Cooks and Cocktails: Drinks can be a cookbook chapter, too

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I found Boo Leet’s, “it’s a Daisy Cookbook” in a trendy cooking shop in Glenview. Lacking the heft and sturdiness of Betty, this slim, sunny yellow cookbook with its plastic cover and green plastic comb binding all but jumped off the shelf and into my hands.

Whereas Betty spoke in well-modulated tones, clear and precise, Boo Leet’s voice breezed across the pages with an energy and vibrancy I hadn’t yet encountered in a cookbook.
Betty organized her recipes with deliberation and knew how to spell. She taught you how to read a recipe. Boo, not so much.

Recipes aren’t presented in any kind of standard format. In fact, many of them are paragraphs where it just feels like she’s standing in your kitchen, telling you how she puts a particular dish together. Other recipes start out with a listing of ingredients but then give way to paragraph-speak, often bringing in ingredients not first listed. She threads her enthusiasm for food and cooking throughout the text with comments like, “You’ll like it!”, and, “A hit with all!”

It was also the first cookbook I owned that had drinks. Aptly titled, “Boo’s Booze,” she offered recipes for Alexanders and Grasshoppers and Frozen Daiquiries, all drinks we’d started ordering after those beer-only college years. For those who didn’t want to drink, she had Chicken Martinis.

From Boo, I learned that adding sherry to a chicken dish would make everyone think they were eating restaurant food (Sherry Chicken), and that fruit worked well with chicken (Chicken with Peaches and Chicken Jubilee). That sherry was a popular ingredient at the time is evident in the number of recipes where she used it, from appetizers (Hot Tuna Teasers and Chicken Livers), to soups, stews, chowders and main dishes.

She included many family favorites, too, such as Tuna and Cashew Nut Casserole and her formula for Beef, Lamb or Chicken Hot Dish Leftovers.

I can overlook “cooking cherry” and “Potato-Leak Soup” and even her use of exclamation points, because, well, that’s just Boo. Besides sharing recipes her family and friends loved, she wanted you to have fun, too, just as she did at her bridge luncheons, patio parties, brunches and Sunday night buffets.

This book was printed (1973) in Northbrook, and I’m guessing she published and sold it herself, most likely with the help of her family and friends who loved not just her, but her recipes, too. This is the book that introduced me to the world of independent cookbooks and the voices of the cooks who wrote them. I wanted to find more cooks like Boo.

Boo Leet’s recipe for Grasshopper Pie remains the one by which I judge all others, because none have ever measured up to hers. Since I’m a lazy cook, I’ve tried shortcuts, such as using marshmallow crème and Cool Whip. Nope. Not the same. I even bought a double-boiler just so I could make this recipe right.

Grasshopper Pie

12 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed
2 T. butter
12 large marshmallows
2/3 c. milk
¼ c. green crème de menthe
2 T. creme de cacao (clear)
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
Mix cookies and butter and press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9” pie pan. Place marshmallows and milk in top of double boiler. Heat until melted. Cool. Stir in crème de menthe and crème de cacao. Chill over ice water until partially thickened. Fold in whipped cream. Turn into pie shell and chill several hours or overnight.

Recipe Notes:
Don’t skimp and buy those cheap imitation cookies; get Oreos. You’ll need about 1-1/2 cups. To make the crumbs, toss the cookies in your food processor. Or, you can go old-school – a plastic bag and rolling pin.

I’m assuming you know how to use a double boiler? If not, water goes in the bottom pan; once it boils, adjust heat so you maintain a steady simmer. Actually boiling milk is not a good thing. Then put the pan of marshmallows and milk on top of the water pan.

For best results, chill the beaters and bowl before mixing the cream. Whip until soft peaks form.

Be careful when you fold the whipped cream into the crème de menthe mixture; you don’t want to deflate the cream, while still turning all that creamy goodness into a lovely shade of pale, mint green.

Boo suggests you cover the top of the pie with more whipped cream and shaved milk chocolate before serving. But I hate covering up that beautiful green, so I sprinkle more Oreo crumbs on top of it. Or, shave or grate dark chocolate over the top. That dark chocolate looks great with the dark Oreo crumbs.

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