Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Shrimply Delicious!" & "The Chesapeke Bay Cookbook" & "Little Italy Cookbook" & "Inside America's Test Kitchen" & "Sicilian Feasts" - holiday dinner

Date I made these recipes: December 15, 2007

Shrimply Delicious! by Eva Jean Schulz
Published by: Doubleday and Company, Inc.
© 1966
Recipe: Shrimp and Mango Chutney Canapes – p. 23

The Chesapeake Bay Cookbook by John Shields
Published by: Aris Books – Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.
ISBN: 0-201-51808-2
© 1990
Recipe: Hot Crab Dip – p. 216

Little Italy Cookbook by David Ruggerio
Published by: Artisan
ISBN: 1-885183-54-2
© 1997
Recipe: Cousin Vinny’s Linguine with Scallops – p. 201

Inside America’s Test Kitchen by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Published by: America’s Test Kitchen
ISBN: 0-936184-71-X
© 2003
Recipe: Garlic-Lemon Green Beans with Roasted Bread Crumbs – p. 109

Sicilian Feats by Giovanna Bellia La Marca
Published by: Hippocrene Books
ISBN: 0-7818-0967-3
© 2003
Recipe: Zabaglione (Egg and Wine Custard) – p. 163

The holidays are upon us and this year, it was my turn to host my “gang’s” annual Christmas dinner. I just finished doing the dishes and putting away my Grandmother’s china and let me tell you, I’m pooped!

For the past 20 some years, my best friends and I have celebrated the holidays by hosting a dinner party on a rotating basis. My merry little band has fluctuated on the numbers over the years what with some members moving away and two of us getting married but we are locked and loaded on a solid five of us and that works out just fine.

This year, though, was a little challenging as most of us have experienced some sort of ill health during the year. The pathetic thing is that we are all approaching our 50th birthdays next year (2008) and so it seems Mother Nature is speeding things up just a tich on the aging process. No matter—despite dietary restrictions and careful avoidance of foods that could otherwise kill us—we managed to make our way through the meal I prepared. Whew! One of my friends who is also a fan of the show, Dinner Impossible, on the Food Network said that this could have been an episode and she’s partially right. (For the record, Dinner Impossible shows how Chef Robert Irvine handles an impossible assignment each week such as “make 50 different appetizers in two hours for a party” or “cook a dinner at the Mall of America using food procured at the mall.” The only problem is that the mall doesn’t have any grocery stores so he had to beg other restaurant chefs for some of their food. Also for the record—Robert never fails. He may cut it close but he makes it every time. You’ve got to love that).

Anyway, although the meal came off without a hitch, I am nothing if not hard on myself and the recipes and so while my friends thought most were great, I was left thinking a few could have been better.

Take, for instance, the recipe for Cousin Vinny’s Linguine with Scallops. The dish was progressing quite nicely until I added the mushrooms. And I didn’t just add some mushrooms, I added a pound of mushrooms as the recipe dictated. Now people, it could be just me, but I thought this was overkill. Moreover, I thought the mushrooms made the sauce too heavy and hearty for the scallops that were added at the end. And so that dish ended up on my “eh” list of things I would serve again. And that’s too bad because the author and I have something in common: to my complete amazement, he notes that his father came from Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. My grandparents, Vita Costa Verme and Angelo Verme came from the same small town in the early 1900’s. Maybe we have relatives in common, who knows? Still paisano or not, I’m puzzled by the recipe although I think the sauce was quite tasty prior to the time I added the mushrooms.

And then there are the green beans I made. Although the recipe hails from the esteemed America’s Test Kitchen’s kitchen, it lacked the oomph I was looking for. Maybe my husband had a heavy hand in sprinkling the breadcrumbs, who knows?

As to the appetizers, while the crab dip was okay, everyone loved the Shrimp and Mango Canapes. I thought I might have over toasted them just a bit but my friends assured me otherwise.

This brings us to the one dish that I thought was solid and that was the Zabaglione, an Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar and marsala wine. It’s hard to screw that one up and frankly, the marsala wine made everything better!

As to other futsy details about the recipes, don’t think for one minute that the shrimp and mango chutney canapés served 24 as stated unless they used an eyedropper to put the mixture onto the toasts. I’d plan on the recipe serving 15 tops. The recipe also said “sprinkle with buttered crumbs, and brown on a baking sheet under the broiler.” Well people, this is somewhat vague. What about an estimated time? What about a definition of “brown?” These are the types of things I need to know!

Then there was the lack of direction for the scallop recipe sauce. The recipe said to “lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then add mushrooms.” Okay, and then what? It didn’t say how much longer I should cook the sauce. The recipe then jumped to “cook the pasta…” Well, this seemed to be lacking in something.

So here’s what I did. I added the mushrooms and then simmered the sauce for at least 20 more minutes. And then because it was still chunky, I put the whole thing in a food processor to break up the tomatoes and the mushrooms, more so because the tomatoes were huge, unattractive blobs. And why were the tomatoes such huge, unattractive blobs? Because the recipe said to use 2-28 cans peeled plum tomatoes. It didn’t say “crushed tomatoes,” it didn’t say “pureed tomatoes,” it said peeled plum tomatoes. And so I bought peeled plum tomatoes and they were huge and unsightly and reminded me of the “sauce” (I use the term loosely) that my Catholic school used to serve us—chunks of tomatoes on top of spaghetti. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. So let me repeat an often-used phrase: “The devil is in the details.”

And just so you know, there are two kinds of marsala wine, dry and sweet. This dessert calls for sweet so read the label before buying!

But other than all that, we had a great time! And now that my obligation is done, I get to enjoy the fruits of others’ labor and can focus my attention on the rest of my cookbook collection, at least for another couple of years. We’ll see if I can get through the rest of my cookbook collection by then. Stay tuned!

Shrimp and Mango Chutney Canapes – serves 24 (not really. Try fifteen)
1 cup finely chopped, cooked shrimp
¼ cup heavy cream or mayonnaise (I used cream but I’m thinking mayo probably would have been better)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Mango chutney
24 bread rounds (i.e. cocktail bread)
Buttered bread crumbs
1 hard cooked egg yolk, mashed

Blend together shrimp and cream or mayonnaise. Stir in melted butter, Parmesan cheese and Tabasco. Season to taste with mango chutney. Spread mixture on bread rounds. Sprinkle with buttered crumbs, and brown on baking sheet under broiler. Remove from the heat and top with egg yolk.

By the way, the recipe doesn’t say how to make buttered crumbs but the green bean recipe did and so all you need to do is melt some butter, add your crumbs and stir for 3-5 minutes.

Hot Crab Dip – serves 10 to 12 (and so I made half the recipe for 5 of us)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons grated onion (and if anyone knows how to do this without making a mess, please post a comment!)
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or chives
1 pound backfin or special crabmeat, picked over for shells (Note: I used canned crabmeat as it was cheaper and more readily available here in the Midwest at this time of year).
Crackers or French bread slices for accompaniment

Preheat oven to 350.

In a bowl, blend the cream cheese and cream until smooth. Mix in the onion, horseradish, Old Bay, cheese, and parsley. Gently fold in the crabmeat. Pour into a buttered 1 ½-quart casserole. Cover and bake 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Cousin Vinny’s Linguine with Scallops – serves 6 to 8 as first course or main dish
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 28-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes
½ cup dry white wine
1 pound white mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 pound linguine
2 pounds bay scallops
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté for 3 minutes, until golden brown. Add the basil, pepper flakes, parsley, thyme, tomatoes, and wine. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then add mushrooms.

Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the scallops and quickly sauté for 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and pepper. Add the scallops to the sauce, spoon immediately over the linguine, and serve.

Garlic-Lemon Green Beans with Toasted Bread Crumbs – serves 8
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 slices high-quality sandwich bread, ground fine in a food processor (or, lacking two slices of bread just hanging around waiting to be ground, use canned bread crumbs!)
Salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon

For the breadcrumbs:
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; when melted, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, stir in ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the Parmesan; set aside.

For the green beans:
Wipe out the skillet. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the garlic is golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, pepper flakes, and thyme, then toss in the green beans. Add the broth and increase the heat to medium-high; cover and cook until the beans are partly tender but still crisp at the center, about 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice; adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and serve.

Zabaglione (Egg and Wine Custard) – makes 4 to 6 servings (although note, they are rather small but rich servings)
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
½ cup marsala wine

Place the egg yolks and the sugar in a metal or glass bowl that will fit over a pan of simmering water. Beat the egg yolks until thick. Add the marsala wine, and whisk over the simmering water until the custard falls in a ribbon when the whisk is lifted. Remove from the simmering water, and place in a bowl with ice. Continue to whisk until cold, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: I feel as though you can read the line “place in a bowl with ice” two ways. The first is to literally place the mixture into a bowl filled with ice, letting the hot mixture melt the ice cubes. This seemed messy. The second way, and the way I did it, is to place the bowl containing the mixture over a second bowl containing ice and some ice water. To my mind, this was the way to go but you decide.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Hot Dish Heaven - Classic Casseroles from Midwest Kitchens" - Shipwreck Casserole

Date I made this recipe: December 9, 2007

Hot Dish Heaven – Classic Casseroles from Midwest Kitchens by Ann L. Burckhardt
Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press (
ISBN: 10: 0-87351-568-4
Recipe: Shipwreck Casserole – p. 56-57

Oh.My.God. As if things around the holidays aren’t stressful enough, my favorite grocery store, Byerly’s, just broke my heart the other day. Just broke it into little pieces. You see, they (gasp!) discontinued their line of Byerly’s frozen entrees that contained some of my favorites: Tuna Casserole, Sour Cream Casserole and the ever popular Macaroni, Ground Beef and Sauce Hot Dish.

I know, I know, it’s so hard to believe but trust me, it’s true. It’s all true.

You may wonder what on earth someone like me, who is now a cooking fool, is doing buying frozen entrees but when I was in law school those entrees were survival food. And actually, if truth be told, I’d been buying them for years before that. I mean, what’s not to love about them? I didn’t have to do the shopping or the cooking, they fit nicely in my freezer, and they microwaved in less than 10 minutes. If I was starvin’ like Marvin, the casseroles were there to satisfy immediately, no fuss, no muss, no bother.

And so now here we are with a veritable Hotdish holocaust on our hands. And I am not a happy camper but I suppose life moves on. But I daydream about picket lines, mass hysteria and the eventual return of my entrees. It’s what keeps me going.

Meanwhile, to console myself, I pulled out a relatively new acquisition to my library written by Minnesota author, Ann L. Burckhardt, called Hot Dish Heaven. For those of you who have read my previous blog postings, you know how I feel about the use of the term “hot dish” when it is really a casserole but I’ll spare you another rant and just get on to the recipe.

This is what I love about casseroles: you layer some ingredients, you include a can of soup, throw the whole thing in the oven and forget about it while watching Desperate Housewives or some other show of interest. And by the time the show of interest is done, you have dinner.

According to Ann, nobody really knows where the name “shipwrecked” came from but she suspects it was dubbed that by a cook who needed something to make when life has “shipwrecked” them. Works for me. Some of you may also know this as Busy Day Casserole or Seven-Layer Casserole but whatever you want to call it, it’s very good and rather fun to put together. I like layering and believe me, living in Minnesota in the winter has made me an expert on it—clothing layering, that is!

Shipwreck Casserole – makes 4 to 6 servings

1 medium onion, chopped or thin sliced
2 to 3 medium potatoes, diced, grated, or thin sliced
2 carrots, grated or thin sliced
1 pound regular or lean ground beef or turkey, raw, crumbled
1/3 cup uncooked white or brown rice
1 to 2 ribs celery, sliced
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can tomato soup
1 cup water

Heat oven to 350F. (325 for glass casseroles).

Layer the vegetables, meat, rice, and beans in the order given in a 2-quart casserole, seasoning each layer lightly with salt and a dash of pepper. Stir soup and water together and pour over the layered ingredients.

Cover and bake 1 ½ hours. Use a kitchen fork to test vegetables for doneness.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Kings in the Kitchen - Favorite Recipes of Famous Men" - Beef Stew Robinson

Date I made this recipe: December 1, 2007

Kings in the Kitchen- Favorite Recipes of Famous Men Collected by Gertrude Booth
Published by: A. S. Barnes and Company, Inc.
© 1961
Recipe: Beef Stew Robinson – p. 98-99

As I’ve mentioned before, I often buy cookbooks because of the cover but this cover was boring by comparison to some of my favorites. But what wasn’t boring was the list of the famous men who contributed recipes: Victor Borge, Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock, John F. Kennedy and Ed Sullivan, just to name a few.

As to the recipe, it was a toss up between a short rib recipe submitted by Gregory Peck, the original Atticus Finch in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird (the movie that makes me cry every single time), and Beef Stew Robinson, submitted by fellow actor, Edward G. Robinson. So what tipped it to the stew? Well, it was the fact that halfway through the recipe, there was a directive to add 2 cups yellow vegetables and 1 ½ cup green vegetable. That was it—no other directions given.

Now, doesn’t that just sound like something a man would write? I just hooted. Why bother naming names when a color will do nicely? So for yellow we went with corn and for green we went with peas. And all was well with the world.

Although I and my generation are somewhat familiar with the name Edward G. Robinson, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what movies he starred in. So I Googled his name and looked through the list of movies and recognized a couple: Double Indemnity (1944), Key Largo (1948), and Soylent Green (1973). One of the movies he was in had a title I though was hilarious (although I’ve never seen it) - I Am the Law. I know a few attorneys who have that mindset, let me tell you!

This is a very simple yet hearty recipe and as long as you don’t get too hung up on what constitutes a yellow or green vegetable, you’ll be fine.

Beef Stew Robinson – serves 6 to 8
2 lbs. beef cubed
¼ cup flour
¼ cup olive oil
3 fresh tomatoes
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
4 medium-sized potatoes
3 small white onions
2 cups yellow vegetables
1 ½ cups green vegetables
Dash of cloves

Shake cubed meat in a bag with flour, pepper, salt and cloves. Brown in heavy pan in olive oil, then add tomatoes and 1 cup water. (Note: he didn’t say what to do with the tomatoes so I cut them into chunks and threw them in). Lower heat, cover, and cook slowly 1 ½ hours. Skim off fat, and add cubed potatoes, onions (I chopped mine), and yellow vegetables. (I used thawed frozen corn) Cook for 20 minutes. Add green vegetables (thawed frozen peas) and cook 15 minutes more.

Veal, lamb, chicken or other desired meat may be substituted for beef.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland" & "Sunset Fresh Ways With Salads" & "Perfect Chocolate Desserts" (Willan) - pot pie, salad, dessert

Date my husband made these recipes: November 23, 2007

Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 0-679-41175-5
Recipe: Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust – p. 170-171

Sunset Fresh Ways with Salads as Side Dishes or Main Courses by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine
Published by: Lane Publishing Co.
ISBN: 0-376-02608-1
Gorgonzola, Apple & Walnut Salad – p. 9

Perfect Chocolate Desserts by Anne Willan
Published by: DK Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 0-7894-1671-9
Chocolate Crème Brulee – p. 58-59

No, I have not turned over my kitchen to my spouse. It’s just that our schedule changed with the unexpected stay-over of my brother and sister-in-law (see the Canadian Bacon Egg Casserole blog posting) and with everything going on, my husband volunteered to make dinner that night. Because he’s the pie guy, he also makes the fabulous biscuit crust that goes on top of the chicken pot pie and so what the heck, he might as well do the entire thing.

I mentioned in the pie blog posting that there are only two cookbooks that we keep in our kitchen. One is the Sunset Pie & Pastries Cookbook and the other is my absolute favorite out of all 800 (and counting!) cookbooks: Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson. (I just refer to it as Savoring the Seasons but that only gives you part of the gist of what this book is about).

Lucia Watson is to food in the heartland the way Alice Waters is to food in California. Both use fresh ingredients, both change their menus constantly and both figured out this “buy locally” concept well before it became popular nation-wide.

When Lucia opened her own restaurant in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, she turned the restaurant industry on its ear. The place was and still is packed. The food is just so unbelievably good that if one had the money one could just eat well by dining there all the time.

And then, God bless her, she and Beth Dooley published a cookbook. Mine happens to be a first edition and I love it so much that it has the aforementioned place of honor in my kitchen. It is spattered, it is stained, it is crumpled and it was autographed by Lucia when she did a book signing in conjunction with the promotion of the 1999-2000 Minneapolis -St. Paul Restaurants Zagat Survey. I tell you what, I gushed!

But my connection with Lucia didn’t end there. Lucia ordered her prosciutto from the Italian deli I was managing at the time and so every couple of days or so, she called in her order and often came to pick it up in person. She was always very pleasant and I enjoyed talking to her but nothing cemented our relationship like the Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake Incident of 2000.

After a friend gave me and my husband a boatload of rhubarb, I decided to make the Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake, found on p. 333 of the cookbook. Everything went well with the making of it but when I bit into it, the cake was soggy. Very soggy. Hmmm….well, that was disappointing.

So I did what any of us would do, right? I called and asked Lucia what went wrong. Now I didn’t really think I’d get Lucia herself because she was busy cooking food that was out of this world, but danged if she didn’t answer the phone. So I told her the problem and she said she’d have her pastry chef get back to me. “Yeah, right,” I thought.

Well, sure enough, the pastry chef called me back. And we went over the recipe step by step but the only thing we could think of was that perhaps my dry ingredients were past their prime but otherwise, it was a head-scratcher. But did I care? Heck no. I just turned my attention to other recipes in the book! (I’m no quitter).

So to date, here’s what I’ve made:

Chicken in Gin with Juniper – p. 70
Porketta (Garlic-Fennel Pork Roast) – p. 108-109 (one of our favorites)
Pork Loin with Apples and Cider Sauce – p. 110-111
Beef, Wild Rice and Winter Vegetable Soup – p. 146
Mrs. Macine’s Brownies – p. 314
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars – p. 317
Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake – p. 333

And our number one favorite and this year’s featured item during our post-Thanksgiving Dinner: Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust.

People, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing more comforting than Lucia’s Chicken Pot Pie. We’ve made this recipe over and over and over again and it never disappoints. Neither does Lucia’s restaurant. If you haven’t been to Minneapolis before now, then get thee on a plane, train or automobile and make your dinner reservation now!! And if you live here and haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for??? Here, let me help you:

And although we could survive on Lucia’s Pot Pie alone, we needed to at least provide our guests with a couple other items and so we made a Gorgonzola, Apple & Walnut Salad from yet another Sunset Book - Fresh Ways with Salads - and then finished off our meal with a kick-butt Chocolate Crème Brulee from Anne Willan’s Perfect Chocolate Desserts Cookbook. The later book was given to us by my brother and sister-in-law as a gift one year so we thought it was appropriate that we make something from it while they were here.

Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust – serves 6 to 8 (unless you’re us in which case, two, maybe three servings. Of course, this all depends on how you define “servings!”)

3 cups homemade Chicken Stock or low-salt canned broth
1 pound chicken or turkey breast or 2 ½ cups diced cooked chicken or turkey meat
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 cup peeled, chopped onions
4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup peas
¼ cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk
Egg wash (1 egg yolk combined with 1 tablespoon milk to brush over top of crust)

To make the filling, bring the stock to a low simmer in a large stockpot. Add the chicken or turkey breast and poach the meat on low (never allowing the water to boil) for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink when cut. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Add the carrots, potatoes, and celery, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Dice the meat. Drain and reserve the stock and set the vegetables aside.

Melt the butter in a deep skillet and cook the chopped onions, stirring over medium heat until they are soft, then sprinkle in the flour and cook some more, stirring, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the milk and 2 cups of the chicken stock in a stream, stirring, and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and nutmeg, and cook about 5 minutes—the mixture should be thick. Add the peas and carrots, potatoes, and celery to the pot and stir to combine. Turn the mixture into a casserole dish or deep pie tin and make the crust. (This dish may also be made in individual pies. Use single serving ramekins and shorten the cooking time to 15 minutes).

To make the crust, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until the dough resembles coarse meal, then toss in the grated cheese. Whisk the egg with the buttermilk. Add to the flour mixture and gently stir to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured board and pat it into a large round. Cut the dough into 2 ½-inch circles.

Place the biscuits on top of the chicken filling and brush with the egg wash. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Gorgonzola, Apple & Walnut Salad – serves 6 to 8
Gingered Walnuts (recipe follows)
¼ each walnut oil and salad oil
2 tablespoons each white wine vinegar and lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper
2 large tart green apples
1 head romaine or green leaf lettuce, washed and crisped
3 ounces (about 2/3 cup) crumbed Gorgonzola or other blue-veined cheese

Gingered Walnuts
1 tablespoon salad oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup walnut halves

To make the gingered walnuts:
Pour 1 tablespoon salad oil into an 8-inch square baking pan. Place pan in oven; preheat to 250. When oven is hot, remove pan and stir in soy sauce, ginger, salt and garlic powder. Add the walnuts, stirring to coat with oil mixture. Spread nuts in a single layer. Bake, stirring occasionally, until nuts are crisp and browned (about 30 minutes). Let cool on paper towels. If made ahead, store nuts in an airtight container at room temperature for u to 1 week. Makes about 1 cup.

To make the salad:
In a medium-size bowl, combine oils, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper; mix until well blended then set aside.

Just before serving, core and thinly slice apples. Tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces (you should have about 3 quarts). In a salad bowl, combine lettuce and apples. Mix dressing again then pour over salad and mix lightly until well coated. Sprinkle salad with walnuts and cheese. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Crème Brulee – serves 4
So…nothing says Thanksgiving like chocolate, no?! Since we made a pot pie for our non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we didn’t want to follow up with a dessert involving pie dough or biscuit dough so we turned our attention to chocolate.

This recipe was so good and so rich that I actually couldn’t finish it. The best thing about this recipe is its simplicity: chocolate, cream, eggs and sugar are all that are needed to impress your friends (and expand your waistline!).

6 oz semisweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

On a cutting board, with a chef’s knife, cut chocolate into small chunks. If you do this on a warm day, chill the chocolate first. Also note that the cutting board must be dry as moisture can affect melting. You can also chop the chocolate in a food processor but be sure you don’t overuse that pulse button or you’ll have a mess on your hands.

Get out your heavy-based saucepan and heat the chocolate and cream, stirring with a wooden spoon, until melted and smooth. Bring just to a boil. Let cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk together until just mixed. Pour the chocolate cream slowly into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until evenly mixed.

Strain the chocolate cream through the large strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg yolk. Anne recommends resting the strainer on the rim of another bowl.

Carefully ladle the chocolate cream into the ramekins, dividing it equally among them.

Fold a dish towel and put it on the bottom of a roasting pan. Set the ramekins on the towel then pour in cold water to come just over halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Bake the chocolate creams in the oven until a think skin forms on top, 10-15 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan. Chill the chocolate creams in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

To caramelize the chocolate creams:

Heat the broiler. Sprinkle each chocolate cream evenly with sugar, using a small strainer, to form a think even layer. Be sure to wipe off any sugar from the edges of the dishes because it will burn under the broiler.

Half fill the roasting pan with cold water and ice, and set the ramekins in it. Broil the chocolate creams as close as possible to the heat until the sugar melts and caramelizes, 2-3 minutes. Let cool a few minutes so the caramel forms a crisp layer.

NOTE: This is the first time I’ve heard of putting ramekins in an ice bath. My husband usually does the caramelizing and uses either a blow torch or a kitchen torch to do the job. In order to get a very thin, crisp crusty top, he recommends lightly sprinkling the ramekins with sugar and then dumping out the excess so you don’t over-torch the things!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Cooking at a Glance - Pies and Pastries" & Sunset Pies & Pastries" - Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie and Deep-dish Cherry Pie

Date my husband made these recipes: November 22, 2007 (Thanksgiving Day)

Cooking at a Glance – Pies & Pastries by the authors of the Cooking at a Glance series
Published by: Fog City Press
ISBN: 1-892374-49-8
Recipe: Apple-Butter Pumpkin Pie – p. 28

Sunset Pies & Pastries by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine
Published by: Lane Publishing Co.
Recipe: Deep-dish Cherry Pie – p. 23 (Note: the recipe on that page is for Deep-dish Blueberry Pie; he substituted cherry, the instructions for which are found on the same page in the lower-right corner)

Note: He used the same pie crust, Flaky Pastry (p. 7 of the Sunset Book) for both recipes

Around here, my husband is known as The Pie Guy. He has a way with crusts that I just never took the time to develop. So when we got together with his family later in the day on Thanksgiving, he provided the pies. My poor brother and sister-in-law (see earlier blog) were exhausted and so passed on coming out to his mom’s with us.

Although I have over 800 cookbooks, only two reside full-time in my kitchen. This book is one of them. My husband has made so many pies for this book that we should be running a test kitchen operation for their next pie cookbook update!

Flaky Pastry (yields one 9” single crust)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening or lard –or- ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening plus 2 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons cold water

Flaky Pastry (yields a 9” double crust or 10” single crust—the cherry pie used a 9” double crust)
2 ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup solid vegetable shortening or lard – or – ½ cup solid vegetable shortening plus ¼ cup butter
6-8 tablespoons

Apple Butter-Pumpkin Pie – serves 8
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup apple butter (note: my husband substituted 1 cup of pear-amaretto jelly that we had in the cupboard and it was very tasty!)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1 5-ounce can evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
½ cup milk
Pasty for a single-crust or double-crust pie

In a large mixing bowl combine pumpkin, apple butter, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add eggs; beat lightly with a rotary beater or wire whisk until combined. Gradually stir in evaporated milk and milk; mix well.

Prepare and roll out pastry as directed. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry. Trim and crimp a high pastry edge or attach leaf-shaped cutouts. Pour pumpkin mixture into pastry shell. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake about 25 minutes more, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 1 hour. Chill 3 to 6 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator. If desired, serve with whipped cream (“If desired?” Come on people, it was Thanksgiving. Of course we served it with whipped cream!)

Deep-dish Cherry Pie (serves 4 to 6)
4 cups cherries (do not use cherries in heavy syrup)
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Flaky Pastry for a single 9” pie)
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 to 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Preheat over to 450. Rinse and drain cherries and place in a large bowl. Add sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel, almond extract, salt, and lemon juice; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Cover mixture and set aside.

On a lightly floured board, roll out pastry to about 2 inches wider and longer than a 1-quarter rimmed baking dish. Measure width of dish rim; then gently invert dish onto dough. Rest blade of a sharp knife against the dish then cut around the edge of the dish. Measuring out from the outline just made, cut a ring of dough the width of the dish rim. Remove excess dough and lift off dish.

Spoon cherry mixture into the dish. Cut vents in top crust; cut through outer ring of dough at both ends. Carefully fit each half of dough ring onto rim, overlapping ends slightly; cut off excess. Brush egg mixture over dough ring.

Dot filling with butter. Lift top crust onto dish, lining up edges of crust and dough rim; press gently together.

Dip a 4-tined fork into egg mixture then firmly press dough rim and top crust together with fork tines, positioning fork so each new set of lines partially overlaps the preceding set. Brush top with egg mixture. If you use a cookie cutter to make vents, brush backs of pastry cutouts with egg mixture; place cutouts on crust and brush again with egg mixture.

Place a baking sheet on the lowest oven rack to catch drips. Bake pie for 10 minutes then reduce oven heat to 350 and bake until pastry is browned (about 30 more minutes). Place pie on a rack and let cool fo4 15 minutes; spoon into individual bowls.

"Celebrate Gonzaga (High School) - Gonzaga Mothers Club Cookbook" - Canadian Bacon Egg Casserole and Berry Stuffed French Toast

Date I made this recipe: November 22, 2007 (Thanksgiving Day)

Celebrate Gonzaga – Gonzaga Mothers Club Cookbook by the Gonzaga Mothers Club
Published by: Morris Press Cookbooks
© 2003

Recipes: Canadian Bacon Egg Casserole – p. 12 (submitted by Liz Yackee) and Berry Stuffed French Toast – p. 15 (Submitted by Chris McLaughlin, GMC President, ’95-’96)

Just wait until you see how I tie this whole “how I came to select this cookbook” story together. Ready?

My Aunt Rose and I share of love of cookbooks, such that I frequently send her copies of some of the favorites in my collection. This year for her birthday, for example, I sent her Life Is Meals by James and Kay Salter, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I also print out and send her copies of my blog entries as she doesn’t have a computer. In turn, she put them into a three-ring binder so that she has her own, unique cookbook of my blog recipes.

So anyway, I think it was last year when my aunt sent me a cookbook in return. Turns out her neighbor’s grandson attended Gonzaga College High School (the “oldest school in the old federal city of Washington”) and the school put out this cookbook. When my aunt’s neighbor heard I collected cookbooks, she gave this book to my aunt to send to me and so that’s how I came to have it.

But it doesn’t stop there. My mom and dad as well as my brother and sister-in-law, were supposed to come to Minneapolis for Thanksgiving this year. But my poor mom fell and had to have a partial hip replacement. Come Thanksgiving, she was recuperating in a convalescent home in my home town instead of being down here visiting me in the Twin Cities. But my brother and sister-in-law still planned to come into town…with one catch. Instead of staying with me for two days and then spending two days with her brother’s family (they live in a small town about an hour from the Twin Cities) as originally planned, they were going to fly in to Minneapolis at 8 a.m. on Turkey Day, then fly up to my folks at 2 p.m., spend the rest of Thursday and Friday there and then fly back into town to have a belated Thanksgiving with us.

This tight schedule meant that having a Thanksgiving dinner with us on Thursday was out of the question but brunch was not. And so I planned brunch. And when I did so, I pulled this book off the shelf, not only because my Aunt Rose gave it to me but because Aunt Rose is also my brother’s godmother. And so it seemed fitting to tie the whole thing together and select some recipes from the book.

Notice I said recipes. I know that when I first started this blog, I said “one book, one recipe per book” but hey, it’s Thanksgiving and it’s an “emergency” of sorts and so I bent the rules. I can do that—it’s my blog.

As if we weren’t having enough fun with the schedule, the Packers were playing the Lions at 11:30 in the annual T-day battle. While we had enough time to get them from the airport to watch the kickoff, their 1:55 flight to Michigan meant we’d have to skip part of the game. As my mother would have said if she were here, “Oh prunes.” (Note: no prunes were harmed in the making of the recipes but some berries gave it up for our wonderful feast!)

“Oh prunes” indeed. Flying on a holiday is often fraught with problems and this day was no exception. Their flight to visit my folks involved them flying from Minneapolis to Chicago and then Chicago to Marquette, Michigan where my dad would pick them up and drive them to my hometown, forty-five minutes away. But the flight from Minneapolis to Chicago was delayed for three hours leaving them no time to make their connection to Michigan. The airlines could get them as far as Green Bay but that’s three hours away from Marquette and there was not a rental car to be had on Thanksgiving.

Ever resourceful, they checked into renting a car one-way but that was a little cost prohibitive (as in the low, low price of $561 and some change). So that option was out. They could have used one of our cars to drive to my parents but it’s a seven hour car ride. And so, dear reader, after exhausting all options, they ended up spending the next two nights with us and the following two nights with my sister-in-law’s family as planned. But a big shout-out to a reservation agent named Oz (I’m not kidding) at the airlines for attempting to get them there. He must have been on the phone with my sister-in-law for an hour trying to figure out how to deliver them unto my parents with enough time to at least say hello before returning to Minneapolis but alas, to no avail. We’re all planning to go to my parents for Christmas, this time by car. No fools, us…..

But I digress from talking about the recipes. Both of these were absolute winners and let me just say that the four of us took these puppies down in one fell swoop. We barely had any leftovers (although we made a half recipe of the French toast). We were appropriately fueled and ready to cheer our Packers onto victory although we watched the game in between stints on the phone and the internet trying to get the travel problem resolved.

So thanks all around to Oz at the airlines and the Packers and to my Aunt Rose and to her friend who gave me the cookbook for the bountiful food we ate this Thanksgiving Day!

Canadian Bacon Egg Casserole (serving size not noted)
4 slices French bread, cubed
1 lb. Canadian bacon, diced
8 eggs, beaten
¾ c. cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ c. Monteray Jack cheese, shredded
1 ½ tablespoon Lem’nDill seasoning
4 potatoes, cooked, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

And now, a word about Lem’nDill seasoning. We scoured our grocery store for this stuff to no avail. An internet search seemed to indicate that this seasoning was only available by mail order and gee, discovering this on Wednesday night when the next day is the holiday is really bad timing. And so I improvised. We had lemon pepper on hand as well as dill and so I mixed the two together and voila, we had ourselves something resembling Lem’nDill seasoning.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Layer bread and potatoes in bottom of prepared pan. Add Canadian bacon. Pour eggs over all. Top with cheese and seasoning. Cover and refrigerate over night. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until eggs are set. Cool 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Berry Stuffed French Toast (serves 9-12)
12 slices sourdough French bread, or challah bread
1 cup of your choice of berries, fresh or frozen (we used frozen mixed berries)
8 oz (or less) low fat cream cheese
¼ cup maple syrup
10 eggs
2 cups low fat milk

Berry sauce
1 T. cornstarch
1 c. water
1 c. sugar
1 c. berries, fresh or frozen
1 T. butter

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Cooking with Cornelius - The Corning Cookbook" - Marinated Pork Roast

Date I made this recipe: November 12, 2007

Cooking with Cornelius – The Corning Cookbook by Cornelius O’Donnell
Published by: Random House
© 1982
Recipe: Marinated Pork Roast – p. 46

If you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s like I did, it’s entirely possible that a good portion of your mother’s cookware was produced by Corning Glass Works. The amazing thing is that she still has it after all these years—all those white and blue cornflower cooking pieces with nary a scratch on them. My mother was positively vigilant about keeping the white cookware surfaces white whereas I’m lucky if I notice my favorite coffee cup is getting a little stained. Such devotion to cookware maintenance is to be admired.

Although I have no idea if the author of this cookbook, Cornelius O’Donnell was devoted to sparkling white cookware, my guess is that he was devoted to the company being that he was a spokesperson for Corning’s Consumer Products Division. But beyond what is written in the Introduction, not much is known about Cornelius. I tried to Google him and only got links to booksellers who are selling copies of the book—not exactly helpful seeing as how I already have the book.

And so I went to Corning’s website fully expecting to see something about Cornelius pop up but nothing did. Instead, what came up when I accessed the website gave me one of the biggest letdowns in my life, right along with finding out that Santa was mom and dad. People, the cookware had all but disappeared, replaced instead by glass products in the form of display technologies, environmental technologies (“leading solutions for emissions controls challenges”—what does that have to do with cookware?) and cable systems. What the ???!

And so I dug a little deeper and found out that CorningWare is a registered trademark of Corning International used under license by World Kitchen, LLC. But alas, even World Kitchen does not carry my beloved Blue Cornflower pattern. For that, I’m going to have to either raid my mom’s kitchen or hit eBay or some other source for “antique” cookware. As if I don’t feel old enough already….

And so that’s all I know about Cornelius and Corning and World Kitchen and as you can see, it’s very little. But I do know a little about cooking pork and let’s just say that when all else fails, use a meat thermometer. (Hmmm….wonder if Corning makes that product?!)

This recipe for Marinated Pork Roast was really easy but only somewhat tasty. I think the problem is that the recipe was written at a time when people like my mother cooked the heck out of pork lest we all get sick and die (dying from food poisoning was probably my mother’s biggest fear, such that she rub-a-dub-dubbed every cutting board within a mile of her kitchen with Comet. She also cleaned the dishes within an inch of their life before putting them in the dishwasher, something that challenged the rest of us when deciding whether to empty it or run it.). So anyway, the recipe said to roast the meat for 1 ¼ hours at 350. I think that was a bit too long. I also think I might have blown it on the internal temperature.

Only modern cookbooks contain instructions to roast to a certain temperature level and rather than hit some of my new books, I Googled “pork roasting temperatures” to see what I should be looking for. Most sites I checked said 160 which I believe is too high. The meat wasn’t overcooked but it bordered on it. When I first checked it, it read 140 and so I let it rest until it hit 160 (my mother’s voice was in my ear the entire time) but you might want to play with it a bit. Of course, many of you might like your pork to look safe to eat when pulled from the oven in which case 1 ¼ hours at 350 will be just fine. (By the way, my roast size was 2.5 pounds).

As to the marinade, it was really good and really fragrant (Bourbon has a way of smelling good, even in a marinade) but didn’t impart much taste to the meat, despite marinating for 24 hours as directed. I was supposed to use the remaining marinade to make gravy but I basted the meat with it instead. I had to chuckle at the last direction to heat the remaining marinade. Not in my mom’s kitchen. No amount of heat or even bourbon in the recipe would have satisfied my mom that it was safe to serve, especially after raw pork sat in it for hours on end. And so we would have had a naked roast and that would have suited us just fine. Besides, that’s what mustard and applesauce and all kinds of other condiments are for!

As a final note, should you ever find yourself in Corning, NY, CorningWare’s original home, you should stop by and check out their Corning Museum of Glass - My husband and I were there nine years ago and were really in awe of the glass collection they amassed. And don’t forget the gift shop although you very likely won’t find a copy of this cookbook there. But it doesn’t hurt to ask and maybe someone can even give you the low-down on Cornelius. If you get the dirt, drop me a line!

Marinated Pork Roast – Serves 8

This recipe calls for one 5- to 6-pound center-cut line of pork, boned. I used a 2.5 pound roast and cut the marinade in half.

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup bourbon
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons dry mustard
1-2 tablespoons finely diced ginger or 1 teaspoon powdered

Trim the pork roast of all but ¼ inch of fat (note: if you manage to find a piece of meat with any fat on it anymore, let me know. I didn’t have to trim a thing and that may have led to a drier roast).

Mix the marinade ingredients together then put the meat with the marinade into a tight-fitting plastic bag and seal. Marinate overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. Drain the roast, reserving the marinade. Bake for 1 ¼ hours, basting 4 or 5 times with the marinade. I’d pull this out when it’s at 140-145 and then let the temperature climb while the roast rests 10 minutes before you carve it into thin slices. Heat the remaining marinade and serve as gravy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"The Underground Gourmet Cookbook" - Split Pea Soup

Date I made this recipe: November 5, 2007

The Underground Gourmet Cookbook by Milton Glaser and Jerome Snyder, edited by Joyce Zonana
Published by: Simon and Schuster
© 1975
Recipe: Split Pea Soup – p. 236

Sometimes the cover of the book is what sells it. In this case, it was the men in plainclothes (one in sunglasses - love it!), looking suspiciously like CIA operatives, standing amongst some of the chefs featured in this book that did it for me. Indeed, the subtitle of this book is “Over 250 Exciting Recipes for the Home Cook from the Best Inexpensive Ethnic Restaurants Discovered by Milton Glaser & Jerome Snyder)." I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Just out of curiosity on this cold, windy and (can you believe it?) snowy day in Minneapolis (not even enough for ground cover but enough in the air to depress the heck out of me), I hit the internet to see how many of the 72 restaurants listed in this book are still in business and to my surprise, 10 are still standing. That’s not too bad considering the often short life of restaurants, the fact that New York City in particular chews them up and spits them out and the book was written 32 years ago.

Sadly, the restaurant that produced my Split Pea Soup, La Potagerie, formerly located at 554 Fifth Avenue in New York, was not one of the survivors despite the fact that Jacques Pepin was once the executive chef. But leave it to a Frenchman to come up with a very tasty split pea soup, just right for a cold day. La Potagerie may not be around but pea soup lives forever!

Split Pea Soup – Serves 8 to 10
¾ pound bacon, chopped coarsely
1 ½ pounds split peas
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onions
2 10 ¾ ounce cans each of condensed or concentrated beef broth and chicken broth (I used only chicken since I had it on hand)
2 leeks, sliced
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons grated horseradish

Place half of bacon in a baking tray and brown in the oven.

Place peas, potatoes, onions, celery, broth, leeks, salt, pepper, thyme and remaining bacon in a kettle. Add enough water to reach approximately 1 ½ inches above the ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2/1 hours. Add water if the liquid evaporates too quickly. Mix every 10 minutes with a whisk to avoid scorching.

When the soup is cooked, whip with the whisk or use an electric beater to break down the potatoes and peas into smooth soup. Add the browned bacon and cook another 10 minutes. Add the horseradish.

To serve, garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon each of chopped celery and grated Swiss cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 5, 2007

"La Comida Del Barrio" by Aaron Sanchez -Sopes de chorizo and potato filling (corn tarts wtih sausage and potato filling)

Date I made this recipe: November 4, 2007

La Comida Del Barrio – Latin-American cooking in the U.S.A. by Aaron Sanchez
Published by: Clarkson Potter/Publishers
ISBN – 0-609-61075-9
Recipe: Sopes de chorizo and potato filling – p. 91

Once upon a time there were a few cooking shows of note: Julia Child and Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet) are the top two that I remember. And then it seemed like TV cooking shows fell into a vast wasteland until the likes of Emeril, Mario (Batali) and Bobby Flay came along on one of the greatest inventions since sliced bread—Food Network.

I have waxed poetic about this channel before but every year, I find myself taping more and more shows off this channel and less and less off the network. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’m deeply interested in all that is food. And it doesn’t hurt that the Food Network, sensing a gold mine, cranks out numerous books containing the selected sticker “As seen on Food Network.” I do not have the complete collection offered by the Food Network but I’m coming close.

Aaron Sanchez, today’s featured cookbook author, is one of the “As seen” celebrities. But I hate to report that until recently, he wasn’t seen by me. Somehow, and I know you’ll be shocked I missed his show Melting Pot…as seen on the Food Network. Missed it, didn’t even know it existed…how could that be? Lo siento, Aaron, lo siento. (I’m sorry).

Well, I might have missed him on his own show, but one day while watching Iron Chef America, he appeared as a contestant and I was intrigued. I can’t recall whether or not he won (and note to the Food Network: you sure don’t make it easy for me to research this!) but before you knew it, he was one of eight contestants on The Next Iron Chef (America) that is currently playing on the Food Network (and is down to the final two – John Besh v. Michael Symon). Although he was eliminated in week 4, I still enjoyed watching him, and the rest of the chefs (including two women) duke it out week after week.

Lucky for you and me, we are not in contention for a spot of a popular TV show nor do we have to prove our culinary talents by making the best airline cuisine ever. (I’m sorry but “excellent,” “airline” and “cuisine” are three words that do not belong together. Ever.) Instead, you simply have to wield a knife and work a frying pan. How hard can that be?

For those of you who have the cookbook, you’ll note that the chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage) and potato filling recipe listed below is meant to fill a Mexican dish called Sopes which means corn tarts. Sopes are basically little corn flour boats, similar to tortillas that contain all kinds of fillings. I would have loved to have made Sopes except for the fact that it called for Masa Harina (corn flour) that was only available where I lived in four-pound bags and I feared that the flour would sit and sit and sit after being used just once and I hate to waste food like that. So, my husband put his filling in some left-over tortillas we had and I ate mine plain. It’s my blog and I can bend the rules if I want too!

I think you’ll really enjoy this filling and can even, as Aaron suggests in the cookbook, use it to accompany your eggs in the morning to add a little zip to your breakfast. Ole’!

Sopes de chorizo and potato filling – Makes 1 quart
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound Spanish chorizo sausage (about 4 links), diced small
1 medium white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and diced
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water; add the salt and bring to a boil, uncovered. Simmer until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. (Note: I used the microwave and cooked them for about 4 minutes).

Meanwhile, coat a large skillet with the oil and heat over a medium flame. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the sausage renders its fat and gets crispy. Add the onion, garlic, and all the peppers. Cook for 8 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Pour in the broth and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain the tender potatoes and add them to the pan, along with the scallions and cilantro. Cook for 3 more minutes to reduce the liquid, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes: Okay, if you’re like me, you’re tired of putting a vegetable in the crisper only to forget about it until months have gone by which time it – whatever it was – has turned into something that you don’t want to deal with. And so for this reason, as well as cost, I skipped buying a scallion and instead of cilantro, I used about a teaspoon of dried coriander. The recipe seemed to work out just fine.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Rodney Dangerfield's 'I Couldn't Stand My Wife's Cooking, So I Opened a Restaurant'" & "Morey Amsterdam's Benny Cooker Crock Book for Drinkers"

Date I made these recipes: October 21, 2007

Rodney Dangerfield’s “I Couldn’t Stand My Wife’s Cooking, So I Opened a Restaurant!!” – Respectable Recipes Spiced with Humor by Rodney Dangerfield
© 1972
Published by: Jonathan David Publishers
Recipe: Whiskey Wafers – p. 171

Morey Amsterdam’s Benny Cooker Crock Book for Drinkers by Morey Amsterdam
© 1977
Published by: Henry Regnery Company
Recipe: Chicken au Grand Mariner – p. 53-54

Well who knew that out of 800 or so cookbooks, two of them would be written by comedians. Everybody wants to get in the cooking act!

Depending on how old you are, you will either know Rodney Dangerfield from seeing him on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson delivering his famous line “I don’t get no respect” or you know him from movies such as Caddyshack or Back to School, both favorite movies of the younger set in the 80’s. At one point, Rodney really did open up a restaurant/comedy club although who knows if it was really because he couldn’t stand his wife’s cooking.

And then there’s Morey Amsterdam. Fans of the Dick Van Dyke Show will know him as the hilariously funny Buddy Sorrell. When he, Dick and Sally (played by Rose Marie) got going that show really cooked with Crisco! Some might remember Morey and Rose Marie appearing on Hollywood Squares together after the Dick Van Dyke show ended in 1966 where they were just as funny as when they were on a TV sitcom.

Oddly enough, both recipes selected contained alcohol. While every recipe in Morey’s book contained alcohol, not all of Rodney’s did but it was just by chance that I decided to make the incredibly delicious Whiskey Wafers. Okay, maybe the booze is what attracted me to the recipe in the first place…but still…. Both books also contained a ton of jokes and it would be remiss of me not to include a couple from the masters of comedy. Don’t groan—some of them are somewhat dated – but they’re a nice compliment to the recipes, which were mighty tasty if I do say so myself…hic! (Kidding!)

From Morey’s book: “Judge: I hope you understand that you are here for drinking. Defendant: Okay, Judge. Get the bottle and let’s get started.” (I’m an attorney and I can assure you that somebody somewhere has probably said the exact thing to a judge. Don’t get me started….)

From Morey’s book: “Doctor: I can’t find anything wrong with you, Mr. Jones. It must be due to drinking. Boozer: Okay, Doc, I’ll come back when you’re sober.”

From Rodney’s book: “I’ll tell you again, I don’t like fancy restaurants! The other day I tried a new restaurant. It looked kind of homey. It was called: YEE OLDE COFFEE SHOPPEE. I said to the waitress, “Do you know what I WANTEE?”

From Rodney’s book: “I’ve always been unlucky in any kind of restaurant. I remember one night I had dinner in a restaurant and some guy stole my wallet. I came home and told my wife. I said to her, “I was in a restaurant and some guy stole my wallet. I’m depressed!” She said, “That makes two of you. You and the guy who found it!”

Whiskey Wafers - makes about a dozen wafers
1/2 cup molasses (unsulfured)
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups cake flour
Dash of salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ginger
½ jigger whiskey

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Stir butter into heated molasses (boiling point) and mix until butter is melted. Combine flour, salt, sugar and ginger and add gradually. Add whiskey and mix thoroughly. Spoon out small amounts onto greased cookie sheet, allowing 3 inches between each. Bake about 10 minutes.

Notes: these ended up being more like a candy than a cookie. Also, when they say allow 3 inches between each one, they mean it! I didn’t leave enough space and ended up with one great big wafer at the end.

Chicken au Grand Marnier – Serves 4
1 disjointed frying chicken 2 ½ to 3 pounds
½ cup orange sections
½ cup Grand Marnier
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ cup large sliced frozen peaches
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon basil
1 clove chopped garlic
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ tablespoon vegetable shortening

Combine in a saucepan orange sections, Grand Mariner, sugar, peaches, vinegar, nutmeg, basil and garlic. Cook slowly about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile roll chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and brown in vegetable shortening in a heavy skillet. Remove chicken from skillet. Pour off the shortening retaining the residue in the bottom.

Return chicken to the skillet and add contents of saucepan. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"The 'I Love Lucy' Cookbook" - Hotel Royale Steak au Poivre

Date I made this recipe: September 30, 2007

The “I Love Lucy” Cookbook by Sarah Key, Vicki Wells and Jennifer Newman Brazil
Published by: Abbeville Press Publishers
ISBN: 1-55859-855-3
© 1994
Recipe: Hotel Royale Steak au Poivre – p. 8

Three weeks ago on September 16, 2007, the 59th Emmy Awards were broadcast. I intended to make this dish that evening but one thing led to another and well, I made it this past weekend. We were busy on Emmy weekend, the following weekend we were in Lambeau Field watching my Packers play (!) and so it fell to this weekend to make the dish.

Although I watched the broadcast, I can tell you very few names of those who won, seeing as how I tend to watch more cable than network TV. But if asked, I can bore you to tears with scenes and lines of my favorite comedy show of all time, I Love Lucy.

I Love Lucy premiered in 1951 and in 1952 received its first nomination for Best Situation Comedy. It didn’t win that year but won in 1953 and 1954. Lucille Ball won Best Comedienne of 1953, which is equivalent to today’s Best Actress-Comedy, as well as Best Actress-Continuing Performance of 1956, and Vivian Vance who played Ethel Mertz won Best Supporting Actress in 1954.

This cookbook, which really isn’t a cookbook per se as a walk down memory lane of the show, contains some quotes that are just hilarious. On page 45, for instance, the authors have a quote from one of my all-time favorite episodes – Lucy Does a TV Commercial. In the episode, Lucy has to demonstrate Vitameatavegamin, an health syrup that is loaded with alcohol, such that she becomes quite drunk the longer the demonstration goes on:

“and get a great big bottle of Mightameatamigamin. Remember that name, Mightavatameatymat.”

But my favorite line from that episode was: “Are you unpoopular? Do you pop out at parties?” when she should have said “Are you unpopular? Do you poop out at parties?” Ah, poor Lucy—so close to making it in show business and yet so far.

To this day, I record I Love Lucy episodes on TV Land and still howl with laughter at most of them such as “The Operetta;” “The Indian Show; “Equal Rights;” Lucy Learns to Drive (“Who knew you couldn’t make a U-turn in the Holland Tunnel?”); Lucy’s Mother-in-Law (where she pantomimes that they’re having chicken and rice for dinner to Ricky’s Cuban mother who doesn’t speak English) and Ethel’s Home Town (“Ethel Mae Potter, we never forgot her”), just to name a few.

This recipe is meant to compliment the episodes where Ricky, Lucy, Fred and Ethel went to Europe on a band tour. Of course they stopped in Paris and of course, the episodes were hilarious. This recipe, however, is pretty staid and typical of what you’d find in a French bistro. My only caution is to not over-poivre (pepper) the thing. I can only imagine what Lucy would have done with that!

Hotel Royale Steak au Poivre – makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns (see note below)
4 boneless strip steaks (8 ounces) trimmed of all fat
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
2/3 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cognac
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Note: we cut the recipe in half as two steaks cost about $22. The sauce seemed to work fine cut in half.

Spread cracked pepper on a plate. Press pepper into both sides of each steak. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Saute steaks in hot oil over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes on each side, until cooked to desired doneness. Remove steaks to a warm serving platter and discard any oil in the pan. Add the remaining tablespoons oil to pan with shallots. Saute over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add cream and salt. Cook for 2 minutes. Add cognac and thyme sprigs. Continue to simmer over medium heat for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add vinegar and adjust seasoning. Pour sauce over steaks. Garnish with whole peppercorns and sprigs of thyme if desired. Traditionally, steak au poivre is served with potatoes and watercress.

Note: To crack pepper, spread whole peppercorns on work surface. Press with the bottom of a heavy pan until peppercorns are crushed. Precracked pepper is also available.

Ann’s Notes: Be very careful that your pan doesn’t get too hot and the steak doesn’t stick. This happened to me and so when I flipped the steaks after 4 minutes on one side, I cooked them for 2 minutes instead of an additional four so as not to have them be too crusty. I like my steaks medium rare and they came out perfect.

Also, although the recipe calls for adding the shallots to the pan along with the remaining oil, I used a clean pan; the browned bits didn’t scrape up very well and I didn’t want my shallots to end up as one brown glob. But it’s your call and if you don’t get the pan too hot (although I swear mine was on medium-high), you might be just fine.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The Chicago Daily News Cook Book" & "The New York Times Cook Book" (Claiborne) - Spanish Omelet two ways

Date I made these recipes: September 8, 2007

The Chicago Daily News Cook Book by Edith G. Shuck, Home Economics Expert for The Chicago Daily News and Editor of Cookery and Dr. Herman N. Bundesen, Health Editor of The Chicago Daily News and Editor of Special Dietetics
Published by: The Chicago Daily News (Note: This book cost one whole dollar back in 1930. Sounds expensive for back then!)
© 1930
Recipe: Spanish Omelet – p. 111

The New York Times Cook Book edited by Craig Claiborne
Published by Harper& Row
© 1961
Recipe: Spanish Omelet – p. 306

This is a tale of two cities, a tale of two omelets.

For those of you who watch The Food Network on cable, think of this blog posting as Iron Chef America meets Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

The popular show Iron Chef America pits an Iron Chef (either Bobby Flay, Mario Battali, Masaharu Morimoto or Cat Cora) against a challenger who is always a professional chef, usually the executive chef or owner of a restaurant. Each week, The Chairman decides on a secret ingredient that they have to use in all of their recipes, for example Battle Citrus, Battle Pork, Battle Peppers, etc. After giving the contestants a few minutes to think through their dishes and what they’re going to make, The Chairman yells “Let the battle begin!” (And yes, he’s called The Chairman. The Chairman ran the original Iron Chef TV show in Japan and now his nephew is The Chairman of the American version. I have no idea why The Chairman is named The Chairman—it just is what it is. I don’t make the rules!)

Throwdown with Bobby Flay pits Bobby Flay (also an Iron Chef) against an average Joe or Jane who just happens to make the country’s best: ice cream, wedding cake, Cuban pork, clam chowder, etc. Bobby gets the dirt on these people and their recipes and then comes up with a version he thinks will sway the guest judges. He often loses and as much as I like Bobby Flay (he grew on me), I love that fact that the “little guy” often prevails. It is only fitting and proper that this be so.

And so, dear reader, this week was Battle Newspaper combined with a Spanish Omelet Throwdown. On the one hand, we had the Chicago Daily News Cook Book, published in 1930 by the Chicago Daily News (now defunct). On the other hand we had The New York Times Cook Book published in 1961. This was Battle Newspaper at its best. And then we had Mrs. C.W. Scheef who submitted the Chicago Daily News’ Spanish Omelet recipe against that of the venerable Craig Claiborne, editor (and former food critic) of The New York Times. Although it was not exactly a fair fight, Mrs. C.W. Scheef certainly held her own.

These recipes were different enough that it really did feel like a Throwdown. Mrs. Scheef’s was more in line with how I imagined a Spanish omelet would taste which is to say, a nice mix of vegetables (onion and tomato) with celery coming in through the use of celery salt. Back in 1930, they probably didn’t get too wild with the ingredients.

Craig’s was definitely lighter in taste and seemed like something I would find in any restaurant today. It is also loaded with herbs. I passed on the saffron, though, as it’s so expensive and I use it so little, but if you wanted to stay true to the recipe, knock yourself out and buy some. (By the way, if I wrote my blog according to The New York Times standards, I would refer to Craig as Mr. Claiborne but it’s my blog and I’ll call him what I want to!)

So we didn’t have a camera crew and nobody was chewing their fingernails over the results but I’d say this Battle was quite enjoyable. And as the sole judge and jury, I’m going to declare it a draw. It would break my heart to tell Mrs. C.W. Scheef that she had to pack up her knives and go home. Oh wait, that’s another show……

Spanish Omelet (Mrs. C.W. Scheef)
1 tablespoon fat
1 teaspoon chopped onion
½ tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped green pepper
3 chopped mushrooms
¼ teaspoon celery salt

Note: the recipe actually included how to make the omelet but the New York Times recipe was for the filling only. So I made just a generic omelet and called it a day, seeing as how the filling was really what I was interested in.

Also note that she doesn’t say how many this serves but it sounds like you use 6 eggs to make one omelet. We made one, three-egg omelet and the filling was sufficient for that.

Melt the tablespoon of fat and add [the] green pepper, onion and mushrooms. Cook slowly for 3 minutes. Add flour, celery salt, remaining salt and pepper. Mix well. Add tomatoes and simmer gently until thick.

Spanish Omelet (Craig Claiborne) – 6 servings
6 fresh tomatoes
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 leek, chopped
½ bulb fennel, chopped, or ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 clove
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon oregano
½ bay leaf
Pinch of saffron
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the tomatoes, cut in half and gently press out the seeds and liquid. Chop the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, green pepper, celery, leek, fennel, garlic and parsley. Saute five minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with the clove, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, saffron and salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer the mixture gently until the vegetables are tender, about ten minutes. Discard the clove and bay leaf. Use to fill and garnish six three-egg omelets.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Prairie Avenue Cookbook" & "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" - Green Corn Pudding and Seared Zucchini with Roasted Tomato, Chipotle and Chorizo

Date I made these recipes: September 3, 2007

Prairie Avenue Cookbook – Recipes and Recollections from Prominent 19th-Century Chicago Families by Carol Callahan
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
ISBN: 0-8093-1815-6
© 1993
Recipe: Green Corn Pudding (Harvey Family Recipe) – p. 116

Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen – Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless and JeanMarie Brownson
Published by: Scribner
ISBN: 0-684-800006-3
© 1996
Recipe: Seared Zucchini with Roasted Tomato, Chipotle and Chorizo (Tinga de Calabacitas) – p. 216-217

“My kind of town, Chicago is, my kind of town, Chicago is…”

The weekend before Labor Day, my husband and I went on our annual road trip to Chicago to visit some friends who live in the Chicago suburb of Mt. Prospect. Our friends have always been gracious enough to line up an activity or two in the city itself over the weekend and when not exploring the sights, we feast on great Chicago food.

This time around, we feasted a little bit more than usual because they were without power from Thursday of that week until Sunday night after we left. It is not for nothing that Chicago is nicknamed “The Windy City.” A big storm pretty much knocked over every other tree in Mt. Prospect and adjoining suburbs, taking power lines down as they went, flooding basements and creating general havoc in the area. Businesses were down for days, people made do without electricity and generators could be heard all over the neighborhood. It really looked like a war zone when we drove up.

But even though our friends said they’d understand if we backed out, we were not deterred as a good time is usually had by all. I considered it to be an urban camping experience—the only kind of camping I like—as the only hardship was bringing a flashlight into the bathroom morning, noon and night.

Our pattern quickly became this: eat breakfast out, spend the entire day outside, spend a happy hour inside by candlelight and then once the sun set, break for a restaurant to wine and dine in air-conditioned splendor. Not a bad way to go.

And so in honor of our adventure, I pulled out my Chicago-related cookbooks. I have three, but am reserving the third one for another blog as it was hard to find a recipe to fit in with my selections for this week.

The first book I pulled off the shelf is the Prairie Avenue Cookbook, purchased years ago on another Chicago adventure. Out of all the recipes, the corn pudding recipe caught my eye as summer is now waning and I wanted to imbibe some sweet corn before it was too late.

The second book is Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. After all these years of visiting Chicago, I hate to say that I’ve never eaten in either of Rick’s restaurants, Frontera Grill or Topolobampo, but there it is. One only has so much time but they’re on my list.

Although a friend gave me Rick’s book years ago, I had yet to make anything from it. Tonight, Mexican food seemed like a good thing to have with the corn pudding and so down off the shelf it came. But I have to tell you folks, finding a recipe that wouldn’t scorch the skin off the roof of my mouth was challenging. As it is, I thought the recipe was slightly on the hot side whereas my husband thought it was perfect. He definitely tolerates spice better than I but then again, he misses a lot of the nuances that I pick up. He also loved the corn pudding whereas I thought it was a bit too sweet. So he gave the recipes two thumbs up whereas I gave it one and a half thumbs, sort of along the lines of the famous movie reviewer duo from Chicago, Siskel and Ebert.

And so about the corn pudding…the recipe said 12 ears of corn nicely grated. (as opposed to not nicely grated or angrily grated??!) Hmmm…did they mean “grated” grated or “grated” grated?!! I wasn’t sure if they meant for me to just strip the corn off the cob or to actually grate it with a grater. I consulted Andy and we decided it mean strip the corn off the cob. And this, of course, was entirely the wrong conclusion! The dish was good but very watery and we could have avoided that problem had we grated the corn which would have stripped the water out of the cob before cooking. Oh well, live and learn.

As to the tinga, we visited one of the best Mexican markets in the Twin Cities, El Burrito Mercado, to find the chorizo, the queso fresco and the chipotles…and some Mexican pastries…and some Mexican drinks…and… Well, you get the picture. El Burrito also has a cafeteria with such good food that it was tempting just to order takeout and call it a day.

El Burrito Mercado also has a fine selection of votive candles which we will likely pack the next time we plan a trip to the Windy City. Maybe next time, we’ll even eat out at one of Rick’s restaurants. In the meantime, enjoy a wonderful taste of Chicago food…via Mexico…and the 19th century!

(By the way, one of the restaurants we visited time was Twin Anchors, located at 1655 North Sedgwick Street in Chicago’s Old Town. It’s a Chicago institution as evidenced by the crowd packed shoulder to shoulder in every space available. And so danged if I didn’t open up the magazine section of The Chicago Tribune to find a review of the place the day after we ate there! Way too cosmic. Even more cosmic than that: when I went to the website, Frank Sinatra started singing “My kind of Town Chicago is.” Ol’ Blue Eyes must have been channeling me when I wrote this because I had no idea when I started writing this review that the song I quoted at the beginning “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)” would be playing on the website. Coincidence? I think not!

Green Corn Pudding (Harvey Family recipe) – Makes 10 servings.

12 large ears of sweet corn nicely grated (6 cups grated corn)
1 ½ pints sweet milk (3 cups whole milk)
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

The original recipe said: Bake slowly 2 hours. To be eaten without sauce. The author filled in the gaps: Modern Cooking Tip: The missing steps in preparation of this recipe are as follows: Mix all ingredients well and pour into buttered 3-quart mold. Place in a pan filled halfway up the side of the mold with warm water. Bake the pudding at 350 degrees for 2-2 ½ hours or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Puree the mixture in a blender if you prefer a smooth-textured pudding.

As I mentioned above, I thought the cup of sugar was overkill but perhaps it wouldn’t have been had we followed the directions to “nicely grate” the corn. Sometimes, what is written is what is meant!

Seared Zucchini with Roasted Tomato, Chipotle and Chorizo – Makes 3 cups, 6 servings as an appetizer or side dish, 4 servings as a small main course

Note: we happened to have some zucchini on hand that we wanted to use up but this can be made with any tender summer squash or 3-4 cups of any vegetable cut into small pieces.

For 1 cup essential quick-cooked tomato-chipotle sauce base
1 to 2 stemmed, dried chipotle chiles (or canned chipotle chiles en adobo)
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 ounces (2 medium-small round or 4 to 5 plum) ripe tomatoes (note: you can also use one 15-ounce can of tomatoes in place of the roasted ones)
Salt, about ¼ teaspoon

For the main dish
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
4 medium zucchini, chopped into 3/8-inch dice
1 medium white onion, sliced
½ cup (4 ounces) chorizo sausage, casing removed
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/3 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco, queso anejo, mild feta, pressed, salted farmer’s cheese or Parmesan

Making the sauce:
Toast the dried chipotles on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat, turning regularly and pressing flat with a spatula, until they fully release their aroma into the kitchen, about 30 seconds. In a small bowl, cover chiles with hot water and let rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water. (Canned chiles need only be removed from their sauce. Note: although Rick doesn’t mention this, if using canned chiles and you want less heat, you may want to rinse the sauce from the chiles. But if you’re like my husband, keep the sauce and go full throttle!)

While the chiles are soaking, roast the unpeeled garlic on the griddle or skillet turning occasionally, until soft and blackened in spots, about 15 minutes; cool and peel. Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes, then flip and roast the other side. Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices.

In a food processor or blender, process the tomatoes, rehydrated or canned chiles and garlic until almost completely pureed (there should still be a little texture left to give the dish an attractive presentation). Taste and season with salt.

Finishing the dish:
Measure 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large (10- to 12-inch) heavy skillet and set over medium-high. When very hot, add the zucchini (the pieces should fit comfortably in a single layer), and stir regularly until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove to a plate, spreading them into a single layer to stop the cooking.

Return the skillet to the heat, adding the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, and scoop in the onion and chorizo. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is very soft and golden (and the chorizo is nearly cooked), about 7 minutes. Drain off all excess fat, and return the pan to the heat.

Add the tomato-chipotle sauce and the oregano, and stir for about 5 minutes as the sauce sears and thickens. Add the zucchini and heat through. Scoop into warm serving bowl, sprinkle with the cheese and your tinga is ready to eat.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"The Arthur Avenue Cookbook" (Volkwein) & "99 Ways to Cook Pasta" - Bocconcini Salad and Vermicelli alla Santa Lucia

Date I made these recipes: August 11, 2007

The Arthur Avenue Cookbook – Recipes and Memories from the Real Little Italy by Ann Volkwein. Foreword by Mario Batali
Published by ReganBooks
ISBN: 0-06-056715-5
© 2004
Recipe: Bocconcini Salad - p. 27

99 Ways to Cook Pasta by Flora and Robert Alda. Preface by Alan Alda
Published by: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
ISNB: 0-02-500740-8
© 1980
Recipe: Vermicelli alla Santa Lucia – p. 54

As my friend Andrea would say: “Huh.” As in, “Huh, I thought these recipes would turn out better than they did.”

Let's start with tomato salad. After last week's very good but very heavy casserole, I was in the mood for something lighter, something Italian. (Contrary to popular belief, not all Italian food is heavy). So I grabbed The Arthur Avenue Cookbook because, well, it was staring right at me. While flipping through it, I came across the tomato recipe and then remembered my husband brought home some cherry tomatoes a couple of days earlier and so rather than make something a bit more interesting, I decided to make this very simple recipe. While there was nothing inherently wrong with the recipe, it didn't float my boat, either. Maybe it needed to sit a bit longer for the flavor (of fresh basil) to set in. But I also think that working with fresh mozzarella (Bocconcini are small mozzarella balls) is tricky. By itself, mozzarella can be rather bland. Cooked tomato sauce enhances it a great deal but just plain tomatoes? Not so much.

By the way, unless there are several Ann Volkwein’s who used to work for an online company, that, among other things, produced online restaurant review guides, I’ve met the author of this cookbook. Years ago, after I finished working on the Zagat Survey for Minneapolis and St. Paul, Ann contacted me to see if I would be interested in working on a similar project for the company she worked for. I said sure, signed the contract and even happened to be in New York shortly thereafter so I went to meet her and deliver it in person. And then, of course, everything changed and the project was no more. End of story. But Ann was very nice and I was glad to see her name on the cookbook. I’m also glad that a couple of years ago, some friends and I went to the Bronx, where Arthur Avenue is located to go to the Bronx Zoo and to check out the food finds there. We didn’t get to all the places Ann mentioned but it was fun to have a connection to the place.

So on to the next book by Robert and Flora Alda and our next recipe, Vermicelli alla Santa Lucia. Robert Alda was Alan Alda’s father. Alan Alda, as many of you know, was the star of the TV show, MASH as well as a cast member of The West Wing the last couple of seasons. His father, Robert, was a talented actor who starred on Broadway in, among other things, one of my favorite musicals, Guys and Dolls.

But despite this lineup of talent, I hate to report that the recipe just fell flat, as flat as a pancake. I suspect it was the tomatoes.

Unlike the very nice and juicy cherry tomatoes used in the Bocconcini Salad, this recipe called for Roma tomatoes. But people, let me tell you, just because it is now summer does not guarantee a nice, vine-ripened tomato. In fact, once I started slicing and dicing the tomatoes, I found just the opposite and was disappointed that they looked like winter tomatoes instead of ones becoming plump, tender and juicy under the summer sun.

I’m pretty convinced that had the tomatoes been ripe, they would have added considerable flavor to this dish. As it is, they added nothing.

And so it was up to the other main ingredient, the peppers, to take over, and they failed that task miserably. The recipe also called for the peppers to be julienned but cutting them that way made them harder to eat. I would definitely cut all slices in half.

None of the remaining ingredients, the cheese, the wine, the basil or the garlic picked up the slack and so while it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, it wasn’t something I would make again.

The Alda’s also called for Vermicelli pasta but I think that this recipe might have been better served by using rigatoni or something that could capture the sauce better than the vermicelli. By the way, the Alda’s also noted that in Italian, this recipe means “Little Worms” but I waited until now to tell you--who wants to see that when deciding which recipe to make?! (“Let’s see honey, how do you fee about little worms tonight?”) Ew.

Actually, I have no right to cringe. My last name, Verme, means “worm” in Italian, and Vermicelli means little worm. Now, most people, with the exception of my junior high classmates, do not get that connection and ask if it’s German or French or “What is it exactly?” But bless my classmates’ heart, they heard Verme (and it is pronounced with a silent “e”), turned it to Worm and so my junior high yearbooks are littered with salutations such as “To Worm, you’re a nice girl and you’ll go far” or “Worm, remember all the good times we had at camp.” Awww.

At any rate, little worms or not, if you make this, make sure you get the juiciest tomatoes available, perhaps play around with the seasonings and see if you can’t resurrect this dish from the “wouldn’t make it again” graveyard. Good luck.

Bocconcini Salad – Serves 4
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 pound bocconcini
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice each of the cherry tomatoes in half and toss in a bowl with the Bocconcini, chopped herb, garlic, oil and salt and pepper. Serve on a platter garnished with herb leaves.

Note: you can substitute slices of mozzarella in this recipe if you can’t find Bocconcini.

Vermicelli alla Santa Lucia – serves 6 to 8
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
2 cups plum tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (canned varieties are usually peeled)
4 bell peppers (preferably red or yellow or both), cut into julienne strips
1 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese (or Romano cheese)
½ cup dry white win
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 ½ lb vermicelli (or spaghettini)
Freshly grated parmigiano cheese to taste (optional)

In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the garlic until golden brown, then discard. Allow the oil to cool a moment, then add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, lower the flame, cover and let simmer. Add the peppers and salt to the simmering sauce and continue cooking about 20 minutes. Mix in the cheese, wine and basil, cover and let simmer for three more minutes. Turn off the flame and let stand.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and pour into warmed serving bowl. Cover with the sauce and gently toss. Serve in warmed soup dishes or bowls.

Monday, August 6, 2007

"Joyce Lamont's Favorite Recipes" (Minneapolis radio reporter) - Chicken-Wild Rice Casserole Supreme

Joyce Lamont’s Favorite Recipes by Joyce Lamont; edited by Carol Jackson, Home Economist (Note: Joyce Lamont was a broadcaster with WCCO Radio, a local Minneapolis station)

Published by: Meyers Printing Company, Minneapolis, MN

Recipe: Chicken-Wild Rice Casserole Supreme – p. 64

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When life hands you a catastrophe, make comfort food.

According to the newspapers, after 9/11 people wanted comfort food. If they couldn’t have mama, then they wanted the comfort of mama’s favorite recipes to soothe their tattered and shattered hearts.

After the I-35W Bridge fell last week in Minneapolis, I too, wanted comfort food.

My husband and I live a couple miles away from that bridge and while we didn’t drive over it too often, we did drive underneath it on the River Parkway at least a couple times a week. The parkway was our little shortcut from downtown Minneapolis to our home, just across the river in southeast Minneapolis. My husband also biked on a bike path on the opposite side of the river under the same bridge. It was unnerving, to say the least, to think that we could have been driving or riding along as sweet as you please, when the bridge came down.

And so to pull my rattled self back together, I pulled out my “Minnesota” cookbooks to find just the right thing to soothe the soul. And find it I did.

This recipe represents Minnesota comfort food at its best: a casserole, containing two cans of cream of “something” soup (like it matters what kind it is!), sausage and chicken (because why stop at one type of meat?) and Minnesota wild rice.

Although it’s called rice, wild rice is really a grass, not a grain. When it cooks, though, it looks like rice so that’s probably why it was named such. The Ojibway Indians (sometimes referred to as Chippewa) have harvested this product for centuries and it is a popular item on many a Minnesota menu. Minnesota wild rice is the main ingredient in Byerly’s Wild Rice Soup, a soup which Minnesotans gulp down by the gallon, spring, summer, winter, and fall.

Speaking of gallons, the first thing you do when making this recipe is to basically make a chicken soup and then use that broth to cook the wild rice. Even though three cups of broth were used to cook the rice, I had plenty left over for a couple of bowls of chicken soup in the future. The chicken is then used in the casserole itself. Nothing goes to waste in this town!

Thankfully, the day I made this dish, the temperature finally dropped to around 75, much more comfortable than the searing 90 degrees experienced the week before and so turning on the oven to cook the casserole wasn’t an exercise in torture. But I’m not sure it would have mattered—when life hands you a catastrophe, make a Minnesota casserole.

Chicken-Wild Rice Casserole Supreme – serves 8-10
For the chicken broth
1 3-to-4 pound broiler-fryer, cut up
1 carrot, sliced
1 cup celery, sliced including tops
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, mashed
6 peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
For the casserole
1 cup wild rice
1 pound seasoned pork sausage
1 cup fresh or 1 cup drained canned mushrooms
1 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 10 ¾ ounce can cream of chicken soup
1 10 ¾ ounce can condensed cream of celery soup
1/3 cup milk or 1/3 cup dry sherry
¼ cup diced pimiento
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon EACH oregano, thyme and marjoram
½ cup sliced almonds

Put chicken pieces in a heavy saucepan. Add water to cover, and the sliced carrot, celery, onion, garlic, peppercorns and salt. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and let chicken simmer until it is tender. Drain, reserving stock.

A couple of notes: I did not add the 2 teaspoons salt this part of the recipe called for nor did I add a full ½ teaspoon of salt to the casserole because the soups contained a lot of salt and I didn’t feel the need for any more. Also, Joyce doesn’t say how long to cook the chicken but “until tender” seemed to take at least an hour, particularly since the chicken breasts I bought in a chicken packet were huge. You’ll have to keep checking to make sure all parts are done.

Let chicken pieces cool, the strip the cooked meat from the bones and cube it.

Grease a 2 ½ - 3 quart casserole. Set aside. Cook wild rice (according to the package), using chicken stock in place of water. Note that the rice I bought had instructions for how much broth and/or water to use – nice!

Brown pork sausage in a skillet.

In melted butter, sauté mushrooms and onion.

In the casserole, mix the soups, milk (or sherry), pimiento, salt and spices. Stir in the cubed chicken, browned sausage, cooked wild rice, sautéed mushrooms and onions. Top with almonds.

Cover the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.