Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Apricot Lattice Cake

Probably I ought to head this recipe, Do Not Attempt in a Summer Rental. It turned out fine, but if one follows the recipe scrupulously, which I did not, one would turn out with a much more impressive, decorative product. For one thing, it calls for a rolling pin. I have no rolling pin. For another, six cups of flour and a pound of butter take up a lot of space in a bowl. I have a medium size steel bowl I rescued from the garden shed at my parents' house. All the rest of the cooking implements went ruthlessly to the Salvation Army. After my sister died,  I didn't want to think about that stuff, and I didn't until the following summer, when it occurred to me that I could have used it.
As a result, I had to cut the butter into the flour very carefully, because it overflowed onto the table.
But it didn't matter in the long run. In spite of gluten related aches and pains, I ate a couple of the bars, and they were delicious.
I'm sure that the ultimate recipients didn't care either. I decided I would start making baked goods for the stream of Appalachian Trail hikers that are pouring over the mountains this time of year. Along with cooking and reading indiscriminate crap, (and dressage(Don't tell Barack Obama.)) my other hobby is hiking on the AT. I have so far completed about half the state of Virginia, all of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and just yesterday, New York. Also all but three miles of Massachusetts, up on the Vermont border.
The Appalachian trail has a tradition of something called "trail magic." Trail magic is when people leave stuff for hikers. It can be water, soft drinks, food, anything. Sometimes people stage giant cookouts for hikers. I have been the recipient of trail magic. I love hiking, but at the end of a day spent staggering around in mosquito-ridden woods with the temperature in the low 90s, if someone gives you a piece of pizza, it is enough to bring tears to a person's eyes.
It's been dry this summer, so I have been leaving a couple of gallons of water at the trail crossings. I decided I would leave baked goods from the cookbook as well, and knock off more of these cookie recipes.
Apricot Lattice Cake is really cookie bars. One makes a rich dough and presses it into a jellyroll pan. I used a cookie sheet I had just gotten. Everything comes through with a heavy nonstick finish which is just great. Then, apply apricot jam, and finally, lay a series of strips made from the rolled out dough over all to form the lattice effect.
Well, when it got to the last step, I resorted to rolling the dough between the palms of my hands the way children do with Playdough in nursery school. I made irregular, fat snakes of dough that I laid down to form the lattice. Considering that I had eaten a fair amount of dough after I pressed down the bottom layer,  and my snakes used much more dough than rolled out strips would have, it was not surprising that the lattice was somewhat...irregular. Hey, I am sure the hikers didn't care.

Apricot Lattice Cake

6 cups flour
1 pound butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
grated rind and juice of  half a lemon
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup to one and one half cups apricot preserves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the flour in a large bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or the finger tips as though starting pastry dough. Mixture should resemble coarse oatmeal.
3. Add all remaining ingredients except preserves and work with hands into a dough.
4. Cut off one-eighth of the dough and set aside. Using fingers, spread bulk of dough evenly in a lightly greased 10-by-15-inch jellyroll tin. Spread with preserves.
5 Roll out reserved dough in one-eighth-inch thickness on a lightly floured pastry cloth or board. Cut into pencil-thin strips and arrange over the cake in a crisscross lattice design. Bake twenty-five minutes or until lightly browned.
6. Cool in the tin on a rack and cut into squares, triangles or bars. This is very rich.
Makes about 40 bars.

Lime Meringue Pie

I have never made a meringue pie before. Of course, the qualinty of the finished product hinged on the "cook until thickened" issue. One is supposed to be able to cut a pie with a knife, not have to slop it onto the plate with a spoon. Although my guests were enthusiastic about the pie, and it was really good, although I didn't have food coloring so it wasn't kelly green, it wasn't what it was supposed to be.
I made the pie in Mrs. Curtiss's well-equipped kitchen because I don't have an electric mixer down in the green garage. The great French chefs of the 19th Century might have been able to whip egg whites in a copper bowl with a whisk, but the Berkshire Farmer cannot. I made the mistake of bringing the dog up with me, thinking he might like the company. He whined incessantly, and finally messed on the floor. I gave up and pushed him out onto the lawn where he barked intermittantly for an hour.
I had gotten a gluten-free pie crust from the Co-op in Great Barrington, and used Bob's Red Mill Gluten free Flour for the flour, so I could eat the whole thing without adding to the growing twinges in my hip. For the first step, when one is to combine all the dry ingredients and boiling water and cook until thick, I thought it was thick. I would say, on hindsight, thick means like library paste. Thick means you should be able to hold the pan at an angle over the sink and nothing comes out. Thick means when you spoon the contents out of the pan, the hole where you dug in will remain.
Truly, I should make this again to perfect it, but I never promised you three readers a rose garden. This isn't the New York Times test kitchens.
What I thought Hewlett meant was just, you know, thicker. More like spaghetti sauce and less like water. Hence the slopping the pie out of the pan.
I rooted around in her extensive pine cupboards to find the blender. She has one on a stand. Some poking and pulling was required until I got the knack of having the blender part stand up so one can take the beaters out of the bowl. I never did find the switch for the bottom, to make it rotate so the bowl rotates.
I dumped the egg whites in the bowl and started beating. It seemed kind of nonresponsive. Horrors! Had there been fat on the beaters? It's possible. When one is nearly 90, one does not use one's kitchen equipment as much as in former years. The recipe called for a pinch of cream of tartar, which I had neglected to buy. Cream of tartar makes the egg whites beat better, so I decided to look around in the cupboards. When I was in 8th and 9th grade, I was intimately familiar with those cupboards because it was where Mrs. Curtiss kept the chocolate chip cookies. Always a rapacious (and shameless) child, I would nag Mrs. Curtiss for something to eat after she stopped at her house to let her kids off after driving the carpool. If it had been me, I would have taken me home first and saved the food budget. But she was nicer than I am.
In the cupboards of those who live alone, the spices are often dodgey. Five year old oregano. Eight year old cinamon. That type of thing. But I did find a half bottle of cream of tartar, and figured since it is a chemical, it couldn't go bad. The egg whites finally whipped, although they stood in mounds, not peaks.
I spread the egg white-sugar mixture on top of the pie and put it in the oven. It came out a gratifying brown on the hills of the topping. I left it to cool in Mrs. Curtiss's kitchen, thinking that a pie and a dog, even a crippled dog, were not great driving companions. I ended up driving the 100 yards back to her house to get it around 5:30, imagining all kinds of pie related disasters involving stumbling over a hole in the ground if I carried it back to my place.

Lime Meringue Pie

4 tablespoons flour
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups plus five tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water
3 eggs separated
grated rind of two limes (Grate the limes first before you cut them and squeeze them.)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice. (My limes produced a half cup.)
2 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 baked nine-inch pie shell
Pinch of cream of tartar

1. Combine the flour, cornstarch, one and one-half cups of the sugar and the salt in a heavy saucepan and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk. When well blended, add the boiling water gradually, stirring with the whisk. Bring gradually to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture is thickened (see above) remove from the heat.
2 Beat the egg yolks until they are light and lemon-colored. Spoon a little of the hot mixutre into the yolks, then stir the yolk mixture into the sauce. Cook, stirring, two minutes over low heat.
3. Stir in the lime rind, lime juice and food coloring if desired. When all is well blended, pour the filling into the pie shell. Let the filling cool in the shell.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Beat the egg whites until they are frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Continue beating until whites stand in peaks, and gradully add the remaining sugar. When whites are thoroughly stiff, spread them roughly on top of the pie filling, leaving peaks. Make certian that the meringue touches the pie shell all around to prevent shrinking of meringue as pie bakes.
6. Bake pie until meringue is browned on top, whichw as about 8 minutes

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cooked Bacon Dressing

I always try to wring as many recipes out of a dinner party as possible, without killing either myself or my guests. The vegetable chapter in the New England section of the cookbook has been whittled down to Passover recipes, (which I ought to cook at Passover) and things like dandelion stems. So, on to the South. I figured, on a hot night, it was not really fair to saddle my guests with some kind of vegetable casserole, so I just went for this dressing on spinach salad.
Readers may remember I have problems with the phrase "cook until the mixture thickens." The recipes never say how thick, Goddammit. Well, this stuff ended up really thick. I made it and set it aside to tackle the lobster. When I came back to it, it was the consistency of library paste. I just added some water. I cut the recipe in half and still ended up with over a cup left over, which is a lot for a person who lives alone. So be warned.
I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten free flour for the flour. That seemed to work fine. I seem to have problems with getting bacon really crisp, but that might have been the humidity. Nobody complained.

Cooked Bacon Dressing

4 slices bacon
3 eggs
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup mayonnaise, (preferably homemade)  (Mine wasn't.)

1. Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and crumble strips. Reserve. (When this book says reserve, it means put someplace out of the way until later. In my case it was the top of the refrigerator.)
2. Combine bacon drippings, with eggs, mustard, flour, sugar, salt, celery seeds, vinegar, water and pepper in a deep saucepan. Beat with a rotary beater. (This is one of the deficiencies of the apartment. I used a whisk.)
3. Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove. Cool slightly and stir in the mayonnaise and reserved bacon bits, Cool and chill.
Makes about 2 and a half cups.   

Lobster Alexander

After three weeks actually being in the Berkshires I had my first dinner party.  Old friends Tom and his daughter Cathy came over. All you readers (all 3 of you) will remember them from last summer and the summer before. Tom is a retired artist and Cathy is a lawyer for a conservation organization. I looked at the clam recipes but they all either contained milk or cream (not good for Cathy) or flour crusts, (not good for me). Ditto with the other lobster recipes. So Lobster Alexander it was. Who Alexander was, I cannot tell you. Google, my constant source for news about things I don't know about, has nothing on the subject.
Anyway, it's chilled lobster, an excellent choice for a muggy evening where the weather forecasters were threatening all kinds of dire events such as wind shear, tornadoes, wind tunnels (or funnels) and hail. As it turned out, we got about 15 minutes of light rain around 8:00 pm and that was it. Elmira, N.Y. , on the other hand, was pretty well flattened.
I was going to boil the lobsters at Mrs. Curtisses' well-equipped kitchen because I don't have a pot big enough to accommodate them. Then, I got into a chat with the fish man at Big Y in Great Barrington,  about killing the things, and he offered to steam them for me. Yeah, fish man. (His advice for killing lobsters was to put them in the freezer for 15 minutes before you steam them. "They're cold blooded animals," he said. "Their metabolism slows down in the cold, so you don't get that tap, tap, tap on the inside of the pot."
So I cruised around Big Y for twenty minutes buying things I needed like eggs and things I didn't need like a big bag of Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. I remembered the New York Times and checked out. I was about a mile from the store when I realized I hadn't bought corn starch, an essential ingredient of the dessert.  So, I pulled into a side road, turned around and went back for it, reminding myself to be grateful I had remembered it on the way home, not at 3:00 when I was in the middle of making the dessert.
I spent a couple of hours at Mrs. Curtisses' making the dessert and finally knuckled down to the main course around 5:30. Lobster Alexander is essentially cold lobster with kind of a salad dressing. It calls for hard boiled eggs, which I had cleverly remembered to hard boil the night before. When I was reading it, it seemed like one of those recipes where you are supposed to make something liquid, or quasi-liquid out of solid ingredients and a very small amount of liquid. but it actually ended up
all right.
I have had enough experience with lobsters to be able to disembowel them in fairly short order. I cut off the tail and wrenched it open with my bare hands, my only sharp knife not really suited to the purpose. Then I yanked off the claws and cracked them with the lobster cracker (or possibly nut cracker) that came with the apartment. The rest of it went into the trash to be removed the next morning. Lobster remains stink big time.
I arranged the slices of lobster on a bed of lettuce on the platter provided in the apartment, and put the sauce in an actual sauce boat which I suspect came from my ancestral home. It was well received.

Lobster Alexander

1 large or two small lobsters (I got two two-pound lobsters for three people. It was adequate, but not lavish)
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped fresh chervil (optional)  (I left out the chervil. I figured it was enough to have $10 worth of fresh herbs in my refrigerator which would probably be chucked out in a week or so. I didn't need $14 worth. )
2 hard cooked egg yolks
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar. It was fine.)
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Madeira wine (I left this out too. There is a limit to the amount of arcane gourmet ingredients I am willing to accumulate in Massachusetts.)

1. Remove the lobster meat from the tail and claws. Slice the tail meat and arrange it on a platter. Add the claw meat left whole.
2. Blend the tarragon, parsley, chives and chervil if desired in a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and mash them thoroughly with a fork. Add salt, pepper, the mustard, vinegar and Worcestershire. Blend thoroughly with a wire whisk.
3 While beating the a whisk, gradually add the oil to sauce. Stir constantly until sauce is like a mayonnaise. (Now I did not achieve this. My sauce was like salad dressing. I suspect if you really want mayonnaise you should use an electric blender.) Add the Madeira and spoon a little sauce onto each piece of lobster.
Serves 3 people.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Clam Fritters (Gluten Free)

I am back up in Massachusetts, cooking in my tiny, no-counters summer space. Actually, by Bloomberg micro-pad standards, the kitchen is not all that small, it just has very little counter space. Anyhow, I took the opportunity to make clam fritters. Usually, when I need to use flour, I just use it, and endure the aches and pains engendered by the gluten. However, I discovered Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose flour at the Big-Y supermarket in Great Barrington. While Bob makes his flour of various non floury things like garbanzo beans and potatoes, it works fine. Warning, make sure your fritters are fully cooked, because Bob's raw tastes nasty.
My clam fritters were not redolent of clam taste, even though I used the required amount. They just taste kind of like any old fritter. However, something about substitution. Since I had just gotten to Mass. and hadn't had time to accumulate stuff like baking powder, I used baking soda which worked fine. So if you are in clam land in a rental house and your landlord has put baking soda in the frig to keep smells at bay, go for it.
Another challenge is to make sure the oil is the proper temperature. Over three years of renting this place I have added to the kitchen equipment so the kitchen is reasonably well supplied. However, it does not have a cooking thermometer and is not likely to get one, at least not from me.  I only bought myself a cooking thermometer last winter after 43 years of cooking. Don't get the oil too hot, because the outside of the fritters cooks and leaves the inside all oozy.
So, what is too hot, and how will you know if you don't have a thermometer? Well, don't turn the gas up all the way, and keep an eye on the oil. After a couple of minutes drop a small dab of batter into the oil. It should sink to the bottom of the oil and fizz wildly. After a bit the batter will rise to the top of the oil. If the batter has browned on the underside, turn it over. Give it a minute to brown on the downside, and then remove it to drain. If the dough stays on the surface of the oil and browns almost immediately, chances are, the oil is too hot.
Here's a question. How does one dispose of the used oil? 1. Don't pour it down the sink. 2. Don't pour it down the sink, unless you want your plumbing to resemble the gigantic catch basin under Leicester Square in London, where a tube train's worth of congealed oil was removed a couple of years ago. I pour it into an empty bottle and put the bottle in the trash.

Clam Fritters

2 cups clams
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons grated onion
1 tablespoon butter, melted
fat or oil for deep frying

1. Drain the clams and chop them.
2. Place the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. In a second bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, onion, butter and clams. Pour clam mixture into dry ingredients and stir until smooth.
3. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls into fat or oil heated to 360 degrees. Fry until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chocolate Sauce

You want to  make this ahead of time. It should not be served hot, which would cause the  Barvarian Cream to melt and undo all your fancy work.   It is easy and delicious, what my daughter-in-law calls "lick the pan clean good." The directions are pretty straightforward. Get Baker's Chocolate, not some expensive unknown variety from Whole Foods.

Chocolate Sauce

4 ounces (4 squares)    unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Melt the chocolate with the butter in the top of a double boiler over hot  but not boiling water. Add the syrup, sugar and salt and  blend.
2. Add the milk and cream and cook, stirring, about ten minutes.
Makes about one and one half cups.

Peppermint Stick Barvarian Cream

Moving along with the all pink menu, Barvarian Cream,  Wikipedia tells us, is a dessert that originated in the 18th Century.   It used to be made in the days before refrigeration, by filling a mold with the gelled mixture and plunging the mixture into a bowl of cracked ice to get it to set. Wikipedia tells you hyper fancy cooks out there to decorate it with a "piping of creme chantilly." Well, isn't that nice?
Moving  back to the more prosaic realms of the 21st Century, this is a fantastic dessert, followed by a wonderful chocolate sauce. It does have a couple of tricky bits. One is the direction, "heat ..stirring constantly....until mixture thickens."   Well, I stirred for about 40 minutes with sweat rolling off my face and the mixture was marginally thicker than before, but not extremely thick.Finally, I just said the hell with it and put it in the refrigerator. Bob moved it to the freezer for an hour when it was still jiggling at  6:00  and guests were supposed to come at 6:30.   Information on just how thick the mixture was supposed to  be would have been welcome.  The other tricky bit is to allow enough time for the  whole thing to set.  Really, you are better off  making this the night before your dinner party.
There  is a third tricky  bit in making the all pink menu, namely making sure you have enough gelatin. I forgot to check how many envelopes were in the  box, and then forgot to buy more.  Bob  had to rush out on Saturday afternoon to Safeway to buy another box                                               
The directions say beat the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Don't do that. Beat them in a metal  bowl that will fit in one of your saucepans as a double boiler. It's much  better to cook eggs and milk mixtures  in a double boiler, rather than over direct  heat.

Peppermit Stick Barvarian Cream

1 envelope plus one and one-half teaspoons unflavored gelatin (say two envelopes)
1/3 cup cold water
6 egg  yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup finely crushed peppermind sticks or  candies (about six medium sixe candy canes; crushing can  be done easily in an electric blender. (Alternatively, put the candies in a plastic bag and beat them with a hammer.))
3/4    teaspoon peppermint essance ( you can buy this at Williams Sonoma.)
red food coloring
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
Peppermint candies for garnish

1. Soak the gelatin in the water.
2. Beat the eggs, sugar and salt in a saucepan (See note.) until well blended. In another saucepan heat the milk and crushed peppermint candies until almost  boiling, stirring to dissolve the candy.
3. Gradually  beat the hot milk into the egg  yolk mixture. Heat over hot water or over low direct heatr, stirring continuously  until the mixture t hickens. Do not allow to  boil.
4. Stir in the softened gelatin and stir to dissolve. Set the mixture aside to cool. Stir in the peppermint essence     and the red food coloring., remembering that the cream will tone down the shade. (My Bavarian Cream was kind of a violent, Pepto-Bismole pink.)
5. Fold in the cream gently but thoroughly and pour into a six-cup mold. Chill four hours or overnight.  Unmold and decorate with  the candies and serve with chocolate sauce.
Makes  10 servings.


Salmon Mousse a la Craig Clalrborne

There's no point in trumpeting the all pink meal if you don't put in all the recipes. What would Martha Stewart say? So, here is a recipe not in the NYTHC, but  be reassured that it did come from the New York Times family of cookbooks namely the New York Times Cookbook, which as  Craig Clairborne's biographer says, revolutionized  cooking in 1961. I do know it revolutionized cooking in our house, as my  mother enthusiastically embarked on serving its recipes first at her parties and later to us.
My mother always had a big summer lawn party on our big summer lawn.  The women wore long, pastel colored skirts and the men  wore light blue or navy blue blazers. My sister and I got to pass (and eat) the hors oeuvres.                         
 It was a buffet, which my father didn't care for. He and some other gentleman would plop down at one end of the dining room table, which was laden for the  buffet and have his dinner there. He did not like eating off his lap, and didn't see why he should have to do it in his own house.
My mother always served the same thing at her party, beef  bourguignon, rice  and sometimes cold salmon   but after Craig entered our  house, salmon mousse, served in a fish  mold. My mother loved the mousses. We ate salmon mousse, turkey mousse and chicken mousse. When I got my own apartment,  and my own copy of Craig Clairborne, salmon mousse was one of the first things I made, and the page is decorated with 40 year old spots to prove it.
So after leafing through the Southern section of the cookbook on Saturday morning, a day that was proving to be every bit as hot as the week that came  before it, I couldn't find a fish recipe that didn't involve turning on the oven.  So I thought of salmon  mousse. The only tricky thing here is to not chill the base with the gelatin,   mayonnaise, etc too long. It's not supposed to set. However, you can do what my clever husband did, and set it in a pan of hot water and melt it a bit before you add the salmon.

Salmon Mousse

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
 1 tablespoon grated onion
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
 1/4 teaspoon paprika
 1 teaspoon salt
 2 cups canned salmon, drained and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped capers   1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cups cottage cheese (this is to fill in the  bottom of the fish mold. If  you don't have a fish mold, you can omit the cottage cheese. )

1. Soften the gelatin in the cold water, add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Cool.
2. Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, Tabasco, paprika, and salt and mix well. Chill to the consistency of unbeaten egg white.(Note: This is not very long.)
3. Add the salmon and capers and beat well. Whip the cream, fold into the salmon mixture and turn into a two-quart oiled fish mold. Add the cheese to fill the mold. Chill until set.
4. Unmold on a serving platter and garnish with watercress, lemon slices and salmon roe. Makes 8 servings.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Strawberry Cooler

Strawberry Cooler was the first course of the all pink meal. Now, I did  not intend for color to  be a theme. If the meal had any theme it would have been cold food. Since the temperature has been hovering around 100 degrees for the last couple of days, and the air conditioner, God  bless it, can only lower the temperature about 20 degrees, the last thing I wanted to do was turn on the oven.
I  love cold soup. My mother used to run all the leftover vegetables lurking in the refrigerator through the blender with a cup of milk and serve it for lunch on  hot days. If one is lacking in energy on a hot day, as so often happens, you can even run a can of Campbell's cream of chicken soup and a cup of milk through the blender, add a little curry powder and bingo, there's your first course.
I was actually going to make Strawberry Cooler for us, but then Bob suggested inviting Jackie and Bill, our friends from the frame shop, over before I went to Massachusetts. So it was a  no-brainer. It is very easy to make, and even forgiving of wandering attention.  I had gotten to the  part where you cook it. The directions are quite specific. "Heat, stirring, u ntil mixture comes to a  boil, then cook one minute."
At that point the phone rang. It was Son, calling to discuss the logistics for Bob's birthday when we have our traditional  sail on the Chesapeake Bay. The conversation went from there to baseball, where we discussed Nationals' star pitcher Stephen Strasburg's problems with pitching on hot days  and who was hitting and who was not.  By the time I got off the phone, the soup had cooked for considerably more than a minute. I gasped with horror  as I smelled it on the stove and rushed to take it off the heat.  Fortunately when we ate it Saturday night, it was fine. So, while I don't reccomend leaving it on the stove and forgetting about it,  it does not seem to do the  soup any harm.
Everyone seemed to love it. Bob set out heavily gold rimmed  bouillion cups that made a lovely contrast  between the  dark red of the soup and the gold on the rim. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it.  It is kind of sweet. You might reduce the sugar and see how that works.                    

Strawberry Cooler

4 cups strawberries
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoo n lemon juice
1 cup  buttermilk
sesame wafers  (   I dispensed with the sesame wafers.)

1. Reserve several berries for garnish; place remainder in an electric blender with the orange juice.
2. Blend until s mooth and strain into a saucepan. Mix the cornstarch with a little of t he strained mixture and add to remaining mixture in the pan. Heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil, then cook one minute.
3. REmove from heat and add the sugar, lemon juice and buttermilk. Chill thoroughly  . Serve in chilled bowls, garnished with reser ved strawberries and wafers. Makes four to six servings.

Apple-Blueberry Conserve

Conserve is jam, for those who were wondering. This is a fast, easy jam that does not require sealing,  always a plus. It, unlike most of the forms of  marmalade I have enountered, also does not require boiling for  hours and hours to thicken. When it says boil for twenty minutes, it means boil for twenty minutes, or maybe twenty-five.
In the high and faroff times when everyone was a locavor, this recipe must  have used year old apples, since  blueberries ripen in July or maybe August in Maine, and apples don't ripen until September. I used Granny Smith apples.
This recipe also has the benefit of not making too much  jam. Even before I embarked on the blog, I used to make various condiments from the Miscellaneous section. The problem was, the jars would hang around for years. I threw about five pints of Fuling Mill Farm Chili Sauce from 2005 away a couple of years ago.  My system for getting rid of the output must have gotten better. I went through the closet  where we keep the canning jars and discovered only one jar of what I suspect is Lemon-Peach-Ginger Conserve, from 2011. The beet-cabbage pickle from 2010 was all gone. Part of the problem is, I no longer eat  bread, and since I do the shopping, Bob doesn't eat it either.  
But if you haven't joined the half the eaters in the US who have decided they are glueten intolerant,  slather this stuff on  your  bread. My understanding is the hipsters are all about homemade jam. What better jam to make than something that A. doesn't take too long, and B. doesn't make too much?

 Apple-Blueberry Conserve

4 cups chopped, cored, peeled tart apples (about 4 medium size apples)
4 cups blueberries stemmed and washed
6 cups sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/4  cup lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine all the ingredients except the pecans in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly. (Note: you may, as I did, wonder how solids with only 1/4 cup  l iquid can be brought to a boil. Well,  blueberries are mostly liquid and you will have a boilable substance within a minute or so.), stirring occasionally  until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Cook rapidly until thick, about twenty minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add the pecans during the last few minutes of cooking. Pour the  boiling hot conserve into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars. Adjust the caps. Cpp; amd store in a cool, dark,  dry place. Makes 7 half  pints.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Clam Salad

Clam Salad!! I have finally had an opportunity to serve clam salad.  And, as I envisioned, it was at a picnic. Liz and Bill, some old friends, invited us to a Fourth of July celebration in Washington Grove, a quirky little town hidden deep in the Montgomery County, Maryland suburbs. When Liz called me, the first words out of my mouth were, "Can I bring clam salad?" "Sure," she said. Liz is easy.
I almost didn't get to make the clam salad, due to a dire natural disaster, viz. a thunderstorm with a fancy name that came through on Friday night and knocked over 10 percent of the trees in the Washington Metropolitan area. Result, no lights and citizens inveigling against Pepco, our electric utility. Plus, it's hot. I mean really hot. Wake up in the middle of the night with your body slick with sweat hot. After three nights of cold showers at 2 am and days spent sitting in a  chair because that was all I had energy for, the lights came on Monday night. We had gone to the movies (because they have air conditioning)  and as I pulled up in front of our house,  Bob started yelling.
"What?" I said, in alarm.
"The lights are on!" he shouted.
"Yeah team!" I yelled.
So, Tuesday, after a better night's sleep, I rediscovered my energy. I washed the dishes, which were piling up in the sink, went to the fish store and Safeway, and got to work. Clam salad is suspended in aspic. You have to make each layer and wait for it to gell. It's a real "Day before" dish. It's not difficult.
As to the result. The dish, as are many dishes from the 50s, is bland. If I were to make it again, I  would put in more salt, and maybe Tabasco sauce. The guests who tried it were enthusiastic.   A young man from Baltimore County said it was delicious. Other people did not try it, and that was fine.
Clam salad is visually striking. It is arranged in layers, clams in aspic, cottage cheese tinted pink with catchup, and a green top of chopped parsley. This dish uses a lot of parsley. In case you want to make it, and are wondering what to use, I used my pate pan, which is a narrow enamel loaf pan that was used, once or twice in the dark ages of cooking to bake pate. You could use a regular loaf pan.
Anyhow, clam salad has been cooked and served,  and did not fall into the category of can't do this, like the recipe for dandelion flowers which tells you not to wash them . Come on. We live in a city. Any dandelions that might be picked also probably came in contact with a dog. We are not doing that one.

Clam Salad

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup  boiling water
grated rind and juice of one lemon
1  seven ounce can of chopped clams, drained, and liquor reserved. (That means, keep the juice.)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground  black pepper
1 1/2 cups clam broth or water
1 teaspoon Dijon or Dusseldorf mustard
2 scallions, finely chopped, including green part
6 large stuffed olives, sliced
1 cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup catchup
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 hard-boiled egg
salad greens

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. Add the boiling water and stir to dissolve gelatin. Add the lemon rind, lemon juice, reserved clam liquor, pepper and clam broth or water. Stir well.
2. Halve the gelatin mixture between two bowls, Stir the clams, mustard and scallions into one bowl of gelatin mixture.
3. Pour the clam mixture into a one-and-one-half quart mold or oblong baking dish that had  been rinsed with cold water.
4. Chill until the layer just starts to set, then poke the olive slices down around the sides of the mold or dish. Chill until almost firm.
5. Reserve one-quarter cup of the gelatin mixture in the second  bowl. To the remaining, add the cottage cheese, catchup and six tablespoons of the parsley. Spoon the cottage cheese mixture over the setting clam mixture . Chill until firm.
6. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top of firm mixture, then arrange the egg slices in an attractive pattern over all. Spoon     reserved gelatin mixture over the coat the egg slices. Chill until firm.
7. Unmold or cut into squares. Serve on salad greens.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

"Lemmon Syllabub"

  "Syllabub was a popular dessert in seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth century England. It was popular for celebrations, special occasions and holidays due to its festive appearance. Many original recipes survive with various modes of preparation. Generally Syllabub was made with a mixture of whipped cream, whipped egg whites, white wine, sugar, lemon juice and zest of lemon. The quantity of white wine added would determine the consistency qualifying whether the mixture would be a creamy dessert or a popular punch. White wine could be substituted with apple cider or other alcoholic beverages. One could always detect the drinker of the beverage by the thick white mustache left behind."

So speaks a guy named David Quidnunc(Somehow I doubt that's his real  name) on a  website for Samuel Pepys' Diary. Syllabub started out as a drink and gradually evolved into a dessert.  George Washington probably partook of syllabub while lounging on the porch at Mount Vernon at the end of a long day spent supervising his estate.  Close readers of Regency novels will remember their heroes and heroines having syllabub as a refreshment on a warm day. Our friend Tim, who sells antiques  and came to the Sunday night supper whence this was served, has sold syllabub cups.
I  picked it out of the cookbook  because it was quick to make. We are moving into the South here. Most of the dessert recipes that are left in New England are unsuited to hot weather, like plum pudding. The only caveat is syllabub requires the purchase of two off the wall  wines, Madeira, and cream sherry. Let's take cream sherry first. I like sherry. I learned to drink it in Madrid in the bars in the basement of Plaza Mayor when I was 22. A guy I was hanging around with introduced me to tapas bars, where the bartender first laid out a couple of olives in a small saucer. If  you bought another drink and tipped well, he served something more substantial. It actually didn't occur to me that  if  you wanted tapas  you could  buy them directly instead of trying to gauge a proper tip.
 If  one is going to drink sherry, drink it like the Spaniards do, without ice, and dry. That means Amontillado, Fino, or Manzanilla. It doesn't mean cream.  And now, I have a cheap bottle of cream sherry cluttering up my bar along with  half a dozen other bottles of weird, no-longer-drunk liquor.
I also have Madeira. Madeira, if you read the Patrick O'Brien books, was much favored  by seamen during the Napoleonic wars. It comes from the island of Madeira, a regular port of call for ships going either to the Americas or the East. It too was fortified with sugar to prevent it from spoiling on long, hot sea voyages. In fact, today, the winemakers heat the wine to 140 degrees Fahrenheit to replicate the process of tossing for weeks in the hold of a ship ploughing its way to the tropics. I don't think I've ever drunk Madeira, but if I want to, now I can. 
 Anyhow, Syllabub is a quickly made, elegant-looking dessert. Just don't decide to make it on Sunday afternoon when the liquor stores are closed. 

Lemmon Syllabub

Thinly cut peel (lemon colored part only) of one lemon
1 cup cream sherry
1 cup Madeira wine
4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar

1. Soak the lemon peel in the sherry and Madeira for at least one hour.
2. Whip the cream until it just begins to hold its shape. Remove the peel and gradually beat into the cream the wine, lemon juice and sugar until thick. Pour into parfait or wine glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve immediately. Serves eight.