Monday, November 23, 2015

Second Verse, Same as the First: Thanksgiving Cooking

Thanksgiving means much loved favorites that only get trotted out once a year. And I'm ok with that. So no weird variations to try to make these much loved favorites "new" or "fresh." Just good, honest Thanksgiving cooking.

These dishes, for us, represent the perfect versions of their oeuvre.

Our day-after-Thanksgiving meal also is mandated by tradition. Chef salad featuring turkey (of course), blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon (the real thing please!) on top. Mmmmmm, crumbled bacon ... except that since we do meatless Fridays, this feast actually comes on a Saturday.

Here are a few links to recipes I've posted before.

Herbed Thanksgiving Stuffing
This is the best stuffing ever and cooks in a slow cooker. I have made this five times now and never been disappointed. It really frees up the oven for other things and, if you happen to have a problem with sticking your hand up a turkey (no problemo here) then you're set free from that as well.

Skillet Cornbread
If you happen to like cornbread stuffing (which I do not), you may want to make this for your base. I've never found a better recipe.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble
The funny bone in the menu is the sweet potato selection which in the past I have always played around with. Here is my current favorite.

Cranberry Ginger Relish
I also used to change up the cranberry recipe from year to year. No longer. This relish is practically perfect in every way!

Perfect Piecrust
This is not a misnomer. Very easy and very delicious. It is long but that is because of the detailed directions. You can't go wrong with this.

Pecan Pie
This is non-negotiable. Gotta have it.

Pumpkin Pie

Are you allowed to have Thanksgiving without this? Or watch the Cowboys play without having some? Nope.

AND Afterward ...
What do you do with the turkey carcass? I used to toss it, until being given a fantastic recipe for Turkey Bone Gumbo.

It is fantastically simple, especially if you fear not the roux which has been given a bad rap as far as I can tell. It does take some time but I do it in steps here and there so that on Sunday we have a delicious bowl of gumbo that hasn't been much trouble at all.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

From The Cake Mix Doctor which has some really terrific frosting recipes. Never, ever use frosting from a can.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoons salt

Beat the butter and cocoa powder until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and beat until frosting lightens and is fluffy. Add additional milk or sugar if necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto alla Genovese
(a.k.a. Basil, Garlic and Cheese Sauce)
via Wikipedia

The Time-Life Foods of the World books gave my family many favorites that were exotic in the 1960s but are standard now. So when Rose asked for our pesto recipe I knew The Cooking of Italy was the place to turn. You'll see many variations in different cookbooks but none are better than this.

It freezes well and that's a good thing because the July Texas sun turns my basil plants into monsters that have me making pesto once a week.

This recipe gives techniques for the blender (this was before food processors which is what I use) and the old fashioned mortar and pestle. I'll just leave that technique out because if someone is using those then they've already got a recipe. And they're more dedicated to authenticity than I'll ever be.

Pesto alla Genovese

Makes about 1-1/2 to 2 cups

2 cups fresh basil leaves, stripped from their stems, coarsely chopped and tightly packed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped pine nuts or walnuts
1 to 1-1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated imported sardo, romano, or Parmesan cheese

Combine the coarsely chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper, garlic, nuts, and 1 cup of olive oil in the blender jar. Blend them at high speed until the ingredients are smooth, stopping the blender every 5 or 6 seconds to push the herbs down with a rubber spatula.

The sauce should be thin enough to run off the spatula easily. If it seems too thick, blend in as much as 1/2 cup more olive oil. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Religion & Food: Paschal Triduum

The Paschal Triduum consists of the three days before Easter: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
HOLY THURSDAY
The German name for Holy Thursday, Gr√ľndonnerstag means "Green Thursday." Green soup made with spinach, parsley, bean sprouts, dill, and cucumber in a chicken or veal stock base; eggs with green sauce; cucumbers and sour cream; and dandelion greens salad are traditional fare in Germany, Austria, and among the Pennsylvania Dutch.

GOOD FRIDAY
... today's the day to indulge in these sweet rolls [hot cross buns] that are either carved with a cross or inscribed with one in icing. Or perhaps you'd prefer the fifteenth-century German custom of eating big fluffy pretzels with (peeled) hard boiled eggs ...

HOLY SATURDAY
The Lenten fast is officially over today although many people continue it until Easter Sunday.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fissler Magic Edge Can Opener


This can opener was the top rated in Cook's Illustrated recent look at manual can openers.

I have long disliked the trend of can openers in leaving the lid attached so that you have to wrestle it off the can. I realized finally this was to keep it from falling in the food but the risk of slicing fingers seemed an unacceptable trade off to me.

Rushing to Amazon I saw that it was quite reasonable and ordered one right away.

Then I just had to wait for a can to need opening. We really don't open a lot of cans. Just enough to make using that old fashioned can opener annoying.

At last the long awaited opportunity came up with a can of refried beans. This opener really earned the "magic" moniker. It attached effortlessly, turned easily, opened the lid from under the edge, left no sharp edges, magnetically held the lid and then, with a little backwards turn of the lever, dropped it in the trash.

It's the little things in life that are rewarding. This is one of those little things. Go get one.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Religion & Food: Lenten Food

Simple vegetarian soups are traditional throughout Lent, and each nationality has developed its own Lenten specialty. Consider slurping any -- or all -- of the following for the next forty days:
  • Eastern Europe: Vegetable-based split soups.
  • France: Onion soup, of course! Call it Zuppa Magna di Cipolle and you can claim its Italian.
  • Greece: Tomato soup.
  • Italy: Brodo Magro di Digiuno is made with leeks, onions, carrots, cabbage, and lentils; flavored with sage and bay left. Strained, it's a rich broth for other soups or to use with rice or pasta. Pureed, it's a hearty soup.
  • Russia: Borscht (beet soup) with mushrooms or barley. Sauerkraut and mushroom soup. Cabbage, potato, carrot, and barley soup.
Eastern Orthodox Church adherents still observe strict fasting -- relative to what most Roman Rite Catholics do -- during Lent. In fact, they are required to fast twice a week most of the year anyway. Check out this site to see what rigorous fasting looks like. If you decide to go the complete vegetarian route for the next forty days, check out Mollie Katzen's The Moosewood Cookbook. Published over two decades ago, it's still one of the best resources for vegetarian recipes and especially wonderful soups.

Strange but true: The pretzel is the oldest, traditional, authentically Christian Lenten bread. Some food historians trace its origin back to Roman Christians of the fifth century. Others insist that monks in southern France, or maybe it was northern Italy, cooked this egg- and butter-free snack up in A.D. 610. The former called them bracellae, Latin for "little arms"; the latter called them pretiola, latin for "little reward.

In either account, the dough configuration represents arms folded in prayer and the three holes represent the Trinity. thus you may eat these with impunity, but not gluttony, throughout Lent ...

So where does "pretzel" come from? Germans, who called these breads bretzel ("little bread") ... Palatine Germans, who would become known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, imported pretzels to the United States in 1710.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shrove Tuesday and Pancakes

Reposted for your Mardi Gras enjoyment.

Weeks of food antics peak on the last day of pre-Lent, Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Fasten's Eve, or Fastnacht). The name "Shrove" derives from the customary pre-Lenten "shrift" (confession), but it's mostly known for gluttony.

By now we're supposed to have had our last deluxe bacon-cheeseburger for the duration. In the old days, eggs, butter, fat, milk, and cheese were also considered verboten during Lent, so Shrove Tuesday was devoted to emptying the larder. For old times' sake, you might consider following this tradition, which also happens to be a healthier way of eating...

Flipping out over pancakes is so universal on Shrove Tuesday that the holiday is sometimes called "Pancake Tuesday" ... In England, Pancake Day is celebrated with races at which women over the age of sixteen, frying pans in hand, trot over 415 yards while tossing pancakes over at least three times...

In New Orleans, one of the less over-the-top Mardi Gras customs involves baking King's Cake, a yeasty, buttery confection flavored with lemon zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg decorated with purple, yellow, and green icing -- and these aren't even it's most distinguishing characteristics.

A tiny doll of the baby Jesus is baked inside the cake, which, when done, is doled out in huge slices. Whoever gets the slice with the doll provides the King's Cake the following year ... For an authentic King's Cake recipe check out the one at www.theholidayspot.com/mardigras.

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) precedes Ash Wednesday and the period of Lenten fasting. Pancakes were eaten to use up proscribed foods, and it is claimed that their ingredients have special Lenten symbolism: flour is the staff of life; milk is innocence and purity; salt is incorruptibility; and eggs symbolize creation.
Here's my favorite recipe for pancakes. Enjoy!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Religion and Food: Carnival

 
Carnival foods could be regarded as a worldwide phenomenon, if the word "carnival" is taken in its wide sense, meaning any occasion of riotous revelry. However, in the narrower and more commonly used sense it refers to the day or week before Lent and especially Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras), when Christians bid farewell to meat for 40 days.

Carnival (a term derived from two Latin words meaning "meat, goodbye") is celebrated most noticeably in Roman Catholic countries such as Italy, Spain, France, where various cities hold traditional processions with dancing, mummers, masks, lights, special street foods, etc. The custom traveled to the New World and is conspicuous in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro for example. However, some would say that the calypso and carnival tradition in Trinidad (and Tobago) eclipses by its size and exuberance anything else in the world. DeWitt and Wilan (1993) provide a vivid description of carnival time in Trinidad and of the street foods consumed by the revellers...

Which of the carnival foods enjoyed in modern times can be traced back to pagan times is an interesting question. One obvious candidate is the pancake ... Another is the fritter. An 18th-century poem entitled, "The Oxford Sausage" neatly pairs these items:

Let glad Shrove Tuesday bring the pancake thin
Or fritter rich, with apples stored within.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Green Beans Dijon

This is from a yellowing scrap of paper I tore from the WSJ weekend section some time ago. I'd stuck it in How to Cook Without a Book since it looked as if it could be adapted to one for steam/sauteing vegetables. It turns out, however, that I simply boiled up the green beans and followed the recipe.

I was afraid that much Dijon would be overwhelming but the cream and cumin worked wonders in gentling it to very palatable levels. Simply delicious and very easy.

Note: the original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of butter but the Dijon broke up when I followed that method. I threw it out and began again using cream instead of butter. So that's how I tell it below.

Green Beans Dijon

2 tablespoons cream
1/4 cup Dijon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound freshly cooked green beans

Gently heat cream, Dijon, and cumin in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk to combine. When mixture is hot, turn off heat and add green beans, stirring gently until all the beans are coated. Serve warm. 3-4 servings.