Thursday, April 29, 2010

Paula's Surprise Meat Loaf with Mushroom Tomato Sauce

I have no difficulty figuring out why I never made this dish in my early years of traveling through this cookbook. It has a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Each step is not unduly complicated, (It's meat loaf for God's sake. How complicated could meat loaf be?) but it does take a lot of time. I made it for son and fiancee, who come to dinner every couple of weeks. He lives here, but if we want to see them together, we have to feed them. Actually, I'm sure she would come over without being fed, but I always think visiting without food is rather pointless. Also, when else would they come, since everyone works, and we don't have the type of schedule to have people drop by at 5 pm for a leisurely cup of tea.
As we sat down, my son inquired politely, "Is this meat loaf accepting of ketchup? "
"Sure," I said, "But it comes with its own tomato sauce." He seemed relieved.
The verdict was, "Make this again, please." which sparked a discussion about the time that he threw such a fit over a pasta salad I used to make for picnics that I took out a purple marker and wrote across the recipe in large, angry letters, "Don't make this. Thomas doesn't like it." He claimed it ruined all pasta salad for him for ten years. Humph.
Aside from the fact that this recipe contains tomatoes, which I am not supposed to eat because they cause inflamation (supposedly), and leaves the kitchen littered with dirty dishes, it's a good recipe. (The surprise is the filling.) If you are not going to eat at 10:00, you have to do all this stuff simultaneously.
Since mixing the meatloaf and making the filling takes time, you should let the sauce cook longer than the stated times. Otherwise the mushrooms aren't cooked, and neither are the onions.

Paula's Surprise Meat Loaf

First is the Mushroom Tomato Sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups muschrooms, sliced
1 one pound,-twelve ounce can Italian plum tomatoes packed in puree
1 six ounce can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or one bayleaf, if salt cannot be used
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 cup to one third cup dry red wine

1. To prepare mushroom tomato sauce, heat the oil and butter in a heavy three quart to four quart sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender. Add the mushrooms and cook three minutes longer.
2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, salt and pepper. Stir to mix and bring to a boil, stirring.
3. Simmer the sauce, partially covered with a lid, thirty to thirty five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir in the basil and wine, and cook five minutes longer.
On to the meat loaf.

2 pounds ground lean beef chuck
2 eggs
1 small green pepper diced
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 onion, finely chopped
3 slices stale bread, soaked in water and then excess moisture squeezed out.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup Italian plum tomatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine the meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with the hands. (Moosh and squoosh it. Chop up the tomatoes. Otherwise the mix will be rather dry.)

On to the filling,

3 hard cooked eggs, chopped

1/2 cup julienne strips Genoa salami

1/4 cup freshly grated Romano and or Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup julienne strips pinemto

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon thyme

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Combine the filling ingredients in another bowl and mix well.
  2. On a double thickness of aluminum foil pat out the eat loaf mixture into a rectangle about 12 by nine inches. Place the filling in a long sausage shape atop meat about two inches from a long side.
  3. Gradually roll the meat loaf mixture around the filling like a jellyroll, using the foil s a guide to the rolling. Remove the foil and place the stuffed meat roll in a baking pan. Bake forty-five minutes or until done. Serve in slices with the sauce served separately.

Makes 8-10 servings. There wasn't any left.

Easy Hollandaise

This is another recipe for blender hollandaise. I suppose what I really should do is make all the different hollandaises at once, and that way we could see which was best. But, I didn't do that. What I should have done was something that would keep the sauce warm. Food temperature was an issue.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yokes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted and hot.

  1. Place the yoks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne if desired in an electric blender and blend on low speed.
  2. Maintaining the blender at low speed, gradually pour in the butter and continue blending until sauce is thick and smooth. Makes about 3/4 of a cup.

Eggs Sardou

These are named after Victorien Sardou, a 19th century French playwright who also popularized the fedora hat. Wickipedia does not have an entry for eggs, so it does not say how this dish came to be named after M. Sardou. It supposedly originated at Antoine's, the famous New Orleans restaurant, but, now, the Williams Sonoma website assures us, it is on brunch menus all over the city. We had it for dinner.
Like Filbert Mousse, Eggs Sardou pose certain linguistic challenges. For one thing, it helps to know the word for artichoke hearts in Spanish or some African language. Everyone at Whole Foods, that United Nations of food supply workers, knew artichokes, but they did not know artichoke bottoms. I tried to explain that artichoke bottoms had all the leaves taken off. The worker said in a puzzled tone, "You want the container?"
Anyhow, artichoke bottoms are not available in their frozen state at Whole Foods, or Safeway. So I had to steam my own artichokes. Having not steamed too many artichokes, I consulted that encyclopedia of gastronomy, The Joy of Cooking, which says authoritatively that artichokes should be steamed "on a trivet." Now, one thing we lack is a trivet. I do remember making a trivet, or hot pad, with the Cub Scouts right before Christmas. That particular trivet was made out of the stuff you use to frame pictures, so it would not have been suitable for steaming anything. I settled for a stainless steel bowl, upside down in the big stainless steel stockpot. Artichokes are situated well above the water, on the bowl. Something interesting happens when you use this device. To whit, all the water collects inside the bowl and forms sort of a vacuum.
Something else interesting happened too. The water turned a sort of bright kelly green. This did not happen the second time, so who knows what was going one.
This dish is listed under appetizers. I think it would make rather a complicated appetizer, and one that was difficult to serve hot, since there are all these different components. But it makes a fine dinner dish, or breakfast dish, if you have lots of time.

Eggs Sardou

1 cup hot creamed spinach (use frozen)
2 artichoke bottoms, canned and reheated or freshly cooked.
2 poached eggs
Easy hollandaise

1. Spoon the spinach onto two hot plates. Top with the artichoke bottoms.
2. Place one egg on each artichoke bottom Cover with hollandaise sauce.
Serves 2


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Filbert Mousse

If Hewlitt had called this Chocolate Filbert Mousse, she would have gotten a lot more takers, and I probably would have made this recipe a long time ago. Because chocolate is as important an ingredient as filberts.
This recipe presents certain challenges. The first is, remembering that filberts are only called filberts in Oregon and other Western states. Here, we call them hazelnuts. The important thing to remember at the Whole Foods where I went to get them is what they are called in Spanish, which I do not know. I could probably have told you what they were called in French (noisettes) , but not Spanish. I feel like a traitor writing this, because I am by profession an ESL teacher, but it is really annoying when everyone in the store has no idea what you are talking about. These are lovely, polite, friendly, hardworking people, who are probably being exploited by Whole Foods because they don't speak English. I suspect that the reason why no native English speakers work there is because they pay a lot less than other grocery stores.
This dish was the dessert for our spring dinner party. This was orchestrated by my husband, who is considerably better organized than I am. He set the table Friday night, did the shopping Thursday, and prodded me to make the dessert Friday evening. I had a commitment during the middle of the day that would keep me away from the cooking and cleaning for five hours, so I promised to clean early. I did get so far as to wash the kitchen floor on Thursday night, and take off the top two layers of grime. By Saturday afternoon, it looked like it needed washing again.
Cleaning in our house assumes the proportions of a military operation. That's because the enemy is allowed to languish in the corners for weeks at a time, until we sweep up balls of doghair and dust the size of the dog.
When I really get involved in cleaning, it's a neverending process. Once I clean the floor and vacuum the large quantities of dirt and gravel from under the rug, as well as from the top of it, I notice that the door is dirty, and I start spritzing around the doorknob. Then, the baseboards start calling attention to themselves, with their dusting of dog hair and dust. And then, there's the woodwork, the chair legs, the stuff hanging on the walls. Cleaning never ends. Now, if it got started more often, it wouldn't have to be such a process, but right now, that's the way things are. We actually did get the downstairs a lot cleaner than it had been. The party was a huge success. Most of the people didn't know each other, but they were talking in such an animated way that, when I told them dinner was ready, they didn't hear, and I had to tell them a second time. Here's the Filbert Mousse. (One important thing to remember. Don't forget the vanilla, the way I did.) Also, it speeds things up if you start scalding the milk while you're melting the chocolate, instead of after.
Another challenge is, if you are not careful, the hot milk turns the beaten egg yolks into something closely resembling scrambled eggs. So watch that double boiler routine. You might want to turn the heat down under the double boiler after the water starts to boil. As I stirred, waiting for the mixture to coat the back of a spoon, I unearthed clumps of eggs and looked dubious. I toyed with the idea of throwing the milk/eggs away and starting over, a la Julie Powell, but then, I figured, nah, the chocolate would hide the egg clumps. And you know what? I was right.
When it came time to beat the egg whites, I realized with horror that I had put the beaters into the dishwasher. Husband came through, and, dividing the egg whites into two batches, whipped them with a whisk. Amazing. What a hero.

Filbert Mousse

4 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
3 tablespoons plus one third cup water
1 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
5 eggs separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk scalded
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups ground toasted filberts
1 1/2 cups heavy cream whipped
Chopped toasted filberts

  1. Combined the chocolate, instant coffee and three tablespoons of the water in a small saucepan and heat gently to melt chocolate.
  2. Soften the gelatin in remaining water.
  3. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy. (These don't really become fluffy. They lighten in color, and assume the consistency of very thick paint, but they are not fluffy, and I believe, never will be) Gradually stir in the milk and pour mixture into the top of a double boiler. Cook over hot water until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in the vanilla, ground filberts and melted chocolate mixture. Chill until the mixture starts to set.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into gelatin mixture. Pour into a five-cup souffle dish which has an oiled four-inch collar tied around or into eight individual glasses.
  6. Chill until set. Remove collar from souffle dish if used. Sprinkle mousse with a few chopped toasted filberts. Makes eight.

Veal Rollatine

I don't know why I waited until now to cook all these veal recipes. Actually, I do know. It was hard to buy veal. I remember asking at one of the larger, more affluent Giants, where they actually had a separate section for more expensive meats, like beef fillet and stuffed rolled roasts. The guy told me there was no call for it, so they didn't carry it. My commitment to this cookbook rarely was so great that I would run all over town to find ingredients.
But, now, veal is available in the markets. This reminds me of a line in The Poor Poet's Cookbook, by Ann Rogers, a little volume of recipes for the novice cook. This cookbook was one of my favorite things to read in my student days. I was never a poor poet or any kind of poet, but I loved the little stories that went with the recipes. On veal, Rogers has this to say. "May, splendid in new green grass and flowers, is calf time in the cattle country. This means Poor Poet-priced veal in abundance in all the markets." Yeah, yeah, I know all about the heinous things done to calves. This is not milk-fed veal. But, anyway, these days, you can buy veal at Safeway and Giant. So, veal rollatine.
With the cucumbers, it does make rather a white meal, so noting some cookbook author's advice, (it may have been Alice, of Alice's Restaurant, the author of my first cookbook) I dug out the blue and white plates to eat it off lest my food be accused of being visually bland.

Veal Rollatine

6 veal scaloppine (about one and one-quarter pounds) lightly pounded
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, finelly minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
grated rind of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup fresh or canned chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the scaloppine on a flat surface and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Melt two tablespoons of the butter. Combine with the bread crumbs, garlic, cheese, parsley, lemon rind, thyme, basil, cream, salt, and pepper. Spread equal portions of this mixture on the veal slices. Roll each slice like a jellyroll and secure with toothpicks or string.
  4. Melt remaining butter in a skillet, add veal rolls and brown on all sides. Transfer veal rolls to a casserole.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the fat remaining in the skillet and cook briefly. Add the broth and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the brown particles that cling to the bottom and sides of the skillet. Pour mixture over the veal and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Cover and bake forty-five minutes.

Cucumbers in Sour Cream

As I've mentioned, the blog is running behind. In case anyone cares, we had chicken fried steak on Tuesday night, and Cucumbers in Sour Cream and Veal Rollatine on Wednesday night. Cucumbers in Sour Cream is a simple salad that makes a change, as the British say, from the usual lettuce, etc. There's nothing particularly regional or ethnic about it.

Cucumbers in Sour Cream

1 large cucumber
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped onion
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

  1. Peel the cucumber. Run times of fork length-wise over cucumber and cut crosswise into thin slices.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over sliced cucumber. Marinate thirty minutes at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chicken Fried Round Steak with Cream Gravy

Your correspondent first encountered, but not ate, Chicken Fried Steak on an ill-conceived trip across the country in 1973. The trip was ill-conceived because it started out being a sisterly jaunt with two unemployed women seeing their country for the first time, and ended up being directed by one Vaud Massarsky, my sister's then boyfriend, and forever real shit. I forget exactly where we ran into chicken fried steak, (and I always added facieciously) steak fried chicken, but it was somewhere in the great middle of our country. Was it Midland, Michigan, where we took a lake steamer across Lake Michigan? The lake steamer was huge, holding a bus, and many rail cars, as well as passenger cars. A storm blew up, which made me wonder, would those rail cars take us straight to the bottom, or would we have a chance to swim for it? Was it Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where we picked up a fly, named it Fergus, and pushed it out the window a hundred miles down the road? Was it around Mount Rushmore? Was it in Lead, South Dakota, (pronounced leed)?
Anyhow, because the Berkshire Farmer is a snotty Easterner who loves to make fun of people, chicken fried steak was one of those ridiculous things that people "out there" ate.
The food on the trip will forever stick in my mind as cementing the relationship between eating nothing but meat and baked potatoes and what the makers of 50s TV commercials delicately termed irregularity. By the time we got to our cousin's house in Corvalis, Oregon, my system was crying out for vegetables.
Well, we eat plenty of vegetables around here so chicken fried steak is not going to cause irregularity. My husband seemed fairly impressed that I had made it. It was a fond memory of his youth, spent crossing and recrossing the continent on trips from California where his parents settled, to Ohio, where they came from. We ate about 10:15, which is late even for our lax standards. My husband had been at a vestry meeting.
This is another one of those bland, Midwestern recipes. I doctored the cream gravy with Worcestershire sauce, which gave it some taste. I suggest that readers do the same. Sorry, Midwesterners, I'm not being snotty now, but 30-40 years ago, y'all did not go in for herbs and spices.

Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy

2 pounds round steak, cut one-half-inch thick and pounded thin
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup flour or cracker crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoonn freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons oil or rendered beef fat
1 cup heavy cream

  1. Cut the pounded steak into serving pieces. Dip in the eggs mixed with the milk and then in the flour or cracker crumbs mixed with the salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil or fat in the heavy skillet, (400 degrees on an electric skillet) and brown the steaks in it very quickly on both sides. Remove to a warm platter.
  3. Stir in the cream and cook, stirring to loosen all browned-on bits. Serve gravy over mashed potatoes or bread. If steak is not tender enough after just frying, it can be returned to cream gravy, covered and cooked further.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Southern Style Biscuits

These biscuits form the topping for the codfish pie. Biscuits are easy to make. We once had a young man who was an etymologist, or bug scientist at the Smithsonian, living in our basement. He made really good biscuits, and for a while, I used to make them around 5:00 on winter evenings, for what passed as afternoon tea at our house. This calls for buttermilk. I just poured a teaspoonful of vinegar into the milk and buttermilked it.
Even though the pie part of the Codfish Pie was easy, and the biscuits were easy, it did all take time. As a result of taking time, my son the lawyer complained massively that we didn't eat until 8:45 or 9:00.

Southern-Style Biscuits

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted shortening
2/3 buttermilk, approximately

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  3. Stir in the shortening and buttermilk to make a soft dough. Work on a floured board lightly until dough can be rolled. Roll out to one half inch thickness and cut into rounds.
  4. Place rounds on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake ten to twelve minutes.

Asparagus Salad

Now asparagus was a vegetable of my youth. My mother loved asparagus. In the days when it wasn't flown in from Mexico or God knows where else, but was grown on the East Coast, we ate it from the end of March, when it was ready in South Carolina and Georgia until June when it was growing in New Jersey. We had it four and five times a week. She put the cooked asparagus on pieces of toast and then dumped butter over the vegetables. It was a big treat to get the butter soaked toast. However, she over cooked it, and it took my husband to teach me that asparagus should just be waved through the water, kind of like the vermouth in a dry martini.
Now, while this recipe only calls for cooked asparagus, leaving the cook to determine how hard to wave each stalk through the water, the dressing is one of those recipes that makes one pause and wonder how was it really supposed to turn out.
It involves making a dressing from a hard boiled egg, olive oil, vineger, and whipped cream. Which is fine. However, the quantities of liquid are so small that the result is not so dressing-y. (One of the directions is, "Gradually beat the oil, etc, into the egg yolk." When you have less than a quarter cup of liquid, it's kind of hard to beat it gradually. So, instead of pouring it over the asparagus, one has to scrape it out of the bowl and plop it onto the asparagus sort of like icing onto a cake.

Asparagus Salad

1 hard cooked egg
1 1//2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely grated onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped
16 spears asparagus, cooked drained and chilled

1. Rub the yolk of the egg through a sieve. Chop the egg white. Gradually beat the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, onion, parsley and egg white into the yolk.
2. Fold into the cream and spoon over the asparagus.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Codfish Pie

I am lamentably behind on this blog. We ate Codfish Pie on Tuesday. This used up the other half of the box of salt codfish that I bought in March. Salt codfish keeps. It used to be stored in open boxes in ethnic grocery stores. I don't know if I remember this or not, there being few to no ethnic grocery stores in the Southern Berkshires in the 1950s and 60s. Since it was in the refrigerator, it kept even better. For some reason, codfish pie struck me as a spring dish. I don't know why, since it has no particularly spring-like ingredients.
Tuesday, although close to the middle of April, was nowhere near a spring day. It was around 45 degrees and raining on the Nuclear Summit, which in turn bollixed up the traffic in a royal way. I left school around 4:30 with Louisa, my student who stays behind for tutoring. While I walked her over to Girard Street where her aftercare program is, she taught me the following rhyme.
"I don't want to go to Mexico no more, more more.
There's a big fat policeman at the door, door, door.
If I open the door,
He will pee on the floor.
So I don't want to go to Mexico no more, more more."
Hmmm. So I was at the bus stop on Columbia Road around 5:00, and after one of the Circulator buses went by and no H2 or H4 buses that take me home, I made a tactical error, and jumped on the next circulator bus, figuring I could catch my bus at 18th and Columbia Road. Well, exactly one hour after I arrived at 18th and Columbia, the bus still hadn't come. Any quantity of parents with their children in parochial school uniforms, young professonals and just ordinary folks came and went. The wind blew down my neck and I deeply regretted not having worn my scarf. Finally I turned to a woman about my age who had been siting next to me for 45 minutes and demanded to know if she wanted to split the cost of a cab.
So I arrived home about 7:00 freezing and in a particularly bad mood. But this was a good dish for that kind of a night. Unfortunately, it is probably particularly bad for the eaters. First of all, it's SALT cod. Now, you soak it to get rid of the salt, but there is still some residual salt. Next it has SALT pork. And you can't soak that, so it's really salty. Salt pork's other name is fatback. You get the picture. Nothing I am supposed to be eating right now, as I am supposed to be on an anti-inflammatory diet, which consists mostly of green, leafy vegetables, and water.
My son the lawyer to be dubbed it "heavy." It becomes a pie by being topped with biscuits. It was good, but, as you say, somewhat heavy. I fully recommend it to any fisherman's family who wants to spend Saturday night sitting around the range in the kitchen swapping seafaring yarns and waiting for their weekly bath before church.

Codfish Pie

1/2 pound salt codfish cut into pieces
1/4 pound salt pork diced
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup diced cooked potatoes
Biscuit dough made from one and one half cups flour.

  1. Soak the codfish two hours in water to cover, changing the water three times. Drain codfish and place in a kettle with fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered until tender, about ten minutes. Drain and flake the fish.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Cook the salt pork in a skillet until pieces are crisp. Remove salt pork pieces and reserve. Remove all but three tablespoons fat from the skillet.
  4. Saute the onion in the fat in the skillet until tender. Blend in the flour and pepper. Gradually stir in the milk and cook,s tirring, until mixture thickens. Stir in codfish, reserved pork pieces and the potatoes.
  5. Turn into a deep baking dish. Drop the buscuit dough mixture on top of the hot cod mixture and bake 15 minutes or until biscuit topping is browned and cooked.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuna Stuffed Peppers a la Sarda

I have always had a prejudice against cooked tuna. Anyone who attended low budget camps and programs in the 60s will understand this. In fact, my husband has been begging for years for tuna noodle casserole, and I have said, olvedate, or words to that effect. That means fuggedaboutit in Spanish. It's pronounced ol-ve-da-tay. So, Jean Hewitt induced me to eat cooked tuna in peppers, and it is surprisingly good. I didn't get dinner started until after 7:30, due to having to walk the dog. The dog, like everyone else around this place who is not an adult child, is old. He has a wheelchair. (No joke.) It's a little cart that his hind legs go into, with shafts that run along his belly and a yoke type thing across his back. But, he still tools around the neighborhood, and since spring is here, we went out and enjoyed the azaleas and the dogwood and the tulips.
The recipe starts out with sauteeing 4 cloves of garlic in oil, and then throwing out the sauteed garlic, and having mildly flavored oil. I think it would have been even better if I had just chopped up the garlic and sauteed it. Then you mix up bread crumbs, anchovies, tuna, a cup of canned tomatoes, capers, basil, pine nuts, and currants and stuff it all into the peppers. Bake for an hour while you do something else, like pick up the two weeks worth of newspapers that have accumulated in the dining room.

8 large green peppers
4 cloves garlic
olive oil
1 can anchovy fillets, chopped
1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs
2 seven ounce cans tuna fish, flaked
1 cup peeled seeded chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup capers, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pignoli
1/2 cup currants

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  1. Cut a slice of the stem end of each pepper and remove core and seeds. Set peppers in a baking dish.
  2. Saute the garlic in one-half cup oil until brown. Remove garlic and discard.
  3. Add the anchovies and bread crumbs to the boil and saute briefly.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well and use to fill peppers. Spoon a little oil over each one. Bake, uncovered, about one hour or until tender.

Blender Hollandaise

Last night, we had salmon, just salmon, not cookbook salmon, and I made Blender Hollandaise. Why anyone would make regular hollandaise, messing around with a double boiler, and all the rest of it, is beyond me. This took about four and a half seconds. It isn't perhaps as thick as regular hollandaise should be, but it is amazingly delicious. Why wouldn't it be? It has half a cup of butter in it. I ate what was left with a spoon.

3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted

  1. Warm the blender container.
  2. Place the egg yoks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in container. Cover. Switch the blender on and off.
  3. Turn blender to high speed and add the butter in a steady stream. Keep warm by standing container in hot water.
  4. Makes about one cup.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lime Marmalade

I had intended spring vacation to be marmalade week, and thus bought a sack of limes. However, time and events got ahead of me, and the limes sat on the kitchen stool for a week. Finally, Thursday night, irritated by the fact that the limes were still sitting there, potentially rotting, I opened up the cookbook and started chopping.
Now, I am entranced by the names of foods. When I was in sixth grade, I used to check out the F-G volume of the World Book Encyclopedia during study hall and drool over the entry on food. In 1973 the first time I went to England, I encountered egg mayonnaise on a menu. Egg Mayonnaise! What a wondrous sounding dish. It sounded delicious and fancy and sophisticated. Well, at the bottom of a mountain in Scotland, I stopped at a sort of food stand that was selling the fabulous egg mayonnaise sandwiches. I was so disappointed to find that it was only egg salad. Not only that, but some git had put margarine on the Wonder Bread they used to make the sandwich.
And so it was with lime marmalade. Back at the beginning of this enterprise, in February, when I started it all by making grapefruit marmalade, I consulted my New York cousin on how to get the stuff to jam. She told me that her mother, my mother's sister, (not the one who shot a tiger, but the other one) used to make marmalade from one of those ladies' auxilliary cookbooks, sold as fundraisers. "She even made lime marmalade," said Cricket.
"Wow," I thought. "lime marmalade!"
I imagined it would be lime green, the color of that horrible mint jelly restaurants used to desecrate perfectly decent lamb with. I imagined beautiful, artistic, thin slices of lime floating in the jelly. And I imagined it would taste....ethereal.
So, I was definitely looking forward to lime marmalade. And, you have to admit, it won hands down over the four other marmalade recipes on the same page, New England Carrot Marmalade, Cucumber Marmalade, Quince Marmalade, (What the hell are quinces, anyhow?), and Tomato Marmalade. There is also Rhubarb Marmalade. (That goes into the head cheese category of things I'd better make when husband is out of town. He despises rhubarb.) In fact, there are two recipes for Rhubarb Marmalade, and Lemon Marmalade. Now, that sounds good. Hmm.
Also I had hit upon using these jams and jellies as a way to market the blog. I would get stick on labels and write the blog address on them. Then I would stick them on the jars. If some dude from Ecuador could get 9,000 readers a month for his blog that consisted of pictures of everything he ate every day, as reported by the NY Times, somebody must be interested in this besides my cousin Cricket, my one devoted reader.
Be warned, lime marmalade takes time. The stuff has to sit over two nights. Thursday night, I cut all the limes in chunks and ran them through the food processor. Then, I measured the resulting, somewhat lime green mass, and did multiplication, which you do in everyday life!! Sorry, as a teacher, one of my daily struggles is to try to tell my students that there is a point to all this information we are attempting to convey to them. I multiplied the six cups of lime moosh by three cups of water and got 18 cups of water. I added same to the lime and let all sit in the big ceramic bread bowl on the counter.
Friday night, after we got home from the cabaret at church, and dinner, I boiled the stuff for twenty minutes, and at 5 to midnight, put it back in its ceramic bowl and went to bed. On Saturday afternoon, after forgetting to buy five pounds of sugar at the first grocery store I went to, and buying it at the second, I was ready to boil.
I also needed jars. On the metal shelves in the corner of our basement, neatly arranged by my husband, are five boxes of mason jars. Or, upon further investigation, shall we say, five boxes that once contained mason jars. Shit. That's somewhere in the vicinity of 45 jars gone missing, over 25 years. Well, if you put it that way, it'll happen. The recipe said it makes 20 six ounce jars of marmalade. (It didn't, but it made enough to fill way more than the number of six ounce jars I had. So, I combed through the shelves, and found some 12 ounce jars, dragged them upstairs, washed them and plunged them into a boiling water bath to kill all the lurking microbs.
By now, having added a huge quantity of sugar, the lime mass was no longer green. It was instead a dark, marmalade color, sort of a browny orange. Disappointment number one. So, I boiled, and boiled and boiled. What these recipes leave out of the cooking instructions is the phrase, "for several hours." Once you know that, making jam, etc is a breeze.
I also learned a new technique for determining whether the stuff is done, or not. Listen carefully, children, because I'm going to explain what the cookbook was talking about. What it says is, boil..."until a drop chilled on a plate leaves a track when pushed by the finger." What that means is, you glop a little on a plate, and put it in the refrigerator. Clear there. Then, you take it out and run your finger through it. When it is done, the marmalade stays parted, like the waters of the Red Sea. You have a little road through your marmalade.
Around 7:00 pm, I ladled the marmalade into various sized hot jars, burning myself at least once in the process, poured melted paraffin over the top, and cleaned up. It does not taste ethereal. It is more tart than grapefruit marmalade, because limes have more of a distinct flavor. If you want to know how many six ounce jars this yields, I would say, around 15.

Lime Marmalade

12 large or 18 medium-sized limes, washed

  1. Two days before, put the limes through a food processor. Measure the resulting pulp and add three cups water for each cup pulp. Set aside overnight in a pottery or ceramic bowl.
  2. Next day, transfer the mixture to a kettle and bring to a boil. Simmer gently twenty minutes. Let stand overnight again in the bowl.
  3. Next day, measure the mixture into a large kettle and add one cup sugar for each cup lime mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly, stirring to prevent sticking, until the marmalade sheets from the spoon, a drop chilled on a plate leaves a track when pushed by the finger, or the mixture registers 220 degress on a candy thermometer.
  4. Let cool in the kettle about twenty minutes and then ladle into hot sterilized jars. Top with two thin layers of melted paraffin and allow to coll. Cap and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tacos and Taco Sauce

From Minnesota, we travel to New Mexico. These tacos are not terribly spicy. In fact, the taco meat has no spices at all, only oregano. Also, the recipes call for fresh tortillas, not dried tortillas, so the tacos do not stand up. The recipe says, cook five minutes or until crisp. They were not crisp after five minutes, but the cheese was melted, so I took them out.
Cooking the meat was fairly standard, but filling the tacos was something else. The tortillas were dipped in hot melted shortening to soften them. This required a pair of tongs and a certain amount of speed, because if I left the tortillas in the shortening too long, they would become crisp. Tortillas had to be flicked out of the hot shortening, and put in the baking pan, with a glass to prop them up so they didn't flop over. Then I had to fill them, and flick the next one out of the shortening. Flick, fill, spread. Hunt for the tongs. Flick, fill, spread, fry. Hunt for the spoon.
Soon, all nine tacos were filled, and put in the oven. The sauce just required mixing up the ingredients, although I did heat it.


1 pound ground beef
1 small onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons oregano
9 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 small head lettuce finely shredded
1 recipe taco sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Fry the meat in a skillet until well browned and cooked. Add the onion, garlic, tomatoes and oregeno and cook five minutes longer.
2. Melt shortening to a depth of one-quarter inch in a skillet and heat. Dip the tortillas in the shortening just to soften. Do not allow to become crisp.
4. Fold tortillas in half. Fill with meat mixture and the cheese and place on a baking tray. Heat in the oven five minutes or until crisp. Top with the lettuce and serve with taco sauce.

Taco Sauce

1 eight ounce can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped.
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder

Combine all ingredients.

Boiled Beef with Stappa (Mashed Rutabagas)

Since this dish is from Minnesota, I'm guessing that stappa is the Norwegian word for rutabagas. If you know better, weigh in with the ethnic derivation of stappa. Rutabagas may have gotten a bad rap. They're not bad. This book contains a very good cream soup which I foisted off as potato soup one Thanksgiving. My son, who at that point was 22, informed me graciously that he wouldn't not eat it, meaning that he would eat it. Somebody must cook the things. They continue to sell them in the grocery store along with parsnips. Now, I can tell you about them. The British are very fond of parsnips, and french fry them, which actually renders them tasty.
Actually, there are three more rutabaga recipes in this book, which theoretically will be passed on to you lucky readers in time. To whit, rutabaga pie, crisp rutabaga salad and cheese scalloped rutabagas. So, perhaps in time, the rutabaga mystery will unfold.
This dish was not a hit with my family. The general consensus was, why did I want to mess up perfectly good mashed potatoes with rutabagas.
"I don't like this much," Son said, laying down the law as usual. (Isn't it lucky for him he's going to be a lawyer?)
The meat was a challenge . The book called it beef shin. The butcher at the grocery store knew not of shin. "It's for boiled beef," I said.
"You're not giving me much to work with," he said.
Finally I said brisket.
"Do you have brisket that isn't corned?" He indicated it in the meat case.
A caution. The recipe says simmer for two hours and a half. Make sure you do. That may have been part of the problem, since the meat was tough. Probably horseradish sauce would be a good idea too.

Boiled Beef with Stappa

1 large beef shin (brisket)
3 carrots, quartered
2 ribs of celery
salt to taste
20 peppercorns
2 rutabagas, peeled and thickly sliced
3 large potatoes scrubbed
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 tablespoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons butter

1. Place the beef shin in a kettle and add water to cover. Add the carrots, celery, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, skim the surface to remove foam and scum and partly cover. Simmer about two hours.
2. Add the rutabagas and potatoes and cook until tender, thirty minutes or longer. When the rutabagas and potatoes are tender, remove them. Peel the potatoes and put both vegetables through a food ricer. Season with salt, pepper and ginger and stir in the butter. Serve with beef shin, sliced.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Orange Marmalade

Since it's spring vacation, I had enough free time to consider more marmalade. This book is full of marmalade recipes, so I figured I had better seize the day. This recipe had a terminology problem, or I had a terminology problem. The first instruction was to remove the rind in strips from four oranges and two lemons. I interpreted this to mean the peel, and set about removing same with my thumbs. After I had six naked citrus fruits on the counter, my husband wandered over, and explained that what they probably meant was to remove the colored part with a peeler.
Marmalade not being a delicate dish, I pressed on. Put the one third of strips (blobs) into an electric blender with 1/2 cup of water, it said. Well, what you end up with is a lot of white stuff, and little flakes of the rind. Use the food processor, husband suggested. In order to get the white stuff and flakes out of the mixer, I added more water.
After food processing the rest of the rind, which became rind by using a sharp knife to remove the white stuff, the book said to put it in a sauce pan and boil it for twenty minutes. Since what I had was mildly moist bits of rind, which was clearly not going to boil, I added five cups of water.
The next instruction was to scoop the pulp out of the oranges and lemons. Since you can't scoop pulp out of a naked orange, I sliced them and popped the slices into the water-peel mixture with the sugar.
The final ingredient was 1/2 bottle of liquid fruit pectin. Now, liquid fruit pectin may be available in the summer, in canning season, but, not in late March. So, I boiled. The boiling went on most of the afternoon, during dinner, and after dinner, to no avail. Today, I went out in the morning, planning to return and boil in the afternoon. When I came back, lo and behold, what did I find, but the completed marmalade, ready to put in jars and cover with melted paraffin.
I don't know how this recipe was really supposed to work out. It doesn't seem like it called for enough liquid to really make marmalade. But here it is, and if anyone tries it and gets it to work in the manner intended by the author, let us all know.

Orange Marmalade

4 large oranges
2 lemons
1 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups of sugar
1/2 bottle of liquid pectin

1. Remove the rind in strips from the oranges and lemons. (Rind means just the colored part. Use a potato peeler.)
2. Place one third of the strips in the container of an electric blender. (Use a food processor.) Add one-half cup of water, cover and blend on high speed seven to ten seconds. Pour into a saucepan.
3. Repeat the process twice, using the remaining fruit rinds and water. Combine all the blended mixture in the saucepan.
4. Add the baking soda. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer twenty minutes.
5. Scoop the pulp and juice from the oranges and lemons and add to the saucepan. Cook ten minutes longer. Add the sugar, bring to a full rolling boil and boil one minute.
6. Remove from the heat and add the pectin. To keep fruit rinds from floating, let marmalade cool ten minutes before bottling.
7. Pour into hot sterilized jelly glasses. Pour two thin layers of melted paraffin over. Store in a cool dark, dry place.
Makes 5 to six six ounce glasses.

Avocado Pecan Bread

I actually made this a week ago, and did not have time to report to you. It's one of those "One Hundred Ways to Use Avocados" type of recipes. One imagines that 50 or 60 years ago, when Southern California had actual towns and not a collection of shopping centers tied together with freeways, that the Southern California Avocado Growers had a competition for new ways to use avocados. All the avocado growers' wives beavered away, and developed recipes. This one, and Avocado Meatloaf, were handed down to us.
If you think about it, you can put any kind of fruit or vegetable into a sweet bread. It just can't have too strong a taste. Avocados do not have a particularly strong taste, so this bread is akin to any other sweet bread, like banana bread. Except it doesn't taste of bananas. It does retain the color of avocados; i.e. it's green. It would be a good thing to serve on Saint Patrick's Day, if you don't like Irish Soda Bread, which I don't.
I took it to school and served it to my colleagues. These are either an incredibly polite bunch of people, or else they don't habitually ask questions. Not until the 7th person I offered it to did someone inquire as to why it was green. They seemed to like it. My family, as has been mentioned, are all on diets, so I wanted to get it out of the house.
This is easy to make. It does call for buttermilk, which I did not have. However, in some Craig Claiborne cookbook of the 60s, I learned the trick of making sour milk by adding a teaspoon of vinegar. So, if you don't want to have most of a quart of buttermilk cluttering up your refrigerator for 3 weeks until you finally throw it away, use vinegar.

Avocado Pecan Bread

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 medium sized avocado, mashed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.
3. Combine the remaining ingredients and add to dry mixture; mix. Pour into a greased 9-5 by 3 inch loaf pan. Bake one hour. Remove to a rack for cooling.