Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"The Saturday Evening Post All American Cookbook" & "Blueberry Hill Cookbook" & "Food in Good Season" - shrimp, salad & dessert

Date I made these recipes: Saturday and Sunday, July 12th and 13th 2008

The Saturday Evening Post All American Cookbook by Charlotte Turgeon and Frederick A. Birmingham
Published by: Thomas Nelson Inc. & Curtis Publishing Company
© 1976
Recipe: Blueberry Buckle – p. 222

Blueberry Hill Cookbook by Elsie Masterton
Published by: Thomas Y. Crowell Company
© 1959
Recipe: Shrimps Steamed in Beer – p. 84-85

Food in Good Season – A Month-by-Month Harvest of Country Recipes for Cooks Everywhere by Betty Fussell
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN 0-394-57117-7
© 1988
Recipe: Italian Corn Salad – p. 153

So here’s how this went down: I mentioned in my last blog that I didn’t have time to make one of the recipes from one of my “All-American” cookbooks so I scheduled it for this weekend. And since I was making Blueberry Buckle, I thought I should see if I could find something from the Blueberry Hill Cookbook. And then, for whatever reason, after I found the shrimp recipe, I started to salivate for some sweet corn and that lead me to Betty Fussell who wrote The Story of Corn as well as Crazy for Corn (sad to say, neither are in my collection right now). And sure enough, Betty had this nice recipe for Italian Corn Salad to bring the menu full circle.

Now some of you might be a little young to remember artist Norman Rockwell, but he became famous for his wonderful drawings of everyday people and everyday life in The Saturday Evening Post. This cookbook is fun because it contains reprints of many of his culinary-related drawings. The recipe is fun as well and I was lucky enough to find some enormous blueberries for the buckle. They sure didn’t resemble anything I picked as a child!

Even though the Blueberry Hill Cookbook had blueberry recipes, I was really after something more main dish and the steamed shrimp seemed perfect. This cookbook was one of the first in my collection, purchased at The Strand in New York and I remember that it seemed to be in every used bookstore I went to on that trip. Blueberry Hill is an inn in Vermont and although I’ve never been, I certainly could make reservations and visit: http://www.blueberryhillinn.com/index.htm Sounds like ski season might be the perfect time.

Last, but not least, is the Italian Corn Salad. It was the perfect accompaniment to the shrimp and the blueberry buckle. If that menu didn’t scream “summer” I don’t know what did! Eat, enjoy and stock up on the napkins because you’ll need them for the shrimp!

Blueberry Buckle
¼ pound soft margarine (I used butter)\
½ cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
2 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
1 pint fresh blueberries

4 tablespoons white sugar
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease well an 8-by-8-inch baking/serving dish.

Beat the margarine (butter) together until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg and when well mixed, add the flour sifted with the baking powder alternately with the milk. Place in the dish and cover with the blueberries.

Note: the sentence above “flour sifted with the baking powder” really threw me. The recipe called for “2 cups sifted flour” but didn’t say to sift in the baking powder until further down. Now I’m no baker but I’ve certainly read that sifting or not sifting properly can make a difference; luckily things worked out fine. But oh how I longed for clearer instructions!

Put all the ingredients for the topping in a bowl and work them together with your fingertips until crumbly. Sprinkle over the top. Bake 1 hour.

Shrimps Steamed in Beer – Serves 4

To be honest with you, the beer/spice combination that the shrimps were boiled in was okay but the butter sauce? Now that’s another story! Just be sure to have extra napkins ready!

1 can beer
1 ½ pounds shrimps in their shells
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon chopped chives or onions

Dunk Sauce for Shrimps in Beer
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon salt

To make the shrimp, in a large saucepan, combine and bring to a boil the beer, unshelled shrimps, thyme, dry mustard, bay leaf, chopped garlic, salt, chopped parsley, pepper and chopped chives or onion. As soon as the liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat and start timing. Let shrimp simmer 3 minutes. They should get pink, no more.

Serve at once, with the following sauce, prepared while you are preparing the shrimps.

To make the sauce, melt the butter, add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Italian Corn Salad – Serves 4
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3 large tomatoes, sliced thin
¼ pound mozzarella, cut in strips
1 small bunch basil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heap uncooked corn kernels in center of a salad platter. Encircle with overlapping slices of tomato. Arrange mozzarella strips like spokes of a wheel radiating from the corn. Make an outside border of basil leaves. (Or just dump all the ingredients in a bowl like I did and call it a day!). Beat oil, vinegar, and seasoning together, and pour over the whole.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"It's All American Food" & "The American Regional Cookbook" & "The Best in American Cooking" (Paddleford) - 4th of July dishes

Date I made these recipes: 4th of July weekend 2008

It’s All American Food by David Rosengarten
Published by: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 0-316-05315-5 © 2003
Recipe: New York City Pushcart Onions for Hot Dogs – p. 265

The American Regional Cookbook – Recipes from Yesterday and Today for the Modern Cook by Nancy & Arthur Hawkins
Published by: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
© 1976
Recipe: Hamburgers – p. 58

I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell
Published by: Elisabeth Sifton Books VIKING
ISBN: 0-670-81241-2 © 1986
Recipe: Bean Town Beans – p. 287-288

The Best In American Cooking – recipes collected by Clementine Paddleford
Published by: Charles Scribner’s Sons
© 1970; originally published as part of How America Eats © 1960
Recipe: Donna’s Potato Salad – p. 190

People, I had a very relaxing 4th of July weekend, the first in years, and had plenty of time to make all these recipes celebrating American cooking but finding time this week to write up my review was a challenge. So here it is, a week after the fact, and I’m just now getting going.

Now I’m sure many of you are like me and grew up in a very “traditional” family when it came to holiday picnic food. Mine was a mustard and ketchup (hot dogs and burgers) and Miracle Whip family (never Hellmann’s—that was what the east-coast cousins used) and potato salad was made with potatoes and celery (never relish) and Miracle Whip with sliced eggs as garnish.

Picnics were held down at the lake (as in Lake Superior, back in the day when beach bonfires were still allowed) and all the food was brought down in a newspaper-lined wooden bushel basket that my parents got at the local farmer’s market (yes, my small town had a small farmer’s market when I was growing up). To this day, there’s something about the smell of the newspaper and wood that brings me right back to the beach. Dad usually brought our little hibachi grill (we never had a big kettle grill in our family, likely because dad got used to using a hibachi during WWII). We grilled our hot dogs until the skins popped open (or roasted them in a bonfire), slathered them with mustard and ketchup and washed it all down with lemonade from the thermos. After waiting a suitable time after eating (an old-wife’s tale but we usually adhered to it, we took a plunge into the frosty waters – even in July – of Lake Superior and stayed in until our lips were blue and our teeth chattered. Those were the days.

On the 4th of July, my home town had a big parade followed by a pet parade for the kids and then around 4:30 or so, the fire department staged a water fight on the main street of down, dousing all of us excited children who deliberately came in bathing suits, hoping to get wet. Down at the boat docks, the Lions club had pie-eating contests and other assorted kiddie fun events going on and then at dusk, the fire works exploded over Munising Bay.

So in sticking with the 4th of July theme, I pulled several “American” cookbooks off my shelf just for the occasion. One recipe, for blueberry buckle, didn’t get made that weekend (darn that whole butter-softening process) but I’ll be making it shortly and posting those results separately. I must say, given all the cookbooks I have, it was challenging to find something that reminded me of my childhood—nothing too fancy yet something that sounded like it would be good when I made it, and (as you’ll see) one that didn’t take days to make. After all, there was a long, holiday weekend to enjoy!

Now, the entire menu almost unraveled due to lack of a potato salad recipe, something I neglected to select during the initial selection round. Talk about a gross oversight on my part because what’s a 4th of July picnic without potato salad??! But people, finding a recipe that wasn’t too weird turned out to be a huge challenge. (Can you believe some cookbooks that include “American” in the title, didn’t even include a potato salad recipe?! That’s just wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels!).

I found recipes using horseradish (too modern), recipes using cream (??) and a couple recipes using, of all things, beef broth. Um….no. I was all set to throw in the towel when I read through the original baked bean recipe I selected and discovered that it needed to cook for 10-12 hours and that was just too long on a hot summer day. So after mixing and matching and reselecting some recipes, the 10-12 hour baked bean was substituted for one taking 4-6 hours and a potato salad recipe was in! Whew.

All the recipes were good, all were easy to make and hit the spot on a very lovely 4th of July. The hamburgers didn’t quite stay together as I expected (and so I really ended up with a loose-meat sandwich) but the flavor was there.

Speaking of flavor, one of my favorites of the weekend was the New York Pushcart Onions for Hot Dogs. If you’ve ever been to Gray’s Papaya in New York, you’ll know the joy of using this condiment. I could have eaten the entire pot of this stuff…but I didn’t! So much for traditional mustard and ketchup!

I hope you all had a Happy 4th of July!

New York City Pushcart Onions for Hot Dogs – yields enough for 12-16 hot dogs (yeah, right!)
1 T. vegetable oil
4 firmly packed cups of thinly sliced onion (about 2 large or 4 medium onions)
2 tsp. mined garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
1 T. flour
8 ounces canned, smooth tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 T. light corn syrup
2 tsp. white vinegar
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. dry mustard
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of ground cloves

Place the vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and the garlic. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 20 minutes the onion should be softened but not browned.

Add the flour and stir well to distribute evenly among the onion slices. Cook for 1 minute, stirring to make sure the flour doesn’t burn. Add the tomato sauce, water, corn syrup, vinegar, bay leaves, mustard, cayenne, and cloves. Stir well to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook very slowly over low heat for 45 minutes. If the mixture has become too thick, add a little water.

Hamburgers – 4 servings
1 ½ pounds chopped round steak
1 onion, chopped
1 T. chopped shallots
4 T. butter
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T. sour cream
4 large hard rolls, buttered

Saute the onion and shallots in 2 tablespoons of the butter, add the seasonings. Mix with the chopped steak and the beaten egg, suing your hands, not a fork.

Roll loosely into 4 balls the size of tennis balls and drop onto the kitchen table to flatten. Pan-broil on both sides in a heavy skillet with 2 tablespoons butter. Transfer to a heated platter.

Heat buttered rolls. Place a hamburger on each. To the pan juices, add the sour cream, simmer a minute or two, and pour a spoonful over each hamburger.

Bean Town Beans – serves 6 to 8
2 cups dried beans (pea, navy, or soldier)
½ pound smoked slab bacon, with rind on
1 large onion, chopped
¼ cup blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 bay leaves, crushed
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper, or dash Tabasco
Boiling water to cover the beans before baking

Pick over beans to remove grit or stones. Cover beans with cold water, bring to a boil, and boil one minute. Remove from the heat, cover pot, and let the beans sit 1 hour. Drain.

Score the bacon in squares without cutting through the rind. Put half the beans in the pot in which you will bake them and add onion, molasses, and seasonings. Add remaining beans and bury the bacon, rind up, in the top layer. Add just enough boiling water to cover. Cover the pot tightly and bake at 300 for 4 to 6 hours or more to melt the pork fat and melt the flavors. Add boiling water from time to time if needed. Remove lid for the last 30 minutes to make a brown crust.

Note: a big shout-out to Clancy’s Meat Market in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis for being the only place to carry a slab of bacon. A slab is just what it sounds like – a slab of bacon that has not been cut into strips. The slab of bacon is usually the very top piece to appear when you open a can of pork and beans. Several people asked me if salt pork would work but I had no idea. And the best thing was that the pork slab (I only got a quarter of a pound) only cost me $1.71. Of course, the cost of the gas it took to get there from my house was another story….

Donna’s Potato Salad, submitted by Donna Hansen, Idaho Falls, Idaho – yields 2 quarts
6 medium potatoes, boiled and diced (2 quarts diced)
6 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
½ cup minced onion
1 T. chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped dill or sweet pickle (I used sweet)
1 T. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 T. prepared mustard
1 T. mayonnaise
1 T. French dressing
1 T. dill-pickle juice
¾ milk or light cream (about)

Toss together lightly: potatoes, 5 of the sliced eggs, onion, parsley, pickle, salt and pepper. Combine mustard, mayonnaise, French dressing, pickle juice, and enough milk or cream to make 1 cup dressing. Toss with potato mixture. Arrange in a bowl. Place the remaining egg slices around top and sprinkle with paprika.