Friday, May 27, 2011

Tea with Amanda

I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a “cuppa” with my dear friend from England, Amanda Foxlow – and the funny thing is, she herself won’t go near the stuff! But she was kind enough to show me how to prepare one, as she does often for her husband who does actually drink tea. Wouldn’t you like to join us? Click here for our YouTube video!

The first time I drank tea was in 1982 (age 11) when my mom and I went to London. That year, the dollar was EQUAL to the pound, so we really lived it up, including having High Tea at Harrods. For a little girl (or anyone really IMHO) this is an experience to do once in a lifetime, and you’ll not regret nor forget it. I recall spending nearly an hour adjusting the tea with drops of sugar and dashes of milk, till I got it JUST RIGHT, and then adding more tea to warm it up and having to repeat the process. I was in heaven, and my mom put up with it. I know there were scones and clotted cream and preserves and tea cakes and sandwiches too, but really what got me was the tea. I was hooked.

I’ve been a tea drinker ever since, and I must admit I go through buckets of it every day! Still, it never helps to brush up on your technique, so I asked Amanda to give us a run-through on making a proper cup of tea. (This is different from preparing a whole pot, if you are having guests, or from using loose tea if you are feeling posh.) This clip shows how to prepare a nice “cuppa”, the kind the English, or those of them who still drink tea, might have in the morning. And while we’re on the subject of the UK, I must also thank Amanda as well the fabulous Miss Karen Finlay for the superb collection of Royal Wedding goodies I am proud to own. I think I’ll settle in with my Yorkshire Tea and read The Sun, to find out what’s REALLY going on in the world. Chin chin!

Tea with Amanda

Pour boiling water over a single good quality tea bag, such as Yorkshire Tea (made by Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales). Soak (steep) for 1 – 4 minutes, then remove tea bag. Add a dash of milk and a drop of sugar, to taste.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jell-O Shots (Jell-O #5)

Though I am known far and wide for my loving and varied experiments with Jell-O, I had only once made the ridiculous frat party treat known as Jell-O Shots. As far as I recall that was in 1991 for a luau at my friend Shannon’s house, where we also had a limbo contest and between the two, nobody was left standing. I also recall they were only marginally tasty, (but that didn’t stop us from pounding about a gross of them) and that you had to consume about 8 to get the equivalent of one drink, and also that your hands and cheeks became sticky with the stuff. These details aside, when I was recently asked to bring Jell-O Shots to a party, I was not one to shy away from a dare. And so I did – and we partied like it was 1991!

The basic idea with Jell-O Shots is to dissolve the Jell-O with boiling water as you normally would, but then replace the cold water with booze. If you tone that down a little, adding only about ¾ cup booze and the rest water per batch, you attain the most pleasing taste, though the shots are then quite mild. I imagine at frat parties and spring break ALL the water is replaced by booze, but that is just too revolting for me to contemplate. I do strive for class at all times, even when partying like an 80s college kid. [Carolyn Wyman’s great book from 2001: “Jell-O a Biography” reports that the Smithsonian’s food curator confirms these (not surprising) origins.]

I present two variations here: one is lime Jell-O with vodka (why I wasted good Jell-O I’ll never know, especially as I don’t like vodka and that is really all you taste) and the other is black cherry with vanilla rum (which is, happily, actually quite tasty!) and there are really almost endless combinations you could come up with, between flavored liquors and the mixing of Jell-O flavors. So folks, the next time you find yourself having a mid-life crisis, or are the subject of a dare, mix up some Jell-O Shots and party!

Jell-O Shots

3 oz Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
¾ cup rum or vodka
¼ cup cold water

Dissolve Jell-O powder in boiling water, stirring well. Add cold water and alcohol and stir again. Cool to room temperature and pour into individual mini-cups and chill until firm, about 3 hours. Makes about 16 shots.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pina Colada with Special Guest Rory Volk

My dear, fabulous friend Rory recently took a vacation where he reported consuming copious numbers of a fab cocktail, and he even learned the history behind it. When I asked what drink it might have been, before he had even finished saying the drink’s name, we burst into song together…. And this is how I came to have my second Guest Star Blogger, Mr. Rory Volk, presenting the venerable and delicious Pina Colada! Click on this link to WATCH OUR VIDEO PRESENTATION! See: live cocktail-prep shenanigans! See: Immersion Blender mess-making!

Though I have several vintage cocktail guides, none but the somewhat dull Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender’s Guide included Pina Coladas. (My version of Mr. Boston comes from 1982, but it was first complied in 1935 so I don’t know when the Pina Colada was added.) I did find it, though, in a great new book: “Cocktails A-Go-Go – 100 Swinging Drinks from Bahama Mamas to Salty Dogs” (2003) by Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel. The beauty of this book is that they include the history of each drink, as well as photos and illustrations from original recipes, ads and magazines, and it was from this book (and from Rory!) that I learned the drink originated in Puerto Rico in the 50s - a good 25 years before Rupert Holmes and his “own lovely Lady” enjoyed them while getting caught in the rain. (For more juicy historical details, see the video.)

Rory and I made a few variations of the drink, mostly experimenting with the addition and/or omission of dark rum as well as the light rum called for in most recipes. We actually decided the dark rum changed the flavor profile in a strange, somewhat suntan-lotion-y way, so we vote for light rum only. Oh and did I mention we used immersion blenders? My vintage blender had recently died, and the immersion blender was a $5 impulse buy at Wallgreen’s, and one that has actually not disappointed, even with this experiment. Get out your blenders, folks, and whip up a little glass of delight to read while you peruse the personals…

Pina Colada

2 ounces light rum
½ ounce dark rum (Rory and Carrie vote to leave this out)
2 ounces cream of coconut
2 – 3 ounces pineapple juice

Mix ingredients in a blender with a few scoops of crushed ice until smooth (about 10 seconds). Pour into a chilled Hurricane glass and garnish with a pineapple spear.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cherry Supreme - Jell-O #4

Though I am known for making “experimental” Jell-O creations, sometimes I just want Jell-O that is yummy. I find it is hard to go wrong if you stick to the basics: one flavor of Jell-O with fruit and marshmallows. This delightful 2 layer Jell-O Mold isn’t too sweet, has no hidden scary ingredients like onion or shrimp, and sets up fairly quickly. The cherry supreme is, in fact, supreme!

The Marshmallow-Mayonnaise Topping, however, is another story entirely. As I read the recipe in my “Joys of Jell-O Brand Gelatin Dessert” pamphlet, authored some time in the late 60s by the General Foods Kitchens, everything looked fine until I got to that part. I had to read it twice to make sure I hadn’t imagined the horror of Marshmallow Fluff mixed with Mayonnaise. No, in fact, I had not, and to add to the irony, there was even an introductory note describing other uses for said delicacy. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I did actually mix some up. (I must admit, I was thrilled to purchase the stuff, as marshmallows are one of my obsessions and I had never before owned any of it!) However, I did NOT delight in consuming it, and none of my friends would try even the teeniest taste. Did it have anything to do with the fact that the goo separated in transit? Or that it was a nasty yellow? Or perhaps it was the way the marshmallow somehow accentuated the smell of the mayonnaise… Truly sick-making. Trust me and skip that part!

Otherwise, the mold was quite tasty, despite the fact that the top part melted a bit in transit and the 2 layers then didn’t un-mold together, leading to a somewhat disappointing display that my friend Margaret likened to medical waste. I know what you must be thinking, but try the mold, alone. And if you do try the topping, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Cherry Supreme

The Marshmallow-Mayonnaise Topping served on this cherry mold is also delicious on other salads. (note: this is a DIRECT QUOTE from the General Foods Kitchens, NOT FROM ME!!!)

1 package (3 oz) Jell-O Cherry of Black Cherry gelatin
2 Tbsp sugar
Dash of salt
1 cup boiling water
1 can (1 lb 1 oz) pitted dark sweet cherries
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup whipped cream or prepared whipped toping
1 cup miniature marshmallows
Marshmallow-Mayonnaise Topping (see below)

Dissolve Jell-O Gelatin, sugar, and salt in boiling water. Drain cherries, reserving and measuring syrup – add water to make ¾ cup. Add syrup and lemon juice to gelatin. Chill until very thick. Then fold half of the cherries into 1 cup gelatin. Pour into a 1-quart mold. Chill until set, but not firm, Meanwhile, whip remaining gelatin until fluffy. Then fold in cream, remaining cherries, and marshmallows. Spoon into mold. Chill until firm. Unmold; serve with Marshmallow-Mayonnaise Topping. Makes about 4 cups, or 8 servings.

Marshmallow-Mayonnaise Topping:
Blend 1/3 cup marshmallow cream into 2/3 cup mayonnaise, stirring until smooth. Makes 1 cup.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Banana Cream Pie

Recently, my daughter came home from school with tales of a fabulous treat she had tried at school, made by one of the teachers. She began to describe the wonders of it to me, and asked if we could make one ourselves. This is the beauty of having a 6 year-old: when I told her that yes, we could make banana cream pie, she was awestruck, and we set out to make it right away.

Cream pies are so easy, you almost don’t need a recipe, but I do love to refer to something along the way just to make sure the proportions are correct, especially with something like custard – but then again, I also like to skip that altogether and use Jell-O Instant Vanilla Pudding as the filling! So quick, and really? Nobody cares that I didn’t make the custard. We did make our own crust, and my daughter gleefully crushed the Nilla Wafers herself with a re-purposed lemon-squeezer. (I find you can do amazing things with tools that are actually designed for other things. That and a zip lock bag. More things to add to the Desert Island list…)

Here, then, is the recipe for Banana Cream Pie as set out in the Bible – I mean, the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking. Note that in the book, they refer you back and forth to various pages and separate listings, so I have edited slightly for this preparation to make it read smoothly. Got about 20 minutes? Then you, too, can amaze your children with the Wonder of Pie!

Banana Cream Pie

Cookie Crumb Crust

Crush or grind fine, or crumb in a blender as directed until very fine: 1 ½ cups of graham crackers, zwieback, vanilla or chocolate wafers, or gingersnaps

The flavor of the filling should determine which of the above to use. Stir into the crumbs until well blended:
¼ to ½ cup sifted confectioners sugar
6 Tbsp melted butter

Reserve 2 to 3 Tbsp of the crumb mixture. Pat the rest into the pan or press out to the desired thickness. Bake in a 350 oven about 10 minutes; cool completely. When the pie is filled, scatter the reserved crumbs as a toping.


In top of double boiler combine:
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp salt

Add, stir and cook over – not in – boiling water 10 minutes or until mixture thickens:
2 cups milk

Remove from heat. Beat slightly:
3 egg yolks

Stirring well, pour half of hot mixture into eggs. When smooth, return eggs to rest of hot mixture and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and add:
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla

Cool slightly.

Peel and slice thinly:
2 ripe bananas

Place them in the baked pie shell. Pour the cooled filling over them

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Apricot Chutney (2 versions)

“Oh my GAWD, Mom, not CHUTNEY again!?!?!” This must have been heard at least once a month in my house during the 70s. My mom made chutney often, and I, ummmm, didn’t appreciate it. In fact, I HATED it, and I FREAKED out when it was cooking – something about the vapors of boiling onion and ginger really seemed painful to me at the time. It wasn’t just that I refused to eat the stuff, but I literally howled and whined each time she made it. Oh, brother!

Since then, however, I’ve come to appreciate, and in fact to seek out, chutney – most often in the form of the English tea sandwich made with sharp cheddar and chutney, though also served as a side to meats. The extreme reaction of my youth is now just a ridiculous memory, so I decided (bravely) to attempt to make my own. OK not my own: I decided to make my mother’s chutney, the very recipe that used to send me running out of doors for fresh air as a child. A hitch, though, was the fact that my mom couldn’t find the book with the recipe she used all those years, but we were able to find a few similar ones that I cobbled together, with great success.

First, Madhur Jaffrey’s book on Vegetarian Cooking was one of my mom’s favorites, and in it there is an entire chapter on chutneys (!) so I had plenty of inspiration there. Second, The Joy of Cooking never fails, and sure enough there was a basic apricot chutney recipe there that looked very close to mom’s old favorite. Finally, I have to admit that I can’t stand raisins, so I left them out entirely, basically making Ms. Jaffrey’s recipe with the addition of ½ sautéed onion. The basic recipe is really tasty, and you can experiment with the various spices. Enjoy, even if it does scare your kids!

Apricot Chutney with Raisins and Currants

Madhur Jaffrey’s “World of the East Vegetarian Cooking” 1981

1 pound dried apricots
10 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
A 1x3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups red wine vinegar
2 cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
1/8 to ¾ tsp cayenne pepper
¾ cup golden raisins
½ cup currants

Put the apricots in a bowl. Pour 4 cups of hot water over them and let them soak for an hour.

Put the garlic and ginger into the container of an electric blender or a food processor along with ¼ cup of the vinegar. Blend until smooth.

Empty the apricots and their soaking liquid into a heavy stainless-steel or porcelain-lined pot. Add the garlic-ginger mixture, the remaining vinegar, sugar, salt and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Simmer on a medium flame, stirring frequently, for 45 minutes. Do not let the chutney catch at the bottom of the pot. Lower heat if necessary. Add the raisins and currants and cook, stirring, another half hour or until chutney takes on a thick, glazed look. (Remember that the chutney will thicken slightly as it cools.) Let the chutney cool and store, refrigerated, in lidded glass or ceramic jars.

Curried Apricot Chutney

“The Joy of Cooking” 1974 Edition

Combine and simmer for 30 minutes:

2 cups water
2 cups dried apricots (11 oz package)
¾ cup chopped onion
¼ cup sugar

In a separate pan, cook for 5 minutes:
1 ½ cups vinegar
1 tsp ginger
1 ½ to 2 ½ tsp. curry powder
1 stick cinnamon
½ tsp salt

You may remove the stick of cinnamon before combining the apricot and spiced vinegar mixture. Stir in:

2 cups white raisins (10 oz package)

Place in sterile jars and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.