Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fish Stew

I made fish stew two weeks ago, on the last day of school. It was a big cooking day. I had already made Chicken and Eggplant for the end of school lunch. It was my last, last day of school, and a liberating experience. I went back upstairs after lunch and took a last look around the two rooms I worked in for stuff, namely library  books. I have 11 overdue library books that have vanished into the ether. About all I could do was to tape a note inside a cabinet to the teacher who has the room next year asking him/her to call me if the books turned up.
Having done that, I left my keys with the school secretary, said good-bye to the principal, and left. It was 2:30 on a  sunny, cool Thursday afternoon, and I had no responsibilities, no books to hunt down at the library, no plans to write, no copying to do. It was a wonderful feeling.  I drove to the fish store and     bought a  pound of haddock and thence to Safeway to get the rest of the ingredients. There was one ingredient I missed on the list, Pernod.
My daughter's friend Laura was coming to dinner. I  brought the fish and vegetables home and began a vague attempt at cleaning up. Laura was planning to give me a massage before dinner so I chopped up the shallots before she got there. The massage was wonderful as massages are. Then I got down to the cooking. The recipe calls for a cup of fish stock, which I didn't have. For some reason, I thought it said two cups, so I put in two cups of water. When it came to the Pernod, I stopped short. Pernod is an anise flavored liquer. Anise is licorice flavor.  Suddenly I remembered the Sambucca. A long time ago, way  before we had children, Bob and I were invited to a dinner in a restaurant on a Sunday night in Crystal City. The restaura nt was closed on Sunday and the chef wanted to  show off his skills for his friends. It turned out that the person who invited us never  came, and we didn't know any one else at the dinner,  but we had a wonderful time. That dinner introduced me to Sambucca  in tall fluted glasses with two coffee beans floating in them.
It was the  height of elegance. Even though I spent an entire weeks' salary on that dinner, I went out later and bought a bottle of Sambucca.
That Sambucca, 35 years and two moves later, was unearthed from the bottom of the kitchen cupboard.and added to the stew.  By that time, Bob was home. According to the recipe, the  milk was supposed to go in at the same time. Bob advised against the milk, and I agreed. The stew and the dinner was great.

Fish Stew

1 pound  boned, skinned haddock or striped bass, cut into serving pieces
1 cup fish stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely choppped shallots
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1  tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons slat
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon  nutmeg                                     
  1/4 te aspoon thyme
 3 drops tabasco sauce
  2   1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons Pernod
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

  1. Simmer the fish in the stock, covered, until fish flakes easily, about eight minutes. Reserve  stock and fish separately.
2. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until golden.
3. Add mixture to reserved stock. Add the tomato, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and Tabasco. Simmer, covered, twenty-five minutes.
4. Add the milk, Pernod and lemon ridn to stock. Add fish pieces. Heat before serving, but do not  boil. Serves 4.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chicken with Eggplant

Those of you who have read the blog  before (all 3 of  you) will be saying, aha, BF must have had some event to foist this dish off on, and indeed I did. The event was a lunch for the last day of school. For some  unknown reason, DCPS elected to have the last day be a half day. This is not something we have usually done, but we were happy. I was particularly happy because I am retiring. Ha ha. It may be kind of weird in September when everyone else in the universe is going back to school,  but right now, it feels great.
Chicken with Eggplant is Chinese food of the 50s. Soy sauce, peanut oil, cornstarch, grated ginger, a small, emphasis small, clove of garlic. Why it is a dish native to New Jersey, I know not.  The ethnic food of New Jersey of the 50s was spaghetti and gefilte fish. But, here it is, and I finally made it.
This dish is tasty--tastier if the cook beefed up the spices, and reasonably quick to produce. I knocked it off in an hour and was only 15 minutes late to work on my last day. If anyone said anything (and they didn't) my  witty retort would have been "So fire me!"  The eaters seemed to like it. I actually didn't go back to the library to pick up my pan and utensils. The pan was disposable, the utensils were part of a set of stainless steel cutlery that my husband and I had when we first set up housekeeping. Actually when we first set up housekeeping, the knives, forks, etc came from the college cafeteria.
I remember my husband calling me to come to dinner and saying "Bring your purse. We're going to steal silverware." My  brother actually outdid me in larceny. He stole the beds for his first apartment from the college dorm, dismantling them and lowering them out the window. But anyhow, those serving utensils didn't owe us much, and even if my husband won't like it, we have more knives, forks, serving utensils and general eating equipment than a large division of the Russian Army.  
So, my recommendation is, if you want to make chicken with eggplant, increase the garlic to at least two cloves. Three would probably be better. Also, put in more peppers.  I used jalapenos. These are probably not what the originator of the recipe had in mind, but jalapenos were what was ready to hand in the absence of a specific Chinese pepper. I softpedaled on the peppers, not knowing how my colleagues felt about  hot food.

Chicken with Eggplant

2 medium-size eggplants
boiling water
1/2 pound skinned boneless  breast of chicken
1 tablespoon cornstarch
 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 fresh hot green peppers or to taste or dried red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 small clove garlic finely minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 c up fresh or canned chicken broth

1. Peel the eggplants and, using a sharp knife, slice them into one-quarter-inch rounds. Slice each round into very thin match-like strips. There should be a bout four cups of thin strips. Pour boiling water over eggplant strips and let stand five minutes. Drain well in a colander.
2. Cut the chicken into thin slices then cut each slice into thin, match-like strips. Place the chicken strips in a mixing vowl and add the cornstarch, soy sauce and sherry.
3.  Split the peppers in half and discard the seeds and stem of each. Cut t he peppers into thin shreds.
4. Heat the oil, add the peppers and cook until they start to color. With a slotted  sproon , remove the peppers and reserve. Add the chicken to the oil and cook, stirring  briskly,  until the flesh turns white. Add the eggplant strips, garlic, ginger, chicken broth and reserved peppers. Cook j ust until the mixture boils ahd is slightly thickened. Makes  6 servings.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese, various websites seem to agree, is like English trifle, slices of cake or cookies suspended in custard. The name means English soup in Italian. It originates in Tuscany where the English hung out in numbers 100 years ago. This zuppa inglese is a little different. It is a cake with flavored custard between the layers. It is somewhat time consuming. You have to make the cake and the custard, let the cake cool and put all together. However, the church dinner group  proved to be a reason to make it.     
 Earlier in the week, I had made plain spongecake when my son and his wife came to dinner. As  you may read in the posting, apparently  Hewlett left the last step off, and failed to let her readers know they had to beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter. So, once I mixed up the eggs, sugar, flour etc, for the zuppa inglese cake  I was ready to  pop it into the oven. Luckily, I cast a last look at the recipe, and to my horror, saw the words, "Beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter." Cake saved.
Even so, when it came time to put the cake and the custard together, it transpired that my cake was not sufficiently high to cut into three pieces, so Bob and I rushed out to Safeway on a hot and sleepy afternoon to buy another dozen eggs and make another sponge cake. If  you are serving a dozen people, as this recipe purports to serve, you might want to make two sponge cakes so you will  have enough layers to use  up all the custard.
 Also, read the recipe through carefully on Friday or Saturday if you are making this for a Sunday evening event. Here in DC, the liquor stores are closed on Sunday, so such libations as Marsala and creme de cacao cannot be purchased. Luckily, even though we don't drink very much aside from wine and the occasional beer, we do have a variety of weird liqueurs, like Kahlua, a coffee liqueur from Mexico, which does admirably well instead of creme de cacao. As for the Marsala, which is a kind of wine much favored in the early 19th century, I just left it out. The recipe says to mix it with the rum. So, I put the rum in by itself.
If  you, like me, are not entirely sure what "fold" means, read the post on spongecake which precedes this one. I  quote a passage from The Joy of Cooking on how to fold egg whites.
When you make the custard, keep the heat low so the whole mess doesn't burn.
My husband frosted the cake. He is all about presentation, so it looked beautiful. The church dinner guests were very impressed.

Zuppa Inglese

 6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Custard filing
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cornstarch
1/ 8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks lightly beaten
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons creme de cacao
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 cup heavy cream  whipped
2 tablespoons chopped mixed candied fruits

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a nine-inch spring form pan.
2. To prepare spongecake,  beat the egg yolks until they are very thick and pale. (This takes about three or four minutes.)  then gradually beat in the sugar until mixture spins a rope when dropped from the beaters.   
3. Beat  in the lemon juice and orange rind. Sift together twice the flour, baking powder and salt and gently fold into the yolk mixture.
4.  Beat the egg whites until stiff  but not dry and fold into the  batter. Pour  into the prepared pan and bake about forty-five minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on a rack.
5. To prepare custard filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. stir in the milk. Bring to a  boil, stirring and cook one  minute.
6. Pour a little of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, mix and return all to the pan. Heat one to two minutes to cook the  yolks.
7.  Divide the custard into three  bowls. Add two tablespoons run to the first  bowl and chill. Add the vanilla to the second bowl and the creme de cacao to the third bowl and chill. 
8.   Combine the remaining rum with the Marsala. Split  the cooled spongecake into three layers  and sprinkle all layers with the rum mixture. Place the bottom layer in a shallow dish or deep plate. Spread with one of the cooled custards. Repeat with the other layers and the two other custards.
9. Frost with whipped  cream and garnish with candied fruit. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time. Makes 12 servings.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Here we have another instance of Hewlett failing to test her recipes. Boo! On Tuesday, I decided to make dessert for the yms and came up with spongecake, a recipe that I wouldn't have to go out and buy anything for. Now I have never made or even eaten spongecake, although I do have a vivid memory from  my childhood of a cake with colored flecks in it that I was told was spongecake. Did this really exist?  Beats me, but it had little pink and blue things in it, like a sponge.
I  made the cake, following the directions closely, and found it somewhat flat, although tasty. We ate it as a sort of shortcake, with whipped cream and raspberries. Flash forward to today, when I set out to make Zuppa Inglese, which starts with spongecake, spread with various flavored  custards.  I had dished the cake batter into the pan and popped it in the oven, and for some reasons, glanced  back at the cook book. Lo and behold, I saw the words, "beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter."
I  swore, yanked the pan out of the oven and  added the egg whites. Do all spongecakes have egg whites?    According to the Joy of Cooking, yes they do. Did Hewlett  leave them out? Signs point to yes, as the  Eight  Ball would say.  So here is the recipe, with the egg whites.
The other sponge cake recipes tell you to fold in the egg whites. What does that mean? My New York aunt explained it to me once, saying that the cook sort of lifted the cake batter over the egg whites , making a sort of cake batter-egg white sandwich. I did this on my second spongecake, which I made for Zuppa Ingles. It resulted in white patches in the cake. 
So, here is the last word on  folding egg whites, direct from The Joy of Cooking.  "To fold, first of all have a large enough bowl. A flat whip as shown below(it appears to be a whisk that looks like it's been chopped in half) (I've never heard of a flat whip.) is usually recommended  but this tool can be maddening  because it cuts through the whites and its too widely spaced wires allow the heavier substances to fall through. We commonly dispense with tools for this step and use the flat of the hand. You may begin  by folding into the dough  a small quantity of whites. When thoroughly mixed (got that, thoroughly mixed)  fold in the rest of the whites by scooping up some of the more solid material and covering the whites. Then, cut it in with a determined, gentle slicing motion to the base of the  mixing bowl. Turn the bowl slightly with the other  hand each time you repeat the folding motions. It  is surprising how well and quickly blending is achieved by this simple procedure."  So that's the word on folding egg whites from Irma Rombauer  and Marion Rombauer   Becker.
My husband did this for the third spongecake, when we discovered that the second spongecake was not thick enough for  four layers of Zuppa Ingles.                                                                            


9 large egg  yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4  cup boiling water
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2  1/2 cups cake flour
3/4  teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons  baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Beat the egg yolks until light. (In color.) (This takes about 5-6 minutes.) Gradually  beat in the sugar  until the mixture is light and creamy.
3.  Beat i n the boiling water and the lemon extract.
4. Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder and fold in.
5.  Beat the egg whites until stiff,  but not dry. Fold them into the cake batter.
6. Turn into a greased 15-by-10-by-2 inch  baking or roasting pan and  bake forty-five minutes, or until done. Cool in the pan, on a rack
 Makes ten to 12 servings.

Steamed Lobster

If you love lobster and hate killing the creatures, steamed lobster might be for you. They go into the pot  alive so the cook is spared the  horror of killing them. Son and daughter-in-law came to dinner on Tuesday night, and I decided to try lobster again i n hopes that this time they would eat it. This time was definitely more successful.  We  had a hilarious dinner cracking shells, trying to crack shells, passing the lobster cracker back and forth and, in son's case, getting up to crack other peoples' lobsters because they are tough little buggers. There was one heartstopping moment when just after we had  put the lobsters in the pot, one reached up its claw and stuck it out of the pot. Unfortunately, it expired and withdrew the claw before we could capture it on film.
The recipe is simplicity in itself. Try to get lobsters between 1 and one half and two pounds in weight. Put them in the refrigerator. Don't forget the melted butter.

Steamed Lobster

Use a kettle large enough to hold all the lobsters to be cooked. Add one inch of water to the bottom of the kettle and bring to a rolling boil.  Add the lobster, head down, and cover closely.    Cook twelve minutes for one-and-one-quarter pound to one-and-one-half pound  lobster; fifteen  minutes for two pound lobsters;  twenty minutes for three-pound lobsters and so on.                                                                                                    

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scaloppini of Veal

I remember hearing my mother make veal scaloppini when I was a kid. I say hearing, not watching or seeing, because making veal scaloppini used to be a noisy process. She used a big wooden mallet, and pounded the veal until... until what? Until it was flat? Until the cows came home? Who knows. I dispensed with the pounding process, because you can buy scaloppinis already sliced reasonably thin.
If someone has alternate opinions about the need to pound scaloppini, pray weigh in on the debate.
In my desire to move on with the cookbook, last Sunday, when I made up my shopping list, I discovered this as a dish that cold be made within the confines of my diet. It does require flour. I used cornstarch, with not really good results. Good veal scallopini is supposed to have a crust on it. Cornstarch doesn't do it, as the cornstarch coating adhered to the pan, not the veal.
The recipe also contains 2/3 of a cup of tomato juice. I am not supposed to eat tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplant. I like eggplant, but it's sort of vegetable non grata around here, so that is not a huge sacrifice. Now, tomatoes are another story entirely, but I've more or less been able to stay away from them so far. I figured 2/3 of a cup of juice wouldn't cause major problems.
Anyway, this dish is reasonably quick and easy to make, and tastes good. You might make it for a dinner party if no members of PETA were in attendance. We had it for a weeknight dinner just the two of us.

Scaloppini of Veal 

1 pound veal from the top of the leg, thinly cut
3 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Cut the veal into serving pieces and poound well between pieces of wax paper with a mallet or rolling pin.
2. Dredge the veal pieces in the flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a skillet and brown the veal in it on all sides. Remove veal and drain on paper towels.
3. Add the garlic and onions to the skillet and saute until tender. Add the broth, wine, and tomato juice and cook ten minutes.
4. Add the hermbs and return the meat to the skillet. Simmer gently five minutes, or until veal is tender. Makes two or three servings.