30 April 2009

The New England Butt’ry Shelf Cookbook


As a child, Mary Mason Campbell began compiling a "Buttery Book" of family recipes dating back to her great-grandmother. A buttery or butt’ry as it is called is a kind of country pantry or storeroom off the kitchen that is filled with bowls and dishes and provisions. It is a great place for a kid to sneak into, as there was often a jar of cookies or part of a cake nestled in a tin box.

When Campbell edited the recipes into her cookbook, The New England Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook, she arranged
for famed illustrator Tasha Tudor to do a series of illustrations.


For her Spring Tea Party, Campbell suggests serving hot gingerbread. In her recipe, she instructs the cook to bake the gingerbread in gem pans. A "gem" pan is a cast-iron muffin pan.
Not only did she make her gingerbread for teas, but she also made this gingerbread for the County Fair and it always won the 75 cent first prize.

Gingerbread

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1 cup molasses
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 cup raisins
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. powdered cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar together, add beaten eggs and the molasses. Then add dry ingredients sifted together. Add hot water and beat until smooth. Fold in the raisins. Bake in well-buttered gem pans (or in a loaf or cake pan) in a medium oven (350 F) until it tests done with a broom-straw. This makes 24 gems.

Unless your gem pans are really well seasoned, I would advise cooking your gingerbread in nice non-stick muffin pans. But if you want to follow the recipe, make sure you have a thick patina on your gem pan!

I adore larders! As a child, they were magical places filled with amazing objects or desire. Jars filled with unknown concoctions, tins awaiting discovery and the aroma of a faraway landscape. In the country house in Alabama, the larder was situated in an unusual place,the center of the house. For me, that is where they should always be. It was dark and mysterious, with the refrigerator, freezer and a small table to arrange things. One entire wall was filled with shelves laden with canned goods and there was always a gigantic crock fermenting away.

In town, the larder sat in the kitchen, hidden behind the swinging door that went to the dinning room. It had a bright window, shelves on either side and in the middle a small table with benches on either side. As a child my Great-aunt Ruth would let me sit in on the bench and serve me cake as I stared at the jars of dried apples and bags of meal.

If you are interested in pantries, buttery or larders, check out Catherine Seiberling Pond’s book The Pantry.


29 April 2009

Michel Richard’s Home Cooking With A French Accent


In a world where chefs like to throw pans and shout obscenities, Michel Richard is a fun-loving guy. He reminds me of Santa! I wish he had a show on television because he loves food in that infectious way that draws everybody in. I have been lucky enough to eat at his restaurant, Central, on numerous visits to Washington, D.C.

It is terrible cliché to say that a chef is innovative, but Richard is indeed a master at innovation. His “Scallop Asparagus Lollipops” are fanciful. He admits to buying a lovely piece of rex sole and, not wanting to mess around, shoving it in the toaster over to make a sandwich. Every time he sees food, he thinks about how he can use it in a new way. Once he took a bite of the instant Cream of Wheat his wife made for the children and turned it into a “Summer Tomato Tart with Basil Crust.”

Here is a great little appetizer that resembles a Provencal pissaladiere.

Onion And Olive Tartlets

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium (1 to 1 1/4 pound) red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 8-ounce frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted 20 minutes at room temperature
8 Nicoise or other black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped.

For the onions, heat the olive oil in a heavy large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, cover and cook until very tender, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (This can be prepared ahead, cooled, covered and set aside at cool room temperature.)

For the pastry, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface into a 13 X 13-inch square. Cut out 4 6-inch circles using a sharp floured fluted cutter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before baking

To serve, preheat the oven in 400 f. Discard the plastic wrap. Prick the pastry with a fork. Mound the onions in the center of each circle of pastry to within 1/2 inch from the edge. Bake until the pastry is well browned for 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to 4 serving plates. Sprinkle with olives on top of the onions. Serve immediately.

28 April 2009

Venus In the Kitchen


Norman Douglas was one of those fine, old-fashioned, Victorian born, homosexual aesthetes that populated the warm climates of the Mediterranean. He is best known for writing South Wind, more or perhaps less, the story of a clergyman traveling home to England from Africa who ends up on a small island. The sirocco or "south wind" of the island blows away the staid trappings of England in favor of the hedonist lifestyle of the island eccentrics.

Douglas' life was filled with large appetites and the ever present scandal, including some accusation of purchasing children. Toward the end of his life, he wrote a cookbook, extolling the aphrodisia of food. According to Douglas, the idea came about one evening when, "we had enjoyed a succulent dinner with several bottles of old red wine, followed by bitter lamentations on the part of the older members of the party over their declining vigor."

Venus in the Kitchen: Or Love's Cookery Book is the culmination of twelve years of intermittent research by Douglas. the book was published posthumously in 1952, the year Douglas, facing a long illness, took his own life. The book has been reprinted on many occasions. My favorite reprint was done 1992 and featured an introduction by Stephen Fry. Fry's introduction is the Pontiff Sauce poured over Douglas' recipes.



As Fry states in his introduction:

"Orthodox medicine has nothing encouraging to say on the subject of aphrodisiac foods. It brackets them and their claims together with homeopathy, herbalism, and psychic surgery as pitfalls of the gullible. A pair of doctors I have canvassed on the subject have offered it as their opinion that Douglas and his cronies would have found drinking a great deal less wine and grappa much more effective a remedy against impotence than any cooking up of larks or devising a new strain of eel-skin sausage."

Still, if you need to cook a crane, Douglas has your recipe.

Crane

Clean and truss a young crane, and put it in an earthenware saucepan with some water and vinegar, pepper and salt. Let it cook gently. When the liquid is reduced to half, take out the bird and put it in another saucepan with a little olive oil, a bunch of marjoram, some coriander seeds, and some stock. Let it simmer for nearly an hour, then add a glass of red wine which has been boiled previously, with a spoonful of honey, some lovage, cummin, benzoin root, and carraway seeds. If necessary add a little starch to thicken the liquid.
When cooked put the bird on a dish, and pour the sauce over it. Wild duck may be treated the same way.


Make sure it is a young crane, you don't want to go to all the work and end up with stringy crane.

27 April 2009

The Herbal Pantry


Vin d’Orange is a popular aperitif and light after-dinner drink served often in the South of France. It is made in the kitchen with a nice Provencal rosé, some vodka and oranges. I was looking for a twist on this recipe to take as a hostess gift for some foodie friends. I began looking through Emelie Tolley's book, The Herbal Pantry for some ideas. She had this great recipe for a slightly more savory spin on an aperitif.


Rosey Sage Aperitif

1 bottle rose wine
1 cup vodka, brandy, or white wine
3 small sprigs fresh sage
1/4 cup honey

Place the wine, vodka or brandy and sage in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Steep in a cool , dark place for two weeks. Filter, stir in the honey, and pour into a bottle with a tight fitting cork. Store in a cool, dark place.



It turned out to be a very lovely drink and a much appreciated gift.

26 April 2009

Ant Egg Soup

I'm not a chef and I'm not a journalist, I'm just a greedy romantic
who was transported by an idea and went to discover more.
Natacha Du Pont De Bie



I share a passion with the writer, Larry McMurtry -- reading accounts of women travelers. The Victorians are my favorites. I love Karen Blixen, Mary Shelley and Freya Stark who are high on the list My favorite is Isabelle Eberhardt. I have a friend who believes the world is divided into truly cool people and everyone else. Her dividing line is Isabelle Eberhardt, who the truly cool have read. Eberhardt rebelled against her European/Russian upbringing and struck out on her own for North Africa, following her fascination with Islamic culture. Eberhardt died in a flash flood before she turned 30. Fortunately her writing has remained.
While the stories may not seem as exotic, there are still women travelers out there writing wonderful accounts of their adventures.

One of those writers is Natacha Du Pont De Bie whose book, Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures Of A Food Tourist In Laos, is a wonderful travelogue written by a true gastronaut! De Bie's adventure in Laos began in a book about Vietnam. While dreaming of a trip to Southeast Asia, she ran across a sentence stating there was only one Lao cookbook in English. In true romantic fashion she had to find it. Being in England she went to the one place she knew would have such a book, Books For Cooks. Indeed, Books For Cooks had a copy of Traditional Recipes of Laos and De Bie was on her way.


Her book is a delightful adventure through the back roads and largely unknown cuisine of Laos, including the speciality of the title. If you don't have fresh ant eggs, I have heard they can be found frozen or canned in some of the larger markets or, of course, on-line. The distributor listed in the book is, alas, gone. Perhaps they sold so many cans of ant eggs they were able to retire.


Ant Egg Soup


2 snakehead fish, cut into 2.5 cm (1inch) pieces (or use monkfish tail)
2 cups ant eggs
1 liter(1 3/4 pints) fish stock
8 small or 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and cracked with the back of a machete
5 cm (2 inch) piece galangal, peeled
2 stalks of lemon grass, finely chopped
1 sour tamarind bean, peeled and seeds removed, or 1 tablespoon bought paste
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch pak waan or the juice of one lime
4 handfuls sweet basil leaves
4 plum tomatoes, chopped in eighths
1 handful coriander

Scale and gut the fish, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) piece and wash under tap. Reserve to one side.
Now prepare and defrost ant eggs by putting them in a bowl of water. The earth and sand they accumulate will drop to the bottom of the bowl. Scoop out any other floating detritus such as leaves and stick, and sieve eggs to shake off any excess water.
Bring the fish stock to the boil in a large pan. Add the garlic, galangal and lemon grass and let boil for 5 minutes. Now add the fish sauce and salt.
Next add the pak waan or lime juice. Add the sweet basil leaves and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the ant eggs and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, throw in the coriander leaves and serve with sticky rice.

Enjoy!

If you are interested in merely reading about great women adventurers try Dea Birkett's, Spinsters Abroad.
And if you want to hang out with the truly cool kids, read The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt.

25 April 2009

Home Cook


Home Cook by Mrs. Ella Myers was published in 1880. Not just a cookbook, it also offered sections on medicine and farming.



Today’s cookbooks offer up a wealth of information on the recipe. My favorite is the written instruction to use, “freshly ground pepper,” as though sprinkling on a pre-ground pepper would drastically alter the dish! In one cookbook, I actually saw a specific type of pepper listed -- Tellicherry.

There is an amusing anecdote told by Miss Eudora Welty about her mother. Her mother was the cook of the household, but Welty once tried cooking from her mother’s recipes. Like many of the recipes in Home Cook, she found little instruction on what one should actually do with the ingredients. When Miss Eudora complained of this lack of clarity, Mrs. Welty explained that any cook worth their salt could look at a list of ingredients and know how to assemble them into the proper dish. Needless to say, Miss Eudora remained a writer and not a cook.

While most of the recipes in these old cookbooks seem hard to follow. I am especially fond of theses relics because there are often, tucked in the pages, dishes that are boldly modern. Take a few of these old combinations, add some detailed instruction and a fashionable ingredient or two and you would have a daring cookbook.

Oyster Potato Balls

This is a very palatable dish for suppers, and its production being so very simple, it only requires to be pointed out to become popular.
Beard a dozen (more or less, according to the number you provide for) small plump oysters, cover them singly with the plain mashed potato paste, roll them with flour, or beaten-up egg and bread-crumbs, into balls, and fry them in butter or drippings.
Put into each ball when you make it up a teaspoonful of the oyster liquor.


I can see this recipe turning up in any cookbook. Of course it would have chipotle infused potatoes or chopped cilantro with a lovely chutney on the side. Still, I'm looking forward to some oyster balls real soon.

24 April 2009

The Chicken Cook Book


I once knew a priest who refused to eat chicken. He has spent many years in Africa and was feed on a diet that included chicken with every meal. By the time he got back to the United States, he refused to eat chicken of any kind.

I suppose it is one of those “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” conundrums. I am quite sure I could eat chicken every single day! With a copy of The Chicken Cook Book, one can have a recipe for every single day.

The author, Michel Josef, according to the flyleaf, is an “authority on foreign and domestic food,[and] is one of the youngest chefs to achieve a solid reputation in the area around Michigan City, Indiana.” The plain, unadorned volume was distributed by Clarkson Potter. My, how times have changed since 1953!

Clarkson Potter revolutionized cookbook publishing when it became the first publisher to present a glossy, photo-filled cookbooks with it’s 1982, Entertaining, by some girl named Martha Stewart. Today, an un-illustrated cookbook, no matter how well written would be considered unusual and probably unsellable!

My favorite part of The Chicken Cook Book is my favorite part of the chicken -- the dressing. I have always served dressing, never stuffing with birds. Even the biggest turkey cannot accommodate enough dressing for me. Alas, most dressings are often very similar. Josef offers a wide array of unique and delectable dressings that leave the chicken cowering in the background.

Kentucky Hominy Dressing

2 onions, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups drained cooked hominy
Pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
2 cups bread crumbs

1. Saute onions

2. Add drained hominy and seasonings

3. Add crumbs, and mix thoroughly


I love hominy and rarely find it as an ingredient in recipes. This one is winner for a down home chicken dish.

23 April 2009

A Safari Of African Cooking


A Safari Of African Cooking is an old paperback from 1971. It was published by Broadside Press, a Michigan publishing house that rose to fame in the late 1960’s publishing some of the finest African-American poets in the last century including Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, and Nikki Giovanni to name an dazzling few.

Bill Odarty ran a wholesale store specializing in African goods. When he went looking for a cookbook of traditional African cooking, he found none. He wanted to rectify the situation with A Safari Of African Cooking.

My friend K.C. came to visit and she brought a wonderful hostess gift. Her husband is African and the women in his family blend spices for their cooking, a normal occurrence in kitchens everywhere. K.C. shared with me a collection of the spice blends Wendu's sister had mixed. Each came with a note bearing the spice name and what it used in cooking. It was a truly wonderful gift.

This is a Zambian recipe for cabbage stew. This is a recipe that can easily be made with a bag of “slaw”. I am always amazed that more people don’t take advantage of bagged cabbage, sold as “slaw” when it is perfectly wonderful cooked.

Cabbage Stew

1 lb. cabbage
2 medium onions, chopped
1-3 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbls, oil or shortening
curry powder
1 cup water

Wash and cut up vegetables. Fry onions in ho oil until light brown. Add curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Add water and cabbage; steam until soft (about 20 minutes). Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 10 more minutes. Stir all together and serve with meat. For a larger quantity of stew, add the gravy from the meat. Also, potatoes may be substituted for half the quantity of cabbage if preferred.


With all the cookbooks published these days, it is still no an easy task to walk into a bookshop and find a cookbook specializing in the cuisine of Africa, North Africa perhaps being the exception. The best book to come along on the subject in recent memory is Marcus Samuelsson's The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa. Still, with the interest in African culture, one would think there would a plethora of titles. The lack of such books is sad. If you have a favorite cookbook on African cuisine, let me know.

22 April 2009

To The King’s Taste


The other day I was baking a small chicken to use in enchiladas. I had several handfuls of garlic I needed to use, so I threw them into the pan with my chicken, salt and red and black pepper. The chicken cooked off the bone and I picked off the meat. Resting in thick chicken broth were dozens of glistening garlic bulbs. I took them out and mashed them in a bowl, wondering what they would taste like. I took a tiny bite and found the mash to be wonderfully sweet and delicate. I hadn't given it much thought until I ran across a description of boiled garlic in a book of recipes from the 14th century.




To the King's Taste: Richard II's Book of Feasts and Recipes Adapted for Modern Cooking is a book of feasts and recipes from Richard II. We have this interesting little cookbook thanks to Lorna Sass. In Columbia University’s library, Sass was busy researching a paper on Chaucer when she came across a volume containing two cookbooks written in Middle English.


Screw Chaucer! Sass took the book home and began translating, adapting and cooking the recipes.


Boiled Garlic

1 cup water
cloves of 6 bulbs of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons butter or oil
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch mace
garnish: 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1. Bring water to a boil.

2. Add garlic cloves, butter or oil, saffron, salt, cinnamon, and mace.

3. Cover and cook over medium flame about 7 minutes or until garlic is easily pierced with a fork.

4. Drain and serve with a garnish of parsley.


In Sass' opinion, “after tasting this dish, you will wonder how such a subtle vegetable got imprisoned in the category of a seasoning." I agree. The next time I bake a chicken, I am going to add a big bunch of garlic cloves and make a fine mash to accompany the meat.

21 April 2009

A Cordiall Water

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it -- and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied -- and it is all one."

M. F. K. Fisher


As you know, I am a huge fan of M. F. K. Fisher. For many years, Fisher collected lore about various potions, charms, restoratives and cures for everything from measles to impotence. She collected these unique "recipes" into a slim volume entitled, A Cordiall Water.

In her introduction Fisher states:

“There is no doubt that much of what we know of medicine comes from very ancient times, and from the birds and animals that we have watched. Myself, I do no know enough to say how or why one certain weed will calm a fever in a sick dog or antelope, nor can I guess what tells the beasts about that weed, any more than I can recite the new fine names for its magical components on a box of costly fever pills from a modern laboratory.”



There is much hype about the healing sexual powers of certain seafood. Oysters are always though of as aphrodisiacs and eels, have their obvious phallic connotations. Crayfish are thought to bring about a certain excitement. Casanova believed that he owed his romantic prowess to the meal of hot, spiced shrimp his mother ate the night before he was born.

Receipt for la Cuisine d’Amour

Cut a skinned eel into short pieces, lard them generously with fresh truffles, and bake them in a hot oven for ten minutes, each wrapped in buttered paper. Serve on a bed of crayfish tails which have been stewed in dry white wine and well seasoned with cayenne.
I don't know about eel on bed of crayfish, but Casanova's mama's spiced shrimp sound very tasty!

20 April 2009

Appetite


In my mind there are two kinds of cooks, The Ronald McDonald and The Django Reinhardt.

The Ronald McDonald cooks the same thing over and over without any variation. While traveling in Africa, I had a steady diet of cabbage and potatoes. My guide and I were talking about food and I asked him where he wanted to eat when he got back to England. Without hesitation, he said McDonald’s. I thought that was a funny response for someone who traveled the world. He explained that in his travels, his food supply was often precarious; he never knew what he would have to eat from one day to the next. He craved McDonald’s he said, because no matter where he was in world, when he walked into a McDonald’s the food would be exactly the same.


The Django Reihardt cooks like Django plays, one big jazz riff after another. The same songs gets a new interpretation each time he picks up the guitar.




Nigel Slater is Django. He is my kind of cook. Perhaps that’s because I already cook. In his award winning book, Appetite, he states that it is a book about breaking rules. For me, that is what cooking is, breaking rules. Slater takes a basic dish then he shows you how to make changes to that recipe to make it you own. I believe Slater’s kitchen is a fun and adventurous space.

Classic, unmucked-about-with roast chicken…and its pan juices

Chicken –an organically reared bird
Butter
A lemon
Garlic –a whole head, cut in half

Set the oven at 400 F. Sit the chicken in a roasting pan or large baking dish. Rub it all over with butter, even putting a walnut-sized piece inside the bird. Season with salt and black pepper. Cut the lemon in two, put one half inside, and squeeze the other half over the chicken, then trow the shell in the roasting pan with the head of garlic. Roast for 20 minutes per pound plus an extra half hour. You can baste it from time to time, though AI am not truly convinced of the need for it. When the chicken is ready, by which I mean it is golden-skinned and glossy, and its juices run clear when the flesh is deeply pierced with a skewer, remove it form the oven and let it rest for ten minutes.


After this, Slater suggests the following:

And the potatoes…add some peeled and boiled potatoes to the chicken during the last hour.

Roast chicken with garlic and herbs… mash tarragon, thyme and garlic into the butter and smear that on the chicken. After roasting add some wine to the juices for a gravy.

Some other birds to roast…if you can roast a chicken, then you can roast other birds. For pheasant and guinea fowl, wrap the breast in bacon.

Of course, Slater is much more detailed in his description but you get the idea. For this roast chicken, I threw everything in the pot!


Sometimes, the basics are the best.

19 April 2009

Cookery and Dining In Imperial Rome

"Apicius, the most gluttonous gorger of all spendthrifts, established the view that the flamingo's tongue has a specially fine flavor."

Pliny, Natural History




It is generally believed that the oldest know cookery book was written by Apicius. There is some question as to which Apicius is the actual writer. Marcus A. lived about 100 B.C. There is an Apicius Caelius, thought to be the author because of initials on a early, damaged copy of the manuscript. It is widely accepted, however, that the writer or this earliest cookery book is M. Gabius Apicius, who lived under Augustus and Tiberius from around 80 B.C. to 40 A.D.



While the writings of Apicius were translated from Latin into German and Italian, it was 1936 before the work was translated into English by Joseph Dommers Vehling. That translation was limited to an edition of 530. The copy I have is a reprint of Vehling's edition, Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome. As new scholarship emerges, it is widely regarded that the first English translation is to the recent (2006) edition translated and edited by Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger, Apicius, a Critical Edition.

To her Pliny tell it, Apicius was ever so fond of birds such as flamingos, peacocks, parrots whose brains and tongues offered up a delectable amuse-bouche.

On the fruity side, here is his recipe for pears.

A Dish of Pears

A dish of pears is made this way: [1] Stew the pears , clean out the center [remove core and seeds] Crush them with pepper, cumin, honey, raisin wine, broth and a little oil; mix with eggs and make a pie [custard] of this, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

18 April 2009

A Kitchen Manual


Every year Saveur does and issue called "The Saveur 100", which lists 100 things the editors like. It is my favorite issue they publish each year.

In 2008, Number 42 on their list was Sheila Hibben. Hibben spent 30 years writing "Marketing and Menus" for The New Yorker. Her article entitled, "Eating American" eschewed "instant" food.

Her cookbook, A Kitchen Manual, is unique in cookbook writing as it offers few recipes, but a wealth of cooking information. In her foreword, Hibben states:

"This is not a cook book, no volume of facts and recipes conscious of calories. It will of course be called a cook book by the undiscriminating, and letters will come to its publishers complaining that it has no index, gives no clue as to how many raisins go into a Lady Baltimore cake and is dark with prejudices deep and personal."


Wow, if only more cook books were "deep and personal." To give you an idea of Hibben's style in this cook book, NOT, here is her "recipe" for cooking quail.

Quail

Whatever differences of opinion may be held in regard to the length of time other game should be hung, all connoisseurs are agreed that quail must be eaten fresh-the fresher the better. Roasting of broiling are the most satisfactory methods of cooking this most delicate of all wild birds. As the flesh is inclined to be dry, a generous quantity of butter is needed in basting, and when dressed for roasting the body cavity has a spoonful of butter inserted in it after the bird has been rubbed inside and out with salt and pepper. The roasting oven should be fairly hot (400 F.), and the quail cooked well done and served with its own basting gravy poured over it.
Of course, Sheila Hibben has that "deep and personal" aspect for me. She is from Alabama!

17 April 2009

Parisian Home Cooking


I know the very mention of clafoutis made you want run right over to your cookbook collection and drag out a French cookbook. Well, here’s one of mine, Parisian Home Cooking: Conversations, Recipes, And Tips From The Cooks And Food Merchants Of Paris by Michael Roberts. No really it is “Michael”, he’s a big old American, who is known for his “California “ cuisine but who doesn’t love Parisian cooking, at home or otherwise? These recipes were gathered from many of Roberts’ friends in Paris and from their mothers and housekeepers. He points out that there are 16 open air markets in Paris – sixteen, seize.

Frankly, you could trip in the street in Paris and find good produce to slap together into a meal. In talking with cooks, cooking teachers and restaurateurs, Roberts found that gender plays an important role in Parisian cooking (and most probably cooking everywhere.) As one teacher tells him, for women, “it is less method and more love,” whereas, men approach cooking as thought it is, “an obstacle to overcome.” And one friend goes so far as to postulate, and I paraphrase, “show me the mirepoix and I’ll tell you the sex of the cook.”

Clafoutis aux Cerises


1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoon kirsch
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 cups cherries, stones removed
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Crème fraiche or sour cream for serving

Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter and flour 9 –inch flan ring or round baking dish and set aside on a baking sheet.

2. In a bowl, beat the egg and egg yolk together, then beat in the sugar. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Stir in the cream, kirsch, and melted butter. Pour the mixture into the flan ring and distribute the cherries evenly over it.

3. Place in the oven until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool, then turn the clafoutis upside down onto a wire rack or plate. Then turn right side up onto a serving plate, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, and serve, accompanied by crème fraise or sour cream.



Whether you approach it with a love or a mission, whip up a nice clafoutis for your foodie friends.

16 April 2009

Cuisines of the Axis of Evil


I admit it. I own about 200 French cookbooks.

I admit it. If you took every clafouti recipe from every French cookbook I own, they would all be roughly the same.

I admit it. There are about 12 French cookbooks on my wish list. What’s a girl to do?

Clearly, I need to branch out. But where does one look for new inspiration?

How about the Axis of Evil! Yes. Iran, Iraq, North Korea. But why stop there? How about Israel, India or Pakistan? How about Cuba or Burma or China? If only someone would write such a cookbook.

They did.

Chris Fair wrote one of the most inventive, fun and actually really good cookbooks of the last year. Appropriately entitled, Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States: A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations, Fair looked at countries which at present are foreign policy quagmires for the good old U. S. of A.

Chris Fair did not go to culinary school, nor did she sous chef with the great chefs of Europe. She has a Ph. D. in South Asian languages from the University of Chicago.

Chris Fair writes about counterinsurgency, religious Islam in Iran, Indo-Pakistani relationships, and militant recruitment. Let’s see Bobby Flay “throwdown” with that!

Fair admits that before her marriage her…
“dating list resembled the roll call of the U.N. General Assembly. I’ve had to abandon relationships with men who were Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu simply because of their eating rules. I eat pork, drink booze, and think vegetarian cuisine is best left for ruminates.”
In the arena of personal as well as global conflict, I have always felt it would be infinitely harder to kill someone who ate grits than, say, some infidel who ate oatmeal. I would cap your oatmeal-eating ass quicker than… I digress.

To put it eloquently, Chris Fair states:

“Only the foolish would underestimate the social and political importance of food when, in fact, every aspect of what we put into our mouths is burdened with social, political, religious, and even militarized baggage even though most of us remain woefully unaware of the same.”


The above may be the best sentence written about food in years!

Many of the dishes in this book require multiple ingredients and a large international market. Here is Iranian dessert that can be had in even the smallest market.

Cucumbers and Tangerines

You will want about 2 pounds of each. Be sure to buy the small cucumbers, not the huge monster ones. Chill them overnight to make sure they are as crispy and delightful as possible. This may sound like a strange combination, but the flavors of the tart tangerine and cold, mellow, crunchy cucumber actually compliment each other beautifully. This combination isn’t so odd in some corners of the United States. My massage parlor in Los Angles always had pitchers of cool filtered water with slices of cucumber and oranges, and it was utterly refreshing. Tangerines and cucumbers tend to lighten the meal, which is rather heavy. *

To get ready for your guests, remover your chilled cucumbers and tangerines from the fridge, and arrange them nicely on a serving dish of your choice.
I like the colors of these two items and thus put them in the same dish together, but they can be served separately.

Now get out there and make peace with someone. If they try to feed you oatmeal...SHOOT 'EM.

* This dessert is suggested to end a meal comprised of various heavy meat stews.

15 April 2009

Classic Stars Desserts



Emily Luchetti is a rock star among pastry chefs. She was the pastry chef at Stars, a landmark restaurant in San Francisco from 1984 to 1999. Classic Stars Desserts combines recipes from her two earlier cookbooks, Stars Desserts and Four-Star Desserts. While the book is meant to be written for a home cook, I find that the recipes seem a bit too "pastry chefy" for me. There are 8 ingredients for zinfandel-marinated raspberries! While Luchetti's books are not the first place I look for recipes, her flavor combinations are interesting and we should all aspire to be great pastry chefs even if we just want to have fresh berries!

Instead of a grand dessert, I am sharing with you a recipe for an ingredient I use often, pumpkin puree. It is so easy to grab a can off the shelf that we sometimes forget that is easy to make and the results are far superior to anything in a can. Remember to get the little sugar pumpkins!!

Pumpkin Puree

2 1/2 pounds sugar pumpkins
1/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Cut each pumpkin into sixths. Scrape out the seeds and any stringy pulp. Put the pumpkin pieces, cut-side up, and the water in a baking pan and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake until soft when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle,scoop out the flesh with a spoon and puree in a food mill or a food processor. If the puree is watery, place it in a large saute pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick. the timing depends on how watery the puree is.

Let cool, cover, and refrigerate until using.


Luchetti says you can freeze the puree for a month. Many people feel a year is OK. The Department of Agriculture has a low opinion of frozen of canned pumpkin because of the varying amount of water given off by pumpkins. Remember, it's your kitchen, so you know what is best. If you use canned pumpkin, you have a good idea of the consistency of the puree you need. If you need to dry out your puree, another way to proceed is to spread a layer out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in a low, 200 F oven for a while. Again, there is no specific time as the water content varies. As with anything canned or frozen, if you open it and it seems funky -- throw it out!


If you are interested in the California culinary scene with a decidedly snarky bent, check out Jeremiah Tower's memoir,California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution.

14 April 2009

Southwest Tastes


Before the Food Network, there was Public Broadcasting, the place when many people learned to cook. In the late eighties, PBS did a series called, “Great Chefs of the West”. The series came with a nice cookbook entitled,
Southwest Tastes: From the PBS Television Series Great Chefs of the West. The book, edited by Ellen Brown, featured dozens of chefs and wide variety of recipes that featured some of the best flavors of the southwest.

I own two copies of this book. It is one of my all time favorite cookbooks. The second it starts to get warm outside, I start getting the same question: When are you going to make those fritters? “Those fritters” are my favorite recipe in Southwest taste. Officially, they are “Corn Fritters” from the American Grill in Phoenix, Arizona. My variation actually, uses far more cilantro than is called for in this recipe.

Corn Fritters

2 1/2 pounds whole corn kernels (either fresh cut from the cob, or frozen; do not use canned)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, white part only
1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/4 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 cups oil for deep-frying

Cook the corn in salted water to cover. When cooked, drain and cool, then puree in a blender or a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Beat in the eggs.

Mix the green onions, garlic, cilantro, and onion together and set aside. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients and spices.
Beat the corn mixture and then the vegetables into the dry ingredients.

In a deep fryer or heavy deep-sided pot, heat the oil to a temperature of 350
F. Using a rubber spatula, push the batter off carefully into the hot fat, about a tablespoon at a time. Fry the fritters until they are a deep golden brown, turning them in the hot fat to brown both sides. Drain on paper towels and keep the fritters warm in a 150 F oven while frying the reaming batter.



The batter can be made up to 3 days before you actually fry the fritters.

Now here’s my shortcut. Put an onion and a clove of garlic into a food processor and pulse till chopped. Continue pulsing to blend and chop as you add the ingredients in the following order: a big bunch of cilantro (more than called for in this recipe), sliced green onions, corn, eggs, finally the dry ingredients. You should have a thick, lumpy batter and only one bowl to wash!

When asked if there was a food that she didn't like, Julia Child stated emphatically --Cilantro. She went on to say that if she saw cilantro she would throw it on the floor and stomp on it.

13 April 2009

Hot, Hotter, Hottest!


Janet Hazen’s Hot, Hotter, Hottest! is one of those small little paperbacks put together to feature a specific ingredient or type of food. In this case it is hot food. The recipes are divided in groups featuring an ingredient known for its heat: ginger, horseradish, peppercorns, mustard and chilies.

There is a wide list of recipes from fruit to meat to seafood to cake, each one featuring a 1 to 10 heat ranking.



Figs With White Peppercorn Syrup and Basil

1/2 cup white peppercorns, bruised
1 large bunch fresh basil (Stems included), coarsely chopped
3 cups water
1 cup white wine
2 cups sugar
2 cups dried black figs, stemmed
2 tablespoons whole white peppercorns, for garnish
6 sprigs basil or mint, for garnish
Lavender, or other edible flowers, for garnish

Place the bruised peppercorns, basil, water, and wine in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Add sugar and return to a boil. Cook over high heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and syrupy. Strain through a fine wire mesh and return to the saucepan.

Add the figs to the syrup and cook over moderate heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the figs are very tender. Serve warm with some of its syrup and garnish with the whole peppercorns, sprigs of basil or mint and optionally with edible flowers.



Figs With White Peppercorn Syrup and Basil is rated a 6. I think it is more of 2, but then I love heat!

12 April 2009

The Supper Of The Lamb

The Supper of the Lamb is one of the finest examples of writing in the English language. It is a cookbook. It is a religious meditation; a meditation on life and living and food and spirit. This book is famous for its recipe for “Leg of Lamb for Eight People Four Times.”

The second chapter of The Supper Of The Lamb, entitled “The First Session,” is a ten page discussion of an onion. Think of every recipe you have ever made that included onions. I promise you that after reading Capon, you will never view an onion the same way again. You will never look at food writing the same way again, either.

As a priest, Capon practices a “waste not, want not” philosophy. This recipe takes something that generally ends up in the compost, the butt end of celery or the knob.

Celery Knobs

Peel and slice some celery knobs. Cook them, covered, in a very little water (there should be next to no liquid left). Drain, season, and brown in butter.


Here is Robert Farrar Capon's prayer for those who eat, fast, diet and hold food reverentially.

O, Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat, and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us the grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gracefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that posses us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve thee as thou hast blessed us –with the dew of heaven, the fatness or the earth, and the plenty of corn and wine. Amen.


Happy Easter.

11 April 2009

City Cuisine




Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken looked about 12 years-old when their book, City Cuisine was published. After a stint in the kitchen of Le Perroquet in Chicago, they went their separate ways to restaurants in France. Later they met up in Los Angles where they opened Border Grill and later, City Cafe.

They were in a second wave of California chefs who combined their reverence for local, fresh ingredients with the ethnic flavors that permeated Los Angles. American food was no longer just the meat and potatoes of the mid-West, but a cuisine formed from a fusion of world appetites; curries, fish sauce, and peppers. Clean, bright bold flavors are the trademark of City Cuisine.

Their "Molded Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad" is a great way to present cruciferous veggies. They call it a salad, but it make a lovely side to a cold salmon or a poached chicken breast.

Molded Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

1 small head of cauliflower
1 small bunch of broccoli
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup of tarragon vinegar
3 shallots, finely chopped
one bunch tarragon, leaves only, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 red pepper, seeded and diced (optional)

Trim and separate cauliflower and broccoli into florets. Bring a large pot salted water to a boil and blanch vegetables, separately until crunchy but fork tender, 3 to 6 minutes. Immediately refresh in iced water and drain.

Have ready 6 coffee cups or 1-cup molds. Placing florets with stems toward the center, arrange alternating layers of broccoli and cauliflower in each cup. When cups are full, press down to remove the air and pack florets tightly. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, make dressing by mixing remaining ingredients together in a bowl. To serve, invert each cup onto a lettuce lined salad plate. Divide dressing, spoon over salad, serve.

For more info about Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken check out their web site, www.marysueandsusan.

10 April 2009

Baked



The Prince of Tides is one of favorite books and one of the best reads you'll ever come across. It is a sweeping family saga set in the mossy fecundity of the coastal South. Barbra Streisand bought the rights and made it into a movie. If you saw the movie but didn’t read the book, you would think that The Prince of Tides was a book about a Jewish psychiatrist set in New York City.


What you may ask, does this have to do with Baked, a book written by two guy who live in New York City and have a bakery in Red Hook Brooklyn? Well, Baked, like the MOVIE version of The Prince of Tides, seems to be a about trendy NYC, but if you actually read the book, if you scratch the surface, you will find a good old Southern story underneath.

The cover is adorned with beautiful lemon meringue tarts; tarts that would make your Ganny weep. There is a great recipe for “Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie”. I spent some time in Tuscaloosa, as did Matt Lewis (proving you can take the boy out of the South but …). Lewis mentions that only in the South do they make Tollhouse Pie, something I never realized till now. Since you can now find crayfish in Ohio, and grits in New York, and biscuits in Seattle, it would be a good idea to spread the love of Tollhouse Pies across the country. The book has recipes for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and S’more Nut Bars and cakes made with root beer. Southerns can find more ways to incorporate soft drinks into food than anyplace in the universe, in fact, the uses of Cheerwine are endless!



I once had a recipe for a monster cookie. I made it several time and really love it. Then I lost the recipe. I spent endless hours looking for the recipe, but to no avail. This recipe is close to the one I lost somewhere in the mountains of North Carolina!

Monster Cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
5 3/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) M&Ms

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add the oats and stir until all the ingredients are evenly combined.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and pale in color. Add the sugars and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth (about 20 seconds) and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat until just incorporated.

Use a spatula or wooden spoon to fold in the chocolate chips and M&M’s. cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for 5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use an ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop the dough in 2-tablespoon-size balls onto the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the cookies just begin to brown. Let cool on the pans for 8 to 10 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Once you have made a big batch, break out a Cheerwine and read a few chapters in The Prince of Tides.


09 April 2009

Fried Chicken

“Let’s not beat around the bush for one second. To know about fried chicken,
you have to have been weaned and reared on it in the South. Period.”

James Villas





John T. Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. He has written extensively on Southern food and cuisine so it is no big surprise that he took on that most iconic Southern dish, fried chicken. Searching high and low for fried chicken history, Edge followed Villas' pronouncement.


*


After exhaustive study…(ok, he ate a bunch of fried chicken from north to south and read some of the cookbooks we have featured here and will continue to feature. It’s a tough job but someone had to do it. Why wasn’t it us?) Edge came to the conclusion that Villas was wrong. He put forward his thesis in his book, Fried Chicken. If you read this blog, you know I’m a bit of a purest. Remember I didn’t want Nathalie Dupree putting yogurt in my grits, so it’s no big surprise that I agree with Villas, but Edge is persuasive.

Edge fully understands that great gospel bird. In that knowledge, he is well equipped to understand the alchemy that occurs when chicken dives into hot grease. So you can dredge it, batter it, brine it; you can soak it buttermilk, sweet tea or hot sauce; you can serve it with waffles or biscuits or all by itself, but when that bird drops into the hot oil, magic happens. And it happen no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you heat up that oil!

As for famous "Yankee" chicken, Edge informs us that originally, “buffalo wings” were baked in the oven, but even Yankee’s come to their senses where chicken is concerned.

Buffalo Wings (Prepared in an almost Reverential Manner)

24 chicken wings (about 4 pounds), tips removed and remaining wings separated into drums and flats
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika (the hottest kind, if you can find it)Peanut oil
1/4 stick butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Louisiana brand hot sauce (or any viscous hot sauce)

Mix cornstarch, flour, pepper and paprika in a paper bag. Toss in wings 6 at a time and shake to coat evenly. Pour oil in a deep and heavy pot to a depth of 3 inches. Heat oil to 350. Fry the wings in batches of 6 or 8 or so until firm, approximately 8 minutes. They may still be a bit blond, but their edges will be russet. Skein wings from oil and place on a wire rack to drain. Place butter and garlic in a metal bowl; pour the hot sauce over and heat over low until the butter melts and the sauce is combined. Toss wings in the bowl to coat, and remove with a skein. Serve with celery sticks and a dressing of blue cheese mixed with sour cream, a bit of chopped garlic, and a splash of aromatic vinegar.


Check out his website at www.johntedge.com.

* No chickens we know personally were fried in the preparation of this post.

08 April 2009

Luscious Chocolate Desserts


I love chocolate. Not a shocking revelation. I am pretty sure I would eat cardboard if it was coated in a 60% Valharona. I am always hunting for chocolate cookbooks.

Ironically, the best book on chocolate is not a cookbook at all, but Sophie Coe’s, The True History of Chocolate. Coe died of cancer before finishing her book on chocolate which was eventually completed by her husband, Michael. Coe was a brilliant food historian whose legacy lives on at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies' Arthur & Elisabeth Schlesinger Library, which holds her extensive culinary library.



For a great general chocolate cookbook, you can’t stray too far from Lori Longbotham’s Luscious Chocolate Desserts. The book is full of great photos and general recipes for every kind of chocolate desert from drinks to brownies, ice cream to cakes, cookies and candies and sauces and pies oh my! The recipes are good, they are easy and they appear accomplished. All you need is a kitchen and great chocolate. A few utensils are needed but nothing you don’t have.

Katharine Hepburn loved chocolate. She often contributed recipes to magazines with her favorite confections. On different occasions, Hepburn gave different recipes for her brownies. These brownies appeared in Family Circle.

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2 inches of nearly simmering water, whisking until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and whisk until well blended. Stir in the walnuts. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out sticky, with just a few crumbs clinging to it, but is not wet; do not overbake.

Cool completely in the pan or on a wire rack. Chill if you have the time, then cut into 9 brownies.



Years ago, Katharine Hepburn intervened in the life of Heather Henderson. Henderson wanted to quit her studies at Bryn Mawr. Hepburn invited both the young woman and her father to tea for brownies and a lecture on the importance of education. Years later, Ms. Henderson reminisced about the actress, sharing Hepburn rules for living:

1. Never quit

2. Be yourself

3. Don't put too much flour in your brownies

07 April 2009

Cooking With Shelburne Farms



Shelburne Farms is listed as one of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. In the 1800’s it was a collection of small farms in the Vermont countryside. Those small farms came together 1880 to form a private estate and model farm under the watchful eyes of Dr. William Seward Webb and his wife Lila Osgood Vanderbilt Webb. Over the years Shelburne Farms was again transformed from a private estate to a public, educational foundation. It is a truly wonderful place to visit. In 2001 my favorite architect, Adam Kalkin constructed a Collector’s House out of steel cargo containers on the Sheburne Farms site.



Melissa Pasanen and Rick Gencarelli produced a cookbook of recipes featuring the produce from the farm. Cooking with Shelburne Farms shows off the legacy of the farm's commitment to the vast culinary history of Vermont.

I got tons of apples from the vast culinary environs of West Virginia. They provided a great deal of applesauce. I agree with Pasanen and Gencarelli who feel that making applesauce is a lot easier if you have a food mill. My Great-Aunt Ruth used a chinois to make her applesauce. If you use a mill or chinois you don’t have to bother with peeling the apples. If you don’t have either, peel the apples first and then simply mash them as you would potatoes.Either way, making applesauce is about as easy as (well, actually easier than…) pie.


Oven Roasted Applesauce

5 pounds apples, about 15 medium, cored and cut into 8 wedges each, peeled unless you have a food mill
1/2 cup apple cider or natural apple juice
1/4 –1/2 maple syrup, depending on the tartness of the apples, Grade B for the strongest flavor
4 whole cinnamon sticks
4 whole star anise, divided and tied up in two cheesecloth bundles.

1.Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large, heavy, shallow roasting pan, toss the apples with the cider and maple syrup. Distribute the cinnamon sticks and star anise. Roast until the apples are very soft, about 30 –45 minutes depending on the apple variety.

2.Pull out the cinnamon sticks and star anise. Run the apples through a food mill or, if they were peeled, mash them roughly with a potato masher or puree them in a food processor or blender


I really don’t see the need for wrapping the star anise in cheesecloth. Simply pick it out in the same way you do the cinnamon sticks.

06 April 2009

1001 Sandwiches


In 1928, Florence Cowles wrote a book entitled 500 Sandwiches. Over the next twenty years, the book was reprinted many times. 500 Sandwiches became 700 Sandwiches and finally 1001 Sandwiches. In fact, there is one edition of this book that was bound with the 500 sandwich recipes but with the 700 sandwich title. In case you are wondering, who counts the recipes in the books, each type of sandwich had a “head count” as it were. So one can add up the sandwich numbers without actually counting the "Tomato Soup Sandwich" or the "Cheese and Pea Sandwich."

Thank god, because I would surly lose count of the pimiento sandwiches alone. Who knew there was so much one could do with pimientos, or peanut butter, or liver. There are the traditional "Ham and Cheese Sandwich" and the not so traditional "Ham and Beet Sandwich", or the "Ham and Banana Sandwich" or the "Deviled Ham and Jam Sandwich."

There are nearly three hundred pages of sandwiches and there is not a single page that won’t leave you with peculiarly queasy look as you read.

Mrs. Cowles suggests that everyone keep a…”variety of sandwich “makings” always on your emergency shelf; or better still, keep a special sandwich shelf for them.” Because is you have a good selection of ingredients, “you can meet calmly and sandwich emergency which may arise.”

Since we are in the Lenten season, here is sandwich for that very occasion.

Lenten Sandwich II

6 hard-cooked eggs
1 cup English walnuts
3 tablespoons chopped sweet pickle
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 cup vinegar

Grind together the nuts and egg whites. Ass pickle. Mash the egg yolks and add the seasoning. Mix all together and spread on leaf lettuce between white bread.

Yes, this is the second Lenten sandwich in the book. Remember there are 1001 sandwiches in 1001 Sandwiches, so pretty much every occasion is covered. There is no “sandwich emergency” you can’t tackle as long as your emergency sandwich shelf is stocked.

05 April 2009

Nathalie Dupree's Shrimp and Grits


Grits are my favorite food. I know about 10,000 ways to make grits. Everyday grits can be new an interesting so it seems odd to me that there are just a few cookbooks featuring grits. I wrote about Bill Neal’s book, Good Old Grits.

The iconic recipe for grits is of course, shrimp and grits. The basic recipe: make grits; top with shrimp. The more complicated recipes, are simple and complicated and delicious. If you want to find a cookbook that offers a multitude of recipes for shrimp and grits, look no farther than Nathalie Dupree's Shrimp and Grits.

Nathalie Dupree is the grande dame of Southern cooking. We shared a plane once. I had watched her make grits with yogurt in them. I told her I wasn’t sure I wanted yogurt in my grits. I was very young! She told me that in order for Southern cuisine to mature, it had to be willing to change a bit with the times. So I went home and added yogurt to my grits, and over the next few years, quit a few new things. She was right, grits are still as Southern as ever, but they are as versatile as any starch out there.

According to Dupree, the earliest mention for shrimp and grits was in the 1930 edition of Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking. Originally called “Shrimps and Hominy” by the 1976 edition it had been changes to “Breakfast Shrimp and Grits.” In Charleston they like to call their grits “hominy.” Here is the original recipe.

The Original Breakfast Shrimp & Grits

1 cup uncooked grits
2-3 cups milk
2 cups water
1/2 cup butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound raw shrimp, shelled

Add the grits to the simmering milk and water in a heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick, and cook as package directs, stirring constantly. Do not let the grits “burp” loudly, and watch the evaporation of liquid. Add more if necessary. When fully cooked to the texture you desire, remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter and season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan and sauté the shrimp in the butter until the shrimp turns pink. Add the rest of the butter to the pan and melt. Top the grits with the shrimp and pour the butter on top.

Add a Bloody Mary and you have the “Breakfast of Champions” or Belles everywhere. Head over to Lucindaville for my “Scallop and Grits” recipe.

For more from Nathalie Dupree check out her blog.
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