31 May 2009

Patricia Well’s Trattoria

For years, Patricia Wells has written about French cuisine, so when she wrote Trattoria, a book about Italian cooking, there was a great deal of excitement and she did not disappoint.

An Italian trattoria is a resturant tucked away in every Italian neighborhood; a place you can duck into and find a meal that you just might find at home. Wells captures this coziness in her book. There is a tendency to refer to books about home cooked Italian food as “rustic.” That word gets thrown around when a recipe has a short list of ingredients one can pronounce. Its overuse has led to the very mention of “rustic” as some sort of pejorative. Patricia Wells' Trattoria is filled with simple recipes for pasta, rice, roasted meats and desserts.

As a rule, I do not want nuts in my food! I’m not fond of most nuts but I do like walnuts. I have friends in Oregon who supply me with lovely walnuts each summer and his is a great recipe to use the nuts.

Fusilli with Walnut and Garlic Sauce

2 plump fresh garlic cloves, degermed and minced
Sea salt
1 cup (4 ounces; 125 g) walnut halves, toasted and cooled
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1 pound (500 g) dried Italian pasta, such as fusilli
1/2 cup (2 ounces; 60 g) fresh grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly grated black pepper to taste

1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, a pinch of salt and the nuts and process just to coarsely chop the nuts. Add the cream and process to a fairly smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

2. In a large pot, bring 6 quarts (6l) of water to a rolling boil. As the water is boiling place the serving bowl over the pot to warm the bowl. When the water is boiling, add three tablespoons salt and the fusilli, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook pasta until tender but firm to the bite. Drain thoroughly.

3. 3. Transfer the drained pasta to the warmed bowl, and toss to blend thoroughly. Add the cheese and toss to blend. Season to salt and pepper. Transfer to a warmed shallow soup bowls and serve immediately, passing the pepper mill.

If you are looking for a quick dinner, this is it. Instead of walnut “halves,” I find this is a great way to use those crumbly shards that remain when you have pulled out all the plump walnut halves from the bag.

30 May 2009

The Table Beckons

Parisian chef Alain Senderens wrote a column for L’Express aimed at the home cook. His love of gastronomy and food made him a chef. Here at CookbookOfTheDay we firmly believe that cooking is an art and Senderens speaks eloquently to the multifaceted art of cooking:

"Unlike certain arts that please only one of the five senses, cuisine can delight each of them: vision through the ambiance, the décor of the table, and the presentation of the dishes; smell through the scents and bouquets; taste through flavors and their harmonies; the sensation of touch in the mouth, through the texture of the food that gives it its consistency; and of hearing from the crunch of the food."

Leftovers and French food are not two culinary phrases that one hears in the same breath. But that was not always the case. In fact during the Ancien Régime the King’s leftovers were a brisk commodity. Food from the King’s table was often spirited away by guards and sold to restaurants, kind of an early Craig’s List for food. In these economic times, this may be a new category on eBay, where one is likely to see auctions for a roll from an odd State Dinner or one bag of salad, slightly used, from the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Don’t laugh, a 10 year-old toasted cheese sandwich purported to bear the image of the Blessed Virgin sold on eBay for $28,000 so even now there may be gold in them thar' leftovers.

Even the best cook in France is bound to look in the refrigerator and find leftovers, perhaps not the $28,000 variety but in my refrigerator I am always finding leftover chicken and usually leftover rice, so when I ran across this recipe it seemed like a natural.

Emincé de volaille à la bonne femme

Slice thin leftover meat from a roast chicken (or turkey). Add ham, which you have cut into thin strips. There should be 4 parts chicken to 1 part ham. Combine this with an equal amount of cooked rice and cover with Béchamel sauce. Spoon into a baking dish, sprinkle with grated cheese and a little butter and bake in a hot oven until it is heated through. Set briefly under a broiler to brown the top.

If food is a favorite subject, you should definitely read The Table Beckons. Each column is filled with wit, history, culture, and of course food. And be sure and check any leftovers before you throw them away, there might a religious artifact waiting for you.

29 May 2009

Eating Together

Good cooking is chiefly common sense and good taste.
Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman was the provocative playwright who authored The Children's Hour and The Little Foxes. She authored a memoir, Pentimento, which included the story of her close friend, Julia. The book became an Oscar- winning film of the same name. The story of "Julia" it was later revealed was not that of Hellman's "friend" but the story of New York psychiatrist, Muriel Gardiner, who claimed she was "Julia" and that she had never met Hellman, though she did share lawyer with Hellman. The inconsistency in her work sparked one of America's great literary feuds when Mary McCarthy said on national television that "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."

One work that did belong to Hellman was a cooking memoir, Eating Together, she wrote with Peter Feibleman. They spent spent many summers together on Martha’s Vineyard. Both were writers, both were Southerners born in New Orleans, and both were a bit difficult – Lillian Hellman much so.

The tradition in the kitchen was to work separately as neither liked to have the other interfere in their cooking. Each was right, always! There was no interference, or sparks flew. Lillian Hellman says, “he puts up with turkey, while I think it is worthless.” As for her recipes, Hellman points out,

“You will note that we haven’t always given exact timings because there is no such thing in cooking. Exact timing cannot be done. It’s a fake. It depends on your stove, the opt you’re cooking in, the temperature outside and too many other factors for any cookbook to tell you how long to do anything.”

Peter Feibleman notes that,

“the social mores of the artist-intellectual set on the Vineyard are the flip side of Easthampton which is to say that a man who wears a tie is gauche elegance is outré, discomfort a virtue, modesty a must, casual living reigns and who has air-conditioning in a bedroom admits to it.”

In spite of their opinionated beliefs, a strong bond formed which led to many parties. They say that the people who are most impressed with celebrity are other celebrities and making a guest list for a party on Martha’s Vineyard is an inescapable exercise in name dropping. So when Mike Nichols visited Hellman, there was need for a dinner party. The guest list was a Who’s Who dripping with Kennedy, Cronkite, Mailer, Graham and Styron to name a few. Hellman vacillated till the bitter end on what to serve. In keeping with the bohemian existence of the Vineyard, she chose a pasta, salad and dessert. By the day of the dinner, Hellman announced, “Fuck all of them.” But the dinner progressed. Feibleman was heading out of the kitchen with the following salad. Hellman stopped him at the kitchen door and removed a lone radish he had stuck on the top, tucking it deep into the salad saying, “ You don’t want people to think you’re decorating food around here. Some of them would never speak to you again.”

Chopped Vegetable Salad

1 zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces and lightly blanched
2 cups green beans, cleaned, cut into bite-sized pieces and blanched
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch radishes, sliced
2 packages frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups Romescu sauce
Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. Toss with 2 cups Romescu sauce. Refrigerate and serve well chilled.

Romescu Sauce

1/4 cups almonds, toasted
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil

Pulverize almonds, garlic, cayenne pepper, slat, tomato and vinegar in a blender. Slowly drizzle in oil, making sure that each addition is completely absorbed. Adjust seasonings to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Let's hope Hellman would not find my salad too decorative. In recent years, Hellman paid a hallucinatory visit to Lisa Simpson in an attempt to get her to start smoking.

For those of you wondering, Lisa demurred.

For those of you who know more about The Simpson's than Lillian Hellman, there is no truth to the rumor that she invented Hellman's Mayonnaise.

Catch a slightly different, though clearly plagiarized version of this post for Famous Food Friday on the Lucindaville blog.

28 May 2009

The Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook

John Loring is not the typical cookbook author. The Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook while lovely, is an elaborate marketing ploy as Loring's day job is design director at Tiffany’s. But frankly, my dear, we don't give a damn, because we love looking at tables set with food AND Tiffany china. So, after your Beloved has purchased that platinum set three-carat ring, what else can Tiffany’s sell you? Well place setting for the afore mentioned lovely table, of course. Silverware. Tea pots. Wine glasses. The lovely table covers the rich and famous use to cover their nifty tables.

But how do you sell enough plates after the Mayflower 500 ( the descendants of the Mayflower pilgrims, not to be confused with a NASCAR race) have their tables set? What happens if you were never invited to dinner with Yves Saint Laurent at his Paris home? Lost your invitation to Charlotte Ford’s Southampton luncheon? John Loring has the answer.

He photographs those lovely entertaining opportunities that you missed, sets the tables with cool Tiffany products and collects the recipes. Now you too, can be a Tiffany Gourmet.

My favorite from Loring’s book is dinner in San Miguel de Allende with photographer Deborah Turbeville. The table is set with rustic Mexican ceramics and while the serving plates may be local artisan ceramics, the serving bowls local squash, the plates are all Tiffany.

Squash, Chicken and Sausage Soup

1 winter squash (acorn, Hubbard, etc.) large enough to serve as a tureen
1 small chicken
1 tablespoon salt
cayenne to taste
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 pound cooked chorizo, sliced

cut off stem end of the squash, remove the seeds, and scoop out 1 pound of the flesh, leaving the squash shell to serve as a tureen to hold the soup. Put the squash shell on a baking sheet, and set it aside.

In a kettle cover the chicken with water, add the salt and 2 dashes of cayenne, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the chicken, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid, discard the skin and bones, and remove the meat. Cut the meat into pieces and return it to the cooking liquid in the kettle, add the carrots, celery, the scallions and chorizo, and simmer the mixture for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. Meanwhile, bake the squash shell in a preheated 325F oven until it is warm. Ladle the soup into the squash shell, and serve the soup from the “tureen.”

Turbeville's most recent book, Casa No Name, features evocative pictures shot in her house in Mexico. Not at all like the pictures in The Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook. And by the by, I'll just bet some of those boys driving IN the Mayflower 500 have Tiffany plates on their tables, too.

27 May 2009

The Wooden Spoon Dessert Book

THE WOODEN SPOON DESSERT BOOK by Marilyn M. Moore is a great, basic dessert cookbook. It is straight forward and packed with great desserts. Many of them are culled form the author’s vast collection of community cookbooks, so the recipes have the benefit of home cooks. Moore uses a style of recipe writing where the list of ingredients are incorporated into the recipe, instead of in the current fashion of listing all the ingredients at the beginning of the recipe. It can be a bit disconcerting at first, so like any recipe, each one needs to be read thoroughly BEFORE starting out. Actually, before starting out shopping, as you want to have everything on hand.

For years I had my favorite carrot cake recipe stuffed in a drawer. At a party, I cornered the woman who baked the cake and she gave me the recipe which I wrote on the back of a super market register tape. The next sentence should be... and when I got home, I carefully transcribed this delicious cake recipe onto a recipe card which still sits in the hand-painted metal recipe box that belonged to mother. And while that was the next sentence, it was not my real world, so for years I kept the flimsy register tape tucked in a kitchen drawer, dragging it out to make carrot cake. Why I never spent those agonizing two minutes to write it down properly are beyond me. In a move, I lost my register tape recipe. The great thing about this recipe was the straightforward measurements and the “secret ingredient” a can of crushed pineapple.

When I needed to replicate the recipe, I turned to The Wooden Spoon Desert Book, because I guessed it would be the best place to start to find my carrot cake recipe.

California Carrot Cake

Preheat oven toe 350F. Grease and lightly flour a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Drain and set aside, reserving 1 tablespoon juice for the frosting

1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, packed in pineapple juice

In the large bowl of a mixer beat until light an lemon-colored

4 large eggs

Stir together, pressing out any lumps with the back of a spoon, then gradually beat into the eggs

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar

Add in a thin stream, beating all the while
1 cup vegetable oil

Sift, stir, or whisk together and then blend into the egg mixture, 1/4 cup at a time

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Stir in, in this order

drained pineapple
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake at 350F for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool in the pan elevated on a ware rack. Frost the top of cake with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

Beat together until light and fluffy

3 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon reserved pineapple juice

Press thought a sieve and then blend into the cream cheese mixture

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

I don’t like nuts in my food. My recipe had 1 cup of sultanas in lieu of the pecans and way more frosting. I always double the frosting recipe. The cake is moist and holds its flavor, actually getting better the second or third day. Alas, it rarely makes it to the third day. Still, it is a great cake to ship a friend or to make into cupcakes like I did for my friend, Richard. Don't be afraid to try other vegetables in this cake. Parsnips, beets and zucchini will all work well.

26 May 2009

In The Devil’s Garden

In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food is really a history and not a cookbook, but it is sprinkled with recipes and chocked full of history.

Stewart Lee Allen discusses some of the stranger and more gruesome adventures in eating from a cornucopia of historical documents.

What do Christian mystics and supermodels have in common?

A diet of bread and water.

Want to know how many victims the Aztec’s consumed during a year of religious sacrifice?

250,000. God got the heart or the “precious eagle cactus fruit” and everyone else got a stew of the remaining parts.

How did composer Richard Wagner influence Hitler’s diet?

After reading Wagner’s writings Hitler was said to have said “Did you know that Wagner has attributed much of the decay of our civilization to meat-eating?” Thus Hitler became a vegetarian.

Can you name the “crime” practiced by women accused of heresy during the Inquisition?

Cooking. Simply making an adafina, a dish of cabbage meat and chickpeas could get a woman burned at the stake.

One of the few actual recipes in the book is for a chicken liver crostini. The Tuscan grandmother to whom the recipe is attributed, says that you should eat this only at Christmastime. Ironically, there is no explanation of why. Perhaps she simply had no desire to make it during the rest of the year.

Crostini di Fegato

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
7 ounces (200 grams) chicken liver
3.4 ounces (1/10 liter) red wine
2 cloves (optional)
black pepper

Put olive oil and bay leaves (and garlic, if you like it) in a clay pot and heat. Add the chicken livers cut in pieces, and salt and pepper. Heat. Add the red wine (and the cloves, if using) and let mixture cook at high flame for four to five minutes. Take the bay leaves out and garlic and cloves, if added). Crush the rest with a fork; while still warm, spread on a crostino (small slice of bread dried in the oven).

I don't know it the god of chickens got the "precious eagle cactus fruit" of the chicken before we got the livers for our crostini. That is a debate for theologians. In the meantime, read this book. You will be filled with charming anecdotes for you next dinner party, after all, man does not live by bread alone, he need stimulating conversation, too. Supermodels and saints, they're a different story.

25 May 2009

The Victorian Kitchen

I love Victorian kitchens. They tend to have Victorian kitchen gardens with lovely glass houses attached. The Victorian kitchen was often a multi-room cathedral to cooking. Like so much of the Victorian era there was rabid kitchen excess, much as there is today. The kitchen was becoming mechanized and there were fabulous gadgets obscure enough to make James Bond drool, such as Burgess & Sons Patent Signal Egg Boiler. This device, available in wood, or iron or brass could be set to ring at specific intervals for the perfectly boiled egg. There was a special stand you could buy and each Burgess & Sons Patent Signal Egg Boiler came packed in its own wooden box.

Victorian kitchens were filled with cooper pots and pans and molds of every kind. Of course, like so many things Victorian, you needed a gigantic manor house to support such a large kitchen and garden. Then there is the staff, a head cook, the gardener, the guy to shovel the coal for the stove, all those people to clean. I know it is too impractical for words. Still it seems so romantic to those of us aspiring to the “upstairs”.

In the late 1980’s, the BBC took a shine to those pesky Victorians and began a series of programs trying to replicate that time. First they found an old walled garden that they were able to restore. The Victorian Kitchen Garden was huge success. After they had the garden up running the BBC found they needed a place to cook those vegetables. The hunt was on to find an actual Victorian kitchen to restore. In a moment of serendipity, they found a dilapidated kitchen complete with rusty stove within a few miles of their walled garden. The Victorian Kitchen was a go and of course, a book followed.

Ruth Mott, who had been a scullery maid in the 1930’s came aboard as the cook. The recipes were culled from a collection of antique cookbooks. Here’s a recipe from The Cook’s Oracle, 1840, for a usual luncheon dish or snack.

Scotch Woodcock

4 slices bread
10 anchovies
4 egg yolks
1/2 pint cream

Toast the bread and butter it well on both sides. Take the anchovies, washed, scraped and chopped fine, and put them between the slices of toast. Have ready the yolks of four eggs well beaten, and half a pint of cream, which set over the fire to thicken but not boil. Pour it over the toast and serve it to the table as hot as possible.

Ruth’s note A tasty and less fiddly alternative is to use Gentleman’s relish or anchovy essence instead of the anchovies.

I am as adventurous as the next person, but frankly, anchovy toast poached in milk is beyond me, no matter how many cooper cauldrons you have hanging over the stove.

24 May 2009

Cakes Bread and Breakfast Cake

There is something wonderful about old baking books. So many cake books today feature white, yellow, chocolate, spice and that is about the extent of the variations. In older books there are amazing variations on cake flavors. Cakes Bread and Breakfast Cakes is a turn of the century cookbook, written by Olive Cotton in 1900. There are twenty recipes alone for gingerbread! It is a cookbook of a certain era where the cook is provided with a list of ingredients but little else. I suppose the assumption is if you are in the kitchen cooking you have some idea of how to proceed. Those types of recipes might work with Squirrel Pie but when baking it becomes a bit more tricky.

In the introduction there is a list of how to assemble the recipes. Mrs. Cotton suggests that copy her list for the “Order of Work” and fasten it above the mixing-table when you make cakes.


1. Heat the oven.
2. Place the utensils on the table.
3. Measure ingredients.
4. Prepare baking pans.
5. Beat white of egg.
6. Cream the butter.
7. Slowly add the sugar.
8. Add beaten yolk of egg.
9. Add water and flour alternately.
10. Add extract.
11. Fold in white of egg.
12. Add fruit.

Good rules to follow even with the more detailed recipes of today.

Here is one of the recipe for gingerbread. It is annotated in my copy to say that 1/2 this recipe would be sufficient. I say make the whole cake.

Gingerbread (Sour Cream)

2 eggs
1 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
3 1/2 cups flour

Cream the butter, add the sugar, then the well-beaten eggs. Dissolve the soda in a little boiling water, stir in the molasses, and add it to the batter. Then stir in the spices, milk, and flour

As I said, you are expected to know what to do with the info. So tack up your "Order of Work" list and start baking.

23 May 2009

Mexico One Plate At A Time

Rick Bayless is one of those sweet chefs who just loves Mexican food. He always has and I am sure he always will. He is wildly passionate about his subject which makes it all rather contagious. His introduction tells about a friend who was mortified to see that a restaurant touting Roman cuisine featured a risotto, clearly a northern dish. He finds that while Mexico is our neighbor, we are still at the “spaghetti-and-meatball stage with regard to Mexican cuisine.

Mexico One Plate At A Time is very PBS, but in a good way. He offers up his recipe for guacamole which is rather straight forward. After the recipe, however, he anticipates and answers questions you might have about the recipe and he provides detailed answers. Some guacamole Cliff Notes

What kind of avocado works best? Hass.
How do you achieve the best flavor? Roast the peppers.
How long will guacamole last? Just a hour or so, maybe three.

I have been making a lot of guacamole in the last few weeks, so I have been interested in various recipes. It is after all guacamole so mash the avocados and voilé. I like this recipe because I have been roasting everything on the grill before making the guacamole and I find it gives it a great flavor. Unlike Bayless, I even roast the avocado.

Roasted Poblano Guacamole with Garlic and Parsley

2 medium (about 6 ounces total) fresh poblano peppers
6 ounces (1 medium or 2 plumb) ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3 medium-large (about 1 1 /4 pound total) ripe avocados
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons grated Mexican queso anejo or other dry grating cheese, such as Romano or Parmesan
A few slices of radish for garnish

1. The Poblanos, Tomatoes and Garlic. Lay the poblanos, tomatoes, and garlic on a baking sheet and set 4 inches below a very hot broiler. Roast, turning every couple of minutes, until the chilies and tomatoes are soft, blistered and blackened in spots and the garlic is soft, 12 to 13 minutes. Place the chilies in a bowl, cover with a towel and let stand for 5 minutes, then wipe off the blackened skin. Pull or cut out the stems, seed pods and seeds, rinse quickly to remove any stray seeds and bits of char. When the tomatoes are cool, peel off and discard their skins. Slip the papery skins off the garlic. In a mortar or in a food processor, make a coarse puree or the roasted garlic and poblanos (with both the mortar and processor, it’s best to start with the garlic, then add the poblanos); place in a large bowl. Chop the roasted tomatoes (for this recipe, it is best not to use any of the juice from the baking sheet) and add to the poblano mixture along with the parsley.

2. Finishing the Guacamole. Cut the avocados lengthwise in half around the pit, twist the halves apart and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh into the bowl with the flavorings. Using a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, coarsely mash everything together. Taste and season with salt, using a scant teaspoon, then add enough lime juice to enliven all the flavors. Cover with plastic wrap, placing directly on the surface, and refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
The roasted vegetables really do add flavor and depth to the guacamole. Remember Rick Bayless next time you think about pulling into that Taco Bell.

22 May 2009

The New Hostess Of To-Day

Linda Hull Larned wrote a very formal book for the woman who has decided to be a full time home maker. It is, she says,

"My endeavor in this book to assist the housekeeper and hostess in selecting and serving a menu suitable for an elaborate repast of a simple meal; to show how to prepare and serve each course and to provide a quantity sufficient for six persons.

Furthermore, it is believed that the successful hostess and housekeeper is one who is always ready to receive and apply all new suggestions which will improve her old methods."

Larned did not set out to provide a beginner with minute details nor did she offer any edification on the science of nutrition nor preservation for she says,

"In this enlightened day, women who enter the field of home-making and housekeeping without, at least, a rudimentary knowledge of this science will be a hopeless failure."

Given these rather strict pronouncements one can only wonder what this naked pixie is doing making toast in the fire! In fact these little creatures pop up throughout the book.

Without “minute” details Larned is able to stuff hundreds and hundreds of recipes into her book. There are 161. Noodle Croutons, 237. Lobsters Broiled Alive, 371 Calf’s Head with Parsley Sauce, 833. Squirrel Pie, 1159. Chocolate and Apple Custard Pudding, 1237. Grape-fruit Pie, and 1669. Highball Mêlée.

There's a menu for the New Hostess of To-Day! Here is a yummy and decorative recipe. Short and to the point.

Beef Tongue with Cardinal Sauce

Boil and skin a tongue, when cold, cut in rounds with a biscuit cutter, heat them over hot water,, stick the slices upright in a long narrow mound of mashed potatoes, and pour over Cardinal Sauce (751).

Cardinal Sauce is your basic tomato sauce. Let me just say, I cook quite a bit and I am not sure I could properly cook this. And frankly, I am not real sure I would want to see the narrow mound of mashed potatoes with cut up tongue sticking up covered in tomato sauce. But you should go ahead and give it a try.

21 May 2009

Pâtés and Terrines

My idea of heaven is eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.
Reverend Sidney Smith

Sheila HutchinsPâtés and Terrines was written in the late 1970’s, during Hutchins' reign as cookery editor of the Daily Express. Hutchins does a great job of giving the history of pâtés and terrines and explaining their origins. While pâtés de foie gras might be a heavenly luxury, most pâtés and terrines are quite affordable.

If you think about it, a pâté is a just a meatloaf cooked slowly in bain-marie.

The word pâté is French for paste. Pâte (without the accent aigu) is the word for pastry. Both words are derived from the Latin pasticium which is the root for many “foodie” words in many languages. The French pâtissier, pâté, pâtisserie; Italian pasta; and English pasty and patty can all be traced back to this Latin root.

Terrine is often thought of a vessel for soup, but they were also the earthenware crock that types of pâté were cooked in. During the Victorian era there were many terrines made to look like the pies within them. Those dishes, once thought of as utilitarian are now collectors items. A beautiful old French specimen, such as this one, can run between $300 and $500.

Pâté Bourgeois au Lapin

A course-cut rabbit pate popular in northwest France, this recipe was given to me some year ago by a Calais shopkeeper. It is delicious, and unusual in being marinated in beer. One can drink red or white wine with it.
Put 900 g (2 lb) of chopped boned rabbit and 300ml (1/2 pint) of beer such as light ale in a basin. Add 450 g (1lb) of pork belly, chopped and without the skin, 3 bay leaves, a little thyme and parsley, and some salt and pepper. Leave it overnight, then mince the pork and rabbit separately. Line a fireproof dish with bacon rashers, pack with minced meat in it in layers, and pour the beer liquor into it. Cover with foil and a lid and bake the pâté for 2 1/2-3 hours in a slow oven, 150 C (300F) Gas 2. Cool.
I'm not sure I would make this in the $500 French lapin, but certainly in my tried and true Le Creuset terrine.

20 May 2009

Spanish Country Kitchen

The British publisher Ryland, Peters & Small do a lovely job publishing cookbooks. They have great recipes and lovely pictures and they are very specific. Spanish Country Kitchen: Traditional Recipes For The Home Cook by Linda Tubby is another in their wonderful series. The book is an authentic look at Spanish food that might grace anyone's table. Is an insightful introduction to Spanish cuisine. There is a good mix of appetizers, meat and fish, vegetables and desserts.

My favorite recipe is a dessert for figs. I love figs and really, if you simply lay them on a play with a bit of cream, nothing could be better... unless maybe you deep fried them!

Fig Fritters

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus a little for dusting
1 egg
2 egg whites
a scant cup white wine
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for dusting
8 figs with stalks
safflower oil, for deep frying

Put the flour in a bowl, make a hollow in the center, and break in the egg. Add a little of the wine and gradually whisk in the flower from the edges so it doesn’t go in all at once. Mix in the rest of the wine and lemon zest, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for an hour.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking to make a shiny meringue.

If the batter has thickened beyond the thick cream stage, stir in a drop of water to loosen it a little. Fold in the meringue.

Fill a saucepan or deep-fryer one third full with oil, or to the manufacture’s recommended level. Heat the oil to 375.

Dust the figs with a little flour and dip the\m in the batter. Add the figs to the hot oil , in batches if necessary. When the batter turns crisp and golden, remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Dust with sugar and serve while hot.
There are no known pictures of this dish because no one can resist them long enough to capture an image on film. But they are real, like Sasgquach.

19 May 2009

An Illustrated History of French Cuisine

An Illustrated History of French Cuisine by Christian Guy is one of those bargain bin finds. I bought it because is was about French cooking and was $2. It seemed like a good idea. It was. This is no classic cookbook, but more of chatty culinary history ranging from Charlemagne to Charles De Gaulle. A bit of a weird layout, but quite tasty stories about food and the people who ate it. Like this tidbit about Dumas.

This recipe comes from Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers. After writing nearly three hundred volumes, he decided his last would be a cookbook. “It will be my last work, the one I shall outline the moment I catch a glimpse of Death on the horizon.” So one day Dumas looked up and noticed the Grim Reaper headed his way. He spent 6 months working on Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine. He finished the book, but did not survive to see it published.

Homard a la Portos

1. Brown in butter two onions and three carrots finely chopped, some thyme and parsley.

2. Cut a live lobster in pieces: cook it with spices, a bottle of extra-dry champagne, 1/8 pound of butter and some red pepper. Cook half an hour and serve hot.

18 May 2009

Seven Centuries of English Cooking

Last week Maxine de la Falaise McKendry died. You can read our post with the obituary at Lucindaville. We often run a Famous Food Friday section at Lucindaville and we used Maxine de la Falaise’s book Food In Vogue a collection of recipes from the famous people who graced the pages of Vogue while McKendry was the food editor.

McKendry was the daughter of portrait painter, Sir Oswald Birley. Her mother, Rhoda Birley, was famous for cooking Lobster Thermador and feeding it to the roses. Her brother, Mark, founded Annabel’s Club, still the “in” spot in London. Her daughter, Loulou, was the muse of Yves Staint-Laurent, and her granddaughter , Lucie, is a top model. She vacillated between "Maxime" and "Maxine" and which last name to stick with.

Her first cookbook, Seven Centuries of English Cooking, is an exhaustive survey of British Cooking from The Forme of Cury compiled by the chef of Richard II to recipes by Alexis de la Falaise, the author’s son who was at one time a sous-chef at Annabel’s.

Here is a recipe from her mother, Lady Birley, a recipe that was presumably fed to her children and not her roses. Charleston was the Birley's family home where, evidently, redcurrants grew. This is the most iconic photo of Lady Birley, decked out for gardening.

Redcurrants Charleston

1 lb (2 cups) redcurrants
Whites of 4 large eggs
1/2 lb (1 cup) sugar
2 oz (3/4 cup*) mint, very finely chopped
1/2 pint (1 1/2 –2 cups) whipped cream
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp almond essence
2 oz (1/2 cup*) crystallized fruit

Pick small bunches of redcurrants and leave them on their stalks. Mix equal quantities of egg white and sugar in a shallow dish. Coat the berries in this and put them in the refrigerator. Chop some fresh mint very finely and mix with the remaining egg and sugar mixture. Coat the berries again in this and chill very thoroughly. Strip the currants from their stalks very quickly with a fork. Put them into a cut-glass serving bowl, cover with whipped cream flavoured with vanilla and almond essence and arrange some small pieces of crystallized fruit on top.

* neither of the 2 ounce calculations appears to be correct. 2 ounces would be 1/4 cup. Neither “2 oz” measurement is consistent, so stick with the cup measurements.

17 May 2009

Common Sense In the Household

“It is a mistake of Christian civilization to educate girls into a love of science
and literature and then condemn them to the routine of domestic drudge.”
Marion Harland

Marion Harland was the pen name of Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune one of the most successful cookbook authors of the late 1800’s. Long before the crass notion of “branding” Harland was just that – a brand. Her success was due in no small part to her father who instructed his daughter’s tutor to: “Educate them as if they were boys and preparing for college,” Samuel Hawes encouraged his daughter to write and at 23 she published her first novel that sold over 100,000 copies.

Two years later she married, and found she was ill-equipped to accomplish the work of housewife. Cookbooks of the late nineteenth century offered instruction on cooking but also instruction on proper morality with some domesticity and first aid thrown in. They were more sermon in tone than instruction. Harland relied on the vocation she knew, writing, vowing to produce a document that would offer a detailed yet colloquial approach to running a household. She succeeded. Common Sense In the Household sold over a million copies.

In one of the few “medical” recipes in the book, Mrs. Harland suggests for bleeding,
“Bind the cut with cobwebs and brown sugar, pressed on like lint. Or, if you cannot procure these, with the fine dust of tea. When the blood ceases to flow, apply laudanum.”

Her voice remained a constant for almost 70 years as both a writer and editor. During her lifetime, she produced 24 books from novels to books on cookery, etiquette, domesticity and travel as well as endorsing products. She continued to work as a writer and editor until her death in 1922 at age 91.

In the mid 1980’s, Oxmoor House, publisher of Southern Living, reprinted a series of classic cookery books and Common Sense In the Household was one of them.

Here’s are a couple of Southern family favorite!
Fried Ham

If raw, soak as for boiling. Cook it in a hot frying pan turning often till done. Serve with or without gravy, as you please.

Add some potatoes and you have dinner.
Pea Fritters

Cook a pint or three cups more than you need for dinner. Mash while hot with a wooden spoon, seasoning with pepper, salt, and butter. Put by until morning. Make a batter of two whipped eggs, a cupful of milk, quarter teaspoonful soda, a half teaspoonful cream tarter, and a half cup flour. Stir the pea-mixture into this, beating very hard, and cook as you would ordinary griddle-cakes.
I can testify, from experience, that they make a delightful morning dish, and hereby return thanks to the unknown friend to whom I am indebted for the receipt.
I haven't tried this for breakfast, but as an appetizer it's wonderful. Remember, the peas in this recipe are Southern peas not English peas. My preference is black-eyed, but crowder will work. Try adding some chopped onion and a bit of spice!

16 May 2009

Kitchen Essays

Agnes Jekyll was the sister-in-law of famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. It has been said that if Gertrude Jekyll was an artist-gardener, then Agnes was an artist-housekeeper. Mary Lutyens, the daughter of designer Edwin Lutyens, described Agnes Jekyll’s house as, “the apogee of opulent comfort and order without grandeur, smelling of pot-pouri, furniture polish and wood smoke.”

Her witty kitchen essays offer tips and recipes for many occasions. Her notes on a first dinner party fail to reveal that Agnes Jekyll's first dinner party included Robert Browning, John Ruskin, and Edward Burne-Jones, so the bar is set a bit high! But if you follow these simple steps you can invite anyone you please.

Their First Dinner Party

It must not err on the side of parsimony, nor yet by its lavishness vex those new relations or old aunts whose attitude has been characterized as “affectionate but hostile.”

“Not fewer in number than the Graces, nor yet exceeding the Muses,” runs an old adage regarding the perfect party.*

If you can establish a name for having good food…friends will grow lyrical over your cold mutton.

Julienne Soup

Clear soup gives the cook her first chance, and already a dress rehearsal will have given a taster of it’s quality. Having attained to a taste of its quality. Having attained a well-flavoured consommé, cut some carrots, onions, celery, turnips, into a small dice, if for a Brunoise; and into fine strips with the green parts of leeks added, if for Julienne. Cook these slowly to a golden color in plenty of butter for an hour (the butter does again for similar purposes), and sprinkle them lightly with white sugar. Drain them dry, put them into the simmering consommé, and let them gently cook from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Julienne soup sounded fun, but I must tell you that cooking julienned carrots for an hour in butter and then 2 hours in a consommé leads me to believe there will be gracious little "julienne" in that broth. Seriously, cooking carrots, turnips and onions for three hours gives you mush, but it must have been good mush because John Ruskin never complained.

Kitchen Essays is another in the series of books published by Persephone Books. Persephone Books is a small British press that reprints lovely copies of lost classics. The plain grey covers give way to glorious endpapers like the ones in Kitchen Essays, taken from a printed silk designed by George Sheringham for Seftons in 1922. (Yes the covers are a respectable light grey and not that dark flannel that came out in the above photo. Rest assured I am a better cook than photographer.) Check out They Can't Ration These, another Persephone Book featured at Cookbook of the Day.

* Three Graces and Nine Muses -- add in yourself as the Hostess and your dinner party should be 4 to 10 people. Don't set out the caviar for those bitchy "aunts," you weren't good enough for their nephew anyway. But do try the julienne soup with that cold mutton and old girls should wax positively lyrical.

Of course, if they like it too much, you might have to invite them again. What a dilemma.

15 May 2009

Contemporary Table Settings

Patricia Kroh was a flower show judge and an award winning flower arranger. Her book, Contemporary Table Settings, features theories and practical advice on setting tables.

She offers advice for every type of hostess.

The Artistic Hostess: Features beautiful table settings with tips on flower arranging and color theory.

The Practical Hostess: Features the bride, the career girl getting tips on buying flatware or table covers.

The Ambitious Hostess: Features advice to those girls who know “how much fun and excitement flower exhibiting can be.”

The Considerate Hostess: Features food.

As I said before, Miss Kroh is a flower judge, so cooking is not her strong suite. For instance, her recipes for soup begin with the ingredients -- 2 cans of soup. It is 1966, so the Modern Hostess has many modern conveniences at her disposal, giving her ample time to spend setting that table instead of worrying about the food, that quite simply obscures the lovely plates.

But if you must cook...

Barbecued Shrimpbobs

2 pounds cooked, deveined shrimp
1//2 pound fresh mushroom caps
2 cans pineapple chunks
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Alternate shrimp, mushroom caps, and pineapple chunks on six skewers. Paint with barbecue sauce. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on top of grill (Charcoals should be gray when ready.) Bake for 10 minutes. Open foil; add salt and pepper. Serve on skewers.
By all means, please be a Considerate hostess and serve food, even if it is just a can of soup.

14 May 2009

The French Cook

Louis Eustache Ude wrote one of if not the first French cookbook to be published in English. The French Cook was published in Philadelphia in 1828. It is a comprehensive collection of French cooking, including a whopping 99 sauces. It takes time to make 99 sauces!

Ude gives this advice about cooking:

"Cookery is an art which requires much time, intelligence, and activity, to be acquired in its perfection. Every man is not born with the qualifications necessary to constitute a good cook. The difficulty of attaining to perfection in the art, will be beat demonstrated by offering a few observations on some others. Music, dance, fencing, painting and, mechanics, in general, possess professors under twenty years of age, whereas, in the first line of cooking, pre-eminence never occurs under thirty."

For small dinners of 4 to 6, there are no less than 12 to 16 dishes served in two courses. Here is an example of how one set’s a table for a small get-together.

With all that food one is bound to have leftovers, so you will find recipes that begin, for instance, “If you have any roasted plovers left and are short of an entrée….”

I don’t know about you but I NEVER have any plovers leftover as they are snapped up first thing!

Here is a recipe for one of my favorites, ox-tail. Of course, I like my ox tail served over grits, but a Hochepot might work. According to Ude, it’s not the most beautiful dish he ever served!

Ox-tail in Hochepot

The beef-tail being a very plain and common dish, is seldom sent up otherwise than as a tureen. This dish has a detestable appearance, but when well drest is delicious eating. It requires to be well done, and is excellent either with peas, or as a haricot with turnips.

Ladle it over grits and it will look just fine!! In fact, those leftover plovers will be lovely with a side of grits, too.

13 May 2009


Creole food mixes European and African influences, throws in a lot of seafood and spice and forms a longstanding culinary fusion.

Babette de Rozières book, Creole, is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. A Guadeloupean chef, de Rozières, bringing the highly spicy flavors of Creole mixed with the indigenous fruits, vegetables and seafood of the West Indies into an explosive mix. The recipes are long but not terribly involved. In order to get a great Creole mélange of flavor, you need to add a lot of herbs and spices.

I find a lot of the recipes call for the addition of bouillon granules but if you examine bouillon cubes they seem to be largely salt and coloring, so I leave them out.

Creole features a lot of ingredients that are a bit difficult to find in most places, however there are some simple substitutions.

Babette’s West Indian-style Pork Ragout

4 1/2 pounds pork loin with rind
1 quantity Meat and Poultry Marinade*
2 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
2 bay leaves
2 scallions
1 sprig thyme, leaver removed and slightly chopped
1 chive
1 onion, coarsely chopped
clove garlic, coarsely chopped
pinch ground cumin
pinch quatre-épices
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cut the pork loin into large pieces and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.

Hear the oil with the sugar in a deep-sided skillet of frying pan to caramelize it. When the caramel is very brown, almost black, add the drained pieces of meat and mix immediately. Brown the meat well for about 10 minutes, occasionally adding a few drops of water.

When the meat is well caramelized, add enough water to cover. Add the bay leaves, scallions, thyme, chives, onion and garlic, to taste, then the cumin and quatre-epices. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and boil vigorously over medium heat for about 40 minutes.

When the meat is cooked, remove from the liquid and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and return to the stove. Mix the cornstarch and bouillon into one cup water and pour into the cooking liquid. Reduce and thicken for about three minutes then pour over the meat.

I like to use this recipe with country style pork ribs. They are cheap, already cut up, and quite flavorful.

*Meat and Poultry Marinade

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch ground cumin
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

Chop the meat or poultry into pieces and place in a large container. Add the onions and garlic, then the cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the oil and vinegar. Mix well, cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours before cooking.

12 May 2009

Moosewood Cookbook

I had a lot of cookbooks growing up. The first cookbook I remember seeking out on my own, and using regularly was the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. The cookbook grew out of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. It was a big, paperback filled with hand written recipes of the “crunchy granola” type though there is no actual granola recipe.

I survived my vegetarian phase with the Moosewood Cookbook and found recipes I use to this day.

My favorite recipe one for Cauliflower Marranca, which I never once made with cauliflower, I always made it broccoli. Either one works beautifully.
Here is, in all it’s had written glory.

Remember, feel free to substitute broccoli.

11 May 2009

The Tailgate Cookbook

April Herbert's The Tailgate Cookbook is subtitled: A Practical Handbook of Delightful Meals for Campers, Travelers and Sports Enthusiasts. I rather like this cookbook, and keep finding torn up copies, book club and ex-library editions, so it must have been quite popular in its day.

It does run the gamut from snails to coq au vin. There is a recipe for pork paté that includes peanut butter and suggests Chinese Fried Rice as an accompaniment. Overall it is a wonderful book -- tons of recipes that would make any tailgate or camp a "delightful" experience. But, as often happens, every cookbook has its misstep. I remind you of this in presenting my favorite recipe from the book, not actually to make but just because it made it into a recipe book. So without further adieu, notes on hot dogs...


East To Do: use any of the following ideas to embellish hot dogs for a quick, inexpensive, and good dinner.

Can be prepared at home an packed tightly:

Marinated Hot Dogs

MARINATE: 8 frankfurters
1 cup French dressing (p. 189 or bottled)
1/4 cup dry wine

Before serving:

CHARCOAL: Frankfurter Treats until done

Variations: Serve charcoaled frankfurters with bottled Béarnaise Sauce

Nothing screams "TAILGATE" like wine and French dressing marinated hot dogs. Or try this....

Miss Lucinda's Frankfurter Treats

8 hot dogs
1 cup Tab (or Diet Coke if you can tolerate NutraSweet)
1/4 cup Jack Daniels

Mix the Jack Daniels into the Tab

Grill the hot dogs

When the hot dogs are cool enough to eat, grasp by the end (either end works just fine) and dip into the Jack Daniels and Tab. If you drank it all during the cook process, make more.

Variations: For the more traditional cook, use Rum and Coke.

Further Variations: To impress your British friends, make up a big batch of Serena Bass' Pimm's Cup. In lieu of fruit and a big cucumber slice, add a hot dog!

10 May 2009

The Lucretia Borgia Cookbook

Well all the girls want to have a cookbook -- even Lucretia Borgia. This slim volume, The Lucretia Borgia Cookbook, appeared in the early 1070's, growing out of research by Dorothy and Martin Blinder. In sniffing out foods of antiquity they began to notice a pattern; the more sinister the behavior, the better the food. One would think that watching some cooking programs on television not much has changed since Lucretia Borgia.

So it would seem that Lucretia and her brother, Cesare, were fond of throwing lavish dinner parties and lacing the food with something more than freshly ground black pepper. It would seem they were a bit fond of each other, too, but that's another story. Her artichokes were legendary, especially when they were served with a lovely arsenic dressing. Alas, that recipe is lost to us so the artichokes will have to suffice.

Steamed Stuffed Artichokes

4 large artichokes
8-10 slices day old bread, cut into small cubes
1 onion, chop fine
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Romano cheese, grated
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Trim top and bottom of each artichoke and cut off thorn of each leaf with kitchen shears. Parboil in slated water for approximately 15 minutes. Drain artichokes and reserve some of the water.

Combine all ingredients, mix well, stuff a bit into each leaf. Return stuffed artichokes to the pot, crowding them in so that they hold each other upright, and pour back reserved water to a depth of one inch, taking care to pour at the sides, rather than over the artichokes. Cover and slowly simmer just below boiling for 2 1.2 hours. Add more of the reserved water occasionally if needed. (Again, be careful not to soak artichokes.) Shake the pot occasionally to prevent sticking. Serves four.
probably Bartolomeo Veneziano

First, I'm not to sure Lucretia Borgia had kitchen shears and if she did, she would have probably stabbed someone with them. Secondly, I'm not sure that someone, faced with a big old artichoke, would exactly know what to do with it from Lucretia's recipe. I guess in the end, some of us are meant to cook and some of us are meant to be murderous femme fatales.

09 May 2009

Cristina Ferrare's Family Entertaining

Cristiana Ferrare was one of the most famous fashion models of the 1970’s and 1980’s. She was famously married to John DeLorean, the guy who invented the car that Michael J. Fox drove in the movie, Back to the Future. Like Tucker before him, DeLorean was having some trouble with the financing of his car company, so he choose the unique route of drug trafficking as a way to make ends meet. Perhaps it's a venture GM might want to try? Alas, he lost both the De Lorean Motor Company and Cristina. Cristina Ferrare remarried and wrote a cookbook, Cristina Ferrare's Family Entertaining.

The cookbook is arranged by holiday experience and since tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I thought I would share one of Cristina’s recipes for her Mother’s Day meal.

Broccoli Puree

1 pound fresh broccoli
One 8-ounce package nonfat or low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut broccoli into florets. Steam or boil until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well. In a food processor, combine cooked broccoli, cream cheese, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Cover and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold.
This is one of those books that wildly fluctuates in price. There was a time when copies could be had for $3 -- until I wanted to buy one for my BFF, Beverly. Then, it was not at all unusual to see copies for $100, slightly less than one could purchase a DeLorean. Prices are moderating now, so you should be able to grab a copy without drug trafficking.

08 May 2009

Bridge Food For Bridge Fans

Sex is like bridge, you don’t need a partner if you’ve got a good hand.

My extensive bridge knowledge can be summed up in preceding slight off-color joke. Since I no nothing about bridge, it may not even BE funny.

My Mother played bridge and often held “bridge parties.” There was always a flurry of activity around these parties, setting up tables, fussing over food and organizing guests. Bridge parties require guests in groups of four. This is harder than it sounds. It requires equipment, and proper “card” tables and game food. Unlike sporting events, where food is bold and messy, like wings and dip, bridge requires dainty, unmessy food. You simply can’t have barbecue sauce and Cheeto residue on your playing cards!

My mother made amazing food for these parties. Well, they seemed amazing to a child. Perhaps because it was food we didn’t have everyday. It was special and a bit “prissy.” She made gigantic sandwiches from whole loaves of bread. We would walk to the bakery to buy these loaves. Occasionally, if there was a bridge party with a special theme, like the Christmas Bridge Party, the bakery would tint the loaves. I remember pink and green loaves, carefully un-crusted and sliced in long slabs. The layers were thinly filled with savory fillings, and stacked higher and higher. The huge sandwich block was then sliced in tiny, manageable slices.

I never learned to play bridge. It seemed too complicated and I was afraid I might be forced to actually play bridge. Now days, it is becoming popular again. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are huge bridge players, in fact, they donated a million dollars to teach school kids to play bridge. Ironically, bridge is the one game a computer can’t play – Gates has tried, but evidently it IS too complicated.

Della Lutes was one of the most prolific cookbook writes in the 20’ and 30’s, though her books were often thought of as gastronomical autobiography. She combined tales of Michigan farm life with recipes. Bridge Food For Bridge Fans is a slim volume combining playing bridge and recipes. This is the introduction from 1932.

These be perilous times. Presidents come and go, and are maligned one and all, alive and dead. Banks fail. The radio promises marvelous prizes, but do we ever win one? The wicked flourish and the green bay tree up and dies. The cracker barrel croaker is gone, but there are a lot of Gloomy Deans in high places. There are serious problems to be solved and grave affairs to be settled.

Shall laws be repealed or ignored?

Shall women be made eligible for the Presidency of the United States (as if they couldn’t get talked about enough without that)?

But what in the name of Kingdom Come, can we serve for Afterbridge Tea that won’t add pounds to a woman’s weight?

Let us, then, with crusading zeal, consider the last and most serious question first, and lay those of less gravity back where they were, under the table.

I have a sinking feeling that somewhere in our government, a high official is roaming the corridors of power with a copy of Bridge Food For Bridge Fans tucked in his briefcase. There is a distinct possibility that Della Lutes is engineering our domestic policy!

According to Lutes, May is the best month for throwing a social ball, or perhaps a bridge party followed by an Afterbridge Tea, and the best month for her May Basket Fruit Cup.

May Basket Fruit Cup

Make a grapefruit or orange basket, fill with fresh fruit and top with a candy flower.

Hey, if you can play bridge, you can figure out how to make a fruit basket!

07 May 2009

The Good Cook

Cooking without onions is like cooking with heat.
Allegra McEvedy

We are planting our favorite beans again this year. Chinese longbeans, yardlong beans, liana, red noodle, they are beans that grow to almost 3 feet. I gave some to Harry Lowe, who wanted to snap them – I protested. After spending months growing them, I had no desire to see them snapped!

Allegra McEvedy is a British chef who loves to make cooking accessible for everyone. In her book,
The Good Cook, she writes:

“There’s no point in writing a book about how accessible and universal food is, and then stuffing if full of technical jargon, exotic ingredients and specialist equipment.”

Her books are chatty and easy to use. She truly loves food and wants to share that joy with her readers. Here is her recipe for long beans. There is and editing error in the recipe, instructing you to add the beans – twice. I think you can probably add them at either point, but I would add them after the garlic and chilli sauces.

Yard Beans with Sesame Seeds

225 g (8 oz) Chinese long beans
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and firmly chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black bean sauce
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and prepare a mixing bowl of iced water.
Blanch the beans for 3 minutes, then drop them into the iced water to stop them overcooking.
In a big frying pan or a wok heat the sesame oil until it is about to smoke.
Throw in the garlic and chilli, followed a minute later by the beans.
Stir-fry for a moment, then add the sesame seeds. As soon as you see them toasting – going a beautiful golden brown – add the black bean and sweet chilli sauces.
Throw in the beans and toss everything together so it all gets a good coating of sauce and serve. No fun cold.

This is not the most gratifying picture of the yardlong beans, but you get the idea
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