Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Delia Smith''s Summer Collection" - Roasted Vegetable Cous-Cous Salad with Harissa-style Dressing - Farewell, Summer!

Date I made this recipe:  September 25, 2016 – in honor of the passing of summer and the start of fall (Thursday, September 22, 2016)

Delia Smith's Summer Collection – 140 recipes for summer by Delia Smith
Published by BBC Books
ISBN: 0-563-36476-9; © 1993
Purchased at Barnes and Noble (Used Books), Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Roasted Vegetable Cous-cous Salad with Harissa-style Dressing – p. 108

Well this is hilarious:  I've cooked from two of Delia Smith's Books – Winter Collection and now Summer Collection as a nod toward seasonal beginnings and endings.

I used Delia Smith's Winter Collection cookbook in 2015 to celebrate the beginning of spring, a season I am not especially fond of but it's better than fall or winter.  Since winter officially ended on March 20th that year, I thought I'd sneak in one more winter recipe before calling it a day.  I am humored by the fact that it snowed in Minneapolis on March 22nd that year showing us once again that Mother Nature has her own timetable.  (PS—I made a "Black Bean Chili with Avocado Salsa" from that cookbook and wrote the blog on March 24, 2016.  Hopefully, I posted it shortly thereafter as I sometimes fall behind:  www.collecdtiblecooking.blogpsot.com – Label:  Delia Smith)

Apparently, I was thinking on the same lines this year as I made a dish from Delia Smith's Summer Collection a few days after summer officially ended (September 22, 2016) and autumn began.

I do not like autumn, or "fall," or whatever you want to call it.  I do not like it at all.  And I am already sick and tired of pumpkin "everything."  And when the leaves start to turn, so does my mood as I experience – annually – what I call my Fall Funk.

But summer, dear, sweet, warm summer, is my favorite season and if I could bottle up all the hot summer days for use later, I would.  I would also be very rich. 

This summer was not especially hot or humid, nor was it a miserable summer – in fact, it was okay.  Actually, let's call it "satisfactory," shall we?  It was generally sunny so that was good, with temperatures that pleased most of the residents of this state but not necessarily me as the warmer, the better.  If I had a dime for every person who said "Oh, I love this weather.  It's 75 degrees, not too hot, and there's a breeze," I'd be as rich as if I bottled up sunshine.

Look, summer in Minnesota is short. Sure, it runs you classic three months, but those three  months go by in a flash and then the minute Labor Day is upon us, we head into what I consider "chilly" temperatures – 60's and 70's.  I'm greedy.  I want "plenty of  sunshine coming my way, Zip-ah-de-doo-dah, zip-a-de-ay." (From the song, Zip-ah-de-doo-dah, featured in the 1964 Disney movie, Song of the South.)  But plenty of sunshine has been replaced by plenty of rain as we are now being treated to rain deluges on almost a daily basis.  I am tired of being under a raincloud all day long.

And so I am pretending that summer has not ended and so decided to make a summer dish from Delia's cookbook.  But hilariously – or maybe cosmically – today's recipe includes roasted vegetables, something I associate with fall.  I guess I'm straddling both worlds with this one.

Many of Delia's recipes though, contain roasted "something" and I came very close to making her "Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagna" (she spells it "lasagne"—what is with the Brits and their pronunciation and spelling?) but came screeching to a halt when I realized the sauce was a white sauce instead of tomato sauce. 

As a general rule my people (my Sicilian family) do not "do" white sauce. Do not.  And so I didn't.

Other recipes that got bounced were a "Strawberry Granita" that is best reserved for hot summer days when a cooling refreshment is needed, nor did I make any of the ice cream recipes even though they sounded delicious.

I might have made one of her main dishes had they not included curry paste and chilies, (Yes, I am a wuss when it comes to heat) or fish which I generally do not like but I know others who do, so please feel free to roam about the cabin of this cookbook.  And if you want to stay loyal and true to the book's titled "Summer Collection" and want to wait until next summer to do so, who am I to tell you no?

But if you are like me and are hanging on to summer with all fingernails, then give this book and this recipe a whirl.  It sounds more complicated than it is and you will need to roast the vegetables, the recipe for which is included on page 110 of the book with the lasagna recipe, but which I will break down for you.  After the vegetables are done, the next steps are really easy.

A word though, about the salad dressing:  if you don't tone it down like I did, it will be super hot.  Scorching, in fact.  This dressing is used in North African cooking and is made with chili peppers, paprika and olive oil.  This recipe uses a few other ingredients but then I tweaked them some more.  One can never be too careful.

I also decided to add some protein and poach a chicken breast and it was a delicious addition although you don't have to follow suit if you don't want to. 

So that's it for summer and I am counting the days already until we meet again.  Although summer does not start until June, I'm hoping we see signs of spring/summer (our spring here is incredibly brief) around May 1st.  And so with high hopes, I have marked off my calendar and will have you know that as of today, September 26, we have 217 days to go until May 1.  Works for me.

Roasted Vegetable Cous-Cous Salad with Harissa-style Dressing  - serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter
For the roasted vegetables (full recipe)
1 lb cherry tomatoes, skinned (Ann's Note:  I peeled one tomato before calling it a day.  Too much work, folks, too much work!)
1 small aubergine (eggplant) (Ann's Note:  I substituted a very small Japanese eggplant for this recipe and it worked great.)
2 medium courgettes (zucchini) (Ann's Note:  the author is British thus the "aubergine" and "courgettes.")
1 small red pepper, de-seeded and cut into 1-inch squares
1 small bulb fennel, cut into 1-inch squares
1 large onion, sliced and cut into 1-inch squares
2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the Cous-cous
10 oz medium cous-cous (Ann's Note:  I used "regular" cous-cous.  I hope that was okay.)
18 fl oz vegetable stock (Ann's Note:  I don't keep vegetable stock on hand but did have chicken broth so I used that instead.)
4 oz firm goat's cheese
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the salad
1 large bag of mixed salad leaves.  Ann's Note:  the author suggests a salad mix of lettuce, coriander leaves, flat-leaf parsley and rocket.  I used mix greens that had none of the above—and lived to tell about it!)

For the Dressing 
4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1 rounded teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 heaped tablespoons tomato puree (Ann's Note:  I put a few of the roasted tomatoes in a Cuisinart – ta da!)
1 tablespoon lime juice (approximately 2 limes)

To garnish
1 tablespoon black onion seeds

Ann's Note:  I made half of the salad dressing recipe but even then, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper was too much.  To offset the heat, I added some brown sugar.  I also cut down on the cumin and then added lemon juice which I had on hand, rather than the lime juice which I did not.

Okay, so to pull this thing together, first roast your vegetables.  The author set her oven to 425, I made mine 400.  The only difference was that I had to cook them a little longer at the slightly lower temperature.  I also kept an eye on things as the last thing I wanted was for my half-batch of vegetables to become charcoal briquettes!  My total cooking time was about 60 minutes.  Let the vegetables cool a bit before making the salad.

To make your cous-cous, boil the stock (microwaves are great for this) and pour over the cous-cous.  Add some salt and pepper, stir with a fork, and then let it sit for about 5 minutes or so until all the stock is absorbed and the cous-cous softened.

Next, cut your firm coat cheese into sugar-cube-sized pieces and then make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Ann's Note:  the author's method of assembling is as follows:  cous-cous, followed by cheese and roasted vegetables, salad leaves on top, then drizzle the dressing and then sprinkle some onion seeds on top.  My method was to place the salad leaves at the bottom, then cous-cous, then vegetables and cheese cubes and then dressing.  Go with whatever makes you happy!

"Autograph Celebrity Cookbook" - Jerry Orbach's (Law & Order) Pan-Fried Steak and "Love in the Afternoon" (recipes from ABC Soaps) Heiress Asparagus Soups - 2016 Emmy Awards

Date I made these recipes – Sunday, September 18, 2016 – Emmy Award Night!

Autograph® Celebrity Cookbook – introduced and compiled by Professor Richard Brown, New York University; foreword by Michael Lomonaco, Chef/Director, Windows on the World until it was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks
Published by DuPont, maker of Autograph® non-stick coating
© 1992
Purchased at BCPA Sale (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association), June 2016
Recipe: Pan-Fried Steak with Balsamic Sauce from the late actor, Jerry Orbach, who played Detective Lennie Briscoe on the TV show, Law & Order – p. 88

Love in the Afternoon Cookbook – Recipes from Your Favorite ABC-TV Soap Operas:  Ryan's Hope; All My Children; One Life to Live; General Hospital by Jeanne Jones and Donna Swajeski
Published by M. Evans and Company, Inc.
ISBN: 0-87131-426-6
Purchased at BCPA Sale (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association), June 2012
Recipe:  Heiress Asparagus Soup from One Life to Live's character Dorian Lord Callison, played by Robin Strasser – p. 85

So the Emmy Awards were on last night and this turned out to be a good thing as it distracted me from another competition that aired on another network:  the Packers v. Vikings game.  In Minnesota.  It did not go well for my Packers. 

Things went much better on the Emmy Awards unless, of course, you lost in your category, in which case you might as well have been playing for the Pack who lost the game.

And so it came to pass that I watched much more (like 90% more) of the Emmys than the game which was not at all what I intended.  I taped both shows, but intended to spend more time watching the game than the Emmys but that didn't happen.

Normally, I might have also "split" my Sunday night menu between an "Emmy" meal and a Packers football meal but it just got too hard to fit everything in.  And so it came to pass that a few days before the game, I decided on an Emmy-meal-or-bust approach and to heck with the football stuff for now. 

Focus is a good thing, amirite Packers?

The first book I used is the Autograph® Celebrity Cookbook.  You should know that this book does not contain any celebrity "autographs," as that refers to a non-stick coating created by DuPont, "sponsor" of this cookbook.  But it does contain celebrity photos and recipes, and all proceeds from the sale of this cookbook were given to Citymeals-on-Wheels in NYC, an organization that provides meals to homebound elderly New Yorkers.  That makes me happy.  But here's what makes me sad:  The foreword to this book, published in 1992, was written by chef Michael Lomonaco who was then in charge of the famous restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Centers Twin Towers.  Windows on the World operated from 1976 until 9/11/2011.

On 9/11/2001, everyone on Lomonaco's staff was in that restaurant serving patrons, many of them people who had "always wanted to eat there."  My friend, Bob, knew of one such person who was there that day.  Given the spectacular view from the 106th/107th floor, it is no wonder it was popular.  I might have eaten there except for my fear of heights.  

On 9/11, American Airlines Flight 11 plowed into that building; you know what happened after that.  Chef Lomonaco was in the lobby at that time and was evacuated.  He was the only survivor of the restaurant staff.

Until I read the foreword, I did not connect the dots.  I knew who he was since he has appeared on numerous cooking shows, and I knew what happened to Windows on the World, and I might have even remembered that he was in the lobby, but I didn't pull it all together until the day I got pulled the book from my shelf to cook from it for my blog.  I think it is somewhat fitting, if not ironic that I had just written all about 9/11 the week before and now there I was with another cosmic connection to that day.

It's also fitting that many of the celebrities featured in this book (along with their recipes) found their fame in New York and not LA, performing on the stage or in movies or on TV.  Back in the early days of television, many productions were filmed in New York and if you go to Queens, you can go to the Museum of the Moving Image and take in memorabilia and see the old lots.  (I have been there and it is awesome!  I have also been to London's Museum of the Moving Image, or MOMI as it's referred to over there. http://www.movingimage.us/

One actor who made his claim to fame on both the New York stage and screen was the late Jerry Orcbach who most of you know as Detective Lennie Briscoe from the long-running TV show, Law & Order.  I loved the show, loved "Lennie" and particularly loved how the show was shot in NYC.  My husband and my favorite thing to do when watching episodes is "neighborhood spotting" where we guess (mostly correctly) where a scene took place.

As between Jerry's recipes for "Chicken with Artichokes, Mushrooms, and White Wine," and "Pan-Fried Steak with Balsamic Sauce," tonight's "Emmy" went (narrowly) to the steak.  It was delicious.  It was also shown paired with fresh asparagus which I did not make, but I did make an asparagus soup from another cookbook which sort of tied the whole thing together.

If Jerry's recipes don't float your boat, here's a sampling of some of the other actors and recipes that might:

  • Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) – Sauteed Shrimp with Basil and Cherry Tomatoes
  • Adam Arkin (guest-starred recently on How to Get Away with Murder) – French Onion Soup
  • Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck; Steel Magnolias) – Greek Meatballs
  • Tony Goldwyn (Scandal) – Pork Tenderloin Steaks with Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • Ben Stiller (Night at the Museum, Zoolander) – Sweet Ricotta Pancakes
 And lots, lots more!

The second cookbook I used – Love in the Afternoon - is also celebrity-themed but this time around, the celebrities are all soap opera actors.  Daytime TV, of which soaps used to be a huge part, have had their own Emmy Awards for years – Daytime Emmys.  Daytime Emmys were held in May of this year and according to the internet, they were the 43rd Daytime Emmys.  I did not realize they were on for that long.

In the "old" days, of daytime TV, it was difficult for a soap opera actor to cross over to primetime TV or movies but these days, actors and actresses are free to roam about the cabin.  Now, many of the people we see getting a "nighttime" Emmy got their start on soap operas (or, as Tony Award host James Corden hilariously pointed out, Law & Order!).

Most of the famous soaps I grew up with are now long gone, but I tell you what, in their heyday, we were all glued to the set. I was a fan of CBS' The Young and the Restless (still running) as well as All My Children.  My mother was a fan of The Edge of Night, The Guiding Light and The Secret Storm, which she watched while ironing. (You remember ironing, right?)

So I watched as many soaps as I could in high school and then went off to college where I was amazed to find a whole "underworld" of soap addicts.  And by "addicts," I mean students who planned classes around their favorite soap operas.  At the time, most of us did not have TV sets in our dorm rooms (it was the dinosaur era), but the Wildcat Den, a student lounge and restaurant at my undergrad alma mater, Northern Michigan University, solved that problem by broadcasting the shows on the big screen TV. (And by "big screen" I do not mean the ginormous screens gracing many a home these days, but something sufficient to be seen from far away).

If you went into the Wildcat Den you knew better than to try to have a conversation with someone during soap time.  You also knew better than to point out the men who were watching (but claimed they weren't).  When you're addicted, you're addicted.

This cookbook only focuses on four ABC soaps:  Ryan's Hope, All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital. Other popular soaps though were:  Days of Our Lives ("like the sand through an hourglass, these are the Days of Our Lives") and the aforementioned The Young and the Restless but it is loaded with great-sounding recipes.  As always, I often hate my own self-imposed rule of choosing just one to use and then write about.

Looking back at these shows, the thing I find most interesting is how many strong women there were and how many [fictional] families were "ruled" by matriarchs, not patriarchs.  Actress Ruth Warrick, who was in the movie, Citizen Kane, played the always stuffy and uptight Phoebe Tyler Wallingford on All My Children.  Actress Jeanne Cooper played tough-as-nails Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless.  These were women who did not spend time in the kitchen, no sir! They had "people."  People who took care of the sundry things in life so they could focus on stirring up the pot.  (Some day though, I want to have "people.")

Although this is very much a woman-centric cookbook, fear not all you Asa Buchanan (actor Philip Carey) fans because Asa (from One Life to Live) has a few recipes up his sleeve as well.  If you watched the show (I confess I did not), then it should not surprise you that Asa's – head of the Texas Buchanan family – focus on Texas barbecue.

This cookbook is broken out into chapters by the featured soaps and then by characters from those shows.  There are plenty of recipes from which to choose and I had flagged several, but when I decided on steak from the other book as the main dish, I felt the need to find a suitable accompaniment from this book.  After a brief consideration of "Continental Celery Root," one of Dorian Lord Callison's (actress Robin Strasser) recipes,  I settled on the soup.  Both dishes complimented each other nicely.

And so there you go folks, everything you need to know about TV shows, soap operas, the Emmys and more.  Enjoy!

N.B. I cannot tell you how much I smiled when I saw a recipe called "Ruby Red Franks" (from All My Children character Opal Gardner), not because I wanted to make it but because it reminded me of one of my law professors.  The late Professor David Cobin taught Civil Procedure (Civ Pro) to first year law students and that class required us to purchase also a supplement containing all the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  That year, the book cover was a dark red and so he often asked us to pull out our "ruby red supplement."  I still have that book on my shelf, all of 15 years after using it because I cannot throw it out. He was such a sweet man and took such pity on all of us confused law students (Civ Pro is no picnic) RIP, Professor Cobin.

Pan-Fried Steak with Balsamic Sauce from Autograph® Celebrity Cookbook and actor Jerry Orbach – serves 4
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (1-inch-thick) boneless sirloin steaks (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

In a small bowl, stir together the cumin, coriander, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper.  Rub the mixture over the steaks.

In a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add steaks and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.  Transfer the steaks to a large platter.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Add the rosemary; stir to combine.  Add the vinegar, sugar, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter.  Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

Heiress Asparagus Soup from the Love in the Afternoon Cookbook and (character) Dorian Lord Callison, played by actress Robin Strasser – 6 portions
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen asparagus, thawed
1 large celery rib without leaves, chopped
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed, using a mortar and pestle
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of white pepper
3 ¼ cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter or corn-oil margarine
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup dairy sour cream

Combine the asparagus, celery and seasonings in a saucepan and cover with 1 ½ cups of the chicken broth.  Simmer until the asparagus is tender.  Ann's Note:  My celery remained a little too crunchy for my taste so if I had to do this over again, I would cook the celery and seasonings until the celery is fairly soft, then add the asparagus.

Melt the butter or margarine in a skillet and sauté the onion until golden.  Ann's Note:  Like the celery, I thought that the onion could have been cooked more but for how long depends on your taste as the recipe does not give cooking time guidelines.

Place the asparagus mixture and the onion in a blender container and blend until smooth.  Ann's Note:  I reserved some of the asparagus so that the soup was half blended, half "whole" asparagus.  We like it that way. 

Add the sour cream and remaining chicken broth and continue to blend then return the mixture to the saucepan and heat to serving temperature, but do not boil.

Friday, September 23, 2016

"New York Cookbook" by Molly O'Neill (chicken soup) & "New York In A Dozen Dishes" by Robert Sietsema (Black-and-White Cookie) - in honor of 9/11

Date I made these recipes:  Sunday, September 11, 2016—15 Year Anniversary of 9/11

New York Cookbook (From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to 4* Restaurants, Neighborhood Gourmets and the Great Chefs) by Molly O'Neill
Published by Workman Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1-56305-337-3; © 1992
Purchased at Aardvark Books, San Francisco, CA
Recipe:  New York Penicillin (a/k/a Chicken Soup) – p. 47-48.  Recipe from Guardian Angel founder, Curtis Sliwa, whose aunt Marie Stacey created this recipe.

New York in a Dozen Dishes by Robert Sietsema
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN:  978-0-544-45431-6; © 2015
Purchased at Barnes and Noble – Used Books – Roseville, MN
Recipe:  The Black-and-White Cookie – p. 279

Has it been that long?

Has it really been 15 years since 9/11 happened?

Every year since then, I have tried to observe that day in my blog by cooking from my New York cookbook collection.  I try to find foods that represent New York and provide "comfort" at the same time.  I think I nailed it this year with recipes for New York Penicillin i.e. Chicken Soup and Black-and-White Cookies.

I also try, every year, to articulate something about that horrible, horrible day and this year have just been at a loss. I have written and rewritten and rewritten again and only now have I decided that "it" will do. 

This year's anniversary folks, number 15, is significant because it coincides with my first year in law school.  Fifteen years ago on 9/11, I was three weeks into my 1L (first year law) classes when the planes crashed in NYC and Washington D.C. and then later, Pennsylvania.  I was also only a couple of weeks away from my 43rd birthday.  It's now been fifteen years since I thought that going to law school was a "good idea."  It has not necessarily been a good idea, partly because the world started to collapse that day when those towers fell and the economy went into a freefall as well.  It wasn't a good time to be in any career, much less the new one of law.

It has been fifteen years since the world, and especially all of us in law school, got a look at how law and order (also the name of one of my favorite TV show), became lawlessness and disorder on the grandest of scale.  Fifteen years since those towers, never architecturally interesting to me, fell in a city that I loved.

I have always loved New York and always will. Our family road trips back east to see my grandmother (my dad was born and raised on the east coast) informed my youth.  My first "road trip" into the city was actually to Queens for the New York World's Fair when I was six.  We frequently took trips into the city to sightsee and to visit my dad's aunts, uncles and cousins in the Burroughs.  I gorged on all the Italian/Sicilian food they made for our visits.

This love affair of mine never wavered, not in the 70's when New York wasn't the safest place, and not in the 80's when I came "this close" to moving there.  9/11 changed nothing for me except that it made me love New York and New Yorkers even more.  People tend to think of New Yorkers as harsh, rude, and disconnected people who care nothing about their neighbors and who have no time for other people's "problems."  I'm here to tell you that image is wrong.  I'm here to remind you that we saw otherwise on that day and every day thereafter.  New York is nothing but resilient, always has been, always will be.  New Yorkers cope, and one of the ways they cope is through food.

New Yorkers love food and they should because there is hardly a world cuisine that goes unnoticed or uncooked in NYC.  Some foods, like Vietnamese (versus Chinese) have been slow to trend in NYC (unlike here in MN where you can find Vietnamese foods all over the place) but once New York latches on to a food item, it never gives up and (almost) never looks back. 

Food trends are like that, too.  Once something catches on, it seems to have a toehold on us, like freshly-made pasta or soup stock made from scratch.

Two foods that are now considered "quintessential" New York foods are today's recipes:  New York Penicillin a/k/a Chicken Soup and the Black-And-White Cookie.  Neither are trendy, neither represent previously unknown cuisines, but they are there and they exist because it must be so.  If you know nothing about New York, you need to know about these items as they are staples.  They are the dishes we can always count on, even when the world turns upside down.

Cookbook author, Molly O'Neill tells us all about New York food in her 500 page tome – New York Cookbook -  a book that took her five years to write.   I jest when I say it took me about that long to read it, but only slightly.  Over the years, I've pulled it off then shelf, flagged some recipes, then put it back, rinse and repeat.  I could just never decide as there were so damned many awesome recipes to be sampled.

This time though, I pulled it off the shelf and stuck with it.  This time though, I noticed a photo on the inside cover that I never paid much attention to before:  The Twin Towers. When this book was published in 1992, nobody on this earth could fathom that nearly 20 years later, those towers would no longer exist.

I took this as a sign that I was meant to cook from this book on this anniversary date.   And I also took as a sign the fact that this time around, the book fell open to the chicken soup recipe.  It's not for nothing that chicken soup, in whatever form it takes, is the world's "feel better" soup.  And today, I wanted to feel slightly better.

But if you're not in the mood or if you want more from NYC than just soup, then fear not, for this book has everything else you might need:  "Nibbles, Noshes, and Appetizing [bites];" "Soups for Sipping, Slurping, Supper;" "To Bake an Honest Loaf," or "The Meat of the Matter" – you name it, it's in there.  In fact, the reason it takes a while to "read" is because the author shares so many stories of famous food stores and restaurants and people – not all celebrities of course, but the people of NYC.  I love it.

But if this 500-page work is too much to handle, then consider getting your hands on Robert Sietsema's New York in a Dozen Dishes.  Like a lot of New Yorkers, Sietsema gets right to the point:  there are 12 dishes of merit in this city, so there, deal with it.

While generally, I agreed with the author on a good half of the recipes included in this book (so much smaller than Molly's.  So much), we are going to have to agree to disagree on his inclusion of Cuy, an Ecuadorian favorite.  I shall not tell you what it is as I want you to read the rest of this blog, but let me just say that if curious, Google it...and then be prepared to look away (and quickly!).  And please keep in mind that many countries enjoy foods that we would never consider.  It is not a stretch for me to say that 99.9% of you will not consider this food item at all and would raise an eyebrow on it being in this book.  Count me in on that 99.9% club!

Happily, Sietsema also discusses some favorites like "Pizza," "Egg Foo Young," and Pastrami.  We shall quibble about "Fried Chicken" and "Barbecued Brisket" as in my opinion these have been slow in coming to New York (Jewish brisket though, is another story), and I will tell you for a fact that Minneapolis and St. Paul have a total lock and load on "Pho," a Vietnamese noodle soup (pronounced "Fuh").  In fact, I have to say that I was surprised to see it included here.  Up until a few years ago, my New York friend Susan, who lived in Minneapolis for five years (which is how I got to know her), bemoaned the fact that she couldn't find any place in Manhattan that served Pho, at least not the pho like we have here, and I totally agreed with her as we were pressed to find Vietnamese food at all.  And now it's included in the "Dozen Dishes" category, say what?

I tell you what folks, if you come to Minneapolis or St. Paul, we are hopping on the Green Line, our light rail system, and are taking the train to a section of St. Paul called Little Mekong.  And that is where you will have pho like it's meant to be made.  St. Paul is especially rife with Vietnamese immigrants who came to the Twin Cities as refugees during the Vietnam War, and with a little help, a good number of them have started their own restaurants.  Restaurants that serve awesome pho.  Awesome.  New York may excel at a number of things, but I refuse to believe that pho is one of them!
Side note:  I'm starving but even though I am surrounded by some great Vietnamese restaurants, we are not NY and most don't deliver and of course it's raining out and so how to fix this sudden pho craving? ;)

Although the Black-and-White cookie is not among the "dozen dishes" (gross oversight, that), the author at least made it a baker's dozen by including a recipe in the back of the book.  (All recipes are accompanied by a narrative of how they came to be popular and also where to "buy" them in NYC) It's the least he could do because this cookie,  this basic cookie, dressed up with white and black frosting, is a New York original.  A New York original that is as essential to New Yorkers as a yellow cab or, be still my heart, a subway train that is actually running, never mind running on schedule!  (We can all dream...)

If you have any doubt, then you should go find the full episode or clip from Jerry Seinfeld's show – Seinfeld - where he and Elaine discuss the Black-And-White Cookie:  "If people would just look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.  Look to the cookie, Elaine, look to the cookie."

So folks take a minute to "look to the cookie," and look at (and make, of course) the chicken soup and your outlook will change and it will be for the better.

I love New York.  Always have, always will.

New York Penicillin (a/k/a Chicken Soup) – Makes 3 quarts (12 cups) broth – Ann's Note:  set aside 2-4 hours to simmer.
4 quarts cold water
1 chicken (4 to 5 pounds), quartered
2 chicken feet, or 4 chicken wings, or 1 turkey wing
1 clove garlic, peeled and bruised (Ann's Note:  to bruise, smack one side of the garlic with a flat side of your knife.)
1 onion, peeled
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ bunch fresh parsley, tied together with string and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black peppercorns

Pour the cold water into a large pot.  Add the chicken, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaf, salt and peppercorns and slowly bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 4 hours, skimming frequently. (The soup can be strained at this point to use in the recipes that follow, both in this chapter and throughout the book.)

Strain the soup.  Discard the onion, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns but reserve the other vegetables.  Remove the chicken, skin and debone it, and reserve the meat.  Return the chicken stock, chicken meat, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and bring back to a simmer; season with additional salt or pepper, to taste.

Serve the soup in big bowls over pastina, rice, or spaghettini.  (Ann's Note:  I used dumpling noodles.)  The soup's curative powers are released only when the vegetables are mashed together in the bowl.  Use a fork for mashing.  Use a big spoon for eating.  You'll feel better soon.

Black-and-White Cookies – makes 8 four-inch cookies
For the cookies:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
½ vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, seeds scraped from the pod, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
For the icing:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Grease a baking sheet with butter.  Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; whisk to combine.

In a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the egg and scraped vanilla seeds or the extract, and mix well to combine.  Reduce the speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the rest of the flour mixture, mixing to just combine after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl one last time.

Spoon 1/3-cup mounds of dough onto the greased baking sheet, 1 ½ inches apart (8 should fit on a standard baking sheet, but use a second sheet if necessary).  With wet hands press down gently on each mound to flatten slightly.  Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and light golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet slightly before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, stir together the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons water until smooth, adding more water a teaspoon at a time to make a smooth, spreadable icing.  Transfer half the icing to another bowl and whisk in the cocoa, adding more water, ½ teaspoon at a time, to achieve a similar consistency as the white icing.

To frost, spread the vanilla icing over half of the flat surface of each cookie, letting the excess drip off.  Let the vanilla icing set for 15 minutes, then spread chocolate chip icing onto the other half of the cookie.  Let the icing set for an hour before eating.  Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Food Festival, USA" & "The Great Southern Food Festival Cookbook - one last homage to the Minnesota State Fair!

Date I made these recipes:  Monday, September 5, 2016 – Labor Day and the last day of the Minnesota State Fair

Food Festival, USA – 250 Red, White & Blue Ribbon Recipes from All 50 States by Becky Mercuri
Published by Laurel Glen
ISBN: 1-57145-775-5; © 2002
Purchased at BCPA (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association) annual sale, June 2016
Recipe(s): Isanti County Potato Festival, Cambridge, MN (last Saturday in September)  – Cheesy Potato Slices – p. 204 – and - Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy, CA  (Friday through Sunday of the last full weekend of July) - Creamy Potato Gratin with Gorgonzola, Pears, and Pecans – p. 362-363

The Great Southern Food Festival Cookbook by Mindy B. Henderson
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-1-4016-0361-8; © 2008
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores– Richfield, MN
Recipe:  West Virginia Blackberry Festival, Nutter Ford, West Virginia – first weekend in August - Blackberry Buckle – p. 148

Readers, I don't know what has gotten into me, but  I have never been so inspired to cook recipes related to the Minnesota State Fair.  Ever.  I mean, over the 36 years I've lived here, I have maybe visited the fair a handful of times. 

But for whatever reason, I just keep wanting the show to go on and so this was my one, last gasp at fair-related foods.  And of course, I wouldn't be the collector I am if I didn't have a couple of cookbooks that celebrates food festivals.

Not that the Minnesota State Fair is a food festival per se, but it is the largest attended gathering that celebrates all that is agriculture and agriculture is food, right, so there you go?

And then there's the food served at the fair itself which ranges from alligator (on a stick) to turkey drumsticks ("stick" already included) to pasta (on a stick) casserole (on a stick), deep-fried pickles (on a stick) and other assorted items both on a stick and not on a stick.  I know other state fairs serve food on a stick but these type of yummy creations are what the Minnesota State Fair is known for and rightly so.

That said, what did I have to eat during the two days I was at the State Fair?  Brace yourselves:  a foot-long hot dog (love it) and a bag of cheese popcorn, neither of which was served on a stick.  I hang my head in shame.

And, as my friend, Laura, reminded me, I had a half of a chicken wrap sandwich at the Hamline Dining Hall and let me say, I felt all kinds of Catholic and Methodist mixed guilt (note to self:  look up Methodist "guilt") over this because the dining hall is known for all kinds of Minnesota staples including your ham loaf and your Swedish meatballs but I did not sample and was not interested in this fare.  If there is a special hell reserved for State Fair goers who do not partake of all the food offerings, then I guess I'm in like Flynn!

Anyway, so there I was, contemplating the end of the State Fair and all that goes with it, and then (as often happens), I glanced over at a bookshelf and there was the Food Festival, USA cookbook.  And so I grabbed that and The Great Southern Food Festival Cookbook and we were off and running.

Now as you probably know (and for sure TV chefs will tell you), food is best eaten when is season but given that grocery stores now carry all kinds of foods year-round, I decided to go with food I liked and take it from there. 

Technically, given that this is early September, I am not off-track by making recipes from festivals that have already taken place (Gilroy Garlic Festival takes place the last weekend of July and the blackberry festival took place the first weekend in August) and hey, I'm ahead of the game for the cheesy potatoes as that festival doesn't start until the end of September.  Brilliant!

So.  Throwing caution to the wind, I started to mark off potential recipes from each book, and before you knew it, I had bookmarked more recipes that I could possibly make.  Each book contains some great options making it so difficult to choose.

The Food Festival, USA book divides up festivals by sections of the United States, and so you'll get a sampling of all kinds of festival foods from these areas: Northeast; South; Midwest; Great Plains; West/Southwest, and Pacific.  It also includes a directory of "Festivals by Month" and a "Directory of Festivals by State" but I liked flipping through it section by section rather than month-by-month. 

Here's a sampling of festivals and dishes and let me just add a disclaimer that I'm not saying you have to go to these (because I'm sorry?  Chitlin Jamboree?) but rather that these were the interesting ones that caught my eye!

Northeast: National Lima Bean Festival, W. Cape May, NJ – Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend – recipe:  "Key Lima Pie"
South: Alabama Chitlin Jamboree, Clio, AL – Always the Last Saturday in October – recipe: "Sausage Roll." But if that doesn't float your boat, and I'm guessing it won't, then maybe the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival in Warren, AL will.  The recipe though – "Green Tomato Beans with Toasted Almonds" - calls for green tomatoes, not pink. What's up with that?
Midwest: Lingonier Marshmallow Festival, Lingonier, IN – Labor Day Weekend – recipe:  "Joyful Almond Cake."  And let me also add this festival:  Aebleskiver Days, Tyler, MN – Friday and Saturday of the Weekend Following Father's Day in June.  I am proud to say I not only know what an aebleskiver is, but I have eaten them.  It's a small, puffed pancake that looks like a donut – delicious!  The recipe included though – "Danish Kringle" – is definitely not an aebleskiver (so then why is it featured for this festival??) but it is still a good pastry.
Great PlainsHouby (Czech for "mushroom") Days, Czech Village, Cedar Rapids, IA – Saturday and Sunday of the Weekend After Mother's Day – recipe: "Koblihy (Doughnuts)" that contain not one scrap of mushrooms, go figure!
West/Southwest: Tucson Solar Potluck and Exhibition, Tucson, AZ – Second Saturday in May – recipe: "Solar Garden Soup" and, bonus event:  International Rhubarb Festival in Silverton, CO that is always on the 4th of July.  You've got to hand it to a place that hosts an international rhubarb festival as opposed to your domestic ones.  The featured recipe is "Rhubarb Ice Cream."
The PacificFillmore Orange Festival, Fillmore, CA – First weekend in May – Recipe:  "Grand Avenue Orange Sherbet."  And please folks, please tell me you get why I just had to select a recipe from Fillmore:  "F-F-FIL-L-L-LMO-O-O-ORE, Fillmore Junior High!"  I just had to. (Hint:  Think Brady Bunch!)

So that's the way the Food Festival, USA cookbook breaks out.  The Great Southern Food Festival Cookbook though, is divided by calendar months, some of which, like January, are sparse for festivals, and other months like September, seem to have an overabundance of festivals which is to say, when it's harvest season, it's harvest season!

So again, here's a sampling of festivals, included because they caught my attention:

April: Big Squeeze Juice Festival, Palm Bay FloridaChicken and Egg Festival, Moulton, Alabama
May: Poke Salat Festival, Arab, Alabama
June: RC and Moon Pie Festival, Bell Buckle, Tennessee (Let me just say that I almost made this recipe because...well, of course, right?  RC [Cola] and Moon Pies go together.  Everybody knows that, don't they?  Don't they??)
September: Irmo Okra Strut, Irmo, South Carolina (When I first looked at this, I thought it said "Irma," not "Irmo," and thought "Well, okay, if Irma wants to strut her okra, who am I to judge!"
October: Gautier Mullet Festival, Gautier, Mississippi – You young'uns might think this refers to hair.  It does not.  Don't go there.  "Mullet" is a fish.

Now out of all these fabulous festivals and fabulous recipe possibilities, I narrowed it down to two items:  blackberry and potatoes, or "Potatoes Two Ways" as Andy called it, seeing as how I could not just get by with one potato recipe.  Plus, in keeping with our tangential State Fair theme, the Cheesy Potato Slices recipe hails from Isanti County (Cambridge, MN) an area that Andy and I drove to just last weekend to go to Lake Mille Lacs just north of Cambridge.  We didn't have a reason to go to Lake Mille Lacs except we have never seen it and felt like a road trip.  We drove, we saw, we ooed, we aahed, and then we came home. 

And once we touched town at Casa Verme/Martin, I pulled my grocery lists together and the next day, commenced firing.

I started out with the Blackberry Buckle recipe and it was really easy to make.  You make your (raw) cake base, to which you add blackberries, the crumb topping, and then bake!  My only boo-boo, and it was minor, was that I tried to hurry the butter-softening process and almost liquefied it by keeping it in the microwave too long.  So instead of a crumble, I ended up with more of a spread but no matter as it baked up just fine.

Then there were the "Potatoes, Two Ways."  I don't know about you, but I cannot envision how a cheese + combination would not make someone happy; these two recipes made me ecstatic!

Up first: Cheesy Potato Slices where potatoes and cheese are combined with fresh herbs for a winning combination.  This recipe though, took longer to bake than stated.  Directions indicate to bake 15-30 minutes covered, and then 10-12 uncovered.  Often, when recipes are halved, they require half the baking time but not in this case as we clocked in just under an hour before the potatoes were done. Nonetheless, it was indeed cheesy and therefore delicious!

Up second (and last):  Creamy Potato Gratin with Gorgonzola, Pears, and Pecans and this recipe proved a tad more challenging to make.

First, I got us off to the wrong start by par-boiling the potatoes for too long.  This is all (chef) Jamie Oliver's fault!  I looked up instructions on the internet about how long to par-boil potatoes (as called for in the instructions) and Jamie Oliver's instructions popped up first.   They said cook for seven minutes and then cool for three.

I realized after the fact of course, that Jamie probably meant (but did not say) this cooking time to apply to whole potatoes.  The recipe though, called for the potatoes to be peeled and thinly sliced.

And so seven minutes in that hot bath pretty much cooked my potatoes in whole, not in part and...drat.  Now what?

So I carried on with the rest of the recipe as best I could and duly layered my potatoes and pears and cheese and pecans and garlic cream sauce and put it in the oven.  And then, because I made half the recipe, halved the baking times which were 25 minutes under foil and then 20-35 minutes longer without foil until "almost all of the cream mixture is absorbed and the potatoes are tender."

Well now, all my potatoes were tender before I started and my cream sauce was pretty much all absorbed instead of almost all absorbed, but don't let this stop you because the taste was great.  Andy suggested layering this differently (were I to make this again) and he might be right.  Sometimes, it's all in the wrists and the baking vessel!

Please note that each recipe has a different baking time and temperatures which is why I made the blackberry buckle one day and then the "Potatoes, Two Ways" on another day, one behind the other.

This concludes – I swear – cookbook and recipe recaps that are Minnesota State Fair-related.

Enjoy your fall.

Blackberry Buckle – from The Great Southern Food Festival Cookbook and West Virginia Blackberry Festival, Nutter Fort, West Virginia (First weekend in August) – makes 6 servings
¼ cup (1/2 stick butter)
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh blackberries
Crumb Topping:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease and flour a 7 x 7-inch pan.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the egg; beat well.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and vanilla.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan; cover with the blackberries.

For the topping, combine the sugar, butter, flour, and cinnamon together in a bowl and mix until crumbly.  Spread the topping over the blackberries and bake for 45 minutes or until done.

Cheesy Potato Slices – from Food Festival, USA and Isanti County Potato Festival, Cambridge, MN – Cheesy Potato Slices made by prize-winner Kathryn Stavem – serves 4-6
6 medium, unpeeled russet potatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon rosemary leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
½ teaspoon chives (fresh or dried)
¾-1 cup butter
½-1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 425F.  Scrub potatoes well and slice very thin.  Spread in layers in a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch or larger pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and chives and dot with butter.  Bake, covered with foil, for 15-30 minutes.  Sprinkle with grated cheese and paprika.  Bake another 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender-crisp and cheese is melted.

Creamy Potato Gratin with Gorgonzola, Pears, and Pecans – from Food Festival, USA and the 2000 Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy, CA – recipe made by prize-winner Camilla Saulsbury of Bloomington, IN – serves 6
10 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
3 large russet potatoes (1 ½ pounds), peeled, thinly sliced, and partially cooked
2 large pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
8 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 cup pecans
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

In a small pan filled with water, parboil the garlic cloves until tender, about 8 minutes.  Place cloves and Marsala in a blender and puree until smooth.  Combine with cream and set aside.

 Preheat oven to 400F.  Lightly grease a 12 x 8-inch rectangular glass dish and arrange 1/3 each of the potatoes and pears.  Dot potatoes with 1/3 of the Gorgonzola and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Top with 1/3 of the pecans and 1 teaspoon rosemary.  Repeat layering 2 more times.  Pour garlic-cream mixture over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes longer or until almost all of the cream mixture is absorbed and the potatoes are tender.

Friday, September 9, 2016

"The Recipe Project Cookbook" (recipe by Mario Batali) & "The Hip-Hop Cookbook" (recipe by Hip Hop artist, Pexter) - more Minnesota State Fair

Date I made these recipes:  September 1, 2016 – a homage to the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand acts and my (coveted) Golden Decibel Award

The Hip Hop Cookbook - Four Elements Cooking by Cutmaster GB
Published by From Here to Fame Publishing
ISBN: 978-2-927946-38-2; © 2012
Purchased at Magers and Quinn Independent Booksellers (used) – Minneapolis, MN
Recipe:  Pexter's Angel Hair Parmesan Chicken – p. 60  (Pexter is Hip Hop artist Powerful Pex)

The Recipe Project– A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music – Songs by One Ring Zero, Words by Mario Batali; Tom Colicchio; David Chang; Isa Chandra Moskowitz; Michael Symon, Chris Cosentino and more (includes a CD of songs)
Published by Black Balloon Publishing
ISBN: 13: 978-1-936787-00-5; © 2011
Purchased at Powell's Chicago
Recipe:  Spaghetti with Sweet 100 Tomatoes courtesy of Mario Batali – p. 10

As mentioned in my last post, it's State Fair time here in Minnesota and in addition to all the things you'd expect to find at a state fair (animals, creative arts, lots of food, tractors, etc.), in these parts you also get The Grandstand.  The venerable Grandstand, only a few miles away from our house, books out many great bands during its 12-day run and given how sound travels, we practically have front-row seats to each and every concert!  For 12 nights, we hear each and every guitar lick, and each and every bass note, and each and every drum beat.   

So several years ago, after being "treated" to concert after concert, I created the (coveted) Golden Decibel Award for the person or group who blasts us out of house and home during the fair.  And by "blast," I mean that we cannot hear ourselves think and any TV show we are watching is drowned out by the music.  It's fun for the whole family!

Although I reserve the final vote (my contest, my vote—but with consultation from Andy), I always ask my Facebook friends to play along and vote for who they think will take the award. Then the Wednesday before opening day (always on a Thursday), I post the schedule with a link to The Grandstand acts and then people reply with their (initial) choices.  Here were this year's contenders:

  • Don Henley (formerly of the Eagles)
  • Charlie Wilson with special guest, Fantasia
  • Dixie Chicks (two nights)
  • Happy Together (music from the 60's and 70's)
  • G-Eazy
  • Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas
  • Alabama
  • Garrison Keillor (from A Prairie Home Companion)
  • Weezer
  • Bonnie Raitt

I always find it interesting that people tend to vote for the larger groups, like Dixie Chicks, or Alabama, thinking they have the firepower to be heard from a couple of miles away.  They are not wrong but I always caution voters that anything can happen and that weather plays an important part in determining the winner.  If it is hot and humid (as it usually is at this time of year), no amount of sound gets through Nature's "Wall of Water," and we've had some years where we wondered if anybody would prevail.  Such was not the case this year but more on that later.  Let's talk cookbooks!

Since the Golden Decibel Award is theoretically about music (but more like "Quien es mas macho?" when it comes to making noise), I thought it would be fun to make something from these two band and music-related cookbooks and to make it easiest on myself, I tried out two different pasta dishes rather than do different and more complicated courses.

And so from the shelf, I pulled The Recipe Project Cookbook, a book with 12 (and only 12) recipes, a CD of songs by One Ring Zero as well as musical and cooking discussions, and The Hip Hop Cookbook, filled with 40 recipes from 40 Hip Hop artists but alas, no music CD.  Let's review!

I must say that The Recipe Project Cookbook, while intriguing, was sadly lacking in what I consider to be edible fare.  One recipe was for "Raw Peach."  Now I ask you, how does a "raw" peach "recipe" end up in a cookbook?  File that under "Nothing to see here, folks."

Also eliminated:  "Creamless Creamed Corn," "Pickled Pumpkin," "Octopus with Black Eyed Peas," and my favorite (not really) "Brains and Eggs." Ugh. 

So just like the Golden Decibel Award, this left me with few contenders out of the 12 and so I went with the one that seemed easiest: Spaghetti with Sweet 100 Tomatoes courtesy Mario Batali.

Mario's recipe would have been a home run save for the trouble I had finding these two very important ingredients:  lemon basil and garlic chives.  I checked three of the more upscale grocery stores in town and struck out, and the Seward Co-Op near my house had only garlic chives (by the pound!) and not the lemon basil.  I must say that I was surprised as I can usually source almost anything I want in the Twin Cities.  Except for today, of course.

So I tweaked this dish as follows:  I added a bit more garlic to the recipe and then grated some lemon zest into the sauté pan and it worked out fine.  It was only after I "ta-da'ed" the dish to Andy that he reminded me that he wasn't that fond of tomatoes.  Oops.

In addition to the recipes, you'll also get nine "Musings" by various writers and five "Interviews" with "celebrity" chefs and other foodies. My favorite "musing" is "The Beatles' White Album: I'm Just Here For the Food," by cookbook author and food columnist, Melissa Clark.  And in the "Interview" category, I like Andrea Reusing expounding on "Bruce Springsteen, Egg Haters, and Giant Clams."  You've got to love an interview with that mash-up in the title!

Then from The Hip Hop Cookbook, you get 40 bios and 40 recipes from various Hip Hop artists. I have to confess that the only artist I recognize from this list is Kurtis Blow and the only song I know is his "The Breaks:" "Clap your hands everybody/If you got what it takes/'Cause I'm Kurtis Blow and I want you to know/That these are the breaks." (And how cosmic was this:  our local radio station, The Current, played this song yesterday afternoon.  Awesome!)

Other hip hop artists featured in this book (random sampling here) are:  Katmando; Blade TC5; Funkmaster Ozone; Cutmaster GB and Pyestar.  Today's recipe was from the previously-mentioned Powerful Pexter, a/k/a Tony Lopez.  When I Googled this guy, he came up under "Old-School Hip Hop."  I love it—"Old School" – as if I know who the "New School" hip hop artists are (I don't). 

Happily, this cookbook contained more recipes than The Recipe Project and while there were several pasta dishes that sounded interesting, I decided to make it as easy as possible and cook for chicken with parmesan.

You should know though folks, that this chicken parmesan is not the chicken parm you may be used to or expecting.  The chicken is not coated, there's no red sauce and no mozzarella cheese.  Instead, it's pretty much as labeled:  Parmesan + chicken to which you add garlic, ½ fresh chili and parsley.  That's it. 

While I liked both recipes, Andy was a little underwhelmed. I thought both were tasty even if they were a bit on the boring side.  But again, as between brains and eggs, and pasta with tomatoes, I know which one he wouldn't have chosen and so that made that choice easy. 

So I made these dishes and then on Labor Day, the 2016 Golden Decibel Award contest wrapped up and our winner was...drum roll...Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas! (Applause!  Applause!)  Not one single person on Facebook, picked them! I didn't pick them!  Seems like nobody but nobody excepted them to prevail.  But let me tell you folks, they earned it by blasting us out of our house for almost 3 solid hours.  By the time they finished, it took me and Andy another hour just to realize that the show was over.  That is some kind of fire power!

So.  That concludes the (coveted) Golden Decibel Award and the Minnesota State Fair and this recipe blog!  These recipes, while not award-winning, are easy to make, leaving you plenty of time to relax and listen to your own favorite musical selections, and hopefully not because they were "beamed" into your living room from a couple miles away!

Mario Batali's Spaghetti with Sweet 100 Tomatoes – serves 4 – from The Recipe Project Cookbook
Kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pint sweet 100 tomatoes, or other tiny tomatoes
½ bunch garlic chives, cut into 1-inch lengths*
12 fresh lemon basil leaves, finely shredded*
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Lemon zest*

*If you can't find garlic chives, substitute regular chives.  Same with the lemon basil but then add some lemon zest to the dish to approximate the lemon basil flavor.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.

In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking.  Lower the heat to medium-high and add garlic cloves.  Cook for 2 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned.  Add the tomatoes, chives, and basil, and cook over high heat until the tomatoes are just beginning to burst.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water according to package directions until it is tender, yet al dente.  Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the tomatoes.  Toss over high heat for 1 minute, then divide evenly among four warmed pasta bowls and serve immediately.

Pexter's Angel Hair Parmesan Chicken – serving size not given (4?)- from The Hip Hop Cookbook
14 oz angel hair or other pasta
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
½ fresh chili*
2 stalks of fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped
9 oz chicken breast
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

 *I used red pepper flakes instead of chili

Finely chop the garlic and chili, then cut the chicken into small pieces. Heat a bit of oil in a pan, add the garlic and chili and sauté on low heat for several minutes.  Add the chicken and sauté until thoroughly cooked.  Remove from the stove and add the parsley.

Cook the pasta in a large pot with salted water until al dente, drain and mix with the chicken/garlic/chili mixture.  Immediately add Parmesan and serve.