I recently got this gem of a 1971 cookbook by Dinah Shore, entitled “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” and, after amusing myself pondering her own (I am certain) amusement with the title, I actually read through it, eager to try one of her recipes. Most of the dishes in this book are either elaborate, for entertaining, or else they call for very large quantities of food, such as whole chickens or large cuts of meat. Since it was just my daughter and I for dinner, I searched for something I could cut in half, and came up with her “Hamburger De Luxe”. I always like to try variations on themes I know well, and I also knew that the little food critic at my table would be happy with hamburgers. Still, I had never used chicken broth in a hamburger before, and as I mixed the ingredients up, it became clear to me that there was just too much liquid, so I added about ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. The burgers held together nicely! The flavor was light and refined, even after I fried the onions to top the burger in bacon fat (since the very lean hamburger I used didn’t leave anything in the pan with which to cook the onions at the end). They ended up a bit “blackened” because I got a phone call while they were on the stove (of course!) but were not overdone inside, and mine tasted nice even minus the onion topping she recommended. My daughter slathered hers with A1 sauce, and pronounced it the BEST ever. Ah, 5 year-olds!
Now this is not a political blog, but since the President told me last night that the State of the Union is Strong, I am celebrating by getting out my Red White and Blue molded plastic picnic case! Set against the traditional red and white checkered tablecloth, it really shows its colors. In fact, putting any food in it might just take away from the bright “mod” statement. The stacking set is made of oval-shaped plastic, each layer in the set becoming its own place setting, comprising a covered plate, covered fruit cup, silver-ware holder (I added the Dansk forks) and white plastic drinking cup. The top layer is actually a lid with a handle, so the whole thing can be stacked up, snapped tight and toted off to your destination, be it boating, picnic, or political demonstration. And if it doesn’t rain this weekend, it might even get some use!
So I tried the crock pot recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole. Result: Dismal failure. In a word, BARF.
The other words I could use to describe it would be: total waste of canned fish, sad pile of goop, and the ever popular (well, OK it was popular in the 80s): GRODY. I can not bring myself to post a photo of the plated “serving”, since it so resembled ACTUAL road-kill. Not even freshly toasted bread crumbs AND grated extra-sharp Vermont cheddar could save this casserole from the compost bin. As much as I love my Crock Pot (which is, of course, vintage, so it did not come with the instructions, but I recently found the manual for the very unit elsewhere and picked this recipe from it to try), but I realize it has it’s limitations and that some dishes just do NOT adapt to slow cooking. I think my friend Kristine said it best when she pointed out that the idea of hot fish cooked for 8 hours in a slow-cooker didn’t sound, well, too hot.
Really, it is the same ingredients that go into a regular tuna casserole, which is something I can get my daughter to eat regularly - with glee, even. But not this night… this night she proclaimed: Mommy, I think you should go back to the OLD tuna casserole recipe. She means the recipe from the back of the package of golden egg noodles. See, it just goes to show you should NOT mess with the classics!
2 “blackberries” that I simply cannot live without! On the one had, try as I may, I cannot deny that I am living in the 21st century, and that things like smart phones REALLY are great… but then, I adore lovingly handmade jams and jellies, something many of us “kids” don’t even know how to make anymore. One of the things I am trying to teach my daughter is that food does not ACTUALLY originate in the store… though, believe me, there are times when I use the “other” BlackBerry to call up and order a pizza. On those days, I just shrug and say: OK then! We’ll get back to that lesson tomorrow.
As I sit engulfed in the intoxicating fumes of melting chocolate, (*NOTE: melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, if you are brave enough to own one of those new-fangled contraptions!), I perform the age-old ritual of watching the oven while the cookies bake, barely patient enough to endure the 12 -15 minutes needed to transform flour, salt, sugar and vanilla (and a few other key elements) into divine and heavenly baked-chocolate morsels. I also know full-well that I will not be able to wait for them to properly cool, and so I will burn my tongue, as I do every single time I bake these cookies.
I am starting with this recipe because it is quite possibly the first thing I ever learned to cook. Even before I went to French school, where we were taught how to bake Madeleines, and to kids’ cooking school, where I even cooked fish, (something I would not willingly consume for nearly 20 years) I helped my mother bake these, my dad’s favorite cookies. And though I didn’t use any vintage bake-ware in their creation (I have a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer, a new silicone scraper and I recently bought new cookie sheets), I will remove them from the oven with a vintage pot holder, and store them (Oh really, who am I kidding, like there will be any left in 20 minutes!) in vintage tupperware.
Though the cookies themselves are FABULOUS, it is really the name that is the story. As I have been told, when my mother was a new bride in 1965, she was told she needed to cook and bake up a storm to please her new husband. She did so, even cooking meat for him though she was a life-long vegetarian. So one day, she lovingly whipped up a batch of these Chocolate Malt Cookies, thinking how my dad was sure to love them as he tends to love anything made with chocolate, and these were a family favorite, dating back to the 20s. Now my father is not one to hide his feelings, and unfortunately, the shape and color of the cookies bore a striking resemblance (in his mind) to animal droppings! He apparently proclaimed that he was Not Eating any of those g-d Dog S*it cookies. Somehow my mother convinced him to try one (though I can’t imagine how, as this was a man who jumped RIGHT on the “Real Med Don’t eat Quiche” band wagon of the late 70s) and he discovered that, in fact, they were perhaps The Best thing he had ever eaten!
So thus, his new favorite cookies, the ones I helped cook every year thereafter for his birthday and on many, many other occasions, and, in fact, on a nearly weekly basis during one memorable phase in college, were christened: DS-ers!
1 cup butter (room temp)
3 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 oz unsweetened chocolate; melted (double boiler or microwave - do not scorch!)
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts - OPTIONAL! My dad hates nuts so I don't include them
1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, being careful not to scorch it
2. Cream butter, cheese and sugar, then add egg, milk and vanilla
3. Stir in melted chocolate
4. Sift dry ingredients together, add the liquid and blend
5. Stir in nuts IF USING
6. Drop from teaspoon onto cookie sheet (no need to grease or line) OR use a small melon baller
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 min
8. Remove to wire rack to cool - ENJOY!