Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pesto Alla Romano

Since 1983, I have been using the cookbook's other recipe for pesto, Pesto Genovese for Spaghetti. It is, in all respects, an excellent recipe for pesto, the traditional parmesan, pine nuts, basil trifecta. However, since I've embarked on this odyssey, I try new things, and this is one of them. I'm not entirely sure that this turned out the way it was supposed to. I suspect it was supposed to be like mayonnaise, since it starts out with 2 egg yolks and drizzled oil in the blender. The directions say, use as a dipping sauce for shrimp. Well, we don't eat shrimp, so Wednesday night, I whippped it up and used it on spaghetti. It turned out to be was an oil based sauce without the traditonal crunch of the other pesto, but tasty in its way. It has way too much salt in it. I would cut the salt by at least a half.

Pesto Alla Romano

2 egg yolks
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt (trust me, this is too much.)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice

1. Place the egg yolks in the container of an electric blender. Set on high speed and dribble in the oil slowly.
2. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend thirty seconds. Use as a dipping sauce for cooked shrimp.
Makes about two and one half cups.

Sauce for Pork Chops

If one has a large number of tasks to undertake, it is easier to undertake the small ones first. That way you look like you have accomplished a lot. Well, I knocked off three recipes this week. The secret is, two of them were sauces so they didn't take me more than 15 or 20 minutes. The pork chop sauce is easy, delicious and a landmark for this cookbook, inasmuch as it has enough garlic. On Sunday night, I was madly trying to plan, deal with a family crisis, and also with requests that we have dinner. I was about ready to throw either myself or the telephone out the window. But this did not take very long.

Sauce for Pork Chops

3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup water
5 anchovy fillets, finely minced
2 teaspoons chopped capers
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Stirring frequently cook the garlic and parsley give minutes in the oil over low heat. Do not brown. Add the tomato paste and water and simmer about ten minutes longer.
2. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the anchovies, capers and pepper. Serve with grilled pork chops.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blueberry Nut Bread

On Tuesday, while I was chopping and simmering and poaching the marinara sauce with sausage, my eye fell on the second or third set of blueberries moldering on the counter, waiting for me to turn them into blueberry nut bread. These blueberries came in raspberry sized containers, at raspberry prices, a clear sign that the blueberry season was almost over. My intent was to make the bread and take it to school for the morning teacher collaboration. If this recipe was to be made this season, I had better get on it.
I flipped back to the breads section and perused the recipe. Wet and dry ingredients, mix, put in the pan, bake. A snap.
Weeell, as they say, there is one little thing. An essential ingredient of this recipe is wax paper. Leave it out at your peril, or rather, I should say, the peril of your glass bread pan. Our kitchen is currently down one glass bread pan, due to my husband's efforts to get the bread out of the pan sans wax paper. So be warned. This is an excellent quick bread. We spread whipped cream on it and ate it for dessert. Or you could have it for breakfast, with morning coffee, or whatever.

Blueberry Nut Bread

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used slivered almonds.)
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil

1. Sift together the flower, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add the berries and nuts.
2. Combine the eggs, milk, and oil and stir in just to moisten. Pour into a wax paper-lined 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Let stand twenty minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Bake loaf one hour or until done.
Makes one loaf.

Marinara Sauce with Sausage

I have just finished week three of Old Age, The Preview. And let me tell you, this is not what I had in mind at all. I'm still walking with a cane. Walking an entire block saps all my energy, even in the morning. On Thursday, when I had to walk from 13th Street to 14th Street at 5;30 to find a cab to get home, I was practically in tears. I was able to get to work three days last week. Was I effective, as the DC Public Schools require its teachers to be? No.
On Friday, when half the staff was out for reading training and they really needed me, I crapped out after physical therapy. It had something to do with the fact that I could barely walk through the sandwich shop out to the sidewalk. How could I be expected to even take the class to the bathroom? I told the taxi driver to take me home.
I'm developing a good deal more sympathy for the elderly and those who are not in wheelchairs. Most handicapped accommodations seem to be designed for people in wheelchairs. It's assumed that if you can't walk properly, you have wheels. Well, not exactly. Right now, walking may or may not involve total white knuckle agony on the trip from the addition to the kitchen. Therefore the prospect of walking a block and a half to the bus stop is daunting to say the least. And forget Metro. What with the elevators that may or may not be working, and the escalators that are almost never working, your person on crutches or with a walker has a distinctly uncertain journey. Even if the elevators are working, most of them are at the end of the platforms. At my subway stop if one wants to take the northbound train, one is looking at a twenty yard hobble. I'm ready to go to bed just thinking about it.
So I'm left with the car or taxis, if some one else needs the car. I want to express my gratitude to all the lovely caring taxi drivers I've met in the last two weeks.
However, I did demonstrate my continuing commitment to Jean Hewitt and The Heritage Cookbook. While paging through the Northeast section trying to find something that could be made for dinner, as opposed to a dinner party, and could be eaten by my patient but still shellfish adverse husband, I discovered in the sauces section, this recipe.
This is a recipe that warrents reading all the way through, a great failing of mine. It has a couple of unusual fillups that may step up and bite you in the butt. For example, the sausages are to be first browned, and then poached in white wine. As a final touch, the recipe instructs the cook to put the poached sausages through a food mill. Not exactly possessing a food mill, I got my husband to chop them up fine, which sufficed. The only white wine we had was what we were drinking at dinner, so I used the leftover red. Works fine. Also, it calls for six dried Italian mushrooms that have to be soaked in boiling water. But those are optional, so I exercised my option and left them out. Son and fiance came to dinner and ate it up.
It is kind of time consuming. I started cooking around 6:00 and we still didn't eat until nearly 8:30.

Marinara Sauce with Sausage

1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 two pound, three ounce can tomatoes
1 six ounce can tomato paste
2 leaves fresh basil
3 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 Italian sweet or hot sausages
3/4 cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons butter
6 fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 dried Italian mushrooms, (optional)
Boiling water

1. Cook the carrot and onion in the oil until lightly browned. Add the garlic, cook briefly and add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and add the basil. cloves, oregano, salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, in another skillet, cook the sausages, turning occasionally, until brown all over. Pour off the fat from the pan. Add the wine to the skillet and partly cover. Cook until most of the wine is evaporated. Add the sausages and pan liquid to the tomato sauce. Partly cover and simmer forty-five minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of the butter and cook the fresh mushrooms in it briefly. Place the dried mushrooms in a mixing bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let stand ten minutes. Remove the dried mushrooms and slice them. Reserve the soaking liquid.
4. Remove the sausages from the sauce and put through a food mill or sieve. (Or get your significant other to chop them up fine.) Return the sauce to a boil and add the sausage, fresh mushrooms sliced dred mushrooms and the soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Immediately stir in the remaining butter. Serve immediately with spaghetti or polenta.
Makes four to six servings.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sour Cream Peach Pie

This was the dessert for the clam bake. The peaches at the farmers market are fantastic. Early Saturday, I crawled out of bed and persuaded my husband to drive me up to Bethesda to buy all the vegetables for the party. I bought tomatoes and peaches and pears and eggs from a woman who looked like she could have been one of the farm cooks for the cookbook.

I made the pie first because the clam bake didn't require much prep. I dunked the peaches in boiling water and was able to peel them fairly expeditiously. Other than peeling and slicing the peaches, the filling was simple. I had a discussion once with a friend about the cliche "easy as pie." "I think pies are the easiest thing. Don't you?" she said. I have never found pie crusts particularly easy, but the rest of it is a snap.

Sour Cream Peach Pie

5 cups peeled, sliced ripe peaches

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoonn corn starch

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

oastrt fir a two-crust nine-inch or ten -inch pie

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine the peaches, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Line a nine -inch or ten-inch pie plate with rolled out pastry.

3. Turn the fruit into the pie plate. Pour the sour cream ov3er all. Top with remaining pastry, rolled out. Seal and decorate edges and make a steam hole. Bake twenty-five to thirty-five minutes or until pastry is golden.

Dona's Favorite Pie Crust

This may be Dona's favorite pie crust, but it's not mine. Pie crust has to form a cohesive mass. I followed the recipe faithfully, and ended up with a mass of crumbs. I added another tablespoonful of water, and still didn't have cohesiveness. I think I got up to 9 tablespoons before I actually got something that could be rolled out. Because this was being made for guests, I had to appeal to the piecrust expert in the house. My husband was able to roll it out, crimp the crust and cut out nice little leaves to adorn the top of the pie.

Dona's Favorite Pie Crust

3 cups of flour
1 cup plus one tablespoon lard
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1. Place the flour, lard and salt in a bowl. With two knives, a pastry blender or the finger tips, blend the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.
2. Mix together the remaining ingredients and add. Stir to mix and form into a dough.
Makes enough for a two-crust nine inch pie and one nine-inch pie shell or three nine-inch pie shells.

Rhode Island Steamer Clambake

My husband suggested a strategy to publicize the blog and have opportunities to serve stuff he either can't or won't eat, like shellfish, eggplant and rhubarb. We should have monthly parties, complete with invitations telling about the blog to draw in more readers. Saturday night we had the first of the parties.
It occurred to me when trying to decide what to have that this steamer clambake would be a perfect end of summer party. Our house has a terrace and a reasonably nice back yard, but we don't use it all that much. So here was sort of an informal, messy meal, to be eaten largely with the fingers, just right for the out of doors. And so it was.
There were certain challenges to be overcome. First, there was the pot. The recipe starts, "Place the water in the bottom of a twenty-quart steamer," an item that we did not happen to possess. The closest, and only cookware store in our neighborhood is a swish place with a French name. The purchase of a twenty-quart steamer would probably require a home equity loan. I tried our community list serv. Not even a nibble. Last weekend, my daughter went to Ocean City with instructions to look for a pot. Her call letting me know she found one was a high spot in the weekend, spent largely on my back.
Then there was the issue of who would eat what. My husband can't eat shellfish. Son's fiance's mother doesn't like it. The recipe calls for steaming a chicken quarter for each diner. The instructions for packing the pot put the chicken at the bottom and the seafood on top. I decided that having clams and lobsters dripping their juice on the chicken was not a great idea. Consequently I decided to grill the chicken.
Then, there was being laid up all week from falling off the horse. This made things like shopping and cleaning difficult if not impossible. Son, who is waiting for his security clearance for his federal job, pitched in with the vaccuuming. When the checker at Safeway asked if I needed help going out to the parking lot, I said yes for the first time in my life.
Finally, there were the lobsters. I got them at the fish store, and carried them home in a paper bag. They were lively buggers, flicking their tails and waving their antennae. Now I knew that they had to be kept alive, so I prevailed upon my husband to get the galvanized steel tub from the garden to house them until dinner. "Lobster murderer!" my daughter hissed. I plopped them into the tub one by one where they stayed until the guests had assembled.
At eight o'clock, with the guests chatting on the terrace and the rest of the dinner steaming on the stove, my son looked suspiciously at the tub and poked it with his foot. "When did you get these?"
I shrugged. "Three o'clock."
"You're not supposed to put them in fresh water." he said in an outraged whisper. "What did they come in?"
I was starting to get irritated at Mr. Knowitall, as well as pierced by a fear that the $139 worth of lobster would either have to be thrown away or kill my guests.
"They came in a paper bag, Thomas. I couldn't leave them in that. What was I supposed to do?"
"Get them when you're ready to cook them," he said in tones indicating that I was a moron.
"They're dead," he announced. "Do you want me to find out whether or not you can cook them?"
"Yes," I snapped.
He came back two minutes later and whispered, "These need to be boiling right now."
They were dead all right. We lifted the lifeless corpses, claws dangling, out of the tub and plunked them into the canning pot. As always, he had the last word.
"If I die of food poisoning, I'm going to be really pissed," he hissed.
Well, as of 1:00 pm Sunday afternoon, neither he nor I nor anyone else at the party that I know of has contracted food poisoning. And it was a great party. The nine of us had seven bottles of wine and a lot of animated conversation.

Rhode Island Steamer Clambake

6 cups water
seaweed or wet celery, lettuce and or spinach (I used spinach.)
3 broiler-fryer chickens split
6 unpeeled medium size baking potatoes
6 unpeeled medium size onions
6 ears corn in husks, soaked in salted water one hour
48 small clams
4-6 one-pound lobsters
melted butter

1. Place the water in bottom of a twenty quart steamer. Cover with upper section and place a generous layer of wet, well-rinsed seaweed or greens in the bottom.
2. Wrap the chicken pieces in cheesecloth, tie corners and place on top of seaweed or greens. Wrap five of the potatoes similarly and place on chicken. Wrap the onions and place on chicken.
3. Wrap the corn in cheesecloth and place on top of potatoes, and then the clams wrapped in four bundles of a dozen each, and last the lobsters in cheesecloth.
4. Top ingredients with more seaweed or wet greens. Place remaining potato in middle and cover.
5. Steam until potato on top is cooked, about one and one-half hours; that means the bake is ready to pull.. Serve with melted butter.
Makes six servings.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Smoked Haddock Flan

Hewitt says, in a New York Times kind of way, "Any good fish store can order smoked haddock." This may have been true in New York in the 70s, but the first couple of times I asked my fish store about it, I got blank looks. "We have smoked salmon," the man said. Last week when I was buying cod for the chowder, I wrote a note to the owners about it. On Saturday morning, as I
was juggling vegetables from the farmers' market, I found a message on my phone. The smoked haddock was in!
Then, as has been related, I fell off my horse. I actually tried to pick up the haddock on the way home from the stable, and got about fifty feet from the entrance before deciding I just couldn't walk the rest of the way. I sent my son to pick it up and was startled to find that two pounds of the stuff cost $37.
Having spent that much money, I wasn't going to let it go bad. I made the flan on Monday. This is not a recipe I would choose to make after suffering a collision with the ground, but if life gives you smoked haddock, make smoked haddock flan. It has several components, including a pastry shell, fish, filling, sauce and potato mixture, which needs a pastry bag.
Pastry, especially on hot days, has never been my strong point. But, this project is teaching me to follow the recipe and be exact. If it says ice water, use ice water. Even though I did not have wax paper I managed to roll out the dough and get it into the pie shell without tearing it or having it stick to the counter. My husband is better at this stuff than I am. He can do fluted crusts and little leaves. My crust is raggedly, but this time, it was edible.
I boiled the eggs ahead of time. I didn't mash the potatoes ahead of time, which would have been best. I also didn't have the energy to look in the cabinets over the stove for the pastry bag. So, my product did not look like the full color photo between pages 110 and 111. It probably tasted about the same though.

Smoked Haddock Flan

Pastry Shell:
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter or shortening
1 egg yolk
ice water
1/2 pounds smoked haddock with bones (if salty soak thirty minutes in cold water)
1 cup milk approximately
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped leeks
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 hard cooked eggs halved
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Potato mixture
3 medium size baking potatoes, boiled peeled and riced or sieved
2 egg yolks
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 tablespoons finely grated Gruyere cheese

1. To prepare pastry, place the flour and slat in a bowl. With the finger tips or a pastry blender, blend in the butter or shortening until mixture resembels coarse oatmeal. With a fork stir in the egg yolk and enough ice water to make a dough.
2. Roll out the dough on alightly floured board or pastry cloth and use to line an eight-inch or nine-inch scalloped pie pan or pie plate. Chill well.
3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
4. Line the chilled shell with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or uncooked rice. Bake eight minutes, or until shell is set. Remove foil and beans or rice, and bake shell three to five minutes longer or until done and lightly browned.
5. Meanwhile, place the fish in a large skillet. Pour in milk until fish is three-quarters submerged.
6. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer eight to ten minutes, or until the flish flakes easily. Remove the fish, strain the liquid and reserve one cup for the sauce. Remove the skin and bones from the fish and flake it. There should be about two cups. Reserve.
7. To prepare filling, melt the butter in a skillet and saute the leeks in it until tender but not browned. Stir in the reserved fish and the parsley, season with pepper and keep warm. Reserve the hard-cooked egg halves.
8. To prepare sauce, melt the butter in a small pan, blend in the flour and gradually stir in the reserved cup fish stock. (milk). Season with salt and pepper.
9. Bring to a boil, stirring until sauce thickens. Hold over hot water until needed.
10. To prepare potato mixture, place the hot riced or seived potatoes in a bowl and beat in the egg yolks, salt, pepper and four tablespoons of the cheese.
11. Place the filling in the bottom of the baked pie shell and embed the hard-cooked egg pieces in the filling in a pattern like spokes in a wheel. Pour the sauce over all.
12. Fit a pastry bag with a star tube. Pipe the potato mixture through the pastry bag around the flan and make a wheel pattern.
13 Sprinkle with the reaining cheese and brown unter the broiler.
Serves four.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fresh Tomato Soup

Something that you invisible readers may not know about me is, I have a horse. I go horseback riding every week. My aim is to compete in dressage. Dressage, for those of you who have never heard of it, which I hadn't really four years ago, is horse dancing. If you watched the equitation competitions in the Olympics, dressage is the fancy footwork, where the horse aims his rear end at the rail, and trots or canters along in unison with other horses, and makes a fan shape. Think Lipizzaners. Now, my horse, who was highly trained, can do that. I am just learning the basics.
This Saturday, I was full of plans. I stopped at the Bethesda Farm Women's Market, and bought fabulous ripe tomatoes, corn on the cob, basil and one of the tastiest, juiciest peaches I have ever eaten. After my lesson, I was going to join my son at an auto dealership, and we were going to look at new cars. However, fate, in the shape of a tall chestnut gelding, intervened.
My horse is somewhat unpredictable. After three years, I can predict his unpredictability. He will start out his lesson half asleep, and about half way through, turn on the afterburners and start tearing madly around the ring. If I take him out on trails, he will act like a complete fool, and shy at blades of grass, hay bales, trees, and other non threatening objects. If I try to ride him over poles, he will jump three feet into the air over each three inch obstacle. But, up until now, when he's in the ring, the main thing I have to worry about is his racing around at top speed and me losing control.
Saturday, after my lesson, I was letting him walk around the ring with loose reins. This is part of the dressage test. It's called the free walk. I wasn't particularly paying attention, as there was nothing in the ring to pay attention to. Or so I thought. Suddenly, my horse jumped two feet to one side, and I found myself face down in the dirt. I wound up with a cracked pelvis, a pulled muscle in my left leg, and very sore, but not broken ribs.
Two days later, I am hobbling around the house with a cane, swearing when I have to get up or sit down. But I still had the three pounds of tomatoes, and two highly expensive pounds of smoked haddock. So, this afternoon, since the emergency room doctor said to resume my normal activities as much as possible, I knuckled down and cranked out Fresh Tomato Soup and Smoked Haddock Flan.
Reaching over my head caused me to either gasp in pain, or yell one of the two basic explatives. However, the maneuvering required to cook could be done without too much discomfort. I hobbled from the sink to the counter to the stove and back again with sweat trickling down my face..
Fresh Tomato Soup is an excellent recipe, since it does not require peeling the tomatoes, which usually ends up with burned fingers. Nor does it require seeding them. You just chop them up and throw them into a pot. After cooking, you grind them through a food mill, and peels and seeds are scraped out and dumped in the trash. The recipe says reheat, but we had it cold.

Fresh Tomato Soup

3/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or one-half teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh bsil or one teaspoon dried basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth ( or vegetable broth)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup heavy cream

1. Heat one half cup of the butter and the oil in a heavy kettle. Add the onion and cook until tender but not browned.
2. Add the thyme, bsil, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer ten minutes.
3. Mix the flour with six tablespoons of the broth and stir into the tomato mixture. Add remaining broth and cook thirty minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Pass mixture through the finest blade of a food ill or through a fine sieve. Reheat and stir in the sugar and cream. Do not boil. Swirl in remaining butter.
Makes 8 servings.