Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Samp 'n' Beans (Gluten Free)

Samp 'n' Beans was one of those recipes that did not seem like it would taste good. I mean talk about bland. Navy beans, salt pork and hominy. Huh.  But, when one undertakes an  undertaking like mine, one can't back  out at the last minute. It also seemed southern or something. Hominy isn't particularly big in the Northeast.
Comes to do a little research, and we find out that samp and beans is actually a South African dish. Who knew that South Africa is full of women writing cooking  blogs? Of course, my idea of South Africa is permanently mired in the 1980s, with demonstrations against apartheid at the South African embassy every weekend.  In  fact, it was completely weird watching the World Cup opening game when South Africa played Mexico and realizing that it was okay to root for South Africa.
Anyhow, samp and  beans is really big in South Africa. Wikkipedia does have one throw away sentence in its article on samp and  beans that says it is derived from two Narragansett words, and that samp was a word for corn meal mush in colonial America.  However, we are left to guess how  a South African speciality made its way into a cookbook of heritage American recipes.
Back to the recipe itself. It is quite tasty. My husband Bob liked it. His exact words were "hominy is always good." Huh? Who knew? However be warned that there is a small problem. It may induce "what health professionals euphemistically refer to as flatulence." I've always liked that phrase. I pinched it from an article in The Washington Post some twenty years ago.  True. So. this is not something I would eat the day before I was going to have lunch with my  boss, or the day before I planned to leave the house.

 Samp  'n' Beans

2 pounds dried pea beans or navy beans
1 pound salt pork , streaked lean and fat
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cans coarse pearl (or big) hominy
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cover the beans with cold water and soak overnight.  (The workday will do nicely. Just put the  beans on to soak  before you run out the door in the morning.)
2. Next day, drain beans and place in a big kettle. Add fresh water to cover. Slice the salt pork almost all the way through so that the slices stay hinged together and add to beans.
3. Bring to a  boil and simmer, covered, until the beans are tender, about forty minutes. Add the onion and hominy and simmer thirty to forty-five minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 16 servings.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Passover Apple Cake

Tomorrow my  Bible study group meets, so we're back to  baking kosher baked goods for Episcopalians.  It was a busy Sunday, church, an open house and the Kennedy Center, where we saw a  peculiar production that was part of the Nordic Cool Festival. It was called August. Now, this is not pronounced like the month, but with a long u. Augoost. Augoosts are clowns. This play involved 4 clowns, one of whom may have been a woman, but it was hard to tell. They all wore long overcoats, reminiscent of homeless people, and did various self defeating, peculiar things. At one point, the person who may have been a woman came out on stage, set up an empty music stand, and sang "I'm in a Mood for Love" in an operatic sort of voice. At the same time, another clown perched on top of a step ladder and stared at her. It was weird.
     This  is an easy cake. It does require matzoh cake flour, available at I haven't been back to Safeway for two weeks, to check the kosher for Passover section, but as of the last time I went, neither Safeway nor Rodman's in D.C. had matzoh cake flour. It also requires what it refers to as potato flour. According to potato flour is really potato starch flour or potato starch. Real   potato flour should never be substituted for potato starch,  about says sternly. So I used potato starch.
Passover  baked goods are somewhat lower in fat since they don't contain butter or milk. They are probably not lower in calories since this cake has 2 1/3 cups of sugar. The cake bakes up into a puffy, golden brown wonder with the apples caramelized on top.  My husband Bob said it was cross between a cake and a souffle. The Episcopalians won't get any until tomorrow, so I can't report  on their reactions. The recipe says bake for one hour. Bob said it smelled done after 50 minutes. He was right.

Passover Apple Cake

3/4  cup matzoh cake flour
3/4 cup potato flour (potato starch)
2 1/3 cups sugar
5 eggs separated
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 apples peeled, cored and sliced
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Sift the matzoh cake flour and potato flour together into a bowl. Add one and one-half cups of sugar. Make a well in the center and drop in the egg  yolks. Add the orange juice and orange rind. Beat until smooth.

                           Egg whites beaten until stiff                                  

3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Gradually beat in one-half cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff. Fold into batter and turn into a greased 13-by-9-by-2 inch baking dish.
4. Arrange the apple slices over top. Combine the remaining sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over apples. Bake one hour or until done. Makes eight to ten servings.   

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New England Fish Stew

Readers who have noticed a diminution in the fish recipes are right. My husband finally rebelled against eating his solitary steak while the rest of the guests chowed down on shellfish. And, I happened to notice that other members of the family who will remain nameless were leaving most of their dinner on their plates. So I backed off fish.   
Thank goodness for the Saint Margaret's dinner group, which had a  potluck dinner on Friday night. The hostess asked me if I could make a main course, since there were about 25 guests. I leapt to the cookbook.  Therein remains about 4 recipes for clam pie and Martha's Vineyard Stonewall Bouillabaise, which has a truly awesome ingredient list including 80 mussels, 80 cherrystone clams and six, count 'em, six lobsters. I would have to take out a loan. However, New England Fish Stew seemed doable.  
On Friday morning, I got on the phone to the Fishery, my local purveyor, and ordered the ingredients, including two cooked lobsters.

 If you have a recipe that requires cooked lobster meat, get the store to do it. It saves time and doesn't cost any more. I had intended to go to the fish stand at Eastern Market, which seemed to be substantially cheaper than the upper crust Fishery, but my four day old chest cold made me not want to truck across town on the Metro.
It was a gray, raw day with the temperature hovering around 32 degrees and a persistent drizzle. The weather forecast was predicting all kinds of dire events, such as sleet, freezing rain, snow, and all of the above. The city had positioned snowplows at the ends of the major streets, where they sat lined up with their engines running like bloodhounds straining at the leash. 
 The stew was amazingly easy to make. I went upstairs to take a nap around 4:00 and did not come down until 5:30. The stew was finished by 6:37. It was all chop and dump. The guests at the potluck raved about it. I didn't bring any rice, but luckily, one of the other guests, who brought some amazing chicken, also  produced a big pot of fluffy white rice. Just the thing. 
If you make this, do make rice. It has a ton of liquid, which needs mopping up.

New England Fish Stew

1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic
3/4 diced celery
2 cups fresh or  bottled clam juice
1 cup water
2 one-pound  tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon saffron
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound whiting fillets, cut into two-inch pieces
1  pound cod fillets, cut into two-inch pieces
1 pound scallops (bay scallops are much cheaper than sea scallops.)
2 small cooked lobsters or two cups cooked lobster meat

1. Melt the butter and saute the onions and garlic in it until tender.
2. Add the celery, clam juice, water, tomatoes, thyme,  bay leaf, saffron, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer ten minutes.
3.  Add the whiting, cod and scallops and cook eight minutes, or until fish flakes easily. Remove the lobster meat from cooked lobsters, if used. Add lobster meat to stew. Makes eight servings.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Passover Nut Torte

The online definition websites say that a torte is a "multi-layered rich cake made with little flour and a lot of eggs and butter." I think the cook who contributed this recipe liked the word torte. Maybe he/she thought it had more class than mere "cake." Class or not, this recipe appears to me to be more of a cake, and less of a torte. No layers, for one thing.
Passover recipes seem to use egg whites as the leavening agent, since yeast and presumably baking powder is forbidden during Passover. This cake is sort of like angel food cake. I made it on Sunday for my Lenten religious study class. I had a problem with the matzoh cake meal. In spite of the fact that the kosher product section at my local Safeway seems to have grown since last week, there was no matzoh cake meal. Nor was there any at Rodman's, my go-to purveyor of hard to find stuff. Since I was serving my cake to Episcopalians outside of Passover, I punted and used actual flour as a substitute.
Matzoh cake meal is hard to find. There were several pleas on Jewish cooking websites about where to buy the stuff, and vague directions about where it could be found.  ("Try Cherry Hill, N.J.,") said one response. I tried nine or ten Jewish websites until I finally ran it to earth at Streit's, of Brooklyn, N.Y., will sell cake meal on line for $4.99 a box plus shipping and handling. Since you have a month before Passover, I would hustle up and order some if I were Jewish and planned to observe Passover strictly. One website I glanced at advised readers to buy in bulk, rather than running out and having to go back to the store in the middle of the holiday. Sounds like good advice to me.
Anyhow, this cake was very well received. The class members went back a couple of times for additional pieces. If you own an electric mixer, it is not difficult. A couple of caveats. If you have never separated eggs before, get an extra dozen and practice. They're only eggs, for gosh sakes.

Here is a YouTube video on how to separate eggs. 
The recipe says to beat the sugar into the egg yolks gradually and keep beating until the yolks become lighter in color. What's gradually? How long do I beat? Relax. The BF is on the case. Adding the sugar gradually means a couple of tablespoons at a time. You do not have to measure. I added and beat six times before the measuring cup of sugar was empty. I beat for about five minutes and, yes, the yolks were lighter.
Two other things, first, make sure you buy your walnuts at someplace that sells a lot of them so they are not stale. I bought a small bag of chopped walnuts at Safeway, and there was a distinct stale taste that thankfully did not transmit to the cake. Second, use the juice of a whole lemon and the rind and juice of a whole orange. Otherwise the flavoring is very subtle.

Passover Nut Torte

6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon
juice and grated rind of half an orange
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 tablespoons matzo cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the egg yolks, add the sugar gradually and beat until the mixture is light in color. Add the lemon juice, orange juice and orange rind. Mix in the matzo meal, flour, salt and walnuts.
3. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into the walnut mixture. Turn into an ungreased eight-inch springform pan and bake forty-five minutes or until cake tests done. This means, if you poke a skewer into the cake, it will come out clean, without any cake batter clinging to it.
The recipe makes eight servings.

Pease Porridge Hot (Gluten Free)

Pease Porridge Hot undoubtedly derived its name from the nursery rhyme, Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot, nine days, old. Here is your opportunity to find out what pease porridge really is. What it amounts to is concentrated split pea soup, hailing from the great state of New Hampshire. Wikipedia and tell us that pease porridge is an English dish. Pease is a mass noun, like soup.
The dried split peas were put in a kettle to simmer over the fire. Some cooks added bacon or ham bones and other vegetables. The pot bubbled all day and then was taken off the fire and set aside. It congealed and was eaten cold the next morning. The cook might add some milk and mix it up as hot pea soup the following evening.
I made this on Sunday night after my husband, Bob,  expressed a desire for the Omaha Steaks pork loins that were lurking in the freezer. One of the issues I have with these somewhat unconventional, or old fashioned, dishes, is when to serve them. But everyone knows that split peas go with pork, so it was a no brainer.
This recipe has certain issues that may trap the inexperienced cook. The first one is, how much water do you put in the pot along with the pound of split peas, the onion, etc? Hewitt, despite her introduction where she says the problem with old recipes is, Aunt Jean knew how much a handful of flour was, but, we don't, does not tell us how much water. I would add enough water to cover the peas with an inch of the stuff. Also, keep an eye on the peas as they cook. You may have to add more water.
In the second hour of cooking, the directions are to "Cook it very slowly." Translation, turn the gas or electricity down as low as it will go, and let it cook. But, again, keep an eye on it. You don't want it to scorch, so if it seems thicker than, say, library paste, add a little water, maybe half a cup or a cup.
Step three says to put the peas through a sieve. You really don't need to do that. The peas were cooked into a thick mush after the second hour.
If you like split pea soup, you will like this. I wouldn't eat it for breakfast. Tastes have changed, after all, but it was good with the pork loin, and made a great soup after I added a lot of milk to it on Monday afternoon.

Pease Porridge Hot

1 pound green split peas
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion, studded with two whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter

1. Place the peas in a kettle and cover with water. Add the salt and onion, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat one hour, adding water as necessary.
2. Remove the cloves from the onion. Add the marjoram, tarragon and pepper and cook very slowly one hour longer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The mixture should be very thick.
3. Put through a sieve, check the seasoning and dot with the butter.
Makes eight servings.

Scrapple (Gluten Free)

Scrapple is a mush made of pork bits and cornmeal, which is allowed to congeal, and then fried in butter. I had actually never eaten it before, although I had heard of it. Wikipedia says it is a country dish  that hails from rural Pennsylvania. "It is arguably the first pork food invented in America," Wikipedia informs us.
It is traditionally eaten for breakfast, although the Delaware State Fair does feature a scrapple sandwich.
Here is a picture of scrapple with an accompaniment of scrambled eggs. Wikipedia also says scrapple is made from "offal", .i.e. pigs' guts. Thankfully, this recipe is made from outer parts, notably, pigs' knuckles. If, like me, you picture a pig punching someone out--giving them a "knuckle sandwich, if you will, and say to yourself, "What the hell? Pigs don't have knuckles," relax. What butchers refer to as pigs' knuckles, we laymen might identify as pigs' ankles. It's the part just above the trotter. Here is a picture.

Pigs' knuckles can also be thought of as uncured ham hocks. The cook boils these meaty little bundles along with a pound of lean pork and some red pepper flakes for two hours, until the meat falls off the bone. I cut the recipe in half because I didn't know how it would be received. (My husband actually liked it a lot!) So, I used two pork chops as the half pound of lean pork. I think it would be better to buy some pork shoulder or something. The pork chop hardened after two hours of boiling.
The recipe also instructs us to grind the meat. Food processor! Takes only a few seconds. As to the cooking, if you want scrapple to be gluten free, just skip the step that instructs you to dredge it in flour before frying. However, be aware that scrapple tends to stick like mad to the frying pan during the cooking process. So, either use a non stick pan that has not been ruined by careless cooks like the Berkshire Farmer, or use a metal pan, so you can scrape the sticky bits up when you turn the slices of scrapple. One of the nicest things about scrapple is its lovely crisp crust. Without said crust, what  you have is pork bits mixed up in cornmeal mush, which is not entirely tasty. So, try to get the crust when you are frying.
 One more thing, when you set out to make this, check and see if you  have sage. I didn't, which made the scrapple somewhat underseasoned.


4 large or six small pigs' knuckles
1 pound lean pork
3 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1 hot red pepper or two teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon leaf sage, rubbed between the fingers
2 1/4 cups yellow corn meal
flour (Omit, if you want gluten free scrapple)
melted butter or meat drippings

1. Place the knuckles, pork, water, salt and red pepper in a large kettle. Bring to a boil and simmer gently about two hours, or until meat is tender. (Simmer gently means boil a little bit. There should be a few bubbles, but not a lot.)
2. Remove the meat from the knuckles and grind meat along with the pork.
3. Skim off the fat from the top of the broth. Measure the broth and return two quarts to the kettle. Reserve remaining broth. Add ground meat, the black pepper and sage to kettle. Bring to a rapid boil.
4. Cool one quart reserved broth to lukewarm. Combine with the corn meal and add to boiling meat mixture. (Don't do this. Keep all the broth in the kettle and sprinkle the cornmeal on the boiling broth a little at a time. It will mix in better.) Cook, stirring, until thickened. 
5. Place the kettle over an asbestos mat (You probably will  not have one of these. Just turn the gas way down.) and continue to cook slowly, stirring, thirty minutes.
6. Adjust the seasonings. Turn mixture into two lightly oiled 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans. Cover and chill.
7. To serve, cut loaves into one-half-inch-thick slices. Coat lightly with flour and brown in melted butter or drippings. Makes one dozen servings. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pioneer Potatoes

I imagine these potatoes came by their name because they could have been a dish cooked over the campfire by Great-great-great grandma pioneer as she crossed the plains in a covered wagon. They are, most of all, easy. You put everything into a big, heavy cast-iron frying pan, put it on low heat (or on a corner of the fire) and turn the potatoes occasionally.
We didn't have bacon drippings, even though we ate bacon for breakfast. I didn't plan ahead, but settled on the potatoes after lunch, after I had thrown the bacon drippings away. My advice is, keep your bacon drippings. I used shortening, which is not very good. The potatoes come out browned in spots, with blackened onion bits.

Pioneer Potatoes

3 baking potatoes, scrubbed and sliced
1/2 cup bacon drippings
1/2 cup chopped onion
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the potatoes, bacon drippings and onion in a heavy skillet and cook slowly, turning frequently with a spatula, until tender, about thirty minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Makes four servings.

Passover Cheesecake

Here we go with another Passover recipe. I am trying to learn a little about Jewish cooking by surfing the Internet. So far, all the websites I have looked at give recipes, but don't say why. Why cottage cheese instead of cream cheese? Why potato starch? (I know it's a thickening agent, like cornstarch, but why potato instead of corn?) Why matzoh meal instead of graham crackers? (Do graham crackers have yeast?)
This cheesecake is acceptable, but not nearly as good as Cheesecake with Beer (April 11, 2012) also known as Steve's Grandmother's Cheesecake.
Looking back over the other cheesecake recipes in the book, they seem to be evenly divided between cream cheese cheesecake and cottage cheese cheesecake. Passover cheesecake is cottage cheese cheesecake. I have to say, I prefer cream cheese cheesecake.  The curds in the cottage cheese rise to the surface and form a topping, so to speak, The underside is creamy. The grated lemon rind gives the mixture a lovely lemony taste.
For the non Jew, the biggest hurdle to making this might be getting the ingredients. Honestly, don't sweat it. The ethnic food aisle of my local Safeway has matzoh meal, even though Passover won't be for another month and a half, starting on March 25. It did not have potato starch, but my favorite weird store, Rodman's Drugstore, did have it. For those of you not living within driving distance of Rodman's or a Jewish deli with groceries, you can order it off the Internet. Bob's Red Mill, my favorite source of gluten free flour, also sells potato starch. Go to  (According to Wikipedia, potato starch will tolerate a higher heat than corn starch. I don't know exactly what this means, or why it is important since the average cook does not make sauces over high heat, but there it is.) Chances are good that your grocery store will have matzoh meal, especially as Passover approaches.
I made this on Superbowl Sunday when my brother came to dinner. My brother does follow football to some extent. (He knew who Joe Flacco was, for example.) However, he did not particularly mind missing a lot of the game for Downton Abbey, the PBS show resolutely made fun of by Garrison Keilor and other announcers on National Public Radio. We switched off the game just after the half time kickoff return by the Ravens when the lights went out, and tried to follow it on the radio as we drove George back to Arlington. Football is not like baseball, a sport made for the radio. It's a lot faster for one thing. The announcers were talking so fast, I couldn't understand what they were saying.
This cheesecake recipe seemed to go pretty quickly. My memory of the others were of hours spent mixing and further hours spent baking. Passover cheesecake baked for an hour, and cooled in the oven with the door open for an hour, the hour we used to go get George. When we came home, it was done.

Passover Cheesecake

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the matzoh meal, cinnamon, one-quarter cup of the sugar and the butter. Press into bottom and sides of ungreased nine-inch springform pan.
3. Gradually beat the remaining sugar into the eggs. (I shook three or four tablespoons of sugar into the eggs at a time and beat them for five minutes.) (Gradually means don't dump it all in at once.) Beat in the lemon juice, salt, milk, cottage cheese and potato starch.
4. Stir in the lemon rind and pour into the prepared crust. Bake one hour.
5. Shut oven heat off, leave door ajar and let cake cool down to room temperature in the oven. Chill thoroughly. Remove pan sides. Makes ten to 12 servings.