Monday, August 29, 2016

"Great (Minnesota) State Fair Recipes" & "Blue Ribbon Winners - America's Best State Fair Recipes" - Chocolate Drop Cookies and German Apple Cake - It's State Fair Time!

Date I made these recipes:  August 27, 2016 – it's State Fair time here in Minnesota!

Great State Fair Recipes – A Collection of Minnesota State Fair Sweepstakes – Winning Recipes from 1906 to 1975 (spiral bound), edited by Karen Humphrey
Published by Minnesota State Agricultural Society (State Fair) and the American Daily Association of Minnesota
© 1976
Gift from a friend
Recipe:  Chocolate Drop Cookies submitted to the Fair by Mrs. Merle Robertson of Minneapolis, MN  - p. 32

Blue Ribbon Winners – America's Best State Fair Recipes by Catherine Hanley
Published by Smithmark
ISBN: 0-8317-0310-5; copyright 1993
Purchased at BCPA (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association) annual sale, 2015
Recipe:  German Apple Cake made by Joyce Dubois, submitted at the South Dakota State Fair- p. 67

Quiz time:  What phrase gets uttered more times in Minnesota in the month of August than any other?

Answer:  "So, are you going to 'The Fair'?"

'Round here, "The Fair" needs no explanation.  While county fairs and city fairs and festivals abound, there is only one big daddy and it's the Minnesota State Fair, now in its 157th year.  On average, 150,000 people per day stroll through the Fairgrounds during the Fair that starts on the last Thursday in August and ends on Labor Day.  I know people who go to the Fair every single day as well as those who go every year. 

My husband and I have been rather slow to embrace this thinking, having gone about every five years or so.  Unlike the vast majority of people who attend the Fair, we're more interested in the music than anything else and the Fair provides a lot of stages and artists from which to choose.  We're on deck to go next weekend although we haven't decided on the musical act we want to see.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my friend, Laura, asked if I wanted to go to the Fair with her this past Friday, Day 2 of the Fair, and I said "Sure, why not?  Nothing says I can't go twice!"  We had a blast.  We have similar tastes when it comes to what things to see and do and in the almost six hours we were there, we managed to put some respectable miles on our shoes.  

One of the exhibits I make sure to tour are all the craft and cooking projects in the aptly named Creative Activities Annex building.  There you will find sewing projects, needlepoint, knitting projects and other crafts and then in the back you'll see the baked goods winners, pickling and preserve winners and other related food offerings.  This year though, and I cannot believe we did this, I was so focused on finding the award-winning knitting submission from my friend, Bonnie, that I forgot to go in the back and look at the food!  Just means I have to go back and look another day.  (PS—Congratulations, Bonnie!)

To be clear, I have never entered or will enter a food competition as that job is best left to the "professionals" i.e. those individuals who have been baking and canning and submitting their treats to the Fair for years and years and years.  I've always liked how the judging is done by trained "professionals" instead of letting "America vote" as happens on popular TV competitions.  These judges know their stuff and can tell in a nanosecond if someone's bread or rolls didn't rise (mine don't rise) and so there's no sense subjecting my offerings to these judges. "pre-emptive self-elimination" is the way to go, folks, and for that, I am sure the judges thanked me.

In fact, I tend to live my life by this (very real) motto:  "Why do for yourself when you can pay others to do for you?" And this is exactly why I would rather spend money on purchasing and then using cookbooks by award-winning state fair bakers than trying to create a special something on my own. 

Happily this year, I have two such cookbooks that fit the bill nicely and both of them contain recipes from state fairs around the country.  Both books pretty much have the same table of content that mirrors state fair categories:  "Pies and Pastries;" "Family & Party Cakes;" "Yeast Breads;" "Quick Breads;" "Special Cookies;" "Candies and Snacks; "Sweet Spreads (your jams and jellies)," and "Pickles and Condiments."  And no, the sweet stuff does not really go with your pickled stuff but these are state fair rules and so by god, we are following them!

The Great State Fair Recipes cookbook (collection of Minnesota sweepstakes winners from 1906 to 1975) also features award-winning recipes from these historic years:  1906, 1927, 1939, 1949, and 1962.  A little history recap is provided for each historic year and this is how I was reminded that the "March King" a/k/a John Philip Sousa was the 1927 opening day attraction.  According to the recap, JPS was approached by the U of MN to compose a march for the university and that is how the Minnesota March came into being:  "March on, march on to victory!/ Loyal sons of the varsity/ Fight on, fight on for Minnesota/ And the glory of the old maroon and gold...."  I played this piece so many times while in my community band that I have my clarinet part memorized. This march is now part of the standard repertoire played by the University of Minnesota Marching Band at every pep rally, game, or performance, including the Minnesota State Fair. (Small disclosure:  although I do not root, root, root, for the U of MN teams, I do love marching bands and did love playing all the U of MN fight songs while in community band.)

Also notable and slightly off point:  JPS was also commissioned to write the Foshay Tower Memorial March in honor of the opening on the (then) tallest building in Minneapolis, the Foshay Tower.  There is a long story behind this piece and in the interest of time, I won't bring you down that road but it's a great march and one I even conducted once with my community band.

At any rate, this cookbook is pretty fun and all the recipes sounded great.  The one that "sold" me though, was Chocolate Drop Cookies.  Aside from being something even I could bake without fear, I love it when cookbooks contain hand-written notes such as this:  "Very, very good.  1986." I don't know who wrote this next to the chocolate cookie recipe but that is what sealed the deal for me.  A second note also said "Chocolate is very mild!"  I have no idea if that was a good thing or a bad thing but there you have it.

As to the second recipe book – Blue Ribbon Winners – this book contains recipes from state fairs across the United States and I tell you what, selecting a recipe to make from this book was no easy feat. I looked over everything, paused for quite some time on the candy section (divinity—yum!) and even considered, albeit briefly, making some canned items even though I have not one piece of equipment to properly do so – (small detail).  In the end, I tagged about five recipes, one of which was Marjorie Johnson's "Jelly Roll" (a word on that in a minute) before deciding on the German Apple Cake.  I like apples, I have a little bit of German in me, and I was in the mood for another taste sensation besides chocolate...not that there's anything wrong with chocolate.  (There is NOTHING wrong with chocolate.  Ever.)

So German Apple Cake it was but first, a word on master baker, Marjorie Johnson, from Robbinsdale, MN.  And while once upon a time, nobody knew who Marjorie was, this woman has won so many ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair (over, 2500, of which 1,000 were blue ribbons) that she attracted the attention of national talk shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  Besides being a highly-decorated baking contest winner, Marjorie (whom I met and have talked to) is a delightful talk-show guest because she has a great personality that is packed into her very petite 4' 8" frame.  The only reason that Marjorie does not stand out in a crowd is because she disappears! 

Although Marjorie has "retired" from competitive baking (no doubt a sigh of relief was heard by her competition around the state), she is still up for making appearances at the Minnesota State Fair this year.

Now Marjorie's "Jelly Roll" recipe doesn't seem hard but jelly rolls can be tricky and it would be most unfair of me to "ding" Marjorie because of my failure to come up with something that even approximates a jelly roll, never mind a blue ribbon appearance.  And since I could about bet the farm(!) that my efforts would fail, I settled on the German Apple Cake and I was not disappointed.

Both of these recipes "halved" very easily which is a good thing as I would rather savor a small batch of cookies and cakes rather than freeze the leftovers or worse, toss them out after swearing a week later that I could not eat another bite.

And so bakers or aspiring bakers, if you're feeling in a State Fair kind of mood, check out these recipes and these cookbooks and have at it.  I managed to time the making of these on a cool and rainy Saturday and they were the perfect thing to motivate me to stay in the kitchen which, despite all my cooking, is still something of a rare occurrence.  When the weather's warm out, I'd rather be outside soaking up the sun while I can. 

And finally, and apropos to nothing discussed above, since I am a musician, I often have ear worms running through my head at all times and it's often music to fit the occasion.  In my last blog post about the Olympics, I mentioned a few tunes about Rio or Brazil that came to mind.  This time around, here are some State Fair favorites.

From the movie State Fair (1962, starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margret) there's the song of the same name – State Fair – written for the musical and movie by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.  And how can you not like these lyrics:  :  "Our State Fair is a great state fair is a great is a great is a great state fair hey!" (Love the "hey!"  It just pulls it all together.), not to mention "It's dollars to doughnuts that our state fair is the best state fair in our state."  I mean, I use the term "dollars to doughnuts" all the time but I'm old!  Older than this movie "old."  And as long as I'm at it:  of course "your" state fair is the best STATE fair in the "YOUR" ("OUR") state.  What else could it be?  But, and with all due respect to Rodgers and Hammerstein, this movie is really hokey and not one of their best and so there you go.

Not all the music from State Fair was that ridiculous though.   The movie also contained two other songs that I love and that I used to play on piano:  "It Might as Well be Spring," and "It's A Grand Night for Singing."  (Shall I just tell you though, that once I get past "It's. A. Graaaaannnnd. Night for signing..." I'm rather lost when it comes to the lyrics?  I can still envision the piano part but after the first line, I've got nothin'.)

From the musical/movie Camelot, written by Lerner and Lowe, we have the song "Then You May Take Me to the Fair."  This song, sung by Julie Andrews (on Broadway), is rather amusing and it still makes me laugh to hear it.  This is the lyric that sticks the most:  "Then you may take me to the fair, if you do all the things you promised/In fact, my heart would break should you not take me to the fair!" 

Finally, and a bit more contemporary, there's Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair," a tune my glee club sang while I was in high school.  I can still remember my part when singing the lyrics (which I hope you know!):  "Are you going to Scarborough Fair/Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme/Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine."

Oh sniffle.  I love this song, love Simon and Garfunkel, love, love, love.

And now, bake to baking!  Your recipes await below:

Chocolate Drop Cookies – makes 36 cookies - Recipe submitted by Mrs. Merle Robertson of Minneapolis, MN

Ann's NOTE:  Mrs. Robertson says to frost these cookies with chocolate butter frosting while they are very warm,  but she did not provide a recipe.  And when I Googled one online, I found I did not have all the ingredients to make chocolate buttercream frosting, so we ate them without and they were fine.  Frosting though, would probably make them sensational.

½ cup shortening
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk
1 2/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon soda
½ cup chopped nuts

In a small saucepan, melt shortening and chocolate.  Cool.  Beat egg; stir in sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Add chocolate mixture and mix well.  To this add alternately the milk and flour-soda mixture.  Stir well.  Add chopped nuts.  Drop from teaspoon to ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes.  While still slightly warm, frost cookies with chocolate butter frosting.

Ann's Note:  I was in a hardware store the other day, when I spotted this dinky little measuring cup, meant for ¼ cup or less.  I love gadgets like this so I bought it and I used it to "halve" the egg needed to make a half recipe of the cake.  It was perfect, just perfect, and now I want to go get a few more.  And by the way, if a recipe calls for half an egg, simply crack an egg into a measuring cup (yield is about ¼ cup), stir it to mix, and then use only half of that mixture.  The dinky little measuring cup helps a lot.

Also, if you Google "Chocolate Buttercream Frosting" (a/k/a Chocolate Butter Frosting), you'll find endless recipes for that frosting.  And if another type of frosting is more to your liking, then run with that.

German Apple Cake – makes one 9 x 13" cake - Recipe from Joyce Dubois from Wolsey, South Dakota, submitted to the South Dakota State Fair.  According to her bio, she started submitting recipes around 1968 and entered (at the time the book was published) about 100 items (not all of them cooking items) to the State Fair each year.

2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 cups finely chopped apples
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).  Great a 13" x 9" baking pan.  In a large bowl, beat eggs, oil and vanilla; gradually eat in sugar until mixture is thick and creamy.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a medium-size bowl.  Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, stirring until well blended.  Fold in apples and walnuts.  Spoon into greased pan.  Bake in preheated oven about 45 minutes or until cake has started to pull away from sides of pan and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  Sever slightly warm or cool.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Olympic Food Part 3 - "The Food of Portugal" - Pork with Clams Alentejo-Style (practically a national dish!)

Date I made this recipe:  August 21, 2016 – closing day of the Rio Olympics

The Food of Portugal by Jean Anderson
Published by:  William Morrow and Company, Inc.
© 1986
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, NYC
Recipe:  Pork with Clams Alentejo-Style (Porco a Alentejana)

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I sense a lot of nose-wrinkling going on out there after reading what's in this recipe.  Pork and...what?  Clams?

Yes, clams.  And I hear you:  when Andy and I were in Portugal and first saw this dish on the menu, we had the same reaction.  But we forged ahead into the unknown and this dish remains one of the best things we've ever eaten.  And that's saying a lot as we've traveled through 10 European countries and most of the United States.

So let me fast forward to the end result here and tell you that the dish I made at home was everything we remembered and more.  It is just so delicious, it's scary.  And since Portuguese sailors "founded" Brazil and Brazilians speak Portuguese instead of Spanish, I thought it fitting to end my Olympic cooking trials with a Portuguese dish.  And this is because...

...  in 1993, Andy and I went to Spain and Portugal for vacation.  We drove into Portugal after a couple of sleepless nights in Spain (when Spaniards tell you that they party into the night, believe them) and just fell in love with the country, especially Lisbon, mostly because we caught up on sleep.  (Our itinerary was a few days in Spain, starting at Madrid, then into Portugal, then back into Spain (no sleep) and then after a refreshing and rejuvenating trip to Gibraltar and the Rock of, back through the south of Spain to Madrid.)

While in Portugal, we sampled delicious tapas (far cheaper than Spain) and then the pork and clams and fell so in love with this dish that we ordered it any time we could.  The Portuguese dish came with lots of clams but I erred on the side of fewer clams for my dish since clams do not reheat well.  I should not have worried as we ate the entire dish in one sitting; it helped that I made half the recipe.

I first saw this cookbook at my public library, checked it out so I could see if it contained my pork and clams recipe – it did -  and then put it on my list of books to buy.  When I found it at one of my favorite bookstores, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in NYC, I felt like I struck gold. 

Now I knew going in that I was going to make the pork and clams and only the pork and clams from this cookbook but you are welcome to try other recipes in this book if you want (many include pork or other seafood).  This recipe though, is the real deal and   although I don't think it's the national dish of Portugal, it comes close.

You should know though, that in order for this dish to work, you must marinate it overnight in a "Massa de Pimentão" (red pepper sauce) or you can substitute  paste of garlic, salt, paprika and olive oil.  Since I made half the recipe, the latter substitute paste made sense (but even then, halve those ingredients).  I suspect though, that the dishes we had in Portugal were made with the "Massa de Pimentão," which requires you to seed and then cut into strips 8 sweet red peppers, let them sit at room temperature for 12 hours and then roast for 2 – 2 ½ hours.  Whichever one you choose, the flavors are sensational and the pork is so tender it's ridiculous. 

The biggest "hazard" with this dish was adjusting the cooking times.  The recipe said you need 20 minutes to steam the onions and garlic but given that I made half the recipe, I should have checked back in 10 as I nearly incinerated my mixture (I saved it just in time).  I cooked the pork as directed for 1 ½ hours but think I could have cut that in half, and the clams did not need the 30 minutes as directed although no harm befell the clams for having steamed that long.  My advice for making half the recipe is to check as you go.

So thus endeth the Olympic games and our voyeuristic viewing of all Olympic events, big and small (or at least the ones NBC showed us) and as always, that made us sad.  I thought Rio's Olympic torch design was the coolest thing ever (I want a mini one for my house) and that Rio did a great job as host.  I also loved the daily shots of Copacabana Beach ("Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl..." from Copacabana by Barry Manilow) and who knows,  Andy and I might go there some day.  If we don't, then Portugal is an acceptable silver-medal "winner." 

The only challenge, but we have plenty of time to prepare for a Brazilian visit, is that we'd have to work on the language. Speaking Portuguese is not for the faint of heart.  It's a combination of Spanish and French that sounds Russian—or at least it did to our ear.  If we spoke Spanish or French or interchanged words while in Portugal, we were usually understood, but trying to understand what they said back to us was another story.  Oh well!  ("Ah Bem!").  We shall try our best to be somewhat conversant whether in Portugal or Brazil.  Of course, the next summer games are in Tokyo so perhaps it's time to practice our Japanese? Yes? ("Hai")

And now, one of the best things I've ever eaten:

Pork with Clams Alentejo-Style – makes 6 servings – Ann's Note:  requires 24-48 hours of prep time
2 ½ pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons Massa de Pimentão (page 90 – also below) or, if you prefer, a paste made of 1 peeled and crushed garlic clove, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon paprika (preferably the Hungarian sweet rose paprika), and 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine (Ann's Note:  a half recipe required only ½ cup but that is too little and your mixture will dry out and burn.  I just kept adding until I felt I had enough liquid to steam the clams.  Couldn't hurt, might help!)
2 large bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lard (hog lard, not vegetable shortening)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons littleneck clams in the shell, scrubbed well and purged of grit. (To do this, cover the clams with cold water, add 1 tablespoon cornmeal, let stand at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes, then drain well.)
¼ teaspoon salt (about)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper (about)
If using the massa substitute: (Ann's Note:  if you make half the recipe, make half of this mixture)
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
If using the Massa de Pimentão: (recipe to follow)
8 medium sweet red peppers
2 tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/3 cup olive oil

Ann's Note:  This recipe requires you to marinate the pork overnight in either the garlic/salt/paprika and oil mixture OR the Massa De Pimentão.  The Massa is not hard to make but it does require 12 hours of prep time at minimum and then 2 hours of cooking time.  And this is why I used the shortcut!  But if you want an authentic marinade and have the time, then follow the Massa de Pimentão recipe below (yields 1 ¼ cups).

Wash, core, seed, and cut lengthwise into strips about 1-inch wide your 8 medium peppers.  Arrange a layer of pepper strips in the bottom of a shallow bowl no more than 9 inches in diameter; sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon of the salt; now add 7 more layers of pepper strips, sprinkling each with ¾ teaspoon salt.  Let stand uncovered at room temperature for at least 12 hours.  Drain off excess liquid.

Turn on the oven to Warm (250-275).  Place the bowl of peppers, still uncovered, in the oven and roast 2 to 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, until all the juices have been absorbed.  Remove the peppers from the oven and cool to room temperature.  Now peel the skin from each pepper strip and discard. 

Place the garlic and pepper strips in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade or in an electric blender cup and add about half the oil; buzz nonstop about 30 seconds, scrape down the work bowl sides, and buzz 30 seconds longer.  Now with the motor running, drizzle enough of the remaining oil to make a paste slightly softer than whipped butter.  Churn 60 seconds nonstop until absolutely smooth.  [Author's] Note:  If you have neither food processor nor blender, you'll have to grind the garlic and peppers to paste as the Portuguese women do – with a mortar and pestle.  You must then add the olive oil very slowly, drop by drop at first, beating hard to incorporate.

Transfer the red pepper paste to a small jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator.  Dip into the paste as needed, letting whatever you remove from the jar come to room temperature before using.

To make the pork and clams:
Rub the pieces of pork well all over with the Massa de Pimentão and place in a large, shallow nonmetallic bowl; add the wine and bay leaves, cover, and marinate about 24 hours, turning the pork occasionally in the wine.

Next day, heat the olive oil and lard in a large heavy kettle over high heat until ripples appear on the kettle bottom—the fat should almost smoke.  Life the pork from the marinade (save the marinade to add to the kettle later) and brown in the three batches, transferring pieces to a large heat-proof bowl as they brown.  When all the pork is brown, dump the onion and garlic into the kettle, lower the heat to moderate, and stir-fry 3 to 4 minutes until limp and golden.  Turn the heat to low, cover the kettle, and steam the onion and garlic 20 minutes.  Ann's Note:  I almost incinerated my mixture so 20 minutes was too long for me.  I advise checking it after 10 minutes to see you fare, especially if you halve the recipe like I did.

Blend in the tomato paste and reserved wine marinade, return the pork to the kettle, adjust the heat so that the wine mixture barely bubbles, then cover and cook 1 ½ hours until the pork is fork-tender.  Ann's Note:  you should plan to add more wine as you go as what is leftover from the marinade is not enough.  Also, check after 45 minutes to see how the meat is doing.  If it's done, continue with the next steps.

Now bring the kettle liquid to a gentle boil, lay the clams on top of the pork, distributing them as evenly as possible, re-cover, and cook about 30 minutes – just until the clams open, spilling their juices.  Ann's Note:  check back after 15.

Ann's Note:  the author advises serving this with crusty bread, but in Portugal, this was always served with delicious steak fries.

Olympic Food Part 2 - "'Round the World Cooking Library, Latin American Cooking" - Brazilian Chicken Soup

Date I made this recipe:  August 17, 2016 – the Olympics, continued

'Round the World Cooking Library – Latin American Cooking – Recipe contributions by Susan Bensusan
Published by 'Round the World Books Inc.
© 1973
Purchased at Barnes and Noble Used Books – Roseville, MN
Recipe: Chicken Soup (Canja) – p. 21

So the Olympics continue (we are now up to track and field) and the race (pun intended) was on to find a Brazilian cookbook.  I could have sworn I had one but it turns out that all I have are a few Latin American cookbooks that include Brazil.  Well, some is better than none, right?

Recently, a cousin asked me what places I have traveled to (I have traveled a lot) and South America/Latin America and Brazil still remain on the "to do" list.  But I have been to Portugal, and Portuguese sailors were the ones who settled in Brazil so that counts, right?  (I'll discuss Portugal in my next post.) 

Since I am a singer and a musician, I had several "Brazilian" song ear-worms running through my brain during this time.  First was the song I mentioned in my previous blog, "I Go To Rio," but this next one is probably the granddaddy of them all – "Brazil" -composed in 1939 by Brazilian Ary Barroso, and made famous by several people including Frank Sinatra, Xavier Cugat and Antonio Carlos Jobim, whose other hit, "Girl from Ipanema," remains extremely popular world-wide.  I don't think anybody would care if I did a little samba (dancing) while in my kitchen, would they?  No.  Final answer.

Because of that Portuguese influence, Brazilian food differs slightly from the rest of South America but this recipe for Chicken Soup is not one that goes too far off course from what we in North America know.  This soup though, uses onions, leeks, and chives and I cannot say I've ever seen chives used in a chicken soup recipe before but I liked it and all the flavors blended well together.

Actually locating the soup recipe in this cookbook though, was no easy feat. Recipes are first listed by name in alphabetical order in English and so you'll see "Almond pudding (Mexico);" "Almond sauce (Mexico);" "Avocado dip (Mexico)" and so on.  The list repeats in Spanish and then recipes are broken out by type of dish and so, for example, soups are listed as follows:  "Avocado soup (Mexico);" "Barley Soup" (Columbia); "Bean Soup (Mexico);" "Black Bean Soup (Venezuela)" and so on.  And so finding all the Brazilian dishes for further consideration took a minute or two but the search was rather fun.

Happily for you then, the list contains quite a few Brazilian entrees, salads (lots of salad), soups, sauces (can I just say I was surprised to see a recipe for Brazilian "curry sauce?"),
tortillas/pancakes, and so on, so if soup doesn't do it for you, something else might.

Brazil's most famous dish – feijoada, i.e. " black bean stew" – was also included but I passed on making it as the first ingredient up was "smoked beef tongue."  I probably could have left it out but then I would have also needed carne seca (dried beef), and two pounds linguiça, a Brazilian/Portuguese sausage.  I could have substituted chorizo for the linguiça but decided to scrub the entire thing.  (But then I found out that a St. Paul butcher shop called – appropriately – Meat Shop – is going to start offering linguiça this coming week – hooray!) (Still not making feijoada though.)

By the way, the weather cooled off and became rainy when I made this soup and so thanks to Mother Nature for cooperating on that front.

Let me also add that this cookbook is part of a series – 'Round the World Cooking – which I have been slowly but surely collecting.  Right now, I have five of the 16 cookbooks in this grouping.  A collector's job never ends.

As to the recipe, please note the following:
1)     I erred on the side of under-salting rather than over-salting the soup but even so, I thought this dish was a little bland.  Not a lot, just a little.  You can fix that easily with your own salt and pepper shakers.
2)     My rice came close to being too mushy.  It didn't matter in the least when eating it, but I just wanted to put that out there.  The recipe says "20 minutes" but that is too long.  Check as you go.
3)     By the time this dish was done, there was hardly any broth and so there went the "soup" portion of our program.  No worries—just add water when you reheat the leftovers.
4)     The carrots I used were purchased that day and they added a sweetness that I loved to this dish.
5)     The onion/leek/chive combo was interesting but man, those leeks made my kitchen smell all night and into the next day.  Oh well, if the recipe calls for them, the recipe calls for them!

"But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...."

"Coma bem!" ("Eat well")

Chicken Soup (Canja) – 4 to 6 servings
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 (2 ½ pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces
6 cups water
1 sprig parsley
2 carrots, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup rice
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped

Heat the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until softened.  Add the chicken pieces and sauté until lightly browned on all sides.  Add the water, parsley, carrots, leek, chives, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer 35 to 40 minutes until the chicken is tender.  Strain the broth into a clean saucepan and skim off the fat.  Remove the skin and bones of the chicken and cut meat into 2-inch pieces.  Bring the broth to a boil.  Add the rice and stir once with a fork.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.  (Ann's Note:  at 20 minutes, my rice was nearly mush.  I say check back in 10 minutes and then work in 5-minute increments.)  Add the chicken meat and cook 5 minutes more.  Stir in the tomato and serve.

Olympic Food Part 1 - "The Kraft Official U.S. Training Table Cookbook (1992)" & "The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cooking" - summer salads

Date I made these recipes:  August 14, 2016

Kraft Official U.S. Olympic Training Table Cookbook (1992 Olympics) by Kraft Creative Kitchens
Published by Kraft General Foods
© 1992
Purchased at BCPA (Bloomington [MN] Crime Prevention Association) annual sale
Recipe:  Decathlon Macaroni Salad – p. 35

The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cooking  (New Edition) by Dimitri Haitalis
Publisher unknown (self-published?)
© 2000
Purchased at an estate sale
Recipe:  Country Greek Salad (Salta Horiatiki) – p. 48

"When my baby.  When my baby smiles at me I go to Rio.  De Janeiro.  My oh me oh..."
(from the song, I Go To Rio)

Folks, here are two words that always warm my heart: "Summer" and "Olympics. "   Even though our summer is running short on time, I do love warm weather and love sports so this is the best of both worlds.

Except that technically, it's winter in Brazil, this year's host country.  I think we need to redefine "winter" though because apparently, those poor souls are freezing to death down there right now in 86 degree temperatures.  Life is so cruel. 

And so with the onset of the Olympics, my mind turns once again to what food(s) to make to celebrate these "thrill of victory, the agony of defeat" moments (apologies to ABC's Wide World of Sports for stealing their line.)

But first, of course, let's talk about the sporting events.  I'll start!

Gymnastics:  In many ways, watching gymnastics is a little like watching a horror movie i.e. "I. can't. watch."  These men and women are just flying through the air ("with the greatest of ease...") and I fear for them every time they land back on planet earth. 

And the balance beam?  Well that's just insane.  In junior high, our PE teacher brought out a balance beam that was all of two inches (maybe) off the floor for us to try out and right then and there, I knew gymnastics was not for me as moving on that thing is harder then it looks.  That mini beam (the gymnastic equivalent of a Shetland pony) was as close as we all got to experiencing gymnastics and that is just fine by me.  No need for the parents to stock up on leotards or shore up my life insurance/disability policies.

But speaking of gymnastics, I'll have you know I did a mean dismount from my couch to the living room floor several times during our Olympic viewing.  Per my husband:  "Nailed it!"

Track and Field:  in 6th grade, my school participated in track and field exercises and there went another event to scratch off my "To Do" list.

Look, I can run (barely) but I cannot run a decent Olympic time, nor a world record time, nor any time really.  And when you look at the times posted by the men and women in the track portion of our program, it's best that I stick to my regularly-scheduled laziness and leave it up to the Olympic professionals.  That said, I do excel in walking.

As to other Olympic track and events, oh please:  I would likely stab myself with my own javelin, break the pole in the pole vault, and cause serious injury to myself and others in the shot put.  I tried hurdles a couple of times and ended up wearing a hurdle like I would wear a cowl neck so that was the end of that.

Equestrian:  Although I've ridden smaller ponies and quarter horses in my day, I have never been on a full-size horse nor do I intend to (they scare me).  And so being on a horse and jumping over things like water hazards and poles and cement mixers (wait—I was mixing that up with monster truck rallies) and whatnot (it's like being on a golf course, only not), is out.  But my gosh, the sight of those beautiful horses clearing the hazards in the jumping event is outstanding. 

 I watched a lot of volleyball and basketball during the Olympics but again, these are not the sports for me.  I would no doubt sustain a permanent crick in my neck from volleyball and as to basketball, let's say  that while in gym class, I "traveled" more miles on the court than I probably did on any of my family road trips.  And I am really, really bad at shooting hoops.  Really.  And so, we must scratch those.

Which brings us to the one sport I do well and that has the smallest probability for injury: swimming

I may have mentioned before that I was on my high school swim team for the two short years it was in existence, but it's worth another looksee, is it not?  Besides, I'll only be talking about it every four years or so.

So.  After Title IX was enacted, my school formed a bunch of women's sports teams of which swimming was one.  By the way, the purpose of Title IX was to guarantee an equal opportunity to participate in college sports.  But many schools, high school and college, decided to go whole hog and set up women's sports teams.  Not that they funded them, mind you, they just created them.  Like a lot of teams, we got next to zero money, zero uniforms and with my tennis team, carpooled to meets.  We've come a long way, baby, yet not far enough.

 Anyway, since our school was old, our pool was also old and non-regulation which made for interesting swim practices as we had to swim at least twice the laps to ensure we could swim the regulation length of other school's pools.  And since our pool had a shallow end, we could not practice flip turns and so got permission to do a modified turn during meets.  I actually learned how to do a flip turn in, of all places, a pool at a motel (not hotel) in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where my family and I stayed if we went down for the weekend.

For two years during my sophomore and junior years, we managed to cobble together a group of swimmers and somehow managed to do respectfully well against bigger schools (Class A or B to our "barely" C) and against bigger athletes.  But then the school decided to close the pool and so we became "the swim team that wasn't" and that ended that.  (Happily, women's sports is now thriving at my old alma mater.)

Since everybody and their mother on a swim team normally prefers the freestyle events, our coach had to divvy us up between the other swim strokes and so I was assigned the backstroke.  I didn't mind it and was actually not half bad at it, but I was always happy to be a part of the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, swum toward the end of our swim meets. 

And so fast forward to this Olympics when I found myself at the edge of my seat instead of the edge of the pool, cheering on American swimmers to the finish line.  Their winning times put mine to shame as they normally did in two or more laps what I did in one but let me remind you that was eons ago and "times" have actually changed!

Also, and this is not necessarily a bragging point, swimming in a green pool or a green dive tank may have been new to most Rio Olympians but not new to me.  Our pool was so old it often had filter problems causing (green) algae blooms, and no amount of complaining to our PE teachers got us out of the swimming portion of our PE class.  Ew.  Double ew.  But hey, I am still standing today, no worse for the wear (I think???)

And so to the recipes!  Since the weather has been on the warmish side, I decided to make up a few salads, one from the Kraft Official U.S. Olympic Training Table Cookbook, and the other, a Greek salad, from a Greek cookbook as a nod to the country that held the very first Olympics – Opa!

The Kraft cookbook (really, more of a booklet) is interesting because it was printed in 1992 when the summer and the winter Olympics were held in the same year and so it featured athletes and recipes from both winter and summer sports.  In 1994 though, the winter Olympics were held separately, starting the trend we now see of summer and winter games alternating every two years.  The last winter Olympics were held in 2014 and in 2018 will be held in Korea and then in China in 2022. (Wow—that number gave me pause!)  The next summer Olympics then, will be in 2020 in Tokyo.  So there you have it, and please mark your calendars accordingly.

Although the Kraft Olympic cookbook features summer and winter sports, it seems slightly skewed to summer sports (again—who doesn't love summer?).  Marathon runner, Joan Benoit, is featured on the cover, and track and field star, Valerie Brisco (now Valerie Brisco-Hooks) (200 and 400-meter run), is pictured inside as is U.S. diver, Ellen McGrath Owen. Featured winter sports athletes were  ice skating star, Kristi Yamaguchi, skier Bill Hudson, and speed skater, Bonnie Blair.  And recipes in this book were often given the name of one of the Olympic events, such as "Pole Vault Pepper Steak" or my featured recipe, "Decathlon Macaroni Salad."

This cookbook was fun.  A little outdated, of course, but fun.   And of course, all recipes are heavy on Kraft products usage:  Velveeta lives on! And they are also on the healthy side (Velveeta excepted) as you would expect but that's okay.  My sport – couch-sitting -  (the least-talked about Olympic sport ever) still requires me to keep an eye toward healthy meals as I get in shape for my every-four-years (two with the winter rotation) Olympic trials.  I do so hope I make the team next time – finger's crossed!

The recipes in the Greek cookbook were also medal-worthy even though I only selected one.  In hot contention for a while was "Macaroni with Leeks in the Oven" (p. 99) but that "in the oven" part disqualified it.  Just before I made these recipes, I returned from a very fun but very hot and humid family wedding in Galveston, Texas and I was in no mood to bake anything.  This, of course, left out a lot more recipes in this book but this Greek Salad was refreshing as all get out and paired well with the Decathlon Macaroni Salad.

So here you go, part 1 of 3 of my celebration of the Rio Olympics.

Decathlon Macaroni Salad – makes 8 servings
1 package (14 ounces) KRAFT Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup KRAFT Real Mayonnaise
¼ cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons CLAUSSEN Fresh Pickle Relish, drained (Ann's Note:  the recipe doesn't say whether to use dill pickle relish or sweet pickle relish.  I used dill this time around.)
2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Dash salt

Prepare Dinner as directed on package.  Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly.  Refrigerate.

Ann's Note:  This dish was almost too crunchy for me!  I liked all the chopped ingredients but it was hard to pick up the other flavors like the mac and cheese.

Country Greek Salad – 5 to 6 servings
3-4 tomatoes
2 medium-sized cucumbers
1 onion, sliced (Ann's Note:  I used white onion that I had on hand)
150 grams (5 oz) black olives
2 medium-sized green peppers, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
200 grams (7 oz) Feta cheese

Wash and slice the tomatoes in quarters and place them in a bowl.  Add the cucumber, sliced, the peppers and the black olives.  Dress the salad with the vinegar, the olive oil, salt and oregano.  Add the Feta cheese, cut into chunks and serve.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"Paul Bocuse In Your Kitchen;" "The Culinary Cyclist;" "You Can Do Anything With Crepes" - food for the Tour de France

Date I made these recipes:  July 24, 2016 – the end of the Tour de France          

Paul Bocuse in Your Kitchen – An Introduction to Classic French Cooking by Paul Bocuse; translated, adapted, and with editors' notes by Philip and Mary Hyman
Published by:  Pantheon Books
© 1982
Purchased at Bloomington Crime Prevention Association (BCPA) Sale 2016
Recipe:  Bayaldi – p. 280 (similar to Ratatouille but layered like a casserole)

The Culinary Cyclist – A Cookbook and Companion for the Good Life by Anna Brones (vegetarian/Gluten-free)
Published by:  Taking the Lane / Elly Blue Publishing
Purchased at Kona Bay Books, Kona, Hawaii
Recipe:  Tapenade – p. 66

You Can Do Anything With Crepes – as Appetizers, Main Courses, Desserts by Virginia Pasley and Jane Green
Published by Simon and Schuster
© 1970
Purchased at Etsy
Recipe:  Cocoa Crepes – p. 34

Well folks, today the three-week-long Tour de France (bicycle competition) ended – "enfin" (French for "finally") - and as is usual and customary, we are celebrating our return to normalcy (plus the return of the remote to me) with French food.  This celebration also let's me sneak in a nod to Bastille Day (July 14th) which I missed as I was busy with other maybe watching the Tour?

Even though I am not the bicyclist my husband is (well, true confession:  I don't bicycle at all), I enjoy watching the Tour as they often ride through parts of France and Spain that we have visited.  This year, the guys were all back on Mount Ventoux and I have the most hilarious memories of a car trip up that mountain with my friend and travel companion on that trip, Susan, and my French friend's grandparents who drove us around France for the day.  

Quick backstory:  In the summer of 1988, my French friend, Edith (pronounced Ay-Deet) and her French step-grandmother, Marcelle, stopped to visit me while on a cross-country trip through the United States.  My friend, Susan, who spoke fluent French, spent a lot of time with us, and at the end of their trip, they invited me and Susan to visit in the fall.  Well, bien sur (of course) right? You should know that although I minored in Spanish in college, I also learned some French and spoke it pretty well.  That said, it pays to have someone fluent along for the ride and so – Susan!   This is especially true in Provence where Edith lives as the Provencal accent takes some getting used to.

And so, the ride.  Edit charged her grandparents with keeping me and Susan occupied one day when she had to work and so that is how we ended up sightseeing on Mount Ventoux, the same mountain that the Tour riders go up and down during their three weeks on the road.  Mount Ventoux can be a little challenging in a car with a lot of switchbacks (and a lot more challenging on a bike) but still folks.  Still.  Cars make it up and down this thing without incident every years except for ours.

Now since I believe I repeat this story every Tour, I'll spare you the details (especially since we still have no idea how this happened) except to say that when grand-pere rounded a wicked corner, Susan somehow, inexplicably ended up practically on top of me with her feet stuck under the front passenger seat. (And no, she was not wearing her seatbelt thus, the problem.)  Grand-pere had to pull over he (and we) was laughing so hard.  I have often said that the entire trip to Paris and then Provence could have been dubbed "Lucy and Ethel go to France."  That should tell you something.  (PS—after that hilarious ride, we went back to the grandparents' house for a midday meal with wine.  Lots and lots of wine.  I don't know what it says about me that I went glass for glass with grand-pere, who kept filling up my glass with quite the challenging twinkle in his eye, but there it is.)

And so every year like clockwork, I evaluate my French cookbooks, pull a few off the shelf, select the recipes and get to work.  Those books not selected go back on the shelf until next year's Tour is upon us.  So let's talk about the books I used this year.

Book number one – Paul Bocuse In Your Kitchen – is the second Paul Bocuse book I've used.  I made "Soup au Pistou" (similar to Minestrone) for last year's Tour from  Bocuse's Regional French Cooking and it was delicious.  This year, I had another hankering for vegetables and so made Bayaldi, a Turkish dish that is similar to  the famous Provencal dish, Ratatouille in that it uses some of the same vegetables; this dish is layered with zucchini, eggplant, onions and tomatoes.  Although Swiss cheese can be added on top, I went with Bocuse's alternative, olive oil, as a topping.  My only issue with this dish and it is minor, is that I ended up making 3x the spice mixture called for in this recipe as his amounts did not make enough.  Well, at least not in my humble and decidedly non-French opinion.

I liked this cookbook because it offered a wide range of fun French dishes, some of which were better suited to fall or winter, but others perfect for spring and summer.  The instructions, which were translated from French, were not too bad although I had a few "moments" with these instructions just because they were kind of clunky—very similar to how I speak French! 

While the French cookbook had a great range of recipes, I was somewhat challenged to find something I liked in the tiny tome, The Culinary Cyclist.  The book focuses mainly on vegetarian and gluten-free dishes and while there is nothing wrong with that, I was just not into buying a few ingredients that I would never use again just to make a few dishes.  As an example, the recipe for "Dutch Apple Pie with Cardamom" requires sorghum flour, rice flour, almond meal and xanthan gum so I ruled that out.  Some recipes were more doable but didn't float my boat, such as "The Perfect quinoa Picnic Salad with Mustard Citrus Vinaigrette."  And for the longest time, "Gluten Free Olive Oil and Polenta Cake" was in the running until I just decided it was too boring and went instead with the Tapenade recipe two pages over.

This recipe would have been a hit with me had it not tasted so salty but Andy thought it was fine.  In terms of degree of difficulty in making it, it was a piece of cake so that was good.  And tapenade (a popular dish in the French region, Provence) paired well with the Bayaldi so that was also tres bon (good). 

As to the salt, the only salt added was just a teaspoon of sea salt, making me wonder if I should have rinsed the black olives before using them?  The instructions don't say so but as we all know, instructions can be sneaky.  Plus, my palate may also be more salt sensitive than yours or than Andy's. 

As to the last dish, Cocoa Crepes, nothing but nothing says "French" like crepes.  But like anything, these things are best when made well.  And it's not like I botched them per se but they were not the best looking things I ever made, unlike the crepes I made back in 1988 when Edith and Marcelle came to visit.  It was the summer of the drought and the poor ladies just about in my un-air-conditioned kitchen but they were determined that I should learn how to make crepes and so I learned.  At that time, I had the right size pan – 5" is ideal – so that helped.  Their crepes, of course, were perfect, but I did my part and got a few that weren't too bad looking.  And this was tres bon. (Good)

This time around though, the only skillet/ crepe pan I had was about 7 inches.  A 7" pan is just fine for making my own manicotti shells (so easy) but manicotti shells are generally bigger and thicker and so this size skillet works for me. Crepes though, are best really thin and benefit from a smaller pan (unless you have a large just-for-crepes-pan in your kitchen battery which I don't) and though I tried my best to pour just enough batter to coat the bottom, they were a little large in the middle so the first one I made didn't quite set right.  The second one I made (the one Andy ate) though, was much better.

And wouldn't you know, we just happened to have a can of Redi Whip in the fridge so we used that as a topping.  If I had chocolate syrup, I might have really gone to town.  Next time.

By the way, some of you might remember this restaurant, The Magic Pan, where you could get crepes of all shapes, sizes and fillings, from sweet to savory.  I first went to one in 1976 in New York City and thought it was an awesome idea.  And when I moved to Minneapolis and found out there was one downtown I was practically giddy.  It's the littlest things...

Please note though, that I made half the recipe and ended up with just enough batter for two large crepes.  The entire recipe is supposed to make 18-24 which I think is just a tiny exaggeration but oh well.

So this concludes my "Vive la France, Vive la Tour" post.  Bon Appétit!

Bayaldi – Serves 4-6 – from Paul Bocuse In Your Kitchen
4 medium zucchini weighing about 1 ½ pounds total
2 small eggplants, weighing about 1 ¼ pounds total
1 ½ pounds tomatoes
½ pound onions
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
½ bay leaf, crushed
Salt, pepper
Butter (for the dish)
1 ½ cup grated Swiss cheese (see author Note)
5 tablespoons butter (total) broken into pieces (or olive oil – see author Note)

Note:  If preferred, the cheese can be omitted and ½ cup of olive oil used instead of butter.  In this case, pour all of the oil over the surface of the vegetables before putting them in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Wash the vegetables and wipe them dry, then cut them into slices about ½ inch thick (if using a large eggplant rather than 2 smaller ones, cut it in half lengthwise before slicing).  Keep all the vegetables separate from each other.

Butter a large baking dish (preferably earthenware or enameled cast iron).  Cover the bottom of the dish with the onions, then make a layer of zucchini and sprinkle with a little of the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Next, make a layer of eggplant, and lastly, a layer of tomato, seasoning each layer as you did the zucchini. (Ann's Note:  You should probably double, if not triple, the seasoning mixture as it makes very little in the first place and you will run out.)

Dot the surface with half the butter (Ann's Note: or, as the author said, 1/3 cup of olive oil), then place in the oven for 30 minutes.  At the end of this time, sprinkle with the cheese (Ann's Note:  I omitted the cheese), dot with the remaining butter, and bake 20 to 30 minutes more or until golden brown on top.  (If the vegetables dry out during the first 30 minutes' baking, cover them with aluminum foil; remove the foil for only the last 10 minutes of the baking time.)

Serving suggestions:  Serve with roast or boiled meat.  Ann's Note:  I cooked some rice and used the vegetables as a topping.

Author's Note:  Instead of making layers as described here, you can simply make parallel lines of overlapping vegetables and bake them in individual baking dishes rather than in one large one.

Ann's Final Note:  The only butter I used was to butter the baking dish.  Once I layered all the vegetables, I poured the 1/3 cup olive oil over the surface and baked it and it was fine.  I also covered the baking dish with foil as directed.  Finally, as I said above, you'll need to triple the spice mixture or you won't have enough for all the layers (three in all).

Tapenade – Serving size not given (about 2 cups?) – from The Culinary Cyclist
1 6-ounce can of organic black olives  
½ of a roasted pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup almonds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon rosemary or Herbes de Provence
½ teaspoon black pepper

Mix all the ingredients in food process until well blended.  Store in an airtight container in refrigerator until serving.

Ann's Note:  Although it does not say to do this, I recommend rinsing the black olives just in case they are in a salt brine.  (I must confess I didn't even look but I found the dish a tad salty.)  You might also want to start with a quarter teaspoon of sea salt, adding more as needed.

Cocoa Crepes – makes 18-24 crepes – from You Can Do Anything with Crepes
2 eggs
½ cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
¼ cup sugar
1 cup milk with a little cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend for about 30 seconds at half speed.  Or mix eggs and flour by hand or in a mixer adding cocoa and sugar and then milk gradually, beating all the time.  Add vanilla and the cooled, melted butter and beat once more.  Led stand covered and hour or two.

Heat a small skillet or crepe pan – about 5 inches in diameter, brush with butter and when butter bubbles up, pour about a tablespoon and a half of crepe batter into pan, swirling so batter covers the pan.  Cook for about 1 minute, check for browning and watch carefully – both the cocoa and the sugar cause crepes to burn easily.  Turn crepe over and cook for about a half minute on the other side.  Turn out on paper towels.

This recipe will make from 18-24 crepes depending on the size of the pan and amount of batter used for each crepe.  These freeze well.  Ann's Note:  I used a larger pan but given that I halved the recipe, I only got 2 large crepes out of the deal.  Turns out that was perfect for our two-person household but if you want more, make the full recipe.