Talk Takeaway: Cooking Chef Susan Feniger

Posted on Oct 11, 2012 10:45am

Chef Susan Feniger of "Border Grill" and "Susan Feniger's STREET" shows us her interesting take on Halloween treats including Coconut Curry Caramel Corn, Halloween Puffs, Matzo Candy and a Pumpkin Cocktail.   

Coconut Curry Caramel Corn

This is the recipe to think about if you are going to a party—it would make a great gift instead of a bottle of wine. I recently prepared this as a party favor for a luncheon of 750 women, and they loved it. Even more note-worthy: I still loved it after making such a huge batch! That says a lot. The combination of sweet and spicy in the popcorn is what makes it different from anything else you've tasted.

Olive oil spray

1½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut

3 tablespoons canola oil

¾ cup popcorn kernels

2 cups Candied Peanuts (see following recipe)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons chopped fresh curry leaf

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Makes 18 cups

1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Liberally spray an extra-large mixing bowl (not plastic) with olive oil spray.

2. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast it in the oven, stirring it once or twice, until it is golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool, leaving the oven on.

3. Put the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot, add the corn kernels, and set over medium-high heat. Cover, and shake the pot occasionally until the popping begins, about 5 minutes. Once the popping starts, shake the pot continuously until the popping slows down dramatically, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, but continue shaking it until the popping stops entirely. Dump the popcorn into the prepared mixing bowl, trying not to let any unpopped kernels fall into the bowl. Add the toasted coconut and the candied peanuts.

4. Before beginning the caramel process, spray a rubber spatula, a wooden spoon, and 2 cookie sheets liberally with olive oil spray.

5.  In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with the oil-sprayed spatula, until the butter is melted. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and being careful not to splatter the hot caramel, until the mixture thickens and a candy thermometer registers 255°F, about 7 minutes. (If you do not have a candy thermometer, you will know it is ready when the bubbles of the mixture get noticeably larger and slower.) Remove from the heat. Add the salt, baking soda, curry leaf, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, turmeric, mace, paprika, cayenne, and cinnamon. Stir quickly to incorporate, and then immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn mixture. Stir with the wooden spoon until all of the popcorn is well coated.

6. Pour the mixture onto the oiled cookie sheets and spread it out evenly. Bake for 1 hour, stirring it every 20 minutes to keep it from burning.

7. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let the popcorn cool to room temperature. The popcorn will crisp as it cools.

8. When it is cool, you can serve the popcorn immediately or package it in airtight bags for storage. It will keep well for 4 days.

Candied Peanuts (makes 2 cups)

2 cups unsalted peanuts

2 tablespoons well-shaken canned coconut milk

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh lime leaf (about 10 leaves)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon reshampatti chile powder or cayenne pepper (optional)

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the peanuts, coconut milk, brown sugar, lime leaf, salt and reshampatti.  Put the mixture in a nonstick sauté pan and cook over high heat without stirring until the nuts have started to brown and toast, about 2 minutes.


2. Then stir, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the peanuts have browned.  (The nuts will brown unevenly and the pan will smoke slightly from the coconut milk, but this is all okay if you're stirring continuously.)

3. Transfer the mixture to a plate and set aside to cool.  The nuts will still be somewhat moist at this point but will crisp as they cool.

4. Once the nuts are cool, break them up.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Halloween Puffs

Makes 70 mini puffs

1 tablespoons unsalted butter

10 ounces mini marshmallows

¼ cup dried currants or raisins

1 teaspoon whole fennel seed

¼ teaspoon cayenne

3 cups puffed millet

¼ cup small peanut butter candies

¼ cup chopped candy corns

1. In a large skillet or shallow saucepot, place the butter and cook over medium heat until frothy.

2. Add the marshmallow and start to melt, pushing and stirring with a rubber spatula so that it doesn't burn to the bottom of the pan. You can lower the heat slightly if you need to.

3. When the marshmallows are halfway melted, add the fennel seed, cayenne, and dried currants or raisins and stir well so that the spices toast and mix with the marshmallow.

4. Add the millet, small peanut butter candies and chopped candy corn, turn off heat, and stir until all of the millet and candy is mixed and evenly coated in the spiced marshmallow mix.

5. Pour the mixture out into a bowl.

6. Immediately start rolling into very small balls.

7. If you find that the mixture is sticking to your hands too much, you can dampen them slightly with cold water to make the mixture easier to work with.

8. Place the balls in a bowl and serve immediately. They can also be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Matzo Candy with Caramel, Chocolate, and Halva

Makes 11 Pieces

I ate so much matzo when I lived on a kibbutz in Israel that I wasn't sure I could ever eat it again—and to be honest, unless it's loaded with butter and salt, who would want to eat this stuff in the first place. But in this recipe, the smooth, velvety texture of the halva combined with the saltiness of the cracker is the way to eat matzo going forward in life. Big statement, I know.

Olive oil spray

1 (11-ounce) box unsalted matzo crackers (11 crackers)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ pound semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped

¼ pound (1 cup) halva

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray 3 baking sheets with olive oil spray.

2. Lay the matzo out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

3. Put the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a small saucepan set over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the butter melts. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the mixture is bubbling rapidly, 3 minutes. Add the baking soda, turn off the heat, and stir. The caramel mixture will be thick and bubbly.

4. Spread the caramel over the top of the matzo crackers, covering their entire surface. Put the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the caramel-covered matzo. Using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the chocolate pieces so that they melt and coat the caramel matzo evenly. Then, while the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle with the halva. Let the matzo cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour or longer.

6. Break the cooled matzo into smaller pieces, and serve.

Store any extras in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Halloween Pumpkin Cocktail


1.5 oz Rum (not dark, regular white rum)

1 ozpumpkin purée

7-10 fresh mint leaves

.75 ozcinnamon simple syrup  


1. Place fresh mint leaves in glass, along with .75 oz cinnamon simple syrup

2. Add 1.5 oz of Rum

3. Fill the cup with ice and give it a quick stir so the mixture is well chilled

4. Place the pumpkin puree into the mixture

5. Cover glass and shake very well until the mixture becomes foamy

6. Serve in a rocks glass

Spicy Limed Pepitas

Makes 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

A pinch of cayenne, to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup raw pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds), unsalted

1. In a small bowl, combine lime juice, cayenne, salt, and pepper and stir until dissolved.  

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add pepitas and toast, tossing frequently, until seeds begin to expand and turn a light golden color.  

3. Add seasoned lime juice and stir well to coat all seeds.  

4. Remove from heat and cool in the pan.  

5. Serve at room temperature.

Recipes are courtesy of Susan Feniger and her new cook book, "Susan Feniger's STREET FOOD" from Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

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