28 August 2014

The Complete Western Cookbook

The early 1960's brought us The Complete Western Cookbook by Betty Johnson. With the current fascination for regional cooking, I must say there is not a whole lot in this cookbook that would scream out, "This is the land beyond the Pecos." 

what this may indicate is a land beyond proper cookbook editors.  The book has a really funny layout.  It starts with curry and New Mexico dishes.  One of those seems a bit out of place.  It is followed by game poultry and barbecue.  Then we move into a huge section of desserts: cookies, cakes, pies, frosting, frozen desserts, and candies.  It is an odd jump to go from venison and barbecued chicken to Lane cake in a few pages. 

Then we move into appetizers, pastas, sandwiches and "Oriental" dishes. then we move into a fairy common list of eggs, soups, salads, sauces, meats and vegetables.

I must say, with the exception of the Mexican and Oriental dishes, the book could well have been titled, The Complete Southern Cookbook.  It seems Mrs. Johnson hails from Alabama and given that the book has at least 4 fried chicken recipes, more cornbread and pone and spoon bread than most, not to mention Lane cake, deviled eggs, ribs, and gumbo, it reads far more Southern than Western to me.

I was actually struck by how many good recipes there were in this book.  But, as we often find with books of this age, the recipes are kind of limited in the level of  direction one receives to actually cook the dishes.

I have a fondness for lima beans.  Yes, those little green ones are fine, but I am especially drawn to the large, white, dried lima beans.  This recipe offered a different twist on my usual white limas.

Creole Lima Chowder

1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon fat
1 cup sliced carrots
8 small onions, quartered
4 cups boiling water
2 cups diced celery
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic slat
2 cups cooked large dry limas

Saute beef in fat until evenly browned,  Add balance of ingredients. Cover simmer over low heat for thirty minutes until vegetables are done.  Remove cover and continue cooking 15 minutes.

I don't get why this recipe is "creole."  And while it sounds pretty simple, it seems to me there might be a lot to wrong in those instructions.  Starting with the soaking and cooking of the lima beans.  But you get the idea.

27 August 2014

How to Wine Friends and Affluent People

If you are into that throwback 1950's vibe, you can credit a good bit of it to Robert H. Loeb, Jr.  Loeb was the food and drink editor for Esquire magazine in the early 1950s. It was a perfect fit.  Loeb has an ethos that men are better than women and whiskey is better than most men.

While in today's world that might make him sound like the quintessential asshole, you have to admit he was very funny.  He loved for his books to have little text and a lot of pictures.  He wrote several cooks employing a technique of taking rather lofty historical characters, writing a short, first-person bio or (autobiography as they read from the characters point of view) and spinning recipes. Clearly, the recipes have no real connection to the biography, nor are they meant to be indicative of what the person would have eaten.  It is perhaps more indicative of of his supposition that what really matters is appearance and knowing a bit about Cleopatra or Balzac would lead to a favorable impression for those of "wine and affluence."

While these may not be recipes that become staples in your kitchen, for those of you interest in food history, this is a great starting point for how food has changed in the last century.  The rationing and Victory gardens of the war gave way to an almost cavalier view of food. In the many "illustrated" food guides like this one, food is quite literally cartoonish.

Here is a recipe preceded by a bio of Sir Issac Newton.  The recipe is for a dish of canned beets that have been hollowed out and stuffed with a horseradish cream.  Not a bad recipe, but with little to do with Newton.  Here is Beets Isaac:

Beets Isaac

1 #2 can of beets
1 cup heavy cream
4 teaspoons white horseradish
1/8 teaspoon salt

Hollow out each beet.  Whip the cream. Add the salt and horseradish.  Stuff the beets.  Refrigerate. Serve.
If you are looking for a nifty fifties recipe for your Labor Day Man Men binge, this is the ticket.  Make those martinis strong.

22 August 2014

A Painter's Kitchen

O'Keeffe's Kitchen Sink, Ghost Ranch, 1975  by Dan Budnik
Just when you though you had seen "everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to Georgia O'Keeffe -- we give you Georgia O'Keeffe's kitchen sink.

When she was 24, Margaret Wood met the 90-year-old Georgia O'Keeffe.  She was hied to be Miss O'Keeffe's companion, staying with her at night and preparing her evening meal and her breakfast.  Alas, Margaret Wood was not much of a cook at the time, so Miss O'Keeffe taught her.  Years latter Wood compiled recipes that she cooked into A Painter's Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe.
As one might expect from an elderly woman living in the middle of nowhere, the recipes are simple, filled with natural ingredients.  An avid gardener, O'Keeffe was an early adopter of the writings of Adelle Davis who's book Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit was a huge bestseller.  With all of her care for nutrition, making her own yogurt, milling her own flour, and growing her own vegetables, she never shied away from good steak.
Each recipe in the book has a headnote memory of O'Keeffe; food they ate, books they read, stories of travel and friends.  O'Keeffe had an old Chambers Stove from the 1940's.
Photo from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Like so many houses, the kitchen was the focal point of the house, with three different rooms radiating off the kitchen.
Photo from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
During the waning light of fall, O'Keeffe spent a lot of time pouring over recipes, she seemed to be a big fan of Prevention magazine.
Photo from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
She was always reading about vitamins, minerals and natural foods.  She had a real love of nuts and grains.  This recipe featured several different kinds of nuts wrapped into a single muffin.

Atomic Muffins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup soy flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons brewer's yeast (optional)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup safflower oil
2--3 tablespoons honey
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the almonds, cashews, pecans, and sunflower seeds (or other nuts of choice). Combine the flours, brewer's yeast (if desired), baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl, beat egg then and add the oil, honey and milk. Add the liquids and nuts to the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Grease a muffin tin and fill to 2/3 full.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve with butter/oil and fruit preserves. Makes 1 dozen muffins.
Generally, we are not big fans of "nuts in our food" but we might just make an exception in honor of Georgia O'Keeffe.
If you are a fan of O'Keeffe, this cookbook is a perfect addition to your collection.

21 August 2014

Florida Salads

This little gem from 1915 is called Florida Salads.  There seems to be no real thesis presenting why these salads are particularly Floridian.  One might imagine that the temperate weather allows for fresh greens throughout the year, thus making salads a "Florida" thing and the author does mention the climate as a good reason for a salad on every table.  Or, maybe is is simply because this little book was published in Florida. 

While there is no information about the author, Frances Barber Harris, she has subtitled her book: "A collection of dainty, wholesome salad recipes that will appeal to the most fastidious."

The book is divided into the following sections:

Card Party Salads
Dinner Salads
Luncheon Salads
Salad Dressings
Salad Sandwiches

She writes:
"If the writer can impress upon the readers of this little salad book the importance of eating salads, the writing of it will not be in vain."
While none of these recipes will be earth shattering, it is an interesting look into a different time period.  There are a lot of salads that involve slicing a fruit in half, scooping out the seed and serving it with -- a spoon.  One really can't differentiate much between the salads in each section of the book.   There is no real key as to why one might be a Card Party salad as opposed to a Luncheon salad.

Loquat Salad

Wash and slice loquats and kumquats thin, mix with sliced boiled chestnuts and serve on lettuce with mayonnaise.

You guess.  When does one serve Loquat Salad?  According to Harris, at Luncheon.

19 August 2014

The Green Mountain Cook Book

My favorite Sports Night is titled "A Girl Named Pixley."  I never knew anyone named "Pixley" until I ran across a copy of The Green Mountain Cook Book by Aristene Pixley.  Picking a cookbook based on an obscure character in Sports Night is probably not the best way, but then television happens.

As one might have guessed, this cookbook is a collection of Vermont recipes published in 1934.  It is dedicated to our most glamorous First Lady, Grace Coolidge. (Don't be fooled by all that "Jackie" hype, Grace was a knockout and she hailed from Vermont.) 

There are several maple sauces and a lot of cheese featured on the pages.  In the back are several purveyors of Vermont goods including maple syrup, Chicken in Glass Jars, and turnips shipped right to your door. 

The recipes are short, succinct, and offer little advice on how to actually cook a recipe.  It is a Vermont cookbook, so they expect you to know such things.

Now we have a soft spot in out heart or should I say on our palate for unusual sodas, weird drinks and other strange concoctions.  So we just can't get this recipe out of our mind.

Flax Seed Lemonade
into one pint hot water put two teaspoons sugar and three tablespoons whole flax seed.  Steep for one hour, then strain.  Add the juice of one lemon and set aside until required.
We were fascinated with this recipe and set out to do more research.  It seems that Flax Seed Lemonade as a long history.  It was featured in several 19th century cookbooks such as Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book in 1884,  The Every-Day Cook-Book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes in 1892 and in  1896  Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer. It continued to appear in the 1930's and 1940's.  Even Dr. Oz recommended a rather medicinal lemon and flax seed drink. 

In Texas, nine-year-old Mikaila Ulmer's has a thriving lemonade stand -- and a product now available at Whole Foods.  Mikaila’s ninety-year-old paternal great-grandmother sent her dog-eared cookbook from the 1940's and Makaila refined the flax seed lemonade into her own brand, BeeSweet Lemonade, with mint and flax.  Check out her Facebook page to see Mikaila and her great-grandmother.

We knew there was a reason to read old cookbooks.

18 August 2014

Recipes from an Edwardian Country House

Recipes from an Edwardian Country House is a book that was repackaged from an earlier book.  Frankly, I hate it when publishers do this sort of thing, as I often have the first book and then end up with another copy of the same book -- different title!  Well, I don't have the original Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall book entitled, The Good Granny Cookbook.  One can only imagine that that title was a bit on the unfortunate side. 

The idea for the book was simple, to look at old recipes culled from many that were popular in the Edwardian era and present them to today's cook.  Recipes that Granny might have made.  The book was published before the great infatuation with the Edwardian era spawned by Downton Abbey.  Pre-Downton such a book was a quaint look back at granny's old cookbooks.  Post-Downton the book was transformed into recipes from an Edwardian Country House.

Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall (yes, Virginia, she is Hugh's mother) spent a lot of time in an old country house.  Her grandparents has a large, yet far from Downton, country house.  They managed with only 8 or 10 people to help them.  At the outbreak of World War II, the women and children of the family gathered together at the country house to ride out the war as husbands were away fighting and Jane spent her first six years there with her mother and grandparents. 

While many of the recipes are gleaned from old cookbooks that were known in the Edwardian era, a good many of the recipes are pulled from friends and family, making it neither Granny's nor Edward's cookbook.  Many of the recipes are pulled from and earlier era yet remain thoroughly modern like Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Cider.  At times the book seems positively southern as there are recipes for Cheese Straws, Pineapple Upside-Down Pudding and Stuffed Eggs with enough variations to keep one busy for days. 

This recipe came from Jane's godmother.  A lovely chocolate sauce and we would eat cardboard with a nice chocolate sauce.

Granny Ray's Chocolate Sauce

1 ½ ounces butter
9 tablespoons soft brown sugar
9 tablespoons best-quality cocoa
3 tablespoons black coffee

Melt the butter over a low heat. Stir in the sugar, then the cocoa and black coffee. Mix well, stirring constantly. Serve the sauce immediately, while warm, over vanilla ice cream.

We are off to get the ice cream as we speak.

13 August 2014

The Heart of Sicily

We like to read cookbooks, but we also like to know what cookbook our favorite chefs read.  So we were elated to read a fine post by one of favorites, David Lebovitz, about Casa Vecchie, Anna Tasca Lanza's cooking school.  Lanza passed away several years ago, but her daughter now runs the school. 

Lebovitz related the long and laborious process Lanza used to make her tomato paste or estratto di pomodoro. The process is fully recounted in her book, The Heart of Sicily.  Since we didn't own this book, of course we needed it.

I was drawn to this because it reminded me of my great-aunt, Mamie.  She was in charge of drying apples in the family.  I would watch her sit for hours, peeling and cutting up tiny crab apples.  Often the amount of peel and core far outweighed the little sliver of apple it produced. Then she would lay the apples on large metal sheet trays and leave them in the sun to day.  Well into her nineties, she would climb a rickety ladder to slide and retrieve the pans from the roof a of the carport. Long after her death, I found a jar of blackened apple bits and tossed them out.  Now I regret that action as I am sure they would still make excellent pies.

The though of Lanza, cutting and removing the seeds and drying the tomatoes brought back many a memory. 
since I don't have 400 pounds of tomatoes to turn into paste, I thought I would take a few tomatoes and make this as I do have about 40 pounds of zucchini.

Minestra di Tennerumi e Cucuzze

1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small zucchini, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups washed tennerumi, roughly cut, or spinach or chard, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
3 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Black pepper
6 cups water
1 beef bouillon cube
1/4 pound spaghetti, broken into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan, for garnish
Olive oil, for garnish

Saute the onions in the olive oil in a saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes, until just golden.  Add zucchini and tennerumi and stir to blend.  Stir in half the basil, the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough of the 6 cups of water to cover, reduce the heat and cook partly covered for 15 minutes.

Add the rest of the water and the bouillon cube and ring soup to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Pour the soup into a tureen and set it in a cold water bath to cool it rapidly.

Sprinkle the rest of basil on top of the soup.  Serve with grated pecorino and oil for drizzling.
Thanks, David, for the recommendation.

12 August 2014

The Founding Farmers Cookbook

You think you have trouble getting a consensus, just imagine if you owned a restaurant with 40,000 partners.  The Founding Fathers in Washington, DC is just such a restaurant.  It is owned by more than 42,000 American family farmers in the North Dakota Farmers Union.  

It seems that these North Dakota farmers wanted to get into the restaurant business. (Because they didn't think farming was hard enough?) Then, they decided to open this restaurant in the Nation's Capitol.  A wise move as not a lot of movers and shakers and members of the agriculture committee mill about Bismark.  

It wasn't enough to start a restaurant which if farm-owned-table, they wanted to spread the sustainability.  They were the first LEED Certified restaurant in the Nations Capitol and one of the first LEED Gold restaurants in the entire country.  They scoured the Library of Congress to find authentic recipes to highlight the farmer's bounty. 

After several years of operation, they decided to gather their vast knowledge into a cookbook.  The cookbook embodies a similar aesthetic as the restaurant.  The Founding Farmers features traditional American cuisine such as Yankee Pot Roast, Southern Chicken and Waffles, and a Seven-Cheese Mac and Cheese. They even offer a recipe so you can make your own ginger ale.

Now tell me, what could be more American than bacon?  Try these lollipops!

Bacon Lollis

1/2 pound extra thick-cut applewood-smoked slab bacon (ask your butcher to slice it to 1/4-inch thick)
5 tablespoons Cinnamon Brown Sugar.  (see below)

Cinnamon Brown Sugar

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whisk all of the ingredients until well combined. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

You’ll need 10 to 15 (10-inch) bamboo or metal skewers. If using bamboo, soak them in water for 1 hour before using.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut the bacon slices into 2 1/2-inch pieces. Thread each piece of bacon on to the end of a skewer. Arrange the bacon skewers on a baking sheet lined with a metal roasting rack. Dust the bacon with half of the Cinnamon Brown Sugar and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until it appears that the bacon has rendered at least half of its fat. Remove the skewers from the oven. Flip the skewers over and dust the other side of the bacon with the remaining Cinnamon Brown Sugar. Return the bacon to the oven and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

It is a great find when both a restaurant and a cookbook come together to fulfill a goal of sustainability.  The Founding Farmers have done that -- as well as make a fine Raspberry-Lime Rickey.

11 August 2014

The Lamb Cookbook

Who doesn't love a good lamb?  We have been thinking of a whole lamb recently.  While the idea has been percolating, the execution has been no where to find.  So we ventured back in time to 1959 to see what Paula Owen might recommend on a much smaller scale.  Owen's The Lamb Cookbook was written at a time when the most extravagant use of lamb was for a shish kebab. 

Owen seems to have a simple premise for this book.  Lamb is a good protein and low in fat.  She does not seem to be from a farming family, nor does she have a sheep farm.  She did, however, publish several books about cooking lamb.

The book has a definite 50's feel to it with cooking techniques outlined in the graphic endpapers.  The men tend to do the braising and broiling while pan frying, simmering, and roasting are women's work.
Her recipes are straight forward, but the cuts need the help of 1950's butcher. Owen lays them out very clearly, but at today's supermarket you will be lucky to find lamb chops and a partial leg of lamb.  Xerox her lamb cuts guide and find yourself a throwback butcher or a modern hipster butcher for lamb ribs or brains.

And speaking of lamb ribs, they are a favorite, but one needs a butcher.  Check out this recipe.

Honey-Garlic Lamb Ribs

2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine, sherry or pineapple juice
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons curry powder or 1 teaspoon powered ginger

Combine all ingredients, except salt.  Brush ribs well with mixture and let stand several hours or overnight under refrigeration.  Broil over coals, following equipment manufacturer's directions for spareribs.  Brush frequently with sauce.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Serve piping hot.

My guess is you don't have your manufacturer's direction booklet.  While lamb ribs won't take as long as pork ribs, they will take about 2 hours.

07 August 2014

Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine

There is not a single member of Norma Jean and Carole Darden's family that you want to hang out with.  While most of them are gone now, they live on in this delightful cookbook and memoir.  Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine was one of the first cookbooks to combine recipes and reminiscences in one book.

The book was seven years in the making as the sisters collected recipes and stories from family members in Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio.  Not only did they have recipes, but they had great stories as well.  Their grandfather, Papa Darden was born a slave who went on to be a successful business man and the vintner of the strawberry wine. 

Aunt Maude was a matchmaker who not only arranged marriages, but organized the weddings, too. A frequent visitor at Tuskegee, she was friends with Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.

Aunt Lil, an octogenarian when interviewed didn't remember much about food, but she had a great recipe for Violet Vanishing Cream.

While the recipes are wonderful, the family photographs are a treasure. Published in 1978, the photographic reproduction is not great, but the photos are elegant and offer a glimpse into the lives of the family in the stories.  Family in this book is that extended Southern family that might not be connected by blood, but by an even deeper bond.  When the Darden's father was interning at Tuskegee, he met nursing student, Mattie Winner.  When he landed in New Jersey, he talked Mattie into leaving Texas and becoming  his nurse.  Soon she talked her sisters into joining her in the North.  Their house was often a holiday gathering place.

One of our favorite vegetable is the lowly rutabaga.  Perhaps if we began to call them yellow turnips, they might grow in popularity.  This is a Thanksgiving recipe from one of Mattie's sisters.

Waltine's Mashed Turnips and Carrots

1 large yellow turnip
6 large carrots
3/4 stick of butter
1 medium sized onion, diced fine
2 tablespoons sugar
2-3 teaspoons salt

Peel and quarter the turnip.  Pare and halve the carrots. Bring water to a rapid boil and toss in the vegetables.  Cook rapidly until completely tender.  Drain and mash with potato masher.  In a second pan melt butter and add diced onions.  Saute until tender and translucent.  Add the butter and onions,sugar and salt  to the mashed vegetable, blending well.

Who doesn't love a cookbook with a fine rutabaga recipe!  If you are in New York, Norma Jean Darden is still cooking up a storm. There is a catering company and two restaurants, named after Miss Maude and Miss Mamie.

01 August 2014

Cocktails For Book Lovers

Two of our favorite things!  Books and Cocktails. 

The obligatory statement that we were given a free copy of this book and why we most often don't take free books:  When we were offered a copy of this book, we jumped at the chance.  Here's the deal, we love to get books in the mail.  We are not real fond of getting books that require us to review them.  Here's why.  We like to write about books we like.  What if you send us a culmination of your life's work and we hate it?  We don't want to write that we got your book, you gave it to us, and frankly, we hate it.  Plus, we don't like to write about books we hate.  If we hate it, we don't bother.  So, most of the time, we don't take books to review.  Full disclosure.

Tessa Smith McGovern has pulled together fifty cocktails to be paired with favorite authors.  The collection is not a gaggle of cocktails simply mentioned in novels; there is no Ian Fleming Vesper Martini, for instance.  Instead, McGovern gives the reader a bit of info about a specific writer, an excerpt from their work and then a suggestion for a drink and further reading. It is a kind of like: If you love Zora Neale Hurston, you'll love the Orange Blossom.  Or, say you have read everything by Collette, but did you know she loved a glass of mulled wine?  Well now you have a recipe.

McGovern runs a web series called BookGirlTV where she interviews authors and often mixes a cocktail with them.  Frankly, this sort of companion drinking could be a huge boon to Amazon.  In addition to other books you might like, how about a cocktail to go with your book.

Yes, Virginia, we have read Virginia Woolf.  So why not have a drink in her honor.  This drink is inspired by Woolf's old address, 29 Fitzroy Square, also the location for the BBC's adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma.  Who wouldn't love this.

Fitzroy Fizz

Stone's Original Ginger Wine

Pour Stone's Original Ginger Wine into a chilled flute glass.  Top with champagne.

While drinking and driving is a bad idea, drinking a reading is a really good thing.  Pick up a copy of Cocktails For Book Lovers for inspiration.  Pick up a copy of Cocktails For Book Lovers and host the best book club -- EVER. 

P.S.  Jeff Bezos, give me a call!

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