21 December 2012

How To Take A Trick A Day With Bisquick

I love to watch the evolution of language.  I am sure that at the end of 2012, Bisquick does not want anyone "taking a trick" with them.  But tricking seemed to be just fine in 1935's How To Take A Trick A Day With Bisquick.   That was the year that Bisquick gathered a group of stars to share their Bisquick recipes. 

What hasn't changes since 1935?  The fact that these "stars" never stirred up a batch of Bisquick anything in their lives, but as we say at Christmas time, its the thought that counts.

For those of you who think a gourmet kitchen is a toilet with a microwave sitting on the back of the tank, Bisquick is a baking mix or flour that already has leavening and oil in the mix.  It is easy enough to DIY your own, but one must keep it in the refrigerator after adding the oil or butter.  Frankly, my refrigerator is jam packed and action filled, so I keep store-bought Bisquick on the shelf. 

Among the stars in this small pamphlet are Dick Powell, Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford and the incomparable Bette Davis. 

According to Bisquick, Bette loves "simple homey" things.  Tea in her dressing room for example.  Here is how Bette makes a nice afternoon tea sandwich.

Hunt Club Sandwich

Roll Bisquick dough very thin.  Dot surface with 4 tbsp. butter.  Fold so as to make three layers.  Turn half way round.  Roll out 1/2 the dough 1/8 inch thick to cover the bottom of oblong pan, about 12 by 9 inches.  Spread thickly with Chicken and Ham filling.  Cover with remaining dough rolled thin.  Cut through in desired shapes, such as squares, diamonds,etc., but leave in place.  Bake 15 minutes in  hot oven, 450.  Filling:  To 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut up and flaked, and 3/4 cup cooked ham, cut in 1/2 inch pieces, add 4 tbsp. top milk, 3 beaten egg yolks, and 2 hard cooked eggs, chopped. Season with salt and pepper.

Bisquick is so easy there are no instructions for making the dough,  however, the assembly sounds a bit complicated to me!

Next week when you are stuck in the kitchen and beyond frazzled, just ask yourself  how Bette Davis would handle it.   You will no doubt come through the ordeal calm and smoking, with the melodies of Max Steiner dancing in your head.  Because Bette would have handled it with a caterer... and to all a goodnight.

17 December 2012

Christmas Memories With Recipes

Her is an oldie but goodie in the Christmas recipe genre.   Christmas Memories with Recipes was published in 1988.  It includes most of the big name food faces of the 70' and 80's.  This is very interesting as you look at all the foodie faces of today and wonder who will we still be talking about in 2050!

This is a wonderful collection featuring a young Martha Kostyra Stewart and Jaques Pepin to the august Maida Heatter and Craig Claiborne.  The stoically British Jane Grigson to the wildly Italian Edward Giobbi with a bit of Lee Bailey's Southern charm thrown in.

Basically, each person tells stories of their favorite Christmas memories and includes in the recipes that made it great.  For Edna Lewis, Christmas began in September when she was sent out to collect nuts for fruitcake.  IT was the children's job to gather the nuts, crack them and extract the meats from the shells.  Every sunny day in September, her mother set out to make the fruitcakes.  Through October and November they were doctored with spirits until they saturated for giving.    Here is her recipe.

Edna Lewis' Fruitcake 
1 cup diced glazed candied orange peel
1 cup diced glazed candied lemon peel
2 cups diced citron
1 cup currants
2 cups seedless raisins, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup brandy
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sorghum molasses
Mix all the fruit in a large bowl and pour in the wine and brandy. Stir gently and set aside to marinate for a few hours.
Butter a 10-inch tube pan or two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and line it (or them) with clean parchment paper. Butter the paper.
Sift the flour with the spices twice. Add the baking powder and salt and sift again.
Put the butter into a large mixing bowl and cream until satiny. Add sugar and, using an electric mixer, cream until light and fluffy. Beat the egg yolks slightly and then add them to the bowl. Mix the batter well before you start to add the flour-spice mixture. Stir the batter as you add the flour, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the flour is thoroughly incorporated, add the molasses and stir. Finally, stir in the fruit and any soaking liquid in the bowl.
Put the egg whites in a grease-free bowl and beat with a clean beater until they hold stiff peaks. Fold them into the batter thoroughly and then spoon the batter into the prepared pan ( or pans ). Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let the batter sit overnight in a cool place to mellow.
On the next day, heat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the fruitcake on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 3-1/2 to 4 hours. After 1-1/2 hours, cover the pan with a piece of brown paper (do not use foil) or set the pan in a paper bag and return it to the oven.
When the cake has baked for 3-1/2 hours, remove it from the oven and listen closely for any quiet, bubbling noises. If you "hear" the cake, it needs more baking. Or test the cake with a toothpick or cake tester. If the toothpick or tester comes out of the center of the cake clean, the cake is ready to take from the oven. Put it on a wire rack to cool, still in the pan.
When the cake is completely cool, turn it out of the pan (pans), leaving the brown-paper lining on the cake. Wrap the cake with parchment, then aluminum foil, and pack the cake in a tin. Homemade fruitcakes need air, so punch a few holes in the lid of the tin or set the cover loosely on the tin.
Set the tin in a cool, undisturbed place, and every two or three weeks before Christmas, open the foil and sprinkle the cake with a liqueur glassful of brandy, wine, or whiskey. The liquor will keep the cake most and flavorful and help preserve it as well.

On Christmas morning her father would wake the children and set off Roman candles.  I am sure that today there are local ordinances that would prevent fireworks on Christmas, but fruitcake is still acceptable.

12 December 2012


Polpo was on the Lucindaville list of books to give (get) for Christmas.  We admit it, when we first saw the cover for this book we were really excited at the prospect of cookbook that dealt entirely of octopus recipes.  Alas, it was not to be.  Polpo is the name of restaurant in London, now several restaurants or more specifically bàcari.  A bàcaro is a Venetian kind of wine bar/snackified eatery.  A place where one gets a a small glass of wine, called an ombra and some cicheti or small bites.

Polpo is subtitled A Venetian cookbook (of sorts) and it was written by the rather unVenetian sounding Russell Norman.  Norman fell in love with Venice, not the tourist traps of Venice but the back streets and all the food in the bàcari.  He wanted to translate the feel and food of those small neighborhood places to London.  From all indications he succeeded with great aplomb.

The recipes are exactly the kind of food Norman wanted offer, simple, easy dishes with a handful of ingredients.  They appeal to both the palate and the eye.  And while it is not an entire book of octopus recipes there are one of two.  There are entrees and desserts but Polpo shines with its simple small plates like this one.
Goat Cheese, Roasted Grape and Walnut Bruschette

16 grapes, any seedless variety
1 small handful of fresh thyme leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper
10 walnut halves
2 half-inch slices of good sourdough or soda bread, each cut in half
1 garlic clove, with one end cut off
4-ounce log of goat cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Scatter the grapes on a small baking sheet with almost all of the thyme, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake to coat. Roast in the oven until the grapes are starting to blister and color, 10-15 minutes. Coat the walnuts with a little olive oil and roast on another small baking sheet until fragrant and toasted, 5-6 minutes.

Set the oven to the broil setting and toast the slices of bread until browned and crunchy, just a couple of minutes. Flip the bread about halfway through. Take the cut side of the garlic clove and rub it over the toasted slices of bread. It'll melt into the hot bread and smell amazing. Drizzle the bread with olive oil.
Crumble the goat cheese with a fork onto the toasted bread. Top the slices of bread with the grapes and walnuts. Drizzle bruschette with honey and garnish with the rest of the thyme leaves.

Goat cheese, grapes and walnuts is a favorite pizza topping combo at Lucindaville and this is way easier than pizza dough.

The other amazing aspect of this book is the lovely binding that exposes the signatures neatly tied with green thread.  This one is definitely a keeper!

10 December 2012

A Savannah Christmas

We have been rather enamoured of picture books lately.  A Savannah Christmas by Kimberly Ergul & Holley Jaakkola is a vision of Savannah at Christmas time.  OK, we admit it not so much a cookbook as a Savannah Wonderland with a handful of recipes.  Yes, you have to wade though page after page of gorgeous homes, lovely tables settings and wonderful rooms to find the recipes, but what better way to spend Christmas.

Let's face it.  You overdo everything at Christmas.  This book has everything you need:  pickled shrimp, warm pimento cheese, a red velvet cake and a big old vat of Chatham Artillery Punch.   Really you will be the talk of Christmas.  Throw in this classic from Martha Nesbit and you are good to go.

Crab Stew

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 cup green onions roughly cut
1/2 cup celery, roughly chopped
1 (2-inch) piece of carrot
6 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
ı⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup cream
1/4 cup sherry
1 pound claw crab meat, picked through for shells

Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. Mince the green onions, celery, and carrot in a food processor, or by hand. Add the vegetables to the butter, over the saucepan, and sauté over low heat for 5 minutes.

Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes more to remove the starchy taste. Whisk in the milk and broth. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Add seasonings, cream, sherry, and crab and mix. If you’re not serving immediately, refrigerate in an airtight container.

Reheat over very low heat until very hot.

It helps if you serve it on trays just like this.

07 December 2012

Edible Selby

Todd Selby is a photographer.  He loves to shot folks in their natural environment and recently he turned his camera to trendy food folk.  The result is Edible Selby, a true vision of gastroporn if ever there was one.  Cooking in one thing but letting someone roam around your kitchen, well that is revelatory. 

The text, as you can see from the table of contents, is handwritten.  The book is filled with drawings and pertinent questions to chefs and home cooks alike.

There are small workrooms...

Back alley gardens...

and a handful of handwritten recipes like The Mast Brothers explaining how to make chocolate at home.

If you love trendy food purveyors, you will love this.  More pictures than recipes, but who cares!

06 December 2012

Salt Sugar Smoke

 Sometimes there is a book out there that catches your attention from the moment you hear about its impending publication.  That was the case with Salt Sugar Smoke: How to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish by Diane Henry.    I pre-ordered the book about a week before it was written!   In fact, I ordered it so long before it was published that I almost bought a second copy because I had forgotten I ordered it.

The book did not disappoint.  It was one of those books that sat on the table a while because I didn't want reading it it be over so I was sad to even start reading.   Since then, Sugar Salt Smoke has been like a favorite novel, read and re-read.

I know what you are thinking, there are tons of new preserving books out there and I don't need another one.  I beg to differ -- you need Salt Sugar Smoke, trust me on this one.

My favorite recipe is for the Beet-Cured Gravlax.  Stop buying smoked salmon and do it yourself.  The beets impart a glorious red color to the salmon without a "beety" taste.  Set out on a buffet this dish is a showstopper.

Beet-Cured Gravlax

2 3/4 pound tail piece of salmon, cut into halves, filleted, but skin left on
1/3 cup vodka
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup sea salt flakes
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
large bunch of dill, roughly chopped
5 raw beets, grated

Check the salmon for any bones your fish dealer might have missed (rubbing your hand along the flesh is the best way to find them). Remove any you find with tweezers.

Line a dish big enough to hold the salmon with a double layer of aluminum foil (I usually use a roasting pan). Put one of the pieces of salmon, skin down, on top. Rub it with half the vodka.

Mix together the sugar, salt, pepper, dill and beet and spread it over the salmon. Pour the rest of the vodka over the fish and put the other piece of salmon (skin up) on top.
Pull the foil up around the fish, then put some weights on top (such as cans, jars or a heavy cutting board).

Refrigerate and let cure for two to four days, turning every so often. Liquid will seep out of the salmon in this time; just pour it off.

Remove the foil and scrape the cure off both pieces of fish. To serve, slice as you would smoked salmon (leave the skin behind). Use as needed and keep, wrapped, in the refrigerator for a week.

At thefoodiebugle.com they published this photo of Diane Henry's window filled with preserves.  

Not to mention she has gigantic wall of cookbooks.   If you have never read Diane Henry, I can't think of a better book to start with.  Once you finish it, you will buy them all.  And why do they always choose better covers for the British editions of books??

For more about Diane Henry,  the Telegraph has a wonderful article about her life as a writer. 

03 December 2012

The Complete Southern Cookbook

Tammy Algood is not the name that comes to mind when one thinks of "complete" Southern cooking, unless you live in Nashville.  Algood is quite the star on local television and at many Tennessee wineries.  Tennessee, not just for whiskey anymore! 

The Complete Southern Cookbook features 800 recipes spanning nearly 500 pages and not a picture to be found.  A cookbook with out photos these days is a rare commodity --in fact, it is often thought of as poor "commodity."  We have often complained this year (and last) bout the dearth of  seasonal-farm-to-plate-eat-locally cookbooks with chickens and tractors adorning the cover.   So the plain cover with the single etching of a Southern vernacular home and the straight forward, recipe upon recipe actually makes Algood's book stick out in this era of overproduction.  

And, it is an abecedary!  We just  love those.  Not a winter-spring-summer-or-fall recipe in the entire book.  Cook the dish when you want to without being scolded for making Fried Green Tomatoes in the middle of December.   Got bacon?  Algood has recipes with bacon.  Cola? She has cola recipes.  Mac and Cheese?  Page after page of ooey gooeynes.

(As an aside, I must admit to going back on more than one occasion to search the book for ant type of illustrative graphic as it does seem inconceivable in this day and age that a cookbook would off the press without anything...and yet.)

Yes, this is Southern cooking from A to Z.   And speaking of "Z" here is one of Oprah's favorite things. 

 Savory Zucchini Pie

2 cups shredded zucchini
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 white onion, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose baking mix
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. paprika

 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate and set aside.

 In a mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, eggs, onions, baking mix, cheese, oil, salt, pepper, sage, and paprika. Blend well. Transfer to the prepared pie plate.

 Bake 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving. 

This recipe is both retro and tasty.   In many ways, a fitting example of Tammy Algood's The Complete Southern Cookbook.  While no one is more overjoyed than I to see the plethora* of Southern cookbooks on the market filled with new and innovative ideas, it is equally as joyous to find a cookbook, devoid of any embellishment, that so beautifully captures Southern food.

* I recently read in some cooking magazine (hum...it just doesn't seem to stand out, now) that one should never use the word "plethora" in writing about food, something about trying to sound smarter than you are.  This begs the question -- What if you ARE smarter than the person telling you not use plethora? I personally love "P" words and plethora is one of my favorites -- so read this a veritable plethora of screw you.

28 November 2012

My Squirrel Rant

This morning my inbox was stuffed with copies of the Washington Post article entitled, Squirrel: It’s What’s for Dinner in Romney,W.Va.    The article is a rather thoughtful look at an annual squirrel dinner organized in the area.  Not everyone who sent it to me meant it to be received in such a thoughtful manner.  So you must bear with me while I rant a bit, both here and at my other blog…

I’ve eaten squirrel since I was a child.  My first encounter with squirrel came when I was about 4 years old.  My great aunt was very excited that she was going to make squirrel dumplings.  My four-year-old self herd squirldumplin’s run together with Aunt Ruth’s Southern accent and thought it sounded magical.    After being cautioned by the adults at the table, Aunt Ruth gave me a little spoon full of fluffy dumpling, thick cream and flecks of dark, rich meat.   Then she gave another little spoon full and I wanted more.  The third time she dipped her silver spoon into the bowl she went deep and as the gravy flowed off the spoon it reveal something unusual.  With a big smile on her face Aunt Ruth said, “Look, Baby, you got the teeth.”She proceeded to set a perfect set of tiny dentures on the edge of my plate.  At that moment, I realized that dinner was Squirrel Dumplings.  Two distinct and less than magical ingredients.    As an aside, I will confess that I was nearly 13 before I realized that Astaire was Fred’s last name.  I thought Fredastaire was like Liberace or Madonna, but I digress...

My friend, Ann, was coming out for Thanksgiving and given the traffic and afore mentioned Ruby Slippers, I had no idea when she might arrive.  I thought a nice ragu could simmer for hours and be ready at anytime, so it became my Wednesday night menu item.  I went to Kroger’s, the large grocery chain, intent on buying some stew meat for the ragu.   I picked up a small package of stew meat and it was $12.  It was stew meat!  Not strip, not rib eye -- stew meat.  I finally found a package just north of $7 that contained 8 cubes of meat.  
The American Farm Bureau Federation released figures stating that a 2012 Thanksgiving Dinner for 10 people would run the average family $49.48.  I would like to know where they shop. 

Which brings us back to squirrel.   I have spent my life around hunters.  Hunting is one of those topics one should not discuss in polite company.   While there is a fringe of rich old white guys who pay a lot of money to shot fish-in–a-barrel, most people actually hunt to feed their family.  I won’t lie to you, there is ritual and sport in the whole endeavor, but in the end, the animals killed are eaten.  Thankfully, I don’t have to try to feed 10 people for $50.  Thankfully, I can afford $7 stew meat.  There are far more people than one could possibly imagine who can’t feed their family.

As might be expected, the few comments about the West Virginia Squirrel Fest, were of the why-eat-those-little-garden-creatures-hunting-is-so-bad-yuch-nasty vein, with the exception of the people from WV.  While there haven’t been a lot of comments on this story per se, they are the kind of reactions one always gets from these stories.

The same people who are happy to call poor white Southerners eating squirrel "nasty" would never in a million years think of making disparaging remarks about African- Americans eating watermelon, or Hispanic being beaner.  They would be appalled; shocked and appalled. Yet, it seems to be perfectly fine to demean Appalachian Southerners. Ask yourself if Honey Boo Boo would be on television if the child was black.

On Thanksgiving Day, I butchered a deer.  While there may be sport in hunting, actually butchering an animal is hard work; messy, and tough, and at times, disgusting.   You actually look into the eyes of the animal that gave up its life so you could eat.  

 I can honestly say that I am glad I was not at the first Thanksgiving.   While my friends decided that they would definitely want to be in my group during the zombie apocalypse, I am sure we would starve, the same way we would have starved at the first Thanksgiving.  

Which brings us back to Per Se.  If Thomas Keller put squirrel on the menu at Per Se, all the food blogger would be so enamored of the idea.  We would see squirrel recipes on all the food blogs and it would be the “it” thing to eat in Food & Wine and the foodie hipsters would be so excited and telling their buddies that they were the first ones to eat  Keller's Squirrel Dumplings. 

I am a committed carnivore.  I also know where my food comes from.  The next time you eat meat, think about that animal that gave its life for your ragu.

The next time you blog about the $225 tasting menu at José Andrés’ Minibar, remember that there are untold families who don’t have $225 to spend on food for the month.

Next time you go into Whole Foods for $7 of stew meat,  add a bag of groceries to the food bank basket.

And the next time you want to make fun of someone, make fun of yourself…
...seriously, I really thought his name was like  --  Fredastaire Smith. 

27 November 2012

Giving Tuesday

It's Giving Tuesday.  I'm not sure that Giving Tuesday should be stuck behind Thanksgiving Dinner, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday!  Who would have any leftover MONEY.   But it is a great idea.  

Harry, like many people who have ever given a dollar, gets tons of requests for charity.  So many we never know which one to give to.  When you give once, it seems they send a notice every other week.   (And I think that makes money for the company that is SENDING the requests and not the actual charity...but I digress.)  To combat this excess, we set aside Harry's birthday as the one day of the year to make ALL his charitable contributions. That way, we know who we have given to and we can throw away all those repetitious mailers. 

As for Giving Tuesday, you are probably broke, but here is my favorite charity:  Heifer International

In a survey 79% of Americans would rather have a charitable donation made in their name than to receive a gift they wouldn't use.   Make someone you love or like or whose name you got in the Secret Santa drawing HAPPY by donating to a good cause like Heifer International.

19 November 2012


There are some people who can wax poetic about a leafy green salad.   






mix them with mint, coriander, chive, and parsley.  Yeah, yeah yeah… but me, give me a dirty old root anyway.

Roots are my favorite, so you cannot imagine how happy I was to grab a copy of Diane Morgan’s Roots.  

If you are thinking potatoes and carrots, well you are right but there is so much more.   Take the wonderful rutabagas.   How often do I see folks stroll right past this titanic taproot without ever giving it a second look?  I admit, the rutabaga is a bit hard to peel and in order to keep the root moist for travel; it has to be coated in paraffin so it doesn’t dry out.  And we call it a rutabaga instead of the more friendly British “swede.”  Rutabaga is named from the Swedish rota bagge or “root bag” but since it is from Sweden, it is called a swede or a neep in Scotland.  Frankly I believe more people would eat rutabagas if we called them swedes, but I digress…

The rutabaga is a true root, a taproot like the carrot, and turnips and radishes and salsify.  There are tuberous roots like sweet potatoes and yuca.  There are rhizomes like ginseng and ginger.  Corms like water chestnuts and taro. And finally stem tubers like the great potato.  Yes, Virginia, root veggies are a complicated matter and Diane Morgan is more than happy to explain it all to us.

Roots is both a detailed examination into the history and botany of root vegetables, but more importantly, a collection of more than 225 recipes for great main dishes and glorious sides.  Really, you can’t beat a big old pan of roasted root vegetables, but they are ever so versatile.  The book is filled with salads and gratin, pickles and biscuits and my favorite parsnip cake (a carrot cake with grated parsnips instead of carrots). 

Roots gives the respect and admiration to the root, which is a kitchen workhorse and now, the star of the show.  As a root lover, even I was impressed with the amazing versatility of roots.  Not wanting to overwhelm you, but being very desirous that you grab up a big old rutabaga on your next shopping trip, here is a simple and tasty root bag of goodness.

Honey-braised Rutabagas

3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 lb rutabagas, ends trimmed, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt or fine seas salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
1.  In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and swirl to coat the pan bottom.  Add the rutabagas, stock, honey, and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat so the liquid just simmers, cover and cook, stiffing occasionally, until the rutabagas are fork-tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to high, and boil the braising liquid, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to a syrup consistency and coats the rutabagas, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the nutmeg and season with pepper.  Serve immediately.

Go ahead, tell your family that swedes are on the menu.  The sweetness of this recipe will counteract the spiciness of the rutabaga.  Who knows, this just might become your go-to tuber; and face it, everyone needs a go-to tuber.

16 November 2012


I didn’t want to do it.  Yes I love “entertaining” books but I didn’t think I could bear to buy the Pippa Middleton book.  Of course, I couldn’t NOT buy it, I mean really, Pippa Middleton.  Her Mum and Dad made a fortune selling party goods – paper napkins and balloons – a fortune!!  He sister married well.  She has an extraordinary ass (you can judge yourself, but commentators were quite struck by it during the royal wedding).  

Not just a pretty ass face, Pippa has had a rather prosperous career as a party planner/organizer for high-end corporate and luxury brand events, i.e. she packed the boxes of napkins they ordered, but still…

So it would only seen fair that she should write of book on how to celebrate:  Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends.

Do I sound a bit snarky?  Well yes I do and so does Pippa.  Just read the introduction:

“It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of thirty, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom.”


Clearly, Middleton understands that most people who grab up this book are doing so because they remember her from her sister’s wedding.  But she does know something about the party business, so let’s jump right in.

First and foremost, there are almost as many photos as there are words in the book.  Food, flowers, decorations, drinks, parties, and dishes are all well documented.   One reviewer remarked that all the pictures were “nauseatingly middle class.” 

There is Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, but also Boxing Day and a great Burns Night.  Middleton states in her introduction, “While some of the events, crafts and dishes may be unfamiliar to an American audience, I am thrilled to share my favorite British traditions and hope you’ll find them as lovely as I do.”

And while Burns Night is typically Scottish, the British still consider all the colonies “British”, even I think, the old US of A, just the northeast, but still…  And I must say, Pippa has an astonishing array of usages for haggis.  Who knew?

Celebrate is a good collection of food and fun for anyone. There are lovely macaroons (which Pippa tells us are difficult to make, so buy them) to Rice Crispy treats that you can make yourself.  There are decked halls, steaming fish pie, and instructions for a tug-of-war.  Celebrate is jam-packed and action filled.  And while there are indeed Rice Crispy Treats, there is also a recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread.

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a 9 X 13 oblong jelly roll pan.

For the shortbread base, place 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2-cup superfine sugar and 2 sticks of unsalted butter in a food processor and blend together to form a smooth dough.  Press the mixture into the base of the pan and prick with a fork.  Chill for 15 minutes before baking in the over for 25 to 30 minutes until golden and firm.  Set aside to cool.

To make the topping, place 13/4 sticks of unsalted butter, I cup superfine sugar, 3 tablespoons golden syrup or honey and a 14-ounce can of condensed milk in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the butter melts.  Turn the heat up to medium, bring to a boil then cook the mixture gently for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until thick and golden brown.  Pour evenly over the cold shortbread and leave to cool.  Melt 7 ounces of chopped dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.  Pour the chocolate over the cooled toffee and place in the fridge to set.  Remove from the pan and carefully cut into squares.

I admit I was skeptical.  The book has been thoroughly panned in England with the most damning criticism being that the book is just to simple.  Well, it was never touted as an elaborate guide to party planning, it was written as a way to make celebrating with family and friends easy.  Seriously, the family fortune is based on selling matching paper cups and streamers, what did they think she was going to write about?  But you know the British press, they are much more snaky than I. I can tell you, if Pippa asks me to a party, I would go, as simply middle class as it might be… and don't lie, so would you!

15 November 2012


 We do love a good Thanksgiving cookbook and this year we have found a doozy!   Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well by Sam Sifton is just a great little how-to manual for the holiday season.

Having grown up in the South, Thanksgiving was a kind of competitive cooking extravaganza, resulting in too much food.  You were commanded to try EVERYTHING;  everybody's congealed salad, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, three different greens... by the time you got ready to eat, your plate looked more of compost than dinner.   When I became the chief Thanksgiving cook, the meal was pared down to a "meat and three" with dessert.  But enough about me...

Cooking for Thanksgiving can be a daunting prospect.  But now, the novice Thanksgiving preparer has Sam Sifton on their side.  First and foremost, Sifton is a writer of some note, in fact (if one is impressed by such), Sifton was the restaurant critic for the New York Times and now serves as its national editor.   He is practical and funny.

"It is best never to call giblet gravy "giblet gravy," but simply gravy.  Giblets are mysterious things, terrifying to many in theory..."

After having a glorious fried turkey, Sifton try to replicate the recipe and meets  his future wife:

"...we burned the turkey badly and managed somehow to pierce the bottom of the pot while doing so, igniting the oil and starting a fire that nearly engulfed a woman dressed in white Daisy Dukes who would later become my wife."

Yes, Virginia, those Allstate commercials are true, each year several dozen people burn large swaths of land and the occasional house trying to deep fry a turkey.  But if you are so inclined (to cook one not to burn down the house) Sifton gives you all the sound advice that should keep you relatively safe.

Sifton is quick to tell you the screw-ups and how to avoid them.  Remember, it takes several days for a frozen turkey to defrost.  A frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning means pizza for Thanksgiving.

My favorite Thanksgiving accoutrement is dressing.  Again, being from the South we are not big on stuffing things into our bird, probably because there is no bird out there with a cavity large enough to hold our favorite dressing.   Also, we are not fond of large chunks of dry bread being passed off as stuffing.  Magazines love to show a stuffing that looks like a big bag of croutons.  Please!

Here is on of Sifton's dressing recipes.   He also has a recipe for cornbread which incorporates the dreaded SUGAR, but we will forgive the Yankee boy who got his cornbread recipe from a guy in Boston.  Horror!

Three-Pepper Sausage Cornbread Dressing

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds andouille sausage, or fresh chorizo or hot Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, cleaned and diced
2 red or orange bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced
2 poblano or Anaheim peppers, seeded and diced
2 serrano or jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, cleaned and roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock (if using store-bought, use low sodium variety)
1 pan cornbread, cut into cubes

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat olive oil in large flat-bottomed sauté pan over medium high heat. Add sausage and sauté until browned, approximately 10 minutes. Remove to a large bowl and set aside.
3. Add onion to the pan and reduce heat to medium, then sauté until onion begins to turn clear and soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add celery and peppers and continue cooking until peppers begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes.
4. Pour vegetable mixture into bowl with sausage, add chopped cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, and toss to mix.
5. Return pan to heat and deglaze with a splash of chicken stock, then scrape contents into bowl with sausage and vegetable mixture.
6. Pour mixture into a large roasting pan and add cubed cornbread, mixing by hand. Add chicken stock to moisten, cover with aluminum foil, and place in oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is soft and the flavors well incorporated. If you desire a crunchy top, remove foil for final 10 minutes of cooking. (Dressing can be made ahead of time and reheated when needed. If dry upon reheating, add additional chicken stock) 

While this book will be a God-send for the novice Thanksgiving cook, it is a delight for those of us who have cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years.  An if you are invited to some else's house for dinner, forget the wine and take them a copy of Thanksgiving; they will be forever thankful.

13 November 2012

From A Southern Oven

Jean Anderson has written numerous cookbooks, but this might just be my favorite.  From a Southern Oven: The Savories, The Sweets is a book full of baked things.  Lord knows Southerners love some baked things almost as much as they love fried things.

What I love about From a Southern Oven is the stories that accompany each and every recipe. A great collector of old comb-bound community recipe books; Anderson has gleaned many recipes from this study of local foodways.  One must remember that food is not just sustenance but a history and Anderson uses this history to illuminate each recipe.  Here a few examples:

Lafayette Gingerbread is actually Mary Washington’s gingerbread.  In 1784 when the Marquis de Lafayette visited America he visited Washington’s mother.  She gave him a mint julep and a slice of gingerbread.  From then on it was called Lafayette Gingerbread.

Confederate Corn and Chicken Pie came from a small cookbook by the North Carolina Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs.  An old Alabama favorite of the mother of Mr. J. W. Roberts of Barbour County, Alabama, who fought in the War Between the States, returned to the Old Roberts Plantation and lived to a ripe old age.

Chesapeake Deviled Crab ponders the question; does every cook have a favorite recipe for deviled crab, perhaps a cherished family one handed down the generations?

Osgood Pie is a little known pie said to have come from Arkansas and named for one of the Osgood’s or perhaps it is a contraction of Oh So Good. 

And on and on…

This recipe is from a Virginia church cookbook from 125 years ago.   It is a casserole of Guinea squash or…

Eggplant Gratin

1 medium eggplant
1 large egg
3/4 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground hot red pepper
1 cup coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup moderately fine soda cracker crumbs tossed with 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spritz 5-cup au gratin pan or shallow casserole with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Peel eggplant, cut in 1/2 to 3/4 inch dice, and place in ungreased 2-quart casserole that has a tight fitting lid.  Add enough boiling water to cover the eggplant, put a lid on the casserole, slide into the middle oven shelf and bake about 20 minutes until the eggplant is tender.  Drain very well.

3. Whisk egg until frothy in medium-sized bowl.  Whisk in half-and-half, slat, black pepper, and cayenne.  Fold in drained eggplant and half of cheese.  Transfer to au gratin pan, spreading to edge, and top with remaining cheese.  Sprinkle Topping evenly over all.

4. Bake uncovered in upper third of oven 20 to 25 minutes until center is set and crumbs are nicely browned.

5.  Serve oven-hot as an accompaniment to roast beef, lamb, veal, or pork.  Good, too, with roast turkey or chicken.

From a Southern Oven is filled with delightful anecdotes as well as tasty recipes wrenched from a rich past.  Even if you don’t own a Southern oven or even a microwave, this book is a great read.

12 November 2012

You’re All Invited

Well known chef and Nose-To-Tail enthusiast, Fergus Henderson has always had a secret weapon, his wife Margot.  While Henderson was out front founding restaurants and promoting offal, Margot Henderson helping out while running a successful catering business and feeding their growing family.  

A New Zealander by birth, Henderson has the central casting look of an Irish cook – pale, ginger-haired, and solid.  She looks for all the world like the one person who could remain calm during a massive kitchen fire, getting the people and pets out safely and grabbing a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese and a bottle wine in the process.  Form everything that has been written about her, her personality matches her looks.  She likes the word “chaos.”

 “We’re a one-course-and-cheese family.  I like organized chaos when entertaining…and I think people are more relaxed, if things aren’t too formal: relaxed chaos.”

The way to relaxed chaos is careful planning.  Low flowers, the same with candles; a flowered tablecloth, a good drink and familiar food.

There is polenta and pasta and Brussels sprouts.  There is pork belly and lamb shank and roasted bird of every size and shape.  Finish it off with something chocolate, lemony, and fruit tarty… and some cheese.

Truth be told, there is probably not a single recipe in You’re All Invited that you have never heard of.  You have heard of them all, you have probably eaten them all, but gathered together; they are like family – comforting, inviting, and rich in every sense of the word.

This may well be the most “exotic” of Henderson’s recipes due to the inclusion of feijoa, a fig-like fruit often grown New Zealand. 

Feijoa Ice Cream

400g ripe feijoa
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon vodka
1 tablespoon Cointreau
175g caster sugar
250ml double cream
250ml whole cream

Trim the feijoas top and bottom, then halve or quarter them.  Put them in a food processor with the lemon juice, vodka, Cointreau and sugar and whiz into a puree.  Stir in the cream and milk, then put in an ice cream freezer and churn.  Once slightly frozen, transfer to a plastic container and put into the freezer for at least 4 hours.

In the back of the book, Henderson lists a series of events that she has catered and the numbers of people attending.  She then provides the menu for each. You may not have 80 for a gallery opening or 240 for dinner, but the menus offer up the same planned chaos that have made Margot Henderson’s cooking a treasure.

06 November 2012

Not A Cookbook -- An Auction


Food related news.  Charlie Trotter is selling off the wine collecting from his namesake Charlie Trotter's.  The 4000 bottles are expected to fetch a cool million.   I say we buy the entire collection and party like it's 1999 or 2009.

31 October 2012

Happy Halloween

Don't Go Into The Attic...

09 October 2012

Not A Cookbook -- A Quote

 "There are some of these foodstuffs that I think just taste better when they die in your mouth as opposed to die when you squish them with a hammer or something like that. And of course you could argue that there is a theatrical element to it."   

René Redzepi at the 2012 New Yorker Festival.  The Noma chef was asked about eating bugs or seafood while it is still alive.

Not A Coobook...A Winner

Not a lot of responders, which means your chances of winning were greatly enhanced.   We threw the names into our favorite mixing bowl and Melanie and Wendy scored.   We want to see your Grain Mains creations so send pictures!!! 

26 September 2012

Grain Mains

What, you might ask, is such a carnivorous loving web site doing reviewing a grain book? Hey, we have done grains before.  We love grains, usually accompanied by a nice rib-eye, but we do love grains.   In fact, last Christmas we got a 5 pound bag of quinoa -- a gift that keeps on giving. 

Let me get this out of the way, Rodale sent out a copy of this book and giveaway books!!  Yes, gentle reader, you too, may get a copy of this very book.  This book, however, was already on our "Wish List."  We often get publishers offering us cookbooks and since we believe in full disclosure and since we rarely write about a book we do not like, we have certain trepidation when accepting such books.  Seriously, what if they suck?  What if they are about baby food?  What if they are just tedious?  We did not feel any of that when we accepted Grain Mains


First and foremost, we love Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.   They wrote one of our Top Ten cookbooks of 2011, Goat: Meat Milk Cheese.   Secondly, they are funny.  We read a lot of cookbooks!  Rarely do they convey joy and humor, but these guys always do and that is a joy.  

An aside:

I have a friend who is in his 86, which as it turn out, is also his weight.  I never see him that he does not eventually get around to talking about Red Meat.  It is a killer.  It make you fat -- he looks at me.  It is bad for you, not just me.  Fat, cholesterol, mad cow... the mind wanders.  If you love food, you know this person and you do your best to duck and cover.  One worries that someone who actually writes a cookbook about "grain" might be a heavy-handed.  Not so in Grain Mains.

Another problem...

Corn and rice -- we can cook that.

Barley?  OK once, as a child we had Campbell's Beef and Barley soup.

Millet?  Wasn't she that poet? Edna something Millet.

Amaranth? Teff? Job's Tears?   How the frack do I cook this?  Do not despair.  Weinstein and Scarbrough give the reader a simple and easy primer on each grain.  It's flavor, texture, and a little history.  They also provide a ratio of liquid to solid for cooking  and a time frame. Yes, Virgina, you can cook Kamut.

Let's review:

We got the book for free and we are having a give away.    Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are funny and not holier-than-thou health food nuts.  If you can cook rice you can cook quinoa.   

Grain Mains: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day does just that.  The cookbook offers up a series of recipes featuring a whole grain main ingredient that moves beyond oatmeal.  Want an interesting choice for breakfast?  Try their Quinoa Cashew Muffins or Breakfast Polenta Cake with Kamut Crunch Topping. 

We find salads are a great place for introducing whole grains into a meal.  The grains add an amazing texture and elevate the most ordinary salad.   By adding wheat berries to a simple olive and feta salad, Weinstein and Scarbrough offer up the familiar with a Grain Mains twist.   They make a Reuben Salad (and I thought I was the only one who made a Reuben Salad) and add rye berries, which makes perfect sense and gives the creamy cabbage, pastrami and cheese a nice chewy bite.  And speaking of pastrami, while most of the recipes in the book are vegan or vegetarian, there is ham, chorizo, bacon and tuna to please those carnivores among us, while providing animal-free options. 

The biggest testament to the power of grains is the section on grain burgers.   The most finicky of eaters will devour most anything slapped between two buns and Grain Mains offers up several inviting creations including this one:

Black Quinoa and Black Bean Burgers

2/3 cup black quinoa
1 (15 ounces) can  black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (do not use quick-cooing or steel-cut)
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
Up to 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeno rings
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons nut oil, such as walnut, pecan, pistachio, or hazelnut

1.  Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water, pour in the quinoa, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grains have developed their halos and are tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain in a fine mesh sieve or a lined colander set in the sink.

2. Scrape the quinoa into a large food processor. (Believe it or not, this is the hardest part of this entire recipe: getting all those grains out of the sieve.)  Then add the black beans, oats, barbecue sauce, jalapenos, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, chile powder and cumin,  Process to make a paste like batter, scraping down the inside of the bowl once or twice.  Scrape down and remove the chopping blade.

3.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and swirl in the oil.  Use dampened hands to form the batter into 6 even, round, fairly flat patties.  Slip these into the skillet and cook until deeply browned, about 4 minutes.  Flip them and continue cooking until well browned and crisp on the other side, about 4 more minutes.  
 Gosh, burgers, salads, stews, casseroles, muffins, cakes all filled with whole grains.  Your cardiologist will love you, as will most everyone else you might just be cooking for.  Give Grain Mains a try.  We will make it ever so easy, just comment and win... maybe.

24 September 2012

Real Cajun

We have been on a bit of New Orleans kick as of late.  No that that is a bad thing.  (Actually, it can be a bad thing. Spending just under one year in New Orleans, I managed to gain 40 pounds.  I had to leave while I could still fit in the car, but I digress...)

Reading Donald Link's Real Cajun:Rustic Home Cooking for Donald Link's Louisiana, it is not hard to fathom gaining 40 pounds!  Unlike some chefs who end up in a place, or move to an area, of like the climate and choose to open a restaurant, Donal Link grew up in Louisiana.

"My two sets of grandparents lived a quarter mile from one another, and we settled about a mile from them. Between my mother and father , I have thirty-four aunts and uncles. That's ten brothers and sisters on Mom's side and seven on Dad's."
A truly inconceivable fact to grasp for an only child!

During a particularly popular wave of Cajun cooking, fish got blackened to the point of extinction, and over-bearing spices removed and distinction between flavors.  That was not the food Donald Link grew up eating.  It is no surprise that he titled his book "real" Cajun.  Link wanted to convey the joy and flavors and love he tasted from his family who truly lived off the land.

When that land was devastated by Katrina, Donald Link lied, snuck, and cajoled his way back into the city that he loved.  Nothing, not floods, National Guard, nor walk-in freezers full of rotting food was going to keep him from cooking.   All he wanted was to get his restaurant, Herbsaint, open for those people who were determined to re-build.  Re-build they did, as Link knew they would.  Heck, in the midst of the turmoil he opened another restaurant, Cochon, and he still had time to write a cookbook!

Recently, I was craving fried shrimp, but alas, the only shrimp I could find in West Virginia had been frozen for about a decade, maybe less, but i am guessing at least a decade.  Since I couldn't make my own fried shrimp, the next best thing was read Donald Link and live vicariously.

Southern-Fried Shrimp 

2 dozen large shrimp, peeled
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/4 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Peanut oil, for frying
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 teaspoons Creole (or whole-grain) mustard (optional–if you want your shrimp tangier)

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour with the remaining salt, pepper, and the cayenne.

Heat 3-4 inches of oil in a large pot until very hot, about 350 degrees F.

Pour the buttermilk (and mustard, if using) over the seasoned shrimp and combine. Working in batches, use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp from the buttermilk and transfer to the seasoned flour. Using a separate dry spoon or your fingers, toss to evenly coat. Carefully slip the battered shrimp into the fryer and fry until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes; drain on paper towels. (Don’t overcrowd the fryer with too many shrimp, as this will lower the temperature of the oil and the shrimp won’t crisp up as quickly or nicely as they should.)

When I was a kid, fried shrimp were my go-to restaurant food.  I refused to eat cocktail sauce and demanded French dressing for dunking.  Not, perhaps, real Cajun, but a memory just the same.

22 September 2012

Food In Jars

Over at Lucindaville we posted photos of the new Canning Jar Closet and what better accompaniment to those photos than to feature one of new favorite canning cookbooks.  Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan grew out of her wildly popular blog, Food in Jars.  I just love to click onto Food in Jars, especially on those days that are not going so well.  A brief click on oozing jams, bright jellies, and comfy conserves and I am a happy camper.

So one can just imagine how ecstatic I was to find that Marisa was doing her very own Food in Jars cookbook.  I waited and waited and it finally arrived.  What can I say, some girls love jewelry, I love shiny jewels suspended in canning jars.  The book did not disappoint.  There is very practical information for those of you who have never canned before.  She debunks the myth that canning requires specialized equipment (or a canning jar closet for that matter!) as well as my favorite myth, that canning must be done in industrial sized batches.  Long ago, before there was a Trader Joe, one did need to provide for the family for those long winter months while the garden was under snow.  And there were times when women canned gigantic quarts of tomatoes and beans, but those days are waning.   Today we just want lovely little jars of our own jam.  And while one does not need specialized canning equipment, it was Marisa who caused me to buy one of my favorite specialised canning tools the Kuhn 4th Burner Pot which can be used for various other things besides canning three small jars of jam, but I digress...

Another of my favorite cooking techniques that Marisa employs is the slow cooker.  I do love my slow cooker for apple butter and Maris shown a light on the multiple other butters one could make.  This a favorite.

Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter

8 cups of pureed blueberries
2 cups/ 400 g granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Put the pureed blueberries in a 4-quart capacity slow cooker. Cover and turn it to low. After it has cooked for 1 hour, remove the lid and stir. From this point forward, you will want to keep the lid slightly  cracked.  Propping it open with  a wooden spoon or chopstick allows for the evaporating steam to escape.

This butter needs between 4 to 8 hours total in the slow cooker.  The time varies depending on how hot you slow cooker cooks.  Check the butter at least once and hour to check the progress.
In the final hour add the sugar, lemon zest and juice, and spices.  If you want to speed the evaporation, remove the lid and turn the cooker up to high.  If you do this, make sure you check the butter every 10 minutes to prevent scorching.

(When the butter is nearing completion,prepare a boiling water bath and 4 regular-mouth 1-pint/500 ml jars  and lids according to processing. )

Once it is thick as ketchup and spreadable, determine whether you like chunky or smooth butter. Puree the butter for a smooth texture; for slight chunkiness, leave it as is.
 (Ladle into jars and process for 10 minutes.)

The great thing about this book is the range.   From beginner to advance jam maker, there is something to get you into the kitchen. For those days you can't get into the kitchen, check out the blog!  Either way you will find yourself very happy.
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