Sunday, May 24, 2015

Golden Gate Lasagne

from the archives 


When I was about 10, in the year 1981, I went through a huge cutting-things-out-of-the-newspaper phase, and this recipe is one of the survivors from that period. I clipped this, along with several other recipes long-since forgotten, from the San Francisco Chronicle, and carefully taped it into my recipe book, where it has remained these 33 years. And I’ve actually made this recipe several times, so my labors were not in vain, it would seem. Go, 10 year-old me with my scissors and tape and obsessions!

making the sauce

The reason lasagne is so easy is that you just make pasta sauce, build layers of cheese, noodles and sauce, and then bake. I consider it one of those all-purpose meals in that you can make what you like of it, and there are endless variations. Often I make it without meat, which is still tasty and filling. (Throw almost any vegetables in: mushrooms, peppers, spinach, corn… you name it.) Once, however, I made it without cheese: a sad, soupy affair. Not recommended.

building layers

My adaptation of this recipe is such that I use fresh herbs when I have them, and instead of the cottage cheese and mozzarella, I just use ricotta. I also top it with grated parmesan before baking, because: cheese. Finally, I am now using the noodles which don’t require pre-cooking. (Imagine! No fighting with noodles that rip in half as you try to un-stick them from each-other, like devil mating octopi!) I had a real hard time accepting those noodles at first - yes, I’m suspicious. You mean you literally just pull them from the box and place them in the baking dish? Raw? And they work! Hallelujah. 

optional: sprinkle grated parmesan on top before baking (= yum)

Golden Gate Lasagne

½ pound ground beef
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
¼ tsp ground pepper

1 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 can (8 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
½ 10-oz package lasagna noodles
¾ cup cottage cheese
¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese

Brown the beef. Stir in the garlic, onion, pepper, oregano, basil, parsley stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles as package directs until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.
Place a third of the noodles in an 8-inch loaf pan. Layer with the beef sauce, cottage cheese and mozzarella. Repeat, making two more layers.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
Serves 2 or 3

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Coffee Jell-O

It is no secret that I love Jell-O, even the 50s experiments that were once referred to as “salad” that often featured seafood, mayonnaise, onions and other unappetizing ingredients. Jell-O doesn’t have to be disgusting, though! Not only can it be quite refined, the history of gelatin-based foods goes back over one hundred years. 
Here I am, about to enjoy a delightful coffee Jell-O!

This recipe for the perfect after-dinner treat / pick-me-up actually comes from a 1971 book on fondue (the cheerfully titled “Fondue on the Menu” by Beverly Kees and Donnie Flora) but coffee gelatin desserts date back to the turn of the last century. The variety here would have been served after fancy dinners; huge vats of Jell-O made with leftover coffee have been common at church pot-lucks for nearly as long.

Even Fondue cookbooks sneak in Jell-O recipes

This is an easy treat to make, and if you have a fear of the Jell-O mold / un-mold process, make each one in a cocktail glass or small ramekin instead, which gives each guest their own little pot of shimmering caffeinated goodness to enjoy with a demitasse spoon! Word to the wise: the liqueur does not get cooked out, and these will be as strong as the coffee you use.

I'm thrilled to use my new Chemex coffee maker as well as my very own coffee liqueur!

2 Tbsp (2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
½ cup coffee liqueur
3 cups coffee
¾ cup sugar
Pinch salt
Sweetened whipped cream

In a bowl sprinkle gelatin over liqueur to soften. In a saucepan, warm the coffee and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatin mixture and salt; stir and heat until all the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture is perfectly clear. Pour liquid into individual molds and chill several hours. Unmold; garnish with whipped cream. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Quick Eggnog

A festive glass of eggnog goes perfectly with holiday cookies!

I look forward to the holidays every year, not least to drink my favorite winter treat: eggnog! And I love trying everyone’s Special Eggnog, or their uncle’s family recipe or whatever, but I always go back to this one that I learned as a kid, made without booze. Have no fear, though, just add your booze at the end and it is a perfect adult treat!

Now I know this recipe calls for a raw egg. However, the action of the blending does change the molecular structure a bit, so it is slightly less than raw… but if that freaks you out, go find a 50s recipe where you have to separate the eggs, beat the yolks separately, incorporate the egg mixture with milk over ice, and so on and so on. If not, get out your blender and whip this up in a snap! I guarantee (if you don’t die of salmonella) you will enjoy it ;)

I'm not kidding - all right in the blender!

Per serving:
·         1 egg
·         1 cup milk
·         2 Tbsp sugar
·         1 tbsp vanilla
·         1-2 ounces rum, whiskey or brandy (my Dad uses Myer’s Rum AND Brandy!)

Pour the first 4 ingredients into blender; blend for 30 seconds. Add booze and pulse one second to incorporate. Serve with grated nutmeg on top. 

If you're not lucky enough to have cookies given to you as a gift, make your own - here is a recipe for eggnog cookies!

Oh and Happy Holidays :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Corn Pudding

This is a recipe we have traditionally eaten every year at Thanksgiving in my family, and when I was little, it was one of the first things I was allowed to make all by myself. I actually prefer it in summer with ham, but it makes a great side to just about anything, and you can add salsa or use pepper jack cheese to spice it up, or add scallions or caramelized onions or bell pepper for more flavor. You can also sneak in crumbled bacon, because, well… Bacon.

If I happen to have crème fraiche around, I will use that instead of sour cream. You can also play with the amounts of ingredients and this dish can vary between nearly corn-bread-like to more of a savory custard. It’s easy and tasty, so have fun with it!

2 cups frozen whole kernel corn (or drained canned corn)
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup yellow corn meal
1 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (substitute crème fraiche)
1 cup diced Monterey jack cheese
Optional: ¼ to ½ cup of: salsa, sliced scallions, crumbled bacon, diced bell pepper or caramelized onion.

Thaw corn. Place in large bowl and add melted butter, beaten egg, corn meal, salt, sour cream and cheese. Pour into buttered casserole (1 ½ quarts) and bake at 350 for 45-60 min or until set and golden brown.  6-8 servings

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd

How to make mashed potatoes for a crowd:

One vat of mashed potatoes, coming up - WITH A SMILE!

Helper = the only way to do it!

Oooh yeah, look at all this compost!


An immersion blender may help...

  1. Buy one russet potato per person and scrub them clean
  2. Enlist your helper to peel them – having a “race” is great for motivation, plus you can surreptitiously check your phone while they work, which is just like management in real life!
  3. Boil em up for about 30 min in the biggest pot you can find. Cauldron? Perhaps.
  4. Let cool, or else OUCH! If this is Thanksgiving, this is a good time to schedule a fight with your ex. Plan for at least an hour. Drain.
  5. Mash the heck out of the potatoes. Get your aggressions out!
  6. Melt some butter – about 2 Tbsp per potato, but use your judgment. Less if you plan to eat them, more if you plan to induce heart failure in elderly relatives.
  7. Combine melted butter and milk (about ¼ cup per potato, to taste and desired thickness) into the large pot. Incorporate with potatoes.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste. Note: fresh ground pepper is really the ONLY way to get radical with mashed potatoes. OK that and maybe a parsley garnish, but please, no Sriracha sauce or truffle butter or foie gras! Leave the innovation to the TV cooking contests and nobody will get hurt. Well, that depends on step 4…
  9. Serve with a smile and ENJOY!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lazy Paella

How much do you love the 70s/80s? Remember how we were supposed to Have It All? As a little girl, I very clearly knew I was going to have a Career and work in an Office and have fabulous Work Outfits, but also come home from said Career and Cook Fabulous Meals and maybe also Be an Opera Singer or Photographer or something Amazing, you know, in my Spare Time. Perhaps you saw the same commercial for Enjoli? Perhaps you, like me, are still trying to figure out how to make it all work… or at the very least, how to use hot rollers…

 Anyhow, in my quest for self-actualization (aka dinner), I pulled out my copy of the brilliant 1974 lifestyle guide / cookbook that is Better Homes and Gardens “After Work Cookbook”  and found this tasty-looking dish in the “make-ahead main dishes” section. I’d never made paella, and in fact I thought it was the kind of thing you would have to actually Be from Spain to make, and that it would take Hours… but what REALLY attracted me was the Dansk casserole in the picture. Like, Ohmygod, I said (because the 80s were eclipsing the 70s at that moment), my MOM has that dish! I can make this!

Oh no, conflicted – the Dansk casserole dish was WAY too big – come on, I’m only feeding two people here! Fortunately, I had another Dansk vessel to substitute: my Kobenstyle paella pan. Saved!

 As I assembled the dish one night after dinner (to heat and eat the following, as instructed), I told my daughter about eating paella in Spain and how terrified I was of all the tiny, beautiful sea creatures that dotted the massive bowl of saffron rice, and how I picked around them, eating only the rice and carrot pieces because I didn’t know how to get into any of the shells, and because octopi are Just Too Chewy. (See, vegetarians, this is what you are doing to your children – turning them into socially awkward eaters who can’t get the hang of seafood till they turn 30!) My daughter said not to put in any shrimp or she wouldn’t try it. Also, canned mushrooms? Gross. I used fresh, and lightly sautéed them in butter. Because butter always wins.

The other thing is, I just used what they now market as “chicken tenders” because I’m still not an expert at breaking down chickens. And because I was trying to use less fat, I steamed the chicken bits. Tasty, but I cannot claim they are attractive in any way. I see now that I should have perhaps gone heavier with the paprika for color. Forgive the food styling, or lack thereof, which just proves that you can’t actually have it all. Rats.

Yes I used onion soup mix, but I can't deal with canned mushrooms. I know, I know!

Steamed chicken: tastes great, not sexy at all. Sad face.

I used onion soup mix, because the recipe told me to be "Lazy" and do that, but if I were to make this again, I’d use garlic and onions, like real ones, and maybe some oregano. Oh and what the heck is saffron rice? Since I’d never heard of it, I dumped in a teeny bit of real saffron because I hear that’s how they make it in Spain (where they also often use Land Snails, but that’s another story entirely!).

So I enjoyed finally using my paella platter, but I can’t say this was the Best Thing Ever. I do think it needed the shrimp, and they need to be spicy. I’m thinking about variations, and about the Dansk casserole and what to make in that one. Oh, and I’m still singing the Enjoli commercial because some myths just simply refuse to die. 

1 3-pound ready-to-cook broiler-fryer chicken, cut-up
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 ½ cups chicken broth
8 ounces shelled shrimp
1-8 ½ ounce can peas, drained
1 6-ounce package saffron rice mix
1 3-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
½ envelope onion soup mix (1/4 cup)

Advance preparation: brown chicken in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix remaining ingredients; spread in 3-quart casserole. Top with chicken. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Cover; chill ip to 24 hours.

Before serving: Bake, covered, at 350 degrees about 1 ¼ hours. Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Banana Whip

Inspired by the Art Deco Society of California’s annual amazing time-travel picnic the Gatsby Summer Afternoon, I decided to research 20s recipes because I usually make things that are much newer - in the realm of my own experience or just before it, for the most part. But how different could it be? I sought out my 1927 “Piggly Wiggly Cookbook” (from the popular grocery chain of the same name, which dates back to 1916), to find out.

WELL! Things were different. First of all, the “name brand” ingredients are totally baffling to me, and they are often listed out by name only, with no further explanation. I had to research most of them to see if I could even concoct the majority of the creations. What was Snowdrift? What was Fluffo? (both are shortenings, it turns out.) Next, cuts of meat were not familiar to me either, and all vegetables were presented canned. (All hail the new technology of canned foods, right?) Then many of the titles confused me. What is a Junket? Hmmmm. Basically, nothing appealed till I found a somewhat simple chilled dessert made with bananas and pistachio nuts. Hey, that almost sounds like a new foodie pairing, doesn’t it? I can just see the next artisan doughnut: banana batter with pistachios and bacon bits…

Ingredients - shelf-stable whipping cream is NOT recommended BTW

Anyhow, seems like when you cook anything from the 20s, the first step is to get out the double boiler. CRASH! (Sorry, neighbors!) I suppose if it were a recipe from the 80s, you would microwave it, but just YUCK . So you heat up the bananas and sugar and lemon juice and then it gets flavored, mixed with whipped cream, served in cute little glasses and topped with chopped pistachio nuts.

On a hot afternoon I prepared this for after dinner and it was surprisingly tasty – I would even make it again! I don’t think you need to line the glasses with sliced banana – I did, but it was more than necessary. Try it – you’ll like it so much you might even find yourself breaking into The Charleston….

Banana Whip

3 Bananas
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
Few finely chopped pistachio nuts
Pinch of Leslie’s salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Folger’s vanilla

·         Cooked mashed banana pulp in a double boiler with sugar and lemon juice until scalded. Add a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of salt and cool.

·         Whip cream until firm, and gradually beat in banana mixture. Set mixture aside to chill.

·         Pile high in sherbet glasses with a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachio nuts on top. If you wish, line the glasses with slices of banana before filling. This serves eight people. 

Heat the bananas in a double boiler

Chop the pistachio nuts