Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vivian's Corn Bread

The Southern section of the New York Times Heritage Cookbook has no less than twelve recipes for cornbread, so I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to serve it at Thanksgiving. My son, in the sharing spirit of the day, brought excellent pumpkin biscuits that I passed with the soup, so many guests gave the corn bread a pass.
Actually, they were wise. This corn bread is way too dry. If you don't have time to hunt through all the millions of recipes on line, you can easily rescue this one from dryness by following my instructions, which doubles the milk. That would make it much better. Other than that, it's an okay recipe, not dramatically different from the recipe I used to make in The Joy of Cooking.

Vivian's Corn Bread

2 cups yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons shortening or melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2 Sift together the corn meal, flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs, salt, sugar, milk and shortening or butter. Pour into greased nine-inch square pan.
3. Bake twenty to twenty-five minutes or until bread is firm in the center. Makes six servings.

Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes (Gluten Free)

 It seems to be a Thanksgiving tradition to have two kinds of potatoes at our dinner, white mashed and sweet. I am actually not sure how this thing got started. It may have been when the kids were younger and requested mashed sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, which, although schmaltzy, are really good. The cookbook continues to provide me with sweet potato recipes, so this is an opportunity to make them. My husband, Bob, does not care for sweet potatoes, so they do not usually appear at our table.
As sweet potato dishes go, this one is okay. Note that the sweet potatoes are supposed to be mostly cooked before you orange glaze them. (I didn't.) In fact, in a spectacular failure to read the recipe I neglected to buy orange juice when I went to the supermarket on Tuesday. So around 1:00 on Thursday, halfway through the four hour cooking marathon, I took Watson, the corgi, out to CVS to buy a bottle of orange juice. So, to make your Thanksgiving, or whatever, go more smoothly, be sure to buy orange juice and precook the sweet potatoes. Unless you want to get out of the kitchen for a few minutes and walk the dog.
The recipe author envisioned serving the potatoes whole. I sliced them, which seems like a better strategy when dealing with several side dishes. People may take what they want and leave the rest. I also only put in the brown sugar. It was plenty sweet.

Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

6 medium sized yams or sweet potatoes, scrubbed and boiled or baked until barely tender and peeled. (Peel these first. If you cook them first, you risk burned fingers.)
1 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the already cooked yams or sweet potatoes in  greased shallow baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small pan an bring to a boil, stirring. Pour over the potatoes and bake thirty minutes, basting occasionally. Makes six servings.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Salsa Cruda

I made salsa cruda on Wednesday night when Bob made an extremely delicious pork taco dish out of a single pork chop. This is definitely a recipe enhanced by the existence of the Cuisinart. Saves all that fine chopping. It took all of five minutes. Do not, by the way, put whole vegetables into the Cuisinart. Chop them roughly, even the garlic clove.
I used jalapeno peppers from our garden instead of the canned chilies. I also suggest a whole teaspoon of ground coriander and a large pinch, maybe a teaspoon worth of pinch of oregano.
One must be judicious in the use of the Cuisinart. Don't buzz too much, or you wind up with soup. I was trying for a more textured salsa.  It worked out well.
The editors of this cookbook, if they existed at all, translated Salsa Cruda into Cold Crude Sauce. Cruda means raw, dimwits. Couldn't you have gotten a Spanish English dictionary and learned that for yourselves?

Salsa Cruda

1 onion, finely minced (See introduction.)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 ripe tomatoes, or two cups Italian plum tomatoes chopped
1 four ounce can whole medium-hot green chilies, chopped
or 1 jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch of oregano
salt to taste
cider vinegar or olive oil to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use serve with meat or poultry, or do as they do in Guadalajara and spread it on a tortilla, roll up the tortilla and eat as a snack or something to round out the meal. Makes about three cups.

Mincemeat Pumpkin Pie

A week or so before Thanksgiving, I was leafing through the cookbook, and discovered, lo and behold, that I had actually not made all the pumpkin pie recipes. There was this little gem, from Oregon, lurking in the back of the book. Not only that, but I had, sitting in the back of my refrigerator, a jar of homemade mincemeat, left over from last year's mincemeat marathon. So, since my husband Bob specifically requested pumpkin pie here was a way of knocking off a recipe.
It is an incredibly easy recipe as well. You dump the mincemeat in the bottom of the premade pie shell, mix up the rest of the ingredients, pour and bake. I was able to made the pie on Monday evening and place it on the table on the day after the turkey marathon. This can backfire. I made the pecan pie Friday night. We were going out, and the pie wasn't done so I set the oven timer for 15 minutes and went out the door..
When we got back at 9:30, a "very thoroughly cooked pie" was sitting on the stove. We investigated it later in the weekend and found it to be cement-like in texture, so I made another one and watched the oven myself.
Bob found the pie under seasoned. If you like a more spicy pumpkin pie, you could double the cinnamon, and add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Unfortunately, it did not seem to be to every one's taste. We found a couple of half eaten pieces in the living room, as well as a plate containing all the mincemeat, carefully picked out. I ate it Friday night at leftovers fest. Seemed fine to me.  Well, it might be an acquired taste.

Mincemeat-Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups mincemeat
1 unbaked nine-inch pie shell, chilled
1 cup mashed cooked (canned) pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place the mincemeat in the bottom of the pie shell.
3. Using a rotary beater, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour over mincemeat. Bake thirty-five to forty minutes or until set. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes six servings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Really Fantastic Green Tomato Relish

While I was leafing through the cookbook looking for dessert recipes I came across a couple of recipes for green tomato pie. That didn't quite work because of the oven, but it gave me an idea. Look at the chutneys and relishes. There it was, Green Tomato Relish.
This is not any Green Tomato Relish. This relish made me want to rush out and buy hot dogs on Saturday night, just so I could eat the relish with the hot dogs. The fact that I had already had dinner was of no consequence. This relish is amazing as topping for cheese and crackers. This relish is so good, you want to eat it with a spoon. If you can still find green tomatoes in your local farmers market, you should make this relish right now.
This is green tomato season. Farmers pick the tomatoes that are left on the vines, ripe or not. Some people ripen them on the window sill. I use them to can.
The last tomatoes of 2014

On November 13, the first frost of the season was forecast. I went out to the garden to see what we had that might be harvested. We had an amazing crop of green tomatoes, which I picked, as well as quite a respectable number of hot peppers. That took care of the tomatoes. I walked up to Bethesda to the Women's Farm Market in search of the peppers and onions called for in the recipe.
The farmer had a basket of  "smaller" peppers, half green, half red  and large sweet onions. I was perplexed as to quantities. The recipe called for 15 green tomatoes, which I had, and 36 red and green peppers. Even the smaller peppers were pretty large by the standards of the 1960s , so I reasoned that 15 peppers would be enough to make the full amount of the recipe. This may have been somewhat faulty reasoning, but it seemed to work out in the end.
The friendly farmer sold me the peppers, onions and a pound of Brussels sprouts, and gave me a large paper shopping bag from Whole Foods to cart it home in. No sooner had I walked out of the market that I noticed that the handle was torn, and would certainly not last the two mile walk home. I loaded as many peppers into my too small carry bag as it would take, thus reducing the weight on the paper bag,  and took the bus back to Friendship Heights. There I went to Giant to buy the rest of the ingredients, white vinegar and sugar, as well as a plastic bag to carry everything home in.
Once home, I started chopping. The tomatoes had to be chopped and then sprinkled with salt, after which they had to sit for an hour. Then came cutting up the peppers into "large cubes". This is a time consuming process that had to be interrupted when Bob and I went to church for the cabaret that a choir member stages every few months. The parish hall is transformed into a night club and singers in sparkly outfits sing torch songs.
I got back to the relish Saturday afternoon. This is a recipe that is greatly enhanced by a Cuisinart. The directions say, run the onions and vegetables through a food grinder. The Cuisinart, judiciously used, results in relish of a perfect consistency. Pulse, scrape and check. Don't just buzz, or you will have soup.  Another item that speeds things up is the tea ball.  The directions say to sew the spices into a cheesecloth bag.  I dumped the cloves and celery seed into the tea ball, and put the two cinnamon sticks into the relish, to be fished out prior to canning.
This recipe results in a perfect sweet/sour balance of flavors, and slightly crunchy relish. Many times my canned goods end up gathering dust at the back of the closet in the kitchen, but this one will be used up, I know it.

Really Fantastic Green Tomato Relish

12 green tomatoes cored
1/3 cup coarse salt
24 green peppers
6 red sweet peppers
12 large sweet onions
1 gallon boiling water
4 cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons stick cinnamon pieces
1 teaspoon celery seed

1. Chop the tomatoes and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand one hour. Drain.
2. Core and seed green and red peppers and trim away the white veins. Cut peppers into large cubes. Put peppers and the onions through a food chopper. (Cuisinart, please.) Add half the water and drain immediately in a colander.
3. Add the remaining water and let stand ten minutes. Drain.
4. Add the vinegar and sugar. Tie the cloves, stick cinnamon and celery seeds in a cheesecloth bag and add it. (Use a tea ball.) Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, uncovered, exactly thirty minutes. Discard the spice bag.
5. Pour the relish into hot sterilized jars and seal in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes, beginning the timing after the water is boiling. Remove from the boiling water allow to cool and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Makes about six quarts.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sweet Potato Pone (Gluten Free)

Our son and daughter-in-law came to dinner Thursday night. I decided to make lasagna because we had enough lasagna noodles to make at least two pans of lasagna. Also, they like lasagna. Dessert was a close call. I was going to make apple crumble, which I  had made in the distant past and so would not result in a post. Then I started paging through the cookbook and discovered this. Easy, tasty, and as it happens, leaving a half sweet potato to make sweet potato quesadillas.
After walking to the grocery store, which I do nowadays in order to get in fitbit steps, I began boiling water for the lasagna noodles  and grating sweet potato. It has to bake for three hours, so, I got it in at 4:30.
By 6:30, we needed the oven for the lasagna. Bob examined the pone, which was still in a largely liquid state, and suggested we leave it in as we turned the oven up to 350 degrees for the pasta. That was what we did. It turned out soft and sweet. It would have been better if I had started it later, because it is a dish best served warm.
This is a good fall dessert. It has all the fall flavors, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. Put it in the oven and forget about it. (Don't forget to set the timer, however!)

Sweet Potato Pone

2 cups grated raw sweet potatoes
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
grated rind of one orange
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh or ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
heavy cream or ice cream

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
2. Combine all the ingredients and pour into a one and one half quart baking dish. Bake three hours. Serve warm with heavy cream or ice cream. Makes six servings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Okra Ham Soup

Okra Ham Soup is a summer recipe. I just squeaked under the line of what was possible with fresh produce. On Friday, my husband Bob and I went to the acupuncturist in Bethesda, and afterwards, took a turn through the Bethesda Women's Farm Market. This throwback to the 1940s is a small, shed-like building surrounded by Bethesda's nine or ten story office buildings. It contains relatively few actual farmers. I think there might be two or three. There is a woman who sells arsenal chocolate, a man who sells hand turned wooden bowls, a woman who sells Indian food, etc. You get the picture.
We stopped at the farmer, where I noticed okra. A week ago, I had bought a ham for this very recipe, which called for a ham bone. A person who shall remain nameless had gone all efficient and discarded the ham bone, but we won't talk about that. We still had the ham, and Mr. Farmer had the okra.
I bought the okra and Friday night, I went to work on the soup. It does not do to let okra lie around in  your refrigerator. I have done this, and I can tell you what happens. It becomes slimy. I sliced the okra, used salt pork instead of bacon because we didn't have any bacon, and a can of petite diced tomatoes. Then I got to the lima beans. I thought maybe we had limas lurking in the bowels of the freezer, but no such luck. I finished off the soup sans limas , using frozen corn, but fresh thyme from the garden.
Saturday morning, I set off with my shopping bag and Watson the corgi to run down lima beans at the farmers' market on Connecticut Avenue. For this late in the year, the farmers, who were mainly Latino, had quite an array of produce, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale, and a bunch of other stuff. as well as yummy looking and smelling El Salvadorian food, eggs and farm baked bread. One guy had beans in the shell that may have been limas. At least he said they were.  They might have been broad beans. He said his beans were the last for the season, so I bought all of them.
I got them home and settled down to shell beans and listen to the famous National Public Radio news quiz program, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. My calculations required a half cup of limas, but I ended up with less than a quarter of a cup. What the heck. They went in the soup.
The result was smoky and rich, excellent over rice, a great fall dinner. Southerners seem to like hot soup in hot weather, but I prefer it when the weather changes.

Okra Ham Soup

2 pounds okra, finely sliced. (frozen okra can be used)
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 ham bone (or a cup of diced ham)
6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or four cups canned
1 cup fresh butter or lima beans
1 small sprig thyme or one-half teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
water or chicken broth if necessary
1 1/2 corn kernels, cut from cob
3 cups hot cooked rice

1. Cook the okra quickly in a skillet with the bacon drippings and vinegar until okra loses its slimy consistency, stirring constantly.
2. Transfer to a kettle and add  the ham bone, tomatoes, beans and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer until meat on bone is very tender. Remove bone. Chop ham and return to kettle. Check consistency and, if too thick, add water or chicken broth.
3. Add corn kernels to soup. Cook three minutes. Serve over the rice.
Makes six servings.