something to put on a Thanksgiving Table.

In Cutout & Shaped you transform a sheet cake — using free form templates and a sharp knife — into fun shapes that will delight children and even adults: elephants, monkeys, three-dimensional cats, puppies of all sorts including long-hairs, fish, lions, owls, skateboards, trains and that castle cake. The book cover cake is one of these: a Piñata Pound Cake with a candy core for hard-core candy fanatics.

Special Occasion Cakes are designed for surprise and recognition. The Surprise-on-the-Inside Gender Reveal Cake is for baby showers where a candy core of pink or blue candy pieces announces the coming baby’s gender in full color splendor. There’s a Red, White and Blue Layered Flag Cake that, when sliced, reveals Old Glory in profile. Gingerbread cupcakes are cut, turned on their side, assembled and united with frosting to form a Snow-Capped Gingerbread Train.

Just the Basics presents recipes for cakes and frosting: chocolate, white and yellow cakes; vanilla and chocolate glazes; and frostings aplenty: peppermint, caramel, lemon, maple-nut, fudge, fluffy white, orange, peanut butter, creaming cocoa, vanilla buttercream cherry nut and cream cheese.

It will take you more than a single month to work your way through this book, assuming you rise every morning and become your own cake baker. Perhaps you’ll explore this book a little more slowly, allowing your cake education to evolve with no pressure but with total pleasure.

New Cake Decorating is a very well-crafted, beautiful book. There are concepts here to entertain you and recipes to make you pause. Nothing can match the elegance of a cake decorated to-the-nines. And, yes, you can.

Tamarind Honey Shrimp from Sirocco



Iranians love all things sour. So says Sabrina Ghayour, author of the colorful, brilliantly colorful, Sirocco. Iranian recipes abound with lemons, limes, pomegranate molasses, young plums and tamarind. Here tamarind paste, with its tartness, is married with honey to create, along with some chili oil, a marinade that embraces jumbo shrimp.

This is not an instant dish. That marinade takes 30 minutes to rest and allow the flavors to marry properly. It’s worth the wait. If you love sticky, sweet, and things verging on caramelization, then this dish is ideal for your summer table.

The glorious photo is by Haarala Hamilton.

Tamarind Honey Shrimp

Yield: 4-5 servings


For the marinade:

  • 3 ½ ounces tamarind paste
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons chili oil (or olive oil, if you prefer)
  • Flaky sea salt

For the shrimp:

  • 1 ¾ pounds raw jumbo shrimp (the biggest you can find), ideally peeled but with the tails left on
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 heaping teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ ounce cilantro, leaves roughly chopped
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced from root to tip


To prepare the marinade, thoroughly blend the ingredients in a mixing bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add the shrimp and work the marinade into them using your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle in a little vegetable oil. Drain any excess marinade from the shrimp, then fry them quickly on both sides until they are cooked through and slightly charred. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the shrimp – if using standard supermarket shrimp, you won’t need to cook them for more than 1 minute or so each side. But if you are using larger, meatier shrimp, you may need to reduce the heat slightly and allow them to cook for a little longer. The marinade is sticky and sweet, which means it will blacken in the pan slightly, so don’t panic if the shrimp look charred. They will still taste delicious. Serve sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, cilantro and chopped scallions.


Source: Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour [Clarkson Potter, 2016]