Sunday, August 31, 2008

Easy Apps: Spiced Pecans

One of the things I love about The Kitchen Survival Guide is that it expects you not only to feed yourself properly, but your guests as well.
Spiced Pecans

Be sure to make lots of these as they will disappear fast.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Can be made ahead? Yes. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Can be frozen? No.
Can be doubled and tripled? Yes.
Good for leftovers? Yes, if there are any left over.

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
10 drops Tabasco sauce (fewer if you want it less spicy)
12 ounces (approximately 2 1/2 cups) shelled pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 400°F, with the rack in the center position. Line a shallow baking pan with foil (to make cleanup easier).

In a medium mixing bowl combine all the ingredients, except the pecans, in the order they are listed. Mix well to combine, then mix in the pecans. Distribute the pecans and the sauce evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Then cool 15 minutes in the pan.

Pass the pecans while still warm in a bowl or on a plate. Or store in a covered container at room temperature until ready to serve.

Simple. Tasty. Good with drinks. I like the mixture of sugar and soy, mustard and cayenne. I wouldn't drop down the Tabasco, in part because I love spicy stuff, and in part because I think you need the heat to balance the sweet. Plus, if it's spicier, there's a chance you'll eat it more slowly...

Grandma Green always had a bowl of nuts on her coffee table; I remember being slightly disappointed when we didn't get a nut bowl and nut pick set for a wedding gift (I spent my early years very near The House of Myrtlewood, after all...). I don't remember having pecans much, though, until I moved east, so my instinct would be to substitute walnuts for the pecans.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Kitchen Survival Guide, by Lora Brody; Applesauce

If you've never cooked much before, and want to start, or if you're sending someone off to school, away from home for the first time, you should pick up a copy (or three) of The Kitchen Survival Guide, by Lora Brody, published in 1992. Brody decided to write a kitchen guide and cookbook when she had a small pan fire, and her kids freaked out trying to figure out how to put the fire out. (Baking soda smothered it nicely.) The book will help you outfit a kitchen, stock your cabinets, make substitutions, and feed yourself (and your friends) well. Chefly Husband was given a copy by his mother when he went off to college (where we met... :swoon:), and we give copies to people whenever possible -- it's a great reference.

The first recipe in the book doesn't come along until page 77. Yes, 77. And then, it's a very basic recipe, following a page on how to read a recipe. Let's hop to it:

Preparation Time: about 40 minutes
Cooking time: 20 to 30 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings, about 5 cups
Can be made ahead? Yes. Up to 1 week. Keep refrigerated.
Can be frozen? Yes. Up to 6 months.
Can be doubled and tripled? Yes.
Good for leftovers? Yes. Applesauce will keep for 1 week refrigerated in a sealed container.

8 to 10 large Cortland or McIntosh apples
1 1/2 cups water or apple cider
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Lemon juice to taste

Quarter the apples and remove the cores and seeds (leave the skins on). Place the apples and cider or water in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot. Cover, and cook over low heat until the apples are very tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the apples from the pan and reserve the cooking liquid. Purée the apples in a food processor or blender (if you use a blender, put in only a very small amount of the apples at a time, adding liquid to the blender as necessary to make a purée). Add the remaining ingredients, including about 1/2 to 2/3 of the cooking liquid. Purée until smooth. Add more lemon juice, if desired.

Brody writes recipes like I write recipes -- that is, she's pretty darned chatty. If you can say it two different ways to get your point across, it's more likely that someone can get the recipe to turn out.

Chefly Husband's mother also sent him off to school with a few treasured cans of homemade applesauce. He rationed them like they were the rarest treasure, and rightly so. My mother-in-law makes perfect applesauce.

It's the start of apple picking season here in the DC area. Homestead Farms in Poolesville reports that picking for Gala apples is great right now, and if you didn't know it already, Gala apples are fabulous for saucing. It's nearly's time to comfort ourselves with apples.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It Had To Happen: Tart Burgundy Gelatin Salad

I hail with joy -- for I am a temperance man and a friend of temperance -- I hail with joy the efforts that are being made to raise wine in this country. I believe that when you have everywhere cheap, pure unadulterated wine, you will no longer have need for either prohibitory or license laws.
-- Louis Agassiz, American naturalist

I'm not quite sure why more wine would be a good thing for a temperance movement, but I'm all for cheap, pure unadulterated wine bring tidings of joy. Adventures in Wine Cookery has two pages of nothing but toasts and wine quotations, which is why every post this week has started off with a quote of the day.

Take One Cookbook... has been going for over a month now, and there hasn't yet been a recipe for the cornerstone of any 1920s-1970s community cookbook. It had to happen some day; that day is today. Today, I give you: a gelatin salad.
Tart Burgundy Gelatin Salad

(6-8 servings)
Mrs. William V. Cruess, University of California, Department of Food Science & Technology, Berkeley

1 (No. 1) can shredded beets
1/2 cup California Burgundy, Claret, or other red table wine
1 (3-oz.) package lemon-flavored gelatin
1 cup grapefruit juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt

Drain beets, reserving 1/2 cup liquid. Combine beet liquid and wine; heat to boiling. Add gelatin; stir until dissolved. Add grapefruit juice, garlic, horseradish and salt. Chill until slightly set; fold in beets. Chill until set.

Wine Dressing: Combine 1 cup bottled mayonnaise dressing with 1/2 cup California Burgundy or Claret. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Note: This refreshing and easy salad would be very attractive made in individual molds, with a topping of the Wine Dressing, though plain mayonnaise or sour cream might be used if desired. Any left-over Wine Dressing would be delicious over a plain fruit salad. Wine accompanying the menu would depend on the main course -- probably a red table wine, if a hearty meat dish is served.

Yes. It's a Jell-O salad. Like I said, it had to happen. There will be more to come, oh, yes, mostly because I'm utterly fascinated by the molded salads of yore.

What's a No. 1 can mean? Think "Campbell's Condensed Soup" size. And, though it doesn't specify, I'd say you're safest using grated horseradish, not creamed. If you're looking for a specific grape for your red table wine, try a light/cheap Pinot Noir.

I did a little research on Mrs. William V. Cruess. Of course, the first rush of information was all about her husband, Mr. William V. Cruess. He was a leading food scientist whose accomplishments include promoting flash freezing to preserve fruits, and, yes, inventing the fruit cocktail. (I've never put Wine Dressing or plain mayonnaise on fruit cocktail, but I have to bet that Mrs. Cruess at least tried it.)

But what of his wife? His obituary mentions her warmly: "In 1917 he married his charming and devoted wife Marie Gleason Cruess, his constant companion and true helpmate for the rest of his life."

Okay, that melts me more than a little. "Constant companion and true helpmate."

Turns out that Marie Gleason Cruess was an artist. She painted landscapes, and had a few exhibitions. She and her husband were married for over fifty years.

I'd have thought a beet/pinot/grapefruit/lemon/horseradish/gelatin/mayo salad wouldn't contribute to marital harmony. I'm glad to be wrong. ... though part of me feels like writing a story wherein they thrive in spite of such dishes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hoppety: Frog Legs In Wine

Wine rejoices the heart of man, and joy is the mother of all virtue.
-- J. W. Goethe

One more froggy recipe from Adventures in Wine Cookery
Frog Legs in Wine

(4 servings)
Mrs. Alvin Ehrhardt, United Vintners' Community Wineries, Lodi

12 pairs frog legs (small)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup California white table wine
2 tablespoons minced watercress
2 tablespoons minced scallions
Freshly ground pepper
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water

Soak frog legs in cold water for 3 hours; drain on cloth. Melt butter in top pan of chafing dish over medium flame. Add frog legs; sauté 3 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with flour, mixing constantly. Add wine, watercress and scallions; season with salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove frog legs to a warm platter. Whip egg yolk with cold water. Spoon a bit of wine mixture into egg and beat well. Remove wine mixture from heat; add egg mixture and stir well. Return pan over flame. Stir sauce constantly until thickened to desired consistency. Pour over frog legs and sprinkle with cayenne.

My choice of wine to accompany this dish: California Chablis or Dry Sauterne, Chilled

So, what do you do if you don't have frozen froggie legs, or your legs are small instead of large? Use this recipe instead of the previous one! Nothing out there in 'net-land on Mrs. Alvin Ehrhardt, and precious little just on United Vintners... once you take into account their take-over by Allied Grape Growers, though, you can find out a lot. For example, did you know that 1968 was the last year in the wine industry in which the sales of Dessert Wine exceeded the sales of Table Wine? So, Adventures in Wine Cookery is sort of a harbinger of the future of California wine... far more time is spent on table wine recipes than dessert wine recipes. And yet, it's also the end of an era for some. United Vintners was sold in 1969.

I've never had frog legs. Doc Hopper would be ashamed.

Hippety: Frog Legs Pinot Blanc

I drink to the general joy of the whole table.
-- William Shakespeare

As promised, today we'll have two, two, two posts from Adventures in Wine Cookery. Moreover, we'll have a Theme Ingredient... Frog Legs!
Frog Legs Pinot Blanc

Norbert C. Mirassou, Mirassou Vineyards, San Jose

As far as we know, this is an original recipe.

1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 pairs frozen frog legs (large)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup California Pinot BLanc or other white table wine

Preheat electric skillet to 320°; add butter and garlic. When butter is melted, add frog legs. Cover and cook at 320° with vent open for 10 minutes. Sprinkle parsley over frog legs; add wine. Recover pan, with vent closed, and lower heat to 280°; cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Place frog legs in serving dish and pour over remaining pan juices. Serve with rice, squash cooked with mushrooms and tomatoes, and heart of lettuce salad.

My choice of wine to accompany this dish: California Pinot Blanc

Mirassou claims to have the oldest wine family in California, dating back to 1854. Norbert and his brother Edmund ran the winery together several generations in, and "Mr. Norb" is credited with developing the first overhead sprinklers for vine irrigation. Why was that extra super duper important? Well, seems that if you wanted to grow vines in Monterrey, you needed better irrigation, and you really, really wanted to be able to grow vines in Monterrey, because Monterrey was Phylloxera-free.

Thank you, Mr. Norb! Also, thanks for championing Pinot Blanc, in this recipe and in the state. I really recommend following the link to the oral history I linked to above; after the obituaries for both brothers, there's a transcript of an interview with them, talking about their lives, work, etc. I can't even begin to sum it all up for you (beyond, "mmm, wine!"). One thing that stands out for me: talking about when "the market broke." Not "crashed"...broke. Also, ever wonder how delicate produce got from California to New York in the 20s? You can find out...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nothing To See Here; Double Post Tomorrow

Feeling a little green around the gills and can't contemplate writing or reading or thinking about food right now. I'll post two recipes tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wine Country Soap Opera; "For Leg Of Lamb"...

Wine can clear
The vapors of despair,
And make us light as air.
-- John Gay: "The Beggar's Opera"

There's not a lot of context given for the recipes in Adventures in Wine Cookery. But, oh, if you go hunting, you find all sorts of soap opera!
FOR LEG OF LAMB that is just a bit different, and easy to do, Mrs. Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug Winery, St. Helena, suggests this interesting treatment: Cover leg of lamb with California red table wine; add 1 onion (sliced), 2 cloves garlic (halved) and 2 bay leaves. Marinate several hours. Drain, reserving marinade. Sprinkle lamb with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place bacon strips over lamb. Roast in moderately-slow oven (325°) about 30 to 35 minutes per pound, basting with reserved marinade.

VARIATION: Make slits in meat; insert rosemary and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; top with strips of salt pork. Roast (as above), basting with California white table wine.

At first blush, I don't see anything "interesting" in this treatment; that's pretty much the way I was taught to cook a pork roast. Tasty, sure, and nice to show that you can do it with white wine or red wine, and needn't get too fussy about amounts of anything used, but nothing much there except name recognition for the contributor.

That's where the fun comes in. Mrs. Robert Mondavi... the first Mrs. Robert Mondavi. This book came out two years before Mr. Mondavi would meet the second Mrs. Mondavi... whom he wouldn't marry until the 80s, right after divorcing our Mrs. Mondavi. (ooooo!)

I wondered why a Mondavi was working at Krug... a little Google-fu filled me in on the fact that the Mondavis (Robert, along with Dad and brother) bought Krug, and it was under that name they started making their own wine. Not very soapy, that, except for the whole Glamorous California Lifestyle setting. But, oh! Ever so shortly after this book gets published.... scandal! Arguments! Dissolution! Robert fights with his brother and storms off to start his own winery (and wine empire). (oooooo!)

It's easy to find little stories about many of the contributors to Adventures in Wine Cookery; it makes me wonder what stories there are behind the contributions to all the small community cookbooks I've got on the shelves. What tart swooped in on someone else's husband (and made a mean layered salad)? What tomato was known for more than just her generous wassail bowl?

And how many food words are also pejorative slang for loose women?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Breakfast With The Winemakers: Sunday Morning Sausage

If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul.
-- Clifton Fadiman

Let's start by stating our position on Sauternes one more time: Sauternes is for sipping, beautifully, in a glass, with maybe some seared fois gras on toast points or a heavenly blue cheese, or some pears on the side. We do not, normally speaking, think it should be used in cooking, because, well, it's too damned tasty on its own.

We'll make an exception for today's recipe from Adventures in Wine Cookery, as it calls for so very little, leaving plenty more to drink after.
Sunday Morning Sausage

David E. Gallo, E. & J. Gallo Windery, Modesto

This recipe is a Gallo family favorite for Sunday morning brunch.

4 lbs. pork loin (boned, medium fat)
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon crushed dry hot red chili pepper
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup California Sauterne

Coarsely grind pork loin. Season with fennel, chili pepper, and liberal amounts salt and pepper. Add wine; mix thoroughly. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Pack in foil, rolled tightly like a casing. Store in refrigerator 12 hours. When ready to cook, form sausage into patties and fry over low heat. Baste with Sauterne during last 5 minutes of cooking. Serve piping hot.

My choice of wine to accompany this dish: California Rhine Wine.

See? It's not all about the little women writing in with their recipes, sometimes the kids do, too! David Gallo was the son of Ernest Gallo and Amelia Franzia. You remember Amelia... she was the Franzia who married into the Gallo family and brought screwcaps to the Franzia line as a result.

This sounds like a completely tasty breakfast sausage. I like that it's veering to the spicy instead of the sweet, and let's be completely honest: This makes me want to have biscuits and gravy.

The "California Rhine" young Mr. Gallo recommends is going to be mostly Riesling, and very light in body. Right now, Chefly Husband and I are on a 2003 Alsatian and German Riesling kick -- if you can find a bottle, give it a try.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Say It Five Times Fast: Nutty Cheese Ball Cucamonga

Where there is no wine, there is no love.
-- Euripides
There are far too few crazy recipe titles in Adventures in Wine Cookery. No, this is a Serious Cookbook, and has Serious Titles, that are Entirely Descriptive And Not At All Fun.

Well, except this one:
Nutty Cheese Ball Cucamonga

(Makes 1 ball, 1 1/2-lb. size)
Mrs. Frank Pilone, Cucamonga Vineyard Company, Cucamonga

4 ounces blue cheese
6 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
4 (3-oz.) packages cream cheese
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
1/4 cup California Sherry

Soften cheese to room temperature. Combine cheeses with onion, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup of the nuts and Sherry. Shape into ball. (If too soft to shape, chill a while.) Roll in remaining 1/4 cup nuts. Chill. Remove from refrigerator about 1/2 hour before serving. Serve with any favorite crackers, letting guests spread their own.

My choice of wine to accompany this dish: California Sherry or Champagne

NOTE: Chopped pecans are particularly fine for this, although walnuts, almonds or other nuts are also good. Slightly toasting the nuts first brings out the flavor and helps keep them crisp.

Okay, so the recipe itself doesn't sound anywhere near crazy; the title carries all the crazy for this dish. And, I suppose, if you're from Cucamonga, it doesn't seem crazy to call a dish Something Something Cucamonga, any more than Walla Walla, Washingtonians would think it weird to call something Something Something Walla Walla. Some things are funny only if you're not there...

A little Google-fu, and I learned that Cucamonga Vineyard Company was a part of Padre Vineyard Company, an old and storied vineyard. Fabulous, legendary wines.... a long time ago, and then a decline and bankruptcy and they are no more.

Frank Pilone was the winemaker for Padre/Cucamonga, no mention on Google about his wife who contributed the Nutty Cheese Ball Cucamonga. If she recommends sherry and bubbly for the dish, you might remember her for being loyal to her husband's work: though they did produce still table wines, they were known for their sparkling wine, and to a lesser degree, their dessert and aperitif contributions.

The semantics geek in me quibbles a bit with the inclusion of this recipe in Adventures in Wine Cookery -- there's no application of heat here. It may be an adventure in wine usage and assembly, or adventure in wine mixing and stirring, but "cookery"?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Adventures in Wine Cookery, by California Winemakers; Mulled Sauterne Cup

In water one sees one's own face; but in wine, one beholds the heart of another....
--French Proverb
Adventures in Wine Cookery by California Winemakers, collected and published by the Wine Advisory Board in 1965, came to me through my friend Jeannette's grandmother. Actually, she gave me two copies of the book; the second has long since been passed on to a friend. Mrs. MacCutcheon (grandma in question) received the book from her son, Lloyd, and his wife, Barbara (Jeannette's parents), for Christmas that same year; part of the gift tag is still attached to the title page. Tucked into the book is this note:
I haven't tried too many of these but watch out for the amount of wine. 1/2 of the required is plenty.

Now, I have nothing but respect for Jeannette's mother in almost every thing in life, but I must warn you: Do not heed Barbara on this! We are not here to be stingy with wine. Indeed, Take One Cookbook... encourages wine cookery whenever possible, and wine consumption, too. Just a half hour ago, Chefly Husband opened up a 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and I can't wait to give it a slow and loving sip as soon as it has had a chance to breathe. Back to the book...

The Wine Advisory Board in San Francisco gathered recipes from "winemakers, their wives, families and colleagues," including "professors and other staff members of the Department of Viticulture (grape growing) and Enology (winemaking) and the Department of Food Science and Technology of the University of California." Oh, and the folks at Fresno State. Part of the fun in some of these recipes is the name recognition: who's wife contributed, who's son contributed, who was at one vineyard then yet owns his own now...

And, as is true for almost any cookbook, some of the fun comes from well-meaning horror.
Mulled Sauterne Cup

(About 10 servings, 3-oz. size)
Mrs. Frank Franzia, Franzia Brothers Winery, Ripon

1 (6-oz.) can frozen pineapple juice concentrate
3/4 cup California Sauterne or other white table wine
2 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Combine all ingredients. Heat slowly to just below boiling. Serve hot in preheated cups.

NOTE: Hot wine drinks are becoming more and more popular for all cold weather occasions. This one is different, and good.

I love mulled wine, so thought this might be a good choice. I mentioned it to Chefly Husband who gasped in the horror mentioned above. "Why? WHY??? It's SAUTERNES! Just SIP it!"

Point taken.

Perhaps we should expect such blasphemous usage from the makers of boxed chillable red: Franzia. But, no! The boxed wine came after the family sold the rights to the name, and started Bronco Wine Company. So, Franzia wasn't the cheap lowbrow butt of humor back then... at least not for using boxes; they did, however, use screw caps instead of corks. And why? Because a Franzia sister married into the Gallo family! The Franzia family history is well worth a read, and the next time you buy Two Buck Chuck (or, heck, Four Buck...) at Trader Joe's, remember: You've a Franzia to thank.

We're going to have fun learning about midcentury American wine making this week.

Friday, August 22, 2008

So You Have Your Starter...: Sourdough Hot Cakes

It makes no sense to find or make a sourdough starter and just use it for one recipe. It's not that it takes expensive ingredients -- it doesn't -- or great skill or huge amounts of time, it's just that, like the never-ending Amish Friendship Bread, if you're going to go to the trouble, might as well get the most out of it. And who doesn't like hotcakes? Let's go to Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin' for another starter-using recipe:
Sourdough Hotcakes

Sourdough Hotcakes, the main breakfast dish of prospectors, miners, and oldtime Alaskans, differ from other hotcakes in that the patter is leavened with a yeast starter and soda. The starter must be set the night before it is to be used. Some Alaskans are still using a starter traced back to an original starter brought into the country with the gold rush. To them the sourdough pot is a prized possession.

Measurements are not precise. If you prefer a thin pancake, you will add another egg or a bit more water. Of course, for a thicker cake, the batter should be thicker. At the time of baking, the batter for sourdough should be the same consistency as the batter for other hotcakes that are family favorites.

Sourdough Hotcakes for three persons: Set aside 1/2 cup sponge in the refrigerator jar for your sourdough starter for the next time. To remaining sponge, add:

1 or 2 eggs
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda dissolved in 1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. sugar

Beat with a fork and blend in all ingredients. If you like, add several tbsp. of non-fat dry milk powder to any of the sourdough recipes at this point. Add soda/water mixture just before baking. Bake on a hot griddle. Turn once. Serve with a mixture of hot brown sugar syrup, or honey and melted butter. Molasses, jelly or rose hip syrup are other tasty combinations.

For interesting variations add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat germ or bran flakes to the batter. (Two eggs will provide the liquid for this addition).

Oregon guilt: I feel silly having to say that "soda" here means "baking soda" and not "soda pop." Why is that Oregon guilt? Because I never called soda pop "soda" until I moved to the East Coast 18 years ago; it was always just "pop."

I wonder a bit why they don't suggest maple syrup. I mean, I know that maple syrup is generally thought of as an East Coast or Midwest thing, but the brown sugar mentioned isn't exactly native to Alaska. I am also skeptical about adding bran flakes to the batter -- I don't want cereal in my hotcakes, thank you very much.

What do I want in my pancakes? Crumbled bacon. Or blueberries and chocolate chips. And butter is a necessity, not just an option to be paired solely with honey.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not Just A Colorful Term For Prospectors: Sourdough Blackberry Cobbler

I mentioned at the start of the week that "sourdough" meant "Alaskan old timer." That's true, of course, but we can't forget the tasty origin of that word. Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin' has a whole chapter on actual sourdough recipes. All of them require that you have a sourdough starter -- if anyone out there doesn't have one, or doesn't know about the care and feeding of one, chime in, and I'll post something to help you out. As we wrap up the week, I'd like to focus on some sourdough:
Sourdough Blackberry Cobbler

1 1/2 cups starter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
Blackberry filling

Put the flour into large bowl. Stir 1 tsp. salt into the flour. Cut 1/2 cup shortening into the flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Ad the starter while stirring with a wooden spoon. Work all the flour and batter together until it is one big ball of dough. Divide the dough into two parts, one of which is a little larger than the other. Roll the larger half into a rectangle about 12x16-in. and line a 9x13x2-in. baking pan with it. The pan does not need to be greased. Pour in your favorite blackberry filling. Roll remaining dough into a 9x13-in. rectangle and cut slits in it as you would a pie crust. Place this on top of the filling. Moisten the edges of the top crust and then fold the lining crust over the moistened edges. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes or until brown. You may use cherry, apple, peach or other fillings which make good cobblers.

First off, I'm not sure I'd call this a cobbler. It has a top and bottom crust, both of which together completely encompass the filling. In my book, that makes this a PIE. Pie is a good thing. Pie is a nigh-on sacred thing. But it is PIE, not COBBLER.

Also, I'm just about as horrified as can be by the ingredient list. "Blackberry filling"? "Blackberry filling"?!?!? Please. Promise me if you do this, you'll use fresh berries. Sprinkle them with sugar, mash them a bit, and let them sit long enough to have some nice juices come out. But... don't use "blackberry filling."

You'll be so much happier if you use fresh.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Egg Safety? Bah! Mt. Miller Chocolate Cheese Pie

I'm off tonight to a place where I can get a deep fried Mars bar. Thinking about it has me in a chocolate-y mood, which means this recipe from Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin' has been bumped up from Friday to today:
Mt. Miller Chocolate Cheese Pie

1 pkg. (6-oz.) semi-sweet chocolate
1 pkg. (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, separated
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
9 in. chilled graham cracker crust

Melt chocolate over hot (not boiling) water, then cool about 10 minutes. Blend cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in cooled chocolate and blend well. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually beat the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beat until stiff and glossy. Fold chocolate mixture into beaten whites. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into chilled crust and chill overnight. Makes 8 servings.

Aaaah, the glorious days before every recipe and menu warned of food safety! There's raw eggs in here. RAW EGGS! They are not heated. They are not acidulated. They are raw.

Golly, this sounds like a yummy pie.

Semantically, I'm wondering why this recipe uses what I'd consider the standard plural-or-singular abbreviation of "ounce" -- 6 oz. and 8 oz. -- and other recipes use "ozs." as the plural. It's not a community cookbook, so it shouldn't be an artifact of different family styles...

Oh, and I never melt my chocolate over water on the stove these days. So much easier to do it in the microwave!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bad Titles Work, Too: Valdez Clam and Onion Soup

Sometimes, recipe choice is all about a good title. Sometimes, though, it's the really bad title that wins the day. My sister told me that if I focused on an Alaskan cookbook, I'd have to post a salmon dish; I knew I needed to post a fish dish of some sort, and went hunting. Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin' has plenty of salmon dishes, it's true, but nothing quite to compare with this:
Valdez Clam and Onion Soup

2 cans (7 ozs.) minced clams (1 pint)
4 slices bacon, sliced
3 cups onion rings
3 cups milk
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. salt
6 slices hard toast
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Fry bacon; add onion and cook until tender. Combine milk, seasonings and clams; heat. Place toast in 6 individual, heated soup bowls. Cover with onion rings and top with clam mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Now, Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin' was printed 13 years before the Exxon Valdez spilled oil all over the Prince William Sound, but I'm here to tell you, there's no way I can hear "Valdez" and not think "horrible oil spill." Combine "Valdez" with "bivalve shell fish" and I'm going to think it's all a horrible, twisted joke. Who'd want to eat a filter-feeder named after pollution gone wild?

...the recipe itself sounds tasty, though.

edit So, it was pointed out to me that my trying to puzzle out the "what kind of onion rings do they mean" issue was pretty pointless -- use raw, as you're cooking them up in bacon fat. That being said, let's use canned, crispy, fried onion products as a garnish, like you'd put on top of a green bean casserole if you were any of the hordes of community cookbook contributors whose efforts line my shelves./edit

Looks like an easy recipe to cut in half (in some cases, thirds -- take only 2 pieces of hard toast, not 3) to make 2 large meal-sized servings.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Power Of A Good Title; Forget-Me-Not Moose Bologna

I sit down at the start of the Take One Cookbook week and flag all the recipes for the week. I try to get a balance of different types of dishes, signature recipes, funny asides, etc. Sometimes, a recipe gets picked just on the power of a good title.

For example, on pages 34 and 35 of Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin', I could choose Good Luck Pickled Deer Tongue, Frontier Jellied Moose Nose, Land of the Midnight Sun Muskrat, Roast Alaskan Venison Supreme, Oil Capital Barbecued Reindeer Burgers, or today's pick:
Forget-Me-Not Moose Bologna

12 lbs. moose meat
1 pound suet
1 1/2 ozs. black pepper
1 oz. salt
3/4 oz. coriander
1/2 oz. mace

Grind moose meat. Add spices and mix well. Some water may be added to aid in mixing. Pack ground meat down in a pan and leave in refrigerator overnight. Grind through grinder again, using smaller cutter. Mix and grind once more. Stuff into casings. Boil in water until sausage floats. Hang up to dry.

Yes, the Forget-Me-Not Moose Bologna wins! It is a rare/exotic meat, an unexpected presentation, and... it's cute! Jellied moose nose seems just a bit too far gone from something I'd ever want on a sandwich, but not the (moose) bologna. Thirteen pounds of meat and meat products, less than one cup of seasoning! I assume the coriander is coriander seed, not fresh coriander/cilantro.

I don't know how many casings you'll need for this; it's not listed in the ingredients, and I suspect that the author assumes anyone already making his or her own sausage will have an intuitive sense of how many casings are needed for any given amount of force meat. Also in my list of assumptions: they mean natural sausage casings, not artificial.

I've never had moose. I do remember fondly my dad's venison summer sausage. Thinly sliced, and served with crackers and sliced Tillamook... mmmm. Perfect cold dinner or snack.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Alaska Sweet Sea Pickles; Pickled Kelp, That Is

I'm a fan of almost anything pickled or preserved (I draw the line at pickled fish products -- I may have Icelandic blood in me, but I can't get behind the pickled fish...). My maternal grandfather (the handsome devil in the picture here) had an incredible garden, and my paternal grandmother had next to no room for a garden but still managed to grow cucumbers and dill sufficient enough to keep the family in pickles for years and years. Pickling is frugal and sensible -- put away tasty, healthy fruits and veg to be used when there's nothing fresh to be had. No surprise, then, to find pickle recipes in Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin'.
Alaska Sweet Sea Pickles

4 lbs. bulb kelp
1 cup salt
2 gallons water
1/2 tsp. alum
3 1/2 cup sugar
1 pint white vinegar
1/2 tsp. oil of cloves*
1/2 tsp. oil of cinnamon*
2 quarts water

Cut kelp in 12-in. lengths and split bulbs. Remove dark surface layer with a vegetable parer. Soak kelp in a brine solution (1 cup salt to 2 gallons water) for 2 hours. Care must be taken to keep kelp covered with brine. Remove kelp from brine and wash thoroughly with cold water. Cut kelp into 1-in. cubes and soak in alum solution (1/2 tsp. alum to 2 qts. cold water) for 15 minutes. Drain and wash in cold water: drain again. Place kelp in enamel kettle and cover with boiling water. Cook only until kelp can be pierced with a fork. Drain.

Combine sugar, vinegar, and oils; boil 2 minutes; pour over cooked kelp. Let stand overnight in the enamel kettle or a crock. In the morning, drain off and save the syrup; reheat kelp to boiling point. Pour syrup back over the kelp and allow to stand 24 hours. The third morning, heat both kelp and syrup to the boiling point; seal immediately in hot sterilized jars. Makes 3 pints.

* When oil of cinnamon or cloves are used, kelp cubes remain clear and almost transparent. A small amount of green food coloring may be used to make a brighter product. If whole spices are used, tie them in a small bag.

This sounds interesting, and, yes, even tasty. I don't think I'd use it for my favorite pickle dish (peanut butter and pickle sandwiches ... yum!), but can see having it with grilled fish or chicken. Methow Valley Herbs has more direct experience with using kelp pickles, and also has tips on how to harvest it.

Chefly Husband expressed some surprise over pickled kelp; I told him it was the bulbs, and then I remembered that I'm an Oregon Coast transplant, whereas he's a Lake Michigan transplant -- his childhood didn't involve kelp washed up on shore.

Most pickle recipes these days won't include alum; it was used to crisp up less-than-perfect vegetables. In my household, growing up, alum served an entirely different purpose: Momma put it in our homemade play dough to make sure we wouldn't eat it. Generally speaking, I'd say "skip the alum, if you like;" however, I think of kelp as not-exactly-crisp, so if you have access to alum, I'd use it. The folks at Methow Valley Herbs suggest that you can use grape leaves instead, which sounds like a worthy substitute.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin', by Herb Walker; Alaskan Roast Beaver

You have to love a book that was meant to be mailed, on its own, without an envelope. Alaska "Sourdough" Cookin' by Herb Walker, was meant to be bought by tourists, and mailed home from the 49th state. It's another 1970s book -- 1976, bicentennial, to be precise -- but hopefully different enough in style and content from last week's book that no one will mind.

"Sourdough" in the title doesn't refer so much to the leavening and flavoring (though there is a section on all things sourdough-y) as it does to old-timers -- the prospectors, the miners, the transplants to Alaska who took root and thrived, in spite of the isolation. A lot of the recipes here are simply-seasoned -- an onion or two, or perhaps a clove of garlic -- and rely on extremely local ingredients. Not hard to see why; there was only one regular highway into the state in 1976, and one "marine highway," so supplies had to be local, or brought in by boat or plane. Far easier to use what was near, or could be grown and kept in the Alaskan extreme seasons.
Alaskan Roast Beaver

Get all the fat you can off of the beaver carcass. The fat is what gives a beaver the strong, wild taste. To remove strong taste put 1 tsp. baking soda in a quart of water and parboil beaver for about 20 minutes. Take beaver out of the pot and dry off well and rinse in clear, cold water. Season with salt and pepper. Slice 3 or 4 small onions and place around beaver and roast in a 350°F oven until it is done and tender.

I've had my fair share of exotic game in my life, but never had beaver. I don't know the proper final temperature for roast beaver, nor does this recipe give us any clue how long it will take to get it "done and tender." So, to the internet! Turns out that most young beavers take about 2 hours to roast. Good to know. Also good to know: it tastes like roast goose, supposedly.

For those on the more squeamish side when it comes to exotic meats, know that I will not be blogging the whale or seal recipes. Even I get squeamish when it comes to cooking marine mammals.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cranberry Soup Peasant Style (Broosnika Soop po Derevensky)

Oh, this little gem from Nothing Beets Borscht is going to be filed away for Thanksgiving dinner, you can bet...
Cranberry Soup Peasant Style
(Broosnika Soop po Derevensky)

This soup is a refreshing, tart -- but not too tart -- hot soup. It needs only 1 tablespoon of sugar, and even that can be omitted, making this one of the few low-calorie Russian dishes.

1 cup raw cranberries
4 cups water
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup beet juice and 1 cup canned diced beets, or 1 cup fresh diced beets

Garnish: sour cream (buy an 8-ounce container)

Wash the cranberries, and then put them in a pot with the 4 cups of water. Let the cranberries simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Then take a wooden spoon and mush up the cranberries.

Add the raw, chopped onions and shredded cabbage to the pot. Season with the salt, the sugar, and then pepper to taste. If using fresh beets, add them now. Let simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes, or until the beets are just tender enough to be easily pierced by a fork or knife.

The soup can be refrigerated at this point until ready to heat up and serve.

If using canned beets, add them to the pot along with their 1/2 cup of liquid when you are heating the soup up just before serving.

Serve the cranberry soup piping hot with a dollop of sour cream floating in each bowl.

This soup subverts many of my soup-making expectations. First, you don't cook the onion before adding it to the soup. ...wait, really? Yes. You don't. As much as it pains me to say, being the kind of person who automatically adds oil to the pot, and starts the root veg long before any liquid is going in.

Also, that cranberry's got to be a DOMINANT flavor; there's only a cup of 'em, but they get star billing, even though there's more onion and cabbage, and equal amounts of beets.

I wonder how this would be cold. I wonder how this would be with more cranberries. I wonder how this would be if you let it go a little longer at a higher boil and ended up with a partially gelatinous soup...

I will find out, come this Thanksgiving, if not sooner.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This Is Not A Beef Pancake Pie; Brew Your Own Kvass: Bread Beer

I was going to post Nothing Beets Borscht's recipe for Beef Pancake Pie (blinchaty pirog), but the blessed recipe is 6 pages long. Six. pages. long.
Suffice to say, you make 6 big crepes, a beef/rice/hard-boiled-egg mixture, and a mushroom/cream cheese mixture. Put down one crepe, butter it, put on beef mixture. Stack on another crepe, butter it, and put on some mushroom mixture. Repeat until you have one crepe left, and use that as the top. Put the thing in the oven to bake, until it's all hot and delicious, and slice like a layer cake.

There's also a Georgian sweet preparation -- blinchaty pirog s eezyoomom ee oryekhamy -- with a filling of walnuts, raisins, sugar, and honey. Quoth Miss Blanksteen: "It tastes like baklava, although it is entirely different."

So, since I'm not keen on typing 6 pages tonight, how's about we attack kvass, the essential ingredient in okroshka, the cold beer soup we looked at yesterday.
Bread Beer

Kvass is a nonalcoholic bread beer. It is made from leftover bread crumbs and stored in barrels kept in the cellar. In the Soviet Union, it is sold on the streets out of big tanks. A lady sits next to her tank and washes glasses as she serves people the kvass. One learns to forget hygiene as the lady hands you a grubby-looking glass filled with ice-cold kvass. It has a slightly sweet mint taste, and the natuarl carbonation from the yeast. I love the stuff.

Kvass is used not only as a beverage. It formst the base of an excellent soup, okroshka [page 72], and it is use for cooking boujenina [page 67], a braised fresh ham.

The following is Gorky's grandmother's advice on kvass making:
If you want good kvass, then you must insult it, make it angry. Kvass can't stand sweet things so throw in a few raisins, or some sugar -- a small teaspoon to a bucket will do.
-- Gorky, My Childhood

1 pound black bread, dark rye, or pumpernickel (For heaven's sake, don't make the bread; buy an old junky loaf!)
16 cups water
2 packets dry yeast or 1 ounce compressed yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or 1 tablesppon dried mint
2 tablespoons raisins

A sieve and a piece of cheesecloth
Bottles -- about 3 of the 1-quart size

Bake the bread at 200° F. until it is dried out; slice it first to speed up the process. Then chop it coarsely and put it into a huge bowl or pot.

Bring the 16 cups of water to a boil (that's 4 quarts), and pour it over the bread. Mash it around with a spoon to make sure that all the bread is getting soaked.

Cover loosely with a towel and leave in a warm, draft-free place for at least 8 hours.

When the 8 hours are up, take out another large bowl or some type of vessel. Set a sieve over it. First pan the liquid, if any, off the top of the bread. Then start spooning the wet bread into the sieve, squish it thoroughly with the back of a spoon so that all the juice -- or a lot of the juice -- drips through. Do only a little bit of bread pulp at a time, so you get as much juice as possible. The squeezed-out bread will still be wet and mushy. Don't worry about it, there's a limit to how long you can squeeze the stuff: just throw it away.

When you have extracted all the bread juice you can, sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup lukewarm water, add 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar, mix, and then set in a warm, draft-free spot to foam and froth for 10 minutes.

When the yeast has doubled in bulk, mix the yeast into the bread juice. Add the chopped or crumbled mint. Cover the pot or bowl with a towel, and set in a warm, draft-free place for at least 8 hours.

When your 8 hours or so are up, line a sieve with a piece of cheesecloth. Strain the bread juice again, into a big bowl or pot. Using a funnel, pour the strained juice into bottles, filling each one two-thirds full. Divide the raisins amongst the bottles, and drop them in. to get the kvass good and angry.

Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a towel, and let sit in a cool place, but not a refrigerator. A wine cellar will do, or the basement of a house. It should sit for 3 to 5 days, until the raisins have floated to the top of the bottle, and the sediment has sunk to the bottom.

Pour the clear golden liquid into other clean bottles, taking care to leave the sediment behind. (The raisins don't have to be left behind -- it's up to you, although I've never found a raisin in a glass of kvass).

Keep the kvass refrigerated for at least 2 days, until all the sediment has sunk to the bottom.

To serve: Pour the cold kvass through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a pitcher.

You know, I think if I knew of a high school student who was making her own beer in her spare time? I'd be somewhat obligated to report it. That being said, this sounds much more appetizing that the stuff we used to do with grapes and sugar during Talented and Gifted camp at the University of Oregon...

Don't believe Miss Blanksteen when she says kvass is "non-alcoholic." It's low in alcohol, but it does, in fact, have alcohol. As long as you're okay with that, you're fine going forward.

One thing that stands out in this 1970s cookbook is that it takes the time to interpret and define standard measurements. So, "16 cups" is also listed at "4 quarts." Odd that they don't just say "1 gallon," but hey. In case you didn't know it before, 16 cups = 8 pints = 4 quarts = 1 gallon. Handy-dandy conversion, just for you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Okroshka: Cold Beer Soup

It's sticky with humidity here in DC today. I just got back from a run to Whole Foods for some tomatoes to make a salad, and ended up getting more than a little beer. When I was a kid, sticky humid days meant Kool-Aid and Popsicles; now, it means beer.

Nothing Beets Borscht agrees with me, and shares this strange little recipe.
Cold Beer Soup (Irina-Style)

Okroshka is a cold soup -- refreshing, unusual, and ideal for a hot summer day.

The base of the soup is kvass, Russian bread beer, which tastes like a milk beer. Some people might shy away from making the beer from scratch. But let me assure you, it is not so difficult to make. As a matter of fact, it isn't difficult at all -- it's just a question of setting aside the time. When I make it I start it in the evening and then do the next step in the morning; later that evening I bottle it. From that piont on it's just a question of waiting for the kvass to mature. If you still are not excited by the idea of making your very own, delicious kvass, however, substitute soda water, or a dry champagne.

This is a do-it-yourself soup. The kvass is served in a bottle. Then, there are four bowls of goodies to put in your soup bowl. The kvass is then poured over your pile of goodie, and your soup is ready.

1 quart kvass (see page 173)

Bowl 1:
5 small cucumbers, peeled and grated
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
4 new potatoes or 2 large potatoes, boiled and mashed

Combine the above ingredients, prepared as indicated.

Bowl 2:
Scallion greens
Salt and pepper

Coarsely chop the scallion greens. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper, and hammer them so that they're very flat. This makes the scallion juice flavor the soup as soon as it is put in.

Bowl 3:
Precooked frankfurters and/or sausages, cut into bite-sized rounds

Bowl 4:
Chopped fresh dill

To serve okroshka, put the bowls out on a table, with a serving spoon in each, and the kvass, well chilled in its bottle or in a pitcher. Each person will help him/herself to the goodies from the bowl, in whatever proportion he/she wants, and then pour kvass over it.

I know that I have heard of milk beer before (and not Japanese variety that seems to have some web traction these days), but can't find a good reference. However, we can intuit from both the recipe for kvass and the context here that milk beer is a light beer that has little in the way of hops or aging. Good ol' Wikipedia points out its low alcohol content, and says that it's considered suitable for kiddies to drink. I remember kvass being sold on the sidewalks of Moscow... I was freaked out by the common "glass" which looked for all the world like a cross between an old trumpet mute and a diaphragm, so don't remember actually partaking. Plus, face it, at 18, I was a prim little thing, and didn't drink.

If people are interested, I can post the recipe for kvass as a bonus post. [[ETA: Recipe for KBAC/kvass up, here!]

Wikipedia suggests that you can substitute light kefir for the kvass, which makes me think that if you're going for something creamy, you could also use buttermilk. Why not! Wikipedia also tells us how much should be in that pile of goodies: "The ratio of chopped food to kvas is similar to that of cereal to milk." Good to know!

I think most "he/she" constructions are awkward beyond believe, but I like the usages here, as this is a 1974 book -- I like the idea of a teenaged girl not only writing and publishing a book, but also being aware of her choice of gendered pronouns. (And, no, I would not prefer the author use the gender-neutral pronoun "they" or any of its offshoots; it's plural, damn it.)

I am tagging this "vegetarian" because the sausages/frankfurters look entirely optional -- if anyone strenuously objects to that, do let me know. I want the tags/labels to be useful, but not over the top (yeah, there are two potatoes in this dish, but it doesn't seem like a potato dish, so no potato tag... etc.)

My dinner tonight isn't anywhere near as exciting as okroshka; an English ale, a slice of cheese on a piece of whole wheat bread, and eventually, the tomato salad that launched this post.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stock for Dummies; Ukrainian Borscht

It has to happen: at least once during a week focused on Nothing Beets Borscht, I have to include a borscht recipe. There are pages and pages in the cookbook about different styles of borscht, including exhortations to use fresh beets, to make it at least a day in advance, to garnish with sour cream, etc. Jane Blanksteen also says that of all the different borscht recipes, Ukrainian Borscht is the favorite.
Ukranian Borscht

(10 to 12 servings)

3 pounds ham hock
1 bay leaf
1 onion, peeled and studded with 5 cloves
1 carrot, peeled
1 celery stalk
Salt and pepper
3 quarts water

Stock Method:
1. Put all the ingredients in a large soup pot and bring liquid to a boil.
2. Turn off the heat and skim off the scum on the surface of the soup. The scum is that foamy, muddy stuff reminiscent of the foam you are likely to find at a polluted beach.
3. Now, cover the pot -- partially -- and let the soup simmer for 3 hours.
4. After 3 hours are up, let the soup cool. When it is cool enough not to scald your fingers, remove the vegetables and bay leave and the ham hock.
5. Throw out the vegetables and bay leaf, but save the ham hock. Remove all the meat from the bones and shred it with your fingers; throw out the bones.
6. Put the shredded meat in the pot.
7. Refrigerate the stock and, before you are about to use it, skim the fat off the top. It will be a solid white layer covering the stock.

Stock can be kept frozen for ages. It can also be kept on the back burner of your stove for a few days, if you bring it to a boil once in the morning and once in the evening to prevent any bacteria from being fruitful and multiplying.

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 slices bacon or some butter or shortening
2 small carrots or 1 large, peeled and sliced into small disks
1 peeled, diced turnip or parsnip
1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes or 4 small ones (can be canned)
Salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 pound beets, making 2 1/2 cups when peeled and grated
1 pound white cabbage, shredded
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound kolbasa sausage or any cooked sausage you like (If you use raw sausage, first broil it or it will fall apart in the soup.)

Russians usually add a grated parsley root and a celery root along with the grated beets. If you can find either or both -- throw them in.

Borscht Method:
1. Prepare all the ingredients as directed.
2. Sauté the onion and garlic (until they are limp and white, not browned) with 2 slices of bacon or just butter.
3. Sauté, adding to the onions and bacon or butter, the carrots, turnip, tomatoes (parsley and celery roots), salt, pepper, and vinegar.
4. Add 2 cups of stock to the frying pan with the vegetables.
5. Then add the beets. Cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, bring the 2 quarts of stock to a boil, then add the shredded cabbage and diced potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.
7. When the beets are ready, dump the entire contents of the pan into the stock.
8. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes to combine flavors.
9. Season to taste -- salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar.
10. Fifteen minutes before serving, add the sausage cut into the small, round slices, and simmer for 15 minutes partially covered.

Garnish: A dollop of sour cream in each bowl and some chopped dill sprinkled on top. Serve with pampooshky.

It sounds so good, it seems worth all the typing out.

Pampooshky are Ukrainian garlic rolls. The recipe for that is next in the book, but basically, it recommends buying "great, soft, eggy dinner rolls," heating them up, and serving them with a dressing of oil, garlic, salt and parsley poured over. Sounds delicious to me.

Not as appetizing: the polluted beach reference. I think "polluted beach," and I think Lake Erie in the 80s, or medical waste on the Jersey shore. When I think of foam on the beach, I think of a beautiful, grey day on the Oregon coast after a storm. So, if "polluted beach" doesn't do it for you, feel free to use my "beautiful coast after a storm" metaphor.

Though it's a long, wordy recipe, ya gotta like what basically becomes a "stock for dummies" recipe. The scum skimming, the definition of the fat layer... it's a recipe that a novice soup maker could take, use, and produce a completely-from-scratch masterpiece. Though, I'd say you'd probably want to include the ham you pulled off the hocks, adding it when you add the kielbasa.

Adapt to a vegetarian recipe by using vegetable stock, using butter instead of bacon, and leaving out the kielbasa.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Norma's Shchee

I was in the Soviet Union for a bit less than a month back in 1990. I remember eating a lot of soup, and wondering why none of it had any beets in it. I was pretty darned happy there were no beets, as I had not yet learned how backwards I was on that point yet, but remember wondering where the iconic beets were.

Turns out, there are lots of iconic Russian soups. Nothing Beets Borscht has a recipe for a shchee, which looks to be just what I remember having all over the USSR.
Norma's Shchee

This recipe for shchee, given to me by a good family friend, was the recipe of somebody's grandmother. It is one of the easiest recipes I have encountered, and also one of the best.


1. If boneless chuck or brisket is used, take the meat out of the pot when it is ready -- check after 1 1/2 hours -- and when you serve the soup, serve the meat, heated and sliced, as the main course. The meat can also be used to fill piroshky to serve with the soup.

2. Carrots, parsnips, and turnips can be added to the soup. First peel these vegetables, then dice them, then brown them in butter, then dump them into the pot when you add the cabbage.

3 pounds flanken or shin beef or chuck or brisket
3 pounds cracked marrow bones
8 cups water
1 head cabbage (3 to 4 pounds), shredded
1 large onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
4 cans tomatoes (8-ounce size)
10 pitted prunes (optional)
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons honey (optional)

Garnish: sour cream and chopped fresh dill

Boil the meat and bones in the 8 cups of water for 1/2 hour. Skim off the scum.

Meanwhile, sauté the shredded cabbage and the diced onion in the 3 tablespoons of butter, for only 3 minutes. Add a can of tomatoes and continue to cook the cabbate until it is limp.

When the meat has finished its 1/2 hour, and the scum has been skimmed, add the sautéed cabbage-onion-tomato mixture to the beef.

Then add the rest of the tomatoes, the prunes and raisins, salt, lemon juice, brown sugar, and honey.

Bring the soup to a boil and then lower the heat and let simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.

Remove the meat from the pot and let it cool. When it is cool, either cut into cubes and return to the soup pot, or put it on a platter to be reheated and sliced, and served along with the soup.

Shchee tastes better at least a day old, so either refrigerate it or leave it on the stove and bring it to a boil twice a day (to prevent any bacterial growth that would make the soup toxic).

To serve, bring the soup to a boil and ladle it piping hot into soup bowls with a dollop of sour cream in each bowl. Then sprinkle with freshly chopped fresh dill.

Also served cold, in my experience. And you have to love any recipe that includes the word "toxic." But, hey, a good life lesson: how to keep large amounts of soup edible when you lack proper refrigeration!

When I had shchee there was never any meat in it, nor on the side. Meat was not plentiful where we were, and when someone offered you meat, you accepted it graciously. Usually, when asked, people would say that it was veal.

It was never veal.

It was this way that I had camel, horse, dog, cat, and various other animals. Truthfully? The camel gyros were delicious.

Bonus Post: Anna Van Blarcom

It's Restaurant Week here in DC, and I kicked it off by having dinner with my friend Jeannette at Ceiba. Between courses, I asked if she knew about an Anna Van Blarcom.

Oh, boy, did she! Anna didn't marry into the MacCutcheon family; rather, she was a MacCutcheon who married into the Van Blarcoms. THE Van Blarcoms, of Van Blarcom Closures. They made metal bottle tops for soda bottles and the like. Stopped making them when the industry went over to plastics, because plastics factories worked around the clock, and the Van Blarcoms weren't going to run three shifts and never shut for the night. No, not the Van Blarcoms.

Anna was a proper Quaker lady, and always wore simple grey dresses. When she died, in the 70s, her family went up to close up the estate. The found her grey dresses, yes, but the also found what she wore under the dresses.

Nothing but bright red silk underthings.

Go, Anna.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beets Braised in Sour Cream

There was a time when I didn't like sour cream. It's hard to imagine it now, really, but I was highly suspicious of the white, smooth, gloopy substance. If it was mixed with something else, if it was part of a sauce, well, fine. But sour cream on its own? Ick! Yogurt? Ick! They weren't a part of my growing up, and I resisted them mightily (until I grew some sense, or went to college, or both -- sour cream on everything in the dining hall made the dining hall palatable).

I was sure I hated sour cream. I also was sure I hated beets.

Nothing Beets Borscht would have scared the heck out of me back then, especially with this recipe.
Beets Braised in Sour Cream
(Svyokla so Smyetanoy)

This recipe should satisfy all those people who thought Russian cooking was synonymous with sour cream and beets. It will also surprise them, because this doesn't have any of the ghastly connotations that sour cream has for many Americans. The beets color the sour cream, and the dish is a bright magenta. It's such an incredibly brilliant color that even if you hat beets, and despise sour cream, try this just to see that fantastic color!

1 pound raw beets
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
A little bit of water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup sour cream

Peel the beets and slice them thinly.

Melt the butter in a frying pan that has a cover. Add the beets, lemon juice, and enough water to keep the beets from burning (a few tablespoons).

Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until beets are tender. Remove from heat.

Add the salt and sugar, and mix. Add the sour cream and heat the pan, but do not let the sour cream come to a boil, or it will curdle. When the cream is warm, serve.

Make sure the dish you serve it in shows off the beets' color. Black is very nice; so is white.

Evidently, my 1970s self was not alone in being highly suspicious of beets and sour cream. What was it, I wonder, about sour cream that seemed scary back then, but now seems so completely normal?

I would probably not call these "braised in sour cream" as it seems they are cooked in water, and then served in cream, but that's just me. I'd use the highest-fat sour cream you can allow yourself to buy, because the higher fat will stand the heat longer without breaking.

I haven't tried this yet, but I'd bet you can do this more quickly and with less mess by turning it into a pantry cooking sort of thing: a can of sliced beets (not pickled! not sweetened!), drained, with a few tablespoons of the liquid reserved (to stand in for the few tablespoons of water). Warm that up in a pan with the lemon juice, and then proceed with the recipe. No peeling raw beets, no slicing raw beets, no waiting for the raw beets to be cooked through. Might be a nice thing on a hot August night when you've been away at work and just want something easy, fast, and relatively healthy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Nothing Beets Borscht, by Blanksteen; Beet Preserves

In case you are wondering why I decided to write a Russian cookbook, the original reason was to make my last semester of high school more interesting.

Don't hate Jane Blanksteen because she was a young thing... a young thing with a publishing deal. Don't hate her because, when her book Nothing Beets Borschts: Jane's Russian Cookbook hit the bookstores in 1974, she was a student at Yale. Hate her cutesy pun in the title, if you must, but otherwise? Jane seems like the sort of person you'd want to sit down to tea (and/or vodka) with.
Beet Preserves

(From Louise McGrath, who got it from Katherine Alexeieff)

This is like a marmalade except it is made with beets. I would like to give this recipe a star, or something, because it is not just another jam -- it is...

Sorry, I've been trying to think of an uncorny word to describe something that tastes good, but I haven't come up with anything. Let it suffice to say: Try it.

(2 cups)

2 pounds beet (large, tough beets can be used)
Boiling water
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 cup slivered or coarsely chopped almonds
2 juicy lemons (medium-sized)

Put the washed, but unpeeled, beets in a pot, cover them with boiling water, and simmer until they are tender. This will take about an hour -- more or less depending on the size of the beets.

Rinse the cooked beets with cold water until they are cool, so that you can handle them without causing any serious damage to the skin on your hands. You should then be able to slip the beet skin off the beet without much trouble.

When you have skin the beets, dice them into 1/4-inch cubes.

Put the beets into a waterless pot with the sugar, ginger, and almonds. stir this mixture so that the beets are evenly coated with the sugar and ginger and the almonds are well distributed.

Put the pot over a very tiny flame and cook uncovered for 1/2 hour, stirring every now and then to keep it from burning.

After the 1/2 hour is up, chop the lemons very fine, peel and all; discard any seeds. Add the lemon to the pot. Continue cooking for another 1/2 hour.

Give this mixture a jelly test at this point: Put a tiny bit of jelly onto a plate and let it stand for 5 minutes. If it jells -- test by running your finger through it; if it wrinkles up it is jelled -- then pour the jam into hot, dry jars. Let stand until they cool, then cover and seal the jars. If you know nothing about sealing jars, use old jars from commercial jellies and jams, or just keep it refrigerated.

Russians serve this in little glass saucers with their tea, or it can be used to spread on delicious white bread, such as the one in the preceding recipe.

The cutesy pun in the title is the only one of its kind in the book. Otherwise, Jane Blanksteen is conversational, a bit chatty, and very easy to understand. She'll weave in stories of her time in the Soviet Union -- because, yes, it was still very much the Soviet Union when this was compiled -- but also cultural history, religious traditions, and frank honesty about when she's just winging it to make it come out right. There's even multiple-page spreads of Jane's own drawings to show different techniques. It's a fine book, and, yes, we'll get to the borscht this week.

I came by Nothing Beets Borscht in the best of ways: passed on to me by my sister (who helpfully corrected my remembering -- note to self: write down where I get new cookbooks for the future...).

Dinner for me tonight is a can of soup; this week, though, we'll have scads of soup recipes to drool over, many of which are served cold, and so will be perfect for mid-August Olympics-watching suppers.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Salmon Soufflé

It's a Friday, and I have enough latent Catholicism in me to think that Fridays mean fish. Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals for the Busy Gourmet indulges my association with a pantry cooking dish.
Salmon Soufflé

Time: 1 hour

1 No. 1 can salmon
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper

Make cream sauce, melting butter, blending flour, and adding milk and seasoning. Cook for 2-3 minutes, remove from the stove, add yolks of eggs and salmon. Stir well and fold in stiffly beaten whites of eggs. Put in buttered casserole with straight sides and bake in slow oven (375°) for 35 minutes. Serves 4.

Salmon soufflé
Salad: Lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, cucumber and French dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part garlic vinegar,
Drop biscuits

For that unexpected (uninvited?) guest. All from materials that should always be on your shelves.

Ooo, a typographical error? An omission? What comes after the 1 part garlic oil? Other than the missing stuff (salt and pepper, I'd wager, and maybe some mustard), the salad and dressing sound remarkably like what I thought salad and dressing were as a kid. Those ingredients. Presented the same way. Over and over.

Until, of course, the Kraft Catalina Dressing taco salad came into our lives... :swoon: It's trashy, it's kitschy, it's so very good.

But this is about the salmon soufflé...

I like the assumption that everyone's going to have a soup-can-sized can of salmon on her shelf (and, yes, the assumption is that the cook is a woman; the drawing on the page shows a woman walking by a window overlooking a station where the train has just pulled away; there are two men's hats on the sideboard, and it's 5 minutes to 7... a whole story in a little picture). I think I actually do have one up in my cupboards... I've butter and flour, milk, ... heck, I might even still have 4 eggs.

Dang. I could actually throw together this pantry cooking recipe right now.


Remember, I've linked to a can size number cheat sheet in the past; a No. 1 can is the same size as a Campbell's condensed soup can.

Tomorrow, a bonus post, and a new cookbook. Should the bonus post be Egyptian Eggplant, or Celery Au Gratin?

(Yes, "Celery Au Gratin.")

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Brunswick Stew

There's a certain lack of squeamishness in Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals for the Busy Gourmet that I find utterly refreshing (or, occasionally, intriguingly off-putting). Meat comes from animals, and those animals come from somewhere, and that somewhere used to have fur or feathers or fins. Usually. So, here's to acknowledging the little critters that make some tasty dishes.
Brunswick Stew

Time: 1 3/4 hours

1 squirrel or rabbit, cut at joints
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 No. 1 can niblet corn
1 package frozen cut green beans
3 spring onions, tops and bulbs chopped
1 No. 2 can tiny new potatoes drained
1 cup red wine
bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and 8 peppercorns

Brown the squirrel or rabbit and onion in olive oil. Place in casserole, add vegetables, wine, and seasoning. Brown new potatoes in skillet used for squirrel and add to casserole. Cover and simmer gently in medium oven of 350° for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Serves 4.

Brunswick stew
Salad: Celery curls, radishes, egg, tomatoes, and lettuce with French dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part vinegar, salt and pepper, and a pinch of dry mustard)

You hunters (both the field and market varieties) should go big for this. However, if for no other reason than to start an argument, try chicken now and then instead of rabbit or squirrel.

Now, I don't think I'm going to find squirrel in the supermarket, and, recent Supreme Court decisions aside, I doubt the folks of DC are going to take too kindly to me taking a bead on the wildlife in Glover Archibald Park. Whole Foods usually has rabbit in the freezer case, so I could go that route.

When I was a 4-H-er, I raised rabbits. Yes, for showing, but yes, also for eating. I do have a fondness for rabbit as a result.

For your other ingredients, remember the cheat sheet for can sizes: No. 2 cans are about 2 1/2 cups, and No. 1 cans, about 1 1/4 cups. I'd assume the green beans should be of the "frozen into a block 4"x6" to 5"x7"" variety, not a big 1- or 2-lb. package. And your thyme should be dried, not fresh.

I know, I know. Fresh would be lovely. But then again, wouldn't fresh corn be lovely here? Fresh potatoes? Onions with a bit more flavor? A salad that didn't sound like a bit of a nightmare? Part of this project is staying true to the recipe... what you do in your own kitchen when you try to make it for human consumption is entirely up to you.

:cough: :cough: :use fresh where possible: :cough: :cough:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Steak and Kidney Pie

I read book jackets. I live for a good blurb. Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals for the Busy Gourmet doesn't have a jacket; however, it does have some great cover copy.


New dishes in the modern manner

One meal, one page -- everything right under your nose

What to cook -- How to make it -- How long it takes -- How many it serves



Increases your culinary repertory without extra expenditure of time or money -- will add novelty to any woman's shelf of cook books and delight to any he-man's meals.

I couldn't make up those bolds, italics, random-caps and all-caps if I tried, folks. That's straight from the back cover.

Yesterday's recipe was so unabashedly vegetarian and contained so few ingredients, I figure we can go for something more complex and organ-ish today.
Steak and Kidney Pie

Time: 1 1/4 hours

1 lb. beef -- top round
6 lamb kidneys
1 medium-sized bunch of carrots, scraped and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 No. 2 can tiny new potatoes drained
1 package frozen limas
3 medium-sized Bermuda onions quartered
2 cups prepared biscuit flour
1 cup milk
1/4 small bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper

Prepare kidneys by splitting and removing white membrane; soak in cold salted water while cutting steak in small pieces about the size of a half-dollar. Sear both in an iron skillet about 5 minutes, add 2 cups of water and boil 6 minutes. Put everything in a low buttered casserole and cover with soft dough (2 cups of biscuit flour, 1 cup of milk, and do not roll). Bake about 20 minutes at 450°.

Steak and kidney pie
Endive salad with French dressing (1 part wine vinegar, 2 parts olive oil, salt and pepper, and a dash -- merely a dash -- of nutmeg)
Swedish bread (the kind that looks like phonograph disks -- can be bought at any fancy grocery)

This will serve four of our friends, or six normal eaters. People who drop in during our dinner, which we have fairly late, and say, " Thank you, I've had dinner, but that looks good, I'd like to taste it," have been known to eat three helpings

I tend to say I've "peeled" carrots, but really like the word "scraped" here. After all, carrots don't actually have a peel; you're just scraping off the outer bit that is a touch darker, a bit likely to be clinging to dirt.

There's a lie in that last paragraph. I only ever peel (or scrape) carrots if I'm peeling/scraping them all the way down into long ribbons. I figure that a washing is all that is needed.

I'm a bit curious about the one quarter of a bay leaf. I'm much more likely to chuck a few extra bay leaves in when I make a stew or soup. A quarter of one? Seems like a pointless endeavor.

In the not-so-distant future, this recipe will be even more anachronistic. Describing bread as looking like a phonograph disk is going to be as out-of-date a reference for the next iPod generation as calling for things by can size number. Oh, and, remember: a No. 2 can is approximately 2 1/2 cups, so, a nice big can, like the size you'd get if you wanted a can of stewed tomatoes to make yourself a mess of spaghetti sauce.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cheese with Tomatoes and Okra

I tend to think of casseroles in the fall or winter. Summer should be salads and barbeques and picnics, right? Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals for the Busy Gourmet defies expectations, and delivers up a seasonal summer vegetable casserole.
Cheese with Tomatoes and Okra

Time: 1 hour

4 medium-sized fresh tomatoes
1 pint okra
1 pound rattrap cheese diced
1 spring onion, tops and bottom chopped
salt and pepper

Butter deep casserole. Slice, but do not peel tomatoes. Cut tips and stems from okra pods. Dice cheese and chop onion. Arrange in layers in casserole, first a layer of tomato, then a layer of okra, then a sprinkling of onion, salt and pepper, and finally the cheese. Repeat until all ingredients are used, cover and bake in a medium oven (350°) for 40 minutes. Serves 4.

Cheese with tomatoes and okra
Beet salad: Beets stuffed with mixture of lemon juice, chopped pickle, chopped spiced beets, mayonnaise, served on lettuce
Italian bread cut in hunks

From our Southern cousins. Very inexpensive. Very easy to prepare.

Very suspect salad suggestion. I mean, seriously... I love beets. I love pickles. I love spiced beets. I love mayonnaise. I do not want to chop up most of those things and then shove 'em in another, and serve it on lettuce. No. No, thank you.

"Rattrap cheese" isn't an ingredient I'm familiar with. My initial thought was "Velveeta" or other processed-to-hell-but-deliciously-meltable cheese. Some modern-day research (can we call Googling a term "research"?) points instead to...


Yes, cheddar. Nothing fancy, nothing imported, nothing expensive. American cheddar, including/especially the dried out and unsavory bits that you wouldn't want to eat yourself, but might be used in an iconic rat trap.

I love it when the story behind words makes such neat and colorful sense.

Also, don't be scared off by the okra. Honest! Okra can be your friend! If you're really wigged out by the notion, I suggest you try some dry-fried okra to ease you into the wonderful veg. Alton Brown has a great episode of Good Eats devoted entirely to this unfairly maligned vegetable; the dry-fry recipe comes from that.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Canadian Bacon with Apples and Red Wine

Marian & Nino Tracy have lots of ideas, and they're not afraid to share them. In the introduction to Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals for the Busy Gourmet, they discuss the proper equipment for cooking and serving casseroles.
We use several sizes of earthenware casseroles, both French and Mexican types. The French type with the cover and a long handle works very well. We have a low one for most dishes and a deep one for the very bulky recipes. A very shallow one, a sort of earthenware pie plate, is necessary for some seafood casseroles. We also use individual Mexican casseroles with lids when the spirit moves us.

Casseroles look best with simple china and linens in robust colors. Nothing thin or dainty will do. We use tablecloths made of gaily striped percales, mattress ticking, or checked gingham, which we sew together out of lengths of material bought chiefly for design and color. Cork mats are practical because the food is usually really hot. For buffet suppers a set of trays in a good clear color with not mats, plain contrasting china, and individual casseroles are attractive. Gaily figured glasses from the five-and-ten-cent store are good if your breakage is high. Serve simply. The casserole itself will appreciate this and so probably will your friends.

So, we're called to set cheerful places, folks. I have never sewn my own table linens, but have been known to press pretty sheets or duvet covers at tablecloths in a pinch. I'm a big fan of mismatched colors on a table, and have casseroles in any number of crayon colors. My basic china is white, with accent pieces with a dark blue rim; it pretty much goes with anything and calls out for yummy casseroles, stews, and the like. Like, this one:
Canadian Bacon with Apples and Red Wine

Time: 45 min.

1 lb. Canadian bacon
1 No. 2 can sweet potatoes
4 large cooking apples or 1 No. 2 can sliced pie apples
1 cup red wine -- claret would be best
2 tablespoons brown sugar
grated peel of 1/2 lemon
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper

Core, peel, and slice apples. Frizzle the bacon a few minutes. Place sweet potatoes on bottom of low buttered casserole. Arrange apple slices in layer above sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, grated lemon peel, salt and pepper, and go easy on the salt because the bacon is quite salty. Top with a neatly arranged layer of bacon and pour in the wine. Bake in a medium oven (350°) for 30 minutes. Serves 4.

Canadian bacon with apples and red wine
Salad: Mixed greens (water cress, chicory, endive, and a little chopped parsley, for instance) with French dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part vinegar, pinch of thyme, pinch of marjoram, and, of course, salt and pepper)
Hot buttermilk biscuits (prepared ones that come in tubes)

When we say claret would be best, we expect controversy. So use waht you prefer, but don't blame us if it fizzles.

Aaaah, old cookbooks! Casserole Cookery often uses canned ingredients, and refers to them by the can size number, not by ounces. So, what's a good casserole cook to do? Look up the info from a handy dandy Extension service! University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers a cheat sheet for can sizes; you'll need about 2 1/2 cups of cooked sweet potatoes for this recipe.

Full disclosure: I'm the daughter of a former Extension agent, and the sister of an Extension secretary. Of course, even if I weren't, I'd send you their way for information galore -- I adore Extension. (Go, 4H!)

If you're not British, you might be unsure about the term "claret." Yes, yes, it's red wine, but more specifically, it's a Bordeaux-style wine. If you don't want to splash out for French wine in this dish (though, really, you can get some yummy ones for not much money), look for a wine with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and/or Carmenere. Or, ask your wine guy or wine gal to point you towards a Bordeaux-style blend.

And, in the "learn something new every day" category: frizzle is a real, honest-to-goodness word. It means to cook with a sizzling sound, or cook until crispy and curled. Not too surprising, once you accept the word as real, one finds that it actually came from mashing up the words "fry" and "sizzle." So...frizzle up some bacon, folks. And then smile at the Tracys, who ended their story with a rhyming word. Just because they could.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Veal Curry.

My copy of Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals for the Busy Gourmet was originally owned by one Anna Van Blarcom. Googling her name takes me down several rabbit holes, including one great one that would have Anna Van Blarcom marrying into the MacCutcheon family. This tickles me because my friend Jeannette's grandma, Jean MacCutcheon gave me the cookbook; odds of it being the same Anna are slim, as she'd have been 80 by the time the cookbook came out. Regardless! This book had a history. It was owned by Anna Van Blarcom; she put her name in it, and she ticked off recipes of interest. Veal with Squash. Salmon Steaks with Lima Beans. Kidney Beans and Red Wine. Zucchini with Italian Meat Sauce. Curried Veal with Brasil Nuts. Veal Curry.

There's only one page where Anna availed herself of the "Cook's Comments" lines. On page 21, for the recipe for Veal Curry, Anna wrote "10 min in Pressure Cooker." 10 minutes beats 1 1/4 hours, when trying to cook for... whatever her household situation was like.

I was going to steer clear of the more controversial meats, but I have to say, Anna was particularly fond of this recipe, and so, for Anna's sake, I'm chucking delicate sensibilities to the wind. Also, once I get to the Alaska and Montana cookbooks, there'll be no avoiding more exotic meats (the bear fat pie crust comes to mind).
Veal Curry

Time: 1 1/4 hours

1 1/2 lbs. veal cut into 2-inch squares
1 1/2 cups raw rice
6 tart apples, peeled and cubed
1 package seedless raisins
4 spring onions, tops and bottoms chopped
1/4 lb. butter
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
salt and pepper

Sauté the veal in olive oil in skillet. Transfer to a low buttered casserole. Add all the other ingredients: rice, apples, raisins, onions, curry powder, ginger, salt and pepper. Pour in 4 cups water. Cover and simmer in a medium oven (350°) for 1/14 hours. Serves 4 or more.

Veal curry
Salad: Mixed greens (escarole, lettuce, cress) with French dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part wine vinegar, salt and pepper)
Vienna bread

The beauty of this curry is that it takes only one boy to serve it.

I have no idea what to make of that story. The cartoon accompanying the recipe is a turbaned, wild-eyed man with a big bowl of steaming curry. I see references to "12 boy curry" and "20 boy curry" and the like, where the "boys" are add-ins to curry dishes, and I hope that's what they were trying to get to here...

Vienna bread is baked in a steamy oven, like a baguette. So, crisp crust, fine crumb. I think the point is "bread suitable for sopping up curry," which is always fine with me. Take One Cookbook... is decidedly pro-sopping.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals For The Busy Gourmet; Stuffed Eggs Au Gratin

You spoke, I listened; this week, we'll look at Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals For The Busy Gourmet, by Marian & Nino Tracy. First published in 1941, revised in 1946, and coming to my shelf in a 1949 edition. I'll go into the funky pride it takes in its binding in a later post, because, it's just that much fun. But first, let's look at how things change due to war:
A Note for the 1946 Edition

This book was first compiled in the happy days when the only shortages were due to a lack of money or inaccessibility to good markets, and a casserole for four using a pound and a half of meat was called a "meat-stretcher." We all have learned to readjust many such ideas as that about food. Recipes for casserole cooking are pleasantly flexible and the proportions of the major ingredients may be varied according to what is available. Less meat may be used, with more potatoes, rice, and green vegetables added to make more bulk.

If you use fresh foods instead of canned or frozen foods, more time and more liquid must be allowed unless the food has been parboiled. The list of equivalents below will be helpful on this. Solid or liquid fats may be used interchangeably in cooking but never in French dressing. Seasonings are more important than ever in giving zip to an otherwise restricted diet.

Aaaah, rationing. It ended in the U.S. in 1946, but clearly, after the book went to press.

The cooking magazine, Saveur, has named Casserole Cookery one of its favorite casserole cookbooks:
The chatty royals of the casserole kingdom acknowledge their own laziness and offer 150 no-fuss recipes for like-minded home cooks.
Chatty they are. Nearly every recipe has not only a suggested menu to accompany the casserole, but also a story which may or may not have anything to do with the recipe in question. For this week, I've mostly tried to stay clear of the veal and offal recipes, though there's a lot to learn there, so one or two might sneak in. Today, though, we'll start easy (and use up any of the remaining eggs you have on hand from The Pooh Cook Book):
Stuffed Eggs Au Gratin

Time: 45 min.

6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar
olive oil, enough to make a smooth paste
(anchovies or anchovy paste, Smithfield ham, capers may be used in the stuffing)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon basil
grated cheese
salt and pepper

Hardboil the eggs. Peel and halve them. Remove yolks to bowl and mix with mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever else you care to use. Stuff mixture into halves of whites. Place in bottom of shallow buttered casserole. Make a cream sauce with butter, flour, and milk, and pour over the eggs. Sprinkle top with grated cheese. Bake in oven at 350° for 10 minutes. Serves 4.

Stuffed eggs au gratin
Raw vegetable salad (carrots, cauliflower, onion, green and sweet red pepper, all chopped) and French dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part garlic vinegar, salt and pepper)
Melba toast

The "whatever else you care to use" may make you wonder why you paid for this book, but the real point is that the casserole lends itself to many individual tastes.

Yes, it assumes you know how to make a cream sauce. If you don't know how to make a cream sauce, shout out, and I'll do a how-to.

There's a few lines for "cook's comments" on each page, so you can add, subtract, or alter as you see fit.

I find the use of the term "French dressing" interesting here; clearly, it doesn't mean the gloppy red sweet dressing you can buy by that name in the grocery store today. All of a sudden, the pickled peach liquid in French dressing mention back in The Savannah Cook Book makes a lot more sense.