Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oatmeal Bran Bread

In an effort to move along with the cookbook, I whipped this out on Sunday afternoon before I started planning the week's reading and math lessons. The District of Columbia Public Schools has adopted the Common Core Standards, and the planning is pretty fierce. The form is set up so one is supposed to plan a week at a time. I sat down at the computer around 4:00 in the afternoon and didn't move until 7:00, but things were planned out. I have to say that the evenings in the rest of the week were fairly free of work.
However, I digress. The bread was ready so quickly that my husband was confused.
"Doesn't it have to rise?" he asked. No, it doesn't.
You just add all the wet ingredients, all the dry ingredients and mix them together. If you don't want to buy buttermilk, and then have it hanging around in the refrigerator until it goes bad, you can add a teaspoonful of vinegar to the milk and it gets like buttermilk. This recipe turns out a sweetish, nutty tasting soda bread that is excellent spread with butter.

Oatmeal Bran Bread

2 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup whole bran cereal

1/2 cup raisins

2 eggs lightly beaten

1 1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup light molasses

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Stir in the oats, bran and raisins.

3. Combine the eggs, buttermilk and molasses. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Pour into a greased 9-by-5-by-3 inch loaf pan. Bake one hour, or until done. (You will know it is done by sticking a skewer into the bread. If bits of dough come out clinging to the skewer, the bread is not done.) Makes one loaf

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rebecca's Challah

My husband claims I have made challah before, but I don't remember doing so. I have made many different kinds of bread, including black bread, which requires Postum, a coffee like drink made from grains (?)In fact, for the last 30 or so years, I made bread every couple of weeks because I don't like store bread. So I guess you could call me an experienced baker.
Nonetheless when I started out to make the challah, on the Sunday before school started, the phrasing of the directions kind of threw me. Challah takes a long time to make, because the recipe requires it to rise three times. The first time, it said to "knead the dough in the bowl." What it should have said was to mix the dough in the bowl, because the first time the baker is doing what old cookbooks called "setting the sponge." When you set the sponge, you mix up the wet ingredients and about half the flour and let it rise. Then, you add the rest of the flour and knead it on the counter. Well, since the recipe told me to knead the dough, I started adding the rest of the flour, because one cannot knead dough with only half the flour. You get a sticky mess.
My misunderstanding did not affect the quality of the bread. The recipe made two loaves, one which I attempted to braid in the traditional manner and the other which I baked in a loaf pan. It was exceedingly good for white bread and the loaf made very good sandwiches.
As long as you allot enough time (about seven hours) to make this recipe, and understand what you are doing in the first go-round, Challah is easy enough to make. Braiding is a little tricky for those of us who are digitally challenged, but doing it wrong doesn't make a huge difference to the taste.

Rebecca's Challah

2 packages active dry yeast
8 teaspoons plus one half cup sugar
7 3/4 cups white flour
2 1/4 cups warm water
1/2 cup plue one tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons coarse salt (sea salt)
3 eggs
poppy seeds

1. Place the yeast two teaspoons of the sugar and two tablespoons of the flour in a tall glass. Add three-quarters cup of the water and mix well. Set in a warm place, uncovered.
2. In a big bowl, place four cups of the flour. Add one and one-half cups of the water, one-half cup of the oil, one-half cup of the sugar, the salt and two of the eggs and mix well.
3. When the yeast mixture reaches the top of the glass, add to the batter in the bowl. Mix well and gradually add three more cups of the flour. Stir the mixture in the bowl until very smooth and elastic. Cover and set in a warm place about five hours or until doubled in bulk.
4. Knock dough down and add about two-thirds cup more of the flour, kneading well to give it a soft but not sticky dough. Oil the top of the dough with remianing oil. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about two and one half hours.
5. Knead again. Divide dough in two. Shape into two loaves to fit greased 9-by-5-by-3 inch loaf pans and place in pans, or braid and set on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
7. Combine the remaining egg and remaining sugar and brush over the top of the loaves. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired. Bake about forty-five minutes or until done. Makes two loaves.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I adore felafel. I can't remember the first time I tasted it, but I do remember clearly the felafel cart at 116th Street and Broadway in New York that adorned my gray year of journalism school. Before I went to journalism school, the journalists of my acquaintance told me that was where you learned to go to cocktail parties. After I went, I decided it was more like boot camp. When friends asked me how I liked it I told them we weren't supposed to like it.
But the felafel cart was definitely a bright spot, as was Chock Full O'Nuts across the street. I went back a few years ago and Chock Full O'Nuts had become a pasta place. The whole neighborhood had gone to hell.
The closest thing that DC has to the felafel cart of 116th Street and Broadway is the Amsterdam Felafel Shop on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. Unfortunately, I don't make it to 18th Street very much, but Amsterdam is probably better than the cart, because it has way more toppings and because there are places to sit down. Also, they supposedly take Euros, but the one time we tried to pay in Euros, the young man behind the register had no idea what to do with them.
Amsterdam felafels are big, about the size of a ping pong ball, uniform because they make them with some sort of a small ice cream scoop, and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are also flavorful because they use spices.
Hewitt's felafels are not as flavorful as they could be. I made them in the blender, which meant that since the raw materials are dry, I got an intractable mass that did not blend too well. The paprika that it said to add stuck on the side of the blender. If I was to make this again, I would put in more garlic, although two cloves was daringly ambitious for the 60s, and maybe cumin or coriander. Also, I would make it in the food processor, not the blender.
Please don't think you can use canned chick peas. I didn't even try that one. I got dried chick peas at Whole Foods. The new Whole Foods in Friendship Heights, not to be confused with the new new Whole Foods on Rockville Pike, (they're springing up like weeds all over the city,) is better laid out than the Whole Foods in Tenleytown, so it's easier to find stuff, and one doesn't have to risk dealing with the United Nations of employees who don't recognize the word chick peas. Also, this is a day before recipe, so you have to soak the chick peas overnight.
(If you are an actual new reader, please note that I am an English as a second language teacher, and I love immigrants. It just frustrates me that these poor people are thrown into a job with no training in the language that most of the customers speak.)
If you live somewhere where felafel is an unknown, I'll go a step better than Hewitt and tell you how you eat these things. You put three or four of them into a pita pocket with tomatoes and lettuce and chopped cucumber, and drizzle the whole thing with tahini sauce, available at Safeway or Giant.


1/2 pound dried chick peas
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
oil for deep frying

1. Soak the chick-peas overnight in water to cover.
2. Nest day, drain, rinse and grind the chickpeas. Grind again with the garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, baking soda and bread crumbs.
3 Mix in one-quarter cup water and the parsley and form into tiny balls.
4. Fry the balls in oil or fat heated to 360 degrees. Do not burn. Drain and serve hot. (Since you can't fry them all at once unless you work at a McDonald's and can sneak in after hours to use the fry basket, keep them warm in the oven as you fry them in batches.)
Makes six servings.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fourth of July Boiled Salmon, Peas and Egg Sauce

Fourth of July Boiled Salmon was a staple from my childhood. I remember watching my mother dredge a piece of salmon wrapped in cheesecloth out of a huge steaming pot. I don't remember eating it. This delicacy must have been kept for dinner parties. I even dimly remember the egg sauce, but without the peas.
It occurs to me that my mother might not have been too keen on fish. Raised as she was in a pretty Catholic family, they ate fish every Friday when she was growing up. We ate fish on Friday pretty much through the 1950s.
I can remember when my mother stopped going to church except for Christmas, Easter and days of national disasters. (I remember going after the earthquake in Alaska.) That would have been around 1956, before I was old enough to make my first communion. As a result, I never had any idea of what was going on in church when we did go, usually with my cousins, and later at boarding school. My comments and questions were a source of great amusement to my friends who were brought up going to church.
I know my mother liked salmon, because she put it on the menu at my wedding. My father liked fish. He occasionally ate kippered herrings on Sunday mornings, which filled up the kitchen with the most godawful smell.
This recipe is not particularly complicated although it has a longish list of ingredients. Most of the ingredients for the salmon just go in the water to flavor it. The cook has to remember to hard boil two eggs the night before. I remembered. If you make this closer to the Fourth of July, you will be able to get fresh peas, which are not to be had in August.
It takes about an hour to complete this dish. I know because I was going to start cooking around 6:30, but fell asleep, and was awoken at 6:45 by my husband coming home. Hard on his heels was the young cousin, with a couple of other young persons. They noticed I hadn't started cooking, and took off for the chocolate shop where one of them works, my remarks about not spoiling your dinner notwithstanding. We ate about 8:00 pm.

Fourth of July Boiled Salmon, Peas and Egg Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion chopped
1 rib celery chopped
2 sprigs parsley
1 tablespoon salt
1 bay leaf
3 whole cloves
2 cups dry white wine
2 quarts boiling water
1 four pound to six pound piece fresh salmon
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
3 cups cooked fresh peas

1. To prepare salmon, melt the butter and saute the onion and celery in it until tender. Add the parsley, salt, bay leaf, cloves, wine and water. Simmer ten minutes.
2. Wrap the salmon in double thicknesses of muslin and lower into the simmering stock. Cover and simmer very gently about thirty-five to forty-five minutes or until fish flakes easily.
3. Remove fish by lifting muslin and unwrap onto a warm platter. Remove skin and keep fish warm. Strain fish stock and reserve two cups.
4. To prepare sauce, melt one-quarter cups of the butter in a saucepan and blend in the flour. Gradually stir in the reserved fish stock, the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring until mixture thickens.
5. Stir in the eggs and remaining butter.
6. Arrange the peas around the salmon and pour the egg sauce over the fish. Makes eight to ten servings.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Frazer's Cheaters (Nut Squares)

Frazer's Cheaters (Nut Squares) (no hint of who Frazer might be, although he was probably a man and definitely came from Connecticut) are amazing. The cheaters part of their name apparently comes from the fact that they are easy to make. If you type cheaters cookies into Google, you get a whole raft of recipes for easy cookies.
Frazer's Cheaters are pecan pie bars, and totally delicious. I made them on Monday night for a family dinner party because a young cousin looking to work in DC was coming the next day to spend the night. I usually don't break into desserts no matter how tempting, but by this morning, a whole row of the bars had been excavated and consumed before the party.
The cheaters reminded me of a bar cookie I used to make to take on picnics when the children were small. Since in those days, I was perennially broke, I had to make do with what we had in the cupboard. I never had chocolate in the cupboard, so brownies were out. I did have sugar, so I made a kind of blondie, a non chocolate brownie. I remember making them. I don't remember how they tasted.
The bars consist of two parts, the crust, which has half a cup of butter to a cup of flour, and the filling, which is eggs, light brown sugar, a cup of pecans and a cup of grated coconut. I combined the crust ingredients and got some crumbly mess that did not deserve the appellation of dough. However, I just patted it into the pan, stuck it in the oven and let it bake for the requisite 15 minutes. Then, I poured the filling over the baked crust, and stuck it back in the oven. Wowzie!!
This is an extremely easy baked good that all will love.

Frazer's Cheaters

1 cup plus two tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons gradulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

2 1/4 cups light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup grated coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine one cup flour, the granulated sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter. Mix with the hands and press the dough over the botton of an eight-inch square baking pan. Bake ten minutes.

3. Increase the oven heat to 375 degrees.

4. Blend the brown sugar, eggs, pecans, coconut and remaining flour. Spread the mixture over the bottom crust. Bake twenty minutes. Cool. Cut into squares and remove from the pan with a narrow spatula. Makes 64 one inch squares.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Italian Roast Peppers

Roasted peppers are a great idea. They've become commonplace now. You can even buy them already roasted at Trader Joe's but I imagine in the '50s and '60s they were little short of revolutionary with their garlic and their smooth unctuous texture.

In fact, this recipe omits a 70s refinement, namely to put the charred peppers into a paper bag and let them cool off. The paper bag has some chemical effect on the skin and makes it easier to take it off the pepper. These make a great warm weather vegetable.
Also, they do not have to be charred on a "hot griddle" or over charcoal. You can just stick them on the gas burner, as shown. Peeling them is a messy business. The charred flakes of skin stick to everything and have to be washed off the knife, you and the pepper.

Italian Roasted Peppers

4 large green peppers, left whole
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic finely minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons wine vinegar
4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
lemon wedges

1. Place the peppers on a not griddle or over hot charcoal but not too close. (Or just stick them on top of a gas burner.) Cook, turning occasionally until skin is roasted and almost black all over. Set aside.
2. When peppers are cool enough to handle, peel away the charred skin. Remove the core and seeds from each pepper. Cut the peppers into strips and arrange symmetrically on a serving dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, the garlic parsley, vinegar and oil. Chill. Serve garnished with lemon wedges. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cream Cheese Brownies

We came back to DC at the beginning of August. August is when you can cross the street in the middle of the block at rush hour. No one is around in August. No one but our acupuncturist that is, who I was informed had a birthday last week, and was also trying to stop smoking. Brownies for said acupuncturist, who my son irreverently refers to as Dr. Pokey, were in order.
Naturally, I remembered the recipe for cream cheese brownies, and a half a package of cream cheese lurking in the refrigerator.
So on Friday, as soon as we got back from the very good vegan restaurant at the end of the earth, (actually Clarksville, Maryland, which has turned into a relatively nice suburb,) we got to work, melting, beating, and measuring. The cream cheese was thankfully free of mold, thus avoiding having to go back out to the store. We used to have a convenience store run by a very nice Korean man named Joe just two blocks away. About three years ago, Joe got sick of store keeping 7 days a week and sold out to another Korean couple. The new folks seem completely unable to run a store in which anyone would want to shop, so when we run out of something, we have to drive to Safeway.
These are marbled brownies, so you make the chocolate mixture and the cream cheese mixture separately, layer them in the pan and then swish a knife through them. Dr. Pokey said they were good.

Cream Cheese Brownies

1 four ounce bar German sweet chocolate (we used dark chocolate and a little extra sugar)
5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt the chocolate with three tablespoons of the butter over boiling water. Remove from the heat and let cool.
3. Cream together the cream cheese, one quarter cup of the sugar and the remaining butter until light and fluffy. Beat in one of the eggs. Stir in one tablespoon of the flour, the lemon juice and one-half teaspoon of the vanilla. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, beat the remaining eggs until they are thick, gradually beat in the remaining sugar and continue beating until the mixture is thick.
5. Mix together the baking powder, salt and remaining flour and fold into the beaten egg mixture. Stir in the chocolate mixture, nuts almond extract and remaining vanilla.
6. Spread all but one cup of the chocolate batter in a greased 9 by 9 by 2 inch baking pan. Top with the reserved cream cheese mixture and then spoon remaining chocolate batter over the cheese mixture. Swirl through the batter with a spatula or knife to marble.
7 Bake twenty five to thirty minutes. Cool. Cut into bars or squares and store in the refrigerator. Makes about 20 brownies.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eggplant Casserole

On one of my last nights in the Berkshires, I broke my vow to get through with New England before going on to the next section, and made eggplant casserole. This was because I had all the ingredients in my refrigerator, and I was leaving in another two days. This dish is good, but it would have been better if I had gotten the liquid out of the eggplant. I did go through the sprinkle with salt and let stand for twenty minutes routine but there was still a lot of liquid in the casserole.
I managed to light the oven without burning any body parts or making loud suspicious noises. It was a hot night, but the fans helped. It's amazing what a difference window fans make. There's no air conditioning in my place, but even on the hottest nights, the window fans help me sleep.
One minor drawback in making the casserole was the lack of a casserole dish with a lid. I used aluminum foil and made a tent over the souffle dish I used to bake the casserole. The point of the tent was to keep the foil off the cheese. If the foil had been allowed to touch the cheese, I would have wound up with all the cheese sticking to the aluminum foil. Even so, the cheese ended up hard and overbaked.
Even though one has to light the oven, this is a good summer recipe, because you can get fresh summer ingredients. The next morning, as we were trying to pack the car with our belongings, the dog's belongings, the dog, and stray boxes of stuff we had left from the year before, I stood over the sink and ate huge drippy mouthfuls of it cold. It wasn't bad, but, as I said, there was too much liquid.

Eggplant Casserole

l medium size eggplant
1/4 cup oil
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
2 green peppers cored, seeded and sliced
2 onions finely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
\1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 pound grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1. Slice the eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Let stand twenty minutes. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Heat the oil in a skilled and saute the eggplant slices in it until browned on both sides.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. In a greased casserole alternate a layer of eggplant slices with a layer of tomatoes, green peppers, onions and garlic. Season each tomato layer with sugar, salt to taste pepper and thyme.
4. 4. Top with the cheese. Cover and bake ten minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Remove cover and bake casserole thirty minutes longer, or until eggplant is tender. Makes six servings.

Potato Biscuits

Potato biscuits are like potato bread, meant to use up a surfeit of mashed potatoes. Now, I have had a surfeit (isn't that a great word?) of mashed potatoes before, but not in late July. Not mashed potato weather. All of which explains why I arrived in Mrs. Curtiss's kitchen at 8:00 last Saturday morning with two potatoes, a can of dogfood and the dog, ready to make potato biscuits for my son and daughter-in-law who had driven up for the weekend.
By now, Mrs. Curtiss treats my random arrivals with her usual French sangfroid. "Oh, you're making biscuits? Oh." The day before, when they arrived, daughter-in-law and Mrs. C. had had a long conversation about how D.L. loved biscuits and how Mrs. Curtiss, in the high and far off times of the youth of her children had had a cook who made wonderful biscuits that no one could reproduce.

The biscuit making provided much entertainment, especially for my son, and for Mrs. Curtiss, who used the opportunity to get off lines like "Annie, we have order in this kitchen!" (This was when I looked in the pot cupboard for a bowl.) She also disputed my use of a former plum pudding bowl as a suitable vessel to beat eggs in. The dog, meanwhile, refused to eat his breakfast out of the aluminum bread pan Mrs. Curtiss had provided for him to drink out of, and scooted about on the floor under my feet and whined piteously.
The biscuits were pretty quick to make, and would have been faster if I had had leftover mashed potatoes. They were well received and gobbled down by us all, including the dog, prior to us going on a hike to Ice Glen in Stockbridge. (Just a note: if you don't have a biscuit cutter, you can use a small glass, such as a juice glass. Works great. Also, Mrs. Curtiss thinks that it's important not to knead the biscuit dough too much. It makes them tough, she says,)

Potato Biscuits

1/3 cup shortening, melted
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stir the shortening into the potatoes. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar and add to the potato mixture. Mix well.
3. Add the milk all at once and mix just enough the moisten.
4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead twenty times.
5. Flatten dough into one-inch-thick rectangle. Cut into rounds. Bake on a greased baking sheet about twently minutes, or until done. Makes ten to twelve.

Tomato Fritters

Tomato Fritters are supposed to be like any other kind of fritter, a filling surrounded by a dough that puffs up when immersed in hot oil. Well, tomatoes are kind of slippery, and the dough didn't really adhere to the tomatoes. Or, the dough stuck to the pan and slid off the tomatoes. Now it does say to drain the tomatoes, which I am ashamed to say I did not do. So, that might have contributed to the slipperiness of the tomatoes.
Tomato fritters are okay. I didn't hate them. It's impossible to hate anything made with fresh tomatoes. I love fresh tomatoes so much I used to eat them like apples. My aunt and uncle had a greenhouse at their place in Stockbridge, that in the fifties was actually maintained by the gardener, a Frenchman who wore a beret and looked like Claude Monet. I loved to sneak into the hot prickly smelling space with my cousin Cricket and graze on tomatoes.
My aunt and my mother were great tomato lovers. My aunt used to take a bread knife, and with a very steady hand would cut a slice of Pepperidge Farm white bread in half, spread it with mayonnaise and make a tomato sandwich. My mother served something like tomato fritters. She cut tomatoes in half, sprinkled the tops with breadcrumbs and put a pat of butter on top. These were baked for twenty minutes and served as the third or fourth vegetable in the summertime. The British do something similar with their full breakfasts. They were easy to cook in the apartment.

Tomato Fritters

1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 egg well beaten
6 firm tomatoes
1 teaspoon basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Mix the milk and egg together and stir into the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.
2. Cut the tomatoes into one half inch slices. Sprinkle with the basil, salt and pepper and let drain ten minutes.
3. Dip the tomato slices into the batter and fry on a well-greased griddle until brown on one side. Turn and brown the underside. Makes eight servings.