Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Farmer in the Dell (Dessert)

Aside from being the well known nursery rhyme (Hey ho, the derry-o, etc) farmer in the dell is also a dessert. Unfortunately, I can find no references to it on the Internet. Google knows not of this dish. Ergo, I am at a loss to explain its origins, name or various incarnations to you, gentle reader. If you once tasted farmer in the dell and want to share your memories of it with the rest of the readers, please, do write in.
I made this for Sunday night dinner after our friend Tim said he would join us. In fact, Tim, who is a combination linguist/theology professor/antiques dealer actually gave Farmer in the Dell a nickname that explains it. "Goyeshe blintzes" Tim announced.
Yeah, that's about it. Farmer in the dell are blintzes for non Jews. Take a loaf of what I loosely term Wonder Bread, that soft white bread that you never buy and wouldn't eat at gunpoint, roll the slices out flat, and spread them with a mixture of farmer cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla and fry it in butter until brown. The result has about 9,000 calories and is amazingly good. Hey, butter, sugar, vanilla, how can you go wrong at least taste wise?
If  you make the bread rolls before dinner, you can fry them up in a few minutes while the diners are clearing the plates from the main course. I was in the kitchen frying my farmer in the dells (or is it farmers in the dell?) when Bob, my daughter and Tim all came racing inside from the terrace saying "Terrible accident, terrible accident." My fevered brain concocted all sorts of possibilities having to do with back yard disasters, but as they dashed out the front door, it transpired that some idiot motorist had run the traffic light at Nebraska Avenue and Reno Road and hit some other poor driver. "Call the cops," I yelled at their retreating backs.When they came back, the farmers were brown and buttery. We spread them with jam. Yum, yum. 
The farmer in the name probably refers to farmer cheese. Farmer cheese is pressed cottage cheese, according to Wikipedia. It is soft and crumbly and has a very mild taste. It is available in some supermarkets. I had to make a last minute dash to Whole Foods on Wisconsin Avenue to buy it. Of course, the rest of the ingredients are not a problem. My problem now is what to do with the half loaf of soft white bread taking up space in my refrigerator. I wish we lived somewhere near a flock of wildfowl. That bread would go down their gullets quicker than you can say devoid of nutrition and taste.
When I was little, my mother would take my sister and me first to Kersey's Market, an old fashioned small town grocery store in Sheffield, where we would buy a loaf of day old bread and a Popsicle for each of us. Then, we would drive to the house of a woman who had a flock of Canada geese on her lawn, where we would tear up the bread to feed the geese. The geese were somewhat intimidating. They kept up a steady flow of hissing noises, and when really startled or irritated they would spread their wings alarmingly. Unfortunately, we have no geese living nearby in Washington DC.

Farmer in the Dell

1 one-pound-six-ounce loaf extra-fresh soft white bread
1 seven-and-one-half-ounce package farmer cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 pound butter melted and clear yellow liquids poured off for cooking (discard milky solids)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Remove crusts from the bread slices. With a rolling pin, roll each slice until very thin.
2. Beat together the cheese, granulated sugar, vanilla and egg and spread one tablespoon mixture on each slice of rolled bread.
3. Roll up each slice and pinch sides to hold together.
4. Heat the butter in a very heavy skillet and saute the rolls, a few at a time over medium heat until golden. Roll in confectioners' sugar while hot. Makes 26 pieces, about eight servings.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Broiled Tomatoes (Gluten Free)

Almost two weeks ago, my daughter and I went out to Poolesville to visit the ailing horse, who I am happy to report is now recovered. We stopped at Homestead Farm where I bought a bunch of large ripe tomatoes. This is a terrific summer vegetable addition to your meal. It takes no time at all to put together, and about six or seven minutes under the broiler.
It reminds me of the broiled tomatoes we used to have when I was growing up, although my mother never, never, would have put evil garlic slices into the tomatoes. Her broiled tomatoes were topped with breadcrumbs and a pat of margarine. The breadcrumbs formed a crust and the tomatoes were squishy. We hat them about four times a week, along with corn on the cob and whatever else the garden was yielding up, like breaded, fried cucumbers. We usually ate outside at the picnic table under the Norway Maple by the pool, weather permitting, because the kitchen and dining room were hot.  If you like tomatoes and garlic and have more tomatoes than you know what to do with, add this to your repertoire.

Broiled Tomatoes

6 large firm ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
6 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried rosemary
freshly chopped basil

1. Core the tomatoes but do not peel. Cut the tomatoes in half.
2. Slice the garlic into wafer-thin slivers and insert the slivers into the tomato halves. Sprinkle with salt, and oil and rosemary. Rub the bottom of a baking dish with a little oil and arrange the tomatoes in the dish.
3. Place the tomatoes about three inches from a broiler flame and broil until hot and bubbling and edges of the tomatoes start to burn. Sprinkle with basil if desired and serve. Makes six servings.

Chick-Pea Salad (gluten free)

This is a terrific, fast salad that uses up those tomatoes that are sitting around in your kitchen. Chop a clove of garlic, some scallions and a couple of tomatoes (the recipe says one, but my philosophy is, you cannot have too many tomatoes in a salad.) Open a can of chick peas, and bingo, there is half your dinner. This recipe is from the great state (they are all great states) of  New Mexico, which featured decent salads 20 to 30 years before the rest of the country caught up.
I made this on Saturday night before Bob and I went to Politics and Prose, our local bookstore, to their quiz night. We were supposed to be part of a team including my daughter and two of her friends. We ended up on our own and did surprisingly well, until the music round where we washed out after about 1990. Who knows how well we could have done with some younger heads?

Chick Pea Salad

2 cups cooked or canned chick-peas
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup chopped scallions, including green part
1 or two ripe tomatoes, cut into bite size wedges
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Drain the chick-peas well. Pour them into a salad bowl. Add the garlic, scallions, tomato and parsley.
2. Sprinkle with the vinegar and toss. Sprinkle with the oil, salt and pepper. Toss again. Makes four to six servings.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Steve, the British Geologist's Cheesecake

This recipe did not come from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook. It came from the blog of Steve K., one of my daughter's professors in the UK. The recipe presented certain issues, beginning with the title. The way I wrote the title, it looks like the cheesecake is named Steve. In fact, the geologist is named Steve.  I suppose I could have entitled it, The Cheesecake of Steve, the British Geologist. That sounds to me like the famous quotation from Winston Churchill, "That is the kind of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put."
Anyhow, apparently Professor K. does not, in his cooking life, believe in measurements, although I am sure that in his scientific work, he is extremely exact.  (I am omitting his name to protect the innocent, namely me, from the wrath of my daughter lest the good professor google himself and discover that some US food blogger, and the mother of one of his students, had been making fun of him on the Internet.)` His recipe is all put in a medium this and some of that and never add Marmite to cheesecake. (As if.)
 So, on Sunday morning with the family and friends coming over in the evening to welcome my daughter back home, I had to actually create the recipe. This is a good recipe, once suitably doctored with vanilla, sugar and unflavored gelatin. One of its more delicious features is using gingersnaps to make the crust. This is really good. If I ever made a recipe more than once, I would definitely always use gingersnaps for a cheesecake crust.
Doctor K. uses double cream, which is not readily available in the US. I think it's kind of like clotted cream, which teeters at the border between whipped cream and butter. I used heavy whipping cream. This makes for messy mixing up, so wear an apron. Relatively firm cream cheese splashes the cream around until the two are blended. Perhaps because of the double cream. his cheesecake recipe does not call for gelatin. The filling is to sit in the refrigerator for 5 to 6 hours until it sets. This seemed kind of dubious to me. I wanted my cheesecake to come out in slices, not just be glopped on a plate because it wouldn't set. So I added gelatin.
The end product received rave reviews and minor regret that I never make the same recipe twice. I definitely recommend it.  Don't use Steve's version unless you are a real seat of your pants cook. Since I won't tell you where to find it, using it will be difficult in any case.

The British Geologist Steve's Cheesecake

1/4 cup boiling water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
15 gingersnaps
1/4 cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream
16 ounce can of peaches in heavy syrup (Heavy syrup is important. Don't use lite.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peach syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water. Set it aside to cool. When it is lukewarm, put the gelatin in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
2. Drop the gingersnaps into a resealable plastic bag, and roll them out with a rolling pin. Don't make the crumbs too tiny. Steve thinks tiny crumbs make a poor crust.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the gingersnap crumbs to the melted butter. Press the buttered crumbs into a buttered pie pan and chill in the refrigerator.
4. Mix the cream cheese and the heavy cream. This tends to be a splashy process.
5. Open the can of peaches and drain out half a cup of syrup. Add the syrup to the cream cheese mixture along with the half a cup of sugar and the vanilla.
6. Look at the gelatin dissolved in water. It should be slightly thicker than water, like egg whites. It should not be set. Pour the gelatin into the cream cheese mixture. Add half the canned peaches, cut up in small pieces.
7. Pour the mixture into the gingersnap pie crust and smooth it out so you can't see the peach bits. Then, take the rest of the canned peaches and lay them on top of the creamed cheese mixture in a pleasingly artistic pattern.
8. Cover the pie and put it into the refrigerator to chill for 7 or 8 hours. Serves nine.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cabbage-Filled Peppers (Gluten Free)

 I bought a head of cabbage last week for to make the bean-cabbage-carrot salad, so I decided it was high time to tackle cabbage-stuffed peppers. This is not just a recipe for a vegetable side dish. These peppers, you will discover as you read the recipe, are pickled.  This recipe as made by me was somewhat fraught. I really should have done what I just did when I sat down to write and read a couple of blogs about pickling in a crock. This is ridiculously easy, according to the first blog I read,  www.between3sisters.com. In  a post dated August 17, 2011, one of the South Dakota sisters explains how she bought a stoneware crock at an auction and made a whole crockful of pickles. Read her blog and do this her way. Don't do it my way. My way didn't work very well.
This is what I should have used.
I am not exactly a demon canner, but I am an experienced canner, so I decided to can the peppers, not pickle them in a crock. I mean, an open crock? What would prevent things from falling into the crock during the pickling process? You are supposed to store your crock in a cool, dry place. I store my canned goods in  a closet off the kitchen where we store all foodstuffs, 20 year old liquor bottles that don't have a place on the bar, coolers, and plastic bags to eventually be recycled. Just this morning I pulled a box of garbage bags and an unidentified bottle out of the plastic bag recycling bin. Stuff falls off the shelves all the time, due to the tendency of a person who will remain nameless to go to Trader Joe's and fill up with mustard and capers as though the apocalypse was approaching. The idea of a can of beans pickling along with the peppers was unattractive, to say the least.
Anyway, I decided to can the peppers. I went to Homestead Farm in Poolesville and picked out 10 smallish green peppers. I should have gone to Safeway and bought a gallon of vinegar, which I had to do later. The recipe calls for two cups of vinegar. Even if you can in a crock, I would think you would need more vinegar than that, since the vinegar is supposed to cover the vegetables.
When I got home, I dug out the canning kettle from the cupboard over the refrigerator and the quart size large mouth (more about that later) jars from the basement and went to work scalding the jars. Then, I selected six of the smallest peppers, washed them, cut the tops off, removed the seeds, and packed them with the cabbage I had chopped up and mixed with salt and mustard seeds.
I put an enamelware pan filled with vinegar on the stove to heat up and filled the peppers with the cabbage. Note that the peppers have not been steamed or cooked in any way. I then attempted to secure the pepper top to the pepper bottoms with toothpicks, as per the recipe. The problem with that was, it was fairly obvious that when I went to insert said peppers into the jar, the toothpicks sticking out of the sides of the peppers would impede the process. So I gingerly removed the toothpicks and tried to stick them back in vertically. This kind of worked.
Then I fished the hot jars, one by one, out of the canning kettle and started filling the jars. Uncooked peppers, as you probably know, are stiff. They have some give to them, but not a lot. The diameter of my peppers was greater than the diameter of the jars, so getting the little mothers in there was not so easy. I was able to get them in without breaking the peppers. Often the toothpicks came loose and the tops just sat on top of the peppers.
One pepper did not exactly fill a jar, but there did not seem to be room for an extra pepper. I allowed one pepper per jar and started pouring in the hot vinegar. The cabbage, no longer kept in check by the pepper tops, floated out to the top of the jar. So, you see, I should have pickled the peppers in a crock, as directed.

Cabbage-Filled Peppers

6 large green peppers, left whole
1/2 head cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 cups cider vinegar, approximately (I'm sure you will need more than that, at least a quart)

1. Wash the peppers and remove stems. Slice off tops and reserve. Remove cores and seeds without breaking shells.
2. Mix the cabbage with the salt and mustard seeds and press down into the pepper shells. Pack firmly. Fasten tops back on with toothpicks.
3. Arrange peppers upright in a stone jar and cover with the vinegar. Or the peppers can be packed into hot sterilized jars. Add hot vinegar, seal and process in a water bath thirty minutes. Cool, test, vacuum seal and store in a cool, dry, dark, place.  Makes six peppers.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bean, Carrot and Cabbage Salad (Gluten Free)

I located this recipe after noticing we had a superabundance of carrots. We had bought a pound of carrots, and then my daughter, who is back from Russia, bought what looked like two pounds of carrots when she went to visit the horse. The horse has been sick for the last three weeks, racking up an impressive vet bill and actually having to go to the horse hospital in Virginia. I am happy to report he is on the mend. I really didn't want to lose him.
This is a simple, fast, tasty salad for a weekday night supper. I think making dinner that night must have taken me all of 20 minutes, a world's record. You don't have to chill the salad. It is just as good at room temperature.

Bean, Carrot and Cabbage Salad

2 cups cold cooked pinto beans
1/2 cup coarsely shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 small onion grated
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
salt to taste
1/3 cup homemade French or Italian dressing

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Chill. Makes four servings.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tomato Soup (Gluten Free)

Tomato Soup from South Carolina is a nod to the realities, viz., as they say in the UK, that the all shellfish dinner party is not what dietitians might call a balanced meal. Also, hell, it's the middle of summer and tomatoes are ripe. So go for it.
However, I would not unreservedly recommend this soup. It's bland as beige cardboard. I salted and peppered the bejesus out of it and finally doctored it with cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce in order to make it taste like anything. Maybe it was the tomatoes. I bought them at Magruders, which used to be a local grocery chain. This summer the other stores were closed, but the DC store stayed open, thankfully. The tomatoes were reported to come from nearby Montgomery County, Md. and probably did, but they didn't taste like much.
Instead of finely chopping, as the directions order the cook to do, I ran the peeled tomatoes through the food processor. Peeled tomatoes are slippery and messy. You want soup, make soup, which the food processor is admirably designed to do. One peels the tomatoes by dumping them in boiling water for two minutes or so. The peels come right off. I don't know why the recipe calls for baking soda. It makes everything fizz like crazy for a minute or so.
I made the recipe gluten free by using the gluten free bread crumbs. I was going to mash up water biscuits to make the crumbs and forget about gluten free, but Bob said put in the bread crumbs. It seemed to work fine. As far as amounts go, I probably threw in half a cup.
The soup seemed to be moderately well received. The guests did not go into transports over it, but they ate it. If you have a particularly flavorful source of tomatoes, tell us about them, and your experiences with this recipe.

Tomato Soup

4 cups finely chopped, peeled tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups light cream or milk
2 large soda crackers, made into fine crumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely grated Cheddar cheese

1. Cook the tomatoes for about fifteen minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the baking soda and stir until it stops effervescing. 
2. stir in the cream or milk and the cracker crumbs. Reheat. Season with salt and pepper. Whirl in the butter.
3. Serve in hot bowls and sprinkle one tablespoon of the cheese over each serving. Makes four servings.

Broiled Stuffed Lobster (Gluten Free)

I got back from my hiking vacation in North Carolina a week ago and was appalled to see that I had only racked up three blog posts in July. Summer is normally a busy month. This summer is different from other summers because I am not staying in Massachusetts. My friend Lucie had the temerity to move back into her own apartment, leaving me no place to go. Bob and I were supposed to go to Stockbridge at the end of August to visit my cousin Marie Noel. However, fate intervened in the shape of a Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy whose name, when he gets here, will be Watson.
I may not have reported that Haddock, our dear old corgi, died last October, just before Hurricane Sandy. We wanted another corgi, but I had not been looking for one when our neighbor, Debra, gave us the name of a woman who might have corgi puppies. I started e-mailing her back in February. Well, lo and behold, my desultory e-mails led, last Saturday, to the offer of a male corgi puppy, aged 10 weeks. So, we're not going north, and any shellfish I cook has to be accompanied by a dinner party.
Saturday, I invited our very old friends, David and Marilyn, and my brother George, over for dinner. We lived with Marilyn and her then-boyfriend, another Bob, in 1971 in the basement of the runaway house on 18th Street in what is now a high flying neighborhood. In those days, it was run down and occasionally scary. I refused to park my VW bug on S Street because a woman had approached my Bob there and asked him to pee into a bottle so she could pass her drug test. Thankfully Marilyn dropped the other Bob along the way  and married David.
I had three lobster eaters, David, George and me, and two non lobster eaters, Bob and Marilyn. This lobster, as mentioned in the title, is stuffed. You take the guts out between the legs and fill that with oyster stuffing. I love oyster stuffing. One year, when I was working at a small newspaper on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we had oyster stuffing in our Thanksgiving turkey. Shortly thereafter, Bob developed an allergy to shellfish. The oysters provide little nuggets of salty flavor among the bread, onions and celery. I made the stuffing gluten-free with gluten free breadcrumbs, available from Giant in the DC area.
I got started cooking late. Usually Bob pokes me along,  but this time, I guess he figured I was 62 years old and could jolly well tell time myself. When David and Marilyn arrived, we were still in our shorts and t-shirts and I had just fired up the charcoal.
This lobster is to be broiled over charcoal. I actually ended up putting it under the broiler because it did not appear to be fully cooked after 20 minutes on the grill.  The stuffing was a little charred and the meat dried out. If you want to finish your lobster under the broiler, five minutes is plenty. Also, try to find your lobster cracking device before you put the lobsters on the table. I was pounding away at the claws with a meat hammer, but they didn't crack. 
The lobsters did their usual dancy-prancy thing, waving and flailing with a knife stuck in their backs. I was running in and out of the house onto the terrace to turn over the meat, plop the lobsters on the grill and check on their degree of doneness. It made following the conversation sort of hard. Marilyn had gotten back from North Dakota at 2 am on Saturday morning, but I missed the fact that she had only been there for two days. North Dakota cuisine had given her a distaste for fried food. I ended up skipping the dessert, a concoction called Farmer in the Dell, in which Wonder Bread is rolled out flat, spread with farmer cheese, rolled into a cylinder and fried in butter. We donated the Wonder Bread to the church breakfast program for the homeless on Sunday. Bob didn't want to risk having it in the house in case I might make a midweek dessert. I protested that feeding Wonder Bread to homeless people was condescending and wrong, but he insisted they liked it.
This argument reminded me of a series of non-pc jokes my sister and my mother had going in the 1980s when my sister decided to become a caterer in which a series of people of different ethnicities perported to like various non food items in their food. But Bob is a pretty socially conscious guy. He used to get up at 5:00 am once a week for over a year to work at the breakfast program when he was on the church vestry, so I figured he was telling the truth.
Reporting on the lobster. My brother liked it better than boiled lobster because the meat didn't come bathed in water. David apologized because he didn't eat it all. I found it dry. If the meat still looks pink after the required time on the grill, make sure you only put it under the grill for five minutes or less. Also, don't yank up the marjoram when you are harvesting herbs in your garden. Trying to stuff the severed plant back into the dirt doesn't quite work.

Broiled Stuffed Lobster

Oyster stuffing:
1/4 cup butter
1/2  cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 mushrooms, chopped
1 pint oysters with liquor
4 pints dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
Lobsters: 4 one-pound to one and one-half pound lobsters
Melted butter
Lemon wedges

1. To prepare stuffing, melt the butter in a skillet and saute the onions and celery in it until tender. Add the mushrooms and cook two minutes longer.
2. Drain the oysters, reserving liquor. Chop the oysters and add to the mushroom mixture.
3. Add the bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram and enough of the reserved oyster liquor to moisten.
4. Split the lobsters lengthwise and remove the dark vein down the center and the "sac" behind the eyes. Crack the claws.
5.Place the lobsters shell side up over hot coals on a barbecue grill or shell side down under a preheated broiler and broil five minutes.
6. Fill the body cavity with the oyster stuffing and wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil to grill shell side down on charcoal grill or shell side up under a broiler. Broil about fifteen minutes. Serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.