Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fiskebudding-Fish Pudding


Viking food. I served it with rye bread.

Anyway, the boys liked it, and most of it is already gone. I served it cold, but it can also be a hot meal. The pictures are terrible, but white food is pretty difficult to photograph. If I wanted to be really Midwestern in the presentation I would have served it with cauliflower in white sauce, on a white plate. That's very Midwestern. That really would have made a poor photograph.

Hey, guess what I saw today? A nine year old with frosted hair, or highlights, or whatever they call it now. It matched her mother's. That was in West Omaha, which is supposed to be where the "nice" people live. Why do people dress their daughters that way? Good god, let them be children for a while before you're frosting their hair and buying them clothing that makes them look like tarts. I know this has nothing to do with fish pudding, but I'm still kind of disturbed by it. An older man asked me why I looked so sad today. I guess that's it-so very sad. How can it be anything but?

Right, the fish pudding then. It is easy enough to do, and if you have a food processor, probably even simpler.

From The Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery volume "D" for Danish Cookery...like Vikings!

You Will Need:

1 pound lean white fish (I used cod)
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons each AP flour and cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup milk at room temperature
Breadcrumbs for mould

Grind fish, or whirl in a blender a small amount at a time until smooth. You should have 2 cups of fish. Add butter, flour and cornstarch. Add seasonings to taste and beaten egg. With an electric mixer, blend in the milk a very small bit at a time until absorbed (wear an apron-it will splash).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Set a pan of hot water in the oven to heat and have boiling water ready to top it off after adding the mould. Butter a 1 quart mould or loaf pan and dust with dry breadcrumbs. Pour in the fish, set in a water bath and bake 1 hour, or until done. Mine took about 10 minutes longer. Remove from pan of water and either serve warm, or chill several hours before serving.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Raspberry Lime Syrup


Mix it with lemon-lime soda and have a raspberry lime rickey. The recipe makes just a bit over a pint. It didn't seem worth canning. If you decide to do a couple half pints, run it through a water-bath canner for 5 minutes.

You Will Need:

(about) 1 1/2 lbs. fresh raspberries
water


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice
Place berries in a pot and crush with a potato masher. Add just enough water to keep it from scorching. Boil gently for about ten minutes. Drain through a jelly bag, or layers of cheesecloth in a sieve over a bowl. Let drain slowly-about 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, mix juice with sugar, corn syrup and lime juice. Bring to a full rolling boil. Boil one minute longer. Pour into sterilised jars. If canning, seal and process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes. If not, let cool, then cover and store in the fridge. Makes about 1 1/2 pints.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And Then I Started To Wonder...

"...if I could inject cubes of cheese with marmite, batter them, and toss them in hot fat.?"

Fried cheese is sort of a thing, right? I'm not sure cheddar would hold up-it would need a pretty thick breading. So then, I start thinking, "Hey, what if I made a marmite and cheese toasty and dipped it in a good beer batter, and fried it?"

I haven't done either yet, but I probably won't be able to sleep tonight unless I do. These, my friends are the things that keep me awake nights.

It Set!-Watermelon Rosewater Jelly

After two weeks of sitting on the storage shelf, the watermelon/rosewater jelly has set almost completely. Sometimes it really does take a while for certain fruits to solidify, and I really had my doubts. I'm pleased to report that it can withstand a small child turning the jar upside down to see if it moves. I really need to get him to stop doing that.

The power of pectin!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spinach And Cheese Strudel



Honestly, "strudel" is a bit of a stretch. It is rolled like a strudel, but that's about it. I adapted it from a recipe in Jewish Vegetarian Cooking by, Rose Friedman. This is a British vegetarian cookbook as well, which if you know anything about British vegetarianism, particularly in the 70's, you'll know that it makes use of some oddball combinations. Thankfully, this didn't call for any mashed parsnips, or the like.

I was concerned the pastry would be difficult to work with, but it went quite smoothly. I needed dramatically less water than the recipe called for, but with pastry you should always add it sparingly until your dough comes together. If you've been looking for a way to ease into using whole wheat flour, this might be a good transition. The boys both really liked the dinner. Because it does not have any meat substitutes, re-heating should go fine. I imagine they will probably just get eaten cold for lunch tomorrow. The recipe makes four substantial "strudels."

You Will Need:

Pastry:

1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
2 tablespoons shredded Gouda cheese (I used Swiss)
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs (I used thyme and parsley)
1/2 cup margarine (I don't buy margarine, so I used butter)
2/3 cup ice water ( I needed about half of it)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine flour, cheese and herbs in a bowl. Cut in butter. Combine lemon juice with water and add a tablespoon at a time tossing it over the dough until it comes together in a ball. Gather it up and roll it out quickly into a rectangle. Give it three turns like making puff pastry (in both directions) and then wrap in cling film. Chill until needed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

For The Filling:

2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup butter
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon paprika (I used a tablespoon-we really like paprika here)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup "curd cheese" (I used cottage cheese I drained and put through a food mill)
1/2 cup Gouda, shredded (I used Swiss and Cheddar)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups cooked and drained frozen spinach (Squeeze out excess water through a dishtowel)

In a large pan, cook the onions and garlic in butter until golden. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley and salt/pepper, and paprika. Cook a few minutes to blend, then remove from heat.

Reserve about a tablespoon of the egg for brushing the tops. Add the rest to the cheese, cottage cheese, spinach, and onion mixture. Blend together well.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each into a very thin rectangle. Spread the filling in the centre of each, leaving a good margin around the edges. Roll-up like a strudel. Pinch closed and place on a well-greased, or parchment lined baking sheet. Combine reserved egg with a bit of water and brush on strudels. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Royal Booger

Philip forgot to bring the hankies again, and it is allergy season.

Rhubarb Cordial-and Algebra


Boozebarb!

After two weeks of cut-up rhubarb stalks soaking in vodka, I removed the rhubarb and strained the liquid through a fine mesh sieve. I made a simple syrup of 1 cup water to 1 1/2 cups sugar. You can adjust this. If you really, really don't want to water down your precious hooch, remove some of it to a pan and just barely warm it with caster sugar, whisking until dissolved. This should keep the alcohol from burning off. return it to the rest.

I'm going to try and get some strawberry juice this week-with plenty of ice, this should make a delicious mixer. Lemonade would work too.

The rhubarb joins the homemade limoncello and vin orange in the fridge.

My five year old just asked if I know where his linear algebra book is. I'm listening to him talking to his papa:

"Wait, I have to figure this out...x stands for the number I don't know..."

We're still trying to figure out where he learned about free variables. Best we can figure, he really WAS reading the linear algebra book. Yikes.

How To Get What You Want

-By being dishonest, manipulative, and if all else fails, postive thinking.
(Except for the next to last person in the article who filled her response with so much self-help-pop-psychology-Oprah-code-speak, that I had to stop reading. I don't care how sincere a person is, when I read, "Blessed", "Pay it forward", "Random acts of kindness", and "Attitude" in the same sentence, I tune out. It sounds rehearsed).

OK, I get it-an editor for Cosmopolitan wrote a self-help book (nah, that isn't a punchline) and is promoting it, so the paper went out and asked local women how they "get what they want."

I know Omaha is a small city, but you couldn't find better responses than these? Crying? Come on, this is a freaking adult? You have to take some disappointment in life. If your spouse didn't want a dog, and you cried to manipulate him into agreeing...I don't know. I wouldn't want to be in a marriage like that. Geez, can you imagine that level of bullshit game-playing? I know people live like this, but it sure does sound unpleasant. I guess as long as you got what you wanted, that's all that matters.

No wonder all these surveys keep telling us young people think nothing of cheating on exams.

Don't Forget Your Towel

Happy Towel Day

-and DON'T PANIC

Monday, May 24, 2010

Improvised Corn Salad


Here's what you do with three ears of corn that were moving into "use it or lose it" territory.

You Will Need:

3 ears corn, kernels removed
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 sage leaves, chopped
Salt/Pepper
Cider Vinegar/Oil adjusted to your taste
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
Pinch sugar

Cook the corn in a pan of water until tender. I like a bit of sugar in the water when I cook corn, but you can skip it if you prefer. Drain, mix with everything else. Adjust ratio of oil/vinegar and slat/pepper. I can't really tell you how much to use-it will depend on your tastes. Place in a large jar and shake once in a while. Keeps about 4-5 days in the fridge.

Baba Ganoush


I'm slowly convincing my eggplant hating family that there are other uses for eggplant than tossing it in the dustbin.

You Will Need:

2 small, or 1 large eggplant
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons thick plain yoghurt (I drained mine through cheesecloth to get rid of the excess liquid)

In a 400 degree F. over roast the eggplants after pricking them all over with a fork. This should take about 40 minutes, but possibly more-it should pretty much collapse into a shriveled blob. Like my ass. You probably haven't seen my ass, but you get the idea.

Cut the eggplants open, scrape out the pulp with a spoon and transfer to a bowl. Cool slightly. Add other ingredients except youghurt and mash well. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Stir in youghurt. Adjust salt and pepper and chill before serving Top with sliced black olives if you like.

Falafel


The boys ate every last piece-I'll take that as positive feedback. Some people insist that the trick to good falafel is not cooking the chickpeas, but merely soaking and grinding them. I've never had good luck with that method-they always fall apart. This works well for me. I did not use a food processor or blender to break up the chickpeas. I used a great, big, heavy chef's knife. Use what you're most comfortable with, though try not to over-process if you use a machine. You still want some chickpea texture.

Night Before:
Soak a big bowl of chickpeas. You might as well do more than you need for falafel so you can make a batch of hummus at the same time. Why heat up your house cooking more beans than you have to?

Day Of Cooking:

3 cups cooked chickpeas, skins removed and then chopped (the chickpeas, not the skins. Throw the skins away)
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt/Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons flour (I used Wondra, but AP is fine) You may need more

Mix everything together. It should hold together in a ball-if not, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Gather mixture into a ball, place it in a bowl and chill it an hour or two before using.

Heat your oil about 3 inches deep in a heavy pot. I like mine around 375 degrees F. Though it always spikes a bit higher between batches. Just keep an eye on it. Use an oil with a high smoking point-I used a soybean oil.

Shape falafels and drop a few at a time into hot fat. Fry until deeply browned. Cut one open and check for doneness-it should not be completely dry-you want them to have a bit of moisture. Drain on rack and serve immediately. Makes about a dozen good sized falafel.

The Betty Crocker Castle




-you know, the one from the cookbook that you always wanted to bake as a kid, but didn't. I really should have leveled that base, eh? Oh well, you don't have to live in it-the castle is made of cake.

The cookbook suggested a boxed mix a can of frosting. It has been a while since I bought either, but I have to think trying to frost this with the stuff in the can would be frustrating. I never could get prepared frosting to spread.

Danny made the flags-all states in the country of Dannystan of which he is monarch. Dictator. Tyrant. Well, you get the idea. He has it all figured out, like when he's dictator of the world all the stickers kids buy will be re-stickable. I think that's reasonable actually. He's right, there ought to be a law...

We had fun baking it, which really is the point. You know, the problem with that cookbook is that I now have a craving for grape soda and vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bunnies

The bunnies have been coming up close to the window by Danny's desk. He spends a good deal of time watching them. They're quite small-really itty-bitty little things. Tonight, we went outside, and left them a carrot.

Those silly bunnies ignored the carrot, feasting instead on the long stems of dandelions they slurp-up like spaghetti noodles. I'm glad for the help with the dandelions, of course, but it would be nice if they'd eat the carrot. I wonder, do bunnies even eat carrots, or is that something I came to accept as fact based on cartoons?

I suppose it would be the height of cheapness to go outside, retrieve the carrot so Danny thinks they ate it, and then wash and cook it. Would that be gross? I mean, they didn't actually eat it, and carrots grow outside...yeah OK, it was a supermarket carrot I shoved in the ground. You're right. I think. Yeah, you're right. No, I'm not going to do it..at least I don't think I will. Maybe. Probably not.

I Could Use Some Advice On Skincare

We have really hard water, and very few soap/cleansing products wash cleanly off my face. I have been washing my face with Neutragena (I probably spelled that wrong-I don't look at the bottle, I just use the soap to wash my face) liquid. I like it, and a small amount really does a great job removing the daily grime I get from cooking and living on a farm full of dirt. Except in Summer.

I'm sure something like witch hazel would help with the grime feeling I get in hot weather-but I have very dry skin. Very dry, sensitive skin. I really hate investing in a million bottles of products only to toss them out. I also need to avoid anything with nut butters/oils due to allergy concerns with Danny. I just had to toss out shampoo because of almond oil.

Does anyone have a good recommendation? I seem to remember using Noxema cream in the jar a million years ago, but I have no idea what that would do to my skin. I still have a pretty vivid memory of it being used to remove oil-based stage makeup when I was six. Unfortunately, that was when the first few chickenpox erupted, and the combination of oil based makeup and Noxema...you know, my mother was always encouraging me to "project" on stage, because I was kind of soft-spoken. No one was coaching me to project once that shit hit the chicken pox pustules. I just had a flashback-if I do end up buying Noxema I need a giant bottle of Jean Nate. Do they still make that? I really want a bottle of it. You know what else was great? Midnight In Paris perfume. I loved that-why oh why did they have to stop making it? Noxema smelled pretty bad, didn't it?

OK Internets hive mind-I'm hoping you have some good suggestions. It has to be inexpensive though-I just want to wash my face, I'm not obsessing about wrinkles, and the like (too damn late for that).

Saturday Afternoon In Lincoln, Nebraska

Mr. ETB managed to rip off part of his muffler going over a railroad crossing. By Saturday, the car was still sitting in the lot at work (where he'd been, without sleep for the last 48 hours looking at a computer trying to make things work). I dressed as lightly as I could without being indecent (not that my middle aged saggy boobs don't look terrific falling out of a tank top-because they do, but it really wouldn't be proper to be waving those things all over town-not the nice part of town. I save that sort of thing for grocery shopping in Wahoo) as it was our first 90 degree F. day, and with Danny in the backseat, headed into Lincoln to get his car towed to a muffler shop. Yeah, I brought Mr. ETB lunch too.

Here's a helpful tip for anyone thinking about visiting Lincoln, Nebraska (I mean other than, "don't" which is always my first thought-and a good thought at that) South 14th street does not go all the way through. You end up in some sort of maze of public works offices, which if you understand where you are is probably easy enough to navigate. Yeah, I didn't know where I was. I did end up figuring it out easily enough-I have an incredible sense of direction. I have no idea why, but I consider it a gift. A gift that was helpful living all those years in Boston. Lincoln is confusing, but you won't end up in Rhode Island if you miss a turn.

Have I mentioned how hot it is, and I don't have air conditioning in my car, and there's a 45 mph wind tossing us all over the road? Yeah, that was fun. So we find his workplace, call AAA, and I clean out my car while waiting for the tow truck. It was kind of hot, but I'd just filled gallon jugs of water at the store, so I held the bottle of water, stuck in a straw (you don't keep extra straws in the glove box? What sort of a mother doesn't have extra straws in the glove box?) and let Danny drink from it.

"Mama? I don't think this is polite."
"Sure it is baby, you're in Lincoln. A straw is totally classy by Lincoln standards."

Finally, the tow truck arrives. I guess I knew this wasn't going to be my typical tow-truck experience because the guy jumped from the truck to shake my hand. Granted, my local tow-truck guy has a deformed hand ala Bob Dole, which may account for the not extending it, but really, I just think it was weird. Which brings me to an observation I've made about Lincoln, Nebraska:

Every interaction I have with someone from Lincoln, Nebraska is either reminiscent of the movie Gummo, or The Music Man (or on occasion the Simpsons take on The Music Man with the "Monorail" skit). Tow-truck guy was the later. I was really glad he didn't sing, but I was afraid he might. We recently had a door-to-door salesman come to the house selling some sort of health care service, and he gave off the same vibe, but with a bit of serial killer mixed in. I spoke to him through a locked door. He didn't sing either, but he really seemed like he might. He was freakishly tall and greeted me with:
"Hello Ma'am, my name is Joe Xyzmultisyllable, my name is as long as I am tall, but I have something you'll find very interesting..."

Have you ever had the experience where you're speaking to someone, or in this case listening and you think, "I might not get out of this alive." It feels much worse when you're trapped alone in your home rather than on a public street, but I did keep one hand on the telephone ready to dial 911. He finally left, apparently pulling the same exact routine at all the houses down the rural road (which is like, I dunno-five). I don't think he was a very good salesman. He might have a future in musicals, if he can sing.

Introductions out of the way, tow-truck guy crawled under the car to have a look. Mind you, I wanted to just take the damn thing up with duct tape, and roll it down the street to the muffler place, but Mr. ETB is kind of middle class when it comes to things like that. I use what I have. I needed a headband this morning, so I took and old knee-sock and tied the ends together. I now have a white headband. That's how I do things. I would have duct taped the muffler, were I alone.

"You know", he told me "I could just saw it off."

Again, we'd be talking about a tow of less than a mile, but on the hottest day of the year, Music Man decides to crawl under the car and remove the muffler-a task that took much longer than a tow down the street. I think he just wanted to get all macho, and impress me with his pliers and hacksaw. Never underestimate the power of middle aged cleavage.

"Hey", he tells me "You'd better get this replaced right away if he has to commute to Lincoln every day."
"Yeah?"

At this he slid partly out from beneath the car, and in a low, conspiratorial, voice- like someone might hear us in an empty parking lot over the noise of a railroad track and 45 mph wind:

"Yeah, Lincoln police are (again, he whispers) assholes."

True
enough, but hardly a secret. In fact, driving in I saw the police helicopter hovering low over an outdoor street party being held at the Salvation Army. Maybe they were afraid one of the destitute would take an extra cupcake or something. It really struck me as horrible, in a police state kind of way. I didn't notice any police state-ish activity once I got into South Lincoln. I didn't notice anything-it almost felt rural. At that point I was no longer afraid he was about to sing, but I did wonder if he was going to tell me about the chip in his head.
Dude, they can hear your thoughts.

After making use of an assortment of tools, Mr. Tow Truck guy finally removes the muffler. That was kind of funny-you could see where it was completely worn through and had actually been getting dragged along for quite some time before finally being pulled down. That car. We bought it after our other car was wrecked in the tornado. It cost $1,000.00 and we've put about the same into it, but it runs. Bonus fun-he bought it from a guy with a monkey. No really, I'm serious, the mechanic has a pet monkey-how awesome is that? A guy with a pet monkey isn't going to rip you off on a car. I don't have any statistics to back that up, save for my own anecdotal evidence (anecdotal based on one purchase because I've never bought another car from someone with a pet monkey, but still), but he's a good guy, who sold us a good car, even if it looks like a complete piece of shit. And he has a pet monkey. Come on, you think that's cool too. I wish I had a pet monkey. A complete shit-mobile inside (and it has a leaky roof, mould and god knows what else-but it runs. Mr. ETB has pretty low standards for automobiles, and in a way it is reassuring that if he decides to have some sort of mid-life crisis, he won't be out cruising chicks. No woman will get into that car, unless she's dragged in. I don't think he has the upper body strength to abduct anyone. He can't push the lawnmower.

"I'll just put the muffler in the trunk for you, if you open it."
"Oh...I really don't need it, can't we just leave it in a dumpster...or..."
"Oh no, you'll want this for parts. These are all original."

Original, but completely rusted. We're not talking about a collector's car. We're talking about a car from the early 90's. Sure, it has a turbo engine, which I guess is kind of rare for this car, but really, that muffler is going to sit in my garden shed, probably until we move.

"Mama? Are you sure this is classy?"
"Sure, baby. You don't want to get dehydrated."

I did make him go inside to use the restroom because I thought peeing along the railroad tracks in South Lincoln is probably some sort of felony, and you never know when the helicopter might be swooping by.

Finally, if you were the elderly man in the right lane with your windows down stopped at 27th and Cornhusker when someone went screeching through the light at what was probably 90 mph...thank you for laughing at my outburst. Some days, I think no one else understands when I'm channeling my grandmother.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Where'd he get his driver's license? In a Cracker Jack box?!"

God, I hope I don't need to go there again any time soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sugar Cookies


These are from the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. The cookies were a compromise-Danny really wanted me to bake him the cake shaped like a castle-which I will do for his half-birthday next month. I need to get hold of some pink pillow mints. Anyway, we bought a large container of decorations at the kitchen store today (yeah, I could tell you a long, upsetting story about my broken hand mixer, but eh, that was three batches of cookies ago and I'm over it). Now, when I was a youngster, we had coarse coloured sugar, jimmies, and sometimes, if it was a really special occasion those silver dragees that they had to stop making because they had some toxic ingredient in them (gosh, I ate so many of those as a child in my desperate searches of the kitchen cabinets looking for anything resembling candy that wasn't labeled, "dietetic." Kind of amazing I'm still alive. I don't know what the hell my mother had so many jars of them for-it wasn't like she was going to bake a cake or anything).

As I was saying, we didn't have sprinkles bearing the likenesses of dinosaurs, dolphins, stars and moons, and the like. Oh yeah, we had cinnamon hearts-but those sucked, and I always wanted to puke after eating more than three or four. Hey, have you ever had cookies baked with margarine and Sweet and Low? I have-and they weren't very good. At all. Even silver dragees wouldn't help that. Besides, our baking powder in the cabinet was always something like five years out of date, or she'd end up using the bicarb from the open box in the fridge that was there as an odour absorber. Along with the dragees, we had the oddest collection of extracts ever brought together in one place. Really, by the mid-70's when I discovered them, the flavours had been discontinued for well over a decade. Citron? Kirsch? Root beer? They sounded so exotic...and tasted so terrible, surreptitiously swigged straight from the bottle. Except for the butterscotch extract-that was actually good, and could get you pretty buzzed if you drank enough of it. Which I did. Once. All at once.

Five dollars worth of candy toppings for baked goods might sound extravagant to you-and it should. I could have gone to Ben Franklin, and bought better sugar decorations for less money, but they don't sell mixers (at least, I don't think they do) and it would have required a trip to Lincoln. Hey everybody, look at the cute little dinosaurs in the jar!

These cookies are...mediocre. Not good, not bad, but oh-so-easy for a small child to manage shaping and decorating. That's all that mattered to Danny-getting those suns, moons, stars and dinosaurs arranged just-so on the cookies.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup soft shortening (I used butter)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (I omitted because Danny really dislikes lemon)
1 egg (I used a large one)
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups Ap flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a few baking sheets. Set out a glass and a bowl of sugar Grease the bottom of the glass.

Form into balls from about a teaspoon of dough. Dip glass in sugar and flatten cookies. Leave about 2 inches apart on sheet (on my large sheets I got 12 each). Decorate as you prefer-just do it generously, avoiding those toxic silver dragees your mother might still have in the kitchen cabinet from 1973 along with kirsch extract.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on racks. Makes 3 dozen.

The Dialogue On My Icebox

Geez. It kind of makes me wonder what's been going on in the kitchen after I go to sleep.

E.O. Wilson's Bedtime Stories

Kiddo is curled up in bed with a book on biodiversity. I have to think this is an improvement over sleeping with his well-worn copy of The Magic Mountain. I mean, Wilson is kinda' heavy handed, but at least he leaves spirituality out of it. Mann didn't know shit about fire ants either.

It was ants that started this new fascination. Danny had been watching the ants in the bathroom on their trails (yes, I have ants in my bathroom-don't act like you don't). He wondered if a colony of fire ants is a match for a hive of paper wasps.

"Lets ask Edward O. Wilson." I suggested.

I looked through the books I had, but nothing specific.

"Can't we just call him, and ask?"


Yeah. Can you imagine calling over to the biology department at Harvard, and asking for Wilson because your five year old has some questions about fire ants? I let him take the book to bed, and read himself to sleep. As he drifted off, I could hear him sounding out species names, slowly, syllable, by syllable.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Instructions For Baking Brownies...

...for the Pentagon.

Shortening, huh? I guess they need a certain shelf life, going into MRE's.

First Synthetic Life Form

I'm not too concerned that Venter is "playing God", but I've watched enough science fiction movies to be really concerned that it might get out of the lab-and breed. We probably wouldn't notice.

I haven't seen/heard a single mention of this in the US press today. I guess it has to get in line after the latest on American Idol, and the last episode of Lost.

My goodness, what an exciting time we live in.

James Beard Buttermilk Bread


Just perfect. Recipe and details later (or tomorrow).

The Other "Eat The Blog"

How cool.

He's eating better than I am-save for the wheatgrass. I'm not eating wheatgrass again. Ever.

I suspected there was another "eat the blog" out there, based on some of the searches bringing people to my blog. Anyway, go over and have a look at how people who live in real cities get to eat. I'm sort of envious-well, not of the wheat grass.

Pennsylvania Dutch Cabbage Salad-Gourmet May, 1973


I'll need to consult with Mr. ETB later, to see if this salad is authentic. His mother was making something like this the evening she went into labour with Mr. ETB, but called it something like"Pepper slaw." Isn't that a wonderful story? How very Pennsylvanian.

I have no idea if this salad will induce labour, but if you're late enough, and uncomfortable enough, well farting raw cabbage in the delivery room will probably be a small price to pay. For you, anyway. Pooping in the bed as you push is quite another story...(I had a C-Section, so I missed out on all the fun of screaming at my husband and taking a crap in the delivery room. Damnit).

You Will Need:

3 cups shredded red cabbage
2/3 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup minced celery
1 green pepper, stemmed and seeded and finely minced
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all, mix well and chill.

Peperoni Ripieni (Stuffed Green Peppers) Gourmet, May 1972


These stuffed peppers are intended to be served cold, as a salad course.

You Will Need:

2-3 small-ish green peppers, tops removed and seeded
1 cup fresh bread crumbs soaked in 1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons minced olives
3 tablespoons minced pickled vegetables (I had carrots and onions)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon minced anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a bowl, mix everything together, then remove to a cutting board and chop until it is a paste. Pack into peppers, drizzle with a bit of oil, and place in a small, greased baking dish with a lid. Bake covered, at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes. remove lid, bake another 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and cool. Then, chill several hours before serving cut in wedges.

Norwegian Flatbrod-Gourmet, August 1973


Look, I made flatbrod (you'll have to imagine a slash through the "o"). I'm not sure, this might be the Saunder's County equivalent of "going native." Or maybe that would be lefse. I don't know. If I start drinking their disgusting gin it might be time to worry.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups rye flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup buttermilk

Sift together dry ingredients. Beat egg with milk and cooled, melted butter. Mix into four. Knead until smooth. Divide into 2 balls. Roll each to a round that is 1/2 inch thick. Bake on buttered baking sheets 20-25 minutes, or until deeply browned. Cool on racks.

Egg and Olive Loaf -Gourmet August, 1973


They called it a "Hard-Boiled Delight." Maybe, in 1973. It avoids the "egg-salad-y-ness" (marvel at my inventiveness, please) by using an entire stick of butter, in place of mayonnaise.

I really can't make anything involving hard-boiled eggs without thinking of the Kids in the Hall skit about making egg salad. I looked on YouTube-it isn't there. Sorry. Funny though, really.

So anyway, you might want to reserve this for those special occasions when a sliced terrine of hard boiled eggs, butter and olives is called for. I'm not sure when that might actually be, but you'll just know when the time is right. Hey, at least I didn't coat it in aspic.

You Will Need:

12 hard boiled eggs(and eggs were only 88 cents a dozen this week. Perfect!)
1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup pimento stuffed olives, diced
2 tablespoons minced onion
Salt and pepper
(I added some radishes from the garden to be extra fancy)

Peel the eggs while still warm by running under cold water. Place in a bowl with the butter and with a potato masher, mash them coarsely. Stir in the rest. Line a loaf pan with buttered wax paper and pack in the eggs. Chill several hours before serving in slices.

I just know Mr. ETB will poop his pants with joy when he sees this in the fridge!

"Animals That Mate In A Dignified Way"

Presented without comment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Glorious Sponge Cake-Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, 1950 ed.


I won't say "only an idiot can screw-up a spongecake", but it is pretty hard to do. Just make sure your eggs are room temperature before you start, and add the sugar slowly.

I filled mine with a layer of apricot jam, and a layer of strawberry. The frosting is just a thick glaze made with confectioner's sugar and cream.

You Will Need:

10 inch ungreased tube pan

6 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat egg yolks in a large bowl until very thick. Slowly add sugar-about a tablespoon at a time, mixing well each time. Continue beating until quite thick (about 5 minutes). Mix together the water, extract, and peel. Add, alternating with the sifted flour in two additions. Set aside.

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until they hold stiff peaks (but not as stiff as for an angel food cake-they should hold, but not be dried out).

Pour the egg mixture over the whites and fold in gently. Pour into tube pan. With a butter knife, cut, beginning at centre in widening circles around cake to burst any air bubbles. Place pan on a baking sheet (just in case).

Bake about 1 hour, or until cake springs back when lightly touched with fingertips. Invert on a funnel and hang to cool. Gently pry sides loose with a thin knife. Fill and frost (or not) as you like.

TV Eye On Me

The mascots for the 2012 London Olympics were introduced today... how completely appropriate that they have a giant eye-like a CCTV camera!

Insert Orwell joke here__________________.

The comment thread is pretty amusing reading as well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Squirrel Infestation

Been there, done that. Still doing it, actually. I must say though, if I had them leaping out of the closet at me, I'm not so sure I could handle it.

Last weekend, I needed something from the attic, and I could hear scrambling in the walls up there. Since the weather warmed, I thought they had all retreated outside-silly me. Still, I live in an old farm house in the country-it would be a much different situation in a city apartment.

Our squirrels aren't that bright. We watched one clinging to the very edge of a far branch on the tree, swinging violently in the wind. He couldn't jump, and it was too windy to climb back. For a good thirty minutes, that stupid squirrel swayed back and forth until it finally figured out how to get back down. Next day, same squirrel (I assume) in the same spot, swaying off the same branch in high winds again. Danny found it all terribly amusing.

I hear they're interesting prepared as a confit-just don't use the brains, as they carry some horrible disease.
Even if you don't care about mad-squirrel-brain disease, you should read the article out of anthropological interest for the description of the ceremonial presentation and eating of the squirrel brains. Really, just go read it.

Squirrels-the new rats.

Watermelon Rosewater Jelly

Yes, the glass looks cloudy-we have very hard water. In the morning, I'll wipe the jars with vinegar, and they'll sparkle.
I love the way the afternoon light comes through my West facing kitchen window. Yes, that's my laundry hanging on the rack in the background. If you laugh at my floral granny nightie, I'll come over and kick your teeth it. Gosh, that sure is pretty jelly.

Updated-After two weeks it has set almost completely upon storage. Sometimes this happens with plum jelly, so I was pleased to see this came together. It still isn't what I'd call "stiff", but it isn't a fruit syrup either.


Well, "jelly" is a bit of stretch as it is quite runny. I used pectin, so I don't think it is a matter of it failing to set-this may simply be the nature of watermelon. I don't know. It is about the thickness of honey-OK maybe a bit thicker, and you can certainly spread it on toast. I might try it again without pectin and just cook the daylights out of it to see if it gels.

The flavour is, according to Mr. ETB, "A bit like Turkish Delight."

I can see that, what with the lemon and rosewater. The watermelon flavour was not pronounced, but again, rosewater can be pretty overpowering. The other jars may well set up, as they went through the canner, and the one we ate from tonight did not. I've had some jellies like plum take a few days of sitting to firm. Again, I can't find much out there about watermelon jelly and this may be part of the reason. I would certainly make it again-if only as a sauce. I wish I had some lemon sorbet, or orange sherbet to pour it over.

Here's what I did:

3 1/2 cups strained watermelon juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 cups granulated sugar
1 box powdered pectin
1 teaspoon rose water
1 lemon, thinly sliced

In a large pot, combine juice, lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in rosewater and pour into sterilised jars. Place a lemon slice in each jar. Wipe treads clean and seal. process ten minutes in a water bath canner. Makes 6-7 half pints.

Carrots With Hard Boiled Egg Dressing-Gourmet April 1973


Are you sick of the Gourmet recipes yet? Danny said he is, but I think he's just being contrary-he really liked the carrots. They went fast-always a good sign.

You Will Need:

2 bunches of carrots (I used about 6 medium sized carrots) cut into matchsticks
4 hard boiled egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Salt and pepper

Blanch the carrots for 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to refresh. Drain again and dry. Chill.

When carrots are cold, make the dressing by combining egg yolks with mustard by mashing them with a fork. Add the vinegar and creme fraiche and seasonings. You may need more vinegar if it is too thick. Serve well chilled.

Clean Out The Bins Bubble and Squeek



I need to go grocery shopping. I decided to use up my last head of cabbage tonight so I can wash the veggie bins out. This is a good use for a not-so-new head of cabbage. I feel stupid giving a recipe for this, as you can use anything you have.

You Will Need:

Cold, leftover mashed potatoes(about 6 cups)
Then, for the filling:

1 small head cabbage, finely shredded and then chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin corn, rinsed and drained
Olive oil
Dried rosemary
Dried thyme
Salt/Pepper
1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Flour for dusting and butter/oil for frying

In a large pot, cook the vegetables and herbs in the oil until softened. The cabbage should pretty much collapse after about ten minutes. Add more oil if it starts sticking. I almost never say this with respect to vegetables-cook the stuff to death. I really mean it-cook it until it is very nearly mush. Remove from heat, cool.

Mix cooled filling with cold mashed potatoes and mix well. Form into patties and roll in AP flour. Set on a plate and chill them for at least half an hour before frying in a small amount of oil/butter. Serve well browned and hot.

Pretty Exotic

I used the last of my watermelon today to make jelly. With lemon slices and rosewater. Yeah, I know-but if you go to the bother of making jelly, it really ought to be something you can't buy at Hy Vee.

I'll have a recipe and observations after they cool-probably late tonight, or tomorrow. Now I'm all excited to try lavender/orange flower water, or maybe grapefruit and tarragon. All I need are people willing to eat the stuff. There's always that moment where you're afraid it may not gel-and then it does, and you stand there over the pot, spoon in hand marveling at science.

The colour is really beautiful. I wonder if people would pay money for this stuff?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Watermelon Rind Update

We popped open a jar tonight, and it tastes like candied citron-with honeydew. I like it, but I have no clue what to do with six jars of it. The syrup would be delicious with some seltzer as a sort of lemon-ginger ale.

And in other news:

I reached up to scratch the top of my head, and felt a large-ish bump. I leaned over and asked Mr. ETB. to see if I had a mole or something growing:

"No mole, but you do have a large tick...hang on."

So he pulls this thing off the top of my head, and I nearly died. I have no problem pulling them off the dog, but in ten years of living out here, this was the first one that ended up on me. On my head. Just ick. Funny thing is, I was only in the garden for half an hour-tops. Just long enough to get the seedlings transplanted. Apparently, that's enough time for a tick to drop out of a tree onto your head.

Just to be on the safe side, old doggie got the once over and a bath tonight too. Now we all smell pretty, and are tick free. I'm going to be nervously rubbing my hand across my head for weeks now. Blech. The thing was going om nom nom on my head.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Watermelon Granita and Watermelon Rind Preserves



I brought home a good sized watermelon for three dollars, and I didn't want to waste any of it. I'm the only one here that really likes watermelon, but perhaps they will take to the preserved rind.

For the Granita:
(From the Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, 1966

(You can make this as a sorbet in an ice cream maker, if you prefer)

3 cups watermelon juice (extracted through a food mill)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 packet (scant tablespoon) unflavoured gelatin
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine watermelon juice, lemon juice and sugar. Whisk until sugar dissolves.

Soften the gelatin in 1/4 cup of the watermelon juice, then heat in the microwave a few seconds to let it (or in a pan on the stove). Add to the rest of the juice. Freeze in a shallow pan, stirring and breaking it up with a fork every half an hour until firm. Store in an airtight container and let soften at room temperature a few minutes before serving.

From The Ball Blue Book:

For the Watermelon Rind Preserves:

1 1/2 quarts prepared watermelon rind (see below)
4 tablespoons canning salt
3 1/2 quarts water, divided
1 tablespoon ginger
4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
1/2 cup thinly sliced (and peeled) lemons

To prepare rind:

Trim green part and pink flesh from rind. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Dissolve salt in 2 quarts of the water and pour over rind. Let stand 5-6 hours. Drain, rinse and drain again. Cover rind with cold water and let stand 30 minutes. Drain. Sprinkle with ginger, then cover with cold water. Cook until tender.

To Make Preserves:

Combine sugar, lemon juice, and 1 1/2 quarts water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Add rind. Boil gently until rind is transparent and syrup has thickened. Add sliced lemons and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, skim foam and ladle into sterilised 1/2 pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal, and process 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rhubarb Booze


We'll see how this goes. This was a bottle of vodka that was something like five bucks. Once it is infused and has sugar syrup added it might actually be OK. Or not. I don't know-I did this on a whim. I'll keep you posted.

Swiss Roll-Gourmet, April 1972



The recipe is from a James Beard article about tea-favourites. There's also a recipe for Queen Cakes that has become a favourite with Danny (small muffins with cherries and raisins). There's a seed cake recipe in the article as well, which is tempting (I adore seed cake) but I suspect I'd be the only one who enjoyed it, and after a small slice, I rarely want another.

So this cake-not the best Swiss roll I've tasted, but not bad either. I think I prefer the one from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens, but the Beard one is novel in the use of cornstarch for part of the flour. I mean, there simply isn't that much variation in spongecakes-a bit more or less sugar, some zest, or vanilla, cornstarch or cake flour. Once you slather it in homemade jam and coat it with chocolate ganache (not in the Beard recipe) you won't really care. Well, I won't care...because there's chocolate, and jam. Because the ganache recipe makes quite a bit, I ended up with a tray of truffles as well. I didn't know him, but James Beard looked like the sort of man that could enjoy a truffle, and while his recipe was for a rather plain, dusted with confectioner's sugar cake-I doubt he's somersaulting in the grave over the addition of some chocolate and heavy cream. I mean, have you ever made the cream biscuits in Beard On Bread? A cup of heavy cream AND you dunk the whole thing in melted butter before baking? No, I don't think Beard would object to the ganache. Not one bit.

For the cake:

In a bowl, beat 4 egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar until they ribbon when beaters are lifted. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold into the yolk mixture. Sift together 1/4 cup each flour and cornstarch. Sift them over the egg mixture and fold in carefully. Add 1/2 teaspoon each vanilla extract and grated lemon zest.

Butter a jelly roll pan, 11x16 and line with wax paper. Butter the wax paper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the batter in the pan and bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen edges with a knife and turn cake out on a towel (he suggests a damp towel, I simply used a dry one dusted with confectioner's sugar). Because Beard does a different filling/topping with his, my treatment of the roll after baking varies a bit. Here's what I did:

Roll up cake in towel and let cool about ten minutes. Unroll carefully, spread with strawberry jam and re-roll. Chill. While cake chills (and it must be cold before you pour on the ganache or it will lose the gloss) make the ganache below. Place cooled cake on a rack over a pan and pour ganache spreading carefully to smooth. Chill, and decorate with fresh fruit.

For the ganache:

12 ounces (or as much as 16 for a heavier coating) chocolate. I used a combination of bittersweet and semi-sweet. Chop it as finely as you can stand dealing with (12 ounces is a lot of chopping).
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Combine cream and corn syrup in a pan and heat until steaming. Pour over chocolate and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla (or any other flavouring/booze you like). Pour over cake. Gather up excess from pan and chill in a bowl-when firm, roll in powdered cocoa and make truffles.

Chilean Corn Packets-Gourmet July 1972





I didn't try any of these, but Mr. ETB really liked them-he said it reminded him of "parched corn", whatever the hell that is. I imagine it is some sort of strange, Pennsylvania Dutch foodstuff from his youth. What was really notable about these was the smell as they cooked-kind of like a cross between cornbread and fresh hay. Pleasant, but odd in the familiar/unfamiliar combination.

What attracted me to the recipe was the use of the corn cobs to construct a base for steaming. The husks are used as well-no waste! Unlike tamales, they never get terribly firm (though they do stay together somewhat) as they lack any sort of flour or binder, but they sure do look adorable in their tiny packets.

Husk 6 ears of corn, remove the silk, and reserve the husks. Grate the corn on the coarse blade of a grater into a bowl and reserve the cobs. In a small skillet, saute 1/3 cup finely minced onion in 1 tablespoon lard (I used Crisco) until it is golden. Stir the onion into the corn and add 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Mix well.

Plunge the husks into a pot of boiling water and boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat, but keep in water until ready to use.

Drain husks and pull out the 12 larges ones. Working on a board (I used a large baking sheet), place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture in the centre of the husk. Fold over sides, then top and bottom. Secure with a strip torn from another husk.

In a large pot, place corn cobs in bottom, breaking if need be. Pour over enough boiling water to just barely reach top of cobs. Place packets on top and cover. Steam until firmed a bit-about 40 minutes to an hour, replensihing boiling water as needed.

Salads From Leftovers



These were so easy to put together. The strawberry/feta salad makes use of leftover asparagus. The rice salad used up rice and baked tofu.

For the rice salad:

Leftover rice (mine was flavoured with broth, garlic and onions, so I didn't need to adjust spices-you may).
2 carrots, finely diced
A handful of chopped parsley
Leftover baked tofu, cut in cubes
1 tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon peel
A handful of raisins
Olive oil (a generous glug)

Cook the carrots, lemon and parsley in olive oil in a large pan until carrots begin to soften. Add raisins and cook until carrots are soft. Add cooked, cold rice and mix well adding more oil if needed. Add tofu and mix well. Chill before serving.

For the strawberry/feta salad:

Strawberries
Feta
cooked, cold asparagus
olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Toss everything except the vinegar and oil. Chill. About twenty minutes before serving, toss with oil and vinegar.


I know, it feels foolish to post a recipe-but they really are good uses for leftovers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Green and White Asparagus In Puff Paste With Mustard Baked Tofu

...and saffron aspic, because I thought that would make it look more festive. I don't know about you, but come Thursday night, I like a little festive around here.

Looks just like the magazine photo, except for the lobster...and expensive silver.
Here's the January 1972 cover. That's a really nice scenic vista there. Sure is.



They'll pry my rolling pin from my cold, dead, hands. The idea came from another vintage Gourmet magazine (January, 1972). I substituted the lobster filling with tofu and asparagus-obvious, I know. As simple as last weeks "quick puff paste" was, this wasn't really that much more difficult. It was time consuming, sure, but the actual hands-on time is a couple turns every hour. That wasn't bad. I was home doing laundry, teaching Colonial American History, and other assorted chores-a few turns of pastry now and then didn't really interfere with my day.

Completely off topic-I'm drinking a really enjoyable cheap red wine called Little Penguin. For a few dollars, I really have to say this is the most inoffensive wine I've had in a long time. I haven't tried that many Australian wines (Mr. ETB used to like something called, "Long Flat Red") but for the price range, this really is pretty decent.

Back on topic-this is a really long recipe. I'm going to post the puff paste directions verbatim from Gourmet because it worked so well. The tofu, vegetables and sauce recipes will follow.

For the puff paste:

In a large bowl, sift together 2 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Rub in 2 tablespoons sweet butter until it resembles meal. Add a scant 1/2 cup ice water and incorporate it into the dough. Work the mixture for a few seconds to combine, then form into a ball. Dust the ball with flour. With a knife, cut a deep cross into the centre of the ball and push each quarter outward to form a 4 inch square. Pat the dough smooth, wrap it in plastic, and chill it.

Let 3/4 cup sweet butter soften slightly. Knead the butter, squeezing it through the fingers and form it into a rough square. Put it between 2 pieces of wax paper and roll it lightly to form a 4 inch square. Remove the wax paper, dust again with flour and wrap in a clean piece of wax paper. Chill until it is firm, but not hard.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 7 inch square. Lay the chilled butter diagonally in the centre and roll out the visible 4 corners into 4 inch lengths. Fold each strip of dough over the butter completely enclosing it, and turn the dough over. Sprinkle the working surface with flour and turn the dough over. Roll to a rectangle about 10 inches long and 6 inches wide. Brush off excess flour and fold the top third over the centre and the bottom third over the top. Turn the folded dough on the board so that an open side is facing you. With the rolling pin, flatten the dough with uniform impressions. Roll the dough away from you to within 1/2 inch of the end. Reverse the strip on the board, flouring as necessary, and again roll away from you to make a rectangle 10 inches long. Do not roll the pin over the ends or the butter will be expelled. Brush off excess flour and fold in three as before. This completes 2 "turns". Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, chill it 30 minutes. Make 2 more turns always starting with the open end toward you. Wrap the paste and chill for at least 30 minutes before using, or up to 2 days. The paste will be given an additional 2 turns before using in the recipe.

For the Tofu:

Squeeze dry a block of extra firm tofu. Slice in 4 parts, and again press dry between towels. Mix together 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, a splash of white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, and 2 tablespoons honey. Spread some in the bottom of a baking dish and arrange the tofu slices. Spread the rest on top. Bake in a 400 degree F. oven for 30 minutes. Turn, and bake another 30. It may take as long as another 30 minutes, but keep baking until firm and dark in colour. Cool, keep chilled tightly wrapped for up to two days.

For the asparagus:

I used half white, and half green bunches reserving the rest for another use. Do as you like. Trim and scrape the stems of the asparagus and steam until tender. Chill. Cut into bite size pieces and combine in a bowl with tofu cut into bite sized pieces. I used about half of the tofu batch also-save the other two pieces for sandwiches.

For the sauce:

3 cups veggie broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour (I used Wondra)
Pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream

Make a roux by melting butter over medium heat and adding the flour. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the roux foams (about 3 minutes). Slowly whisk in the broth and cook until it comes to a boil and thickens. It should reduce to about 2 1/2 cups. Add the cream and again bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, whisking until it reduces again to about 2 1/2 cups. Stir in tofu and asparagus.

To Bake the pastry:

Lightly moisten a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Give the puff paste an additional 2 turns. Cut dough in 2 pieces. Roll out 1 piece to an 8 inch round about 1/4 inch thick. Place on the baking sheet. Roll out the second piece to an 8 inch round about 1/2 inch thick. This time, cut a 7 inch round from the centre leaving a 1 inch round border. Remove the 7 inch circle and place on the baking sheet alongside the first. Wet the edge of the first round lightly and place the 1 inch round lightly atop it. With the blunt side of a knife held at an angle, flute the edge all around. With a fork, prick the bottom of the shell at 1/4 inch intervals. Chill the dough for 1 hour.

Make a wash with 1 egg and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Brush it on the top of the 7 inch circle and the top rim of the other. With a blunt edge of a knife, score the top rim of the shell at 1/2 inch intervals and score the top of the 7 inch circle in a crosshatch. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. and bake another 35 minutes until dough is golden and baked through. Remove top to a rack to cool. With a knife, cut out the centre of the shell and discard. Remove any unbaked bits and then return to a slow oven (300 degrees F.) for another fifteen minutes to dry out. At this point, you should make the sauce and filling. If it is done before the sauce, remove it to a rack before transferring it to a platter and filling.

Serve with greens and optional aspic. OK, you probably don't want to make aspic, but my culinary sensibilities are stuck somewhere around 1974 and that's my idea of elegant. I also really like gelatin.

Escabeche-Gourmet Novermber, 1972


If you like this stuff, you know how frustrating it is to buy the tiny tins of it at the supermarket for $1.15, and you don't even get cauliflower. This recipe makes a whole buttload of it (that's an actual Imperial measurement-look it up) and if you were lucky enough to find cauliflower on sale-a bargain too!

In a dutch oven, saute 12 garlic cloves, peeled, and 1 medium onion sliced in wedges in 3/4 cup olive oil for 3 minutes. Add 4 carrots, thinly sliced, and 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns. Saute 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups white vinegar and simmer mixture, covered for 3 minutes. Drain a 3 1/2 ounce tin of pickled jalapeƱo chilies and reserve the liquid. Add 2 cups water to the reserved liquid and add to the pot. Bring liquid to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons salt and 1 head of cauliflower cut into floweretes. Cook the mixture, covered over moderate heat for 12 minutes. Add 12 small bay leaves, 3 zucchini (I omitted this) thinly sliced, and 3/4 teaspoon each-thyme, marjoram, and oregano. Simmer the mixture, covered for 2 minutes. Let cool, covered, then store covered in the refridgerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 8 cups.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lettuce Pancakes-Gourmet February 1973


Still making my way through the stack of vintage magazines. I think we have a new favourite veggie fritter/pancake here. I modified it slightly by adding some chopped parsley for colour and an extra egg. I'll post it as written, but note that depending on how dry your breadcrumbs are, just how large the lettuce is, etc. you may need to make adjustments so the mixture will bind. Not a big deal, really.

By modern standards, these seem rather plain without spices (save for the parsley and some ground black pepper) but resist the desire to start adding a pinch of this or that-at least the first time you make them. The boys both felt they were perfect as presented. Hard to argue with that.

I used some iceberg lettuce that was starting to fade for this. The recipe wasn't specific regarding lettuce type, but based on "crisp", and "head", I think we're talking about iceberg. That said, I don't think it would be harmed by using leaf lettuce, considering the lettuce is wilted with salt before using. I'm sure I'll end up experimenting with other versions of these pancakes.

You Will Need:

1 medium head of crisp lettuce, grated
1 tablespoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large onion, grated
2/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup oil for frying

Place shredded lettuce in a bowl with salt and let stand 5 minutes. Drain, and then (I used a towel) squeeze out excess water from lettuce (You'll be left with a shockingly small amount of lettuce).

Combine eggs, onion, breadcrumbs, pepper, and dried lettuce in a bowl and mix well. Heat oil in a deep pan over moderately high heat and fry, a few at a time until deeply browned on each side. Drain, and serve immediately. Makes about ten good sized pancakes.

Election Day With Danny

Standing in line at our polling place waiting to get a ballot:

Danny: (to table of elderly women) "Good morning, (pause, huge grin) ladies."

The whole room went up in laughter, I'm just glad we weren't arrested for disrupting a polling place.

Ladies. Sheesh.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Som u Mileramu (Cod in Sour Cream) Gourmet, June 1972



The former Yugoslavia was quite the tourist destination in the early 70's, apparently. A large part of the issue was devoted to various regional dishes, and this one caught my eye.

When cod was on sale a few weeks ago, I stocked the freezer. Thankfully, the kid working behind the counter didn't mind wrapping each large fillet separately for me. I love being able to defrost just what I need, and this recipe was ever so quick to throw together.

I had a small amount of egg noodles in the freezer, and that's what I served the fish over. You could easily do rice, or dumplings. There's a small piece and some sauce left for Danny's lunch tomorrow, which he's requested be served over rye toast. The seasonings are simple enough to go with (nearly) anything. Again, that's my kind of cooking.

You Will Need:

1 pound of cod fillets
1 small onion, sliced
Rind of 1/2 a lemon
1 sprig parsley
1 bay leaf
4 whole peppercorns
Salt to taste
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used vermouth)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the cod in a skillet just large enough to hold them. Combine onion, lemon rind, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, water and wine. Pour over fish. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and poach for five minutes. Remove fish with a slotted spoon to a baking dish just large enough to hold them, and strain the liquid, reserving 1 1/4 cups. In a bowl, combine the sour cream and flour. Whisk in the poaching liquid and spoon over the fish. Scatter anchovies over fish. Dot generously with butter.

Bake 15 minutes. Serve hot over noodles, potatoes, rice or really whatever you like.

Lemon Mace Cookies


Mace is an under-appreciated spice, and I really don't know why. Aside from seasoning game, or preparing mincemeat, one hardly ever sees a recipe calling for it. I was excited when I found this recipe in my well-used, and well-loved 1966 edition of Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies. The pages are completely yellowed, and many have fallen out and been taped back into place-but I'll never part with it. I've yet to hit a recipe in the collection that wasn't wonderful. I made a batch of gingersnaps this morning as well. It is freezing cold here (and raining) at the moment. We spent the morning baking spice cookies, and the afternoon dunking them in tea as we began the overwhelming task of sorting books. Danny has outgrown most of his early readers, so the treasured editions will be packed away, and the rest handed off to anyone that wants them. When you live in a home with (literally) thousands of books, there has to be some attempt to maintain order. Sort of. We'll see how many actually make into a box, and out of the house.

You Will Need:

2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mace

2 large eggs
2/3 cup salad oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a couple baking sheets lightly.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon mace. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the eggs, oil, sugar, brown sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat until thick.

In a small bowl, sift together the sugar, mace and nutmeg. Butter the bottom of a glass and set aside.

Roll about a teaspoon of dough into a ball and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Dip buttered glass into sugar mixture, then flatten cookies. Bake about 8 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned. Cool about 1 minute on pan before carefully removing to a pan to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Today's Idiocracy Moment

In a bid to keep the writing every bit as twee as the Journal Star, the Omaha World Herald has re-hired Rainbow.

My very favourite Rainbow article ever was her review of the limited edition State Colour Crayola crayons. If only she'd managed to work in something about football, and discovering facial hair sprouting from her chin, it could have won a Pulitzer.

As Artaud said after getting something like the 500th electric shock to his head:

"Oh my fucking god, my head hurts. My fucking head hurts." Except he would have said it in French, if at all.

Rainbow Rowell. Merde.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Strawberry Vanilla Cake For Mother's Day


I recently made a complicated strawberry cake from a recipe I'd bookmarked a few years ago. It was terrible. Really, disgusting. What's more-the instructions were waaaay off. Sizes of pans, amounts, whole parts missing and left to the baker's guess. Just a lousy waste of time, and expensive ingredients. I suppose the components of a genoise, Bavarian filling and jelly top would have been fine together, with a competent technique...but I still prefer my own genoise, Bavarian and jelly recipes to the crap I ended up making...and tossing out. I think the gods of Internet recipes were trying to send me a message that week with the ruined cookies, etc. I took the message. This recipe comes from the 1950 edition of The Betty Crocker Cookbook. You know, a tested recipe. I'm not saying you can't screw it up, because let's face it-cakes can be temperamental even when following the recipe closely, but at least you know the recipe was tried out a few times before being sent to the publishers.


With Mother's Day coming up, I thought this might be nice to post today, so if you feel like baking it for Sunday you can get started. The ingredients are all pretty standard, which is nice. I used some strawberry freezer jam for the filling which is why it looks so bright. Regular old strawberry jam would be fine too-or just frost the centre layer. If you have candied rose petals, they would look just lovely on this cake.


For The Cake (makes two nine inch layers)

2/3 cup soft, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Grease and flour the pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. with rack in centre position.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix well. Sift together dry ingredients. Add vanilla to milk. Add, alternating ending with milk. Pour into pans and bake 25-30 minutes or until they test done. Cool five minutes in pan, then cool completely on racks. Trim tops when cool, if needed.

For the Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons flour (I used Wondra)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
3 (possibly more) cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan melt the butter. Remove from heat and whisk in flour and salt. Return to heat and slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and with an electric mixer, beat in the three cups of confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Whisk until cooled and of a spreading consistency. If it won't set, you can try whisking it in a bowl over ice cubes, or if all else fails, adding a bit more confectioner's sugar. Once you start spreading it on the cake, it sets pretty quickly, so be aware that it can go from too runny to too thick rather quickly. That's kind of the nature of cooked frostings (in my experience). This hardens to a candy-like crust and is just delicious.