Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and Sometimes, the Ugly

I don't know what went screwy with cooking in the 60's and 70's.  I almost came to you empty-handed this week, admitting failure to find a recipe from the 70's.  I spent the past few days going through not one or two, but five cookbooks, looking for something.  It was not easy.  My friend in Ohio graciously put up with my texted photos of dishes from the 'Better Homes and Gardens Salad Book', where there's a chapter called, 'Salads from the Freezer.'  And despite her insistence that I make a frozen salad...I just couldn't.  I couldn't.  But...hey, it's not summer yet, I may be inclined give it a go in a month or two...we'll see.

The decade strikes me as a time of brown food.  I know I've mentioned it before.  Look through any illustrated cookbook from then and tell me if you don't agree.  Everything has a brown or overly warm tint.  A very unappetizing tint, like they were trying to coordinate with every kitchen done in paneling and full of appliances and kitchenware in avocado green, mustard, or chocolate brown.  

After trying to find a feasible recipe in book after book, I pulled the 'Tassajara Cooking' book down from the shelf.  It even has a brown cover!  Released by the Zen Center of San Franciso, it is a vegetarian cookbook that is more guide than traditional step by step recipes.  From the first page, the laid back attitude is in evidence:  'The way to be a cook is to cook.  The results don't have to be just right, measuring up to some imagined or ingrained taste...Just feed, satisfy, nourish.'

The recipe I chose is the Bulgur-Tahini Casserole.  (Casseroles are so 70's.)  As written, the ingredient list and directions barely make a full paragraph, with an additional two longer paragraphs of variations!   So I varied.  I substituted red winter wheat berries for the bulgur.  The dish is not an attractive one once ready.  It was very brown from the wheat berries.  I'm tempted to try again using rice or millet.  It's got a quiche-y kind of consistency from the eggs, but has a chewiness from the wheat berries.  The tahini is a winning ingredient, because sesame is one of my favorite flavors.   Serve with a salad and you're good to go.

If you decide to give this a try, I would LOVE to see photos or hear what you think of it.  

Wheat Berries-Tahini Casserole
Adapted from the Bulgur-Tahini Casserole recipe in the Tasajara Cooking book
Serves 4

1 cup wheat berries (dry)
3 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk


Bring water to a boil in saucepan, add wheat berries, and cook over a low simmer until done to chewiness.  Drain any remaining water.  Grease a casserole pan (I used an 8 inch round Pyrex baker), and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic in pan until translucent, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.  In a medium bowl, crack eggs and beat lightly.  Add milk, tahini, and salt, whisking until relatively smooth.  Add onions and garlic, mixing well, then add wheat berries, stirring to thoroughly combine all ingredients.  

Pour mix into casserole and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cook for a few minutes before serving.  






Thursday, April 9, 2015

Right On Time

If I had stayed on schedule with the 'Throwback Thursday' posts I started in February, I should be posting a recipe from the 1980's this week.  Everything happens for a reason though, right?  Maybe it's not a coincidence that there were a couple of hiccups along the way and the week I cover the 60's is the same week that the final episodes of 'Mad Men' begin to air.  I am a huge fan of the show and well, I have yet to fully admit to myself that after these last seven episodes, it will be over.  Sometime in the near future, you may find me in a darkened room, bingeing on the series all over again.

This recipe is exactly the kind of dish I could see Betty Draper making as part of dinner where Don brings home a client to sweet talk into letting Sterling Cooper run their next advertising campaign.  She'd be wearing something pastel with a coordinating chiffon hostess apron--a cigarette in one hand, a potholder in the other as she opens the oven door and pulls out a Pyrex casserole filled to every nook with onions, golden and baked to perfection.  Simmering in a sauce of stock, honey, lemon, and butter, baked long enough that the onions keep their shape, but soften to the point where they practically melt in your mouth with each bite.  A dish so simple to pull together, just right to serve with roast chicken.  No...scratch that.  Not chicken.  Cornish hen.  Each guest made to feel special by having their own.  The kind of special gesture that convinces you that Don is your man.

The Spice Islands Cookbook, originally published in 1961, is a perfect example of a cookbook from the 60's.  Kitschy graphics, helpful charts, and lovely recipes such as Eggs in Aspic.  I wish I was kidding about that one.  I'm not.  But don't hold that recipe against the book.  It was the 60's, after all.

Baked Onions
Adapted from a recipe in The Spice Islands Cookbook
Serves 2-4

2 large yellow onions
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp lemon zest, grated
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tbsp panko bread crumbs
1 tsp black sesame seeds

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel outer skins from onions and slice in half.  Place in casserole of baking dish, large enough to hold onions, but not so small that onions are crowded.  In a small bowl, whisk together the stock, one tablespoon of the butter, salt, honey, paprika, and lemon zest.  Once mixed, pour oven onions.  Cover baking dish with foil and bake until onions are tender, 50 minutes to an hour.  In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter, adding the panko and sesame seeds, heating until slightly toasted.  Remove foil from baking dish, sprinkle bread crumbs over onions, and bake uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes, until crumbs turn golden brown.

Serve on their own or over rice.  








Thursday, April 2, 2015

Nothing in the House But Eggs

After being a little under the weather last week, where food was the last thing I wanted to think about, I am here and ready to tackle the next decade for the culinary #tbt series.  This week's cookbook is 'Potluck Cookery' by Beverly Pepper (appropriate for a cookbook author, no?) from 1955.  With the promise of being full of 'delightful ways to make a royal meal from leftovers or whatever you have on hand,' there are 320 recipes of what to do with leftover poultry, leftover vegetables, cheese, eggs, or cereals.

Recipe No. 305.  Eggs Parmentier, under the 'Nothing in the House but Eggs' section.  Parmentier.  You may have seen a similar recipe called Hachis or Hache Parmentier, looking vaguely like Shephard's Pie, with mashed potatoes and roast beef.  Keep the mashed potatoes, ditch the roast beef, add an egg or two, and you've got Eggs Parmentier.  You also have a perfect weekend brunch dish, just add a salad and mimosas.

Eggs Parmentier
Adapted from 'Potluck Cookery'
Serves 2

3 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled
2 eggs
2 slices prosciutto, chopped and crisped
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
pinch paprika

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a small baking dish or pie plate (about 6 inches in diameter).  Boil peeled and cut potatoes until tender, about 8-12 minutes, depending on size.  Drain water from potatoes, add 1 tbsp butter, salt, and 1/4 cup of the milk.  Mash potatoes by hand or with electric mixer.  Spread potatoes in baking dish, making two wells for eggs.  In a small frying pan, crisp the prosciutto, draining any excess fat.  Crumble prosciutto over potatoes and in wells.  Crack an egg in each well (don't worry if the whites spread over the potatoes a bit).  Sprinkle cheese and paprika over potatoes and eggs.

Bake until eggs are set to preference and edges of potatoes begin to brown, about 15-20 minutes.  










Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Household Seal of Approval

Part of the attraction for me to vintage cookbooks and vintage books in general is the incredible amount of care that went into the designs.  Think of pulp fiction novels from the 50's.  The enduring attraction, to some extent, is the cover artwork.  Vying for attention from shelves and newsstands of years gone by, they are brightly colored, titilating, and suggestive.  Some cookbooks of decades ago hold that same attraction for me.  So many cookbooks have amazing graphics and design--from embossed covers of intricate detail to illustrations with mid-century style and swagger.  While surface beauty wasn't the only factor that led to this week's cookbook pick, it did make me linger a little longer over my choice.

From 1941, The Household Searchlight Recipe Book came out of Topeka, Kansas.  I did a little research on The Household Magazine and discovered that it was pretty prolific for its time.  In 1931, it had a subscription circulation of over 1 million readers.  The Library of Congress even has an issue from 1926 in its digital archives, which is a treat to look through.  The recipe book has an extensive index of options, with recipes tested and given the 'Searchlight Seal of Approval,' which must have been the Topeka version of the Good Housekeeping seal.  The 'Sandwiches' section alone provided a plethora of options, which is what made it win out over the Trader Vic's cookbook that was also under consideration.  A lot of ingenious combinations, a lot of downright odd combinations, all under the categories of open faced or closed sandwiches, with gentle suggestions on what bread to use and whether to keep crusts on or off.

I could have chosen Pineapple Peanut Sandwiches, Baked Bean Sandwiches, Black Walnut Sandwiches, or even Coconut Sandwiches.  But I didn't.  What I did choose was the Fig Nut Sandwiches and the Carrot Sandwiches.  With some of the choices available here, your next tea party would be anything but ordinary.

I took liberty with the recipes since both called for a specific salad dressing to mix in.  I used what I had on hand, or just shaved enough off the recipe to make it still work without having to make anything more.

Carrot Sandwiches
Adapted from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book
Recipe courtesy of Eulalie Weber, Marysville, KS

1 large carrot, washed, top and root end trimmed
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
Arugula, washed
2 tbsp tahini dressing
2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted

In a food processor, grind peanuts to fine consistency, but not peanut butter.  With the shredder blade, add the carrot and pulse to combine.  Add dressing to bring to spreadable consistency.  You could easily use the same amount of vegetable or olive oil in place of the dressing.  Spread on one slice of toast with arugula, top with second slice and cut into triangles. 

Fig Nut Sandwiches
Adapted from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book

1 cup dried figs, about 8 or 9
1/4 cup almonds
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp mayonnaise
pinch of salt
baguette, sliced thin and grilled

Grind almonds in a food processor until minced but not ground too finely.  Add figs and grind until combined.  Add remaining ingredients and process until it becomes the consistenly of a chunky spread.  Spread on bageutte slices.








Thursday, March 12, 2015

#tbt Hiccup

Order is once again restored...and here I am.  Remember when I mentioned earlier this year that I knew 2015 was going to start off rough?  Well...I may have underestimated just how rough.  On top of a lot of little things that have just been piling up, I've been fretting over an upcoming surgery (which occurred this past Monday---I'm home, healing, and it was good news).  Of course...I really did bake last week with the next recipe (it was a good distraction for a few hours), I just didn't feel like having to sit down and write about it.

So, again...here I am.  Originally, I thought I may have been mistaken and didn't have any cookbooks from the 1930's.  But I did have a Sunset magazine or two, both containing recipes, and I had even chosen which one I was going to make.  Then...then I was tagged on Instagram (because there are people on there who know my love of vintage cookbooks and happily point out ones they think I may be interested in).  Turns out, it was for a cookbook I actually already have!  And the date was posted!  1934!  Serendipituous!  Right on cue!

My copy came off the bookshelf and after a flip or three through the pages--extremely worn, stained, torn, and battered pages-- I found the recipe for Coconut Ice Box Cookies.  You know the great thing about ice box cookies?  Anyone can make them.  Anyone.  And they'll be good, if not great.  These are also the best cookie to stash a batch in the freezer and when you have friends stopping by, pull it out, slice what you want, bake, and voila!  Cookies!  Buttery, coconut-ty, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.






Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Easy Way Out via 1928

'Any one can Bake,' according the cookbook of the same name from 1928, released by the Royal Baking Powder Company.  One of the more recent acquisitions to my cookbook collection, this is really a little gem.  I love the photos, table setting guides, and the recipes are pretty easy and straightforward.  I really could have made something a little more involved, a little more elaborate, but I opted for biscuits.  There is a recipe for a coffee cake that completely caught my attention, because who can turn down a good coffee cake?  But after the decadence of the brownies I made over the weekend, I thought it best to stay away from another indulgence of cake.

Biscuits are always a good pick in my book.  While they may be easy to make, I don't think they're always easy to be successful.  You can have 'okay' biscuits, 'good' biscuits, and 'awesome' biscuits.  I'm going to put this in the 'good' category.  A little flaky with a decent rise.  I halved the recipe and did use shortening.  I may have rolled them out too thinly, but honestly, once they were baked, split, and topped with a fried egg...they were fabulous.

Baking Powder Biscuits
Adapted from the Royal Master Recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits
Makes 6

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp shortening
3 fl oz milk

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add shortening and cut in with pastry blender or forks.  Gradually add milk to make a soft dough.  

Roll dough out of about a half-inch thickness and cut out with biscuit cutter.  Place biscuits on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until they are golden.

Serve warm with plenty of butter.






Monday, February 23, 2015

Wait! Stop What You're Doing!

Maybe you're a lot like me and think brownies are only ho-hum, not too special, you know...brownies.  Then you find yourself invited to an Oscars viewing party and you want to bring something.  You have no idea what you're going to make, other than something dessert-ish.  Then you're reading through your blogs feed and come across the latest post from Luisa Weiss, aka The Wednesday Chef.  She's writing about something called Boston Brownies from a German baker named Gerhard Jenne.  Brownies with cranberries in them.  Cranberries.  You think of your deep love of cranberries and think how right it is to combine the two.  And she's raving about them.  Raving...over brownies.  And there you have it.  You know what you're taking to that Oscars viewing party.

But that's not quite all of it.  You decide to use the Special Dark cocoa.  After the brownies are baked, still warm, fresh out of the pan, onto the cutting board where you're cutting them into their little squares, getting them ready for their party debut, you have to try a little piece to make sure they've turned out okay.  You bite into it.  You get a burst of cranberry as your teeth sink into the deep, dark chocolate.  And you find yourself holding onto the edge of the counter and saying to yourself...oh, fuuuuuddddggggeeee... (But it's not really 'fudge' that you're saying.)  It's that kind of brownie.  And you think to yourself....'Why don't I make brownies more often?'


Dark Chocolate Brownies with Cranberries
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef's adaptation of Gerhard Jenne's recipe
Makes One 8x8 inch pan (about 16-20 brownies)

3 eggs
175 grams sugar (1 1/3 cups)
175 grams butter (6 1/4 oz)
150 grams chocolate, preferably dark, mine was 64% (5 1/3 oz)
175 grams flour (1 1/3 cups plus 1 tbsp)
4 tbsp cocoa powder, preferably Hershey's Special Dark
1 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp salt
175 grams cranberries (6 1/4 oz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper.  Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  In a small bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt.  Whisk and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs and add sugar, whisking until combined and frothy.  In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then turn off heat and add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts.  Add chocolate mixture to eggs and sugar, whisking until combined.  Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Add cranberries and stir into batter.  Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Cut and serve.

Notes:  I followed Luisa's example and weighed the ingredients this time around.  I have a little kitchen scale that I got for $5.00.  It does the trick.  Regular cocoa will work just fine in this recipe, but I urge you to seek out the Special Dark.  It takes the fudginess to a whole other level and when you get a bite of the dark cake and tart cranberry, it is just magic.  Seriously.  You can use frozen cranberries, but the batter will seize as you're mixing the fruit in.  Luisa does mention this, also noting to work quickly, but I don't think I worked quickly enough, so a good 60-70% of my batter was a big seized lump.  But...I figured it would melt as it warmed in the oven, so I didn't worry too much.  Saying that, while Luisa says to bake for 25 minutes, mine baked for 40 minutes, maybe a little more (I also forgot to set a timer).  I'd bet the longer length of time is because for the first 20 or so minutes, I was obsessively opening the oven and spreading the batter over the pan as it gradually warmed.  So...my advice?  Thaw your berries and make sure they're room temperature.  Unless you want to deal with seized batter.





It's like this...really...