31 January 2009

My Mother's Southern Entertaining

It's no big secret that I just love Southern entertaining and I love a boy who loves his mama! So it is no wonder I am drawn to this book. Opening My Mother's Southern Entertaining by James Villas and his mother, Martha Pearl Villas is like going home. She passes the southern purity test by not putting sugar in her cornbread.

There is nothing more quintessentially Southern than a congealed salad. Since today is the day before the Super Bowl, I thought I would give you a recipe from Miss Martha Pearl's Super Bowl Buffet.

Congealed Football Broccoli Mold

One 10-ounce package frozen broccoli, thawed
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup chicken stock or broth
2/3 cup mayonnaise (Miss Martha Pearl prefers Hellmann's)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
One 4-ounce jar whole pimentos cut into thin strips

Grease a medium-size oval mold and set aside.

Cook the broccoli according to package directions, drain, chop finely and set aside.

In a small saucepan, soften the gelatin in the water for about 5 minutes, then add the broth and stir over low heat until the gelatin has dissolved completely.
pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise, sou cream, lemon juice, onion and Worcestershire, and beat with an electric mixer till smooth. Chill the mixture till partially set, about 30 minutes, then fold in the broccoli and eggs. Scrape the mixture into the prepared mold, cover with plastic wrap and chill till firm, at least 2 hours
Unmold the oval onto a serving platter and use the pimento strips to simulate football laces. Keep chilled till ready to serve.

Ok, I haven't made a football oval since high school. Here in West Virginia I can't get NBC, which means NO Super Bowl even though our somewhat local team, the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing. But I wanted you to see just what a masterpiece this could be on your Super Bowl table, so here is a picture of Miss Martha Pearl's. Be a dear and help your mama make one this Sunday!

30 January 2009

the girl & the fig Cookbook

the girl & the fig Cookbook is a fun romp through the foods of Sonoma. Sondra Bernstein loves figs. so when she need name for her restaurant it seemed obvious -- the girl and the fig. Bernstein combines a love of French cooking with the simple, fresh ingredients. I must say, at first glance this is not a book that I would feel strongly about. There are a few black and white pictures that don't really give you a good idea of the food. The pages are overly decorative as if to make up for the lack of images and still, I find myself coming back again and again to Bernstein's straightforward recipes.

This year we had a bumper crop of garlic, onions and shallots at Doe Run Farm. This recipe appears for both shallots and onions. It also works for garlic. I have mixed and matched with great success. In these waining winter months, one can also "cheat" with a nice bag of frozen onions, but cut the cooking time by half!

Rather than over complicate recipes by filling them with multiple oils, and spices, Bernstein starts out offering simple recipes to make the oil and spice mixes she uses. Her blended oil (featured in the following recipe) is one part olive oil, 3 parts canola oil.

Balsamic Shallots

1 tablespoon blended oil
1 pound shallots, halved
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 cup honey
1 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Heat the oi in a large saute pan and saute the shallots until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme and cook for a minute more. Add the honey and then the vinegar. Cook the mixture, until the shallots are soft and the vinegar has been reduced by three quarters. Season with salt and pepper.

I'm not fully committed to the honey. I like to take both onions, shallots and a clove or two of garlic with the balsamic and a little oil, place them in a covered cocotte and tuck them in the oven for about 1/2 hour for a chunky variation or about 1 hour for a kind of onion marmalade. Either works as a great side to pork or chicken.

29 January 2009

Prue’s Perfect Guide to the Shoot Lunch

Everyone loves Nigella's twin sets and Gordon Ramsey's flagrant use of the other "F" word, but there is something profoundly endearing about the no nonsense band of British cookery writers that endured WWII. They are a convivial lot whose approach to food is truly no nonsense.

One of my favorites is Prue Coats. Technically, Prue Coats is Scottish, but she is "British" enough for me. During the war she worked for the Free French. In the early 1950's she married a rather famous wood pigeon shooter, Archie Coats. Being married to a shooter, informed her cooking and many of her recipes are for small game. I recently made a quick carrot soup from Prue’s Perfect Guide to the Shoot Lunch.

I was lacking fresh coriander or cilantro, but I did have some dried. I garnished with a bit of sage. Forget the bouillon cube! I used some lackluster packaged carrots, so you can see that I didn't get quite the bright color that a nice bunch of garden carrots would have produced. Still in all this snow, it was quite tasty.

A Magimix is a bad-ass European food processor. You can get them in the U.S. but they run over $400.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

2 lbs carrots
2 oz. butter
1 dessertspoon sugar
1 pint water
1 pint milk
1 vegetable stock cube
6 coriander seeds, crushed
1 dessertspoon fresh chopped coriander if obtainable, or parsley
Salt and pepper

Peel the carrots and put then through the fine slicer of a Magimix. Tip them into a saucepan with the butter, sugar, crushed coriander seeds, salt and pepper. Cover tightly and cook until tender, shaking occasionally. Liquidize until very smooth then add milk and water. Only use the stock cube if you think it needs body. Finally, stir in the chopped coriander or parsley.

28 January 2009

Spanish Kitchen

I spent some time in an artist's colony in Spain. I loved Spanish cooking but never really found a cookbook that I liked until this one. Spanish Kitchen by Jane Lawson.

The book is loaded with great pictures and even the most complex recipes are managable. Here is a simple mushroon saute. This is a great side for any robust meat.

Sauteed Mixed Mushrooms with Garlic

14 ounces fresh mixed mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, freshly chopped
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped oregano
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
black truffle oil (optional)
tiny whole oregano leaves, extra to garnish

Make sure the mushrooms are free from grit, then trim the stems. Slice any large mushrooms, and either keep the small ones whole or cut them in half.

Put the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic. Cook, stirring, 4-5 minutes, or until the garlic is golden, making sure it doesn’t burn.

Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and saute for 4 minutes, or until they start to soften. Increase the heat to high and add the sherry, sherry vinegar, and chopped oregano. Saute for an additional 4 –5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and stir the parsley through.

Put mushrooms in a serving dish, drizzle with truffle oil(if using), sprinkle with a few oregano leaves, and serve.

My friend, Anne, whose Victorias made Cookbook of the Day, gave me an enormous bag of chanterelles.
They ended up in many incarnations, but one of my favorites was simple sauteed in garlic. For my recipe, I used mushrooms, butter, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and a touch of white balsamic.

They were divine.

27 January 2009

Consider the Oyster

An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life. M.F. K. Fisher.

Consider the Oyster is one of my “Desert Island” books. If I were allowed only a dozen books, this would be close to the top!

This Christmas there were several cookbooks published that were larger than the table holding the two burner gas hot-plate in M.F. K. Fisher’s first French kitchen. Sometimes, bigger is not better. Consider the Oyster is under 100 pages with less than 30 recipes, yet it couldn’t be a bigger book.

The recipes are swathed in anecdotes about this sexy bivalve. When is an oyster stew not a stew? How are the ingredients in an oyster stew; cream, butter, salt and pepper and oysters, combined. Cook the oysters first? Heat the cream first? Dump the ingredients together?

Once you have mastered the soups, stews and bisques, Fisher teaches us to stuff, cream, roast, grill and even Rockefeller the salty mollusk.

She even includes a recipe for the pearl!

To Make a Pearl

1 healthy spay
1 mature oyster
1 bead
1 wire cage
scrubbing brushes
unnameable wound-astringent provided by the Japanese government
1 diving girl

Introduce the spat, which should be at least 1/75 of an inch long, to the smooth surface of the cage. Submerge him in quiet clean water, where the cage will protect him from the starfish, and frequent inspections and scrubbings will keep his rapidly growing shell free from boring-worms and such pests.

In three years prepare him for the major operation of putting the bead on his mantle (epithelium). Once the bead is in place, draw the mantle over it and ligature the tissues to form a wee sac. Put the sac into the second oyster, remove the ligature, treat the wound with the unnameable astringent, and after the oyster has been caged, put him into the sea.

Supervise things closely for seven years, with the help of your diving-girl. Any time after that you may open your oyster, and you have about one chance in twenty of owning a marketable pearl, and a small but equally exciting chance of having cooked up something really valuable.

As a child, I would have preferred that my mother made the pearls rather than the oyster stew. Today it is just the opposite, oysters are a favorite of mine as is M. F. K. Fisher. I worry, however, that Fisher's prophecy of the oyster is true of her life, very exciting but a bit dreadful! While she is a great writer I am afraid that everything one reads about her proves that she was not the greatest person. Judge for yourself. Try Joan Reardon's Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher. And, by all means, put on your pearls, shuck some oysters and consider M. F. K. Fisher.

26 January 2009

Fine Preserving

Today's cookbook is a twofer, two different editions of Fine Preserving by Catherine Plagemann. In the late 60’s Plagemann’s slim book on preserving featured both sweet and savory recipes for chutneys, sauces, jellies and condiments. Today’s more adventurous audience would probably embrace Plagemann’s book, but it went out of print not long after it was published.

The book might have fallen into obscurity, but it had a great champion, M. F. K. Fisher. Though they never met, Fisher was instrumental in getting the book re-issued but with a twist.

While sitting around talking about books with a group of people, including small publisher, John Harris, the subject of lost classics came up. Fisher stated that the one book she would have reprinted was Fine Preserving. Intrigued by that choice, John Harris said he would look at a copy but several days later he called Fisher to say he could not find one in any library. (It was the olden days before Amazon.) Fisher offered to send him her copy, but when he received it, he found the pages annotated with personal notes. Instead of simply re-publishing the book, Harris wanted to publish it with M.F. K. Fisher’s annotations. Mrs. Plagemann died several years before the annotated version, so she never knew of the great influence the book had on Fisher.

The second incarnation of Fine Preserving, nearly 20 years after the first combines the original with cryptic and biting marginalia from Fisher.

This is one of Fisher’s favorite recipes and one of mine, too.

Pickled Seedless Grapes

Wash and stem enough grapes to make 3 cups. Place them in 3 very clean half-pint canning jars.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar or white vinegar
3 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon minced onions
Bring these ingredients to a boil, stirring well to distribute the sugar; simmer mixture for five minutes. Pour the syrup over the grape, putting 1 cinnamon stick in each jar. Stir and let stand overnight. Next day the grapes will be ready to serve.
If you want to keep the relish for future use, it is a good idea to put the jars in brown-paper bags before putting them on the shelf, as the light tends to darken the top layer of grapes, and this is not a pretty site. Plan to use this pickle soon, or at least before the year is out, as the grape skins toughen as well as darken if they are kept too long.
Serve this relish with meat, fish, poultry or game.
It also makes a delicious and unusual condiment as an accompaniment to curry.

M.F. K Fisher’s Commentary

And so now we come to one of my favorite recipes in the whole book! (There are two of them. The other is for Chermoula.) I make these pickled grapes very often, Winter and Summer, now that in California we can get good seedless grapes fro South America to add to our own crops. People are astonished and pleased by them.
The pickle should be served cold, drained of juices, and without the cinnamon stick. My version is somewhat different from Mrs. Plagemann’s: I’ve cut out the minced onions. I don’t think it adds anything. (Perhaps cherries, pitted or not, might be good this way?)
Mrs. Plagemann uses little jars filled with grapes, washed and dried, and with one cinnamon stick in each jar. The hot syrup (really a kind of bar-mix, called “simple syrup,” I think) is poured in immediately and they are sealed.
The cinnamon stick I find essential. I tried once without it and it didn’t “feel” right. White seedless grapes will turn brown, as she says, so they should be put in a dark place. Myself, I think the seedless “flame” grapes, the red Peruvians, are the most delicious. They last a couple of years, but I feel that after one month they are at their best, rather crisp and fresh tasting. (But they are fine in one day!) They are delicious with any sandwiches, or cold meats, or fowl hot or cold, fish hot or cold, veal smoked or not, lamb…all most anything except maybe vanilla ice cream.

I agree with Fisher, the onions are not necessary, but I think they would be quite lovely heated and poured over vanilla ice cream! These grapes are a perfect hostess gift. Face it, everyone brings a bottle of wine, so why not mix it up a bit with these lovely pickled grapes.

25 January 2009

An Alphabet for Gourmets

“A is for dining Alone… and so am I, if a choice must be made between most people I know and myself.”

Is it any wonder the Mary Frances is dining alone with that scowling photo on her book. Would you want her sitting across your table? Let's think of her dining alone and organizing this book with this image in our minds.

An Alphabet for Gourmets is an abecedary, a book that tells its tale by moving through the letters of the alphabet. I adore abecedaries! Letters fascinate me and though my spelling sucks (feel free to send me corrections) I love the order of letters and though Scrabble is the one game I fail at miserably, I keep bowls of letter tiles sitting around to make me happy.

Like so many of Fisher’s books, An Alphabet for Gourmets it is more of a history with pertinent recipes thrown in rather than a pure cookbook.

As for dining alone... I totally understand Fisher's sentiment. There are people I would sleep with that I wouldn’t eat with! I love dinning alone. One of my best Christmas’ was spent alone on my friend Harry Lowe’s farm in Virginia. I cooked a hot chicken curry, opened a bottle of crisp white wine and sat contentedly at the table. An oil lamp lit the table inside and a lone floodlight lit up the falling snow outside. It was magical.

Along with dining alone in the "A" section, M. F. K. Fisher gives us a recipe for ambrosia.


6 fine oranges
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cups grated coconut, preferably fresh
good sherry

Divide peeled oranges carefully into sections, or slice thin, and arrange in layers in a glass bowl, sprinkling each layer generously with sugar and coconut. When the bowl is full, pour a wine glass or so of sherry over the layers and chill well.

Having been raised in the South, I am a bit of an ambrosia purest. Ambrosia contains oranges, coconut, sugar. In the most decadent of kitchens (not the Baptist kitchens) a shot of spirits was thrown in for good measure. No pineapple, no cherries and certainly no marshmallows!

Fisher’s recipe stays true to my Southern roots. and just think... there are 25 letters left to go...

24 January 2009

M. F. K. Fisher among the Pots and Pans

I have been thinking a lot about M. F. K. Fisher lately and I thought I would share some of her books with you.
Fisher is a kind of problematic character for me. I adore her writing, the beauty of her prose, the simplicity of her cooking. That is enough. Truth be told, from everything I have read about her, she would not have made the BFF list. But I can never deny her amazing prose.

July 3, 2008 was the hundredth anniversary of Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher’s birth. M. F. K. Fisher is truly one of America’s greatest writers. She saw herself as a writer above all else, not a food writer or a cookbook writer but a writer. It shows. The fact that she wrote about food is almost incidental. The fact that she wrote about food meant that her work was often denied the traditional accolades that follow great writers.

In honor of Fisher’s centenary, Joan Reardon chronicled Fisher’s life through the kitchens she cooked in, from the first kitchen she remembered as, “an unventilated but roomy hole,” to the Last House where she did away with the kitchen walls altogether.

Today's kitchen has become an alter to excess. Coveted kitchens posses quarried counters, gleaming stainless steel, and stoves and refrigerators that cost more than cars. Don’t get me wrong, no one wants an $11,000 Sub-Zero more than I do, but I share a certain trait with Fisher, the understanding that in order to make good food, one needs imagination and little else.

M. F. K. Fisher among the Pots and Pans is filled with watercolors, family photos, and a collection of recipes old and new. Reardon shines a light on a little known facet of Fisher’s life, the place where actually cooked.

In the early 1930’s, Fisher cooked for her husband and guests on a two-burner gas hot plate perched on a rickety table. There she made one of my favorite comfort foods, cauliflower casserole.

Cauliflower Casserole

1 head of cauliflower, separated into florets
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup béchamel sauce, warm
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg or cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh brad crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch baking dish. Bring a sauce pan filled with water to a boil/ Add 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of salt and blanch the cauliflower florets until a knife pierces the stem of a floret easily, about 10 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold running water, and drain again.
Add the cheese to the warm béchamel sauce, converting it to a Mornay sauce. Stir until smooth. Spoon about one-third of the warm sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange the cauliflower on top and season with salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top, sprinkle with the bread crumbs, and drizzle with the butter.

Bake until the bread crumbs are browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

For my cauliflower casserole, I use a sharp cheddar. Not only does the cauliflower make a great dish, but it makes a great planned-over recipe ingredient. Check out the Lucindaville blog for a great cauliflower ragout that you would be happy to serve Mary Frances in any kitchen.

23 January 2009

Menus For Entertaining

I do love my cookbooks. Sometimes I wonder, what will all these enormous tomes filled with tightly cropped, close-ups of trendy food look like in 50 years? They will probably have the same nostalgic effect as leafing through Menus for Entertaining: 72 Parties and 400 Recipes for the Good Cook and Hostess by Juliette Elkon and Elaine Ross.

An entertaining guide for women in 1960, these detailed menus offer a retro look at what women we doing in their homes and kitchens in the "Swinging Sixties." The book features a Committee Breakfast for Eight at 10 A. M. in case you were worried as to what hour to schedule your committee breakfast. There is a Card Party for Eight Women and also a Card Party for Eight Men. Pre- women's movement I guess the men and women were not allowed to play cards together. For the card players, the women got Prune Bread Sandwiches and the men got Beer. It hardly seems fair! No wonder women burned their bras.

There is a Pique-Nique a la Francaise for Four and a Hamper Picnic for Six. Of course there is the Christmas Eve Open House for 100 or more. Christmas Eve seems to be the only time the guest list total has any leeway. Aside from that, every detail is pretty rigid!

The book is illustrated by famed graphic artist John Alcorn. Alcorn's illustrations are well worth pursing this title.

I'm rather fond of cooked cucumbers and this book has nice recipe included in a Viennese Dinner for Eight.

Braised Cucumbers and Peas

Peel 8 cucumbers and cut them in chunks 1 1/2 inches long. In a heavy skillet, over high heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add cucumbers, season with pepper and salt, and saute for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, then add 3 cups shelled peas and 1/2 cup stock, and continue cooking another 5 minutes for frozen peas, or 8 minutes for fresh. When the cucumbers have a glassy look, remove from the heat, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and 1 teaspoon chopped chives, and transfer to a heated serving dish.

8 cucumbers
3 tablespoons butter
Salt, pepper
3 cups peas
1/2 cup stock
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped chives

If you are not up to cooking Viennese for another 7 people, simply peel and slice a cucumber, season it with a touch of salt and pepper and saute the slices in a teaspoon of butter. It makes a lovely and quick side when you find yourself dining alone!

22 January 2009

Outstanding In The Field

Jim Denevan had a great idea. Don't just buy your produce locally, but eat it locally, too. And when I say locally, I mean in the actual garden or farm where the food was raised. Set up tables and cook right in the garden. With that idea, Outstanding In The Field was born. Since 1999, Jim and his intrepid band have crisscrossed the country arranging dinners from California, to New York, to New Orleans.

In 2008 Outstanding in the Field became a cookbook, chronicling Jim's adventures in far flung fields. Here's a recipe from a dinner at Full Moon Farm in Athens, Georgia.

Since we grow a lot of okra at Doe Run Farm, we thought we'd share this recipe with you.

Deep-Fried Okra With A Buttermilk-Semolina Crust

Vegetable oil for deep frying
1 pound young okra pods
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt

Pour the oil into a large, deep pat, such as a Dutch oven, so it is at least 2 1/2 inches deep but comes up no more than halfway up the sides of the pot. Attach a candy or deep-frying thermometer to the side of the pot and heat oil to 375 F over medium heat.
While the oil is heating, remove the stems from the okra, being careful not to cut open the pods. pour the buttermilk into a medium bowl. Mix together the semolina, flour and a pinch of salt in a wide, shallow baking dish or pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dip okra pod in the buttermilk, shake off excess, and then place it in the semolina mixture, coating all sides. Tap off any excess and put the okra on the parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining okra.
When the oil is ready, use a mesh skimmer to move the okra in and out of the hot oil. Fry okra in batches until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the okra pods from the oil and transfer them to paper towels to drain.
When all of the okra has been fried, season with salt.
As soon as it is warm, head out to your garden for supper.

21 January 2009

The Perfect Egg and Other Secrets

Aldo Buzzi was a man of many talents. Professionally he was an architect, a publisher, and a very clever writer. The Perfect Egg: And Other Secrets was published in the late 1970 but didn’t see an English translation for over twenty years. For me, the egg is perfect and this is a perfect little volume.

Buzzi is an anecdotal writer, whose love of food oozes off the page like a warm mozzarella. His recipes are wrapped in a story where the food is a main character. You will find of crow meat is repulsive but makes a good soup, the best place to get good ham is Trieste, and as below, “a German” egg is less scrambled than one in Italy and therefore, “more Olympian, Goethe-esque.”

Scrambled Egg, Frankfurt-style: Ruhr-eier

This is a specialty of Frankfurt-on-Main, and is less scrambled than ours in Italy, more Olympian, Goethe-esque.
One egg per person plus one for the pan. Break the eggs into a bowl, add a spoonful of water per egg and a little salt. Wisk with a fork. Fry sufficient butter in the pan until it is well browned.
Turn the flame down to a minimum. Toss in the eggs and use a spatula to gently move the part that is setting while you make the still-liquid part run onto the hottest surface of the pan. The knack for the cook, is to get the eggs to set but only just. The surface should be frothy, like the inside of the omlette.
For an Italian variant you can blend into the egg some grated Parmesan or some tomato sauce, or both; or a light peperonata, made of well-cooked peppers and the odd tomato, in which case you’ll have a sort of Basque piperade.

The next time you are at the IHOP think of Aldo Buzzi. When the waitress asks, “How do you want your eggs?” Look her straight in the eye and politely say, “Goethe-esque.”

20 January 2009

Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery

Since we are inaugurating a new president, I thought I would give you a recipe from our “first” First Lady, Martha Washington. Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery is actually a collection of recipes from two older cookbooks, A Booke of Cookery and A Booke of Sweetmeats. This exhaustive study of the recipes used by Washington was researched by historian Karen Hess.

This year, I butchered my first deer, so I have been looking at venison recipes throughout history.
In the 16th century, venison was reserved for nobility and thought to be the most prized of meats. Beef was often sliced and seasoned to resemble deer. Deer was a “nose to tail” eating endeavor. The innards were known as the unbles and were chopped and baked into a crust. The expression "Humble pie" is believed to have come from this reference.

The earliest cookery books rarely bothered with such modern necessities as measurements or cooking times. For Martha Washington, there were some things one just knew and therefore didn’t need to be mentioned in a recipe. A meat that is boiled, then baked is “baked” in a crust.

Here then is Martha Washington’s recipe:

Bake Venison Red Deere or any Great Meat

You must first perboyle yR meat or however; press it all night in a press very dry, & season it according to yE meate baked, & you must clarify yE butter you put into it.

I am not sure that taking my “great meat” and boiling it, pressing it and the baking it will make a tasty meal.

I took my venison tenderloin, sliced it into medallions and wrapped it in bacon. A quick sauté in a touch of olive oil was really all it needed.

19 January 2009

I Like You

I Like You is like a trip to a 1950's kitchen in a crack filled time machine.

Amy Sedaris is funny.

She grew up in the South.

What more do want?

Go out and buy this book.

3 recipes by Amy Sedaris:

1. Fennel and Arugula Salad

Create a salad using arugula lettuce, shaved fennel and parmesan cheese. Top with oil and vinegar.

2. Steamed Carrots

Put carrots in a steamer ands team.

3. Bloody Clammy Mary

Add equal parts clam juice and tomato juice an then vodka. Serve on the rocks

Did I mention the crafts? In addition to the recipes there are crafts, many involving pantyhose.

18 January 2009

Homegrown Pure and Simple

Michel Nischan actually grows the food he writes about. Don't get me wrong, I love chefs who haunt farmers markets but there is something special about a chef who actually had ground under his nails. Homegrown Pure and Simple: Great Healthy Food from Garden to Table is Nischan's homage to food from his own garden plot, a plot he learned to love from his mother.

Along the way, Paul Newman joined Nischan's mother as an influence in his life. Together they opened Dressing Room, to spread their love of sustainable, locally produced food.

Generally, we have tons of squash at Doe Run Farm, but last season we were decimated by squash beetles. It seems to me this was our entire squash crop, though there might have been a bit more!

I'm fond this summer squash recipe. Try it with different herbs in the onion saute.

Split-and-Grilled Summer Squash with Verbena-Onion Saute

2 Sweet onions
2 tablespoons rice or grapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh lemon verbena leaves
12 assorted small to medium summer squashes

1. Prepare the charcoal or gas grill for grilling over a medium-hot fore. lightly oil the grill grate.

2. Meanwhile, toss the onions with the oil and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until it begins to brown. Stir in the verbena leaves and immediately remove from the heat. Set aside and cover to keep warm. You will have about 2 cups of onion mixture.

4. Split each squash in half lenghtwise, or horizontally for pattypans, to preserve the original shape of the squash. Season the cut sides with salt and pepper.

5. When the fire is ready, place the squash cut side down, on the hottest part of the grill and cook for about 2 minutes, or until you see clear grill marks when you lift the squash. Rotate each squash half a half-turn and grill for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until marked with cross-hatching. Turn the squash halves over so that they are skin side down. Grill for about 3 minutes longer, or until the squash is just heated through.

6. Arrange the squash halves on a warmed serving platter and top with the verbena-onion saute. Serve at once.

Food and Wine had a great article about Michel and Paul Newman and their restaurant, Dressing Room. Check it out: Paul Newman’s Next Act, Co-Starring Chef Michel Nischan.

14 January 2009

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François is one of my all time favorite books. It takes all the fussiness out of baking. One you grasp the concept, baking bread couldn't be easier.

The book has its own website: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to give you more info.
It is important to understand the concept of why the bread works and it the most complicated part of the procedure. You need to buy the book to fully understand it.

Their recipe was adapted for the New York Times. Here are the NYT instructions.

November 21, 2007

Recipe: Simple Crusty Bread

Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough


1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.

The New York Time wrote about Jim Lahey who owns Sullivan Street Bakery. He has a no-knead bread technique which works in a similar fashion. I often use the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe and use Lahey's technique of cooking in a covered, heavy pan.

10 January 2009

Mediterranean and French Country Food

Today's cookbook is a two-in-one volume by Elizabeth David, Mediterranean and French Country Food. David is one of my favorite writers, who just happens to write cookery books. I am not alone. When Italian Food was published late in 1954 it sold out in three weeks. Evelyn Waugh, the author of Brideshead Revisited, reviewed the book for the Sunday Times stating Italian Food was one of the two books he had most enjoyed that year.

David is an old fashioned recipe writer. She tells you how to put the recipe together. There are no long lists of ingredients in chronological order. No single recipes per page. Each recipe is taught to the reader in the same way one would learn to cook from a trusted friend.

Her recipe for for pesto shows David's style.


This is the garlic and basil butter added to soups and used as a sauce for pasta and for fish in the Nice district and in Genoa.
Two medium-sized cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 - 2 ozs. of butter, about six sprigs of fresh basil, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.
Pound the garlic in a mortar, then add the basil, then the butter and the cheese.
It is also, of course, made with olive oil instead of butter with the addition of pine nuts and makes the sauce more like a thick puree.
To serve with spaghetti or lasagne, this version is better, but for gnocchi a la romaine it is better with butter.

I am fond of recipes that outline the instructions and give basic amounts. The rest is up to you! I especially like this recipe because here at Doe Run Farm, we make pesto in bulk.

So if you just need a tablespoon of pestou for a soup or a gallon of pesto for the winter, give Elizabeth David a try. Aside from being a fine writer, David is also a fascinating subject. Two fine biographies of David have been published. Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David by Artemis Cooper and Elizabeth David by Lisa Chaney.

09 January 2009

Sensational Preserves

I don’t care if you ever make single recipe in this book, the pictures alone make Sensational Preserves by Hilaire Walden worth owning. Sensational is a good word to describe the photography in this book, which has over 125 photos. The preserves look like they were created in a home kitchen. Ok, a home kitchen with a talented cook – with copious time on her hands, but still…

A fundamental difference exists between preserving in Europe and in the U.S. Americans process preserves in a water bath. Europeans add hot preserves to hot jars, invert the jars, then right them after a few minutes. For all of you who dutifully read their 4-H canning instructions, this inversion method is unacceptable. While Walden is British, in this book, she advocates a water bath process with most recipes. The copy I own is the American version and it would be interested to see if the original British version uses the water bath or if that method was added to the American version.

This kumquat recipe is one of the few that requires no processing.

Kumquats in Vodka and Cointreau

3/4 plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 pounds kumquats
1 1/4 cups vodka
2/3 cup Cointreau

Mix the sugar and 2 1/2 cups of water in a large pan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, prick the kumquats all over with a large embroidery needle. Add them to the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the skin feels soft; pierce with a fine skewer to test.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the kumquats from the syrup and pack into warm, clean, dry jars. Pour the vodka and Cointreau over the kumquats, then fill to the top with the reserved syrup.

Cover and seal the jars. Invert them gently to mix the liquids. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for a least one month before eating.

These kumquats are lovely simply served over ice cream. I also like to open a jar and scatter them around a roasting chicken during the last half hour of cooking.

08 January 2009

Million Menus

I loved these multiple flippy picture books as a child. There must be some fantastic, exceeding specific word for them. I cannot believe they are just called multiple, flippy picture books. If there is not a technical name for them, I am going to invent one. "Disarticulous" books comes to mind. We could call them "Multisegmentature" but, I digress.

One boring afternoon, I wondered if one could design a cookbook based on multiply segmented sections.
I disposed myself of this idea believing that trolls, pirates, fairies and the like lend themselves to comedic visualization while dinner is not quite as forgiving. Ah, but some brave soul believed it could be done and thus was born, Million Menus. High points for concept.

The book achieves exactly what a the picture book does. It takes reasonably nice menus and with a simple turn of a page, makes them comical.

Trust me. This is just opening the book and flipping. With subsequent tries, some decent menus fell into place, but for the most part it ends up looking like a bizarre school lunch.
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