31 October 2009

Heirloom Beans


We love beans. The South is full of cool beans you can't seem to find anywhere, pink eyes, lady peas, purple hull, crowder peas, the list goes on. When most people think of Southern, they think of black-eyed peas. When they think Southwestern, they thing black or pinto. Come on people lets add some variety!

But you might be thinking, "Cookbook Of The Day, where can I find such variety?" Try searching about your grocery store, we might say. (Several weeks ago, I wanted to make my favorite baked beans with figs and searched around my grocery store. The navy beans I bought were soaked 12 hours and cooked for about that long and were still HARD!!! This sometimes happens, so as a warning, if you find a dusty bag of beans on a back shelf and you think, "Hey, I've never seen these before. ", be forewarned that even dried beans can go -- bad. But I digress...).

Want to find lovely beans on the internet or in your more discerning grocery, look no further than Rancho Gordo. The folks at Rancho Gordo will send you out a package or great heirloom beans in no time. They have a flat shipping rate of $8, so buy several bags and experiment. They even have sampler sets for you to try.

They even have a cookbook, cleverly entitled, Heirloom Beans, written by Rancho Gordo's uber-seed-saver, Steve Sando, and Vanessa Barrinton. They offer up some unusual and usual bean dishes. Don't be alarmed, they give you a rather generic substitute if you have not received your heirlooms from Steve.

Here's a recipe using tepary beans.



They are sweet beans and look a bit like a pinto, which can be substitute in this recipe but, then it would just be plain old pinto bean dip and you would have failed in your mission to step outside you boring comfort zone.

Spicy Tepary Bean Dip

1 1/2 cups drained, cooked tepary beans
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 poblano chili, roasted
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground
1 chipotle chile in adobo
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, combine beans, garlic, olive oil, poblano chile, cumin, chipotle chile, salt and pepper to taste. Process until smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You will have about 2 cups. Serve at room temperature.


Please give it a try.

***Two things:

1. In checking to see if my link was working, I found that Rancho Gordo doesn't have tepary beans in stock right now.

2. Since the new blogging rules say we must have full disclosure, I just want to say I have received NOTHING for Rancho Gordo, not a book a bean or a T-shirt. I am truly sad about this!

30 October 2009

Ghoulish Goodies


Sharon Bowers has a bit of Roald Dahl in her. The food gross, disgusting and surprisingly tasty. Lots of dismembered parts to construct, bones and eyes, wings and things. The eyes are a great riff on old-fashioned buckeyes; abandon the M & M pupils and make them anytime! My Dad loved making popcorn balls for Halloween.

Here's a colorful and creepy way to make them especially horrible for Halloween.

Orange Popcorn Balls

10-12 cups popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels)
1 cup dry-roasted salted peanuts
1/2 cup gummy worms or bugs, optional
3 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering your hands
1 (10-ounce) package marshmallows
red and yellow liquid food coloring or orange paste coloring

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Combine the popcorn with the peanuts, gummy worms, if using, in a large glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowl (plastic may stain); set aside.

2. Melt the butter and marshmallows in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and add 5 drops of each red and yellow liquid coloring or a dab of paste coloring to achieve your desired shade of orange. You can always add more if the marshmallows is not orange enough.

3. pour the marshmallow cream over the popcorn and mix thoroughly. Working quickly, lightly butter you hands and form balls about 4 inches in diameter. Set the popcorn balls on the baking sheet; allow to cool and firm. Cooled popcorn balls can be wrapped in plastic wrap or waxed paper and tied with black or orange ribbons. The balls are best eaten the day they are made.

For the adult in you, after mixing the marshmallow and popcorn, just drop it in bite-sized bits on the tray. After it cools and dries a bit, dump it in a big bowl. After all, Halloween is on Saturday and this makes a ghoulish treat for those of you planning to watch football. For added fun, throw that hand full of gummy worms into the bowl with the orange popcorn bites.

29 October 2009

Halloween Treats: Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family


Here's another in the collection of Halloween cookbooks. Halloween Treats: Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family by Donata Maggipinto offers up the usual food, fun and frights. I have already told you what a wuss-I-was for Halloween. Frankly, I am not much better now. But I just might come out from behind the chair to grab up a handful of these treats. Again, not a drop of sugar.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds (from about a 4-pound pumpkin)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried basil

Rinse seeds well in cold water, being sure you have rinsed away any fibrous strings, and pat thoroughly dry.

Transfer to a large bowl and add oil, salt, rosemary and basil, stirring well to coat seeds with oil.

Spread seeds on baking sheet in single layer.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
Do not give them to children. They will simply spit them back at you or worse...


Here is my favorite version of Season of the Witch by Luna. It was on the I Shot Andy Warhol soundtrack.

28 October 2009

Halloween Fun: 101 Ideas To Get In The Spirit


Halloween is looming. I was one of those rare children who HATED Halloween. I loved getting ready for the holiday and my father loved it. He made carmel apples and had a huge table filled with individual sacks of candy for every child in the neighborhood. He decorated the house and was ready for any fright. The big fright came the first time the doorbell rang and I went screaming into another room and hid behind a chair, crying

My poor father never had a spooktacular time with his only daughter!

Here's hoping you have better luck. And here's a good recipe that does not contain a speck of sugar.

Cheesy Spiders

1 pkg (8 oz), softened
black paste food coloring
1 pkg (16 oz) shredded four-cheese mixture
1 pkg (3.5 oz) round rice crunch crackers (or 24 of any round cracker)
1 cup chow mein noodles

1. Mix 2 Tbsp of the softened cream cheese with the food coloring to make black. Spoon into a ziptop bag; set aside.

2. Beat the remaining cream cheese with all but 1 cup of the shredded cheese until blended. shape mixture into 1 1/4-in. balls.

3. Place the remaining cheese in a shallow bowl. Roll the balls in cheese to coat. Place one ball on a cracker. Insert 8 chow mein noodles into each ball as the legs of the spider. Snip a very small corner from the bag with the black cream cheese. Pipe eyes on each spider.

4. Serve with stew. spiders can be made in advance. (Do not put on crackers until ready to serve.) Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.


Enjoy this recitation of All Hallows Eve by Witches in Bikinis

27 October 2009

Cantaloup to Cabbage


Mrs. Philip Martineau is another writer we have featured before. Sometimes referred to as Alice Martineau, she was considered to be quite the hostess by those that knew her and after constantly being asked for simple recipes , she embarked on a series of cookbooks to explain her cooking. After her fist cookery book, Caviare to Candy, (The one Alice Martineau book I am missing. Torn up copies abound at a rather high price, but I am holding out for a copy with the J. Gower Parks jacket. He just loves, naked, cherubic cooks roaming around through the food, but I digress…) Mrs. Martineau concerned herself with the vegetable kingdom in her book Cantaloup to Cabbage. It is a cooking abecedary taking us from Alligator Pears to Watercress Soup.

The book is filled with tips of the day, perhaps not as helpful as they were deemed to be at the time.
"All vegetables should be drained immediately after cooking and not allowed to stand in the saucepan a moment."

"Looking back to one’s own childhood, it is surprising to see the amount of vegetables thought necessary for a child today. Not only the pressed juice of cooked spinach, but the juice of certain uncooked tender vegetables, as well as orange juice and tomato juice."
I am rather fond of her section on artichokes. Here are two examples:

Artichokes (Jerusalem)

The original name for these was Girasole, of which Jerusalem is a corruption. They are most nutritious and tasty and are much neglected. Peel the tubers and blanch them in cold water. Boil in salted milk and water (to keep the colour white) and never let them stand in the saucepan. They should take about twenty minutes of fast boiling to cook and must not be squashy. Drain quickly and serve with Béchamel sauce or cream sauce flavored with mace, or with curry sauce and a boarder of rice, or with brown sauce and grated cheese, with a cheese sauce or au gratin, like celery, and in many such ways.

Mrs. Martineau is ADAMANT that those vegetables never sit in a saucepan.
Artichokes, Roast

Peel, and roast them under the meat as you would a potato.
Simple enough. And you can feed them to those children who seem to need vegetables these days. Check out her other book, More Caviare to Candy featuring Parks' naked cherubs riding the fish entrée.

26 October 2009

A Surprise in Every Dinner


Sometimes when I pull a cookbook, I find that I end up looking several cookbooks by the author. I drag them out and then they end up still sitting on my desk some time later. A short time ago, I featured Edwardian Glamour Cooking Without Tears by Oswell Blakeston and got to do a post featuring the poet H.D., which doesn’t always happen in cookbook blurbs. I will spare you the modernist poetry this time, but I did want to share this recipe from Blakeston’s, A Surprise in Every Dinner.

In this book, Blakeston is not really concerned with cooking times or amounts of ingredients. (He’s my kind of cook!) He states:
“In the old days cooks would weigh out materials as carefully as chemists and then time the cooking to the fraction of an ounce. Today one cannot expect such time-consuming precision.”
His favorite time saver is the modern butcher who should be able to allay any fears you have when cooking pork chops or lamb. He will sell you the proper joint and give you the time it takes to cook prepare it properly. (This book is from the 1960’s; good luck finding that butcher, today.)

I went meatless with this recipe, however. You will need a good florist instead of a good butcher. It is that tie of year when mums are everywhere, and here is a recipe that incorporates them into you dinner meal instead of simply in your decorating scheme.

Chrysanthemum Soup

chrysanthemums, 4 blooms
milk, 1 pint
butter, 1 tablespoon
salt
pepper
cornflour, 2 tablespoons

Soak the chrysanthemums in boiling water for two minutes. Take them out and pull off the petals. Chop the petals. Warm up the milk, and dissolve the butter in it. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cornflour, and stir till the milk thickens. Add the chopped petals, and cook for two minutes.


Here is the COOKING WITH FLOWERS caveat: Know where your flowers come from. Your yard is the best location. What you don’t want is soup of boiling pesticide, so ask questions before you cook.


In the meantime, now when see pot after pot of chrysanthemums you can think: "Maybe I’ll have those for dinner."

25 October 2009

Jamie's Kitchen

I love Jamie Oliver. I started watching him in his "Naked" days and still really love him. I think part of it is because he is not the least bit fussy. He takes fresh ingredients, tosses them together and creates great food.
It may not be the most innovative food, but it is food you really want to eat. I can honestly say I have never seen him shout profanities at anyone and I love the way he tosses and smashes and adjusts his ingredients.

Take this salad, for instance. I hearken back to blog favorite, Ethelind Fearon and her Reluctant Cook take on salad, "Salad can be anything." As the weather is turning cold, I am constantly thinking about winter squash and pumpkins and sweet potatoes. This salad offers up the best of those ingredients. Think like Jamie, use Parma ham or deli ham or sliced turkey -- use sweet potatoes or pumpkin -- use cheddar! Remember, salad is anything!

Warm Salad of Roasted Squash, Prosciutto and Pecorino

1 butternut squash
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small dried red chilli
1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds
20 slices of prosciutto or Parma ham
4 handfuls of rocket
6 tablespoons extra virgin
olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small block of Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Carefully cut your butternut squash in half, keeping the seeds intact. Remove the two ends and discard them. Cut each half into quarters and lay in a roasting tray. Rub with a little olive oil. In a pestle and mortar pound up a flat teaspoon each of salt, pepper and your chilli and coriander seeds. Scatter this over the squash. Roast the squash for half an hour or until soft and golden. Allow to cool a little.

Lay your prosciutto on 4 plates — let it hang over the rim of the plates and encourage it to twist and turn so it doesn’t look neat and flat. Tear up your warm squash and put it in and around the ham. Sprinkle over the seeds and the rocket. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic, add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper, and use a vegetable peeler to shave over the Pecorino.

Serve it with a little mulled wine and broken chocolate for dessert!

24 October 2009

Darling, You Shouldn’t Have Gone To So Much Trouble


People write books for many reasons. Darling, You Shouldn’t Have Gone To So Much Trouble by Caroline Blackwood and Anna Haycraft came into being after a tragedy. Blackwood lost her seventeen-year-old daughter to a drug overdose. Actually, the girl ran a bath and was preparing the heroin, but she was drunk, passed out, and fell into the tub and drowned.

Anna Haycraft understood Blackwood’s pain, having lost two children herself. Being a writer, (Haycraft is better known by her pen name, Alice Thomas Ellis) Haycraft devised a project to get Blackwood working. They would call upon their numerous literary and famous friends and ask them for recipes that anyone might cook.

Of the modern 1980’s woman they write:
“If she entertains she want to be free to drink and talk to her friends without worrying whether the dinner she is about to produce will be a catastrophe.”
Given Blackwood's alcoholism, she clearly wanted to be "free to drink" and really didn't care too much about the food. Their motley and arty crew of friends included the likes of Sonia Orwell, Quentin Crisp, Lucian Freud, Nicky Haslam, and Marianne Faithful to name a few. It is rakish list for a cookbook and the recipes are delightful.

Lucian Freud’s Tomato Soup au Naturel

Fresh tomatoes
Country Butter
Clotted cream
Bay leaf

My recipe is not right for this book. I once took only the very purest ingredients. I first fried the tomatoes very slowly. Then I simmered them very slowly, stirring all the time. The whole thing took hours. When I tasted it I realized I had re-invented Heinz Tomato soup.




Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s English Afternoon Tea

Take a loaf of very good unsliced bread; butter with sweet butter; cut a thin slice with a very sharp knife; repeat.



Needless to say, some people failed to understand the witty elements of the book nor did they find the cookbook to be that informative. Clearly, the recipes were to be taken with – a bit of salt. The esteemed novelist Anita Brookner who did not agree with lighthearted nature of the book, was chosen to write a review. She stated rather emphatically:
“This is corrupt food…People should not eat bad food to save time, particularly bad food which is rather expensive”
The review caused Blackwood to send a scathing letter to Brookner. The controversy pushed the book into several printings. Clearly if one is looking for a balanced and nutritious menu the first people to come to mind are not Marianne Faithful nor Quentin Crisp. Clearly, Anita Brookner went to, far too much trouble.

While we might not advocate cooking all the recipes, they are a delight to read. For more on Caroline Blackwood, check out the post at Lucindaville.

23 October 2009

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea


Martha Hall Foose is the executive chef of the Viking Cooking School. She spends her days surrounded by Viking stoves and food. What a great gig. Last year she published her first book, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. The recipes come complete with stories and cooking tips to make your recipes come out right.

The book is full of little hints that you may or may not know such as:

Taxamati rice is a good rice to serve under gumbo.

Cake flour is better to blend into sauces.

Don’t cook okra in cast iron.

To check the temperature of fish frying oil, drag a Diamond Strike Anywhere Match across the surface. If it lights, the oil is hot enough.

It’s a Southern cookbook, so there are recipes for fried chicken, grits, macaroni and cheese, ambrosia, corn bread and many other favorites. I think the key to a great Southern cookbook is taking something everyone makes and making it better. This recipe is one of the best!

Inside-out Sweet Potatoes

1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 large egg
6 sweet potatoes, baked and mashed
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon sherry, Bourbon or vanilla extract
8 large marshmallows
Canola oil, for frying (1 1/2 cups)

Put the cornflake crumbs in a shallow dish or pie pan. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes with the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, flour, orange juice, and sherry. Working with your hands, use the mixture to encase each marshmallow, forming a ball. Dip each ball in the egg wash and then roll in the crumbs. Refrigerate while preparing to fry.

Preheat the oven to 200F. Set a wire rack over newspaper or paper towels to cool and drain the balls after frying.

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375 F.

Fry the balls one or two at a time for 3 to 4 minutes, turning as needed, until lightly browned.

Remove with a spider or slotted spoon, and place the drained balls on the prepared rack and in the oven to keep warm while frying the remaining batches. Serve warm.


Instead of those same old yams with marshmallows, give these a try. They are sure to become a family favorite.

Yesterday, we featured The Farmhouse Egg Cookbook. It shares a photographer with this book, Ben Fink. to see more of Fink's work check out his website, Ben Fink Photography.

22 October 2009

The Farmstead Egg Cookbook


As you know if you read this blog for any length of time, I love egg cookbooks. About three years ago, a lovely addition to this genre was published, The Farmstead Egg Cookbook by Terry Golson. This small volume is chocked full of vibrant pictures of both food and fowl. There are facts and figures on egg production, sizing and safety. And there are numerous recipes. The recipes are straightforward, and not overly complicated.

As I was flipping through it, I ran across a recipe for quiche, which I used to make all the time. I can’t for the life of me think why I don’t make it anymore, so this slightly old-fashioned recipe seemed to jump off the page.


Quiche with Bacon and Cheese

One 9-inch All-Purpose Pastry Crust
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups light cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 slices slab bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled

1. Put the crust in a 9-inch pie plate, preferably glass or ceramic. Prebake the piecrust into it begins to brown.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

3. Using the electric mixer, beat the eggs and cream for 1 minute, until the mixture increases slightly in volume. Stir in the salt, cheese, and bacon. Pour into the pie plate.

4. Bake 34 to 40 minutes, until the center is just set and the edges begin to brown.


What a great way to use eggs! I am definitely putting quiche back into our kitchen rotation.

For more info on Terry Golson and to see her chickens, "live and in person", check out the hencam at her blog.

21 October 2009

The Livebait Cookbook



Livebait is one of my favorite restaurants in London. I like the original, with its black and white tiles, mirrors, and friendly staff.




Most importantly, they have the most wonderful seafood. You can grab a Guinness and plate of oysters or you can have honey and ginger roasted octopus, or filet of turbot with foie gras mashed potatoes. You don’t have to venture to London if you have a copy of Theodore Kyriakou and Charles Campion’s The Livebait Cookbook. At first glance the recipes are may seem long, but often they incorporate the side dish within the ingredients.

Here is a simple and crunchy way to serve cod.


Roast Cod with Couscous Crust

1/2 cup couscous
juice of one orange
2 tablespoons good olive oil
4(8-ounce) cod fillets, cut from the thick end


1. Half-cook the couscous in boiling water – this will take about 10 minutes – and drain.

2. Preheat oven to 400 F.

3. Warn the orange juice in a nonreactive saucepan, add the couscous and the oil, stir, cover the pot with plastic wrap and put to one side in a warm place for an hour or more.

4. Place the cod pieces, skin side down, on a greased baking sheet, brush with a little oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add a thick – 1/2-inch – crust of couscous. Cook in the oven for 8 – 10 minutes. If you like a particularly crispy crust, finish under a hot broiler until browned.

Next time you are in London, drop in for a pint and some oysters and some trout or some tuna and maybe a dessert.

20 October 2009

A Sacred Feast


I am a huge fan of Sacred Harp or Shape Note singing. I heard a lot of this type of music growing up in Alabama. Alabama is one of the few places the tradition has endured over the years. Originally thought to have originated in England in the eighteenth century, the singing flourished with the publication of two songbooks, The Sacred Harp by B. F. White and E. J. King in 1844 and William Walker's Southern Harmony, published in 1835. It gets the name "shape note" because the notes on the scale each have a distinct shape.


The singing is always a cappella and the singers sit in a configuration known as a hollow square.



The sound is totally unique. I love it, though some people find it just annoying. Hey, some people find opera annoying. What you may ask does this have to do with cookbooks?

A "singing" usually occurs in a rural church and families travel for miles to attend them. They have to eat, so an elaborate communal meal is served in the middle of the day, "dinner" to Southerners. Since most of these lunchtime dinners are outside, they are known as "dinner on the ground" and they feature prominently in Sacred Harp singings. Kathryn Eastburn's book A Sacred Feast looks at both the singing and eating involved in this tradition and has produced a history/cookbook from her travels to churches around the country.

The most famous, popular culture use of Shape Note singing, says Eastburn, was evidenced in the movie Cold Mountain where:
"Nicole Kidman waved her ivory fingers up and down, beating time in the traditional Sacred Harp fashion, and made eye contact with Jude Law across the hollow square. The movie ended up with a bunch of Academy Award nominations, including one for its musical soundtrack, featuring a group of Alabama Sacred Harp singers. In February 2004 some of those singers flew to Hollywood, dressed up in long black dresses and solemn suits and appeared on stage at the Academy awards ceremony next to Alison Krauss, who, the fashion commentators told us, was wearing diamond-studded $250,000 shoes. Sacred Harp hit the big time."
Nicole Kidman and diamond shoes aside, Shape Note has hardly hit the "big time." If you want to see a great example of a singing check out the documentary, Awake My Soul by Matt and Erica Hinton. The film features singers from Georgia and Alabama and provides both a history and an emotional connection to this art form. After spending seven years compiling the documentary, the Hintons released a two-disk set of music.


One disk featured the traditional singing from Henegar, Alabama. The second disk featured traditional shape note songs, sung in a conventional format, with singers running the gamut from Elvis Perkins to Doc Watson, Matt Hinton explains:
"As a musician, it's almost impossible to sing Sacred Harp without wondering what the songs would sound like in another context. That curiosity, combined with my desire to make Sacred Harp more known to a culture which has largely ignored it, led to the creation of Help Me to Sing. At its core, I see it as a way of opening a door to a musical tradition that very many people are unfamiliar with. As far as I'm concerned, Help Me to Sing is the hook. Real Sacred Harp singing, as heard on the Awake My Soul soundtrack? well, that?'s the fish. It just so happens that in this case, even the bait wound up being extraordinary."

Awake My Soul/Help Me To Sing was my favorite CD of 2008 and it made dozens of "Best Of" lists. Check out their web site to order the DVD or CD.



Back to the food. The recipes come from the singers and A Sacred Feast offers many traditional Southern dishes, turnip greens, red velvet cake, fried pies and barbecue. And there are a few quirky surprises like this recipe from Bozo Willis. Its name is derived from the fact that one can buy four boxes of cornbread mix for a dollar.

Bozo Willis's Dollar Store Dressing

4 boxes cornbread mix
1 46-oz. can chicken broth
2 dozen eggs,hard boiled and chopped fine
2 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed
2 sleeves saltine crackers, crushed
1 to 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 onions, chopped
Poultry seasoning

Prepare dressing according to package directions. Bake and crumble into two large aluminum baking pans. Saute celery and onions in vegetable oil. Mix in cornbread, remaining dry ingredients and poultry seasoning to taste. pour in hot chicken broth until mixture is soft but not too wet. Let sit in refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours to mingle flavors. Remove from refrigerator and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until completely heated through. If mixture becomes too dry, add more broth.

For a taste of Sacred Harp listen to Henagar-Union Sacred Harp Convention sing:

Antioch, 277. mp3

19 October 2009

Mastering The Art Of French Cooking

It's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What else do you want me to say?

Wait, I do have something else to say. Several of my friends at the Smithsonian found themselves with the arduous job of going to Boston and packing up Julia Child's kitchen. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it, right. So Reyna, Paula and Nanci worked on recreating the kitchen and preparing subsequent events.
One such event was Nora Ephron donating several items from Julie and Julia.


The movie created such interest that the Smithsonian blog decided to run a Julia recipe of the week asking for volunteers from the staff to cook and write about a recipe.

My friend Ann immediately volunteered and WE cooked from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Ann doesn't cook, so she asked for a simple recipe.

Baked Cucumbers

6 cucumbers about 8 inches long

2 Tb wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
A 2 1/2-quart porcelain or stainless steel bowl


A baking dish 12 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches deep
3 Tb melted butter
1/2 tsp dill or basil
3 to 4 Tb minced green onions
1/8 tsp pepper

Peel the cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise; scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Cut the strips into 2-inch pieces.

Toss the cucumbers in a bowl with the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Let stand for at least 30 minutes or for several hours. Drain. Pat dry with a towel.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss the cut cucumbers in the baking dish with the butter, herbs, onions and pepper. Set uncovered in middle level of preheated oven for about 1 hour, tossing 2 or 3 times, until the cucumbers are tender but still bear a suggestion of crispness and texture. They will barely color during cooking.





I cook -- a lot. My other friend, Anne, asked me if I had ever made Pâté de Canard en Crouté, one of Julia's more difficult recipes. I told her no. When I mentioned this to Ann, she said, "Great, you make that."

Read about the duck at the Smithsonian's blog, under Julia Child Recipe of the Week, October 19, 2009.

18 October 2009

Kettner's Book Of The Table


Fashionable restaurants were a Victorian delight. In London, the most fashionable was that of Auguste Kettner. The former chef to Napoleon III, Kettner opened a Soho restaurant 1867 which was known for its extravagance, champagne, and gastronomic delicacies.

When Kettner's Book Of The Table was published, it was assumed, for obvious reasons that the book was written by Kettner. In truth, the book was penned by the long standing London critic, E. S. Dallas. Dallas fell on hard times and was a friend of Kettner. One can assume that Dallas wrote the book in exchange for free meals. In a 1912 version published by Kettner, himself, he gives some credit to Dallas.

Dallas has very strong emotions about aspic and as a Southerner, I feel for him.
"The most appropriate sauce for cold meat is a jelly, of half jelly, of some sort: and the French have invented one jellied sauce to go with cold viands --aspic. It is not to be supposed that one and the same sauce will suit every meat alike, every taste alike, or even the same taste at different times. We cannot take the same everlasting aspic with cold meat all year around. But the cookery books, with scarcely an exception, give one single recipt for savory jelly, and then call it aspic, though it does not contain a particle if aspic in it."

So what is his proper way to make aspic?

Aspic

Boil down calves feet with a faggot of potherbs(Faggot, No.6). When this is ready, add to it for a final flavor sherry or Marsala, and some tarragon vinegar in which a faggot of ravigote herbs have boiled. Test the strength of the jelly, clarify it with white of an egg, and strain through a jelly bag.

There are a lot faggots in this recipe which Dallas explains:

"Faggots are to the kitchen garden what bouquets or nosegays are to the flower garden."

Faggot no. 6 consists of carrots, onions, cloves and sweet herbs while the Ravigote has tarragon, chervil, burnet and chives.

You must love a man who is so terrible concerned with his aspic!

17 October 2009

The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook


It's Football Saturday. Alabama is tromping South Carolina and what a better day than this to feature the The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. While neither of them ever went to South Carolina, they do live there when not living in New York City. this is a big wonderful book filled with great old and new recipes. They have taken a lot of (fill in the excrement word here) for adding sugar to their cornbread and I, too, was appalled at this transgression, but I have learned to love them, again and chalk it up to all that Yankee, elite Northeastern scoolin' they were subjected to.

Still it is a fine book and I am looking forward to their new book. (fill in a big hint, hint, here)

Here is a South Carolina tradition and a great game day stew. It won't save the Gamecocks from an ass-whoopin' but at the very least they will have a fine dinner.

Frogmore Stew

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, peanut oil, or canola oil
1 1/2 pounds smoked pork sausage, Cajun andouille, or kielbasa, cut on the bias into 1 1/4-inch-thick pieces
2 serrano, Thai, or other dried red chiles, trimmed, slit down their sides, seeded, and flattened
1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 large onions)
2 quarts (8 cups) Sunday Shrimp Broth
1 teaspoon Lee Bros. Shrimp Boil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 bay leaves
6 live blue crabs or 1/2 pound lump crabmeat
1 1/2 pounds peeled Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes (about 3 large potatoes), cut into 1-inch dice
3 ears fresh corn, cut into 6 pieces
6 whole canned plum tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 pounds large headless shrimp (26 - 30 per pound), shells on
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish


1. Heat the oil in an 8-quart stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the sausage. (Don't overcrowd the pot; if you have a narrow-bottomed stockpot, cook the sausage in batches.) Sear until golden brown along the sides, then turn and brown on another side, about 6 minutes total. Remove with tongs and reserve in a medium bowl. Add the chiles and gently toast in the oil and sausage fat until they discolor and release some of their fragrance, about 30 seconds on each side. Add the celery and onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.

2. Add 2 cups broth to the pot. Using a wooden spoon, stir in tight circles, scraping up any caramelized brown bits from the bottom. Bring the broth to a boil and boil until reduced by one quarter, about 6 minutes. Pour the remaining 6 cups broth into the pot, add the shrimp boil, salt, and bay leaves, and cover. When the broth simmers, turn the heat to medium-low, uncover, and simmer vigorously while you clean the crabs.

3. Using tongs, drop 2 live crabs at a time into the simmering broth and cook until their shells turn bright orange, about 2 minutes. Transfer the crabs to a colander set in the sink and run cold water over them. Add the next 2 live crabs to the pot and repeat until all the crabs have been cooked. As each cooked crab becomes cool enough to handle, remove the face (the strip on the front that encompasses the eyes and the mouth) with kitchen scissors. Then slip your thumb in the gap created between the top and bottom shells and pull off the top shell, exposing the feathery gills. Discard the top shell and the gills. Turn the crab over and slide the tip of a knife beneath where the cape of shell tapers to a point; lift the bottom shell off and discard. (If you find any orange crab roe, add it to the pot.) With a cleaver (or with your hands), split each crab down the middle and drop both halves in the stew. Repeat until all the crabs have been returned to the pot.

4. Add the potatoes and continue to cook until they have softened a bit but are not yet fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn, tomatoes, and reserved sausage, along with any juices it may have released, cover, and increase the heat to medium-high. When the stew comes to a vigorous simmer, reduce the heat to low, uncover, and continue to simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the tine of a fork easily pierces the potatoes. Add the crabmeat, if using, and the shrimp, stir to distribute them throughout the stew, and simmer about 3 minutes more, or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.

5. For optimal flavor, refrigerate for 24 hours, then reheat the stew gradually, over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Serve in large bowls, garnished with the lemon slices.

For a stripped down version of of Frogmore Stew, check out this recipe for Frog More-or-Less Stew at Lucindaville.

Today, I'm making Brunswick stew for the game. No squirrel but a bit of venison. Roll Tide.

16 October 2009

Fancy Cakes And Pastries


My friend Sandra has been helping me collect books from The Home Entertaining Series. Since they were published in England, they are easier to find there and she sends them on to me if I find one. She was not happy when I sent her this copy of the second cake book by Ethelind Fearon, Fancy Cakes And Pastries. She thought if was in horrible shape and felt it was not worthy. Being difficult to find, especially in any condition dust jacket, I was more forgiving.

As you can tell from the title, Fearon is not a big fan of plain cakes. Again, she is rather opinionated:

"There are of course far too many cake recipes already...But these are different. Not the "Cut and come again" kind, but delectable mouthfuls which make you come again just to see if they are really as good as that. And you always find that they are."


And here are the delightful, Monkey Delights...


Monkey Delights

8 oz. S.R. flour
4 oz. coconut
2 tabsp. cocoa
4 oz. butter
6 oz. sugar
4 oz. chopped nits
1 egg, beaten

Mix all to a stiff paste, drop in spoonfuls on a greased tray Cook about half an hour at 300F.


I have no idea why Monkeys are delighted by these, but I am. Reading Fearon's recipes always makes me think that she was envisioning a future with Twitter. Her recipes always seem to lend themselves to being tweeted to a grateful world.

15 October 2009

Cakes For Occasions

If you read my blogs, you know I am a huge fan of Ethelind Fearon. I can find no biographical information anywhere. I keep hoping if I blog about her enough, someone will have fascinating stories about her to tell me. If you are that person, please write!

In the meantime...

here is a recipe from Cakes For Occasions. Ethelind Fearon is a wonderfully witty writer and I am enamored of this book with its quirky title, Cakes For Occasions. There is no real occasion specified. It is just enough to know that these are not meant to be everyday cakes. She writes:

"A large cake-- either plain or plum--is a thing over which it is difficult to become enthusiastic; reminiscent of nursery teas and economy recipes"


This is not your nursery tea cake.

Portuguese Gateau

3 oz. ground mixed nuts
4 oz. sugar
1 large or 2 small eggs
raspberry jam
4 oz. butter
4 oz. flour
grated lemon rind

Cream butter and sugar. Work in the flour, nuts and beaten egg until a firm paste is formed, but go carefully with the egg until it is seen how firm, too much egg is fatal. Lay aside for an hour then roll out and line a flan tin or cake tin with movable bottom, reserving one-third of the paste. Brush the edge with egg and lay a narrow strip around to form a wall. Pastry should be about 1/4 inch thick. Fill center with raspberry jam and lattice narrow strips of the reserved paste across it, decorating the edge with small leaves to use leftover bits. Brush with the yolk of an egg, not whole egg, and bake 1/2 hour at 30F. Allow to cool before removing from tin as it has a noticeably tender constitution.


Who care if you ever make this, is is such a beautifully written recipe.

Check out more of Ethelind Fearon at Lucindaville.

And always remember, too much egg is fatal!

14 October 2009

The Garden of Eternal Swallows


"This cronopio's wild-artichoke clock is a good artichoke of the larger species, fastened by its stem to a hole in the wall. Its innumerable leaves indicate what hour it is... every day the cronopio begins pulling off a new layer of leaves. when he reaches the center, time cannot be measured, and in the infinite violet-rose of the artichoke heart the cronopio finds great contentment."
Julio Cortázar




Karen Elizabeth Gordon is best known as a soigné grammarian, whose cortege of fanciful characters provide definitions, usage and a fine old time in the world of words. Her book include The Disheveled Dictionary, The Ravenous Muse and The Transitive Vampire. What many people do not know -- Karen Elizabeth Gordon's first book was a cookbook.

The Garden of Eternal Swallows offers up poetic refections. Gordon says her cookbook is about:
"the earth as a basis for fight. And about art as a territory of life: gravity plus imagination, rainbow over barn."
Here is an example of Gordon's poetry.

Eaten Alive By Time
how to enjoy an artichoke

artichokes, 1 per person
whole cloves of garlic
teaspoon of basil
pinch of thyme
teaspoon at least of olive oil
salt, pepper
sprigs of parsley

Wash artichokes. Remove the outer leaves, the loss of a few minutes at most. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add everything named. Cook artichokes until tender, an undetermined length of time, which only you can tell, being there, and interested, and sampling an occasional leaf. Serve hot or cold with anything your heart desires. Find contentment.

If you love food, poetry, and language, rush out and find this book.

13 October 2009

The Orange Judd Cookbook

Around the turn of the last century, not ten years ago but a hundred and ten years ago, the publishing house Orange Judd published "farm" books. I have a large collection of their books. What was considered a general informative text on farming a hundred years ago, is toady a quite beautiful collectible. In 1914 Orange Judd decided to offer up a book for the wives of all those farmers and created The Orange Judd Cookbook. Ironically, the cookbook is a very utilitarian book, lacking the lovely gold leaf on many of the titles.

Perhaps they though that a cookbook, being used by the "little woman", didn't need any embellishment.

In her introduction, Adeline Goessling, addresses the parameters of her book:

"This book is intended especially and primarily for the farm cooks, though it will be found equally useful and helpful in the city kitchen where economy is an object. It is, of course, understood that country or farm housekeepers have many advantages their town sisters lack, such as fresh fruits, vegetables poultry, eggs, milk cream, and butter, which naturally cannot always be had in city markets, where even inferior grades of produce are high priced."

What would she think of the Kroger's and Piggly Wiggly's stuck in every little town and hamlet across America today?

As with many cookbooks of the day, Mrs. Gosseling felt the need to preach a bit about the virtues of good cooking.

"Some women do not seem to realize that very intimate relations exist between their own kitchens and the despised liquor saloons. Poor cooks have done more to drive men to strong drink than all the female temperance lectures in world can ever hope redeem. To accomplish the most effective work for the cause of temperance, health and happiness, it is therefore necessary that women should first of all learn how to properly prepare palatable and nourishing food which will so well satisfy the natural cravings of the average human stomach that artificial and harmful stimulants will not be required."

Here is my dilemma: Should I give you their recipe with the chicken heads or the roasted raccoon? OK, I admit there are perfectly lovely recipes for jams and breads and even okra and salsify, but admit you, you want to make that raccoon!

Baked Coon

The raccoon which makes free with the farmer's corn gets very fat in the fall, on corn, apples and clover, and makes delicious eating, though often thrown away because of the prejudice that many people have against wild meat. First, skin the coon carefully, then remove the layer of fat, which is often an inch thick, right under the skin. this fat would give the meat a disagreeable, oily taste, if left on, but it is nice and white and can be tried out the same as leaf lard, or used for soap. thoroughly wash the dressed coon in cold water and soak overnight in cold water with 1 tablesp salt added to each gallon of water. Bake the same as veal. If the coon is old, as shown by large size, dark meat, and stiff hard bones and joints, it should be parboiled from i to 2 hours before roasting.

Ah yes, we do indeed have many advantages our town sisters lack!

12 October 2009

Fruit: A Connoisseur's Guide and Cookbook



Fruit: A Connoisseur's Guide and Cookbook by Alan Davidson is the companion work to his book, Seafood: A Connoisseur's Guide and Cookbook which we reviewed earlier in the year. Charlotte Knox illustrated this volume as she did the earlier work by Davidson.

Since it has been dark and drear here, we were inspired by the glorious painting of tantalizing fruit on these pages and we though we would share a recipe with you.


Here is a quick and simple dessert. It couldn't be easier. Spooned into parfait glasses with the whipped cream, it makes an elegant dish and no one will know how little time you spent.

Ginger, Apricot and Almond Pudding

2 cups dried apricots
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 -1/3 cup crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon honey(or more to taste
3/4 cup Greek Yogurt
1-2 heaping tablespoons whipped cream (optional)


Wash and pit the apricots, cover them with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cool and liquidize into a puree. Add the chopped almonds, ginger honey and yogurt, and fold into the cream.

Yes, there is a bit of an inconsistency. If the whipped cream is optional, why are we instructed to fold everything into the cream? Well, basically you just fold everything together and then, if you want to, to with the whipped cream.

Want to cut 20 minutes off your time? Use three packages of apricot baby food. No cooking, no liquidizing!

11 October 2009

A Taste of Provence


Könemann does great food books. They are well bound on quality paper, lavishly illustrated,and profoundly informative. The pictures are lush, immersing you in their local with photos of people, terrior and food stuffs. Könemann books follow a general theme. They take a geographic location as a whole and examine the various parts of that geography. For Provence, for instance they look at Montélimar, Vaison-la-Roamiane and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and around the coast to Nice, Monte Carlo and Menton.

Each region is highlighted for their unique and signature ingredients; from the Camargue, its salt production and its brandade and from Forcalquier the pastis and from Toulon its olives. Here is a recipe highlighting the plethora of vegetables produced in Provence:

Tomates à la Provençal

3 clove of garlic
1/2 bunch of parsley
12 small, nicely ripe tomatoes
A pinch of sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt

Peel the garlic and wash the parsley. Chop together, and set aside. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, and sprinkle a little sugar on the cut surface.
Heat a little oil in a large skillet, and put the tomatoes into it, cut side down and closely pack. Sauté briefly over a medium heat until the juice has completely evaporated, and a caramelized coating has formed. Then turn them over and carefully sauté the other side. Season generously with salt, sprinkle with parsley mixture, cover, and simmer very gently.
Grab this up even if you never cook a thing. It makes a great guide book.

10 October 2009

Return to Paris


Return to Paris is really more memoir than cookbook, but it is about Paris and it has recipes so I'm fine with it.
The book begins in 1947 when a teenaged Rossant returns to Paris after spending eight years, including the difficult "war years" in Cairo, Egypt. Though she was born in Paris, she had lost touch with the city. The family cook lead her to embrace the city and the food.

Colette Rossant is a fine writer and her memoir is a heartfelt tribute to the Paris of the past. She leads us wandering down the city streets to the crémeries, pâtisseries, and markets where her descriptions of the food still bear the wondrousness of a child:
"Butter, sold by the pound, was cut with a metal string from a motte, a hill of luscious, yellow creamy butter. I was always astounded that Mme Blanchette could cut exactly a pound if this is what you wanted. The butcher and the produce stores were next on my trip; first came the butcher. Meat was displayed in the window, laid out in an organized mosaic of reds, and whites and yellows. the butcher's wife was a friend of my grandmother, who would called ahead to order the meat for dinner. As I approached the end of the street I closed my eyes while passing the horse butcher."

The recipes included are so very simple and yet they produce dishes of great complexity -- a French paradox, I suppose.

Steamed Leeks

Cut off about 2 inches from the green part of 12 leeks. Trim the tops and wash the leeks under cold running water. Drain. Place the leeks in a large skillet with 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the leeks feel tender when pierced with a fork.

Sure, it sounds like a breeze, but the leeks are absolutely wonderful and make a great side dish to any meat. I keep trying valiantly to grow leeks, but I haven;t had much luck. This year I am determined to make it a reality, just to cook leeks for my own garden.

09 October 2009

The Yul Brynner Cookbook



He sings, he dances, he cooks, he's famous... wait, this looks like another Famous Food Friday cribbed from Lucindaville. Yes, it is, The Yul Brynner Cookbook. Everyone knows Brynner as an actor, but did you know he was a polyglot (speaking 11 languages including Russian, Chinese and Romany), a nightclub entertainer, a musician, a trapeze artist, a member of a traveling gypsy troupe, a pro jai alai player, and a director, as well as the King of Siam?




So let the guy cook!

Brynner was born on Sakhalin Island, a slim strip of land off the southeastern coast of Russia and north of Japan. The island is sub-arctic and during the 1940’s both Japan and Russia claimed the island. His family took him to China when he was 6 months old. The cookbook features cuisines from his multi-ethnicity. There is a Russian section and a Japanese section. There are sections from his many travels featuring French and Thai cuisine. By far the most interesting section features his Romany or Gypsy heritage.

In his introduction to this section, Brynner tells us:

“My mother was a gypsy, and I spent several of my teenage years traveling through France with a gypsy troupe.

…there are inherent difficulties in constantly moving from one place to another. Just think of the everyday chore of preparing meals.

Gypsies have always favored soups and stews. These dishes are easy to make, and just about anything you put in either of them winds up tasting good. These marvelous concoctions also can be quite exotic.”


One of the more exotic soups is dandelion, while on of the more traditional stews is pork.


Pork and Sauerkraut Ragout

1 1/2 –2 pounds pork shoulder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon slat
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup water
1 cup beer
1 1/2 pounds sauerkraut, drained
1 cup sour cream

Trim excess fat off pork, and cut the meat into small pieces. It’s all right to cook this dish with pork bones included; they should be discarded before serving, but they add flavor to sauce. Set the pork aside, and heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven. While the oil heats, peel and chop the onion. Sauté the onion and garlic clove in the vegetable oil until the onions are transparent. Remove the garlic, add the pork, and brown well on all sides. Add paprika, salt, caraway seeds, water and beer to the Dutch oven. Cover, cook for one hour, periodically skimming fat from the top of the sauce. After one hour of cooking, add drained sauerkraut, cover, and cook another 45 minutes. Garnish with sour cream.



Whip up a cauldron of this Pork and Sauerkraut stew and pop The King and I in the DVD and make a night of it. To whet your appetite:

A Puzzlement -mp3

08 October 2009

Side Orders


John Egerton has been writing about Southern food forever. He was in the forefront of writers who gave a voice to the foodways of the South. More importantly, Egerton gave voice to the history of the food of the South. He never simply ate people’s food he asked them about their history. This detail makes Egerton that rare combination of cookbook author and anthropologist, a storyteller who spends as much time telling you a story as he does cooking the food.

Side Orders is Egerton’s second book and it is filled with the tall tales and hard facts that comprise Southern culinary heritage. He waxes poetic on the joys and revelations of sweet tea, concerned that the “inventor” of sweet tea has been lost to history and therefore has no gigantic bronze statue marking their contribution.
“It’s the South’s gift to a thirsty world, and it may prove to be the region’s most important contribution to peace and harmony among nations.”

“The wonder is not that Southerners drink so much of it, but rather that the rest of the world drinks so little.”
Next to sweet tea, Southerners love their soft drinks and Egerton walks us through the vast history of sugary concoctions produced as curatives by drugstore pharmacists. Here’s a list.

Dr. Pepper -- Rural Retreat, Virginia
Coco-Cola -- Atlanta, Georgia
Pepsi Cola – New Bern, North Carolina
Barq’s Root Beer – Biloxi, Mississippi
Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale -- Birmingham, Alabama
RC Cola – Columbus, Georgia
Blenheim Ginger Ale – Blenheim, South Carolina
Double Cola --- Chattanooga, Tennessee
Gatorade – Gainesville, Florida

Egerton fails to mention my particular favorite, Cheerwine, which began as Mint Cola in Maysville, Kentucky.

In Southern households, fall ushers in the season of holiday candy making. This is a good place point out that, in the South, if we find something that works, we just grab it and claim it!

Million Dollar Fudge is one of those recipes. You will be hard pressed to find a family in the South that doesn’t have one member who makes fudge for every holiday.

Edgerton attributes the first printing of a recipe for “Million Dollar Fudge” to the Women’s National Press Club in Washington, D.C., whose fundraising cookbook featured a recipe by then First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower. She included a fudge recipe she made for her future husband when they were courting. Ike called it her “Million Dollar Fudge” and the name stuck.

Mr. and Mrs. Eisenhower on their wedding day

Million Dollar Fudge

Into a large, heavy cooking pot, put 4-1/2 cups of sugar, a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk, 1 stick of butter, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook it for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then turn off the heat and add the followings: 1 12-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate drops, 1 8-ounce bar of milk chocolate, 4 4-ounce bars of German’s sweet chocolate, and 1 large jar of marshmallow creme. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and well mixed, then add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 4 cups of pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped. When all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, pour the fudge onto a buttered cookie sheet and spread it out to a thickness of about 1 inch. Cut it in squares when it cools and store it in tins.

Well, Mamie Eisenhower may not have been a Southerner, but in the broadest sense, Washington, D.C. is considered by some to be “Southern” so we get custody of Million Dollar Fudge, and no one could take better care of it.

07 October 2009

Hostess

Etiquette Wednesday at Lucindaville features the "hostess" section of Hostess. Here we are concentrating on Rosemary Hume's cookbook section. Since Constance Spry has alluded to the fact that formal cooks are no longer de rigueur for the average household, the new "cook-hostess" must now be adept at being the cook of the house.

Constance Spry was the author of numerous cookbooks, though most people recognize that Rosemary Hume was the actual "cook" and Spry was the "name". Hume "invented" one of the most famous culinary dishes of the 1950's -- Coronation Chicken. The dish was considered luxurious in the rather austere Fifties. It consisted of a poached young roasting fowl which has been cooked, cooled and deboned. It is swathed in a mildly spicy sauce of sautéed curried onions, red wine, tomato purée, lemon, home-made apricot purée, mayonnaise and double cream. Like many dishes, Coronation Chicken has been re-interpreted and butchered beyond recognition, until falling completely out of favor. With Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee in 2003, the dish made a resurgence.

In Hostess, Rosemary Hume developed a series of several full menus for the cook-hostess to use for any occasion from a simple luncheon to a Coming-of-Age Party. Hume says:
"Though in some menus the preparation may look formidable it must be remembered that while certain things are cooking others can be in course of preparation.

If you are to achieve satisfactory results, with unnecessary inconvenience to yourself, then it is important that you should concentrate the time you spend in the kitchen."

My favorite recipe is for a savory little snack, basically fried bacon stuffed with cheese. It's a heart stopper, quite literally.

Bacon Savory

Allow two thin rashers of streaky bacon per savory and one thin slice of Gruyère or Kraft cheese
seasoned flour
beaten egg
dried white breadcrumbs
oil or good drippings for frying
watercress to garnish

Spread out a rasher and cut in half. Lay side by side on the board and place a thin slice of cheese on the top. Season well with pepper. Cover with another rasher cut in the same way -- press down well. dust with seasoned flour, then cover with the egg and roll in the crumbs. Press them well on.
Fry until golden brown in smoking hot oil or drippings. Drain well, then dish and garnish with watercress.

Well, it's not Coronation Chicken and eating a lot of this will ensure you will never see your Golden Jubilee, but once in a while...

06 October 2009

Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes


Anna del Conte is one of the best Italian cookbook writes around. She was a contemporary of Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson and at 85 is still influencing some of the most famous cooks out there. Actually, she is much more of an influence in England where she is has attained "rock star" status. Pretty good for a cook who has never been on television. By her own admission:
"Well, I did three screen tests. I was not good. It was my fault. People like Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David and I were not brought up to television. We were of a different generation."
I first hear of Anna del Conte when I picked up her book, Gastronomy of Italy, but, frankly, it went on the shelf and I rarely looked at it. Then one day I say Nigella Lawson pull out a copy of one of her books and say that next to her mother, Anna del Conte was her biggest influence. So I dragged my copy off the shelf and began looking at it more closely. Since then, I have added several of her books to my library, and I met Nigella Lawson...


and Nigella Lawson met Anna del Conte...

actually, I think she knew her for many years. She says of del Conte,
"It sounds like the sloganising hyperbole of a junior publicist to say that anyone who cooks should have Anna's books, but it is the simple truth, along with the fact that she is, I'm telling you, the best writer on Italian food there is. Actually, all that understates the case."
Alas, many of her books are out of print. I have searched for years for a copy of Entertaining all'Italiana, but at over $200, I have yet to find one I could afford.

Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes is a collection of del Conte's "greatest hits" and the best you can do if you don't have thousands of dollars to find the out-of-print titles. I don't ever cook much eggplant, because I never saw it cooked as a child and I never really know what to do with it, or I didn't, until I read this.

Lemon-flavored Aubergine

450 g ( 1 lb) aubergines
sea salt
vegetables stock-- approximately 150 ml (1/4 pint)
1 tbsp lemon juice
rind of 1/2 an organic lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp oregano or chopped fresh marjoram
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Wash the aubergines and cut them into small cubes, without peeling them. The texture of the skins makes the cubes more pleasant to eat and it keeps them in a neat shape. Place the aubergines in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for no longer than 1 hour or it will become too soft. Squeeze out the juice and dry with a kitchen paper.

Choose a medium-sized saute pan or frying pan and heat 100 ml (3 oz 1/2 fl oz) of the stock, the lemon juice, lemon rind, garlic and oregano or marjoram. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the aubergine and cook over a moderate heat, turning it over every now and then. You might have to add more stock during the cooking, which will take about 10 minutes. When the aubergine is ready there should be practically no liquid left.

Remove and discard the garlic and lemon rind.

Transfer the aubergine and any cooking liquid to a bowl. Toss with the oil. Taste and add pepper and salt if necessary. You may like to add a little more lemon juice. The dish can be served warm or at room temperature. It can be made one day in advance, chilled if the weather is hot, but brought back to room temperature before serving.

Both Nigella and I agree -- everyone should have an Anna del Conte book.
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