Friday, December 24, 2010

Spekulatius or Speculaus

The Christmas Cookie Book, by Virginia Pasley, 1949

Yay, Christmas! One of my favorite holidays, thanks to the food! Cookies, eggnog, pies and cakes, hot toddies, chocolates… oooooh I’m drooling in preparation for tonight!

Since everything else tends to the rich side this time of year, I decided to do some lighter, yet still quite yummy, cookies. I actually had these cookies last year in a gift basket from a client – and this is one of the only times I have ever had something packaged that I was able, later, to find a printed recipe for! And this simple recipe is quite possibly even better than the ones I had from the package.

This book caught my eye originally because the author is a (excurse the expression!) dead ringer for my late grandmother. So much so, that looking at the photos actually disturbs me, and on top of the physical similarity (see photo!), they share the same name: Virginia. Naturally, I had to have it. What I like best about it is that, despite the age, she calls for things I can generally procure, which I think comes from the fact that she has included many “old world” or traditional European recipes that used basic ingredients. I did have to add corn starch to the regular flour to make cake flour, but everything else was quite standard. And tasty, give them a try – they are plain, almost biscuit-like. Perfect with coffee!

Spekulatius or Speculaus

½ cup butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
Grated rind of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnaomon
½ tsp salt
2 ½ cups cake flour
½ tsp baking powder

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and continue beating. Then mix in grated rind and sifter dry ingredients. Chill for several hours before rolling out and cutting into fancy shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Notes: The old German recipe for this cookie (which is believed to be of Dutch origin) called for an ounce of cinnamon for this much dough, typical of the heavy hand with spices of the old recipes. It also specified that the butter, sugar, flour and eggs be stirred all together at once, the dough stored overnight and the baking powder sprinkled over it and kneaded into the mixture the next day before rolling out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Elegant Apricot Sweet Potatoes

“The Gourmet Foods Cookbook” by Chicago’s Culinary Arts Institute, 1955

Most of the recipes in this adorably illustrated little pamphlet call for things I don’t use, (and when I say “I don’t use”, that is a euphemism for, “they make me gag”) like lard and MSG, and call for nothing but canned fruits and vegetables, so I thought for the most part I would just enjoy it for the delightful drawings. But I came across this recipe that looked almost like a modern side-dish, and decided to try it out for Thanksgiving.

The recipe called for pre-baking the yams, and boiling dried apricots to re-constitute them, and then to slice them all up and lay them in beautiful strie, to be covered with orange-zested melted butter and sprinkled with brown sugar before baking the whole thing. However, both my yams and apricots ended up looking ugly and a bit too broken up when sliced. I decided to remedy the situation by turning the whole mess into a puree, which I then topped with crisped bacon bits and walnuts (instead of pecans, which are too sweet). The overt saltiness of the bacon (which was perfect in such a teeny amount) cut the sweetness of the apricot/yam puree, and it ended up a delicious dish! I fully intend to make this again beyond the holidays. (Actually I made so much I put some in a seperate container to freeze for later!) Note to self: Yams can be yum!

I should also point out that this recipe is written in a style once quite popular: paragraph form, (but with random punctuation). Here, ingredients are introduced as needed, rather than all in a top section, and steps are listed out as if a story were being told. Good luck with that – see if you don’t find it as maddening as I do!

Elegant Apricot Sweet Potatoes

A shallow 1-qt. baking dish will be needed.

Wash thoroughly and put into a saucepan ½ lb (1 ½ cups) dried apricots

Add 2 cups hot water

Allow apricots to soak in covered pan for 1 hour. Cook in water in which they were soaked, simmering, 40 min., or until fruit is plump and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat. Cool and drain all, reserving the liquid.

Meanwhile, wash and scrub with a vegetable brush 6 medium sized (about 2 lbs.) sweet potatoes or yams
Cook 30 to 35 min., or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and peel; cut into lengthwise slices about ½ in. thick.

Lightly grease the baking dish.

Set out 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar. Arrange a layer of the sweet potatoes in the baking dish. Cover with a layer of apricots. Sprinkle with one-half of the brown sugar. Repeat layers of sweet potatoes and apricots and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Blend thoroughly ¼ cup of the reserved apricot liquid and 3 Tbsp melted butter, 2 tsp orange juice, 1 tsp grated orange peel; Pour mixture over the layers.

Bake at 375 F about 45 min., basting occasionally with liquid in bottom of baking dish.

About 5 min. before sweet potatoes are done, top with ¼ cup (about 1 oz.) pecan halves.

(6 to 8 servings)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Italian Egg Nog

Galliano advertising recipe pamphlet, undated (early 70s)

Do you ever find yourself in the position of having purchased a vast quantity of something to use in just one recipe, and then wonder what to do with the rest of it? Having recently purchased a bottle of Galliano for use in my FAVORITE, the Harvey Wallbanger Cake, I perused a 1970s pamphlet from the makers of said elixir and saw “Italian Egg Nog”. It being “the season” and all, I thought: PERFECT!

Also, this is an EASY egg nog to make. There is no separating of eggs, no aging for weeks in the fridge, and no 2-stage pouring/mixing. Plus, it features shaved chocolate on top – how could I go wrong when combing these important food groups: Dairy, Booze, Chocolate!

Hah! The thing is, it was delightfully easy to prepare, but tasted nasty! And I am a fan of egg nog, but I think… different egg nog. This is not sweet at all, nor can you even enjoy the milky goodness or the daring of consuming a raw egg. First of all, the chocolate shavings were awkward and wanted to be inhaled, so I could not savor the drink’s aroma. Second, they were a textural impediment to my sipping the beverage! Finally, once I had chewed up each mouth-full and could actually taste the concoction, it was not so good. Think: licorice in milk, with chewy bits. An acquired taste, perhaps? I wondered what I could do to “doctor it up” to make it drinkable, but was struck dumb. So, I inhaled it. And THEN, suddenly, I thought it was Grand!

Note to self: save that booze for more cake!

Italian Egg Nog

Beat together 1 c. milk and 1 egg. Add 1 oz brandy and 1 oz Galliano. Pour into snifter and chill in fridge. Garnish with chocolate curls or chopped nuts.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tangerine Walnut Toss for Mid-Century Pot Luck

Better Homes and Gardens “So Good With Fruit”, 1967

The other day, I got out this cook book because I was looking for something fun to take to a pot-luck. Not just any pot-luck, mind you, this was my great friend Karen’s Annual Holiday Mid-Century Pot Luck! This pot-luck, and the divine lady hostess, meant Business – Food entries were supposed to have been created from a mid-century cook book, preferably with color photos. And there were prizes awarded for the entries, based on several criteria, including (but not limited to) tastiness! So I couldn’t just bake some random cookies and call it a day. I wasn’t going to be home all day prior to the party, though, and didn’t want to risk a hot or baked dish. I needed something simple, so I (California-raised once-vegetarian that I am) called in the fruit: Cheerful! Festive! Colorful! Healthy! Oh yeah, and Tasty!

May I point out that, for the first few of these parties, I went to Great Lengths to create something that was not only 100% authentic, complete with serving pieces as shown in the photos, but I also picked the most disgusting recipe I could find, and actually spent the money and time to assemble it. Past entries have included a salad dressed with tequila, another salad served in pineapple rings made of ham and mayonnaise, and the worst, and most memorable: shrimp and onions concealed in lime Jell-O! (Yes, actually! Though I did not even eat One Bite of that one.) And these were all published recipes, that we assume at least One person thought good enough to write, and at least One other though good enough to publish! However, with both time and money being tight this year, I wanted something colorful yet edible, and quick.

Several changes had to be made to the recipe as given (below). First, white onions are just gross raw, so I substituted scallions. Second, I didn’t have time to peel tangerines, so I used canned (and drained) mandarin oranges. (Shhh, don’t tell! I know, I should be celebrating fresh California produce! The City of Berkeley will be disowning me for Sure!) And finally, I didn’t use anywhere near 7 cups of lettuce (really, is that how much is in one head of lettuce? How big were heads of lettuce in 1967?) Instead, I laid a few leaves in the bowl and plopped the other ingredients onto them. Who needs lettuce, anyway, when there are mandarin oranges!?! Otherwise, I did make the “croutons” and used Paul Newman’s Light Italian dressing. On the whole, not bad at all! Worthy of a re-make, possibly to include spinach leaves and crumbled gorgonzola next time.

Tangerine Walnut Toss

7 cups torn lettuce (about 1 head)
2 cups tangerine sections
½ mild white onion, sliced and separated in rings
1/3 cup Italian dressing
Walnut croutons

Toss lettuce, tangerine sections, and onion rings with Italian dressing. Top with walnut croutons: Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ cup California walnut pieces. Stir till walnuts are crisp and butter-browned. Serves 6 to 8

Friday, August 13, 2010

Glazed Lemon Cake with Grant K Gibson

The second of two posts featuring my first-ever Guest Star, San Francisco Designer and Blogger ( Mr. Grant K Gibson!

Part Two: Dessert

All you have to say to me is Glazed Lemon Cake, and suddenly it’s not the cake but my eyes that are glazed, and I find need of a tissue to mop unsightly drool. Since Grant and I have a history of sharing many slices of cake together, it seemed only natural to bake one from a classic cook book that we both grew up with: The Silver Palate Cookbook (1979). And as we got down to the business of the actual baking (between giggle fits), we noticed that both our copies of the book were seriously well-loved: splattered with food stains AND fell naturally open to the page with this cake recipe on it!

Grant says he isn’t fond of baking, because he prefers not to measure and he likes to work “loosely” from recipes, while I, on the other hand, love the science and the precision of baking. So our team consisted of him winging it while I drank a cocktail and yelled at him to measure more carefully. Fortunately for us we weren’t making a soufflĂ©, because I fear all the commotion and hilarity in the kitchen would have precluded the effective rising required for that project. This cake is way easier to bake than any soufflĂ©, and probably about a million times yummier. If you love lemon, or even just SUGAR, this cake will delight you. I ate no less than THREE slices that very evening!

Glazed Lemon Cake

½ pound (2 sticks) sweet butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour, sifted
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tightly packed Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Lemon Icing (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Bean in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
3. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add lemon zest and juice.
4. Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Cool cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and spread on icing at once, while cake is still hot.

Lemon Icing

1 pound confectioners’ sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
3 tightly packed Tbsp grated lemon zest
½ cup fresh lemon juice

Cream sugar and butter thoroughly. Mix in lemon zest and juice; spread on warm cake.

Tarte Saint-Germain - with Grant K Gibson

For my first ever Carried-Away Guest Spot, I turned to a dear friend of mine, (and fellow blogger:, designer Grant K Gibson - because he is always in his kitchen cooking up a storm, AND I knew we both grew up with The Silver Palate Cookbook (1979). Oh, and I knew he’d fix me a cocktail and do most of the cooking himself, so how could I loose?

Part One: Dinner.

I actually suggested we skip dinner entirely and simply have cake and cocktails, but after we tasted, and each ate not one but TWO huge slices of this concoction, I was glad Grant insisted we start with the Tarte Saint-Germain. “The lowly leek is the star in this glamorous tart,” advise the authors, and I am with them in spirit, because the treatment really is a win for leeks, but don’t be fooled: there are FOUR Tablespoons of butter working here, too!

Grant had already made the shell, so really, all I had to do was help stir a bit, leaving the other hand free to photograph our efforts in Grant’s chic black-and-white kitchen. And once the leek mixture was cooked, it just got dumped into the shell and baked – couldn’t be easier. No wonder quiche became such a “thing” in the 80s, though “Real Men” everywhere (like my father) swore they wouldn’t eat it. Neither of us was concerned about that, so Grant and I gobbled it up. We did, however, save room for dessert…

Tarte Saint-Germain

4 Tbsp sweet butter
6 leeks, trimmed, well washed and thinly sliced
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup light cream
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 9-inch shell of Pate Brisee, partially baked
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese

1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add sliced leeks and cook, covered, over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until leeks are tender and lightly colored. Stir frequently or leeks may scorch. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
2. Whisk eggs, yolks, and light and heavy cream together in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a grating of nutmeg, if you like.
3. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
4. Spoon cooled leek mixture into partially baked tart shell. Add cream and egg mixture to fill the tart to within ½ inch of the top. Sprinkle the Gruyere evenly over the tart.
5. Set the tart on the middle level of the preheated oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until top is well browned and filling is completely set.
6. Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Salmon Timbales

Canned salmon, bread crumbs – it all sounds very mid-century casserole, right? Well NO – even stranger! Hello, Salmon Timbales, courtesy of The Pocket Cookbook, originally from 1942 (this printing, 1966).

Don’t you just love reading recipes and imagining what something is going to taste like? I do, but this one stumped me, so I had to try it. It seemed fairly simple, so I thought to myself: How Bad Could it Be? Well, if a cross between meat-balls and savory muffins sounds good, then you might like them.

Canned salmon is not something I have worked with before, and after this, I think I won’t again any time soon: the skin was left on! It was not de-boned! So before I could create the recipe, I had to pick through piles of canned fish…let’s just say, the compost went out immediately after this went in the oven.

Mixing up the batter, I could tell right away it was not holding together, so I added another egg and a little melted butter. Once it seemed more-or-less dough-like, I scooped it into a muffin tin and baked it as directed. And the result? Odd, though tasty, in a brunch sort of way. I ate one that night for dinner, and it was fine, but tasted better as leftovers the next day, covered in cheese sauce. Perhaps their real place in the world is as an accompaniment to some sort of an egg dish and mimosas. Enough champagne and you can pretty much serve anything for brunch!

Salmon Timbales

2 Tbsp chopped green pepper
¼ cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp fat or salad oil
1 1lb can (2 cups) salmon
2 eggs
2 cups soft bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

Saute green pepper and onion in fat or salad oil; add to salmon. Beat eggs; add with crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Pack into greased muffin pans; bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F) 30 min.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Strawberry Glace Pie

Mmmmmm, pie! Strawberry season is upon us, friends, and really and truly, pies must be made. There is just no getting around this.

I recently picked up this adorable little Nitty Gritty Productions book called “Cakes & Pies”, the flip-side of which (when you turn it over and upside down) is called “Pies & Cakes” (c. 1978) I love it for several reasons: a) Groovy Mod Cover, b) Nitty Gritty Productions,( hello! I have 4 or 5 of their titles), c) the recipes are simple and easy to follow, after a useful intro “how-to” on the genre in general, and d) these are actually recipes you’d want to make! Normal, modern ingredients! Fresh fruits! Things you can still find at today’s grocery store!

So on a Saturday morning, I decided that my daughter and I would make pie. (I know for some parents, the answer to the question: Mom, what are we doing today? Is “going to the park” or something similarly expected, but I have to admit, I hate the park. So my answer usually has to do with cooking, such as: “we’re going to the Farmer’s Market!” or, as in this case, “We’re making pie!”) I actually offered her the choice between Cake and Pie (after all, they are both covered in this cute little book) and she chose pie. She chose wisely!

And here is the reason I am all too glad to make pie: I CHEAT! I have a recipe for crust, made from scratch, that requires NO 2-knives, no ice water, no “shortening” (bleeeeech.) and does NOT even have to be rolled out! Thanks again to Mom, who, in the 70s, sold gourmet cookware in a pioneering shop in Berkeley, where she frequently demonstrated the new miracle kitchen appliance, the Cuisinart. Oui, from France. (Ooh La La!) So while my adorable cook-book offers a probably wonderful recipe for a basic crust, I vetoed it in favor of what I call “Mom’s” pie crust, but which I know to actually have originated from the guide book for her Cuisinart. Just flour, butter, a pinch of salt and a blob of sour cream, and in no time, you have a fabulous and perfect crust! (In fact, this book mentions the technique of making crust in a food processor, but not with the sour cream, which eliminates the need for cold liquid and other elaborate steps.) Of course, if you don’t have a food processor, I guess you are stuck with the knives. And I’m sorry. Still, this is PIE we’re talking about, so I have no doubt it will be worth it.

Strawberry Glace Pie

• 1 pie crust (see below)
• 6 cups (about 1 ½ quarts) strawberries
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 Tbsp cornstarch
• ½ cup water
• 1 pkg (3 oz) cream cheese, optional
• 1 to 2 Tbsp milk

Line 9-inch pie plate with crust. Finish edges as desired. Prick with fork and chill if time allows. Bake as directed. Cool on wire rack until needed. Wash and hull strawberries. Mash enough berries to measure 1 cup. Blend sugar and cornstarch together in saucepan. Stir in water and crushed berries. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil, stirring, 1 minute. Cool. Beat cream cheese with milk. Spread on bottom of baked pie shell. Fill shell with whole berries. Pour cooked mixture over top. Refrigerate several hours. Garnish with whipped cream.

Mom’s Pie Crust:

In Cuisinart:
• 1 cup flour
• 1 stick butter, in 4 pieces
• 1 pinch salt
• 1 Tbsp sour cream (add this last)

Process till it forms a ball (under a minute!), press into pie dish and flute edges. Prick bottom with fork; bake at 375 for 20 min. Cool.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Avocado and Cheese Sandwich for Mom

In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to re-create one of my mom’s favorite all-time dishes, the avocado-and-cheese sandwich. Morning, noon and night she has made these, and I must admit to preferring them to her other favorite, the (dreaded) peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwich. Both contain mayonnaise, something I detested till fairly recently - perhaps as a result of my mom’s 70s experiments with making her own. Yellow and runny, it was never a favorite of mine, and I was all too happy to comply with eating store-bought mayo when she gave up the home-made version. (I seem to recall a similar episode with the Yogurt Maker, though that was even shorter-lived, perhaps because I used the cups for some art project or other after finding them in the basement…)

So, the avocado and cheese. Made with whole wheat bread (I tried it with my personal favorite, sour dough, but it just didn’t taste right) and only the sharpest of cheddar cheese, it is a perfect vegetarian lunch - or dinner, if paired with a salad a glass of wine. As a life-long vegetarian, my mom must have slapped together and eaten something like 60,000 of these!

The secret ingredient for her, until the formulation was changed in the late 90s, was Vege Sal, the age-old celery salt/spice mix that I am told does not contain salt, and is supposed to have been around since the 20s. I tried, OK I really tried, to like it, and to use it in my cooking, but, sorry, I just can’t. So when I saw that my mom no longer used it (because she swears it tastes different, and she would know, having consumed it on nearly all her food all her life!), I secretly rejoiced. Now, her recipe calls for fancy, large-crystal sea salt, usually whatever variety someone has given her as a gift. She has even been known to shake on a pinch of Herbes de Provence, for that singular 90s touch. But because I am a retro-purist, I stuck as close as I could to the original, and toasted to her, for Mother’s Day. Cheers, mom!

Avocado and Cheese Sandwich

Lightly toast 2 slices of whole wheat bread
Spread mayonnaise in a thin layer on both
Slice an avocado and lay the slices on both slices of bread
Salt and pepper the avocadoes (* can use Vege Sal if desired)
Cover all with sliced or grated cheddar cheese
Broil or toast in toaster oven for 5 minutes, till cheese melts

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Choy Sum

Normally, I like to follow recipes, but every now-and-then, it makes sense to know how to cook things without one, and here is a method you can use for many things, from greens to Brussels sprouts. This method comes from Paul Mayer’s 1975 “Vegetable Cookbook” (published by Concord, California’s own Nitty Gritty Productions – YEAH!) and is quite easy and tasty. And so I turned to this when I got some strange greens at the farmer’s market and was not sure what to do with them.

My daughter and I have a game we play at the farmer’s market, where we have to buy something we have not tried before and cook it up. This is always enjoyable, but sometimes not exactly delicious. This time, however, it was a rousing success. Thank you, O vegetarians of the 70s! (Yep, that means you, Mom.)

Choy Sum, aka Canton Bok Choi. I had certainly never bought this before, at least not in this flowered state: a bundle of leaves and many, many bright, mustard-yellow flowers that were said to be edible. On this day at the market, everyone seemed to have piles of the stuff, as is the case with the smaller local markets where you really get JUST what is in season locally, even if it means all anyone has that day is carrots and onions. So my daughter and I made a deal – we would get some, and just try it, knowing that it might taste awful, but would at least be amusing! When we got home, I looked it up in my Produce Guide, which said when there were lots of flowers, it might be bitter. Yikes! So I first blanched it all for 1 minute before cooking it a la Vegetable Cookbook. I made a couple of modifications too – using chicken stock in place of water, and cooking it a few minutes longer than 7, more like 10. I was liberal with the butter, and the leaves tasted like bok choy (so far, so good, we both like that) and Lo and Behold, the flowers tasted FABULOUS! My daughter actually fought me for them, eating pounds of the stuff! She ate them before her chicken – success!

The Paul Mayer Method for Cooking Green Vegetables

1. Bring a teakettle full of water to a full boil.
2. Into another pot with a lid, scatter a handful of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Place over high heat until sugar begins to caramelize.
3. Quickly add prepared vegetables. Without reducing heat, pour in the boiling water. The water never ceases boiling and the vegetables start cooking immediately. Cover the pot and boil rapidly for exactly 7 minutes.
4. Quickly drain vegetables into a colander and rinse briefly with cool tap water to stop the cooking action. The vegetables will remain hot!
5. Drain well and season with melted butter, or serve with sauce or seasoned butter, or topped with almonds. (This method is not used for root vegetables, eggplant, artichokes or spinach.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Classic Beef Stroganoff

I love this Betty Crocker cookbook, above all for the photographs of many glorious Dansk baking dishes, including the lovely yellow one on the cover (that contains some bizarre sausage concoction.) Originally from 1965, this edition is from 1974, but I believe many of the images are the same ones from the original printing, and certainly most of the recipes seem to be as well.

Hailing from a time when casseroles were made from endless combinations of pantry staples, combined with a meat and a frozen vegetable, this book features one of THE most classic dishes, called “Classic Beef Stroganoff”. But as with so many older recipes, this one called for ingredients I either don’t approve of, or could not find, such as a can of bouillon. So I used tiny little scoops of “Better than Bouillon” which I think is super yummy WITHOUT the msg! Yes, I did go ahead with the catsup, especially since I was making this for my 5 year old, who adores the stuff. Sadly, the end result was that she refused to eat the sauce and I had to rinse the meat off and serve it to her NEXT to plain noodles!

At any rate, this is quick and easy, though I think that modern diners are so used to really fresh, made-from-scratch foods that the sauce just ended up tasting a bit “canned”. Some of the more bizarre concoctions in the book might not be super tasty either, but the photographs are so BRIGHT and GLORIOUS that I am sure I will be trying many more. Just for the love of it!

Classic Beef Stroganoff

1 lb beef tenderloin or boneless sirloin steak
½ lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ cup minced onion
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 can (10 ½ oz) beef bouillon
2 Tbsp catsup
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup dairy sour cream
3 to 4 cups hot cooked noodles or rice

Cut meat diagonally into very thin slices. Cook and stir mushrooms and onion in butter until onion is tender; remove from skillet. In same skillet, brown meat lightly on both sides. Set aside 1/3 cup bouillon; stir remaining bouillon, the catsup, garlic, and salt into skillet. Cover and simmer 15 min. Blend reserved 1/3 cup bouillon and flour; stir into skillet. Add mushrooms and onion. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil 1 min. Stir in sour cream; heat through. Serve over hot noodles or rice. 4 servings.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tea Dainties, aka Tea Don'ts

Baking. I love to do it, but WOW things do not always turn out! Especially with old recipes, because anything called for that is packaged might be quite different in formulation or quantity now. Also, things can just be off, as in humidity, oven temp, relative size of eggs… I can think of plenty of excuses why cookies burn, cakes fall, or custard doesn’t set up properly. And sometimes, simply not paying attention is the culprit, as in loosing count of cups of flour, or half-teaspoons-full of salt! In the case of these tea cookies, I’m not quite sure what wasn’t right. Each batch did get better, though none was perfect. I am tempted to re-name them Tea Don’ts!

For this recipe, I took the Way, Way Back Machine to WELL beyond my normal 60s and 70s comfort zone, to a cookbook from 1939 (albeit the 1947 printing!) with the delightful title of “The Prudence Penny Regional Cookbook”, published by The San Francisco Examiner. (Note: I am still on my local kick.) This cook book is fascinating because it is divided into regions of the US (New England, Southern, Pennsylvania Dutch, Creole, Mississippi Valley, Minnesota Scandinavian, Western, Cosmopolitain, and so on) and so it is actually a great resource for virtually any type of traditional recipe. Also, it features color photos of many elaborate, and now gross-seeming things like gelatin-and-meat-salad-creations, or vegetables carved into shapes of animals but NOT meant to be served to children. Delights like this, that nobody has time, nor inclination for these days, are what got me into this whole vintage cookery thing in the first place. And look at the photo of all the pretty cookies! Note: these are CLEARLY not in the photo!

About the cookies: I thought, from the name and ingredients, that these would be something on the order of lace cookies, but they were not nearly as crispy. Also, good heavens, when they said “greased cookie sheet”, I don’t think they meant a light spray of Pam – I think they mean, SMEAR THAT SUCKER with Crisco! Because Lordy, these cookies STUCK something fierce. That said, and after burning the first batch, they did get better and better as I made them smaller and baked them for only 10 minutes rather than 12. Still, they were not sweet enough and the texture was weird, so for my next batch of cookies, I’m moving on. To you out there I say: Do NOT try this at home!

Tea Dainties

2 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup sifted flour
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cup chopped walnuts

Beat eggs and brown sugar. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, and add to egg mixture. Blend thoroughly. Add walnuts. Drop from teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet, ½ inch apart, and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 12 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Green Beans Paprika

From Joe Carcione “The Greengrocer Cookbook” 1975

I love this book, and of course I remember the TV spots on our local KRON TV, (where today, 30 years later, one of my girlfriends does the Real Estate spots!) featuring Joe “Cart-a-Groceries”. This well-loved, dripped-on and stained (I am always thrilled to find cook-books in this condition, as it shows they were actually worthy of cooking from) is stamped inside: Compliments of Bay View Federal Savings. Brings to mind an Entirely Different World, where you used to get gifts from the bank when you opened an account! Imagine that! Now, we just get fines.

Anyhow, one of the great things about this book is the introduction, written by Joe’s dad, who lived in San Francisco during The Earthquake, and got into the produce business in 1920. His account of the local produce scene is worth reading in itself if you care for local history, which I am a nut for. I am always fascinated to learn that things we think are new ideas are actually nothing new at all. The modern “locavore” movement, where folks consume only foods originating from within a 100 mile radius, certainly has roots in the regular produce trade, as Peter Carcione records: “Fruits and vegetables were difficult to keep fresh without the modern transportation and refrigeration facilities in use today. But even without modern facilities, at least in the Bay Area, fruits and vegetables arrived at the market within twenty-four hours of the time they were harvested. The farmers and growers in the areas north and south of San Francisco would harvest their crops and bring them by horse and wagon, driving late at night.”

Joe’s book is really lovely in how it is laid out – by season. So if you shop at the Farmer’s Market, for example, he outlines what will be in season, and how to judge if it is fresh. He throws in great anecdotes about selling the various items in his long career at the Produce Market, and the various buyers. The whole thing makes shopping at Safeway, where you can get almost anything, anytime of year, but it will be strange and tasteless, seem, well, flavorless. From the more-expensive-yet-local market, I got some green beans, and I knew I’d find a simple recipe in this cook book. The funny thing about this one is, there is actually NO paprika called for! These were quickly cooked up to accompany pork chops my daughter and I had for dinner, and she liked them because of the sugar. I squeezed more lemon onto mine, and we were both happy.

Green Beans Paprika

1 lb green beans
2 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
Brown sugar to taste
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
Dash of allspice

Cut beans diagonally or lengthwise. Cook in very little water 5 minutes, in a covered saucepan. Add the other ingredients, cook 3 minutes longer. Remove garlic and bay leaf. Serve hot or cold. Serves 6 to 8.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spicy Peanut Snack Mix

I am So Excited: I am going to my FIRST TUPPERWARE PARTY! And so I felt compelled to bring a snack from my 1981 Tupperware book, “Homemade is Better from Tupperware Home Parties”. I need something that will travel well, something that doesn’t have to be heated up or assembled prior to serving, yet something slightly sweet / slightly savory – perfect for a mid-afternoon snack. A-Hah, Spicy Peanut Snack Mix! And what better way to show off my vintage Tupperware, too, than by packing said snack into one of my canisters!

I love vintage Tupperware. I have many of the 70s canisters, even in the unusual-except-for-in-California Tortilla Saver. It is into that, in fact, that I will pack the snack, since I have two of those (neither of which is actually in service storing tortillas.) And if there is any left over…

Wait, who am I kidding? There won’t be any left over. I had to sample a bite, which turned into several, and this is YUMMY! I was a bit heavy-handed with the spices: I forgot that the organic cinnamon I got is POTENT and you only need to use half of what is called for - but then, I love cinnamon, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Also I grated fresh nutmeg, and again, that seems pretty strong as well! I think it might taste good with paprika or red pepper flakes, so I will have to try it that way next time. Mmmm, snacks and champagne and shopping…

Spicy Peanut Snack Mix

1 egg white
2 tsp water
3 Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
5 cups bite-size shredded corn, wheat or rice squares
1 8oz jar of dry roasted peanuts

In Small Mix-N-Stor pitcher, blend egg-white and water; stir in sugar and spices. Beat till frothy.

In 13x9x2-inch baking pan, mix cereal and nuts. Add egg white mixture; toss to coat. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool thoroughly.

Store in canister. Makes 7 cups.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spinach-Meatball Toss

From the Tupperware book, “Homemade is Better” (Special 30th Anniversary Edition, 1981) which I love to display next to my vintage Tupperware canisters, as depicted on the book’s cover, this recipe is made with a “base” (in this case, meatballs) that they recommend you make mass quantities of and store for use in the varied recipes, at later times. In my case, however, I happened to have a bag of meatballs from IKEA, and used those! I made the combined salad for myself, but for my daughter and her friend (5 and 4 years old, respectively), I served plain meatballs, next to a mini-version of the salad. (They are willing to try my creations, but sometimes prefer a de-constructed version.) Little do they know, they are foodies-in-training, just as I was when, as a little girl, I would moan to my mother: “Oh NO, you’re NOT making chutney AGAIN!” Complain complain complain. Fortunately, that is not what happened when I served this dinner. We all liked it enough to make it again, despite my initial assessment of most of the recipes contained herein as “weird”. OK, meatballs in salad I still think is a little weird, but I love spinach and egg, so somehow it worked. Also I love that in the recipe, you are directed not just in the cooking, but also as to WHICH of your various Tupperware items to use in each step. Brilliant.

I adapted things slightly, leaving out the water chestnuts and sprouts, and adding in chopped scallions, and also I used only the yolks of the eggs since, disappointingly, didn’t hard-boil fully – but it came together palatably. (That is the difference between throwing together a salad and, say, baking – substitutions are just fine in salad, but you must adhere to the chemistry with baking, or risk disaster.) The girls focused mostly on the meatballs, complete with 3 dipping sauces: the super-tangy BBQ style sauce from the recipe, lingonberry sauce (Swedish), and of course, catsup. Revoltingly, but not surprisingly, catsup was the winner with the kids. But they did also eat the spinach, so it was an overall Win-Win situation!

Spinach-Meatball Toss

1 24-meatball container FREEZER MEATBALLS **
½ cup water
10 oz fresh spinach (7 cups)
3 hard-cooked eggs
1 8oz can water chestnuts, drained
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup catsup
¼ cup vinegar
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

• In large saucepan, place Freezer Meatballs (**) in a single layer. Add water and cover. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes or till meatballs are heated through.
• Meanwhile, tear spinach into bite-size pieces in the large Decorator Salad Bowl.
• Quarter eggs and slice water chestnuts; add to spinach with bean sprouts.
• In Small Mix-N-Stor pitcher, stir together sugar and cornstarch.
• Blend in catsup, vinegar, onion and Worcestershire sauce.
• Add catsup mixture to saucepan; cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes more. Pour over vegetables in Salad Bowl. Toss
• Serve in individual Decorator Salad Bowls.
• Makes 6 servings.

** A basic recipe for meatballs that you have previously made and frozen carefully in your Tupperware meatball container!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spinach Balls

This recipe comes from my aunt’s best friend, Claire-Louise, who used to make these absolutely Every Time she came over to our house. I got so used to them that I had to ask her for the recipe simply because I started to miss them at dinner parties when I moved out on my own! Claire tells me she has been making them since she and my aunt were wild college girls in the 60s, which always makes me think of one of my favorite cook-books of all time, Saucepans and The Single Girl by Jinx Kragen and Judy Perry, from 1965.

I have cooked plenty of things from Saucepans, all fine and dandy, but I actually find it to be an even more valuable guide to life. Who else told young girls to use an ironing board as a dining table if they had none? Who else describes each recipe not by its taste but by its usefulness? Who else pronounced a salad a “terror to prepare”? Amusing and delightful, as is the effect of popping one of Claire-Louise’s spinach balls, warm, into your mouth.

Claire-Louise’s Spinach Balls:

2 pkg chopped spinach, drained (about 1 lb or 16 oz, do not cook)
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
¾ cup butter, melted
¾ cups Parmesan cheese
2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
1 onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste

• Mix all ingredients together, then form into small balls.
• Freeze for 10 min or so to hold shape. (NOT overnight, they will freeze solid! Can refrigerate over night.)
• Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 min
• Serve warm

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tiffany's Table Manners for Teenagers

Today, we travel back Even Further in time, to the magical year of 1961 - the year my current apartment was built, exactly 10 years before I was born. And as a further departure, there is no actual recipe for today. We are still dealing with food here, though, which we can learn to enjoy as ladies and gentlemen, by consulting this adorable guide.

This book was given to me by my aunt when I turned 13, and I remember loving it, and trying to remember all the details about the fish fork and meat knife – not entirely relevant, since my mom and I were vegetarians! But I knew that This Glorious Little Book would somehow, if I learned the rules, transform me into the fabulous teenager I longed to be. Little did I know that by the time I became a teenager, in the 80s, very few of the rules set forth by Walter Hoving, and delightfully illustrated by Joe Eula, were even still in use. I like to think that I was “retro” before there was such a thing. Before my time, you were either called “born-too-late” or a History Buff. Or just plain “weird” – I got that a lot.

So it is with glee that I am turning a new generation on to the delights of proper table etiquette – I have been reading this to my 5-year-old daughter as bedtime reading, and she LOVES it! Mostly she giggles at the “don’ts”, but perhaps some of the “dos” will sink in as well. At the very least, she will know not to “leap at her food like an Irish wolfhound.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Steamed Artichokes

Steamed artichokes are one of my favorite foods, and I am proud to say that my daughter loves them too. It always cracks me up when other kids come over for dinner, if we are having them, and have never seen them before and don’t know what to do with them. OK, is this weird? I love them so much, I even taught my dachshund to eat them! And I kid you not, he would carefully close his mouth around the leaf and bite down, as gentle as you please, while I pulled the leaf out – and he actually got the meat each time! Nobody believes me, but really, I did!

Now my 5-year old loves them as much as I do (I think), only she refuses to have mayonnaise or melted butter to dip them into - she likes them Absolutely Plain…Which brings me to a related topic, something I am NOT actually serving in my home, but something that WAS served to my mother and her sister, growing up in California with parents who were Light Years ahead of their time, at least in terms of Health Trends: the Mono Meal.

Most people have never heard of the Mono Meal, in fact there is not even a listing in Wikipedia for it, though you can search related topics such as frutarianism and raw foodism. But even when I was little, a trip to my grandparents’ frequently consisted of at least one Mono Meal. Very simply, it means that for each meal, you consume only ONE food, always a fruit or vegetable. For example, for lunch we are having oranges! As many as you can eat, but ONLY ORANGES. And for dinner, for example, we might be having artichokes – what, hungry, you say? Great, you can have AS MANY AS YOU LIKE. 3? 6? Even 10! BUT NOTHING ELSE.

In my grandmother’s honor, I even use her steamer to cook my artichokes. I recently got a cool little insert for steaming them, but it only does one at a time, and I am so used to cramming up to 3 in the little fold-out/expanding-petal steamer inside the tall pot I have been using for years, that I just kept the new one in the box. (And when I say “new” of course I mean from Thrift Town for 1.99, originally from 1980 - which is Really Pushing the vintage envelope for me!)

Steamed Artichokes

• wash artichokes
• trim pointy tips of leaves with scissors
• slice off entire top about ¼ inch from top
• set in steaming basket over 1 cup or so of water
• steam on high for 30 min, then check every 5 min
• done when leaves pull off easily but do not fall off (total between 30 – 60 min)
• carefully bite off just the meat at the wide end of each leaf – after dipping in melted butter, mayonnaise or sauce of your choice
• to eat the heart, remove all pointy bits (the choke) with knife or spoon, then cut up and dip into mayonnaise or melted butter. DIVINE!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tequila Salad (?!?)

Sometimes the strangest things turn out to be real winners.

I recently acquired a complete set of 1975 Betty Crocker recipe cards, in a lovely avocado-green plastic box (the whole of which weighs a ton, and I should know because I have already dropped it on my toe!), and was looking for something actually edible, yet distinctly 70s, to bring to a pot luck last summer. Lo and Behold, in the “Flavors of the World” section, there was the comedic-sounding Tequila Salad.

Well, I thought to myself, this sounds so weird I just HAVE to make it! And, it turns out, it is nothing more than various citrus, avocado and canned pineapple cut up into a salad, and dressed with a margarita, to which salad oil has been added. Strange? Yes, but, surprisingly, WONDERFUL! And to my great amusement, before I revealed the Secret Ingredient, people kept saying: “Wow this tastes great, what is in this dressing? I don’t normally even LIKE salad…”

“Hah!” I said, “TEQUILA!” No WONDER you’re all so cheerful. Works every time!

This past weekend I made this dish for a friend’s birthday, and the salad was eaten up faster than the scrumptious Red Velvet cupcakes that another friend brought. Which reminds me, Red Velvet cupcakes are the ONLY variety of cupcake worth eating, and when made by this particular Southern Gentleman (who is an amazing baker), I declare they are worth more than gold! He and I had fun giggling over the fact that there was booze in the salad dressing, and over our shared love of the Great Ms. Paula Deen - not only her cooking (Butter! Bacon!) but also of her style (false eyelashes! Big Hair!).

The card reads: “a salad created from the flavors of the popular Mexican drink, the Margarita” copyright 1975 General Mills – Betty Crocker’s Step-by-Step recipes

Tequila Salad:

1 can (15 ¼ oz) slice pineapple, drained (reserve ¼ cup syrup)
¼ cup lime juice
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
2 Tbsp tequila
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt
3 medium avocados
Lime juice
2 large grapefruit
2 large oranges
Salad greens
Chopped walnuts

• Shake reserved pineapple syrup, ¼ cup lime juice, the sugar, tequila, oil and ¼ tsp salt in tightly covered container. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
• Cut avocados lengthwise in half; remove pits. Peel avocados; cut into ½-inch lieces. Sprinkle pieces with lime juice.
• Cut pineapple slices in half.
• Pare and section grapefruit and oranges; cut sections in half if desired.
• Just before serving, toss avocado pieces with pineapple and grapefruit and orange sections; place on salad greens.
• Sprinkle walnuts and salt over salad. Serve with dressing. (8 servings)