31 March 2009

In & Out of the Kitchen

In & Out of the Kitchen -- In 15 Minutes or Less is one of Anne Willan's lesser known books. It came out slightly before the fashion of doing books on how to get in and out of the kitchen in 15 minutes or less became popular.

My friend Anne (not Anne Willan) and I often talk about how food from France looks better than food in America. It seems odd, but even quick and easy food tossed on a plate in France just looks better. The pictures in this book prove that. They are all so lovely, but I admit they are a tad "stagey!"

I pulled out this recipe, because I love it. It is one of those "recipes" that is not really a recipe, just instruction.

Melon Salad with Balsamic Vinegar

2 small ripe melons
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pints raspberries

1. Mix vinegar and sugar in bowl. Pick over raspberries and add to bowl, stirring to mix.

2. Trim ends of melons so they will sit flat, cut them in half and scoop out seeds.

3. Fill with raspberries and juice, cover loosely with wrap, chill at least 20 minutes.

Here is my recipe:

Lucinda's Cantaloupe with Balsamic Syrup.

1. Cut a cantaloupe

2. Sprinkle with balsamic syrup

Eat up!

Hey, I could be in France.

30 March 2009

Good Tempered Food

After running across a recipe similar to my mother’s salmon croquette recipe in The Deep South Natural Foods Cookbook, I thought there must actually be a “natural” salmon croquette recipe that used fresh salmon. What better place to look than in Good Tempered Food.

Tamasin Day-Lewis is a calm, collected cook. She has been on television in the U. K. but since she doesn’t throw pots of food at people, and call them names, her show hasn’t, as they say, made it across the pond.

Day-Lewis is the daughter of the poet Cecil Day-Lewis and the sister of Daniel Day-Lewis, so writing and performing probably come naturally to her.
Salmon Fishcakes

about 600g wild salmon, cooked
about 300g cooked potatoes, mashed without milk and butter
a handful of flat-leafed parsley, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
85g stale wholemeal bread, baked in small squares in a slow oven to dry out for 15 minutes, then whizzed into crumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Mash the salmon into the potatoes roughly, so it still has coarse textured flak and is not a homogeneous puree. Season and throw in the parsley, then shape the mixture into 2cm thick cakes and place them on a large flat plate. Keep covered in the fridge for an hour or two to firm up, or longer if convenient.

Whisk the eggs on one large flat plate, and spread the dried bread crumbs on another. Dip the fish cakes first in the egg on both sides, then turn them into the bread crumbs, making sure the sides are well crumbed too. Place them on a third large plate. Heat a shallow film of oil, about 50ml in a frying pan over medium heat, Put the fishcakes in and fry for 4 minutes or so on a side until golden brown. Drain on a kitchen paper and serve two per person.

This is the last salmon recipe for a while, I promise!

29 March 2009

The Cook's Book

Jill Norman was Elizabeth David’s publisher, the British version of Judith Jones; great cookbook editors, both. In 2005, she edited The Cook's Book, gathering together renown chefs from around the world. She asked them to explain various techniques they used to prepare restaurant dishes and explain them to home cooks. Some of the preparations are rather basic, like how to broil a scallop, or how to make a compound or flavored butter and some are more technical, like Ferran Adria recipes on making foams.

The book is a behemoth volume that leans more toward the techniques than the recipes, but even if you know how to poach fish or bone duck, you can find yourself mesmerized in this book. It straddles the line between "I know that!" and "How cool!"

This is one of those, "I know that" recipes. It seemed so comforting when I read it. For some reason, the "heart" shape seems to always be the favored design for "en papillote" but small paper lunch bags work just fine.

Baked Salmon En Papillote

Olive oil for brushing
8 baby turnips, cut in half
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 thinly sliced fennel bulb
8 baby carrots, cut in half
4 tbsp snipped chives
4 pieces salmon filet, about 3 oz

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Cut out four large heart-shaped pieces of parchment paper. The halves of each heart should be about twice the size of a piece of salmon. Brush one half of each heart with the olive oil.

2. Divide the vegetable and chives into four portions. Place one portion in the center of the oiled half of one paper heart. Season a piece of salmon with salt and pepper, and set it on top. Add a few sprigs of thyme.

3.Fold over the other half of the heart. Crimp the open edges to seal them by making a series of small folds all around. Fill and seal the remaining packages in the same way. Place the packages on a baking sheet.

4. Bake until the paper packages are puffed up and lightly browned. 5-7 minutes. To serve, cut open the packages and transfer them to individual serving plates. Alternatively, put the sealed packages on the plate and let each person open his or her package.

I know the recipes have been a bit on the “fishy” side this week, but fish is good for you. So eat more of it. I promise, steaks next week. Honest.

28 March 2009

The Ex-boyfriend Cookbook

I once wrote a note to Thisbe Nissen on this laptop. Now, every time I write the word “this” it flashes her name on the screen. I don’t know why. What I do know is that she and Erin Ergenbright wrote one of the most clever cookbooks in recent memory. The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook is appropriately subtitled, They Came, They Cooked, They Left…(But We Ended Up With Some Great Recipes).

Thisbe and Erin, were both at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. The story goes that one day as they were planning a barbecue, Erin said, “I’ll make Davis’s spicy BBQ rub!” They looked at each other and said, “We should write a cookbook of all the recipes we’ve gotten from boyfriends over the years.” And as they say, the rest is history.

Each recipe is printed on a nifty collage of ephemera, presumably gathered from the ex-boyfriends. The recipes are quite good, but the stories are even better. “Keith was a heavy-lidded, shaggy haired poet who sometimes wore his pants inside out.”

Here is his recipe.
Keith The Pathological Liar’s Cold Remedy

2 shots brandy
8 ounces hot water (nearly boiling)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey

Repeat as often as necessary.

Check out Thisbe's other books, including Out of the Girls' Room and Into the Night: Stories.

27 March 2009

The Deep South Natural Foods Cookbook

The 1970’s were awash with “natural foods.” Add some wheat germ, a bit of carob powder and any cookbook becomes a natural. When I came across this book, I had to have it. How does one make smothered quail and country ham “natural” food.

Mary Lou McCracken tried in her 1975 cookbook, The Deep South Natural Foods Cookbook. Most of the Deep South recipes were rendered “natural” by frying in cold-pressed oil, using unbleached flour, raw fertile eggs, raw sugar, and WHAM, a soy ham.

Sorry, wrong WHAM!

Sad news for WHAM lovers! Worthington Foods has discontinued WHAM. Which lasted longer than WHAM, much to my surprise.

In flipping through McCracken's book, I found one of my mother’s favorite recipes. It is about as “unnatural” as it can be.

Salmon Croquettes

2 cups canned salmon, bones removed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
2 raw fertile eggs
4-5 tablespoons unbleached white or whole wheat flour
cold-pressed cooking oil

Mix all ingredients together well. Drop into hot oil with a tablespoon and cook until golden brown. Turn and brown on the other side.
I guess that cold-pressed cooking oil, unbleached flour and fertile eggs made up for that canned salmon.
I haven't had salmon croquettes in years, but reading this made me want to drag out my mother's recipe and fry up a batch, canned salmon and all. Food is often not just "food" sometimes it is a Eucharist, a remembrance. Natural or not, this recipe made me remember my mother.

If you are in the mood for a Deep South Natural Food breakfast, mix up some biscuits, gravy, and WHAM and of course, wake me up before you go go.

26 March 2009


William Black is married to Sophie Grigson and he has long had an interest in fish.

Sophie Grigson is carrying on the family business. Her mother, Jane Grigson was a famous food writer in the 1970’s. Her first cookery book on charcuterie is legendary.

So what did Sophie and William do? They collaborated on a book: Fish.

, the book, is meant to be as simple as the title. Black wanted to demystify fish. There is a wealth of information about fish; the varieties, the textures, the substitutions, the preparations. Grigson has formulated a series of recipes that feature fish in easy and tasty ways.

Grigson admits she thought twice about the beer in this recipe.

Brill Cooked in Beer

45 g butter
1 small onion, sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 fresh parsley sprig
1 bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
280 ml dry Pilsner lager
3 juniper berries, bruised
375-400g skinned brill filets
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Melt 30 g of butter in a pan wide enough to take the filets in a close, single layer. Cube and chill the remaining butter. Cook the onions and celery gently in the butter until tender. Tie the herbs in a bundle with string and add to the pan with the beer, juniper berries, pepper and just a little salt. Bring up to the boil and then lay the brill filets in the pan. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and poach the fillets for 3-5 minutes, until barley cooked. Lift out carefully and transfer to a shallow serving dish. Keep warm.

Raise the heat under the pan and boil hard until the liquid is reduced by about three-quarters. Add the remaining butter a few cubes at a time, swirling and tilting the pan to dissolve it in the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then strain through a sieve over the fish. Sprinkle with a little parsley and serve immediately.

I can't find brill that often, so I substitute sole, which makes the recipe Sole Cooked In Beer. I think it needs a creamy side, like mashed potatoes or cauliflower gratin.

25 March 2009

Kitchen Life

Art Smith’s big claim to fame is being Oprah’s chef. He must be pretty good because Oprah’s never been a skinny girl. Smith is known for “American cuisine” a term that is so overused it is virtually devoid of meaning these days. In Kitchen Life, Smith tries to get the reader to be organized and ready to cook when they roll in from work.
It took him years to get Oprah to get organized and cook after her show. The recipes are so easy, even Oprah can cook them, but frankly she just got another cook.

Here is a warm, hardy soup. Cabbage is a truly underused vegetable. It’s cheap and tasty and good for you.
Cabbage and Bacon Soup

6 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium head cabbage (2 pounds),cored and sliced into 1/2 inch-wide strips
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place the bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot and return to the heat.

2. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the cabbage. Add the broth, 2 cups water, and the thyme, and bring to boil over high heat.

3.Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Simmer until the cabbage is very tender, about 45 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, stir in the reserved bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
I'm sure Oprah is making this soup as we speak!

24 March 2009

Recipes From The Old South

Tucked on the back of a shelf, I found Martha L. Meade’s Recipes From The Old South. It is a dated little book from the 1970’s with a straightforward look at some old Southern recipes, just as the title says. There are no pictures and simplistic recipes of familiar Southern dishes. Every so often, however, there is a recipe that just stands out. Carrot Balls comes to mind.

I have watched the Food Network show Chopped, one of those battling chef type shows. On Chopped the chefs get a basket with disparate ingredients inside and they must use them all to create a dish. Carrot Balls could be a dish from that show. You open your basket and find corn flakes, carrots, Tabasco and cheddar cheese – what do you make? Carrot Balls!

Carrot Balls

2 cups cooked carrots, sieved
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg white
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of Tabasco
Corn flakes

Combine carrots, bread crumbs, and cheese. Fold in stiffly beaten egg white. Add seasonings. Form into 10 balls and roll in finely crushed corn flakes. Place on a greased baking sheet or in a shallow biscuit pan. Bake in 375 –degree oven about 30 minutes or until brown.

I have spent a lot of time in the South both old and new and this is a new one for me. So I looked it up on the web and evidently, EVERYONE makes Carrot Balls. Who knew? Never once has anyone made them for me.

Breast Cancer Awareness

We dropped off the earth for a while. My friend Ann had a mastectomy. If you read this, please do a self-exam and schedule a mammogram.

You can give someone a free mammogram by clicking on the site: Click to Give.

23 March 2009

Panini Express

I got a panini press as a Christmas gift. A sleek and sturdy Breville from Williams- Sonoma, which is truly a thing of beauty.

Here I will confess that a panini is really just a toasted sandwich, so an expensive stainless steel clad sandwich masher is a bit of an extravagance, especially for me. I am not a big “toast” fan. I eat cold hamburger buns.
Crunchy things scratch the roof of my mouth. And yet, there she sits on my kitchen counter, my own panini press.

Naturally, I couldn’t own a panini press without an appropriate cookbook. I chose Daniel Leader and Lauren Chattman’s Panini Express. Leader owns and operates a bakery in the Catskills called Bread Alone. He gives you the required info on purchasing a panini machine, like buy one with a non-stick griddle so you don’t have to clean it with balled up paper towels and Q-tips. But, in the end, he is a pragmatist as I am; a panini is just a toasted sandwich.

So instead of merely focusing on a panini, Leader offers bread recipes, condiment recipes and some darn fine sandwich combos. The vibrant color pictures are a perfect example of gastro-porn. Like women in girly magazines, these sandwich are clearly sandwiches but not sandwiches that you have ever seen.

Here is Bread Alone’s...

Tuna Panini

One 6 1/2 ounce can oil-packed solid white tuna, drained well
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 scallions (white parts only), finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Four 1/2-inch-thick slices rye bread
8 thin slices (4 ounces) Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Heat a panin or sandwich press according to manufacture’s instructions.
Combine the tuna, mayonnaise, scallions, capers, parsley, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Mash well with a fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange the tuna on top of two of the bread slices. Top with the cheese. Top with the remaining bread slices. Put the sandwiches on the press, pull the top down, and cook until they are browned and crisp, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on how hot your machine is. Carefully remove from the press and serve immediately.

This book works, even if the only thing sitting on your counter is as old toaster.

22 March 2009

English Country Cooking At Its Best

Caroline Conran is a wonderful cookbook writer. She has a wealth of old cookbooks she uses as background for her recipes. She writes lovingly about the Britain she knows and lyrically about her adopted France.

English Country Cooking At Its Best is filled with old-fashioned English cookery that seems fresh and new under Conran’s pen. The book is scattered with great photographs of the English countryside that resemble a set for a Masterpiece Theatre production.

In introducing her recipe for Bramble Scones she writes:
“This is a lovely autumn recipe, particularly useful in the country when you have been out walking and picked a few handfuls of blackberries, but not enough to make jam or jelly.”
Well, I often venture into the garden and return with a scant handful of berries and end up tossing them into a freezer bag for later. I can’t wait for berries to return so I can make a batch of these.

Bramble Scones

3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup butter, diced
2 oz blackberries, very ripe
2 Tbsp cream
milk and sugar for glazing

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Sieve the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter with your fingers until it looks like coarse crumbs, then drop in the blackberries.

Mix the cream in with your fingers, adding a little more if necessary to make a light, soft dough. Work lightly – the less handled the better. Roll the dough out lightly 1/2 inch thick and cut into 2 1/2 inch circles. Brush with milk, sprinkle with coarse sugar, place on a buttered and floured baking sheet and bake for 10 –15 minutes.

Eat the scones while they are still warm, buttered. You can use well drained frozen blackberries instead of fresh --they are very good too. They look very rustic (a little uneven) – and wonderfully home-made.

So her husband is a billionaire, big deal, the girl can cook.

21 March 2009

Chutneys & Relishes

Chutneys & Relishes by Lorraine Bodger is a slim volume featuring chutneys, which are generally cooked and relishes, which are not. The recipes offer new and unique ideas for sandwich toppings. America tends to be the land of milk and mayonnaise, so it is great to find some unusual ideas for toppings and other condiments.

I love jicama. It is a crunchy addition to salads. My favorite taquería serves it as a starter cut like French fries and sprinkled with chili powder. While this is listed as a relish, I make a similar recipe and use it as a slaw for barbecue. If you have never tried jicama, give it a try.

Jicama Relish With Oranges
1 jicama, about 1 1/4 pound
2 medium navel oranges
2 scallions
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or ground chili powder (or more if you like heat)

1. cut the jicama in half and peel it thickly with a sharp knife, removing the brown skin and the tough layer below the skin. Slice the flesh about 1/8 inch thick; cut the slices in half and then in narrow strips (matchsticks). Put the jicama in a large bowl.

2. Use a sharp straight bladed knife or a serrated knife to peel the oranges, removing the skin and white pith. Section the oranges, doing the cutting over the bowl of jicama in order to catch the juices; add the orange sections to the bowl. Trim the scallions and slice the white and green parts as thin as possible; add to the bowl.

3. Add the remaining ingredients (including a good sprinkling of salt) to the jicama mixture and stir well. Cover securely and marinate in the refrigerator for two hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more salt if needed.

20 March 2009

Washington Hostess Cookbook

I lived in Washington D.C. for many years, so I am always looking for cookbooks that reference the area. I love “hostess” books, so there is no doubt that The Washington Hostess Cookbook by Cissie Coy is in my collection. Coy pulled together top Washington hostesses and each of them presented a party complete with photos and recipes. Though the book was compiled in 1990, it seems much more suited for 1950.

Each hostess is photographed in a stately, posed photo that would do Lord Snowden proud. If there is still any debate over the question of whether Washington D. C. is a Southern town or not, just take a look at this book. The answer is a resounding -- YES. The pearls and the hairspray are eclipsed only by the fine china and regal silver. Clearly the hostesses and their dishes are far more important than their recipes. There are several preparations for caviar, and an unusual amount of purees. One would think that everyone had those hand carved wooden teeth that the original Washington made famous.

Here is a lovely sauce for grilled veal chops.

Plum and Jack Daniels Sauce

1 quart veal stock
2 oz. Jack Daniels
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, combine the veal stock, bourbon and hoisin sauce and simmer 30 minutes.
Mix the cornstarch with 1/2 cup cold water and add to the sauce, stirring continuously until it thickens. Season to taste.

In my personal opinion, I would switch the amounts for the veal stock and the Jack Daniels, but that would make it more of an Alabama party than a Washington one. Actually, in Alabama we would leave out the veal chops altogether and just put the Jack Daniels on ice. Now there's a hostess!

19 March 2009

Treasured Alabama Recipes

On the Lucindaville site for Famous Food Friday we featured Southern Cooking To Remember by Alabama author, Kathryn Tucker Windham. Her first book was a cookbook, Treasured Alabama Recipes. The book is divided into several sections featuring various geographic regions of Alabama. I grew up in the Bible Belt of the Bible Belt, the very center of Alabama, between Birmingham and Montgomery.

I had little hope for this cookbook. It was kinda tattered and had an old spiral binding. I got it simply because I had read Katheryn Tucker Windham as a child. Imagine my surprise when I found a truly rich and delightful cookbook. I chose this okra recipe because nothing is more Southern than okra. I never really liked okra as a child because I often saw okra cooked to grey, slimy mess. This recipe takes unappealing slime and transforms it into a nifty appetizer or a fun side dish.

Okra Fritters
1 cup cooked okra (boiled)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix first five ingredients with enough flour to make a batter. Drop by spoonfuls on a hot griddle on which fat has been melted. Brown on both sides and serve at once.

Now get out there and plant some okra!

18 March 2009

Patés, Terrines and Potted Meats

Speaking of lark's paté, I do love terrines. Aside from the slightly flamboyant name, "terrines", they are basically tarted up meatloaves. Simone Seeker’s, Pates, Terrines and Potted Meats was published in 1978 in England. It follows in the wonderful English tradition of offering ingredients with no specific amount and simply throwing all the ingredients together and expecting you to figure it all out.

This recipe for potted shrimp is old fashioned and a bit out of favor. It is a simple recipe and can therefore be mucked up with wreckless abandon, which is perhaps why it has fallen out of favor. Often people confuse “simple” with “sloppy” and a lovely little appetizer becomes the butt of jokes. Face it. The recipe is shrimp drowned in butter. Shrimp and butter! Make a lovely potted shrimp for you next party, and see what a success it can be.

Potted Shrimp

1lb peeled shrimp
Powdered mace
Freshly ground pepper
4 oz butter
Cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt

Melt the butter slowly, then put in the shrimp and spices. Let them get thoroughly hot, without letting them boil, as this toughens them. Stir them as they heat. Put them into small pots and chill. Seal with a good 1/2 inch clarified butter.

Now, here is some explanation. In England where potted shrimp was all the rage, they use tiny brown shrimp from the English seaside. While commercially fished here in the States, they can be a bit hard to come by as everyone loves those big, plump, pink shrimp. Chose the smallest shrimp you can find 70-80 count per pound. If you have larger shrimp, slice them in 1/2 inch slices. Heat the butter in your pan till it is nicely melted and add 1/4 teaspoon grated mace or the actual nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, two or three good grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt. Add the shrimp to the hot butter just until the shrimp pink up. Pour into small ramekins, leaving about 1/2 inch of space and place in the fridge for about 30 to 40 minutes. After the shrimp has set up, fill to the top with clarified butter. In the end, you have a container that looks very much like a dish of butter, but what a surprise when you dig in and find those succulent shrimp to spread on crusty bread. Here's a recipe for clarified butter.

Clarified Butter

Heat butter in a taller than deep pan till it divides into three parts:

1. A scummy foam
2. The clarified butter
3. The watery residue in the bottom of the pan

Skim the foam, then spoon off the layer of clarified butter, leaving behind the residue in the bottom of the pan.

17 March 2009

La Varenne’s Cookery

I got a second Birthday book from my friend Sandra. It was the very expensive new translation of La Varenne. I had it on my wish list, but I never imagined it would show up in the Shirley Post Office.

Terence Scully’s relatively new (2006) annotated translation of La Varenne’s Cookery is masterful. The book contains translations of The French Cook, The French Pastry Chef and The French Confectioner. Scully has done an exhaustive job of translating the work, offering obvious puns on Francois Pierre’s name, to obscure mistranslations in earlier editions when the verb for “breaking" a calf’s foot, les cassez, is translated as les fricassez, to fry.

In the post The Art of Cooking Omelettes, Madame Romaine de Lyon referred to the term baveuse for omlettes, meaning runny, but Scully tells us the term baveuse is properly translated as “slobbery” which I believe is the best description of runny omelettes.

Francois Pierre de la Varenne, published Le Cuisinier francois in 1651. In the next 75 years, the book went through 30 editions. Perhaps it was due to the vast knowledge he imparted about cooking and perhaps it was because of recipes like this:

Lark In Ragout

When larks are dressed, remove their gizzard: crush their stomach a little; flour them and sauté them in lard. When they are a russet colour, simmer them and season them with capers and mushrooms; you can add in lemon peel, or the stock of a leg of mutton or orange juice or a bouquet of herbs; remove their fat. Serve them with whatever you have served.

When I read this recipe I couldn’t help but wonder how small a lark’s gizzard would be. Since that is the only organ we are told to remove, I guess the heart and liver and incorporated into the dish with the “stomach crushing” instruction. Perhaps the tiny gizzard would be too chewy in the dish.

Pithivier, France is noted for its eponymous gateaux but it is also known for its pâté d'alouette, lark paté. Since shooting larks was banned in France in 1982, it would seem that that the only "lark" is in the paté's name.

Thanks again, Sandra. Next time I see you, I’ll whip up some lark ragout.

16 March 2009

Kafka's Soup

I received another package from England from my friend, Sandra Walker. Aside from being my friend, she is best know as a master watercolourist and member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour along with Prince Charles!

But enough about Sandra, lets talk cookbooks. Knowing my fondness for literature (my package included a "Read Virginia Woolf" button which I am wearing now), Sandra sent me a copy of
Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 17 Recipes by Mark Crick. Crick's ingenious little book presents 17 recipes that might have been referenced in works of literature and then he creates their reference in the style of the writer. There are recipes for Clafoutis Grandmere a la Virginia Woolf, speaking of, and Quick Miso Soup a la Franz Kafka or Kafka's soup!

Here is one from Britain's most renown playwright...Harold Pinter...and you thought it was Shakespeare!!

Cheese On Toast a la Harold Pinter

1 loaf of ciabatta
1 aubergine
Extra virgin olive oil
200 g. Mozzarella
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped.


A kitchen, cluttered. A florescent tube is flickering, trying to light. Beneath a window is a sink, piled with dirty dishes. The bin is overflowing with rubbish; nearby, empty bottles are standing. There is a small kitchen table; newspapers and unopened letters obscure the surface. At the table are two chairs. There is the sound of a key in a door, muffled voices. The door bangs shut; instantly HURLEY, a young man dressed in a leather jacket, and CLACK, an older man, tramp-like in appearance, enter stage left.

HURLEY. Come in, make yourself at home.
(CLACK enters and looks around)
Bloody light. I've been meaning to get a new tube.
(HURLEY reaches up and taps the light with his finger until it stops flickering.) I'll make
you something to eat.
CLACK. I haven't eaten all day.

Crick is quite the talent as is Sandra!

15 March 2009

Vegetables by 40 Great French Chefs

My second book from Ann, takes us from down home to up town. Vegetables by 40 Great French Chefs by Patrick and Lyndsay Mikanowski is a work of art. The Mikanowski's followed Joël Thiébault, one of the last old time truck farmers left in France. In any year, Thiébault will grow as many as 1600 varieties of vegetables and herbs. It is no wonder chefs love him.

Forty chefs gathered their recipes and Thiébault's vegetables to make this stunning book. The recipes run the gamut from the simple to the sublime. As usual, I'm going to share my favorite with you. I haven't made these yet, but by next week, they will be a familiar sight in my kitchen. Here is Eric Frechon's recipe for purple top turnips!


1 cup superfine sugar
5 tablespoons water
zest 1 lemon
2 large purple top turnips
1 scant cup of butter
1 teaspoon honey
4 1/2 cups orange juice
1 3/4 ounces ginger
1 sprig rosemary

1. Make a syrup by combining the sugar and water; and bring to a boil. Add the lemon zest and cook, covered, on low heat for about 40 minutes. Drain, dry the lemon zests, then chop finely. Reserve.

2. Peel and slice the turnips, then use a round cookie cutter about 2 in. in diameter to cut out rounds. Fry the rounds in butter. Add the honey, deglaze with orange juice, can cook till softened.

3. Grate the ginger and chop the rosemary leaves. Sprinkle the turnips with the lemon zest, grated ginger; and chopped rosemary.

Yeah, baby. I'm having a Happy Happy Birthday.

14 March 2009

Putting Up

My friend Ann (not to be confused with my friend AnnE, who often comments on the blog and tries to correct my dyslexic spelling) gave me two very different cookbooks. I have been craving Putting Up: A Seasonal Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition by Stephen Dowdney. It is a cookbook on preserving from a Southern perspective written by a guy who ran his own boutique canning company and was a classmate of Pat Conroy at The Citadel. Good enough for me.

Not good enough for the people who comment on Amazon. This book has been savaged on Amazon --IGNORE THEM!!! Mr. Dowdney offers and alternative to traditional hot water baths for sweetly acidic jams, etc. He tells his reader how to use the inversion method. One would think he had written a book advocating canning kittens and puppies! I recently put up some blackberry preserves and put them up at Lucindaville.

In that post I sort of addressed this controversy. I, like Mr. Dowdney, Christine Ferber, Clotilde Dusoulier, June Taylor and many other illustrious cooks, use inversion to seal my sweet jams. The British and French have done it this way for years. I understand your concern. That is why I am so surprised about the negative comments for Putting Up. This is one of the first books on preserving (and I have many, from at least 4 continents) that explains how the home cook can ph test canning to make sure it is safe. I have always wanted to preserve garlic, but I have read that it is a harbinger of bacteria and I have shied away from canning garlic. After reading this book, I am looking forward to the garlic crop coming in, as it is my first canning recipe from this book!!

For you, I have chosen a favorite of mine, ginger pear preserves. To avoid any controversy, I am going to give you the recipe. You can use it as you see fit.

Ginger Pear Preserves

3 pounds pears, firm but ripe, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 pounds sugar
2 lemons, sliced thin, seeded and slices quartered
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped fine

Pace pears and sugar in a pot; simmer, stirring often. While pears are softening, add lemon slices, lemon juice and ginger. Increase heat and cook until syrup thickens.

Break out those biscuits!

13 March 2009

Come Into The Garden, Cook

It was my birthday on Thursday, so guess what I got? Seriously, guess. I got some lovely music from Goddaughter!! And, surprise, I got cookbooks. I'm going to share them with you.

On my actual birthday, I received a little package from England with an old copy of a cookbook by Constance Spry. You may not know Constance Spry's name, but if you have ever called up a florist and ordered flowers, you owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Spry. She practically invented florists! In her first book, Flower Decoration from 1934 she observed:

"Intelligent women of today take the most intense interest in the decoration and furnishing of their houses. But in this general trend towards a greater care and love of beauty and suitability, I think that flowers have lagged behind."
Spry set out to make flowers in the home an everyday occurrence. By the mid 1940's she had joined with cookbook writer Rosemary Hume to form a Domestic Science School.

Come Into The Garden, Cook, written in 1942 addressed an England that was still suffering from rations and bombings. I was pleased to find in this book, that Mrs. Spry was a reader (and recommender) of Mrs. Dull's Southern Cooking, a favorite of mine.

I love Brussels sprouts, though my BFF, Beverly hates them. She did eat one when she came to visit, her first and only Brussels sprout which begs the question, how did she know she didn't like them?

This recipe uses a measurement that has fallen out of favor: the gill. Sounds like a girl's name, Jill. It is a scant 1/2 cup or about 4 ounces. It comes from the Latin, gillo, meaning a small wine vessel. A really small wine vessel!!

Pain de Choux de Bruxelles

2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 oz. stale bread crumbs soaked in 1.2 gill hot milk
2 yolks of egg
3 oz. margarine
1/2 pint gravy, bechamel, or other sauce
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg

Method: cook the sprouts, press gently to extract water, pass through a sieve, and put the puree in a saucepan. Add the margarine, a good pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Put on low heat to melt the margarine and mix it with the Brussels sprouts without letting it get too hot, working all the time with a wooden spoon. Add the soaked bread crumbs, which have been put through a sieve, and the egg yolks. Put into a greased souffle dish, set this in a pan of water, and cook for one hour in the oven. Turn out and pour sauce over the whole.

Mrs. Spry ended her book with a note to flowers and oils and sauces that were by her own admission, often impossible to locate. She realized that all this attention to recipes and flowers might seem frivolous to some, like running a cookbook blog during trying economic times. Here is what she said:
"Some of the suggestions in this chapter may have a touch of fiddling while Rome burns. To some working, maybe, as I did in the last war, close to a pneumatic hammer, quite a lot of the book will seem remote from present-day life. One the other hand, I have learned from experience that many women occupied directly in getting on with the war like to consider the lighter aspects of life."

Constance Spry did not believe in living a life "reduce to dullness" and neither do I.

12 March 2009

Granny's Hillbilly Cookbook

Today is my Birthday, so I am goofing off. This was a "Famous Food Friday" on the Lucindaville Blog. Enjoy!

Julia, Nigella, Martha, Emeril, hell no! If you ask me, the greatest television cook to ever set a pot on the stove is none other than Granny Clampett.

Granny was an organic, locavore, nose-to-tail, slow food advocate before anyone ever intellectualized such culinary ideas. Long before Paul Prudhomme, Granny was cooking crawdads. Long before Martha was stuffing steamed peas with chevre, Granny was making goat cheese. Long before Alice Waters, Granny was serving organic vegetables from her kitchen garden.

The great actress, Irene Ryan, will forever be seared into the minds of the viewing public as, Granny. Capitalizing on her fame as the Clampett Family's resident cook, Ryan published a cookbook aptly named: Granny's Hillbilly Cookbook.

One of Granny’s specialities was roast possum. I know that smug, self-righteous, I’m to cool to ever even think of such a thing reaction! Trust me, that is same reaction you had the first time someone suggested you eat crawfish, or pig’s ears or corn foam! The day Thomas Keller slaps a possum on the menu, you’ll be the first one at the table and I’ll be there to remind you that Granny cooked it first.

Here is her recipe:

Roast Possum

Possum is easy to catch. Hit ‘em with a rock or a stick when they’s up a tree and you can have ‘em in your sack afore they knows it. The yellow-bellied goomers is too scared to fight back, and they play dead jest long enough to grab ‘em.

Boil up half a peck ‘o water or more, dependin’ on the size o’ your possum. Dunk the critter in boilin’ water an’ right away pull off his hair n’ scrape ‘em clean. Don’t forgit to cut off his feet, his head n’ his tail! Clean out his innards. Put the possum in a hefty jug o’ cold salty water and let ‘em soak overnight. Change his water the next day and start boilin’ him ‘til his skin lets a fork pop through it easy like. They ain’t no time for cooking possum ‘cause some is tougher than others. When the feller is jest right, dry him off and put ‘em in a bakin’ pan with a bit o’ pot likker (juice left over after cooking greens or other vegetables) ‘n some seasoned salt over his belly. When he is brown ‘n toasty, he is ready for slicin’ and servin’. Back home we fattens possum with ‘simmons (persimmons), and most often we eats him with yams.

Granny’s right, possums are easy to catch, but bear in mind they are scavengers. Once you catch a possum, it is best to grain feed him or fatten him with ‘simmons for about 4 weeks. They paunch the same as most small game, but they do have scent glands, so be careful.

And now for that all important question...What wine do you serve with possum?

I suggest a crisp Pouilly-Fuissé. After all, it is the other white meat.

11 March 2009

Irish Countryhouse Cooking

I've noticed I have several cookbooks "written" by women who live in quite grand houses. It seems that when you have run out of foxes to hunt and balls to attend those big old houses can be quite boring so, in your copious free time, you gather a cookbook. Now, in the South (other locales, too) bored women gather together recipes for their church or The Junior League to raise funds. They are not considered terribly grand, but throw in some snazzy letterhead and who knows...

Here is the recipe for putting together a cookbook from your estate -- or cottage, which is what you call your estate if you own one!

Recipe For Assembling An Estate Cookbook

1 estate, castle or cottage (minimum of 10 bedrooms)
20- 30 titled friends
Engraved letterhead

Drop a note on your engraved letterhead to your friends.

Tell them you are putting together a list of recipes for Cook to make and ask if they might send along something their cook prepares.

When all the recipes arrive on appropriate letterhead, assemble a book.

It's so easy I don't know why you haven't done it. Me, I'm off to a fox hunt...

10 March 2009

The Art of Cooking Omelettes

It is said that the greatest test of a chef is to make an omelette. There are numerous stories of young chefs coming into a restaurant kitchen for a job and being asked by the chef to prepare an omelette as an audition.
If you are thinking of auditioning, pick up a copy of The Art of Cooking Omelettes by Madame Romaine de Lyon.

Madame Romaine de Lyon prepared tons of omelettes at her tiny salon de thé in New York City. After serving tea and pastries and some soup and bread, Madame de Lyon made and omelette as a request, soon everyone was raving. Noted cookbook writer, Clementine Paddleford made a visit, and raved.

As supplies grew scarce during World War II, Madame de Lyon concentrated on making omelettes. At one point, she had nearly 500 omelettes on her menu, and in 1963, she published her cookbook with all of them included. The book features the basics of omelette cooking and long chapters of fillings to add to them including a chapter on cheese, tomatoes, vegetables, calf’s brains, calf’s-liver, sweetbreads and sweets!

Here are some of her pointers:

Whenever an omelette is cooked, in France or America or elsewhere, there is no more important than the pan in which it is cooked. I must tell you positively that the wrong pan can ruin the omelette. It should be of medium weight, first of all. Never use a thick iron skillet because it will be too heavy to handle and will not work properly. It should also be small, no more than six or eight inches t at the top, with side slanting out, not in, so that the omelet, when it is finished, will slide out more easily.

There is one important rule; never, never wash your omelette pan. After it has been uses, wipe lightly.

If you take care of your omelette pan, it will improve with age. It begins to look pretty black, but it will be an honorable black. In France, when such a pan has been in long use, we call it cullotte, meaning that it has become colored by serving us well

In France we believe it is necessary that the omelette should be baveuse- that is, creamy in the center.

Another form of criminality is to use a mechanical beater to make an omelette. A fork is the thing.

It does not take more than a minute to make an individual plain omelette, and no more than two or three minutes if ingredients to make the filling are added.

Check out the calf's -brains omelettes. Who knew there was so much one could do with a cafl brain and a dozen eggs!

09 March 2009

Cooking for Company

Today most cookbooks are filled with stunning photographs of food gracing page after page. There was a time that cookbooks had few photos, as they were thought to be frivolous. In old cookbooks that have color pictures, they have not always stood the test of time. The food, no matter how wonderful it may taste, looks dated.

Cooking For Company is a collection of recipes from the Farm Journal. I am sure that in 1968 it was a premiere cook, featuring over 900 recipes and a dozen full color pictures. I always find it ironic that THE most popular food to photograph in these books seems to be frozen or congealed; two preparations that do not hold up under lights and yet, there they are. The more garish and multicolored, the more popular. This is my favorite. This recipe makes 9 quarts! That’s a lot of company. Just whip up 9 quarts of this frozen fruit salad-dessert combo and stick it in your freezer. When company stops by, you will have a pre-made salad/dessert to serve your company. And if you make it just right, it will look like this…

Here is the recipe.

Frozen Fruit Salad-Dessert

4 (1lb. 4oz.) cans crushed pineapple
2 (1lb.) cans sliced peaches
2 c. fresh white seedless grapes, halved, or 2 (1lb.) cans
1 1/2 c. maraschino cherries, cut in eighths
1/2 lb. marshmallows, quartered (30)
2 tsp. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. cold water
1 c. orange juice
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
2 qts. Heavy cream whipped, or 10 pkgs. Dessert topping mix, whipped, or 1 qt. Heavy cream and 5 pkgs. Dessert topping mix, whipped
3 c. mayonnaise

• Drain fruit; save 1 1/2 c. pineapple syrup. Cut peaches in 1/2 in. cubes. Combine fruit, marshmallows and ginger.
• Soften gelatin in cold water
• Heat pineapple syrup to boiling. Add gelatin; stir to dissolve. Add orange and lemon juices, sugar, and salt; stir to dissolve. Chill.
• When mixture starts to thicken, add fruit mixture and nuts. Fold in whipped cream and mayonnaise.
• Spoon into 10qt. Cylinder cartons (paper, plastic or metal). Cover and freeze. Makes 9 quarts.
• To serve, remove from freezer and thaw enough to slip out of carton. Cut in 1 in. slices. Serve salad on lettuce; garnish with cherries. For dessert, top with whipped cream. Each quart makes 6-8 servings.

Be sure and invite me over for salad OR for dessert!

08 March 2009

Cook Hostess’ Book

"Only a slut gets in a mess in the kitchen."

Franny Cradock

"I'm all about Fanny Cradock"

Amy Winehouse

What a shame that we will never witness a cooking program with both Franny and Amy. Suffice to say, it put Nigella and Gordon Ramsey to shame.

Fanny Cradock was one of the first "celebrity" chefs in Britain. Her program debuted nearly a full decade before Julia Child. Fanny was a firm francophile and and loved to give even the most British dishes extravagant French names. Her partner in TV was her husband, Johnnie, who appeared to be the slightly drunk on most occasions. As the years wore on, Fanny's love for pastry boats and garish food coloring lost it's charm as did Fanny. And while today's television chef's find rudeness as important as a sharp knife, it failed Fanny. As she grew older, she wore more and more make-up, flitting around the kitchen in chiffon and pearls, making her persona the stuff of parody.

Fanny & Johnnie Cradock's Cook Hostess' Book is one of my favorites. It is filled with "Fanny" pronouncements on how and why to entertain. She relay the day she told a group of British experts that ALL of her source books were, of course, in French. Her discussion of how much food to prepare for say, a dinner dance, gives us this:
"...hostess who give dinner parties before dances and, alas and alack, some of theses will be very liberal while others may veer to the parsimonious."
For Fanny, there is nothing worse than having the guests at a dinner dance be famished because you were parsimonious in the portion department!

This is truly delightful and unusual dish. I love the phrase "1 dozen tiny casserolettes" which I believe we would call ramekins. The ice cream does tend to go a bit "begiey" but I refrain from food coloring. Dust the top with a fine grind of red pepper and it will brighten it up. Fanny doesn't tell you how long it might take to set up. Give it at least 4 hours and serve it with bit of green salad for a lovely appetizer.

Cheese Ice Cream

If you really want to surprise your guests and save yourself the trouble of working on this course at the time of your entertainment, serve our Cheese ice Cream. Johnnie moaned on about the lack of this kind of ice cream for many years and, finally, Fanny settled down to what she calls a trial and error session. There emerged the recipe we have been using ever since.
Make a good sauce by dissolving 1 oz. butter in a smallish pan and working in 1 oz. of fine sifted flour. When the roux is formed and has cooked for at least 2 minutes work in 1/4 pt. of dry white wine gradually, beating well, as always, between each addition. Repeat the process with 1/2 pt. milk or 1/2 pt. single cream. Then add 3/4 oz. of very finely grated Gruyere cheese and 1 1/4 ozs. finely grated Parmesan. Remove pan from heat, beat in 1 separated egg yolk and then 2 1/2 fl. ozs. of double cream. Taste, correct seasoning with salt, pepper and a pinch or two of nutmeg. Remember when doing your final seasoning that freezing diminishes the potency of both sweet and savoury flavours so err a little on the generous side.
Divide mixture between 1 dozen tiny casserolettes or miniature moulds and freeze under a tight covering of foil until a very few moments before service. Alternatively, show off with a large cheese ice cream. Oil an ornamental mould, pour in the mixture and freeze until 10 minutes before service. Dip into very hot water, unmold and surround the base with a little wall of coiled pretzels. Incidentally, we think the appearance of the finished ice cream is dull – a flattish creamy beige – and we have taken to adding a few drops of harmless green vegetable colouring to make it more pleasing to the eye.

07 March 2009

Dinners That Wait

Dinners That Wait by Betty Wason is a great little menu cookbook from the early 1950’s that positively reeks of a Douglas Sirk film!

Mrs. Wason tells us in her introduction,
“It is a well known fact that both the cook-hostess and her guest will enjoy a dinner more if she can spend a leisurely moment with them before eating. But, unfortunately, many a cook is up to her elbows at this time in dinner preparations while her guests try to entertain themselves.”
I wonder where the cook-hostesses “hubby” was while she was up to her elbows cooking and the guests were milling about in the living room watching that deer out the window.

I guess it is just too much of an effort to ask Mr. Wason to chat up the guests! It's rather easy, just sit down next to a guest while your wife slaves in the kitchen.

For tonight's dinner party, we have chosen the exotic dish called Beef Curry. We know it is "exotic" thanks to the burka-wearing babe standing next to that big jar of curry. For this dish we are "looking to the timeless East" which I think of as Connecticut. In the 50's, evidently, the "timeless East" was located somewhere, or perhaps, everywhere east of Britain.

Beef Curry

3 pounds beef, boneless chuck
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons vegetable fat
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1 medium apple (optional)
3 1/2 cups water
1 green pepper, minced (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt

Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes. Melt the fat in a large skillet. Add the beef, and brown quickly on all sides. Then lower the heat, add onions, garlic, green pepper, and salt. Now add the curry powder stirring it to blend thoroughly with the meat and chopped vegetables. The quality of the curry powder is all-important. Splurge on the very best you can find. The cheaper curry powders are sharper, with a much larger proportion of turmeric, and can ruin the dish entirely. Finally add the raisins, sliced apples, and water, and cover. Simmer at least 1 hour, until the meat is tender when pricked with a fork. Put aside until ready to reheat and serve.
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