Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy" - Candice Bergen's Tortellini Salad in honor of Muppet creator, Jim Henson

Date I made this recipe:  September 28, 2014 (to celebrate Jim Henson's Birthday)

(People Weekly Presents) In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy – written and published by:  Jim Henson™, Jim Henson Publishing; People Weekly, People Magazine; Time®Life Books, Time-Life Books
ISBN:  072440-10640-6; copyright 1996
Purchased at Succotash, a very cool retro store in St. Paul – 781 Raymond Ave
Recipe:  Candice Bergen's Tortellini Salad – p. 30

So.  Miss Piggy.  One of The Muppets.  One of The Muppets on the TV show, The Muppets, a show I never watched.  Oh, I was familiar with it to be sure, but that show premiered the year I graduated from high school so.... And I never watched Sesame Street, either, which is where Muppet creator, Jim Henson, got his start.  Miss Piggy's love interest, Kermit the Frog, was one of Henson's original Sesame Street characters.  Miss Piggy though, was only on The Muppets (as well as starring on the big screen in The Muppet movies). And so I don't have much to say about Sesame Street or The Muppets although I can wax nostalgic forever  and ever about how I feel about Captain Kangaroo, my childhood hero.  I especially loved Bunny Rabbit and now that I'm older, would really kill to wear Bunny Rabbit's glasses but alas, they don't look good on me.  Anyway...

Muppet creator/puppeteer, Jim Henson's birthday was September 24, and so in his honor, I cooked from In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy cookbook.  Poor Miss Piggy – she's forever mooning over Kermit the Frog, "Kermi," as she calls him, but her love is not returned.  As Kermit knows, "It's not easy being green," and it's not easy to be the object of Miss Piggy's affection but it is darned cute to watch. 

And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Miss Piggy should be tickled to know that many years ago, one of my friends dressed up as Miss Piggy for Halloween, right down to the (pig) nose, the ears and the gloves.  I believe she also added pearls as they were a Miss Piggy fashion statement at the time.  This cookbook contains several photos of Miss Piggy along with several tidbits of advice from "Moi," as Miss Piggy calls herself.

Since Miss Piggy is uber popular, all kinds of celebrities have appeared with her on The Muppets:  Whoopie Goldberg, Katie Couric, Brooke Shields, and so on and so on and many of them also contributed to this cookbook.  This made it difficult for "moi" to choose which one to make as I didn't want to leave anybody out; Miss Piggy wouldn't.  But alas folks, I needed to choose just one and so I did – eventually.

As I said in last week's blog, the weather at this time of year makes it especially challenging to find just the right fit.  In fact, I feel like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, trying to decide which one was "too hot, too cold or just right."

For the longest time, Whoopie Goldberg's Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold soup was in the running but then time sort of ran out on the fresh vegetable cycle so I back-burned that.  Then I was stuck on Glenn Close's Chicken, Mushroom, and Barley Stew, except by the time I got around to making it, it was too hot for soup.  Samuel L. Jackson's Spinach Linguine and Ground Turkey Sauce was in the running for a brief bit but again, was beat out by the weather and so long story, short – Candice Bergen's Tortellini Salad won out.  I don't know as I ever spent so much time debating about what to make and of course, by that time, Jim Henson's birthday had come and gone.  I wish him a heavenly belated birthday.

I can see why Miss Piggy included Candice Bergen in her cookbook as Candice is a great actress, just like our Miss Piggy.  Although Candice made a name for herself in movies, and more recently, as part of the cast of Boston Legal, I loved her in the TV show, Murphy Brown.

One of the running jokes of the show was that hard-hitting newswoman, Murphy Brown, was so hard to please that she went through about a secretary a day.  Wikipedia reported that 93 secretaries came and went during the run of the show. Many a (now) famous actor and actress was one of Murphy's casualties but I do recall that she liked actor Paul Reubens (a/k/a "Pee-wee" Herman) because he always called her "Miss Brown."  In one memorable scene, reporter Frank Fontana tried to take a doughnut "Pee Wee" brought for Murphy and "Pee-wee" chastised him by saying "Is your name Miss Brown?"  (Side note:  one of the companies I used to work for also had trouble finding a receptionist at the front desk, prompting me to joke that the receptionist du jour was just another Murphy Brown secretary.) 

Out of all the episodes in the series, the two that still make me chuckle are when Murphy was a bridesmaid in Corky Sherwood Forrest's wedding (Season 2, Episodes 48 and 49:  Going to the Chapel, Parts 1 and 2) (OMG, that bridesmaids dress!) and of course, the most-well known of all the Murphy Brown episodes, Season 4, episode 26 – Birth 101.  In one scene, we return to Murphy's hospital room where, while in labor, and if memory serves, she has Frank and Miles (Silverberg, her producer) by the throat and is banging their heads up and down on the hospital bed while yelling "You son of a bitch!" After she is done with her tirade, she releases them and they fall to the floor, probably grateful to have lived to breathe another breath.  Hilarious. Even today, I cannot stop laughing every time I think of that scene, and if you ask me, and you didn't, that goes in the Candice Bergen Hall of Fame. 

As to her recipe, it was good but were I to make it again, I'd want to make some adjustments.  Generally, you cannot go wrong by boiling some tortellini, nor can you go wrong with adding vegetables to them.  Where this recipe went slightly wonky though, was in the interpretation of the following:  "Grill or broil the bell peppers, zucchini, and onion until well browned and tender."  Okay, did that.  But my broiled vegetables in no way resembled the seemingly crisp ones featured in the photo that accompanied the recipe.  I wondered about that before I set out to make the dish and here's what I think:  I think not grilling or broiling the peppers will yield just as tasty of a result as grilling or broiling them.  In fact, I contemplated using fresh vegetables but in order to be true to the recipe, I followed her directions.  The result was not bad and in fact, I kind of liked my very tender, broiled veggies but that might just be me.

As to the vinaigrette, I liked it but felt that even a quarter of a cup of oil was a tad too much.  I recommend starting with one-eighth cup and see how that works for you.

All in all, this is a fun cookbook and a fun trip down memory lane for me with Candice Bergen.  "Moi" loves Candice Bergen.  Miss Piggy also loves Candice Bergen.  Many people love Miss Piggy AND Candice Bergen.  So there you go – enjoy!

Candice Bergen's Tortellini Salad – serves 4
1 small yellow or red bell pepper, halved and seeded
1 small green bell pepper, halved and seeded
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
½ small red onion, cut into thick rings
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
¼ cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon dillweed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of sugar
1 ½ cups dried cheese-filled tortellini (about 6 ounces)
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, finely chopped

Grill or broil (Ann's Note:  Or don't!) the bell peppers, zucchini and onion until well browned and tender.  Chop them into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, place the lemon juice and zest (if using) in a large salad bowl.  Whisk in the oil, mustard, dillweed, salt, pepper, and sugar to make the vinaigrette.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the package directions.

Drain the pasta and add it to the vinaigrette.  Add the grilled vegetables, tomatoes, and scallions.  Toss well to combine.  Serve the salad warm or at room temperature.

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