31 August 2009

The Silver Palate Cookbook

Sheila Lukins 1942 --2009

Sheila Lukins lost her battle with brain cancer on Sunday. The 1980's were a time of Pac-man, Ronald Regan, Live-Aid, Punk Rock and Michael Jackson, and John Hughes and Sheila Lukins. No kitchen was complete without that big red The Silver Palate Cookbook. Along with Julee Rosso, Lukins dragged that working woman into the kitchen.

They made The Silver Palate Cookbook one of the most widely read cookbooks in the last 50 years. There were several books in the series, and a tiny cooking shop in New York. Lukins succeeded Julia Child as the food editor at Parade, writing the "Simply Delicious" column for 23 years.

Chicken Marbella was the first main-course at The Silver Palate and remains a favorite to this day. If you are having a party, use this recipe, if it's just you and the family, scale it back a bit.

Chicken Marbella

4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


1. In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350° F.

3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice

5. With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

6. To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over chicken.

I you were alive in the 1980's someone fed you this chicken. For those of us who remember the 80's, it has been a tough few weeks filled with a great deal of lose. What we all need is a cathartic, 1980's, big hair blow out. Gather your family and friends and cook up a jumbo sized portion of Chicken Marbella while you listen to Thriller. After dinner, stick Ferris Bueller in the DVD player and wax nostalgic.

30 August 2009

Chez Panisse Café Cookbook

It is hard to talk about "American Food" without mentioning Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. While it is hardly unusual to cook with fresh vegetables, it was unusual for a restaurant to insist on the finest ingredients from a few miles away. It was unusual for a restaurant to cook only vegetables that were in season and not flown in from thousands of miles away. It was unusual for a restaurateur to cultivate the local farmers and for them to reciprocate with amazing fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. Now, it's hardly unusual, in fact many cooks now have their own farms to provide for their restaurants.

Alice Waters was the spark for this revolution. Chez Panisse Café Cookbook features a collection of recipes from the restaurant, some dating back to its opening in 1980, while some are very new. waters not only presents recipes, but in this book she looks at those farmers that have been such and integral part of making Chez Panisse's signature style. She introduces us to Bill Niman who raises beef and to Nancy Warner whose family brings eggs and to many others whose day to day tending of the land bring it to life.

The book is beautifully illustrated with David Lance Goines colored block prints, making it a feast for the eyes as well as -- just a feast. A feast if you start cooking the recipes. Lets start with dessert.

Orange-Currant Cookies

10 ounces (2 1/2 sticks butter)
1 1 /2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup finely chopped candied orange peel

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Stir in the flour and salt. Finally, stir in the currants and orange peel. Form the dough into 2 logs, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and freeze. Slice into 1/4-inch rounds and bake at 350 F on parchment paper-lined baking sheets until the edge of the cookies are golden, about 12 minutes.

I love a recipe you can make and then throw in the freezer and get back to it later. Seriously, in the evening when you are in the kitchen anyway, and the dishes are going to be dirty, and the cupboards open, think about making up some cookie dough that freezes. The next day, you can bake with almost no fuss at all.

29 August 2009

Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights

I have written before about Roald Dahl, and now his granddaughter, Sophie, has followed in his footsteps and written a cookbook. And a lovely cookbook it is. Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights is a beautiful cookbook, big and bold much like Sophie Dahl, herself.

The recipes are simple and easy to make and totally wonderful. Dahl is a vegetarian, but she has several "meaty" recipes in the book. He brother, Luke, loves lamb. When she told him of the book, he wanted to know which lamb she was including. Of course, she added his favorite, rare, lamb.

The book is divided into the four seasons, with each season offering up recipes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. There is final chapter for "Puddings" or deserts as real people refer to sweets after meals.

Sophie had a bit of kismet when at eighteen, she got in a fight with her mother over career plans. She ran out of the house and collapsed on some steps, crying. The owner of the flat approached and inquired as to why she was crying. In typical mother/daughter relations, Dahl wept that her mother didn't understand her. Dahl helped the woman carry in her bags. She asked Dahl if she wanted to model and Dahl said yes. "Now put on some lipstick and we'll tell your mother we've found you a career."

The woman whose steps Dahl collapsed upon was none other then Isabella Blow.

At a Japanese restaurant, Dahl and Blow broke the news to Dahl's mother. As Dahl consumed sushi with reckless abandon, Blow remarked, "Gosh, you do like to eat."

I am not sure what her mother thought of the infamous Opium ad, but it still causes controversy. And though Sophie has slimmed down a bit, much to the dismay of her many fans, she still likes to eat. Once again, her brother Luke aides in her cookbook writing. He loves honey and cheeses and he told her of a dream of eating ham from a pig raised on ricotta and honey. Both were quite crushed that there was no such ham. As an homage to the dream...

Grilled Figs with Ricotta and Honey

6 figs, quartered but still whole
Tiny dot of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of thyme honey
2 slices of ricotta

Preheat the grill. Wash the figs and carefully cut them open --score them twice. Dot each one with a mini amount of butter and do the same with the honey -- just a quick drizzle on each one, not a monsoon cloud.

Put on a baking tray/cookie sheet under a searing grill for 2 minutes. Serve with a slice of ricotta, draped with another dignified slip of the honey.

Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights is not yet published in the U.S., but it should be out before Christmas, which makes it a great present. If you are headed off the England in the near future, or you have a friend headed over, do tell them to grab you a copy.

After cooking from this book, people will exclaim, "Gosh, you do like to eat."

28 August 2009

Foie Gras, Magret, and Other Good Food From Gascony

Foie Gras, Magret, and Other Good Food From Gascony quite literally highlights the main ingredients of Gascone cooking, foie gras and duck. According to Paula Wolfert, Daquin is "The Gascon chef of France".

Gascony is an area in southwestern France between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, sort of... According to Andre Daguin, "The boarders of Gascony are elastic." It's a southern thing, like a Southerner defining the south. There is an old joke about the mother whose son gets into Vanderbilt. Her friend touches her shoulder and says, "Couldn't he get into a Southern school?" Even parts of Maryland are below the Mason/Dixon Line, but hardly Southern! To the man from Gascony, Paris is part of he Gascon, but only if he needs it.

While duck may be the ultimate dish of Gascony, this is a great preparation for rabbit.

Lapin au vin Vinaigre

1 small rabbit, about 3 pounds
Crushed white pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1 tablespoons herbs de Provence
6 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream

Have a butcher cut the rabbit into eight serving pieces: two shoulders, two back legs, and four loins. Place the pieces in a bowl and sprinkle with the crushed white pepper, a little salt and the herbs de Provence. Rub 3 tablespoons of the oil all over the rabbit and marinate for 2 hours.

Heat the remaining oil in a large saute pan over a high flame. Add the rabbit pieces: first the legs, then 2 minutes later the shoulders, and 2 minutes the loins. Stir in the onions and saute until the meat is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Cover, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the loins or they will be dry. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Degrease the pan, then deglaze it with the wine and vinegar. Reduce until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the cream and reduce by a third. Season with salt. Return the meat to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to warm the pieces. Serve immediately with buttered noodles.
Cook this rabbit and you soul will be floating in the spirit of Gascony no matter where you may physically reside.

27 August 2009

The Fifth Quarter

The has been an awful lot of interest in offal. The Italians call it, il Quinto Quarto, the Fifth Quarter which is the title of Anissa Helou's cookbook of offal recipes. Helou took a global approach to her investigation of innards. She begins with various recipes she calls, "The Acceptable Face of Offal," featuring foie gras, wings, roe, and terrine. She eases us into chicken livers and oxtail. Then it jumps into the deep end of the offal pond. There are brains: in coconut cream, poached with the eyes, and red-cooked a Chinese preparation for pigs brains. There are snouts and feet and kidneys and blood.

My favorite offal are chicken gizzards. I have loved them since I was a child. there was an old fox hunting camp near me in Alabama. dinner consisted of a stew of rice and chicken offal, rich livers, chewy hearts and melting gizzards. It is still one of my favorite meals.

Another favorite in the offal clan is oxtail. Every winter when I went to Key West with Harry Lowe, we would stop at tiny Cuban restaurant to have a lovely oxtail stew. Add oxtail to a gelatin and what could be better.

Oxtail in Aspic

3 medium onions, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in chunks
2 leeks, trimmed and cut in chunks
2 turnips, cut in half
1 celery heart, cut in chunks
Few sprigs flat leaf parsley
2 - 3 sprigs rosemary
2 - 3 bay leaves
Few peppercorns
Sea salt
1 ox tail
6 sheets gelatin, about 18g
1 small bunch tarragon, leaves only

Put the vegetables, herbs and seasonings in a large pot. Add 3 liters of water and place a medium heat. simmer for 1 hour.

Add the oxtail and simmer for another 2 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. Remove the oxtail and let it cool a little before taking the meat off the bone, discarding the skin and any gelatinous bits. the meat will automatically break into smallish pieces. Cover and set aside.

Remove the vegetables from the broth and discard. Strain the broth through cheesecloth and refrigerate until the fat forms a solid layer on the surface. Skim the fat and measure 800 ml of stock.

Break up the gelatin sheets and soak in 3 - 4 tablespoons of water for 5 minutes.

Heat the measured stock and add to the gelatin. Whisk the stock until the gelatin is completely diluted. Stir in the meat and tarragon (reserve a few leaves for garnish) and pour the mixture into a medium bowl - you will eventually need to turn out the jellied oxtail, so choose a nice, easy shape. Refrigerate the oxtail until the liquid is set. This will take around 3 hours. Then dip the bowl in boiling water for 30 seconds or so to loosen the aspic. Turn out the set oxtail onto a plate. Decorate with a few tarragon leaves. Serve with a mixed leaf salad.

While it takes some time to prepare, this is a wonderful dish for a luncheon.

26 August 2009

Pates & Terrines

So I admitted my cupcake fetish, now let me offer up another – pates and terrines. There is no pâté book that I do not want to own. But if I could only have one, Pates & Terrines by Edouard Lonque would be my favorite. It explains all the techniques with great clarity and in many cases, great photographs. The gamut of pates, terrines, timbales, even dim sum are well represented.

While most people think of pâtés as being made from ground bits of animals that they probably wouldn’t eat in any other form, forcemeat is not the only type of pate there is. This book gives many recipes for vegetable terrines and timbales that would make a lovely addition to any plate.

Carrot Timbale with Herb Sauce

1 1/4 lb carrots, cleaned
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 cup chicken broth
salt, sugar, nutmeg
3 – 4 eggs
5 tablespoons cream
butter for greasing the mold
4 6 –oz timbale molds

Cut the carrots into small pieces and cook in butter and broth with salt, sugar and nutmeg to taste. Purée, sieve through a strainer, beat in the eggs and cream and check seasoning. Transfer to the buttered molds and cook in a preheated 400 F oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Alas, we are not given the Herb Sauce recipe, but a nice sour cream, mayonnaise and dill would work beautifully. Feed this to your veggie friends and you will be a god.

25 August 2009

The Food and Life of Oaxaca

I spent some time in Oaxaca and it is truly a magical place. I also love watching Top Chef and so I was sucked in to the Top Chef Masters. The winner was Rick Bayless who has been trying for years to elevate the cuisine of Mexico to the same pantheon as French or Italian cooking.

Bayless is a big fan of The Food and Life of Oaxaca by Zarela Martinez. He says that eating in Oaxaca, “is the perfect act of celebration.”

It is a complex cuisine, in Oaxaca you can’t make water without 12 ingredients! There are many items that you may need to get from a specialty store or make yourself. Martinez offers a wonderful bibliography and some great stores to get unique ingredients.

If you have ever thought you needed to eat more fish, but just really didn’t know what to do with it, this is a recipe for you. The unctuous sauce makes this baked fish wonderfully spicy and juicy.

Pescado Estilo el Estero
Whole Baked Fish Estero-Style

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 canned chipotle chile en adobo, minced
One whole, 2 –pound sea bass, striped bass, or red snapper, cleaned and scaled, gills removed.
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Combine the mayonnaise, chipotle chile, and garlic in a small bowl. With a pastry brush or icing spatula, spread the mixture all over the fish, inside and outside. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Place on a baking pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until just barely opaque at the thickest part of the fish.

Serve this with a nice side salad, a guacamole, or a spicy rice salads. It will definitely be a perfect celebration.

24 August 2009

Good Food on the Aga

There are a few thing in this world I covet and one of them is an Aga stove.

The first Aga’s were designed in Sweden, in 1922 by Dr. Gustaf Dalen. The Nobel Prize winner lost his sight. He designed the cooker with the intention of making it easy to use for a blind person. A British manufacturer took over the production and it has been a British made product ever since.

Some people sit around and think of driving a Porsche or a Jaguar but me, I want an Aga. Currently, I am forced to merely own Aga cookbooks instead of the actual stove.

One of my favorites is a reprint of Ambrose Heath’s Good Food on the Aga. I especially love it because the reprint in a Persephone Book. They are the most beautifully done books in recent memory. Many of their books are fiction reprints, but several titles are cookery books and each on features carefully chosen endpapers from historic fabrics. Good Food on the Aga was published in 1933. The endpapers were designed in the same year by Bernard Adeney. The block-printed linen furnishing fabric was designed for Allan Walton Textiles.

Ambrose Heath wrote over 70 books between 1932 and 1968. Many of them were cookery books. In Good Food on the Aga, Heath lays out the advantages of the Aga and basic cooking techniques. Remember, it is 1933, so the Aga he is describing is coal-burning type. Occasionally, an old wood or coal burning Aga come up for sale.

This book is divided into months of the year. Each month begins with a listing of what foods one can expect to be fresh and available during that month. Then he gives you a list of the recipes to correspond. Each recipe is listed on the side of the page. Underneath the recipe is a list of ingredients. A list is all. Vague amounts are listed within the recipes. It is very old-fashioned. Cooking with this book is a bit of an adventure, so it is more important than ever to read the recipe fully.

In August, Heath recommends the following:

Iced Polish Soup


I read somewhere the other day of an iced vegetable soup from Poland which sounded appropriate for August evenings. A beetroot cut in very small pieces was cooked in salt water, while this was being done half a cucumber cut in thin slices was sprinkled with salt so that the water was exuded. The beetroot, cucumber, cucumber water, and the water in which the beetroot had been cooked were mixed together when cold, and to this were added slices of hard boiled eggs, chopped parsley and chervil, pepper and one well-beaten egg. It must be kept well iced, and at the very last moment pieces of ice were put into the individual cups in which the soup was served. I have not tried it yet, but I certainly shall do so.

I love the convoluted way the recipe is written and even more so that he included it in a cookbook with out ever trying it. Well, we haven’t tried it either. If Ambrose Heath hasn’t tried it, neither are we. Some brave soul out there needs to make it and let us know how it tastes

23 August 2009

Once Upon a Tart

Once Upon a Tart is a restaurant and cookbook and lovely art object all at once. Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau met while working for a French hotel group. They knew from the start they wanted to work together outside their corporate life. Frank’s original idea was a line of condom key-chains. I know I speak for many people saying I’m glad that idea didn’t fly.

They decided to make tarts. After feeding them to friends and family, they gave some samples to other people and they got one order – for 40 tarts. Jerome was leaving the next day for a vacation. Undaunted, they make 40 tarts. After working in a space with a tiny refrigerator and one oven. One particular Thanksgiving week, while making their first delivering in their first used car, a woman ran a red light and Jerome wrecked the car and 100 tarts.

It wasn’t long before a café was in the works. Soho has never been the same. When Once Upon a Tart became a cookbook, it became one of the most beautiful cookbooks published in years. It is printed on thick, glossy paper. It jacket is a brown Kraft paper, like much of their packaging. The boards feature a glossy table of apples and the jacket has a cut-out, revealing the apple. I hate books with cut-outs. The jacket ALWAYS gets torn. While it is beautiful, there is always a danger of damaging the cover.

And speaking of beautiful… try this tart.

Baked Lemon Tart

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 4 lemons)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 par-baked 9 inch Flaky Tart Crust

1. Position your oven racks so there is one in the center, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk the eggs and yolks together in a medium-sized bowl. Add the sugar with one hand while continuing to whisk with the other. Still whisking, pour in the lemon zest and juice, then the cream. Pour this lemon custard into you par-baked tart shell. It should come to 1/8 inch from the top edge of the tart. You may have a little leftover custard, which you can bake in small ramekins – a little treat for yourself.
3. Place the tart on the center rack of the oven, taking care not to spill the custard, and bake the tart for 25 –30 minutes, or until filling is firm to the touch and doesn’t jiggle when you shake the pan.
4. Remove the tart from the oven, and set it on a wire rack to cool slightly.
5. To remove the tart from the pan, the pan, rest it on a big can, Make sure the tart is steady and balanced. Slide the outside ring of the pan down off the tart. Move the tart to your work surface, and slide the tart off the pan bottom onto a rimless serving dish or cutting board. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

They suggest using you leftover egg whites for one of their meringues. You can freeze egg white easily and they are quite good. Just remember to note how many whites you have in the container.

22 August 2009

Cupcakes Year Round

I admit I have a cupcake fetish. It is one of several food fetishes I admit to. It manifest itself, quite naturally, as the desire to acquire every cupcake book I come across. Now here is the problem – they are pretty much all the same. There are a couple of chocolate recipes, dark and light , a vanilla recipe, a lemon recipe, maybe a red velvet, several butter cream frostings, a ganache, some sprinkles, some coconut, cake in an ice cream cone and on and on.

Still, I buy them. Cupcakes Year Round by Sara Neumeier has an interesting spin on a cupcake book. Technically, it is not so much a book as a fancy designed, spiral bound collection that stands like an easel. It is easy to read the recipes in this format, but not so easy to find the recipes in this format.

These cupcakes are decorated so that you will find recipes for all major holidays and special events throughout the year.

I like baking recipes that let you toss everything in a single bowl and a few minutes later -- batter. This book has both a chocolate and vanilla version of one bowl batters.

One-bowl vanilla cupcakes

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups cake flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 24 cupcake tins with baking papers. Place the butter in a medium, heatproof bowl place over a pot of gently simmering water. When the butter is just melted, whisk in the brown sugar. Let cool to lukewarm temperature, about 4 minutes.

Whisk the eggs into the mixture. Add the milk, vanilla, baking powder, and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in the flour until evenly combined.

Fill each baking paper two-thirds full. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

I just microwave the butter at 15 second intervals until it is melted. Now get into the kitchen and make someone some cupcakes!!!!

21 August 2009

The Seducer's Cookbook

The Seducer’s Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton is both a cookbook and sex manual. Well, not actually, the specifics of sex, but how to end up in bed after the meal.

As Sheraton puts it:

I am for the game –- as much fun, and often more, than the prize; hence this book for the following reasons:

1. To enable men to get the answer they want—Yes.
2. to give women a better reason for saying it.
3. To keep America from becoming, sexually, a have-not nation.

Did I mention that this book is a bit – dated. A book like this, written today, would probably be vilified. The Seducer’s Cookbook was written in the early 60’s, the Swinging Sixties. I can’t imagine that even in the 60’s there would have been any danger of America becoming a “have-not” nation. Sheraton covers picnic's, married men, failure to commit and various other maladies of the unrequited. In the end, she has recipes she guarantee's will get you in the sack, whether you want to go or not.

Herb-Roasted Breast of Chicken

1 2- or -3 pound broiler, left whole
3 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash each pepper, ginger and oregano
1 large sprig parsley
1 small clove garlic, minced

Blend the salt, pepper, ginger and oregano into half of the butter and rub into the chicken. Place the rest of the butter, the parsley and the garlic into the cavity of the chicken. Truss and roast on a rack on an open baking pan in a 450 F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and roast for another 25 to 30 minutes, basting with juices that collect in the pan. Cool completely, quarter, and wrap the breasts in foil. You can have the extra two quarters for dinner on the following day.

Not to mention, you still have the legs and thighs, so if things don’t work out as planned and you find yourself alone after dinner, you have great midnight snack for you and your cat to share.

20 August 2009

The Country Kitchen

The Country Kitchen by Jocasta Innes was published in the late 1970’s. It could have been written today. Of course instead of drawings of techniques, today there would be photographs including detailed designs of Innes’ farm kitchen. Like many English kitchens there is a large Aga stove, multiple cupboards and tables and one tiny refrigerator, roughly the size that one finds in most college dorm rooms.

Jocasta Innes wanted to revive the kind of kitchen arts that would have been very familiar in the late 1800’s. Make sausage, cheese, preserves, and bread. Drying meat and mushrooms, curing ham, smoking kippers and brewing beer. As you can see, this is the stuff of many current cookbooks.

Innes is a classic and straightforward writer. Her instruction is precise, without being didactic. She encourages, offers advice, and forgives mistakes. Innes makes her own crowdie or cottage cheese, but you can make it with a commercial cottage cheese.

Spiced Cheese Loaf

225 g (8oz) crowdie or cottage cheese
3 egg yolks
25 g (1 oz) butter
4 tablespoons sugar
tiny pinch each ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 thick slice stale white bread

Sieve or blend the cheese until smooth, and mix with beaten egg yolks, softened butter, sugar, spices and vanilla. Grate or grind the bread (minus crust) in an electric grinder into fine crumbs, then mix well with the cheese mixture. Pour into a well buttered glass or pottery oven or soufflé dish. Grate a little nutmeg over the top and bake for 45 minutes at 190 C (375 F, Mark 5). Eat hot from the dish or turn out when warm.

As a child I hated cottage cheese, but I learned to love it as an adult. This is a great dish to “disguise” cottage cheese and turn it into something special.

19 August 2009


Picnics by Viola Johnstone is from a series of small, British cookbooks published in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I adore this series, but frankly, many of the recipes are so vague, you need to know how to cook in order to accomplish the recipe. Then some are really straightforward such as the section on sandwiches. It lists 23 types of sandwiches, including eggs mashed with mayonnaise, chicken mashed with mayonnaise, sardines mashed with Worcester, crab meat mashed with Worcester and on and on.

There are many recipes that include aspic, which has a short shelf life in the out of doors! Unless you are traveling with a refrigerator, or the picnic is right out the kitchen door, I can’t imagine making a lot of aspics for a picnic.

Here is a simple salad that even the most unaccomplished cook could pull off -- and be a hit.

French Dressing

1 part of wine vinegar or lemon juice, 3 parts of olive oil, dry mustard, salt and pepper.

A basic French dressing in composed of the above ingredients. Some people advocate the addition of a little sugar, but this is not included in a correct and traditional French dressing.
Put the mustard, salt and pepper into a bowl and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Add the olive oil and mix well. Transfer to a jar with a top which will screw on tightly.
Travel the dressing—which will prove invaluable at almost every picnic –in the jar, and shake it well before pouring on any salad.

Salad of Baby Broad Beans

This is a delicate salad when broad beans are young and just in season –but for salad purposes they must be fresh and neither frozen of tinned.
Shell the beans and cook for a few minutes—according to age and size—in boiling salted water. Drain, cool and transfer to a container. When required serve tossed in a little French dressing which has been traveled in a screw-top jar.

I love picnic cookbooks, but I have yet to find one that makes me all excited. Perhaps because I am more interested in how to package the food and not what to make. Most anything becomes “picnic” food when you walk it out the door.

18 August 2009

Jams, Preserves & Pickles

My friend, Harry Lowe, made a meatloaf last week which spurred a conversation about ketchup. And for that matter, meatloaf. I am not that fond of meatloaf sauced with that bright red layer of ketchup.

We talked about whether the ketchup was spicy enough. Perhaps the next meatloaf should incorporate chili sauce instead of ketchup. Then we started talking about ketchup itself. I told him that a lot of canning books had recipes for ketchup that ran the gamut from bland to spicy. For every ketchup recipe, however, there always seemed to be a corollary recipe for Mushroom Ketchup.

Mushroom ketchup is not something you never see on the shelf, yet recipes for it abound. So, someone out there must have enjoyed it. I began to look at ketchup recipes, but found the directions for mushroom ketchup more interesting.

Rosemary Hume and Muriel Downes published a slim volume called Jams, Preserves & Pickles. It is a basic little book with rather British directions for cooking the fruits, then weighing the fruits and measuring them for the ratio to add sugar. It seems complicated, but it is an accurate way to control the ratio in canning. The book also features a recipe for Mushroom Ketchup. I have read it several times, but I couldn’t think of it slathered on French fries.

Mushroom Ketchup

Weigh some dry open mushrooms and allow 1 1/2 oz. salt to every pound. Break up the mushrooms and put in layers, sprinkled with salt in a stone jar and leave 3-4 days. Stir and press from time to time. At the end of this time press well, cover the jar and put in a cool oven for 2-3 hours. Strain through a fine nylon sieve. Gently press to extract all the juice. To each quart of liquid allow:
1/2 oz. allspice: 1/2 root ginger: 2 blades of mace: pinch of cayenne (optional): 1 shallot, chopped.
Put all into a muslin bag. Put the liquid and spice into a pan and simmer 2-3 hours until well reduced. Strain, put into proper sterilizing bottles and sterilize 15 minutes. This is a precautionary measure. Some red wine in the proportion of a quarter of the quantity of mushroom liquor May be added and boiled with the liquid, or a few drops of brandy may be added to each pint.

I am going to try this and see if anyone asked, "Do you want mushroom ketchup with those fries?"

17 August 2009

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food

Judith Jones is probably the most famous foodie who didn’t spend her life in a kitchen cooking. Well, actually, she spent a lot of time in a kitchen cooking, but her claim to fame in not cooking, but publishing people who did cook. Judith Jones is the editor who brought Madhur Jaffery, Marcella Hazen, Ed Giobbi, and Edna Lewis to the reading public, but there were more.

She brought Elizabeth David to America, a feat that proved to be quite difficult. It seems, Jones wanted the stuffing set to fill zucchini, to fill just the zucchini and not make triple the amount needed. She wanted them to be zucchini and not courgettes, after all, it was America. David didn't see the problem and she knew courgettes were much more pleasant sounding than zucchini. She wrote to Jones:
“Inconsistencies are inevitable in a cookery book and preferable, I think myself, to the absurdities brought about by overzealousness in the matter of liberal renderings.
I don’t think one does any harm in crediting one’s readers with a little imagination and knowledge of their own.”
Is it any wonder I love Elizabeth David! Knopf told Jones to reject the book if David refused her changes, but Jones realized what a wonder it was and she published it with all of Elizabeth David’s “inconsistencies.”

There was someone else she edited … let me think… oh, yes, Julia Child. If you went to the movies this month you know this story by heart.

James Beard, Judith Jones, and Julia Child

Jones was a bit of a cookbook writer on her own (and with her husband, Evan). So when Jones set out to write a biography, it was destined to be a winner. The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food is just that. Part biography, part love story, part cookbook and all totally fascinating.

As for the cookbook part, Judith Jones first tasted this sauce in a bistro on the Left Bank. It was spread on sliced cold meat. She loved it and searched around for a recipe. She never found one she truly liked, so she devised her own.
Sauce Gribiche for Cold Lamb or Other Meats

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
2 cornichons, chopped in small pieces
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped fine
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Mix all the ingredients together. If you’re not using the sauce right away, hold back on the parsley, and mix that in at the last. This is a sauce you have to taste so you can adjust the seasoning to get the balance right. Adjust accordingly to what your palate tells you.
See the movie if you must (you must) and while you are out, pick up a copy of The Tenth Muse.

16 August 2009

The Ethnomusicologists’Cookbook

There is no doubt that I love food. My other passion is music. Mix them both together and you get -- The Ethnomusicologists’Cookbook. Sean Williams contacted a series of ethnomusicologists and asked them to gather recipes for a meal from the country where they were doing research. He also asked, quite naturally, for a list of music to accompany the meal as well as some additional reading material.

I was surprised to see that collards are a popular dish in many areas around the world. It is also interesting that every culture really wants to eat something sweet at the end of the meal.

I chose to share a dish from Kenya. I really love beans and this was something I just never thought of. This recipe features plain old kidney beans. When we think of kidney beans in the U. S. we think of them as an ingredient in chili, but not in other preparations. This is a lovely way to take a very common, plain ingredient and make it unique.

Maharagwe Ya Nasi
(Kidney Beans in Coconut)

4 c. fresh or canned coconut milk
4 c. cooked kidney beans
1 t. salt
1/2 t. allspice

[The recipe explains the long process of making your own coconut milk, but we encourage you to buy it in cans.]

soak 1 1/3 lb. kidney beans for 24 hours or use 4 c. canned beans. Boil with water, 1 t. salt and 1/2 t. allspice until soft. When nearing desired softness, add 4 c. coconut milk. Stir in and simmer until a thick cream forms around the beans.

This is a great recipe to clean out the larder. There are several sites out there challenging people to eat only the food you have on hand for a week. This is a great one to try, even if you have to buy some kidney beans or coconut milk.

15 August 2009

Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices

Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices was written by George and Berthe Herter. George was the heir to the Herter sporting goods chain. While many people remember the sporting goods, everyone who reads this cookbook remembers its unique take on just about everything. It is one of those truly individual cookbooks hearkening back to the turn of the century when you got recipes for food with recipes for cleaners and a few etiquette tips.

There are many weird and wonderful recipes with some long and elaborate stories. For instance, did you know Wyatt Earp was a great cook whose specialities included pickled buffalo tongue (alas there is no recipe for this), buffalo liver and morning doves. He claims that the best shot he ever made was taking out 9 doves with one shot.

We are told to make mayonnaise as it cannot be bought in a grocery store. “That concoction they sell labeled mayonnaise are not even remotely similar to real mayonnaise.”

There is no other cookbook that tells you how to make puff pastry and how to use tomatoes to alleviate skunk order.

We are not told why Blanche Dupont was in Belgium or if there really was a "Blanche Dupont", but the Herters think this is quite marvelous.

Glace Blanche Dupont

This is a recent invention and a great one made in 1942 by Blanche Dupont in Belgium. It is one of the greatest known cooking tricks.

Take one cup of corn syrup, mix with 1/2 cup of water. Put in a pot and bring to a boil. Leave cool until lukewarm.
Brush or pour over the top of fruit cakes. This mixture gives them a rich clear glass like glaze and brings out their color.
Brush or pour over doughnuts. It gives them a beautiful glaze and taste.
Mix 1/8 level teaspoon of ground cloves or a few drops of cherry flavoring and brush over fried or baked ham and fried or cold Spam or brush over similar canned meats. Mix in a few drops of orange flavoring and brush over pieces of tame or wild duck or geese it makes them really delicious. Put in a few drops of peppermint flavorings into the mixture and brush over the tops of brownie cookies. Males them into a great delicacy instead of just another cookie.
Brush over the tops of apple turnovers, horns or lady locks just as it is. Pour over squash and sweet potatoes just as it is.
I am not sure I would agree that a simple syrup is the greatest known cooking trick, but I’m willing to give it a try. Do you think the Krispy Kream people read this cookbook when they developed their glaze?

Finally, the cookbook ends with instruction on what to do in case of an atomic attack. The good news is we have been told that red pepper is good for radiation, in fact, “People that use considerable red pepper in their foods are almost immune to atomic radiation except in sever form.” So, if you are staying awake at night worrying about North Korea and the bomb, stock up on red pepper.

14 August 2009

Fresh From the Farmers’ Market

Fresh From the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher is a rather self-explanatory cookbook. Fletcher provides recipes from produce one finds at a farmers’ market. Fletcher has the perfect background for this. She once cooked at Chez Panisse. In her introduction to the book, Alice Waters quotes the classicist and farmer, Victor Davis Hanson a passionate farmer. As passionate as he is, Hanson equates farmer’s markets with petting zoo. While Waters concedes that farmers’ markets alone will not save the family farm, but patronizing farmers’ markets will surely increase the demand for fresher produce. It certainly can’t hurt!

Fletcher’s introduction speaks to the need for the farmers’ market. The average consumer hasn’t a clue when and where their food comes from. Where the supermarket shopper makes a list and checks it twice, at a farmers' market, the decision making process happens on site. The food is fresh and needs to be eaten within a few days, preferably “that” day.

Today in my garden, there are filet beans and some really small turnips. The cold and wet weather did not contribute to a great crop of turnips. They have been few and small. The beans have been really nice, but the bush beans have been so beaten into the ground that they need to be washed like 4 times. But once everything gets picked and washed here’s what we’re making…

green beans with turnips

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pound baby turnips, thickly peeled and cut in half’s, quarters or sixths, depending on size
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, minced
3/4 pounds green filet beans(haricots verts), ends trimmed
1 tablespoon, minced Italian parsley

Melt butter in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add turnips, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat with butter. Cover and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until turnips are just tender and lightly browned in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Uncover, add shallots and sauté 2 minutes to soften shallots
While turnips are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add beans and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, pat dry, then transfer to a skillet with turnips and toss to coat with seasonings. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. (Green beans need lots of salt.) Add parsley, toss again and serve.

I can't wait to get out there and start picking!

13 August 2009

60-Minute Gourmet

I know you’ve heard this before, but really, 60-Minute Gourmet is one of my favorite cookbooks. It was one of my first cookbooks. I have cooked numerous recipes and go back to it again and again. My first copy of the book was “cooked” to bits.

Technically, the cookbook is entitled: The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet. The book began as a series in the New York Times. The esteemed food writer, Craig Claiborne, wrote in the Times that there was only one restaurant that lived up to the elegance taught at the Hotel School in Switzerland, Le Pavillion. It was shocking to all those New Yorkers who felt they were the cradle of culinary civilization. To accompany this article, Claiborne went to meet the chef, Pierre Franey.

As The New York Times expanded their “living” section, they hired Pierre Franey to develop a series of gourmet recipe that could be completed within an hour. The series was so popular, it spawned a book which, no big surprise, was a New York Times best-seller. After being out of print for many years, it was re-issued in 2000, 4 years after Franey died.

This recipe is a summer staple. I don’t just make this recipe, I multiply it four-fold.

Poulet aux Nouilles Froides Façon de Virginia Lee
(Virginia Lee’s chicken and cold noodles with spicy sauce)

1 large chicken breast
6 ounces egg noodles
1/4 cup sesame paste
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons hot chili oil, optional
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup peanut or corn oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1. bring about 6 cups of water to the boil and add the breast. Do not add salt. When the water returns to the boil, simmer about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the breast but save the broth.
2. Bring the broth to the boil and add the noodles. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until chilled. Drain thoroughly and add to a mixing bowl. Add the teaspoon of sesame oil and toss.
3. cutting with a knife or using fingers, cut or pull the chicken into fine shreds.
4. Add the sesame paste to a bowl, add the water, stirring. Add the chili oil, soy sauce, wine vinegar, the tablespoon sesame oil, peanut oil, and garlic.
5. Arrange the noodles on a serving dish. Cover with the chicken and spoon the sauce over.

First, let me just say the chili oil is NOT optional. Secondly, the dish is greatly improved with the addition of chopped scallions. Give this a try in the hot weather and you will be pleasantly surprised.

12 August 2009

More Caviare & More Candy

Alice Martineau or Mrs. Philip Martineau as she was sometimes known, wrote many books, including several cookery books. More Caviare & More Candy as a title gives you really all you need to know about Alice Martineau's style. Who doesn’t love caviare and candy! The truly wonderful jacket features an illustration by J. Gower Parks. I’m not real sure I want to eat that fish, but it is quite darling.

Alice Martineau offers some general cooking hints that are as good today as they were 70 years ago.

If they will patiently read these ‘Hints’ they will learn not to slam the oven door on a sponge-cake, or the shock will so frighten the fellow that it will achieve ‘that sinking feeling’ and down it will fall, to emerge a heavy sodden mass!

Not to roll their dough backwards and forwards till it is like leather, but to roll it gently but firmly away from them once, twice, thrice in making pastry.

Always add a spoonful of seed tapioca into a clear soup. It gives it a glutinous velvety feeling.

Always add a little sugar to vegetable soup such as tomato.

Always mash potatoes with hot milk, not cold.

Words to live by in the kitchen and frankly so nice to read the word "thrice" used in a sentence. Here are two of Alice Martineau’s recipes featuring a tinned ingredient. Tinned food was all the rage in the 1930's.

One for tinned soup:

Tomato Hurry Soup

One tin of tomato soup heated, garlic, two cups of milk (or half cream), grated cheese half cup (Gruyere). Seasoning. Dissolve in double saucepan, add the tomato soup last, mixed with cream. Enough for six persons.

And one for tinned caviare:

Caviare en Chemise

Bake some good-sized potatoes (not too large for caviare is expensive), cut the tops so as to make a lid. Scoop out some of the inside and fill with caviare.
Simple but highly appreciated.

What more can one say!

11 August 2009

Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies

If forced to pick my favorite cooking show of all time, it would be The Two Fat Ladies. There was something magical about the style and banter of Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright. They had a tremendous love of food, evident from their rather noticeable girth. They always had a good story. Their food was as rich and substantial as they were.

Alas, Jennifer Paterson died. As noted in an earlier post, she died as she lived, drinking champagne and indulging in caviar and fois gras. An unapologetic smoker, she resigned herself to the the fact that she had greatly contributed to her demise, but she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The girls loved their food and weren’t afraid of dispatching the food themselves. Here is an exchange between the Two Fat Ladies over peacock.

JENNIFER: I ate peacock once. It’s rather like pheasant.

CLARISSA: It is a bit. I once shot one in my sprouting broccoli. It was an accident, of course. Rabbits were always getting into my garden, so I used to throw up the kitchen window and shoot them from there. But one day, what I thought was a rabbit turned out to be a peacock.

JENNIFER: Whose peacock was it?

CLARISSA: It belonged to the people next door.

JENNIFER: They must have been pleased!

CLARISSA: Well, I asked them to dinner and we had a rather good bottle of wine. Then they said, this is very interesting, what is it?” Well, I said, I didn’t buy it at Harrod’s.

There is a story about the woman who owned my house before me. Opal was well known in Shirley for hunting from the kitchen like Clarissa. In fact there is a small hole in the porch screen that is rumored to be the opening for Opal’s gun.

Here is an uncharacteristic vegetarian dish.

Wild Mushroom Pancakes


1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
2 eggs
7/8 cup milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

3/4 pound fresh wild mushrooms
4 tablespoons butter

Make the batter, adding seasoning to taste, and leave to stand for at least 1 hour.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms until they are wilted and all liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

Mix together the batter and mushrooms. Heat a frying pan, put in a smidgen of oil, and fry pancakes about 2 inches in diameter. Eat.

So, make up a batch of these pancakes, cook up a big steak and pop the top on nice bottle of champagne and toast the memory of the TWO fat ladies.

10 August 2009

The Art of Egg Cookery

We love our chickens. And we love their eggs even more. As you may have noticed if you read this blog on a regular basis, we just adore egg cookbooks. Really, there is no more perfect food.

Ann Seranne wrote The Art of Egg Cookery, filled with hundreds of egg recipes. James Beard said the author has, “given us rules for practically the entire gamut of eggs – from a simple 3 1/2 minute boiled egg to a caviar entrée. It is a pleasant mélange of useful and workable data.”

It is hard to imagine after a dozen egg cookbooks that there is anything left to say or do about the egg, but with each new book, there seems to be a new story.

Here is a fine little dessert.

Flan au Vin

2 cups white wine
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks, well beaten
Brandied cherries

Dissolve the sugar in the white wine and heat over boiling water. When hot but not boiling, pour over the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Strain into custard cups or into one large mold. Place in pan of hot water and cook in a moderate oven (350 F.) for 45 minutes. Serve ice-cold with the brandied cherries on top. Serves 6.

The incredible, edible egg!

09 August 2009

River Cottage Handbook No. 2 – Preserves

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall seems an unlikely cookery chap. He is a good cook, but quite unkept and rumor has it, fired from some of the most posh restaurants in London. Then he made a fateful decision. He left the restaurant business and moved to and old farm named the River Cottage. There he cooked, hunted game, planted vegetables, gathered from his hedgerows and wrote about it. The River Cottage Cookbook became a huge success. Huge in the sense that it spawned an industry. Though they are no longer tenants at the River Cottager the name lives on.

They are now producing a series of “handbooks” including River Cottage Handbook No. 2 – Preserves. While Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes the introduction, the actual compiler of the recipes is Pam Corbin. Nicknamed “Pam the Jam” she was running a small batch preserving company when she came on board for Preserving Days at River Cottage and never left.

This is a great little book with innovative preserves, like Nasturtium ‘Capers’ made from nasturtium seed pods, Blues and Bay, a blueberry and bay leaf preserve and this Florence fennel.

Pickled Florence Fennel

1 kg fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced, a few feathery fronds reserved
1 liter cider vinegar
15 g peppercorns (black, white or pink)
75 g granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
3 or 4 bay leaves
1 tsp celery or fennel seeds
3-4 tbsp olive, hemp or rapeseed oil

Pour 2 –3 liters water into a large pan, salt it well and bring to a boil. Add the sliced fennel and blanch for no more than a minute. Drain in a colander, cool under cold water, then drain and pat dry.

Put the vinegar, peppercorns, sugar, lemon zest, bay leaves and celery or fennel seeds into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and continue to boil about 10 minutes until the liquor reaches a syrupy consistency. The vinegar vapors will create quite a pungent atmosphere in the kitchen.

Pack the fennel into wide-necked, sterilized jars, lacing a few fennel fronds between the slices. Remove the vinegar syrup from the heat and carefully pour over the fennel. You may well find all the spices remain at the bottom of the pan. If this happens, distribute them between the jars, poking the peppercorns and bay leaves down through the fennel slices. Pour sufficient oil into each jar to seal the surface. Seal the jars with vinegar[proof lids. Use within 12 months.

It’s not called Florence fennel for nothing. Make up a couple of jars of this fennel, and pop one open in mid-winter. It will be the beginning of beautiful staycation.

08 August 2009

Cooking with Chimineas

There are two things that you need to cook. Heat and food. It’s not brain surgery. In the last few years, many people bought chimineas to use outside and have a fire. If you bought one, you now have heat. If you need a cookbook, try Wendy Sweetser’s Cooking with Chimineas. Grab some food and…cooking.

OK, you need some sort of grill, easy enough to pick up at a hardware store, and a fireproof dish or some foil and still, with the heat and food, … cooking.

There are however, some better types of chimineas if cooking is one of your goals. Sweetser uses The Bushman’s Burner which is designed for cooking as it has a larger opening. I am not sure this brand is even made anymore. It is pictured on the cover. What you really need is a nice sized opening if you want to cook inside.

If you don’t have or want a chimineas, cook these on a grill.

Sizzling Mango Chicken Wings

12 large chicken wings
4 Tbsp mango chutney, with the large pieces of fruit removed
or finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
4 Tbsp coconut milk

1. spread out the chicken wings in a shallow dish. Mix together the chutney, cumin and coconut milk and spoon over the chicken until coated. Leave in the marinade for 3-4 hours or until ready to cook.
2. Grill the chicken wings on the rack for about 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through, tuning them over once or twice and basting with any leftover marinade.

Remember, food and fire….wings!

07 August 2009

The Lake House Cookbook

Down the road about two miles from Stonehenge is the Lake House, not so much a “house” as a castle. In 1991, Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler bought the Lake House and spent 5 years restoring the house and grounds.

Now they have a lovely house (castle) with lovely gardens. Of course they have gardeners and greenhouses and a kitchen staff and well, she is married to Sting, he makes $2000 dollars a day from the royalties to Every Breath You Take, alone. Think of what he makes with Roxanne thrown in.

So now Trudie has a castle, a garden, and a cook so the natural progression is to write a cookbook. Aside from the fact that I don’t have a gardener or two or seven and that I stand in the kitchen alone, I really like this cookbook. And I really aspire to Trudie's kitchen garden! The cook, Joseph Sponzo, is credited as the co-author, though Styler gets top billing. The food is good and reasonably easy for those of us sans staff.

Fire Roasted Onions

2 small red onions, peeled and trimmed and each cut into 6 wedges
3 slices smoked bacon, each cut into 4 pieces crosswise
12 small sprigs marjoram
6 teaspoons olive oil
6 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 400 F or prepare a charcoal grill that is medium hot. Cut 12 pieces of kitchen foil measuring 8 inches square.

Place one wedge of onion, cut side down, on a piece of foil. Top with a piece of bacon, a few grinds of pepper and a sprig of marjoram. Drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1.2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Pull the edges of the foil together to make a generous parcel and seal the edges. Repeating with the remaining ingredients

Transfer the onion parcels to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Alternately, place the parcels on the grill of a medium-hot fire and cook until the onions are tender.

Even without a cook, you can make these....

For more on the Lake House check out his Architectural Digest spread from 2007.

I knew I should have married Sting when I had the chance! Instead, this month, Sting and Trudie will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary. The "traditional" gift for the 17th anniversary is furniture. Frankly, I am at a loss as to what to get them.

06 August 2009

Ciro & Sal’s Cookbook

Ciro and Sal’s was a Provincetown tradition. (Well, it still is but more about that later.) A tradition of the old Provincetown of artists and writers and fishermen. A place where the guy sitting next you might just have a Pulitzer Prize on his desk as a paperweight. The restaurant is down the Kiley Court alley, with dark wood and low ceilings. The first time I ate there I was in the oldest part of the restaurant, the cellar. In the beginning the floor was dirt, but was paved in the 1950’s for Sal’s wedding. The restaurant expanded into the house next door and the one across the street and in the 70’s there was a gourmet specialty shop. In 1971 a young man who worked there, but failed to return the next season. He had become a “star” for John Water’s and was now known as Divine. With all the going on around Ciro and Sal’s one thing remained constant, the food was extraordinary.

For a time in the 80’s my friend, Alan, worked as a cook at Ciro & Sal’s. When the cookbook came out, it was a must have. I do admit, I am not the best fish cook. I can’t always “visualize” fish in the way I can game or fowl. The Ciro & Sal’s Cookbook has several fish recipes that I would not make under any circumstances. One of those recipes was Sogliola di Nozze, a poached fish in tarragon and sour cream. The recipe on the page sounded appalling and I just didn’t get it. Then one night, years later, Alan’s sister, Barbara cooked it for me. It was one of those dished that was flat on the page but came to life beautifully. It is one of the easiest and most wonderful fish dishes I have ever made and it is now an absolute favorite. Serve it with a plain rice.

Sogliola di Nozze
Poached Sole with Tarragon and Sour Cream Sauce

1/3 cup clarified butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
Juice of I lemon
4 10-ounce sole or flounder filets
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature, and whipped to a more liquid consistency
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Heat the butter in a skillet. Add the wine, lemon juice, fish and tarragon. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover the pan and poach the fish over low heat just until the fish becomes opaque.
Transfer the fish to a warm serving dish, Return the liquid in the skillet to a boil and whisk in the sour cream and chives. If necessary ass more salt and pepper. Pout the sauce over the fillets and serve immediately.

You can just hear the waves crashing on the dunes. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Barbara for making this fish for me. Thanks Barb.

In 2000, it looked like the end for Ciro & Sal's, but long time employee, Larry Luster, was able to purchase the restaurant and keep the venerable institution open. Even Alan came back to help out the kitchen staff.

05 August 2009

50 Chowders

chowder (chouder), n. [

Webster’s New World Dictionary

I love chowder. The recipe is basically the definition from Webster’s. In a big chaudière add some fish, onions and potatoes, a little milk and an hour later -- chowder.

Of course, as with most recipes, you can mix it up. Try using another protein, like chicken, or all vegetables. The milk in the definition was an addition popularized in the mid 1800’s. Jasper White is a leading authority on seafood. He researched the origins of chowder and compiled 50 Recipes, many of which he serves in his restaurant.

Original recipes for chowder were cooked in one pot, often over fire. They were layered affairs including salt pork, fish and crackers, the “hardtack” that is hard to find toady. The closest equivalent was the Nabisco Pilot Cracker but, alas, Nabisco has stopped making them. You can still find people in the Northeast who speak of “building a chowder” the phrase comes form the old-fashioned way of layering the chowder into a cast iron pot and baking it.

White wanted to re-create this kind of chowder. Here is his recipe.

Layered Fish Chowder

4 ounces meaty salt pork, rind removed and thinly sliced, or 4 ounces sliced bacon, each strip cut crosswise in half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large onions (about 18 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 to 8 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and sliced thin as possible
Kosher sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 pounds skinless baby cod or haddock filets, no more than 3/4 inch thick, pinbones removed
4 Pilot crackers (2 ounces) or 2 ounces oyster crackers, crumbles (1 heaping cup)
5 cups Strong Fish Stock, Traditional Fish Stock or Chicken Stock or water (as a last resort)
1 1/2 cup heavy cream

For Garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Fry the salt pork in a 10 inch skillet or sauté pan over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove the meat, leaving the fat in the pan, and set aside until later.

3. Add the butter, onions and savory or thyme, bay leaves, cloves, and nutmeg to the pan and sauté stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are tender but not browned. Remove from heat and let cool.

4. To build the chowder, place one third of the onion mixture(including the fat) into the bottom of the Dutch oven or braising pan, lay half or the sliced potatoes over the onions, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Lay half the fish over the potatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper. Crumble half the crackers over the fish. This is the first layer. Repeat the layering, and finish with the remaining onions.

5. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and pour the fish stock over the layered chowder. Stick the handle of the wooden spoon through to the bottom in three or four places to be sure the stock circulates around the ingredients. Heat the pot until the stock is hot and steam is beginning to appear on the surface.

6. Cover the chowder, place in the oven, and cook for 30 minutes. Check for doneness by taking a potato slice from the top layer: it should be firm and nearly cooked through, if not, cover the pot and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes more.

7. Pour the cream into the chowder, then lay the slices of friend salt pork or bacon over the top. Bake uncovered, for 15 minutes longer, or until the creamy broth is lightly browned around the edges.

8. Present the chowder at the table, before you stir it, then stir it and season with salt and pepper if needed. Use a slotted spoon to place the chunks of fish, the onions and potatoes in the center of a large soup plates or shallow bowls. Put 1 piece of salt pork or bacon on top of each serving, ladle the creamy broth around the fish, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

I don’t even bother with the skillet. I fry the bacon in the bottom of the pot, remove it, add the onions and cook them, then just remove 2/3 of the onions and you are ready to go. I vote for using the fewest pots as possible. I use Carr's crackers in place of Pilot Crackers. For more on the demise of Pilot Crackers check out this New York Times article.
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