Monday, July 4, 2011

"Mmmmm - A Feastiary" & "The Rainbow Cooks" -Lemon Ribs and Potato Salad - July 4, 2011

Date I made this recipe: July 3, 2011

Mmmmm – A Feastiary by Ruth Reichl
Published by: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
© 1972
Recipe: Lemon Ribs – p. 107

The Rainbow Cooks – Soups, Salads & Specialties by The Rainbow
Published by: The Rainbow
© 1974
Recipe: Potato Salad – p. 30

People, where to begin this blog? Perhaps first with a rousing “Happy Fourth of July?” Or how about “And now a word or two…or twenty about Ruth Reichl?” Or how about a word or two about shopping for used cookbooks (now numbering 1,304…and growing)?

How about I tell you everything and call it a day?!

Let’s start with the 4th of July, a date that cries out for picnic food. I actually selected the Lemon Ribs recipe weeks ago, not necessarily for the 4th, but seeing as how I was out of town so much, and seeing as how the recipe was for ribs, it was a perfect entree for the national holiday. So perfect that meatballs dunked in a vat of this sauce might just replace my go-to holiday party meatball recipe. It was beyond yummy…or rather, Mmmmm good!

The potato salad was a last minute Hail Mary as my husband is not exactly fond of the stuff. But as I told him, it’s not the 4th of July without potato salad or baked beans (he’s not a fan of those, either) and so choose one! Period.! Wouldn’t you know, he actually liked this potato salad?! And so we had ourselves a tasty feast while, hahaha, watching (The Next) Food Network Star where they were showcasing 4th of July food—go figure!

And so on to the books!

I could write volumes about Ruth Reichl: former New York Times Restaurant Critic, former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief, author of several books, including perhaps, her most well-known book, Tender at the Bone, and as of this season, one of the judges on Top Chef Masters. But I had no idea that she wrote today’s featured book, Mmmmm – A Festiary until I made my (at that time) annual pilgrimage to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in NYC and found this tucked away on a shelf. As I am wont to do, I uttered (with almost disbelief) “Who knew?” I had no idea Ruth had written anything before Tender at the Bone. I really should get out more. (And people, can I tell you how giddy I am that I’m finally heading back to NYC this week and am practically chomping at the bit to land, already, so I can go shopping at Bonnie’s? Better news: she ships!!).

Anyway, what I especially loved was reading Ruth’s bio on the back book jacket, written long before she became mega famous: “Ruth Reichl has been a book designer, cooked for a co-op of fifty, managed a shore store, had a three-line speaking part in Z. Brought up in New York City and Norwalk, Connecticut, she attended College Marie de France in Montreal and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She now lives in New York."!! From designing books to the editor of Gourmet? I want that job trajectory!

As to the book, I absolutely love it, from the artwork to the photos to the recipes. As this book is now out of print, I feel fortunate that I nabbed it when I did but sad that some of you may have to work a bit to find it. Trust me, it’s worth the hunt.

And before I leave my unabashed adoration of Ruth (“Ruthfest 2011”), let me just say that I really loved having her as a judge on Top Chef Masters because she was critical but kind. I found myself nodding my head in agreement at her critique of the food prepared by well-know chefs and the damned thing is, I didn’t even get to taste any of it! Note to self: see about getting on the show as a guest judge….

Okay, so enough of that book and on to The Rainbow Cooks cookbook. The fact that this book was in the shape of a rainbow was what sold me although until I bought it, I had never heard of this organization – The Rainbow. But people, if you read The Rainbow Story, you’ll see that the proceeds of this book were used for The Amie Karen Cancer Fund for Children at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California. And so even though it’s years later, I still felt like I was cooking for a cause.

I found this treasure at an estate sale last October. The homeowner, an older woman who was moving to an assisted living facility, had a huge collection of cookbooks. The sale was conducted by a church organization that helped the elderly move – yet another cause I can get behind.

And speaking of charitable causes, for the past two months, I have been on the road, back and forth to Michigan, my home state, to pack up my dad’s estate and to get things ready for an estate sale. A good portion of the contents were donated to two public libraries in the area, St. Vincent DePaul’s thrift stores in the area and in Minneapolis, Arc’s Value Village thrift stores. In theory, I should just donate and run but I can’t help moseying over to the cookbook section and, well, the last trip the other day yielded 6 new cookbooks for my collection. But since all proceeds support individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families, I don’t feel guilty at all about my new “donate then shop” routine!

Okay, so, about the cookbook (yes, I know, once again I digress…), all the recipes in here sounded really good but as previously mentioned, it’s not the 4th of July with potato salad so this selection was a no-brainer. It is not heavy on the mayonnaise, and that’s good as I hate a goopy potato salad, but has a little more salt than I’m used to. Still, did that render it inedible? No. In fact, dear reader, I just polished off a small bowl of it while writing this.

Although I have no evidence to support my theory, it seems to me that you were either brought up in a “potato salad with relish added household” or you weren’t. Mine was a definite “weren’t.” Mom made hers with potatoes, celery, onions, hard-boiled eggs and radishes, topped with paprika. And okay, don’t jump on me for this, but she used Miracle Whip. It’s all we had in the house!

But I can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve seen, including this one, where pickles were added. And all I can say about the pickles in this recipe was that I wish I had added more. In fact, I wish I had more on hand but I used up all the sweet pickles (all three of them!) in the refrigerator on this recipe. Damn! Live and learn.

For fun, I bought “Teeny tiny potatoes” (yes, that’s the label) from Trader Joe’s that were about the size of a baby carrot. Cut then in two, and you had the perfect bite.

Before I conclude and get to the recipes, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Falling Rock Café in my hometown of Munising, Michigan as it has been a constant and great source of fun cookbooks for me for the past several years (I mean, who else has the Y2K Survival Guide and Cookbook or Madam Wu’s Art of Chinese Cooking cookbook??!).

Now that my dad is gone and the house is for sale, there’s no need for me to make a butt-busting 8-hour (one-way) car trip to the area and I am bereft at the thought of missing out on a stop at the café. Lucky for me (and you) they are on Amazon and Alibris so check them out! And in an “It’s a small world after all” moment, I recently discovered that Nancy, Falling Rock’s owner, and I have both shopped at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York. It’s no wonder, then, that their cookbook section is a veritable treasure trove of fun stuff. So if you happen to be in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula anytime soon (and why wouldn’t you be?), be sure to stop and shop, get a phenomenal sandwich, locally-made ice cream and a great cup of coffee and relax in one of their many comfy chairs. Trust me, all the world’s stresses will melt away in mere minutes.

So happy eating everyone and happy 4th!

Lemon Ribs – serves 4-6 (instead of 4 pounds, we used 1 and it was perfect for two people)
4 pounds spare ribs
1 can frozen lemonade
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup jelly (Ruth’s note: Try different kinds – I prefer marmalade, but apple is good as is currant. For a real treat, try chutney. Ann’s note: we used grape and it was outstanding!)
1 lemon, sliced

Parboil ribs 10 minutes. This removes most of the excess fat, but it’s not absolutely necessary, so don’t if you don’t feel like it. (Ann’s note: not only did I not feel like it but today’s meat is so devoid of any fat that parboiling them wouldn’t have rid the meat of anything! Sad—fat can be a good thing!)

Meanwhile, mix lemonade, sugar, and jelly in a pot, stir to boiling, reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes.

Place ribs in a large pan. Cover with lemon slices and brush with glaze. Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour, brushing every now and then with more glaze.

Potato Salad – serves 6
3 c. cooked, peeled potatoes, chilled, then diced
1 tsp. vinegar
1 ¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. sugar
½ c. chopped onion
¾ c. mayonnaise
2 hard boiled eggs
1 stalk celery, diced
½ c. chopped sweet gherkin pickles

Sprinkle potatoes with vinegar, salt, celery seed and sugar. Cover and refrigerate (overnight if you wish) until 1 hour before serving.

Add onion, mayonnaise, celery and chopped pickles to marinated potatoes. Coarsely chop eggs and fold in last. Garnish with paprika and parsley and refrigerate until served.

1 comment:

Dana said...

Thank you for a fun,interesting post. I found your post because I searched for "Rainbow Cooks." I am about to post a salmon mousse recipe to my new blog from "Rainbow Cooks- Hors D'oeuvre." The book was a favorite of my mother's. She was a great home cook. You have another one of her favorites- the Madame Wu's cookbook. These cookbooks are definitely oldies but goodies. If you'd like to see my post, check back soon at FoodieGoesHealthy-dot-com.