Friday, July 22, 2011

Raspberry Cooler

Mrs. Curtiss's raspberries were producing like crazy. I picked a bunch for her, and then came back in the afternoon to hang up the rest of my laundry, (My place doesn't have a washing machine.) and picked some more for dessert for the dinner party. When dinnertime rolled around I was horrified to find that I had forgotten about Cathy's lactose intolerance. She got fresh raspberries. Tom and I had this.
Make this with Greek yogurt. It is exceedingly good. Any dessert, or any other food for that matter, which involves the blender is a big hit with me. This takes about five minutes to prepare, and then you stick it in the refrigerator and forget about it. I did take it out and try to whip it, but because I had cut the recipe in half, I cut the amount of gelatin in half and it did not jell much. No matter.

Raspberry Cooler

4 cups raspberries
16 ounces plain (Greek) yogurt
6 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water

1. Place three cups of the raspberries in an electric blender. Add the yogurt and sugar and blend until smooth.
2. Soften the gelatin in the water and then beat over hot water to dissolve. Stir into raspberry mixture.
3. Chill until mixture starts to thicken. Beat until creamy and then pile into serving dishes. Top with remaining raspberries, whole or pureed. Makes six servings.

Baked Lobster

What better opportunity to cook New England food at a quasi reasonable price than in New England? Wednesday night I had one of my mini dinner parties, and served lobster. I was excited to get to the bottom of the question of how to preserve the lobsters in the land of the living until dinner so one is not accused of poisoning the guests. I felt kind of stupid. According to the fish man at Big Y you just put them in the refrigerator. And sure enough, every time I happened to jostle the bag the lobsters jostled back. They were also exceedingly active during their final moments.
This recipe contains information on how to dispatch the lobsters, since the cook is not sticking them into a pot of boiling water. I'll spare my reader(s) the gory details and say that death is not instantaneous. I was grateful for the legendary blades. My guests, Cathy and her dad, Tom, were kind of fascinated in a horrified sort of a way. I actually felt bad that I had invited them to watch. The process did not get in the way of their enjoyment of the final product however.
Cathy had the best line about lobster. "Who was the first person to decide that these could be eaten?" she inquired as we were cracking and scraping and dipping. Who indeed? A Native American, no doubt, one of the New England tribes, maybe the Penobscots of Maine.
Anyhow, if I had never seen one, it wouldn't look like dinner to me, but on the other hand people eat much worse looking objects like grubs and beetles.
Tom lit the stove, and was able to get it done without burning his eyebrows off or creating great WHOOMPing noises. Tom amazed us with his stories of being able to buy a whole lobster dinner in Maine in the early 60s for $2. I weighed in with my story of lobster pizza.

Baked Lobster

1 one and one half pound live lobster
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
lemon wedges
Melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Plunge a heavy butcher knife into the thorax or center of the lobster where the body meets the tail. (There was some debate about this at Big Y. One man said you should stick the knife in behind their eyes, to take out the brain.) to kill the lobster. Quickly cut the body in half lengthwise. Break the lobster in half and remove the tough "sac." (I am not exactly sure what this is, and I don't have The Joy of Cooking to consult. Anyway, if it looks gross, inedible and is not white, take it out.)
3. Sprinkle the lobster with salt and pepper and dot the cut portions generously with the butter. Place, cut side up, on a baking dish and bake exactly twenty minutes.
4. Serve with lemon wedges and, if desired, melted butter.
One serving. Note: This method of baking lobster is better than broiled. The lobster is more moist and tender. (It was moist and tender.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Philipsburg Waterground Corn Bread

Last Tuesday, I came back to what Rudyard Kipling called my natal shores of Albion, to whit, Berkshire County, to prod along the sale of my family's house, hike and sweat less. I took the cookbook with me, of course. Tuesday and Wednesday were hot, but things cooled off considerably on Thursday, and I undertook a baking project. I had carefully assembled the ingredients beforehand, including caraway seeds and buttermilk.
This recipe comes from New York State, so it might have come from Philipsburg Manor in Tarrytown, NY, a 300 year old house built by a family of Anglo=Dutch merchants. Since Philipsburg Manor has a grist mill, and the recipe calls for water ground corn, it is possible that the recipe originated there. There does not seem to be a Philipsburg, N.Y., at least according to Google.
I am staying in the same place I stayed last year, a large, one room apartment furnished with the furniture of the early twentieth Century that looks out on a field. The cooking equipment has been augmented by me, out of my sister's house, after I got rid of most of her kitchen equipment, so in places it is a little odd. What I use for kitchen knives are two bright, stainless steel Gerber carving knives. Gerber's ad campaign in the 60s involved naming each knife after a sword in literature. There was Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur, and Durandal, the sword of the French hero, Roland, and so on. I loved those ads. One thing it doesn't have is a square baking pan.
The stove probably dates from the 1940s. It is a small four burner gas stove with pilot lights for the burners, but without a pilot light for the oven. My mother had a stove like that. I used to light the oven with long fireplace matches, my youthful desire to cook being stronger than my fear of being blown to bits by the exploding gas.
The apartment, not having a fireplace, also lacked fireplace matches. It did have two boxes of kitchen matches, which are longer than paper matches, easier to light, and stay lit longer. I turned on the gas, juggled the kitchen matches, got one lit, and stuck it in the hole designed for the purpose. Nothing. It burned down until it singed my fingers. I chucked it into the sink and lit another. WHOOMP!!! The stove was lit, and in the air was a peculiar smell which I traced to the stubble of smoking hair on my arms.
This cornbread is in the way of being a science fair project. When my children were in elementary school, I delighted in the science fair. I never actually came up with a project that enabled them to win, although I still think What property in Monopoly do people land on the most should have won. (It's one of the red ones.)
The question here is, what happens when you put caraway seeds into corn bread? Caraway seeds go in rye bread, cabbage, and pickles. They have a distinctive taste. This recipe called for a lot of them, three teaspoons. The answer is, you get a taste you don't associate with cornbread, but it's okay. It is possible to bake cornbread in a loaf pan. You just have to cook it longer and keep testing it for doneness by sticking a fork into it.

Philipsburg Waterground Cornbread

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups waterground yellow cornmeal
3 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
5 tablespoons melted shortening or bacon drippings

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the corn meal, caraway seeds and nutmeg.
3. Stir in the eggs, buttermilk and shortening or bacon drippings. turn into a greased nine-inch square baking tin and bake twenty-five to thirty minutes. Makes six to eight servings. (I gave half my loaf to my friend Cathy. )

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Spaghetti with Clam Sauce

Son loves spaghetti, daughter-in-law doesn't seem to have any problems with it, and, big benefit, it's cheap. I had a sudden, pressing need for cheapness based on a fear that I was going to lose my job. It seems to have turned into a baseless fear, but I'm not going to completely relax until I get all the info.
I had a can of clams left over from clam cakes, so all I had to buy was spaghetti and clam juice. What could be easier?
This is white clam sauce, as demonstrated by the picture. It has a nice briny taste that works well with the parmesan cheese and takes about 15 minutes to make, including getting the water to boil. I was going to make my shellfish allergic husband some tomato sauce, but he just opened a jar.
I had a yearning to be outside, after having spent a very pleasant week outside in Southwest Virginia. Unfortunately, SW Va. is in the mountains, and therefore cooler and less humid. There are also fewer mosquitos there. We ate the main course outside, but we came in for the desert, sweating and bug bitten.
The recipe says saute the garlic and then discard it. Excuuse mee. Unless you are a garlic hater, leave the garlic.

Spaghetti with Clam Sauce

1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, halved and flattened
1 quart cherrystone clams, shucked, chopped and liquor reserved. (Or a 14 ounce can of clams)
bottled clam juice
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 pound spaghetti cooked al dente, drained

1. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and saute the garlic in it until lightly browned. Remove the garlic.
2. Measure the reserved clam liquor (the juice you got when you shucked the clams or opened a can) and make up to one cup with bottled clam juice. add with chopped clams and the parsley to the oil, bring to a simmer and cook about two minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper and add the oregano. Pour over the spaghetti. Serves 4.

Fourth of July Shortcake

After I got back from the hiking conference, where, as expected, I was generally always dead last, preceded by several people who were older than me, my husband happened to mention that the ym's were coming to dinner. That was good because I was planning a drop off, do laundry turn around and leave for a month two days, so it would be nice to see them.
I chose Fourth of July Shortcake because it was only the 10th of July, and blueberries are in season. Although this book doesn't have as many
seasonal recipes as one would think, it does have some, and last year, I was always missing the boat. This year, I have tried to be a little better. For example, if anyone noticed, I was able to buy dandelion greens and serve them during their brief season.
This recipe is somewhat time consuming. First, you make a pastry shell that holds the fruit. Then, you let it cool, spread it with apricot jam, (or something else. I used some unidentified red jelly.) and slice the fruit into it. The recipe calls for a topping made with ricotta cheese. Son overruled the use of ricotta and whipped the cream. Suit yourself in this area. NOTE TO USERS: This recipe contains WAXED PAPER. It is a vital ingredient. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS RECIPE WITHOUT WAXED PAPER. There, I warned you. The other weird thing it has, or perhaps a thing you might not have in your pantry, is whole bran. Whole Foods carries whole bran in the cereal section, not in the grains and baking section.
A year and a half of cooking and blogging has actually taught me something. I had waxed paper, and used it. The waxed paper is used to keep the shell in which the fruit sits from sticking to the pan. You end up with endless frustration and a sticky mess without it. So, as Julia Childs says, if the recipe says use waxed paper, or boil for an hour, or sift the flour, do it. .

Fourth of July Shortcake

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole bran
1 three ounce package cream cheese
2/3 cup soft butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 pint strawberries
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 11-7-1 1/2 inch baking dish or a ten inch springform pan. Line dish or pan with wax paper, allowing paper to extend one inch above top. (You don't have to measure. Just have it stick out.)
2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in the bran.
3. Cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add one-half cup of the sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in the lemon rind, lemon juice and egg. Stir in dry ingredients.
4. Spread dough in a very thin layer over bottom of prepared pan and up sides in a thin layer to form a shell. Press a piece of greased wax paper down into the shell. Fit close to dough at all points and let extend an inch above the pan. Fill with dried beans or rice. (You don't have to fill the pan with above. Just put down enough to keep the dough from puffing up when it bakes. Which is enough to cover the bottom so you can't see the dough.)
5. Bake twenty minutes or until dough is set. Remove top waxed paper with beans or rice. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake fifteen minutes longer, or until done.
6. Set pan on a rack and let cool thirty minutes. Lift out shell and let cool. Spread bottom of shell with apricot preserves.
7. Slice the strawberries and sprinkle with sugar to taste. Sprinkle the blueberries with sugar to taste. Alternating the berries, arrange them in four segments on top of the preserves. (I guess this is supposed to make blue and red stripes. I didn't quite understand this instruction. I arranged the berries in layers.)
8. Beat the ricotta with the milk until smooth. Blend in two tablespoons sugar, or to taste, and the vanilla. Serve on each slice of shortcake. Makes six servings.