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)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ginger Spice Buttons

Oh my goodness, I love cookies. DO I LOVE COOKIES! In fact, just the other day I (ahem) over did it on Thin Mints, courtesy of some charming 8 year-old Girl Scouts. Well OK it wasn’t THEIR fault I ate very nearly the entire box the same day they were delivered to me at work... and they were good, too, they are good every year. But I have to admit, home-made cookies are still better, and I make and consume them as often as possible. In fact I have so many “favorite” cookie recipes that I was hesitant to try this one, thinking of all the similar cookies I already make. However, trusting in Food and Wine magazine, (or perhaps it was one of the last issues of [sniff] Gourmet Magazine), I found a new love! So I am now forced to admit that, though I am a sucker for vintage, I do in fact read the new food publications, and – I EVEN COOK THEIR RECIPES. OK there, I said it, it’s out in the open and we can now move on.

Ginger Spice Buttons. I almost passed this one up. YEP, folks, I ALMOST PASSED THIS ONE UP! I’ll never know what it was that made me rip this page out that fateful day, but I am glad I did. Even though the toasting of the almonds and subsequent pulverization via food processor looked a tad over-zealous, somehow I decided the old Cuisinart needed some attention – or it could be that it was almost Valentines Day and I wanted to express my undying love with sugar. And although the butter had to be softened (not melted = quicker) and the dough would have to chill for one hour (all this means quite some time from start to finish), my love for spice *anything* made me slap that apron on and try them and WOW, I suggest you do the same!


1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups lightly toasted blanched almonds, finely ground
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp allspice
Large crystal sugar

1. in a bowl, beat together butter and sugar until smooth, scraping inside of bowl. Beat in molasses, vanilla and salt, then stir in flour, almonds, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Wrap and chill dough for 1 hour.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, roll in crystal sugar and place on baking sheets. Bake until bottoms are lightly browned, about 8 min. Cool on pans 3 min. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely. Store airtight up to 5 days. Makes 5 dozen.