Friday, April 23, 2010

"From the Earth to the Table" - "Five Lilies" (Onion) Chowder

Date I made this recipe: April 22, 2010 (Earth Day)

From the Earth to the Table – John Ash’s Wine Country Cuisine by John Ash with Sid Goldstein (winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals Book of the Year – The Julia Child Cookbook Awards)
Published by: Penguin Books
ISBN: 0-525-94000-6
Recipe: “Five Lilies” Chowder – p. 62

Fear not Earth Day Aficionados! Despite the name, no actual lilies were harmed in the making of this recipe! (Can you imagine? Ew!!)

Many people do not know that onions, leeks, shallots, garlic and chives are part of the lily family. And all five of these items are in this soup which turned out to be incredibly tasty even if the name was suspect.

Since today is Earth Day, I yanked out this book, appropriately titled “From the Earth to the Table” that had been tucked away in the far recesses of my collection. A friend gave it to me a while ago and I have to say that awards or no, the recipes in this book didn’t quite send me flying. (Thus the “tucked away” comment) Some took a long time and had too many steps and dare I say that although not required, a vegetarian dish seemed in order for an Earth Day celebration and I just didn’t grove on the ones in this book.

But not to be outdone by a cookbook, I looked again and decided on the soup. I do feel the name “chowder,” though, is misleading as “chowder” usually means that milk or cream are added and neither of those two ingredients was present.

The author suggested adding wild rice and/or vegetables to this dish to make it a more substantial meal and I added both. The wild rice was good but seemed heavy in this dish. On the other hand, the peas I added seemed just right.

So happy post-Earth Day fellow earthlings!

“Five-Lilies” Chowder – serves 8
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups diced yellow onions
¼ cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
6 cups mushroom stock (p. 57) or rich chicken stock, fat removed (I used Swanson’s and it was fine)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
½ cup minced celery
1 cup sliced leeks, both white and tender green parts
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons minced chives
Garnish: Gremolata (1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced parsley, and 2 tablespoons minced lemon zest, combined in a bowl)
(Optional) cooked wild rice
(Optional) cooked vegetables (I used peas)

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, shallots, and garlic and sauté until they just begin to color. Transfer half the onion mixture to a blender or food processor. Puree and return to the pan. Add the wine, bay leaf and stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. The soup base may be prepared in advance to this point and stored and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen indefinitely and reheated before finishing.

Just before serving, add the thyme, oregano, celery, leeks, and sherry to the hot soup base. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 2 minutes. Do not overcook; the vegetables should retain their crunchy texture. Remove the bay leaf, stir in the chives, and garnish with a sprinkling of the gremolata.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"The Star Wars Cookbook - Wookie Cookies and other Galactic Recipes" - Crazy Cantina Chili

Date I made this recipe: April 18, 2010

The Star Wars Cookbook – Wookiee Cookies and other Galactic Recipes by Robin Davis
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0-8118-2184-6
Recipe: Crazy Cantina Chili – p. 42

People, I’ve often maintained that there is a cookbook out there for everybody about everything and this one is no exception. Although this cookbook was intended for a young audience, there is so much to like about the movie Star Wars that this adult chef just had to have it.

Many things come to mind when I think of Star Wars. First, there’s Bill Murray’s hilarious rendition of the Star Wars theme from a sketch he did on the TV show, Saturday Night Live. In the sketch, Murray played a piano lounge singer who liked to sing movie themes, all with made up words and all of them hilarious. To listen to the Star Wars theme in all its glory, go to YouTube and enter “Bill Murray Sings Star Wars Theme” and you’ll get the link. Unfortunately, you’ll be unable to see Bill sing this song as apparently there is a copyright issue and that’s a shame because he completely nails the “too hip for words” lounge singer persona.

Second, I’ll always have the memory of going to see the movie when it first opened on a college date. The guy I was with was nice enough but he had one fatal flaw: having already seen the movie, he couldn’t wait to tell me about it and did so while the screen was rolling the “A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away” spiel, otherwise known as THE PLOT!! Talk about being confused for the entire movie! Needless to say, we did not last long as a couple. I ended up going again, this time with other friends who knew how to keep quiet. Men, please file this under “bad date behavior!”

Third, I recall and have photo proof of going to a Halloween party that fall with my roommates dressed as Storm Troopers - the guys in the white outfits. Shopko (the MI/WI version of Target) had the masks on sale so we each purchased one, ripped some sheets to make the body costume and then (and this is soooo creative) wrapped some car snow brushes/scrappers with tin foil, turning them into our very own laser swords! (Hey—it was 1977 and we were poor college students. You try doing better!). We had a blast at the party although we stayed in costume the entire time and therefore had to drink beer from a straw. This is not recommended.

And finally, my community band, The Calhoun-Isles Community Band, frequently does music by composer and Star War movie music master John Williams and has performed the Star Wars music to the delight of audience members of all ages. This coming Tuesday, April 20, we are performing a concert of all movie themes and while we have a couple of John Williams’ medleys, we are not doing Star Wars this time around – drat it all!

So to console myself, I just pulled out this cookbook and found the Crazy Cantina recipe (the cantina scene in the original Star Wars movie is one of my favorites) and went to town.

Since this cookbook is for kids, the recipe was easy but also surprisingly good. Since I oftentimes pick garbanzo beans (chick peas) out of soups and salads, I wanted to make sure I ate them and so I whirled them around in my Cuisinart for a second or two until they were nicely chopped. It made such a difference to me that you might want to try this as well, especially if you have picky eaters at the table.

“May the force be with you” as you prepare this recipe!

Crazy Cantina Chili – makes 4 to 6 servings
1 can (16-ounces) kidney beans
1 can (16-ounces) black beans
1 can (16-ounces) garbanzo beans (also known as chick peas)
1 onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (28-ounces) crushed tomatoes with juice
1 cup tomato juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Sour cream or plain yogurt

Open the can of beans and drain off the liquid from the cans into the sink. Set the beans aside.

Put the onion on a cutting board. Carefully slice off the root end and the stem end. Use your fingers to strip off the dry skin. Then cut the onion in half from the top to the bottom. Hold an onion half cut side down and thinly slice it crosswise. Be sure to keep your fingers clear of the knife blade. Set aside.

Put the oil in a large saucepan. Set the pan on the stove and switch on the heat to medium-high. When the oil it hot, add the chopped onion and stir with the wooden spoon until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the chili powder and cayenne pepper and stir for 30 seconds. Add the beans, the crushed tomatoes, and the tomato juice. Stir well. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the chili with the cheese and sour cream on the side.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Miss Mary's Down-Home Cooking" - Ham Casserole

Date I made this recipe: April 11, 2010

Miss Mary’s Down-Home Cooking – Recipes from Small-Town America by Diana Dalsass
Published by: A Main Street Book
© 1984 (by Diana Dalsass); 2002 (by A Main Street Book)
Recipe: Ham Casserole – p. 42

It almost goes without saying, doesn’t it, that after Easter is over, one has to do something with the leftover ham. I must have had my recipe radar finely tuned the other day because I selected today’s book, Miss Mary’s Down-Home Cooking and found a ham casserole recipe in one fell swoop!

And it was a tasty recipe—not great, not award winning, but tasty and comforting. I wasn’t sure how the spaghetti would work out as it seemed like it would be hard to eat but I went with it and it was fine. I think I could have been satisfied with pasta and cheese sauce but alas, the reason I selected it was to rid myself of leftover ham and so I added the other ingredients. And it all worked.

I’m thinking about making a soup from the ham bone but it’s almost too hot for that. We’ll have to see how the next few days shake out.

In the meantime, enjoy!

By the way, "Miss Mary" is Miss Mary Bobo of Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House in Lynchburg, Tennessee. If you're in the area, you might want to give it a whirl!

Ham Casserole – serves 4
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 bunch broccoli (2 or 3 stalks—or use a package of frozen broccoli)
8 ounces spaghetti, cooked until tender and drained
2 cups diced cooked ham

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour. Add the milk and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil. Add the cheese and pepper and cook, stirring, until the cheese has melted. Remove from the heat.

Trim the tough ends off the broccoli. Cut the broccoli lengthwise into quarters. Cook in boiling water or steam until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and chop coarsely.

When spaghetti has cooked, stir in the cheese sauce. Add the ham and broccoli. Turn the mixture into a greased 2-quart casserole. Bake, covered, in a 350 oven 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Monday, April 5, 2010

"The Smithfield Cookbook" & "Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse Cookbook" - Ham with Honey Orange Glaze and Cheese Grits

Date I made these recipes: April 4, 2010 (Easter Sunday)

The Smithfield Cookbook – 350 years of Dining Traditions from Smithfield and Isle of Wight County, Virginia by The Junior Woman’s Club of Smithfield – Smithfield, Virginia
Published by: The Junior Woman’s Club of Smithfield
© 1978
Recipe: Ham with Honey Orange Glaze – p. 8

Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse Cookbook with a history by John T. Edge
Published by: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 1-58008-257-2
Recipe: Cheese Grits – p. 111

People, you know it’s going to be a good day when you wake up, turn on the TV, and the movie Easter Parade is on! I LOVE that movie/musical. It’s got Fred (Astaire) and Judy (Garland) and Ann (Miller) and lots of singing and dancing (“a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants”) and great fashion and more! That movie had me whistling and singing “Happy Easter” all day.

And what a great day it was—no snow, high about 65 degrees and sunny. Between the weather and the movie, I was tempted to laze out all day but alas, I had some Easter food to make!

Although I toyed with not making a ham, it is Easter after all and given that I used The Smithfield Cookbook it became almost mandatory that I make a ham.

Long before Paula Deen became a spokesperson for the Smithfield (ham) company, Smithfield was synonymous for country ham—hams that are hung up and dry-cured in a ham house (and by dry-cured I mean “allowed to mold”—no worries, the mold is to be removed before cooking). Actually, make that southern country ham since I don’t know of anyone or any company in the northern clime that can pull off the process like a southern ham producer. (Likely because we are usually buried in snow for a good portion of the year.)

So ham it was and once that decision was made, I decided on a glaze. I actually leaned toward one that involved cinnamon candy pieces but my husband vetoed that so we went with a basic honey orange glaze. It was good but I thought it was rather dull. (By the way, I looked for a Smithfield ham but the only one I found cost $30—ouch! Well, Paula Deen’s picture on that package isn’t free, you know!).

Since I was making a southern ham, I felt the urge to conquer a dish that I have turned my nose up on for a long, long time—grits. I do not have a fond memory of grits the way southerners do and have to say the worst I ever tasted was at a Waffle House years ago. Just the very thought…

But I’m a big girl now and so it was time to just get a grip and get them made although I must confess that in order to eat them, they needed to be cheese grits or else forget the whole deal.

And so I turned to one of my southern cookbooks and found the recipe in Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House Cookbook.

I don’t remember when I learned about Mrs. Wilkes but she was a lady who ran a boarding house in Savannah, GA for years and years until she passed away in 2002 at the age of 95. Her place is still overrun by visitors who line up to get some (by all accounts) fantastic Southern home cooking. Mrs. Wilkes’ menu lists a lineup of meats and veggies and it just cracks me up to no end that macaroni and cheese as well as cheese grits end up in the “veggie” category. That is just so southern, isn’t it?!

Now one of the downfalls of being a northern gal living in a northern climate is that it was darned difficult to find “regular” (as opposed to quick-cooking) grits as called for in the recipe. After visiting three grocery stores, I finally found Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits (bless his heart) and was off and running. (The label indicated that corn grits are also known as polenta and while that is probably true, I’m not envisioning a true-blue southerner claiming to love polenta. I’m just saying….).

And so I made my ham and had me some grits (and asparagus) and concluded Easter 2010. And in the process I think I might have been converted to liking grits (although the cheese probably didn’t hurt at all). In fact Mrs. Wilkes promises that these grits “can convert even a steadfast Yankee into a believer in this Southern staple.” Maybe a road trip is in order?

Ham with Honey Orange Glaze (submitted by The Smithfield Packing Co., Inc.)
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, defrosted
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon dry mustard

Cook your ham as directed. (Ours took 1.75 hours) During the last 15-30 minutes, combine ingredients and brush on the ham, basting several times.

Cheese Grits – serves 6 to 8
1 cup regular grits (do not use quick-cooking grits)
4 cups water
¼ cup butter
1 (6-ounce) package garlic cheese or sharp Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, beaten well
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
Cracker or dry bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the grits in the water according to the package directions. Slowly add the butter, cheese and salt. Add the egg yolks and fold in the egg whites. Pour into a greased 1 ½-quart casserole. Sprinkle cracker/bread crumbs on top. Bake for 45 minutes.