Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"The New York City Marathon Cookbook" - Orange-Grilled Chicken with Curry

Date I made this recipe: November 23, 2008

The New York City Marathon Cookbook by Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D.
Published by: Rutledge Hill Press
© 1994 – ISBN 1-55853-306-0
Recipe: Orange-Grilled Chicken with Curry – p. 151

Okay, sure, so the annual New York City Marathon was held a couple weeks ago at the beginning of November. Sue me!

I honestly meant to put this book aside in order to cook from it for the annual event but in a fit of cleaning, I put it back on the shelf, only to be discovered when I went looking for another cookbook. Oops. No matter, this recipe is easy to make and would suit many an occasion.

But speaking of the New York City Marathon, in 1999 I had the pleasure of watching the
Marathon, first on TV before we left my friend’s apartment (only in New York would you find a cable station with “play-by-play” coverage) and then in Central Park with about two miles to go before the finish. And boy oh boy, there was stuff about marathons that I never knew.

First of all, there are paid runners called Rabbits who set the pace for the race and then drop out after a certain number of miles. One of the lead rabbits that year dyed his hair green but I don’t think that was a statement about the fact that rabbits eat “rabbit food” such as lettuce. Anyway…after they ran the allotted miles, they all hopped in the back of a pickup truck and went off to…wherever race rabbits go. Had I know a person could get paid for doing that, I think I might have taken up running (although I didn’t see a woman in the bunch) and skipped law school all together!

Second, I had no idea the number of family cheering sections that came to see their loved ones race (or limp) to the finish line. The deli my girlfriend and I ate at near the 59th Street Queensboro Bridge (a/k/a the “Feelin’ Groovy” Bridge from Simon and Garfunkle’s song) was packed to the rafters with people wearing racing team colors—sort of like NASCAR drivers but obviously rooting for people wearing running gear and running shoes.

And then there were the crowds ten deep or more standing around said bridge that were amazing. Susan and I were supposed to meet another friend working the first aid station there but this was before cell phones really took off and we finally aborted our mission because we didn’t think we’d ever find her. Besides, the runners had already crossed the bridge and were on the way to the finish.

So we ran like little rabbits ourselves to get to Central Park and managed to see the lead runners round the corner before running the last mile or so to Tavern on the Green a/k/a The Finish Line! And I have to tell you, it was exciting. First the male runners came through and then we managed to press through the crowd to get a front-row look at the women runners (big issue there: we saw on TV that one of the women lapped the front-runner a couple of miles into the race and held onto the lead to win the big prize, something that apparently doesn’t happen all that often.) And bless their hearts, the lead women were not all that far behind the men. You go, girls!

Now this gal has never liked running in the least, much less 26 miles, but I do enjoy walking and I do like to keep my diet in line with my exercise program so this recipe hit the mark. (You may not know it from my blog postings but it’s true) It’s higher in protein than most of the recipes in the book (25 grams per serving) and low in carbohydrates and fat. Carbs are great for race-running but in terms of muscle building muscle tone and weight management, protein is better.

Although this recipe was easy to make (marinate for an hour and then grill or broil) it seemed boring so I made up my own curry sauce that I poured on top of the chicken to add a little extra flavor. I’m pretty proud of it if I do say so myself (although note: your kitchen will really, really smell like curry!).

And now it’s off to the races – hahaha….

Orange-Grilled Chicken with Curry – Serves 4
4 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons curry powder
4 teaspoons dried tarragon or 2 tablespoons fresh minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)

Ann’s topping
4 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 cups orange juice (add more if needed)
4 teaspoons curry powder
(I ran out of tarragon but would have used the amount called for)
2 sliced onions

To make the chicken
In a large bowl whisk together the mustard, orange juice, curry powder and tarragon. Arrange the chicken in a shallow baking dish then pour the marinade evenly over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for at least 1 hour, or overnight. Grill the chicken breasts for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until done. The chicken may also be broiled.

To make the topping
Slice onions then place them and the other ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the onions are soft (I think I cooked them for about 20 minutes to a half an hour). Be careful not to burn the mixture. I served the chicken breasts on top of rice, topped with this mixture – yum!

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Hawaiian and Pacific Foods" - Green Pepper, Beef and Tomatoes

Date I made this recipe: November 16, 2008

Hawaiian and Pacific Foods – A Cook Book of Culinary Customs and Recipes Adapted for the American Hostess by Katherine Bazore
Published by M. Barrows and Company
© 1940-1947; seventh printing 1956
Recipe: Green Pepper, Beef and Tomatoes (Fan Keh Lut Tsiu Ngau Yuk) – p. 214-215

Even though I was a couple of days behind schedule, this recipe was made in honor of Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2008. You might ask yourself what on earth a cookbook of Hawaiian food has to do with Veteran’s Day but my answer is easy: my father, who served in the Marines on Iwo Jima, was stationed on Maui prior to leaving for Iwo (where he was wounded and received a purple heart). This cookbook was initially printed in the 40’s and so the recipes are authentic for the time that my father was in Maui--not that his camp necessarily served these foods. (But boy, if they did…)

Of course back thenthere was little development (if any) on Maui and according to dad, the camp’s conditions were pretty primitive (it was not for nothing that they called it “Camp Swampy”). Dad and his fellow Marines hiked up nearby Mt. Haleakala on a regular basis; these days, tourists coast down it on bicycles for fun!

My dad likes to mention that back then the big hotels on the island of Oahu were the Royal Hawaiian and the Ala Moana and that was about that. These days, those hotels are almost lost in the shuffle of development that has run rampant on the islands. Of course, to me, the Hawaiian Islands are still paradise to visit even if they are bumper-to-bumper with tourists.

I must admit to being surprised that this cookbook did not contain recipes for Spam (Spam is very popular in Hawaii) nor the Hawaiian lunch plate but maybe those items didn’t become popular until after publication. (I’ve had the lunch plate and it is outstanding even if it is not exactly heart-healthy. The lunch plate consists of a piece of meat, a scoop of rice with gravy on it and usually some macaroni salad - heavy on the mayo! Yum!!)

And while I’m not surprised that this cookbook contains many Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese and Filipino recipes (the islands are home to many an ethnic group), I am surprised that this recipe was included. The author often noted if a recipe was not authentic, yet I can’t help but wonder if this recipe was really authentic Chinese. Beef with peppers is something that I expect today in most “Chinese” restaurants but hey, it was included here so we’ll go with it.

This recipe was relatively easy to make and was fairly straightforward except for the instructions for making a “smooth” paste out of some of the ingredients. The paste I made was smooth all right—in fact, it was more of a marinade than anything but I went with it and it worked.

Another item that wasn’t clear was what, if anything, to do with the leftover chopped ginger. The recipe said to combine the ginger juice with other ingredients but it didn’t say how to dispose of the actual ginger itself so I added most of it to the recipe and it only enhanced the dish. (When in doubt, do not throw it out!)

Finally, the recipe didn’t say what to do with the beef (you cook the beef, then the veggies, and then serve) so I added the beef back to the veggie mixture and warmed up the entire dish for a few minutes over a low flame. I think the veggies could have used a few more minutes to cook but that’s my opinion.

And speaking of opinion, I know it’s hard to tear oneself away from the beautiful beaches of Maui, but if you are ever there, take a moment to go to the Marine Memorial where you can see photos of the old base from back in my dad’s day and the memorial plaques that are scattered throughout the area. It’s a lovely drive (although a little tricky to find) and a good way to honor all of our veterans who served our country so admirably. Ladies and Gentlemen of the armed forces (both former and current members), I salute you!

Green Pepper, Beef and Tomatoes – Serves 6
2 cups sliced green peppers (2 large peppers)
2/3 cup sliced onions
½ cup sliced round steak (are they kidding? I used about a pound, sliced thin. As if I had time to stuff the steak into a measuring cup!)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon soya (Note: I’m pretty sure they mean soy sauce here but when I looked it up online, soya also refers to the soy bean itself. Since the recipe called for 1 tablespoon, I’m thinking they meant the sauce)
Dash of pepper
2 2/3 cups tomatoes (3 medium)
½ cup celery
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried ginger root soaked in 2 tablespoons water

For the “gravy”
½ tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons whiskey or wine
¼ cup water
Dash of pepper

Cut the peppers into strips ½-inch wide and 1 ½ -inches long. Cut the onions into sections ½-inch wide and the tomatoes into eighths. Cut the celery and round steak into thin strips 1 ½-inches long. Mix the soya, cornstarch, sugar, ginger juice, and salt to form a smooth paste. (Mine was runny but it didn’t matter. Just toss your meat and throw it into a skillet or wok). Combine with the meat and fry in hot oil. When browned, remove the meat, and fry all the vegetables except the tomatoes in the same pan. Stir constantly and after 1 minute, add ¼ cup water and simmer for 2 minutes. Make a smooth paste of the ingredients for the gravy. Combine the gravy, tomatoes and cooked vegetables. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. (Note: I added the beef back to the wok and heated it for another couple of minutes on low).

Serve hot. (I served it with rice).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Perfect Soups" by Anne Willan - German Split Pea Soup

Date I made this recipe: November 9, 2008

Perfect Soups by Anne Willan
Published by: DK Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 0-7894-2853-9 © 1994, 1998
Recipe: German Split Pea Soup – p. 86-89

Well this week, I was, as my mother used to say, “busy, busy, busy,” such that I didn’t have time until now (almost a week later) to post this recipe for German Split Pea Soup.

As far as pea soups go, my mother was the standard-bearer for how split pea soup should be: as thick as all get-out, such that a spoon could stand by itself if necessary. Mom’s recipe was simple, calling for peas, carrots, onion, potatoes and one ham bone (as opposed to ham hock), usually left over from a ham Sunday dinner.

By comparison, the pea soup served by my grade school, Sacred Heart Catholic School, is a shining example of something that should never be called pea soup, much less soup. Sacred Heart’s version was ground peas (yes, if “split” peas are good, pulverized peas were better) and water. Thirty eight years after being served my last bowl of that slop, I still have nightmares. (And so it’s amazing that I made this recipe!)

This recipe falls somewhere in between greatness and disaster. The soup wasn’t overly thick or thin but there were issues. First and foremost was the fact that despite extending the cooking time by at least another hour, the peas never softened up and in all the years I’ve been making pea soup, that’s a head-scratcher. The cookbook author gives you the option of soaking the peas in cold water for eight hours in order to shorten the cooking time, but never before have I experienced problems with peas. It might be because I used green split peas instead of yellow (I couldn’t find yellow) but I doubt it.

Next was the general lack of flavor of the soup. My mother’s was robust but here, even with the addition of dark beer, the flavors fell short. The ham hock added some flavor but not much and my husband was not overly impressed with the frankfurters. So I don’t know—you might try experimenting with it and maybe add some additional spices to see what happens…or you might be fine with it the way it is. It’s not that we snubbed it in favor of other foods because we at it to the last drop (probably because my mother's voice was in my head admonishing me against wasting food!) but it could have been way better.

Anne included "how to" photos in her book that I must say helped quite a bit because my diced vegetables were exquisite. Left to my own devices, I likely would have been a lot more cavalier with the whole thing.

Finally, I didn’t realize until I was dicing vegetables and watching my Packers play that I had subconsciously selected a green pea…or yellow pea soup recipe for the annual Packer/Viking game. (Green and gold are Packer colors). But alas, it didn’t help as my Packers lost by 1 point having missed a last-minute field goal. That’s okay, we beat them earlier in the season so now we’re even-steven! Perhaps if my Packers had just had some hearty soup in advance of playing things might have been different. Food for thought (pun intended!)

German Split Pea Soup – Serves 6-8
Work Time – 35-40 minutes; Cooking Time 2-2 ¼ hours (or longer)

2 large onions
½ lb carrots
½ lb potatoes
½ lb rutabaga
2 celery stalks
1 cup dried yellow peas
3 whole cloves
1 bouquet garni, made with 5-6 parsley stems, 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 1 bay leaf
1 smoked ham hock, weighing about 1 lb
1 quart water, more if needed
2 cups dark beer
Salt and pepper
½ lb frankfurters
1 medium bunch of parsley
1 tsp mustard powder

Peel the onions and trim the tops, leaving a little of the roots. Chop into a small dice.

Peel the carrots and trim off the ends. Cut each carrot across into 2-inch pieces. Cut each piece lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Stack the slices and cut them into 4-6 strips together and cut into dice.

Peel the potatoes and follow the directions above for dicing; same with the rutabaga.

Peel the strings from the celery with the vegetable peeler. Cut the stalks lengthwise into ¼-inch strips, then crosswise into a dice.

Put the split peas into a strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pick over and discard any stones. Leave the split peas to drain.

Assemble the bouquet garni using a cheese cloth and string. The author says to tuck the cloves into the string tied around the bouquet garni but it seemed easier just to include them in the cheese cloth packet and call it a day.

Combine the diced vegetables and split peas in a casserole and add the ham hock, water, bouquet garni, dark beer, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Skim off the scum that rises to the surface, then cover, and simmer until the split peas are very tender, 2-2 ¼ hours (Or not as I found out! After 3 ¼ hours, I still had some not-so-tender peas on my hands but we were starving and so I gave up!) Stir the soup from time to time and add more water if it seems too thick.

Meanwhile, using a chef’s knife cut the frankfurter into ½-inch slices on the diagonal. If you are going to add chopped parsley as a garnish, chop them now and reserve until the very last minute.

Put the mustard powder into a small bowl. Spoon in 1-2 T of the hot soup liquid and stir together well until the mustard powder has dissolved completely. Reserve.

Remove the ham hock and bouquet garni from the casserole. Let the ham cool slightly, then pull of any meat and chop coarsely, discarding any skin and fat. Return the ham to the soup.

Add the frankfurters and cook gently without boiling until they are heated through, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the mustard mixture and most of the chopped parsley. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"The Working Wives' (Salaried or Otherwise) Cookbook" - Spicy Shrimp Dinner

Date I made this recipe: November 1 and 2

The Working Wives’ (Salaried or Otherwise) Cookbook – Cook-Ahead Cookery: All Recipes Based On Preparation Of Each Day’s Dinner The Night Before by Theodora Zavin and Freda Stuart
Published by: Crown Publishers, Inc.
© 1963
Recipe: Spicy Shrimp Dinner – p. 51

I bought this cookbook this spring while back in Michigan for my mom’s funeral (and later, burial) in what is now Falling Rock CafĂ© and Bookstore ( but what used to be Leeches Bar and Grill. I never, ever went in Leeches when I lived there, probably because I was underage, but I do remember my friends and I singing “Let’s all go to Leeches Bar and Grill, food’s more fun at Leeches Bar and Grill” to the tune of the A&W song (“Let’s all go to A&W, food’s more fun at A&W….”) Hey, it was a small town without a lot going on.

I hadn’t been up to that neck of the woods in quite some time and was really impressed with what the new owners had done to the place. The bar was still there but instead of booze, you could get soup, sandwiches, desserts, ice cream and coffee. Apparently, one could buy a membership in a coffee club and for that low, low price, you got your own mug (many of them lined the walls of the place) and I gathered bottomless coffee. The coffee there was really good and I oftentimes bought two cups, one to microwave at home. (My parents weren’t really decaf connoisseurs).

Just off the “bar” were tables with computers allowing for internet access. What a godsend! I was nervous that I couldn’t hook up to the internet from my parents (and indeed, my sister-in-law said she had to balance on the toilet seat while making a call back to Rochester, NY.) and with this set-up, I was able to get my coffee, connect with friends and family who lived elsewhere and keep up with the news.

And then there was the used book area. To my amazement, their cookbook collection was mighty impressive, such that I think I picked up two bags each time I was there. I’ve been to many a place in the Twin Cities that had less to offer.

Not that you want to make a trip to Michigan’s U.P. just to go to this place, but should you find yourself there vacationing (and there’s a ton of stuff to see and do in the area), you should stop in and pick up a book…or two!

As to the book, the cover caught my eye with it’s “Salaried or Otherwise” notation in the title. What I didn’t realize until I opened it up a few days ago was that everything was intended to be made the night before. (When all else fails, read the instructions). No matter. The dish was easy to assemble and the final cooking time is only thirty minutes. I may actually get dinner on the table “on time” (in Ann’s world, anytime before 8:00!)

Spicy Shrimp Dinner – Serves 6
4 slices bacon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1 green pepper, diced
1 can (1 lb) tomatoes (Note: it doesn’t say what kind – whole, diced, stewed – nor does it say whether or not to drain the tomatoes. I didn’t and I also used whole.
¼ cup tomato juice
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 ½ lbs. cooked, cleaned shrimp (buy 2 ¾ pounds if you buy them with shells)
1 can (1 lb). okra or peas
1 can (3 oz). whole mushrooms

The night before – Preparation time: 20 min. Cooking time: 35 min.
Chop the onion, garlic and celery. Cook the bacon until crisp, but do not discard bacon fat during the cooking process. Remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside. Add the olive oil to the bacon fat and cook the onion, celery, and garlic in the combined fats for abut 5 min., until the onion is transparent. Add the flour, stir, and remove the pan from the stove. Add the crumbled bacon and all the other ingredients (except the shrimp, okra/peas and mushrooms). Stir well and simmer over a low flame for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly, cover and refrigerate.

Before Serving – Preparation time: 2 min. Cooking time: 30 min.
Add the shrimp, okra or peas and mushrooms to the sauce and cook over a low flame for 30 minutes. This is excellent served with boiled rice.

NOTE: This recipe was most certainly not spicy despite the chili powder and the horseradish, but it was darned tasty.