30 June 2009

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

We seem to have had several cookbooks extolling things that "Can't" and "Couldn't " get done. so here a book that boldly tells you what you can do.

Karen Solomon’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It fulfills her desire to produce a kind of Girl Scout manual for the kitchen. She features all the recipes you will need for a fine larder, and you can make them yourself. Truth be told, you probably have all these recipes tucked away somewhere, but gathered together they are the perfect companion for the home cook. Though it doesn’t say as much, this is a great book for ideas on homemade gift giving.

The photographs by Jennifer Martiné make you want to run out and paint the larder chocolate brown, heck they want to make you run out and build a brand new larder.

From beef jerky to marshmallows, crackers to lemon curd, sausage to limoncello, this book is a font of inspiration for every cook out there. I have several recipes for peanut butter cups, but frankly, I just bought Reese's. When I saw the picture of Karen Solomon’s cup’s I knew I had to make them.

Peanut Butter Cups

1 1/3 cup fresh roasted and salted peanuts
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon neutral vegetable oil, like canola or sunflower
2 tablespoons confectioner's’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

INSTRUCTIONS To make the peanut butter filling, place the liners in your cupcake pan, and have a holding dish standing by. In a food processor, puree the peanuts for 3 to 4 minutes, until very smooth. Add the honey, oil, sugar, vanilla, and salt and puree until completely combined, scraping down the sides as you work.
Tale about 2 teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture into your clean hands, roll into a ball, and flatten into a disk that will fit into the center of the cupcake liner but not touch the sides. Shape the remaining 11 centers. The peanut butter should be evenly distributed.
To prepare the coating, in a microwave safe bowl heat the chocolate on high for 1 minute, and stir well with a fork to distribute the heat. Heat for one minute more, and stir again. Heat for an additional 30 to 60 seconds, stirring thoroughly. The chocolate should be melted and quite satiny and you should be able to drop it in ribbons from the end of the fork.
To assemble the cups, working quickly, spoon about 2 teaspoons of melted chocolate into the bottom of each liner, being careful to coat the bottom in a complete, thin layer, and to coat the sides half way up. about Gently drop each of the peanut butter disks into the center of a cup, and give it a gentle tap to secure it in the chocolate (but don’t push it all the way through to the bottom). Cover each center with an additional teaspoon of chocolate covering the top completely and allowing it to surround the sides of the peanut butter, enclosing it completely. Gently smooth the tops with back of a spoon or by giving the pan a gentle shake. Let it sit undisturbed for at least 4 hours, until the cups harden completely.

First one to make these wins their merit badge.

29 June 2009

I Couldn’t Cook Either

"Just as I would never have learned to drive a car if I had to become a mechanic first, so I should never have started to cook at all had I relied on cookery books. " So writes Kenyon Goode, who ended up writing a cookery book, I Couldn’t Cook Either for the person who likes to put food on the table, but has no real idea how to do it.

I don't know much about Kenyon Goode with the exception of the info in this book. Here it is. In the thirties and forties, Goode watched his mother or her cook scurrying about the kitchen and behold – food appeared on the table. When he was married in the forties, he found his wife possessed those same womanly skills. Alas, he ended up getting a divorce in the 1950’s and found himself in a bachelor abode with an empty cupboard. He set out to share the basics with others who might find themselves in a similar predicament.

He cooks eggs, a few sauces some chicken and fish and finally, the end all English dessert.


Another dish that usually appeals to children and grown-ups alike, is a fool. Why this dish is so called, I've never been able to discover. Perhaps the suggestion is that, being so easy to make, any fool can do it. A fool is merely a combination of any puree of fruit and an equal quantity of stiffly whipped cream. Gooseberry Fool s perhaps the best known, but I usually make mine of frozen raspberries or blackberries, which I first sieve, and then sugar, before mixing in with the cream. Being very rich, it requires to be served ice-cold.
The actual origin of the English "fool" may have originated from the French " fouler" which means to "crush" or "mash." The OED scoffs at this notion (but they are English and loath to credit the French with anything.) So we will go with the "any FOOL can make it" explanation. Regardless of what Kenyon Goode says, we here at Cookbook Of The Day, we love to rely on our cookery books.

28 June 2009

I Can’t Boil Water

Well, here's a back-to-back Corinne Griffith post. After we posted Eggs I Have Known, we found another Corinne Griffith cookbook, I Can’t Boil Water. Where Eggs I Have Know name dropped individual people, I Can’t Boil Water name drops restaurants. There’s La Pavillion, La Côte Basque, The Rive Gauche, Trader Vic’s and Perino’s.

Of course, her favorite recipe comes from her own personal cook, Ben Crow.

Candied Pork Chops

6 pork chops
3/4 cup honey
3 cups cranberries
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves

Brown the chops in their own fat in a frying pan. Pour the honey into the cranberries, and add the powdered cloves and stir till you have a smooth paste. Place three of the pork chops in a casserole. Slat to taste. Cover with half the cranberry mixture. Lay the remaining pork chops on top of mixture and spread remaining cranberry mixture over all. Bake in a 350 F oven 1 1/4 hours.
I love the idea of Candied Pork Chops. The cranberries gives the dish a wonderful tang. Serve it over a plain rice.

27 June 2009

Eggs I Have Know

Corinne Griffith was a silent film star affectionately known as “the Orchid of the Screen.” When the “talkies” came into vogue, she left the silver screen. After movies, Griffith turned her talent to writing. Her book, Papa’s Delicate Condition was a best-seller and became a movie. Along the way she married several times and became quite the cook and hostess.

Her most famous husband was George Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins. Griffith once referred to him as “the Marshall without a plan.” She wrote a book about her life as a football wife, My Life With The Redskins. Her most significant contribution, however, was composing the "fight" song, Hail to the Redskins.
Today there is a slightly more politically correct version than this original version by Griffith:

Hail to the Redskins !
Hail to victory !
Braves on the war path !
Fight for old Dixie !
Scalp em, Swamp em,
We will take em big score !
Read em, Weep em Touchdown,
We want heaps more !
Fight on... Fight On...
Til you have won,
Sons of Washington !

In the 1950’s she wrote Eggs I Have Known. The book is one of those “famous food and friends” books that drops more names than recipes. There is J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Elsie de Wolfe, and William Randolph Hearst to name just a few.

Here is a lovely dish with international flair.

Spanish Beans in Garlic Wine

2 cans red kidney beans
5 tablespoons brown sugar
6 strips bacon
1 larger (or 2 small) cloves of garlic
1/2 cup red wine

Chop garlic very fine. Mix beans, sugar, garlic, and red wine. Place in a casserole. Lay strips of bacon across and bake for about 1 hour or until sauce thickens. Serve in casserole.

Cook up a big old casserole full for your next Redskins' game.

26 June 2009

American Salad Book

Maximilian De Loup seems to be a rather European name for someone committed to “American “ salad. But there he was in 1900 providing hundreds of ways to throw a salad on the table in his American Salad Book. By the fourth printing, the books was the definitive place to fulfill your every salad need.

There are vegetable salads, fruit salads, egg salads, potato salads, seafood salads and miscellaneous salads. You know how it is when you roam into the kitchen and think to yourself, “Gosh what I really want is a miscellaneous salad.”

Miscellaneous salads seem to be based on particular countries, such as the Russian Meat Salad (greens and boiled tongue), Dutch Salad ( herring, veggies and cheese) and Cuban Salad (smashed saltines and anchovies).

One could easily make the case that some of these salads should absolutely not exist – Salad of Young Pigs jumps out.

I chose this salad for you as I am a fan of both chicken and opera.

Salad Lakmè

Salad Lakmè is composed of chicken, celery, fresh mushrooms, truffles, white of eggs and potatoes, cut en Julienne, and dressed with a remoulade dressing.

This weekend, make up a big bowl of Salad Lakmè and listen to Lakmè. This will get you started.

25 June 2009

First Slice Your Cookbook

For over thirty years, Lady Arabella Boxer has written about food. Her first cookbook, First Slice Your Cookbook is a novelty of design. In fact, it was designed by her husband, Mark. This is not the only cookbook with this mix-and-match style we have featured. In January we wrote about another cookbook following this approach, Million Menus. Fortunately, First Slice Your Cookbook is a much better example of this novel style. The main reason for this would have to be the choice of desserts. Lady Boxer relies heavily on simple fruit dishes for her final course. In addition, Hugh Johnson made wine suggestion for the main courses.

She also ranks the dishes by color to aid in balanced choices.

Red Pages = Richness
Blue Page = Simple

Grey Pages = Intermediate
Olive Green Pages = Filling

Here are Lady Boxer 's thoughts on this book:

"My career had started almost by chance when, in 1964, my then husband Mark Boxer had an idea for a cookbook cut in three horizontal sections, using stiff paper on a spiral binding - this enabled the reader to assemble a three-course meal on one spread."

"A colour-coding system was incorporated to help beginners to plan well-balanced menus and avoid the over-rich meals that were a feature of the time. British cooks were still revelling in an abundance of materials that had not been freely available since before the war."

"So, in First Slice, I tried to persuade cooks to plan their meals so as to include no more than one 'rich' dish at a time. "

"Food fashions have changed since 1964: we are more concerned with eating wisely, using oil rather than butter and cutting down on cream and rich food. The unctuous sauces of French haute cuisine no longer seem desirable; nouvelle cuisine helped us break that habit if it did little else. Nevertheless, if you hanker after the rich foods of your youth, or if you're planning a retro dinner party, then my recipes for a Sixties menu should help reel in the years. Just don't blame me if you need to reach for the Alka Seltzer afterwards." *
One of my favorite "fruity" deserts is this one for pears.
Carmel Pears

6 pears (not too ripe)
1/4 lb brown sugar
3 oz butter
1/4 pt double cream

Peel and core the pears and cut in quarters. Butter a fireproof dish and lay the pears in it. Dot with the butter cut in small pieces and shake the sugar over. Bake in a quick oven (No 6) until the pears are soft and sugar caramelized. Baste now and then, Take out of the oven, drain the pears, place them in a clean dish and keep warm, Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then pour in the cream, Mix well with the butter and sugar until a smooth caramel sauce is obtained and pour over the pears. Serve warm.

A No 6 oven is quite hot, 400 F.

* All quotes are from a January 2000 article in Waitrose Food Illustrated.

24 June 2009

A Slice of Organic Life

A Slice of Organic Life by Sheherazade Goldsmith is a richly produced hymn to the living a green life. Technically, it is not a cookbook as much as a lifestyle guide to living a pure organic life. Ok, really, it is a lavishly produced ode that makes composting and making your own fly strips look marvelous. As someone who actually leads that organic farm life, it in not nearly as romantic as this book makes out. I speak from experience, turning the compost is hard, messy work. Getting together to have coffee and make your own fly paper is a just plain disheartening.

Watching your tomatoes grow and gathering fresh tomatoes and basil, that is a task that fills the heart with joy.

A simple salad from the garden is a true slice of organic life.

Tomato Salad With Goat’s Cheese and Basil

1 1/2 lb (350 g) vine-ripened tomatoes
4 handfuls mixed salad leaves (rocket, mizuna, frisée, chicory, cress)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
5 fl oz (150 ml) olive oil
A handful of fresh basil
A pinch of salt and black pepper
3 oz (85 g) mild, creamy


Cut the tomatoes into chunks and put in a bowl

Place the salad leaves in another bowl

Blend the vinegar, olive oil, basil, and seasoning together to make a thick dressing. Pour half over the tomatoes and carefully mix. Pour the other half over the salad leaves and gently mix.

Divide the salad leaves between four plates, top with a serving each of the tomatoes, crumble some of the cheese over each portion and serve.

Have the girls over for salad and please make iced tea and not fly strips.

23 June 2009

La Cuisine

During his peak in the 1960’s and 70’s Raymond Oliver was the most famous chef in France. In 1969 his masterpiece, La Cuisine, was published in English. The book is rather like Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking. It weighs in at nearly 1000 pages, replete with hundreds of photographs. The photographs feature Oliver illustrating many techniques from making puff pastry to how to skin, draw and bone a rabbit. There are photographs of various table settings, many complete with cigarette holders and ashtrays, giving the book a profoundly dated quality.

Oliver was the chef at what many believe to be France’s first truly grand restaurants, La Grand Véfour. Begun in 1784 under another name, the restaurant was dormant for many years until in 1947. Oliver re-opened it to wild acclaim. Andre Malraux , Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre were frequent diners as was Jean Cocteau, who designed one of the first menu.

The son of a chef, Oliver was a master at finding old and dated recipes to update. He invented new recipes, and perfected time honored classics. Like Julia Child, he took the television air waves demonstrating cooking techniques for a generation of French women.

This recipe works as a side dish, an appetizer, or even an entrée for those pesky vegetarians who often show up to dinner. I love to see vegetables traditionally served cold, cooked and vice-versa. Oliver suggests cooking the dish in a good sized charlotte mold. I prefer to cook it individual little charlotte molds or in ramekins.

Potato Cake with Avocados/Gâteau de Pommes de Terre et d’Avocats

Peel the avocados, cut them in halves, remove the stones, and mince the pulp.
Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet, add the avocados, and sauté them over high heat for 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and keep them hot.
Peel and mince the potatoes. Sauté them in the same skillet, adding the oil if necessary.
Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, or until three-quarters done.
Butter a 6-cup charlotte mold and make alternate layers of potatoes and avocados, beginning and ending in potatoes.
Melt the remaining butter and sprinkle it over the top.
Bake in a preheated 375 F. oven for 20 minutes.
When the cake is done, unmold it on a hot serving dish. Serve immediately and very hot.

4 large avocadoes
7 tablespoons butter
2 pounds potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper

La Grand Véfour is still operating in Paris. In 2008, the restaurant lost one of its three Michelin stars, creating headlines around the globe.

22 June 2009

The Farmhouse Cookbook

The Farmhouse Cookbook was written in the early 1970’s when America was vibrating with a “back to the land” vibe that is similar to what many people are feeling in today’s uncertain climate. The book begins with some simple instruction on growing an organic garden, ends with sections on canning, freezing and root cellaring and between, it is packed with recipes.

Yvonne Young Tarr relies heavily on recipes from the Pennsylvania Dutch. She features many game recipes and offers up 12 different recipes for fried chicken including one in a banana batter. Don't expect to find that one on my table! This is lovely and unusual soup is another story. It makes for a tangy first course.

Elise Dunlop’s Honey-Buttermilk Soup

5 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons tapioca
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Place the buttermilk, milk, tapioca, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a soup kettle. Simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Stir in the honey, sugar, and salt, stirring until well mixed. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve immediately.
This is a soup your guests won't see coming.

21 June 2009

Mrs. Manders’ Cook Book

Mrs. Manders came of age when English society was still very “Upstairs, Downstairs”. She began her professional career as fourth housemaid, then a scullery maid and finally a kitchen maid. To broaden her professional horizons, she studied at Marshall’s School of Cookery, serving as an apprentice and then a cook.

Mrs. Manders was quite a fine cook and she quickly began working for a posh crowd. She was cook to Sir Anthony Eden, considered by most to be the worst British Prime Ministers of the twentieth century. She also worked for two famous writers, Sheila Kaye- Smith and Rumer Godden. "Godden" is a rather a common name in Sussex and Joanna Godden was the title of Kaye-Smith’s most famous novel, though she never met Rumer. Mrs. Manders was at Shelia Kaye-Smith’s side when she died. In a moment of kismet, Godden bought Shelia Kaye-Smith's house.

Mrs. Manders became Godden’s cook. During turn of bad luck, the house burned to the ground and Godden spent a year homeless and camping out in wide array of furnished rentals, Mrs. Manders followed, cooking in unfamiliar surroundings with a hodge-podge of utensils and china.

“You should write a book,” Godden told Mrs. Manders.

“Me write a book?”

“I’ll buy you a fountain pen.”

“But, what sort of book is it.”

“A cookbook, of course.”

For a party, Mrs. Manders created a dessert called “Fraises à la Rumer". Godden wrote,

“I felt a little embarrassed at having such a confection called after me, but Mrs. Manders loves really to “go to town” when there is any kind of party. I always felt it would be a wonderful thing to have a rose called after me, but perhaps this-–dare I call it a pudding?—is better.”

Fraises à la Rumer
6 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups finely granulated sugar
2 quarts strawberries
2 tablespoons Kirsch
2 1/2 cups heavy cream

METHOD: The meringue should be made 24 hours in advance. Grease three large baking sheets. Preheat oven to 475 F. Beat egg whites with salt and 1/4 cup sugar until stiff. Add the remaining sugar and continue beating until the mixture stands up in peaks. Put this into a large pastry bag and form a solid flat circle 9 inches in diameter on one of the prepared baking sheets. Next, make another circle 7 inches in diameter, another 5 inches and lastly one of 3 inches. Put these in the oven, turn off the heat, and leave for 8 hours. Remove, and when they are quite cool place each one very carefully on a clean working area.
Hull the strawberries, except for the largest one, which is reserved for the final touch. Put the fruit into a large bowl and sprinkle over it a little Kirsch: be careful not to use too much. When the strawberries are lying in the bowl with the liqueur, whip the cream until firm but not buttery. Insert a large rosette funnel into the pastry bag and fill it with the whipped cream.
Now put the largest meringue onto a circular platter (preferably silver) larger than 9 inches. Arrange the strawberries on this, covering it completely, and pipe cream over them. Follow this procedure with the 7-inch and then the 5-inch meringue. Finally put the 3-inch meringue on the top; pipe the remaining cream onto it in large rosettes, then put on this as a crowning the single large hulled strawberry. The whole sweet should look like a wedding cake.
While she might not have a rose named for her, this lovely strawberry meringue is gift enough.

20 June 2009

“Queen” Cookery Books – Ices

The Queen (the magazine and not Victoria) published a series of 13 small cookbooks covering a range of topics. I have No. 2 in the series, Ices. It is my goal, to eventually own the complete set but for now, Ices will have to do. The recipes were compiled by S. Beaty-Pownall, the “Housewife and Cuisine” editor of The Queen. So few magazines, today, have a position for a “Housewife and Cuisine” editor.

In the introduction, from 1902, S. Beaty-Pownall reminds the reader that,

“Not so many years ago an ice pudding was looked upon as a triumph of culinary art, that even the average good professed cook would as soon have thought of trying to make, as of trying to fly.”

A hundred years later one can fly and eat ice cream at the same time. I adore making ice cream. I own many a cookbook filled with ice cream recipes and I am always experimenting –Berry Balsamic, Honey Squash, Pimm’s Cup, Absinthe, and Red Velvet are just a few of my concoctions. In searching through Ices, I ran across a term of which I was unfamiliar, spongada. According to my little ice book a spongada is:
“…another form of ice, somewhat of the nature of a parfait, but not frozen so hard, and seldom, if ever, moulded nowadays…. The distinctive mark of this kind of ice is its frothy lightness”

The word is derived from the Italian, spumante, meaning sparkling, effervescent. I immediately began looking for references. Elizabeth David’s Harvest of the Cold Months was my first stop. David references a confection called a spongati. The first mention in English was from a pamphlet by William Fuller, the inventor of a freezing tub for ices. David describes it thusly:
“A simple chocolate water-ice, for example, could be changed into a chocolate spongati by the addition of meringue.”
I have a reprint of Mrs. A. B. Marshall’s book on ices and her “large” cookbook and nowhere is a spongada listed.

Want to be the first kid on the block to resurrect the spongada? Here’s what you need.

Coffee Spongada

Have ready a half a pint of black Mocha coffee, in which you have dissolved 4 oz. to 8 oz. of sugar (this is a matter of taste), and when cold stir it into a gill of unwhipped egg whites and a quart of stiffly whipped cream, run it through a sieve into the freezer, and proceed as directed above adding just before serving a little more sugar syrup and a glassful of cognac, and finish it off.

The “above” direction seems to refer to the actual operation of the ice cream freezer. And if you are not up on your quaint English measurements a gill is about 4 ounces or a 1/2 cup.

Alas, The Queen (the magazine, not Elizabeth II) no longer exists. In 1958 it became simply, Queen no "The" needed. Ten years later it was sold to Harper's Bazaar and rechristened Harper's & Queen and finally the Queen was abandoned. During the period when it was simply, Queen and long after the “Housewife and Cuisine” editor were gone, Clement Freud summed up the kind of woman that read Queen. He said the reader..." had long hair, was named Caroline, had left school at age 16, was not an intellectual, but she was the sort of person that one ended up in bed with."

Ah, but did she make ice cream?

19 June 2009

Some Favorite Southern Recipes

“I have been very happy to help carry some of the well-known
dishes of my native
land to other countries, and especially to have
served on my table
Southern dishes which appeal to the Duke.”

The Duchess of Windsor

Today is Wallis Warfield Simpson’s birthday. How lovely of her to have her birthday fall on a Friday so we could feature her cookbook. You probably didn’t know that The Duchess of Windsor, in addition to being the only woman to have a king abdicate for her, wrote a cookbook: Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor.

She had an ulterior motive – she was raising money for the British War Relief. As a favor, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the introduction where she noted:

“…the real improvements in American living and health has been the discarding of the elaborate and extravagant menus which marked our entertaining as recently as the General Grant period…This tendency toward more healthful simplicity and especially toward the more scientific preparations of food is, I believe, one of the outstanding contributions which the people of the United States have made toward modern eating habits.”

I find it hard to imagine The Duke and Duchess of Windsor prattling around their kitchen in the South of France; her making Cabbage and canned shrimp and the Duke drying the dishes! No doubt the “recipes” were handed off to their chef. Just to make sure the Duchess was no flash in the culinary pan, the Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune tested each recipe.

Poor Wallis, you make one little mistake like getting a King to give up his crown and no one trusts you! I am far more inclined to eat with the Duchess than the New York Herald Tribune.

For today’s royal, though not queenly, birthday celebration, I chose a favorite cake of The Duchess of Windsor. Is it lemon chiffon cake? Devil’s food cake? A light an airy coconut cake? A rich spicy pork cake?

Did you guess? Did you guess Pork Cake?

The Duchess of Windsor’s Pork Cake

1/2 pound fat salt pork, ground
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups raisins
1 cup currants, washed and dried
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Place pork in a mixing bowl and add boiling water. Add molasses, brown sugar, raisins and currants and cool. Mix and sift the flour, baking soda and spices together three times. Add to the molasses mixture and beat until smooth. Turn into long narrow bar pan (10 X 4 X 3 inches) and bake in a slow oven (325 F.) 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Rarely does one find a cake recipe that begins with the 1/2 pound of fat salt pork. Pork Cakes are a Southern invention – you know in the South, when it comes to pork we eat everything but the squeal! Who knew we had such fine ideas for porky desserts.

Pork Cake shows up in a few Southern cookbooks from the early 1900’s but doesn’t seem to have caught on or survived. Such a cake is not mentioned in Mrs. Dull’s Southern Cooking, considered to be one of the most comprehensive chronicles of Southern tradition. The recipe appears in Southern Living’s encyclopedic, Southern Heritage series culled from The Williamsburg Art of Cookery. In her introduction, The Duchess of Windsor says,

“Few housekeepers owned recipe books, the first American cookbook being printed at Williamsburg in 1742. Recipes, instead, were written by hand, and passed on, as treasured gifts…”

Since she was familiar with Helen Bullock’s Williamsburg recipes, one can speculate that her recipe for Pork Cake was adapted from that volume.

Next time you want to bake a cake for the family, don’t forget the pork! And if you bake it on June 19th, stick a candle in it --

Happy Birthday, Wallis!

Simultaneous post at Lucindaville.

18 June 2009

Provençal Cooking

Mary Ann Caws is a rock star of academe! She is the Tina Turner of translation! The Jane Birkin of Bloomsbury. The Janis Joplin of Surrealism. And she cooks! OMG.

As a young professor, Caws went to Provence to enmesh herself in the culture of René Char, the poet she was translating. She fell in love with Provence and the rest is history. I know, there are a million of these books.

I went to France.
I fell in love with France.
I fell in love with the quirky French people.
I fell in love with the divine French food.
I fell in love with the luscious French wine.
I fell in love with France and it’s quirky people who fed me French food in their exquisite little winery.

Feel free to substitute “Italy” and “Italian” for another million books.

I’m writing a book about moving to West Virginia and falling in love with quirky people and their food and wine... but I digress.

Even though there are a lot of these books, this one is written by Mary Ann Caws! She didn’t just stumble upon Provence she was on a mission. She understands the history and culture of France better than most Frenchmen. And while the term “academic” and “writer” are often mutually exclusive, that is never the case with Caws, whose real love is language and poetry.

Provençal Cooking: Savoring the Simple Life in France is a gigantic prose poem to food and all that it gives us -- sustenance, fellowship and renewal. She is not a “cook” but rather a passionate instructor who explains to the reader how to make a dish as though she were standing right beside them.

My friend Harry Lowe is the consummate vinaigrette maker. He is always put in charge of salads because he knows the magical alchemy of a vinaigrette. It is not measured with teaspoons or cups but with the eyes.

Caws understands that alchemy, she writes of a vinaigrette from Lucy up the hill.

Lucy’s Sauce Vinaigrette

calls for a pinch of salt, a spoonful of grainy mustard, a dribble of tarragon vinegar, a clove of crushed garlic, some green olive oil, and some pepper, freshly ground. (I have taken to growing my own tarragon, so I add a few sprigs of that.) Then you can add shallots or onions, the purple Simiane ones for color, and then some slices of bright red pepper and fresh basil.

If you love language and food, Provençal Cooking is a must. If you don't why are you reading this blog?

If you are interested in both food and surrealism, check out this Famous Food Friday post on Lee Miller at Lucindaville.

17 June 2009

Sweety Pies

I was raised by a giant conglomerate of women. Some were white and some were black. I make this distinction, not because it is important to me but because "race" is such loaded word in our culture and because I was raised for the most part in Alabama, so race tends to hang in the air like rotting kudzu.

One of the women that raised me was Pearl, my great-uncle Jim's cook. She called me Sweetie Pie.

She made the most wonderful little peach pies, dusted lightly with sugar and a mahogany colored fried chicken that could make you weep. Try as I might, I have never been able to replicate either. Every summer, part of her job was to look after me. My Mother and Uncle Jim would sit in the formal living room while Pearl and I were confined to the kitchen. I was never terribly fond of Uncle Jim as he was an imposing man with a horrible scar on his leg that he loved to show me. In the kitchen, Pearl and I were subversive. On the days he would make look at his wretched scar, she would lift me up to sit on the sink edge while she washed dishes and I would put my feet in the dishwater.

Pearl's kitchen was filled with laughter. She would always let me set the table and I always set her a place. Before she rang the bell for dinner (lunch to you Yankees) she removed her plate. One day, when I was five, I ran out of milk. Uncle Jim rang for Pearl to come into the kitchen to get the milk. I said the refrigerator was right there, my Mother could get the milk. When Pearl tried to pour the milk, I put my hand over the glass. Pearl was excused and Uncle Jim told my mother that perhaps she should bring me back to Alabama so I could learn manners. To save face, my Mother took me by the arm and dragged me out the back door while grabbing the rag mop. She beat me with mop till it broke and returned me, apologizing and banishing me from the table.

I went to find Pearl, who was sitting on the foot of Uncle Jim's bed. I sat beside her but she didn't say anything. She didn't comfort me and I didn't really understand so we sat there, none of our feet reaching the floor, until it was time to wash the dishes. Despite this minor embarrassment, we remained thick as thieves. When my father died, my Mother fell apart and following Uncle Jim's advice, brought me back to Alabama. In the months following my father's death, I was adrift, but knew if I could just get back to Pearl's kitchen I would be safe. When we finally arrived, I asked for Pearl. "She's dead," my uncle said without any explanation. I didn't think I would ever be safe again.

I told that story to a friend of mine who said I was racist for loving Pearl. There was some post-modernist spin on her logic. When I was a child I loved Pearl. I never knew her last name, never met her husband, never got the chance to inquire why she had no children, and never got the chance to copy down any of her recipes. I know that with her I felt safe. I know she made extraordinary pies. I know that it was she who made me love kitchens and stoves and sifters and aprons. When I looked at mother I never saw my future but when I looked at Pearl I did. Race is complex. Family is complex. Class is complex. But, love is simple, as is food.

One of the most loving cookbooks in recent memory is Patty Pinner's Sweety Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, with Pie. In Pinner's book, every pie has a story and a woman behind it. My friend Ann is coming for the Fourth of July. She asked me if I would make her an apple pie or, "I can just buy one," she said. It seemed almost un-American to serve a "bought" pie for Independence Day! The second she said "pie" I knew where to look.

There is, however, a profound problem with pulling Sweetie Pies from the bookshelf. You can't put it down. I just wanted to read her Grandmother's apple pie recipe. But then I had to read Mayor Ham's Brown Sugar Peach Pie recipe, and the one for Miss Mancini's Rice Pie, the was Aunt Betty Jean's Lemon Pie and two hours later there was no pie.

Patty Pinner grew up in Michigan but she is a bona fide Southerner in my book. Here is her somewhat, dressed - up version of her Grandmother's apple pie.

Pink Lady Apple Pie

Dough for one 9-in double Flaky Pie Crust
1 cup sugar, plus 1/2 teaspoon for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 medium-sized Pink Lady apples (or any good pie apple), peeled, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut not small pieces
1 teaspoon milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Gather the dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Refrigerate the smaller one. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the lager ball of dough, into 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Place a 9-inch pie plate upside down on top of the rolled out dough. Use a small knife to cut a 1-inch border around the pie plate. Remove the plate. Fold one side of the crust over in half. Fold the crust into quarters. Pick up the crust so that the center point is positioned in the center of the plate. Unfold the dough and press it firmly into the pie plate. Refrigerate until you need it.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the spices, and flour until well blended. Sprinkle evenly with the vanilla, a few drops at a time. Add the apples and toss until well coated. Remove the bottom crust from the refrigerator. Pour the filling into the crust,dot with the butter.
Remove the smaller ball of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out into an 11-inch circle the same way you did the bottom crust. Lay the top crust over the filling. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust until the edges are even with the rim of the pie plate. Flute all around the edges with your fingers. Cut steam vents in the top crust. If you like, brush the top crust with the milk, then sprinkle it with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
Place in the oven and bake until bubbly and golden, about 1 hour. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving with vanilla ice cream, or a wedge of cheddar cheese.

Patty Pinner's grandmother said, "Good cooks have good hands."
My great-aunt Ruth said the same thing. "You have lovely pie making hands," she would say to me as I rolled out dough.
Patty Pinner's grandmother gave her gift's to run a "pretty household."
My great-aunt Sissy gave me similar gifts to tuck away in a "hope chest."
Patty Pinner's grandmother gave her her prized aprons.
My great-aunt Lizzy gave me hers.
Patty Pinner and I both have an unusually large number of recipes that call for store bought cereal.
Patty Pinner and I both know someone named "Sister Baby."

If Patty Pinner had known Pearl, she would probably have a copy of her Peach Pie recipe. I wish she had.

16 June 2009

Edible Schoolyard

Last Saturday, Alice Waters visited the Smithsonian Institution’s Victory Garden. She was signing her new book, Edible Schoolyard. For years as she drove to Chez Panisse, Waters passed a school she assumed was abandoned. It wasn’t, simply neglected. What struck Waters most were the children inside. About 15 years ago, Waters mentioned to a journalist she would like to see abandoned lots turned into gardens. Within a week she received a note from the principal of the “unabandoned” school. They met and discussed a garden. Several weeks later the principal had a volunteer. With that the Edible Schoolyard was born.

As Picasso would say, “All art is derivative.” A school garden is not such a profoundly original idea. In the early 1900’s school garden sprouted up as a way to actually feed children who were now being sent away to schools each day.

During World War II, Victory Gardens’ weren’t just for adults, children planted gardens around their schools.

But as often happens, prosperity reared its ugly and consumerist head and gardening fell by the wayside. Food became abundant, from our shores and beyond. Tomatoes, strawberries and lettuce were available year round. Schools began “renting” space to soft drink companies and candy manufactures while school lunches were sad affairs of spaghetti and canned fruit. Kids grew fatter and less healthy.

Waters set out to change that. The first Edible Schoolyard is thriving some 12 years later. It has hosted visitors from around the world, some hoping to replicate the idea, some, like Prince Charles, to marvel in its mission to create an Edible Education.

Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea is more of an extended essay with stunning pictures of the kids in their gardens. There are only a few recipes in the book, but it well worth the time to check it out.

Carrot-Raisin Salad

Wash and peel 10 carrots. Grate the carrots into a bowl. Add one cup of raisins and mix well. Eat the salad like this or serve it in a little lettuce leaf. If you want, you can make a little dressing by stirring 1 tablespoon lemon juice and some salt together. Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss with the carrots and raisins.
If you are looking for a kid-friendly recipe that even a grown - up would love, try this.

15 June 2009

The Curiosities of Food

In 1859, The Curiosities of Food was published in London. If it walked, swam, crawled, slithered or flew, Peter Lund Simmonds wrote about eating it. Not something as pedestrian as venison or horse or even possum, Simmonds wrote of buffalo humps, sea lion tongue, and red ants.

Simmonds exhaustive study quickly went out of print and might have been lost to general public if not for Alan Davidson. While researching the Oxford Companion to Food, Davidson ran across Simmonds' book. Its exhaustive research proved a boon for insight into the rarer culinary items Davidson was researching. Not only did he love the book, but he worked to get it reprinted. Lucky for us he did.

Fly Egg Cakes

In October the lakes Chalco and Texcuco, which boarder on the city of Mexico, are haunted by millions of small flies, which after dancing in the air, plunge down into the shallowest parts of the water, to the depth of several feet, and deposit their eggs at the bottom.
The eggs of these insects are called hautle by the Mexican Indians, who collect them in great numbers, and with whom they appear to be a favorite article of food.
They are prepared in various ways, but usually made into cakes, which are eaten with a sauce flavored with chilies.

I realize these ingredients may be a bit hard to find. I have as yet found no supplier for fly eggs nor the yummy elephant toes which are all the rage pickled; and prepared bat is just impossible to get at the butcher! It is very sad for us that Peter Simmonds' book was not a runaway best seller. He was outlining a companion piece for vegetables which promised to be equally fascinating.

Check out our previous post on Alan Davidson.

14 June 2009

The New Cookbook for Poor Poets

Ann Rogers wrote A Cookbook for Poor Poets in 1969 and thirteen years later revised and enlarged it as The New Cookbook for Poor Poets. Her original premise featured an ideal called a nickel dinner. As a child of the Depression, Rogers went on Sundays with the father to buy the weeks wine. There was always bread and wine whether there was anything else on the tables. By 1969, there was no such thing as a nickel dinner, certainly not in 1976, and definitely not today. Today a $5 dinner is hard to find. While the financial argument is a bit specious, Rogers rules for dinning are spot on.

Rules for a poor poet’s basic dinner:

1. Always have fresh bread
2. Always use butter
3. Always serve wine
4. Always have a candle on the table

A gala dinner gives hope. The three rule here are:

1. Always have something outrageously expensive
2. Always serve it in the grandest manner
3. Always serve butter

In her revised edition the rules change slightly:

1. Meat is not the only protein
2. Throw out the salt
3. Hide the sugar
4. Cut down on convenience and processed food

Last week after tons of company, I needed to make dinner and I had only bits and pieces of leftover items from my visitors. There were a few potatoes, half a head of cabbage, and one thick Carolina sausage. I was thinking of a modified Bubble and Squeak but that usually works best with cooked leftovers. Since I was starting from scratch, this recipe fit my ingredients perfectly.

Jager Kohl

1/2 pound bacon or sausage
2 or 3 large potatoes
1 small head of cabbage
2 tablespoons flour
salt, cracked pepper, and cider vinegar to taste
1/2 pint sour cream

Fry the bacon in a frying pan with a lid. Drain off most of the fat and add thick slices of peeled potatoes and cabbage. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables, add water to barely cover, along with salt and a dash of vinegar. Cover and cook slowly 45 minutes to an hour. Serve along with a bowl of sour cream, cracked pepper, and a little cruet of vinegar for those who like a sharper flavor.

The rules make this one of my favorite cookbooks. The initial rules are true for a poor poet, a poor philosopher or a well-to-do cook. It can be a simple salad, or a can of beans but serve fresh bread, creamy butter and a nice wine, and dinner will be a triumph.

13 June 2009

Whistler’s Mother’s Cook Book

Typical! Everybody and his mother wants to have a cookbook, even Whistler's mother.

Among the items of James McNeill Whistler, bequeathed to Glasgow University by his sister-in-law, was a small manuscript of recipes, collected by his mother, Anna. Margaret MacDonald, who compiled Whistler’s catalogue raisonné, assembled many of the recipes into the charming document, Whistler's Mother's Cook Book.

Whistler wanted to be an artist but to keep the family happy he followed family tradition to West Point. While excelling in drawing he failed chemistry and was discharged. Whistler said of the incident, “Had silicon been a gas, I would have been a major-general.”

Whistler loved to throw parties, his favorite being breakfast, where he held court and told elaborate stories over food and wine. Whistler would write out the menus and sign them boldly, with his monogram. There are over a hundred such hand-written menus in the collection at Glasgow University.

His mother made fine sugar cookies, often referred to as "cakes."

Sugar Cake

4 cups Sugar, 2 cups Butter, 4 Eggs, and as much flour* as will make them stiff enough to roll.

Beat the sugar and butter together until creamy. Beat in the eggs alternately with the flour to make a light dough. Roll it out on a floured board and cut into shapes with a biscuit cutter. Put the shapes on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Cool them immediately on a wire rack. Makes 100.

*As much flour seems to be 5 cups.

With all of his interest in food, Whistler was foremost an artist whose interest in color or the muted lack of color led him to experiment with painting in shades of black and white and grey. His painting Arrangement in Grey and Black was shown in 1872 in London at an Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art. Thomas Carlyle requested a portrait in a similar pose which was entitled, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 2. the first "Arrangement" became known as Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1. While Whistler cared only about the composition and color and paid little attention to his model, her identity would shape the painting and it would become known simply as, Whistler's Mother.

12 June 2009

Cocktail Food

Every publisher and their wicked stepchild subsidiary has published a mixology. One publishing company, Mud Puddle Books was founded with the sold intention of publishing out of print drink books. But once we have all these drinks mixed what do I nibble on? Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude by twins Mary Barbor and Sara Witeford serves as a friendly accompaniment to the staggering number of “drink” books that flooded the market like cheap Merlot.

Cocktail Food is filled with easy, straightforward recipes beautifully photographed. The recipes have catchy little names like, Spear Ecstasy which is blanched asparagus and a dipping sauce. Easy? Yes! Have you done it before? Yes. Does the photograph show you a cool way to present it? Yes.

Bold innovation this cookbook is not. But everyone has that moment when friends are dropping by and you have beer and you have wine but you are at a loss for what else to have. Pick up Cocktail Food. It’s a no brainer. Frankly, the recipes are beyond tedious and there are very few recipes in the book that you couldn’t “make” by simple looking at the picture. While the snacks are familiar, the ideas they inspire should make your cocktail hour THE place to be.

Caprese Skewers

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into twenty-four 1/2 inch cubes (fresh mozzarella is best)
24 small (or 12 large, cut in half) cherry tomatoes, preferably Sweet 100’s
24 small to medium fresh basil leaves
24 five inch bamboo skewers

Combine balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt in a small bowl using a whisk. Set aside.

Toss the mozzarella with the reaming 1 teaspoon of olive oil and the remaining pepper. Season to taste with kosher salt, if necessary, depending on the taste of the mozzarella.

to assemble: slide one cherry tomato onto a skewer. Fold 1 basil leaf in half; slide onto the skewer. Add one piece of mozzarella. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. Place skewers on a plate and brush with balsamic vinaigrette. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

do-ahead tips: The balsamic vinaigrette can be prepared 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Assemble the skewers and cover with plastic wrap up to three hours in advance. Do not refrigerate. Serve as directed.

I do think this is a nifty little book, but seriously, how tedious is that recipe. You can make the damn skewers in less time than it takes to READ the recipe. Few people have a measuring spoon calibrated for 1/8 teaspoon. The 1/4 teaspoon of pepper is DIVIDED during the recipe. They specify mozzarella CHEESE as opposed to what, mozzarella candy?

I adore the direction to: “Repeat until all ingredients have been used.” I’m going to stop making skewers with three tomatoes left and dump them in the compost? Is there any wonder that I wish recipes writing would return to the common-sense style of Elizabeth David.

Caprese skewers are a riff on a caprese salad; mozzarella, basil and tomatoes dressed in vinaigrette. Make a vinaigrette with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, about 1 tablespoon of each and season with salt and pepper. For two dozen skewers you will need equal amounts of bite-sized tomatoes (grape or sweet 100’s work nicely), basil leaves, and cubes or small balls of mozzarella roughly the same size as the tomatoes. Dress in the vinaigrette and thread on skewers: one tomato, a leaf of basil and finally the cheese.

You didn’t even have to get out you 1/8 teaspoon measuring scoop! After all that, I need a drink!

11 June 2009

The Williamsburg Art of Cookery

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reprinted Helen Bullock’s treatise on cooking, The Williamsburg art of cookery; or, Accomplish'd gentlewoman's companion. The cookbook has been kept in its original form which includes a "long s." The "long s" resembles our letter "f". While there are many rules surrounding its use, generally in the middle of a word, the "long s" appears. That means that one often sees words that look like, “paftry”, Muftard” and “difh.” Reading through the text make one think the book was transcribed from a lisping speaker to a very literal stenographer, but in fact, just printed at a time when the "long s" was still used.

While much has changed since the writing of this cookbook, much hasn’t. Roughly half of the cookbook features recipes for sweets! Cookies have always been a temptation. There is also a section on Christmas in Williamsburg. In that section we find Mrs. Tucker’s recipe for a toddy.

To make toddy – Mrs. Tucker

Take one Gallon of Rum and one Pound of Sugar, brown, well mixed in a pot, keep clofely stopped till clear -–fay two Days –and then carefully rack off in a Jug.

It’s hard to argue with a recipe that begins with a gallon of rum!

My most memorable Williamsburg food adventure came courtesy of my elderly aunt. My father came from a large family. Of his brothers and sister, those who had children, with one exception, had only children. Those children who had children had only children. After my father’s generation was gone his sister-in-law remained. Several years ago, she announced that all of the only children, who had never seen each other, should meet and vacation together and she was taking us all to Williamsburg. Williamsburg is fine place to visit, unless you happen to be 15 years old, the age of most of my cousins on this trip. Once you’ve seen the blacksmith and the glass blower, the rest is history and of little interest to the average/any teenager. For dinner she booked us into an “authentic” Williamsburg inn where the authentic menu was squab and creamed beets. Being in her 70’s and a fan of history, my aunt felt that forking over $60 a head for this “authentic” experience would thrill this band of loner teeny-boppers. She seriously miscalculated. They demanded fries and burgers. Dinner was, shall we say, a trying experience.

Being older than my cousins, I handled dinner more maturity knowing two very important things: 1. I could drive. 2. I could buy beer. After my disillusioned aunt retired for the evening, I headed for the car to do both. My fellow only children were in hot pursuit, and demanded I take them with me to the one thing colonial Williamsburg did not have, a 7-11. They bought Big Gulps, hot dogs, chips and magazines. I bought beer and magazines. Back in my hotel room, we band of "onlys" migrated as far from each other as the room would allow and sat quietly, alone, drinking and reading.

I found that in lieu of Mrs. Tucker and her toddy, 7-11 comes in handy.

10 June 2009

A Bibical Feast

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers
for thereby some have entertained angles unawares.

Hebrews 13:2

As a Southern child, I spent a lot of time with my nose in a Bible. Think what you will about religion, the Bible is an extraordinary text. I was always fascinated with the recipe for a Scripture Cake. The recipe had biblical references requiring you to read the Bible to find the ingredients in the text. Now days when the recipe is printed, it usually gives you the ingredients, making the Biblical readings moot. As a child, however, it was like a cooking scavenger hunt.

When I put away the things of a child, I never put away my interest in Biblical cooking. There have been many cookbooks using Biblical ingredients including Kitty Morse’s A Biblical Feast, Foods from the Holy Land. Morse was born in Casablanca later emigrating to the United States. Following the admonition in Hebrews, she began cooking Moroccan tribal feasts, diffas, for family and friends. Her background gives her a natural understanding of indigenous food of the Holly Land and her scholarship brings those ingredients together to give a glimpse of what might have been cooked for Jesus and what can be produced in the home kitchen.

Thou didst prepare quails to eat a delicacy to satisfy a desire of appetite.

Song of Solomon 16:2

Grilled Quail

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing the grill
1 clove garlic, minced
4 quail, rinsed and patted dry
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare a charcoal fire. Brush the grill with olive oil.
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil with the garlic. Lightly coat the quail with the mixture. Sprinkle the bird lightly with salt and pepper inside and out.
Grill about 4 minutes away fro the coals, turning occasionally with tongs, until the juices run clear, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately.

Grilled Quail and the Songs of Solomon! It’s enough to make you want to go to church.

09 June 2009

Banqueting For One

Banqueting for One is a quirky little cookbooks I picked up for its totally unusual vibe.

First, I adored the title. As a girl who often “banquets” alone, I could not think of better title. Seriously, how about Cooking All Alone, or The I Don’t Have a Dinner Guest Cookbook, or Banqueting for One: which concept is more appealing.

Secondly, the book is painstakingly hand written. As someone who can’t read her own handwriting, I admire lovely penmanship.

Thirdly, I adore the author’s photo. It’s the eighties. I confess to owning a similar Ralph Lauren collar during those heady times. I further confess it is a look that in no way needs to be resurrected. I will also confess that I am sick of looking at pictures of cookbook authors so air brushed and so skinny that it is not hard to believe syrup of ipecac is a favorite after dinner drink!

Fourthly, the recipes are quite good and easily expandable if per chance you find a dinner companion.

Here is an effortless cold soup for summer. Wolfenden recommend for one that you make this soup with the half of avocado left over from the salad you made, earlier.

Iced Avocado Soup

Whisk up the other half with lemon juice, seasoning and enough chicken stock to make it liquid. Add a little cream or top of the milk. Chill. Rub a soup bowl with a clove of garlic. Pour in the soup and top with a little more cream that is sprinkled with chopped chives.

In addition to the book, my copy had a lovely bookmark with an oven temperature conversion chart. As someone who get food magazines from 4 continents, it is very handy.


08 June 2009

In The Pink

Santa Fe in the 1940’s was one of those magical bohemian confluences of artist and writers. Roaming through the dusty streets one might see Freda Lawrence, Mabel Dodge Luhan, or Dorothy Brett. Some of the artists were flush, but many struggled to make ends meet and Santa Fe held little industry.

Luhan, Lawrence and Brett, New Mexico in the 1940's

One such artist, Rosalea Murphy, found a small pink adobe building and began serving food to support her art. Soon, The Pink Adobe became a gathering place for artists and diners alike. Georgia O’Keeffe was a frequent visitor and Harry Partch washed dishes in exchange for room and board.

Fifty years later, The Pink Adobe was still thriving with Rosalea Murphy still at the helm.

Rosalea Murphy who died in 2000 at age 88

In the Pink was written as a celebration of that 50th anniversary. The recipes are divided into menus for outing like picnics and barbeque's. The recipes are reflective of Southwestern cuisine and a retro 1950’s aesthetic. There are lots of peppers and avocados and beans and there are the retro entries like Smoked Salmon Wheels and Three Bean Salad. The book is illustrated with color reproductions of Murphy’s vibrant paintings, many, food inspired.

In the Elton John song, Levon, there is the following line:

“Levon wears his war wounds like a crown,
Calls his child Jesus, cause he like the name”

Occasionally, I find recipes I try, as with Levon, “cause I like the name.” How can one resist a potato salad that would make a poet happy.

To Please A Poet Potato Salad

1 to 1 1/2 pounds unpeeled new potatoes (6 to 8 potatoes)
1 small green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Anchovy and Mustard Dressing

Boil potatoes in water to cover until easily pierced by a fork (15 to 20 minutes). While potatoes are cooking, prepare the dressing.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and slice thin. Toss with the green onions, salt, and pepper. With a rubber spatula, gently combine the dressing with the potatoes until nicely coated.

Anchovy and Mustard Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons mild cider vinegar
2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and, with on-and-off movement, process until thoroughly blended.

Stir up a big bowl, grab your D. H. Lawrence and invite a poet to lunch.

Harry Partch And On The Seventh Day, Petals Fell In Petaluma.mp3

07 June 2009

Seafood: A Connoisseur's Guide and Cookbook

Alan Davidson is one of the shining lights in the pantheon of cookery writers. He founded one of the most influential food journals in history, Petits Propos Culinaires. Elizabeth David and Richard Olney soon signed on.

Davidson came to wilder shores of gastronomy after many years as a diplomat, traveling to far-flung outposts around the world. When his wife found the dazzling array of seafood in the markets of Tunis confusing, she asked her husband to find her a seafood cookbook explaining the various and unfamiliar fish. He found no such book and undaunted, set about to create one. When Elizabeth David found herself in possession of a crudely mimeographed copy of Seafish Of Tunisia And The Central Mediterranean, she knew she was holding a culinary masterpiece and with her help, Davidson published his fist book re-titled, Mediterranean Seafood. A posting to Laos led to two cookbooks on Southeast Asian seafood. Finally, diplomacy lost out to his true calling, writing.

Seafood : A Connoisseur’s Guide and Cookbook is just that. Davidson provides a history for each fish selected. He gives a name to the fish in a dozen various languages and provides a suitable substitute if they aren’t catching rascasse where you’re fishing. The “art” of the book comes from the exquisite illustration of Charlotte Knox. To complete this project, Knox had fish flown in from around the world to model for the drawings.

This is a recipe that makes halibut moist and filled with flavor.

Fish Steaks in Cream and Lime Juice

5-6 ounce steaks of halibut or any other firm fleshed fish
2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 cups tomato juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
4 drops Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
generous 1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oil and fry the onions and garlic until soft and golden, In another pan, heat the tomato juice to the boiling point then add it to the first pan along with the black pepper, coriander seeds and Tabasco. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then stir in the lime or lemon and sugar and simmer for five minutes more. Pour the cream into the center of the pan and do not stir but cover and simmer very gently for five minutes. Place the fish steaks in the sauce. Cover again and cook very slowly for eight to ten minutes until the steaks are cooked through. Serve with plain or coconut rice.

Try this recipe with salmon steaks, substituting the tomato with a citrus juice.

For more information on Petits Propos Culinaires check out Prospect Books.

See more of Charlotte Knox at www.charlotteknox.com.

06 June 2009

Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

In the 1980’s after delivering his manuscript for The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy sat on a plane next to the a guy from Alabama. The guy was a chef, though he had never run his own restaurant, but that was going to change. He was headed home to Alabama to open a restaurant in Birmingham. Conroy was skeptical. Frank Stitt changed his mind and along the way, he fundamentally changed the viewed of Southern cuisine. Birmingham is now a major foodie destination in the South.

Photo: Southern Living

His first restaurant, Highland Bar and Grill consistently finds itself on lists of top restaurants in America. Stitt melds local, indigenous ingredients with his classically trained cooking style to produce food that is at once familiar and dizzily unique. While you may find Kobe Beef Carpaccio is on the menu or Courteney Cox sitting at the really great table in the front, Stitt still knows how to make a mean pimento cheese. His book, Frank Stitt's Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill is one of my favorites.

Here is a great party favorite that is familiar and fun. Pickle Shrimp is always popular. Stitt notes that boiling shrimp makes it tough so he advises bringing the liquid to a boil then reducing to a simmer. Add the shrimp and as soon as the water starts to simmer again, remove it from the heat. Then drain.

Pickled Shrimp

3 pounds boiled small to medium shrimp, peeled
2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 lemons, thinly sliced
14 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 dried hot chile peppers
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly. Pack everything into a large glass jar, cover, and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to come together.

All the Veal & Sweetbreads and Kobe Beef Carpaccio in the world can't hold a candle to opening the refrigerator and finding a big jar of pickled shrimp sitting there waiting. I love summer!

05 June 2009

The New Cook

This week I opened the mailbox and there was the Winter issue of one of my favorite magazines, Donna Hay. In the last year, 4 of the magazines I subscribe to have folded, so I am always glad to see any magazine in the box. It is always a bit disconcerting when Donna Hay arrives as it is published in Australia so our seasons are reversed. Evey food magazine stuffed into my mailbox is gearing up for July, with a plethora of flag motifed events and lots of salad, frozen confections and grilling. Donna Hay is serving up baked desserts and braised meat, still I savor every issue.

Besides the magazine, Donna Hay (the person not the magazine) publishes cookbooks. Each of the cookbooks is a visually stunning testament to the beauty of pure simplicity. Hay food is clean and simple and is displayed in a similar fashion. As simple as it is, the food is beyond beautiful. Opening a Donna Hay cookbook is the food equivalent to putting on Levis and starched white shirt, comfortable yet classic.

With dozens of cookbooks to her name, here is a recipe from one of my favorites, The New Cook
It may be winter in Australia, but during those zucchini rich days of July, this is a great way to use the abundant squash.

Zucchini Pancakes with Double Brie

2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
200 g double-cream brie
100g semi-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Squeeze the zucchini to remove any excess liquid. Place in a bowl with the eggs, butter , flour parmesan, pepper and nutmeg. Mix until smooth. Heat in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add spoonfuls of the mixture and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until the pancakes are golden. Keep the pancakes warm and repeat with the remaining mixture.

To serve, spread a little double-cream brie over the pancakes and top with the semi-dried tomatoes and chives.

If you want to make this recipe, buy all means use the double brie, but the toppings, as with any pancake, can be limitless. Try them with a bit of salsa, some whipped goat cheese, or even some additional sautes squash!

For more on Donna Hay check out her website.
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