Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Canlis Salad

I decided to check Google before writing about Canlis Salad. The Heritage Cookbook says Canlis Salad comes from Connecticut, or at least this recipe did. Google says there is a Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, and the chef learned this recipe from his Lebanese mother. There can perfectly well be Lebanese in Connecticut, and in fact, I am sure that there are persons of Lebanese descent living in the Nutmeg State. Lebanese makes sense as well, because of the mint. In any case, this is a dynamite salad, and I did not leave anything out! (Amazingly enough!)

It was well received by the masses who did not make fun of it, or me. I would have said that the recipe could be French, because of the bacon and the egg. Along the Loire Valley, one can buy the most amazing salads, salads that weigh at least a pound and a half, and are excavated more than eaten, like an archeological site. They contain lardons, which are basically thick pieces of bacon, and poached eggs. They are also delicious. This salad was meager by comparison, although many of us may not want mega salads.

Canlis Salad

2 heads romaine lettuce
1 egg
1 pound bacon slices
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup one half inch bread cubes
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/3 cup of olive oil.
2 tomatos, peeled cored and cut into eighths.
1/4 cup chopped scallion, including green part
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese, or Parmesan Cheese.
Juice of two lemons.
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Trim and rinse the lettuce and cut or tear it into bite-size pieces. Pat dry, place in plastic bag and chill.
2. Place the egg in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and simmer one minute. Drain. Set aside.
3. Cook the bacon until it is crisp. Drain on paper towels. Let bacon cool; then break or cut into small pieces.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and add the bread cubes. Cook, shaking the skillet and stirring, until cubes are golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.
5. Sprinkle the bottom of a salad bowl with salt and rub with the garlic. Remove the garlic and stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the tomato wedges and the lettuce.
6. Sprinkle with the scallion, cheese and bacon bits.
7. In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, mint, oregano and lightly cooked egg. Stir thoroughly pour the dressing over the salad. Add salt and pepper and toss. Add the bread cubes, toss once more and serve immediately. Four to six servings.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Broiled Red Snapper

I decided on this out of a desire to serve a simple summer meal without a ton of ingredients. I broiled the snapper under the broiler, not over charcoal. I have plenty of experience with grilling, and in fact, thanks to that great organization, the Girl Scouts of America, can do slow grilling. However, I lack the confidence to grill fish over a grill. Even broiling fish under the broiler gives me issues, since I have no idea when it is done. The directions said cook five to ten minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the fish. My piece of fish was thick, or it seemed thick to me, about an inch. I grilled it for five minutes, and took it out to cut it in half, only to discover that the inside was raw. I grilled for three more minutes, cut some more and discovered more raw fish. Back in the broiler it went, for three more minutes of broiling. So ten minutes ought to do it with a thickish piece of fish.
We've been having some really nice summer weather, not too hot to eat outside, so I wanted to have the kind of meal that the shelter rags take a picture of. I wouldn't say that I succeeded, but, we did have a nice dinner, away from the newspaper and dog hair strewn mess that is our family room/dining room.
Our terrace is lit with those Christmas icecle lights that were so popular about 10 years back. My husband spent two evenings on a tippy ladder, looping them onto wires that stretch from the house to the magnolia tree , to the garage and to the corner of the sun porch. It means you can see what you are eating, and looks very festive. So, we ate out there. Broiled red snapper, tiny white boiled potatoes and salad.
Every so often, I get domestic. Sometimes I am spurred on by reading of the domesticity of others, and sometimes, I just feel sorry for my husband, who works hard at a job that he doesn't particularly care about, just so he can have a nice, domestic life at home. I feel bad that nine times out of ten, he gets home at 8:15 or 8:30 and is ordered to make the salad so we can eat. (He makes way better salad than I do, but hell, my salad is edible, and I can make it so he doesn't have to.)
So that was the emotion driving our dinner. I also cleaned up the kitchen, which had descended into squalor, thanks to the fact that it hadn't been cleaned up after dinner on Wednesday. We ate out on Thursday, so the sink had collected a huge number of dirty glasses, cereal bowls, etc.

Broiled Red Snapper

2 red snapper fillets, each weighing about one pound, or four large fillet pieces each weighing about one half pound.
Melted butter
Salt, and freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley
lemon butter
lemon wedges

1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Place the fillets on a baking dish and brush generously with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil about two inches from broiler heat. If fish starts to brown too quickly, reduce heat. Cook five to ten minutes, depending on size and thickness of fish. Brush the fish with additional butter during cooking. Serve fish sprinkled with parsley and lemon butter. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Two to four servings.

Greek Salad

Since summer has enveloped us in her sweaty grasp, it's time to move on to cooler dishes. This salad is a good summer dish. Even though I had all the ingredients, it didn't seem quite as Greek as salad in Greek restaurants. Maybe it's in the vinegar. I bet Greeks have some special kind of vinegar, probably balsamic, or something like that. I have balsamic vinegar, but the recipe called for cider vinegar, which is not all that interesting.
While I was assembling the salad, my son came over, peered at the cookbook, and, stabbing at it with his finger, announced, "That's a lot of bacon." I explained to him that the bacon, which, did indeed seem like a lot, one pound, in fact, was part of another salad, called Canlis Salad. I just told my husband that one of the salads contained a pound of bacon, and he said, "Sounds good." So I guess we'll be having this soon, because it's definitely less effort than, say, jellied veal, another hot weather dish.
This recipe contains a peculiar instruction. It says, "Cut the top off the cucumber." Now, as far as I'm concerned, cucumbers don't have tops. You can cut them in half. But they really don't have tops. I cut off one end, salted it per instructions, and rubbed the severed top against the remainder. It's supposed to keep the cucumber from being bitter. Perhaps cucumbers were more bitter in the 60s. They are not noticeably bitter now. My son said the technique worked, since the cucumber wasn't bitter. I suspected that this was something like the anti bear invention that Homer Simpson invested in because it worked. "After all you don't see any bears around here, do you?" Homer inquired triumphantly. Anyhow, cut, sprinkle and rub, or not. I don't really think it makes a huge difference.

Greek Salad

2 red onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons cider or wine vinegar
1 head escarole, chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cucumber
1 green peper, cored, seeded and diced
1 bunch radishes, sliced
1 cup Greek olives
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut into slivers
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. To prepare salad, place the onions and vinegar in a bowl. Springkle generously with salt. Squeeze vigorously with the hand. Let mixture set twenty to thrity minutes.
2. Place the escarole, onion mixture and tomatoes in a salad bowl.
3. Cut the top off the cucumber. Salt and rub cut surfaces together several minutes. This removes the bitterness.
4. Peel cucumber and score the outside beefore chopping. Add to the salad bowl. Add the green pepper, radishes, olives and feta cheese.
5. To prepare dressing, shake together in a jar the vinegar, mustard and sugar. Add the oil, sald and pepper. Shake again. Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving.

Makes ten smallish servings, or enough for four or five as a main course.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chicken Gumbo

My husband said this blog should be called The Cooking of Lost America with lost ingredients. Chicken Gumbo, as you may know, contains okra. I had okra. However, okra seems to be a vegetable with a short shelf life. When I went into the vegetable drawer to extract the okra, I withdrew a glutinous mess even though I had just bought it Saturday. So, the gumbo was not exactly gummy. In fact, in one of the rare asides in this book, Hewlitt assures the reader that okra is the essential ingredient in gumbo, so I suppose I could call this "Chicken Not Gumbo"
Some of the things featured in this cookbook just can't be found anymore, like a 5 pound stewing chicken, cut into pieces. I suppose that in the country, like on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where chickens are plentiful, one might be able to buy a stewing hen. But here in Washington, DC, the closest you can come to a stewing hen is an oven stuffer roaster. Which worked perfectly well.
Another thing that I do not have in my kitchen is bacon drippings. My mother served bacon for breakfast every morning, and poured the drippings into a coffee can. When the coffee can was full, it was put in the freezer. Came the winter, the coffee cans of bacon drippings would be extracted from the freezer and put on top of the bird feeder. One year, some kind of bird, possibly a starling, slung fat all over the aluminum siding on the front of the house. However, we only have bacon a couple of times a month, so we don't keep bacon drippings.
The recipe also called for 4 ears of corn, which is not available in June, at least not in a form where I am willing to buy it.
Both my husband and I grew up with very high standards for corn on the cob. In the southern Berkshires in the 50s and 60s, corn was grown by a man named Howden. The little markets and the farm stand advertised Howden corn. He picked it in the morning, we bought it and ate it that night. In the summertime we would have at least three vegetables, corn on the cob, broiled tomatoes and maybe something like green beans or fried zucchini. We never bought corn from the supermarket.
My husband's father grew up in southern Ohio. A notoriously fussy man, he believed that corn should be picked no more than two hours before cooking. This is tough, unless you are surrounded by corn fields.
So, I substituted frozen corn, and it worked fine.
This recipe contains half a cup of raw rice, which seems very little for the amount of liquid and chicken. My husband wanted to make sure the rice was done, because he doesn't like crunchy rice. I had to hunt around for grains of rice to make sure it was done.
It says Tabasco or red pepper flakes. First, I couldn't locate the red pepper flakes so I started shaking in dollops of Tabasco. Then I found the red pepper flakes, and upended the bottle into the gumbo. Whoops. Anyhow, it was hot. Not unbearably so, but hot and spicey nonetheless.

Chicken Gumbo

1 five pound stewing chicken, cut into pices
1/4 cup lard or bacon drippings
4 cups boiling chicken broth or water
salt to taste
4 ears corn
3 ripe tomatoes or two cups canned tomatoes
1/2 pound okra, trimmed and sliced lengthwise or crosswise
5 cups water
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/4 cup butter or chicken fat
1/2 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce to taste
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 teaspoon or more Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 to two teaspoons file powder. (optional)

1. Brown the chicken pieces in the lard or bacon drippings and transfer the pices to a casserole. Add the broth or water and salt and simmer, partly covered until the meat is easily removed from the bones, one and one half hours or longer. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Add the meat to the cooking liquid and set aside.
2. Scrape the corn from the cobs into another saucepan. Add the tomatoes, okra and water and bring to a boil.
3 Meanwhile, cook the onion, celery and green pepper in the butter or chicken fat until vegetables are wilted. Add them to the tomato mixture. Add the pepper flakes or Tabasco and rice and return to a boil. Taste for easoning and add more salt and red pepper if desired. Add the Worcestershire if desired. Moisten the file powder with water if desired and add. Do not boil gumbo. Serve immediately.
Six or more servings.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ham Mousse

After the uproar that followed serving corned beef and cabbage (without cabbage) on June 1, I decided to look for a summer dish. Hence, ham mousse. Mousses were very popular in the 60s. My mother, courtesy of Craig Clairborne and the New York Times Cookbook, was introduced to mousses in the early 60s, and we ate them in the summer, when we dined outside at the picnic table under the maple tree. We had chicken mousse and turkey mousse and salmon mousse. My mother bought a fish mold to serve the various mousses in. I regret having pitched out all the fish molds when I cleaned out my mother's house in 2009. Mousse in the shape of a fish seemed incredibly elegant, and if one got the head, one could announce loudly to the table at large that one was eating the eye. At least, if you were 11 or 12 years old, this kind of behavior might have appealed to you.
Basically, if you are not familiar with main dish mousses, having arrived on the culinary scene after 1975, they are made up of some finely ground protein, (fish, chicken, turkey or ham) gelatin, and beaten egg whites and whipped cream. The gelatin sets the whole affair, and you carve spoonfuls out of a firm mass of, well, mousse.
Even though I took Julia Child's words to heart and tried hard to do what the recipe dictated, it didn't turn out quite right. Julia says, "If the recipe says to do something, do it." So, at 6:15 am in my Mary Cheh t-shirt and athletic shorts, I carefully stirred the sauce until it coated the spoon, poured the sauce from container to container to cool it, conscientiously beat the egg whites and whipped cream and folded all together in approved folding style. If you work as most of us do, and you want to serve this for dinner, you had better get up at 5:45 to put it together. As it was, I missed both the first and second bus, and had to ask my long suffering husband to drive me to work.
However, when I took it out of the refrigerator this evening, what I ended up with was a dome of whitish material, capped by a wiggly toupee of gelatin. The thing had separated which I don't ever remember happening with the mousses I cranked out in the prechild era of the 70s and early 80s.
My son, who turned up just as dinner was being put on the table, did not approve. He wore what his fiancee calls his "I'm not eating that," look. He said it was too much like real mousse.
"What do you mean, real mousse? Hair mousse?" I inquired, mystified. It turned out he meant chocolate mousse.
My husband and I decided that this was food of a past era for sure. My son said that what put this kind of dish out of business was the rise of carryouts. Housewives made this so they didn't have to turn on the oven. Now, you could just order out. But, if you are looking for a cold, vaguely fancy dish, this could be what you want.

Ham Mousse

3 1/2 cups finely ground cooked ham (see step one)
1 1/3 cups chicken broth
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 eggs separated
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry sherry

1. The ham must be ground as fine as possible. (The Cuisineart does an excellent job. No cranking or regrinding. Just push a button and the ham is ground.)
2. Bring the broth to a boil.
3. Soak the gelatin in the water and stir into the hot broth. Stir to dissolve gelatin.
4 Beat the eff yolks lightly;add a little of the hot mixture to the yolks; then add yolks to the broth, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until sauce coats the spoon. do not overcook or sauce may curdle. Cool sauce but do not chill.
5. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat the cream until stiff. Blend the two, then fold in the sauce, ham and sherry. Pour the mixture into a one and one half quart mold and chill. Unmold on a platter before serving.

Makse six servings. Don't leave out the sherry. It gives the mousse a nice flavor.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vermont Boiled Dinner

Should my family ever read this, and they do, occasionally, they will castigate me for checking off this dish. It is essentially corned beef and cabbage, which my daughter pointed out is a winter dish. However, guess who forgot the cabbage? I also forgot the beets. My son termed this, "a pretty poor showing." He meant fidelity to the recipe, not what actually got put on the table. I must say, he has not learned to love rutabagas. I, however, am beginning to like them better the more I eat them.
This is a difficult dish to cook during the week, since the corned beef has to cook for three hours. Enter the slow cooker. Even putting the meat on low heat ended up with overcooked corned beef. Which is not all that surprising, I guess. What wouldn't be overcooked after cooking for eight hours? But it was still good.
I always hope that I will have enough corned beef left over to make corned beef hash. I never really do.

Vermont Boiled Dinner

4 pounds corned beef
3 large yellow turnips, peeled and cut into one-half-inch slices
6 large carrots or about twenty small carrots
6 medium-size potatoes, peeled and halved
10 to 12 beets, freshly cooked and peeled
2 to four heads cabbage, quartered and freshly cooked
Melted butter
chopped parsley
  1. Place the corned beef in a large kettle and add water to cover. Simmer three hours, or until tender when pierced witha fork. Meanwhile, one hour before meat is done, add the turnips. Thirty minutes before meat is done, add the carrots and potatoes.
  2. Whem meat and vegetables are tender, slice the meat and place it uon a warm large serving platter. Surround the meat with turnip slices, carrots, potatoes, the beets and cabbage. Pour melted butter over the vegetables and sprinkle potatoes with parsley.
  3. Serve with mustard and horseradish if desired.

Veal Scaloppine

Like I said, I'm behind with the blog, as well as with the cookbook. Julie Powell was far more disciplined that I was, and I don't think she left out ingredients wholesale the way I do. In fact, I remember her tossing dishes out if they didn't work and trying again. I don't do that, but then, I'm not doing French cooking with fancy sauces. We ate this dish on May 25, and it is very good. I fear it is a winter dish, since it calls for chestnuts, or in a pinch, substitute filberts, which those of us in the east know as hazelnuts. (Guess what got left out?) But it's still good in spring.
Veal scaloppine actually has unfortunate associations for me. My father, the farmer, was an exacting restaurant patron. He didn't like to wait, and he made his feelings on the matter known. He didn't yell exactly, but he could be what used to be known as shirty. A certain frostiness would creep into his voice, and we, his children, would shrink down in our seats and wish devoutly that we could disappear. Garrison Keilor once did a piece on his show, The Prairie Home Companion, about the time his family decided to have dinner in a restaurant before going to evening church.
"Would you like a drink?" the hostess inquired brightly.
Keilor Senior drew himself up, looked at his wife and announced firmly that he didn't think this was their kind of place. As the family walked out the door, Garrison said, "But no one could see me, because there was just an empty parka walking out the door."
My siblings and I longed for the empty parka effect when Daddy started looking at his watch.
Getting back to veal scaloppine, one spring vacation, my long suffering parents took me skiing in Vermont. In the 50s and 60s, parents did not put themselves out much for their children, after making sure they got a decent education. However, my parents did sacrifice their time and energy, and their money, to take me skiing. This was a sacrifice because I was the only person in the family who actually skied. My father did it a little, at Catamount and Butternut Basin, the little areas near our house, but I don't remember him skiing in Vermont. Having gone down the headwall at Tuckerman's Ravine in his youth, he probably figured that was enough.
Anyhow, one evening we went out to dinner at a restaurant in an old colonial farmhouse, and my father ordered the ill-fated veal scaloppini. It got later and later, and my father got more and more annoyed. When it finally came, he decided that the serving was skimpy and commented on that. The restaurant staff, who probably owned the place, were incensed. The only other guests in the place praised the food fulsomely, trying to make us feel like the boors that I'm sure we came across as. He ended up leaving a two dollar tip. All in all, it was a huge disaster and I would have given anything for an empty parka.
But this is a very good dish, and doesn't need to conjure up bad associations, since you are cooking it in your own kitchen.
This is one of these "day before" recipes. Julia Child would scold me firmly for being a lazy cook, and I am, but it turned out fine doing it all in one evening.

Veal Scaloppini

1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons paprika
2 taspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds veal round, pounded thin and cut into serving pieces
1/2 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 1/4 cups beef broth
2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup Marsala wine (I used red.)
1 pound chestnuts, scored with cross on flat side and broiled very slowly thirty minutes, then peeled, or one half pound shelled and peeled filberts (hazelnuts.)
12 halves plump dried apricots, chopped
1 pound noodles cooked, drained and tossed with croutons

  1. Day before, combine the flour, paprika salt and pepper. Toss the veal pieces in the flour mixture. Reserve any remaining mixture.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet containing the garlic. Brown the veal pieces on all sides in the butter. Transfer meat to a heavy casserole. Discard the garlic. (I kept it.)
  3. Sprinkle the skillet with any remaining flour mixture. Cook, stirring tow minutes. Gradually stir in the broth, sour cream, basil, rosemary, lemon juice and Marsala.
  4. Halve the chestnuts and add them or the filberts to the veal. Stir in half the apricots and pour the sauce over all.
  5. Sprinkle with the raining apricots, cover and let stand refringerated overnight
  6. Next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Bake the covered veal casserole 45 minutes. Serve with the noodles.

Makes five or six servings.

Spinach Salad

I am very behind with this blog. We ate this a week ago, when son, now graduated and a juris doctor, came to dinner with his fiance on the eve of his trip to Bermuda to visit an improbably named friend who works for a hedge fund. ??? This is a good time of year for this recipe, because spinach is fresh (although fresh spinach just comes from California or whereever and the season doesn't matter). You have to have two hard boiled eggs on hand, which I, for once, did, by dint of leaving a note on the white board asking someone, anyone, to hard boil me two eggs. Lo and behold, my daughter did. The bacon, however, was a different story. It had been lurking at the bottom of the salad drawer for weeks. I fried it up, but it had a peculiar odor, so I put it in a little bowl of its own, and warned people to try it before dumping it wholesale on the salad.
This is a reasonably quick salad, which is a good thing, because the first thing my son says when I ask if he is staying for dinner is, "What time are we going to eat?" I rashly promised that we would eat at 7:30 after getting home at 6:45. We ate around 7:45, once I got the salmon out of the oven.

Spinach Salad (from Northern California)

8 cups washed and well-drained spinach leaves
1/2 pound backon cooked crips and then crumbled
2 hard cooked eggs roughly chopped
5 scallions, including green part, chopped
3/4 cup homemade garlic croutons (I used boughten)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dusseldorf mustard (wazzat? I used Dijon.)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar (yuck)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Tear the spinach leaves into bite-size bits and put in a salad bowl.
  2. Arrange the bacon bits, eggs, scallions and croutons in wedges over spinach.
  3. Combine all remaining ingredients and mix well. At the table, or just before serving, pour dressing over salad and toss.