Monday, January 26, 2009

"The Black Family Reunion Cookbook" & "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook" - Yam Pork Chop Skillet and Golden Brown Macaroni and Cheese

Date I made these recipes: January 25, 2009

The Black Family Reunion Cookbook – Recipes and Food Memories from the National Council of Negro Women
Published by: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0-671-79629-1 © 1991
Recipe: Yam Pork Chop Skillet – p. 104

Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook – From Hemingway, South Carolina, to Harlem by Sylvia Woods and Family
Published by: William Morrow & Company, Inc.
ISBN: 0-688-16219-3 © 1999
Recipe: Golden Brown Macaroni and Cheese – p. 206-207

Well, this is part two of Inauguration food and today’s focus is on food from African-American kitchens.

One of the first things I think about when thinking about African-American foods is macaroni and cheese, something that until recently was almost exclusive to the African-American household. (Sorry, Kraft macaroni and cheese does not count in my book). In my household, the only time we ever had macaroni and cheese was when we made a dish called “Western Mac” that contained macaroni, cheese, ground beef, tomato paste and corn. This does not count as macaroni and cheese, either. Nope, if you’re going to have it, you need to make the real deal.

The mac and cheese recipe I used is from Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook. Sylvia Woods, the owner, runs Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem and try as I might on many and many a trip, I have never gotten up that far to try her restaurant but I am determined. Still, if you can’t get the real thing, making something from her recipe book is the way to go.

The other cookbook I used, The Black Family Reunion Cookbook had to have been sponsored by Crisco because there was hardly a recipe that didn’t call for Crisco oil or shortening. Lucky for me, I had both in my cupboards.

These dishes are easy to make and were darned good on yet another below zero day here in the heartland. The mac and cheese in particular was very tasty; what was surprising about this recipe is that it didn’t call for mustard (a typical component of macaroni and cheese) and yet the flavor didn’t suffer at all.

So happy post-inauguration, everyone and now dig in!

Yam Pork Chop Skillet – 4 servings
1 tablespoon Crisco Shortening or Crisco Oil
4 pork shoulder chops
4 medium yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into rings
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (14 ½ ounces) tomatoes

Heat Crisco Shortening or Crisco Oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Brown the pork chops.

Arrange the yam slices, onion slices and green pepper rings over pork chops. Sprinkle with thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper. Top with tomatoes. Cover. Cook on low heat one hour or until tender.

Golden Brown Macaroni and Cheese – Makes 5 to 6 servings or more as a side dish
6 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
2 ½ cups grated mild Cheddar grated cheese, divided
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
Paprika, for the top

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan.

In a 6-quart pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return the macaroni to the pot and stir in the butter or margarine until melted. Add 2 cups of the Cheddar cheese.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs then beat in the milk. Add the milk mixture to the pot with the macaroni. Stir until combined. Spoon into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup Cheddar cheese on top. Dust with paprika. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is warm throughout.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"The Food of Paradise - Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage" - Portuguese Bean Soup

Date I made this recipe: January 24, 2009

The Food of Paradise – Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage by Rachel Laudan (International Association of Culinary Professionals – IACP – The Julia Child Cookbook Awards Winner)
Published by: University of Hawai’i Press Honolulu
ISBN: 0-8248-1778-8 © 1996
Recipe: Portuguese Bean Soup – p. 144

Well folks, this past Tuesday was inauguration day in the U.S. and so I tried to find foods befitting our newest president, Barack Obama (by the way, I had to add Barack’s name to my spell check as it thought I was trying to say barracks—as in military).

Prior to today, I cooked from all my “Presidential” cookbooks as well as cookbooks from Illinois and when last seen, I don’t think I acquired any from Kansas (where Barack’s mother was from) but I am happy to report that I have several Hawaiian cookbooks as well as several African-American tomes. And so on Saturday night I cooked Hawaiian and on Sunday will be cooking from the African-American cookbooks.

Although you wouldn’t think of this at first blush, the foods of Hawaii and African-American recipes have a lot in common: both are influenced by food and traditions from other ethnic groups. African-American recipes, particularly southern recipes, are influenced by African, French, and English settlers and Hawaiian food is an amalgam of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino and Portuguese cooking. It was hard to select one recipe from this book but after careful consideration (and menu-planning), I went with the Portuguese Bean Soup.

My husband and I visited Portugal several years ago and do not recall this type of soup on the menu but that didn’t matter in the least as it provided a hearty meal for a cold winter’s night. Although the recipe itself was easy to make (providing you soak the beans the night before), finding a single ham hock proved to be a challenge. One grocery store had 4-packs, two stores didn’t have any and I finally settled upon ham shanks (not quite the same) from a fourth grocery store (after consulting with a butcher). Sheesh!

I cannot say that I ever contemplated making a Portuguese-Hawaiian dish to honor the first African-American president who spent some of his life growing up in Indonesia, but like his presidency, there’s a first time for everything. Enjoy!

Portuguese Bean Soup – 4 servings
1 ham hock (or ham shank)
Olive oil to coat the pan
1 good-sized onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
2 celery stalks cut into dice
1 carrot cut into dice
1 cup navy beans or kidney beans, soaked overnight
3 tomatoes skinned and chopped (or substitute canned tomatoes)
Dried red chili pepper, deseeded
1 potato cut into dice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped parsley (for garnish)

Take two pots (the soup can be cooked in one, but using two allows you to control how much of the salty ham stock you use.). In one, place the ham hock, cover with water, and simmer until tender, about 2 hours. Remove the hock, skin and cut the meat into small cubes. Reserve the stock.

Meanwhile, in another pan, sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in olive oil until soft; then add the beans, tomatoes, chili pepper, and sufficient water to cover. Simmer until nearly done (1 hour) then add the potato. After 5 minutes, add the cubed meat and enough of the stock to create a good flavor. (Note: When I made the dish, I added about 4 ladles of the ham stock and that seemed to strike the right balance.). Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for another few minutes until the potato is cooked, add the parsley and serve.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper" - Corn Chowder

Date I made this recipe: January 11, 2009
The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper – Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio’s Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift
Published by: Clarkson Potter/Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-307-34671-1
Recipe: Corn Chowder – p. 62-63

Year ago I was sitting in my car, listening to Minnesota Public Radio when I heard a voice that sounded suspiciously like the late actress, Marilyn Monroe…except it wasn’t.

“Hi, she breathed, it’s Lynne Rose-etto Kas-purrrrrr and you’re listening to The Splendid Table….”

Lynne who? Splendid Table what? I didn’t know what to think except “what is with that voice?” It was half sexy “come hither,” half nails on a chalk board! For the longest time, I used to go around mimicking her (and dare I say, not in a good way), pretending I was the Marilyn Monroe of the cooking world. Radio announcers were not supposed to be sexy or sound pretentious, they were supposed to be…well, radio announcers!

And yet I tuned in, week after week, month after month, year after year to listen to the woman whose voice initially drove me nuts because what she had to say about food was fascinating and her guests were fascinating and her stories were fascinating.

Over time, Lynne lost that Marilyn “Happy Birthday Mr. President” Monroe sound as she became more comfortable in her own (radio) shoes and I became much more comfortable listening to her as well, much in the same way that Julia Child eventually grew on me and the rest of America. (Although I doubt anyone ever likened Julia Child to Marilyn Monroe.)

Now I have to confess that I a) have met Lynne on several occasions (she’s very nice) where she b) autographed her cookbooks for me and c) answered one question years ago about borlotti beans while she was doing a live broadcast from the Twin Cities’ Food and Wine Extravaganza (I have to confess that at the time, I accidentally Stumped the Cook – a regular feature on her radio show—but that was before borlotti beans were as easily obtainable as they are now). And yet, I was reluctant to blog about one of her recipes because a) I’m half Sicilian and while I collect all kinds of cookbooks, I have been reluctant, until recently, to try someone else’s “family” recipes, b) what if I made one of her Italian recipes and screwed it up or c) what if I made it properly but (gasp) didn’t like it? The horror, the horror! All of this is made worse because Lynne and I live in the same town and she could track me down and a) cut me up for stew meat? (I have a vivid imagination!) b) never speak to me again…not that we speak at all but I can dream, can’t I? c) ruin my chances to ever make an appearance on her show (Lynne, I promise you I am quite.the.whit) or d) make sure I never cook or blog in this town again!

And so people, I cheated. Rather than go out on a limb and make a dish from either of her two-Italian cookbooks, I made a “safe” Corn Chowder recipe from her newest cookbook, The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper (in my family, we called it dinner but here in Minnesota, it’s definitely supper time). This recipe was easy-peasy and was (big sigh of relief here) de-licious!

Selecting a dish from Lynne’s (and Sally Swift, her producer) cookbook wasn’t difficult because people, I love, love, love corn chowder but am never really sure when to make it—is it a fall dish, a winter warm-up or is summertime the right time to make it using fresh corn? I tend to be a soup/stew/chowder/roast type of gal and for me that means winter but this dish was so refreshing (and light) that it would clearly work well during the height of corn season.

Lynne wrote that “this recipe begs for variations” and so I added diced chicken to my dish. You can add seafood or more potatoes—the choice is yours. (Garrison Keillor, he of A Prairie Home Companion fame, wrote something even funnier that Lynne included in the book: “People have tried and they have tried, but sex is not better than sweet corn.” I’ll let you chew on that one a while.)

By the way, Lynne’s radio show, The Splendid Table, can be accessed via the internet at (Check out the archives for previous broadcasts) Locally, I listen to her on Saturday afternoons on 91.1 FM from 2-3 p.m. Jane and Michael Stern (subject of last week’s blog) kick off the first five minutes of the show with their restaurant and food reviews and I have been known to pull off into a shopping center parking lot to sit in my idling car until their piece is done. If you see a woman sitting all by herself, cracking up laughing in a green Honda, that would be me, folks! But mostly I wait for the (now normal) voice: “Hi. It’s Lynne Rossetto Kasper and you’re listening to The Splendid Table….”

Corn Chowder – Serves 4
4 slices bacon, sliced into 1/8-inch-wide pieces
2 tablespoons good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil (okay, I can’t resist this: “good-tasting” as opposed to bad-tasting??!)
1 medium to large onion, chopped into ½-inch dice
2 bay leaves, broken
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste
1 medium (7 ounces) red-skin potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice (Note: I used some Yukon gold that I had at home and left the skin on for the vitamins)
4 large garlic cloves, coarse chopped
1 recipe Cheater’s Homemade Broth (p. 48) or two 14-ounce cans chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound (3 1/3 cups) Niblets frozen corn with no sauce; or kernels from 8 ears fresh corn
2 cups milk or cream, or a blend of both
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
*I added I cooked, diced chicken breast

Put the bacon, olive oil, onion, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper in a 6-quart pot. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the potato, garlic, and broth. Cover the pot tightly and simmer the soup over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the potato is tender.

Stir in the corn, milk or cream, and Tabasco. Remove from the heat. Pull out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. With a slotted spoon, transfer about one-third of the solids to a food processor or blender. Blend for a few seconds to crush the corn. Return the mix to the pot.

Heat the chowder to a bubble, and taste it for seasoning. Serve immediately (so the corn doesn’t overcook), topped with the parsley.

Monday, January 5, 2009

"The Sunset Appetizer Book" & "Southern Living - The Party Snacks Cookbook" & "Square Meals" by Jane and Michael Stern (assorted appetizer recipes)

Date I made these recipes: December 31, 2008

The Sunset Appetizer Book – Recipes for Hors D’oeuvres, Spreads, Dips, Canapes by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazines
Published by: Lane Books
© 1965; sixteenth printing January 1975
Recipe: Crab-Water Chestnut Appetizer – p. 49

Southern Living – The Party Snacks Cookbook from the Southern Living Cookbook Library
Published by: Oxmoor House, Inc.
ISBN: 0-8487-0511-4; © 1979
Recipe: Chafing Dish Meatballs – p. 35

Square Meals by Jane and Michael Stern
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
© 1984
Recipe: Cheese Ball – p. 257-258

Well, my family was in town for New Year’s for the first time ever and we had a lovely time both from a culinary standpoint as well as a family standpoint.

For New Year’s Eve dinner, my husband, sister-in-law and I made homemade manicotti shells (more like a crepe) using my Aunt Rose’s recipe as well as meatballs (also her recipe) and sausage. What a repast!

On New Year’s Day, I pressed my dad into service to make his famous (to us) Chicken Cacciatore recipe. My dad is a great cook and this recipe is now part of my family’s Cucina Costa cookbook, something I put together in 1995 after a family reunion. But just like the manicotti recipe, I can’t give these out to you just yet (or I'd have to kill you!) but I will offer up three appetizer recipes I made to munch on before the cacciatore came out of the oven: Crab-Water Chestnut Appetizer; Chafing Dish Meatballs and a Cheese Ball.

Now the first two recipes came from “legitimate” appetizer books in my vast collection, but no doubt the Cheese Ball recipe taken from Jane and Michael Stern’s cookbook is a puzzler. Here’s what happened: the other day I was in my car listening to The Splendid Table, hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and as usual, the Sterns reported on yet another yummy-sounding restaurant somewhere in America (I LOVE those two). And so I thought maybe I should make something from Lynne’s new cookbook The Splendid Tables’ How To Eat Supper as well as something from one of the Stern’s cookbooks in my collection. But Lynne's new book doesn't include appetizers and so I tabled her (no pun intended) for another day but did go with the Sterns. You should note that the Stern’s recipe is from a section titled “The Cuisine of Suburbia” –nothing says suburban entertaining like a cheese ball (although I live in the city so ???!)

All three of these were very yummy and were promptly snarfed down by my family. We did have a few leftovers as I discouraged people from stuffing themselves before dad’s cacciatore, and so my husband and I are both nibbling on what’s left of the wreckage. If you ask me, that is not a bad way to start a new year.

Crab-Water Chestnut Appetizer – Makes about 3 cups (I made half the recipe)
1 pound fresh crab meat, chopped (or 2 cans of crab meat, drained)
½ cup minced water chestnuts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced green onions

Combine crab meat with water chestnuts, soy sauce, mayonnaise and onions. Note: this recipe ended up being a little watery and I’m not sure if it was because I used canned (albeit drained) crabmeat or because even ¼ cup of mayo was too much. You might want to play with it a bit.

Chafing Dish Meatballs – Yield: 5 dozen (Note: don’t kid yourself; this recipe made far less than that but they were still good!)
1 pound ground beef
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup mined onion
¼ cup milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup shortening
1 (12-ounce) bottle chili sauce
1 (10-ounce) jar grape jelly

Combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, onion, milk, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce; gently shape into 1-inch balls. Melt shortening in a large skillet; brown meatballs. Remove meatballs from skillet; drain fat. Heat chili sauce and jelly in skillet until jelly is melted, stirring constantly. Add meatballs and stir until coated. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve hot in a chafing dish.

Cheese Ball – Serves 8
¼ cup milk
3 ounces blue cheese, cubed
4 ounces Cheddar cheese, cubed (Note: I used crumbled blue cheese and that worked out great but should have used already-shredded Cheddar as the cubes stuck to my Cuisinart blades making it quite difficult to combine the ingredients).
1 small wedge onion
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
½ cup pecans
4 sprigs parsley

Blend milk and blue cheese in food processor or blender at high speed. Add Cheddar cheese, onion, Worcestershire, and cream cheese. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

The next day, shape cheese into a ball. Coarsely chop pecans and parsley in blender. Roll cheese ball in nuts and parsley mixture.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook" - Little Meat Loaves

Date I made this recipe: December 27, 2008

Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens Magazine/Meredith Publishing Company
Published by: Meredith Publishing Company
© 1955
Recipe: Little Meat Loaves – p. 146-147

People, in my world, there is no better accompaniment to (leftover) mashed potatoes and peas than meatloaf—well, except for the beef tenderloins my husband made to accompany these sides for our Christmas dinner. Since tenderloin is expensive, I didn’t want to purchase another round and so out came the Better Homes and Garden Junior Cookbook.

The thing that I love about these “junior” cookbooks is how basic they are; the thing I oftentimes hate about these “junior” cookbooks is how basic they are; not much of anything spicy goes into these meals but in this case, that was just fine by me. These are really easy to make (4 steps and you are done!) and very bite size—just right for the “junior” palate!

Little Meat Loaves – Makes about 8 servings
2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 ½ pounds ground beef
¼ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sage (oh- we have a spice!!)
Dash pepper

Set oven at 350. Do you have a serving platter ready? (This is not my note but rather the author’s!). Grease muffin cups lightly.

Put crumbs in a large bowl. Add milk. Beat eggs in small bowl. Stir into milk mixture.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix them together well with a spoon.

Place in muffin cups. Round off tops. Bake 45 minutes. Makes about 8 servings.