250 Cookbooks: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Cookbook #226: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck, Borzoi Books, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1961. Thirtieth Printing, June, 1978.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook

“Julie & Julia”, the 2009 film starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, portrays the true story of Julie Powell, a young New Yorker who took on the challenge of cooking all 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She covered her experiences in a blog, and eventually a book: Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. When the movie came out, I ran upstairs to see if I had a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And yes, it was on my bookshelf!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking always intimidated me. My copy is barely wrinkled, no food stains mar the pages. In the past, no more did I want to read it that I would want to read a book on advanced physical chemistry.

I’ve grown up a bit though, and taken a class on classic French sauces. I’ve also learned how to make my own great stocks. I’ll say “I am wiser”, and am feeling this especially this week because I just turned a year older. Now as I turn the pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I can understand the language and appreciate the wisdom, and I smile warmly at Julia Child’s complete love of cooking.

On my birthday this week, I got up late and decided to make an omelet. And I don’t just mean “make an omelet”, I wanted to make an omelet according to Julia’s directions. I wanted nothing else for breakfast! Just an experiment. It was, afterall, my birthday.

I open Mastering the Art of French Cooking to page 127. Julia Child says it will only take 30 seconds to make the omelette. And, “An omelette cannot be made in a sticky pan. The eggs must be able to slide around freely. This is why it is a good idea to have one pan that is reserved for omelettes only.” And the type of pan Julia Child likes the best? The French type of plain iron pan with sloping sides. Aha, I own just such a pan! I got it about a year ago. But I banished it to the basement because it is so heavy and hard to clean.

Today I jog down to the basement and retrieve the pan. I scrub it with steel wool and soap, dry it carefully, and heat it to get all the water off. Then I rub it with oil and wipe all that off. I set it on the stove.

“The individual 2- to 3-egg omelette is usually the tenderest, and by far the best size to practice making.” Perfect. “Just before heating the butter in the pan, break the eggs into a mixiing bowl and add salt and pepper. With a large table fork, beat the eggs only enough to blend the whites and yolks thoroughly. From 30 to 40 vigorous strokes should be sufficient.”

My 3 eggs mixed with 30 vigorous strokes, it’s time to heat my pan. “Place the butter [1 tablespoon] in the pan and set over very high heat . . . as the butter melts, tilt the pan in all directions to film the sides. When you see that the foam has almost subsided in the pan and the butter is on the point of coloring, it is an indication that it is hot enough to pour in the eggs.”

Next comes the short but busy omelette-cooking step. I am to hold the (heavy) pan in my left hand, pour in the eggs, and immediately start sliding the pan back and forth rapidly over the heat. And at the same time, I am supposed to stir the eggs with the bottom flat side of a fork to spread them all over the bottom of the pan. In only 3 or 4 seconds, the eggs will become a light custard, and it will be time to tilt the pan at a 45 degree angle and gather the eggs at the far lip of the pan. And give “4 or 5 sharp blows on the handle of the pan with your right fist to loosen the omelette and make the far edge curl over onto itself.”

This all happened very fast. But somehow, I poured a creamy, soft roll of eggs onto a plate. No toast, no coffee cake, no sausage, just eggs. I immediately take the hot omelette and  two forks and sit down next to my husband. He gives me this look, as if, he is supposed to share this with me? “It’s my birthday, I can do what I want!”

I took the first bite and . . . heavenly tastes and textures burst in my mouth. Dang that was a great omelette. Thank you Julia Child!

I spend several days paging through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I took lots of notes! I really do like this classic cookbook. I suggest every serious cook buy or borrow a copy at some point in their life.

The only drawback to Julia Child’s recipes is the heavy use of butter, cream, and egg yolks. Yes, I have read The Big Fat Surprise, a book that disputes the generally accepted idea that the fats in these foods are bad for you, and instead encourages us to include them in our diet. But still, calories are calories, and stick on my body as weight when I eat too many. Just saying.

But this week, I will indulge in a Julia Child recipe: Filets de Poisson Gratinés, à la Parisienne, or “Fish Filets Poached in White Wine; Cream and Egg Yolk Sauce.” This recipe is a great example of Julia Child’s presentation style.

fishrecpage1fishrecpage2fishrecpage3fishrecpage4fishrecpage5

Below is my adaptation of this recipe. Note that you need a baking dish that you can heat on the stove top and also place in the oven. I used a LeCreuset.

Poached Sole in Velouté Sauce
serves 2

Poaching the fish:

  • 1 pound sole filets
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • butter: you need this throughout; I used unsalted butter, less than a cube in all
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup fish stock (or use water)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • a piece of parchment cut to fit the LeCreuset

Turn on the oven to 350˚.

Butter the bottom of a LeCreuset. Sprinkle in half the minced shallots. Season the sole filets with salt and pepper, then place in the prepared LeCreuset, slightly overlapping the filets. Dot with 3/4 tablespoon butter cut into small chunks. Combine the fish stock and the wine and pour over the fish. Add a little more stock if necessary to barely cover the fish. Mine looked like this:

fish ready to poach

On the stovetop, bring the fish almost to simmering. Butter both sides of the piece of parchment. Place the LeCreuset in the 350˚ oven. Bake for 8 minutes, check for doneness by piercing with a fork (you should find just a slight resistance), and bake a few more minutes only if necessary. During the baking, the cooking liquid should be at a light simmer.

Drain the cooking liquid into a small saucepan, leaving the poached fish in the LeCreuset, covered with the parchment.

Boil the cooking liquid until it is reduced to 1/2 cup. This will be use in the sauce.

Veloute Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup reduced cooking liquid (hot)
  • 3/8 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • “drops” of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated Swiss cheese

Melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a small sauce pan, then add the flour and stir until it is all mixed in. Continue cooking until it thickens but do not cook it until it browns. Off heat, beat in the hot cooking liquid and the milk. A whisk works well for this step. Put the pan back on the stove and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil about a minute – the mixture will be thick.

In a bowl, blend the egg yolk with the cream, using a whisk. Add small amounts of the hot sauce and continue beating until about 1/2 cup of the hot sauce is added, then add the rest of the hot sauce in a thin stream. Put the mixture back in the pan and boil and stir 1 minute. You can thin with a little cream if it is too thick for your tastes. Add a few drops of lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler.

Spoon the sauce over the poached fish (take the parchment off first), then dot the top with the 1/2 tablespoon butter and the Swiss cheese. On the stove top, over low heat, heat until it is just simmering.

Put the dish under the broiler until the top of the sauce is brown.

What is nice about this dish is that you can assemble it with the poached fish covered with sauce, and then do the stove-top heating and broiling steps just before serving. It’s important to bring this dish to the table hot and bubbly.

Here is the plated dish.

poached, sauced fish I served with a little orzo and steamed julienned zucchini and carrots on the side. I also served a loaf of my own no-knead bread. And a couple pretty green salads. For dessert? Fresh blackberries over ice cream.salads

I took my first bite of the fish and then I had to set down my fork so I wouldn’t gobble up the rest too fast. This is absolutely delicious! “One of the best twenty-five meals ever in my life” was my comment.

Thank you Julia Child.

250 Cookbooks: Kerr Home Canning Book

Cookbook #225: Kerr Home Canning Book, Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation, National Nutrition Edition, 1943.

Kerr Home Canning Book cookbookThe time is 1943 and World War II is raging when this Kerr Home Canning Book is published. My parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are affected, whether serving in the armed forces or living in the US. The entire American population gathers together to help the war effort. I wish now that I had had long talks with my parents and grandparents about the war, and learned more about their experiences, their feelings.

During the war, rationing stamps were issued to reduce the pressure on the food supply and indirectly help the war effort. Books like Kerr Home Canning Book encouraged and taught women how to can foods from their gardens to feed their families nourishing foods during those times of food shortages. To me, Kerr Home Canning Book is more a history lesson than a cookbook! Others agree. The Internet Archive (a non-profit) is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. “Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.” On their site, I found that they have digitized a copy of the 1943 Kerr Home Canning Book. (And they also archived my own website for organic chemistry students at the University of Colorado, Boulder, beginning in 1998, in the Wayback Machine. I am humbled.)

The inner cover is below. Note the “Food for Victory” slogan and the dedication to “the women who serve without banners . . . the Homemakers of America”.

Kerr Canning

Food for Victory refers to “victory” or “war” gardens: fruit and vegetable gardens planted in public parks and private homes during both world wars. According to Wikipedia, by May 1943, there were 18 million victory gardens in the United States. “Grow your own, can your own” was the slogan of these families tending victory gardens.

Kerr Home Canning Book has great color photos. Below is the title page. I enjoy the quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, and “Food – The Need of the Hour”.

Kerr Canning

The introduction is written by Zella Hale Weyant, then the director of Kerr’s Research and Educational Deptartment, Sand Springs, Oklahoma. She invites readers to write her with any home canning questions:

Kerr Canning

Her introduction begins:

Kerr CanningMore nostalgia:

Kerr Canning

Following the introduction are a few pages of how to put up foods using the open canning method (for fruits and pickles) and pressure cooker processing (for vegetables and meats). The instructions are clear and helpful. (But If I were to use pressure cooker processing today, I would use the instructions that would come with the equipment.) Oven processing is also described.

And now, the recipes! There are some treasures in the main content of this Kerr Home Canning Book.

Canned fruit recipes are first, using the open kettle or hot or cold pack canning methods. When summer and fall Colorado harvests treat me with quantities of peaches or apricots or strawberries, I make jam. Jam takes a lot of sugar. But this book points out that all fruit can be canned successfully without any sugar, as sugar is used only to sweeten the food and does not keep it from spoiling. This is an important fact, since sugar was one of the foods rationed in World War II. Fresh fruit is packed into sterilized jars and and a thin, medium, or heavy sugar syrup is added. Proportions of sugar and water these three types of syrups are given to help canners sweeten sparingly, and recipes for these syrups from white corn syrup or honey are included.

The second recipe section is for canned fruit juices. I found this interesting, because I’d never think of canning fruit juices myself! Most of the juices are canned in a boiling water bath. Some of the more interesting recipes are for mint julep juice, peach nectar, pear nectar, strawberry syrup, and grape juice lemonade.

“Nourishing Tasty Vegetables” and “Deliciously Satisfying Soups” recipes call for pressure cooker processing, or extremely long hot water bath processing. Here is a big reason why I have only rarely tried canning vegetables:

“Note: All vegetables (except tomatoes) and meats canned at home should be boiled in an open vessel 10 to 15 minutes before tasting or using.”

The reason is bacteria, yeast, or mold contamination. Botulism, for example. No thanks, I’ll trust the current food industry for my canned vegetables. But people with a good canning pressure cooker might enjoy the recipes in this section for home-canned broccoli, cauliflower, pimiento peppers, hominy, mushrooms, boston baked beans, and sauerkraut.

The section on jelly making begins with a discussion of pectin. Pectin, in combination with fruit acid and sugar, thickens or “jells” jams, jellies, and preserves. In my post on the Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 9, I learned that pectin comes from the cell walls of citrus, apples, and sugar beets. Before pectin was sold commercially, home canners had to make their own. In the Kerr Home Canning Book, I learn that “the homemaker may extract the pectin from fruits that are known to contains it, such as apples, plums, and quinces, and feel quite confident that she can make jelly”.

pectin

Many fruits – not just citrus and apples – have enough natural pectin and fruit acid to jell without adding pectin. The Kerr Home Canning Book gives instructions for testing if a fruit has enough of these substances:

pectinpectinIn the above excerpt, they do state that “commercial pectin” can be used, so apparently boxed or bottled pectin was available in 1943. Sure enough, Wikipedia states that pectin was commercially produced by the 1920s.

Jelly recipes include mint jelly, orange jelly, pineapple jelly, and rose geranium jelly. Preserves recipes include an interesting pumpkin preserves recipe. Jams are next – I make a lot of jams! I like the variety of recipes in this section, some unusual fruits, interesting mixtures of fruits, and a tomato jam. The recipe for peach jam directs the cook to cut up peaches, cook without the addition of water, measure the cooked peach pulp and for each cup of peaches add 1 cup of sugar, and finally cook until desired consistency. I commonly use the peach jam recipe that comes with the little packets of pectin: you prepare a specific volume of peaches, add a specific amount of sugar and lemon juice, and a packet of pectin. The recipe in this booklet is much more versatile – you can make just as much jam as you have fruit, and skip the pectin altogether.

Fruit butters and conserves are next. I have made fruit butters, namely, apple butter (and sometimes I vary the recipe by adding pears). Kerr Home Canning Book includes recipes for grape butter, peach butter from dried peaches, and tomato and apple butter. Conserves vary from jams in that they are a mixture of several fruits often combined with raisins and nut meats: cherry conserve contains raisins, peach and cantaloupe conserve includes walnuts, and grape gumbo includes grapes, oranges, and raisins.

Marmalades! Again, many possibilities, 18 in all. Pickles are next – someone wrote notes in the mustard pickle recipe, was it Ruth Vandenhoudt, or my grandmother? “Olive Oil Pickles” intrigue me, as well as Pickled Eggs, Pickled Onions, and Watermelon Pickles. Catsups, Chutneys, and Relishes include recipes for apple, crab apple, cranberry catsups, as well as the traditional tomato catsup.

The next section is for canning meat, poultry, and game. I’d never think of home canning these today. “Bunny Sausage” is made from rabbit meat, onions, and spices. Brains, liver, heart, and kidneys are also canned. Or, one can can chili con carne, stewed chicken, or meat stews. Mince Meat is a recipe I’ve run across before (Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 7); mince pie used to be served at Thanksgiving or Christmas at our family gatherings. It’s made from chopped lean beef, suet, and a variety of fruits and spices. Pickled Pigs’ Feet! “Scald, scrape and clean the feet very thoroughly” it says. No thanks, I say!

A short section on canning fish and a section of “a bit of the unusual” like spaghetti sauce and hot tamales end the recipe sections of this booklet.

At the end of the book, there are 7 pages of questions and answers, and a comprehensive index. The final page is interesting, note the “Important War Notice!” on it:

Kerr nostalgia

I decide to make Orange-Pineapple Marmalade for this blog.

Orange-Pineapple Marmalade recipe

I like the way this recipe is written. You weigh the citrus fruits after they are cut, then add two pints of water per pound of fruit. So, it doesn’t matter how big your oranges and lemons are, because the volume is appropriately adjusted to the amount of water. The same is true for the sugar: weigh the cooked fruit mixture and add a pound of sugar for every pound of cooked fruit. This makes it really easy to make smaller or larger batches of the marmalade. I decide to start with 3 oranges (they are pretty big) and 1/2 of a lemon. Here are my sliced oranges and lemon:

oranges and lemons

They are so pretty! Here is how I made my Orange-Pineapple Marmalade.

Orange-Pineapple Marmalade
makes about 6 pints

  • 3 oranges, seeded, sliced thin or chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, seeded, sliced thin or chopped
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped in food processor with a few pulses
  • water
  • sugar

Weigh the sliced oranges and lemons, then add 2 pints (1 quart) of water for every pound of oranges/lemon, mixing them in a large (your largest!) pot. Mine weighed 2 pounds and 3 ounces, so I added 2 quarts plus 1 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer (sort of a “high” simmer) uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and let it sit overnight.

Add the pineapple to the orange/lemon/water mixture and cook until the fruit is tender. I cooked about 20 minutes, mainly to boil off some of the liquid, since the fruit mixture will be cooked more after the sugar is added. I let it cool a bit, but not a lot, I simply carefully poured it into a tared metal bowl on my kitchen scale. I had 4 pounds and 12 ounces. So, I added 4 pounds 12 ounces of sugar.

Cook the mixture of fruit and sugar until thick. I cooked mine about 45 minutes at a hard boil using high heat (not my burners highest heat; about 7-8 on a scale of 1-9. I stirred it a lot to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan. At first it was obvious that a lot of water was boiling off; later it finally began thickening and foam rather than water bubbles formed on top. When I felt it was thick enough, I used an instant-read thermometer and it registered 212˚ F.

Stir and skim the hot marmalade for 5 minutes. Pour into freshly washed and hot-rinsed jars, top with a canning lid, and invert to complete the seal.

Orange-Pineapple Marmalade

This marmalade is excellent! It is a bit “sticky”, like it was cooked too long. Next time I would add about half the amount of water to boil the orange and lemon slices. And I might even use more pineapple. But for a first try, we sure are enjoying this batch of marmalade.

Here is a scan rather than a photo of the nostalgic cover.

Kerr Home Canning Book cover

 

250 Cookbooks: Philly Dip Party Handbook

Cookbook #224: Philly Dip Party Handbook, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, circa late 1950s.

Philly Dip Party Handbook cookbookPhilly Dip Party Handbook is a paper booklet of cream cheese dip recipes. It’s only 4.5 x 6-inches and 20 pages long. Was it my mother’s? Grandmother’s? I am not sure, as there is no handwriting in this booklet. There is no publication date given, but from web searches, I learned that it was published in the 1950s or 1960s.

Each recipe includes Philadelphia Cream Cheese, “famous since 1880” according to the back cover. According to Wikipedia, cream cheese is made from a mixture of milk and cream. Bacteria is added so that the mixture coagulates, then it is heated to kill the bacteria. It is not “naturally matured”, and meant to be eaten fresh. The Wikipedia articls states that it is easy to make at home, but I don’t know anybody who does that! Commercial cream cheese has stablizers added, and sure enough, the package I bought has carob bean gum.

I love cream cheese, but use it sparingly because it is high in calories, 90% of which are fat calories. I haven’t made a dip from cream cheese for ages! Since all of the recipes in this book include cream cheese as the main ingredient, I am just going to have to bite the bullet and make a rich dip. Most of the recipes include a little cream to make the cream cheese more spreadable. Most recipes also include Worcestershire sauce too, and from there, a variety of seasonings and sometimes a protein food (clams, crab, ham).

When I picked up this book to start this blog post, I figured I’d recycle it. But I explored online, and found that it is quite popular. It is for sale on many websites, for example, the etsy site. The booklet goes for as little as 4 dollars and as much as 20 dollars. I guess a lot of people like to collect vintage cookbooks! Some artistic types may also use them for art projects.

Here is a fun blog post about the Philly Dip Party Handbook: Steve Bates in “and everything else too”. He scanned in all 20 pages of the booklet. Steve seems to really enjoy cream cheese dips! A quote: “I’m pretty much set on anything that includes Worcestershire sauce in the ingredients, and since that’s nearly every recipe here, it’s gonna be a tough decision to make cuz OMG they all look amazing!”

I decide to make Philly Clam Dip for this blog. 

Look at the little clam-shaped dish they put the dip in!

I bought Philadelphia brand cream cheese for my dip. It’s in the same grey and blue package as it was in the 1950s.

Piladelphia Cream Cheese packageI remember with fondness clam dips from my childhood. Often my father would make it, and he always claimed his was clam dip was the “best clam dip ever”. He might have added sour cream to his version. As for me, I’ll make it just like the recipe in the Philly Dip Party Handbook.

Philly Clam Dip

  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 6.5 ounce ounce can minced clams (drain and reserve the liquid)
  • 3 tablespoons clam broth (drained from the clams)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rub a bowl with the garlic clove. Combine the cream cheese and clam broth in the bowl, blending until smooth. Add the clams, lemon juice. Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper, and mix well.

Philly Clam Dip

Yum, this was good! And rich. We each took a taste but will save the rest to share with family on Thanksgiving.

The can of minced clams that I had in my cupboard was only 6.5 ounces. I put in most but not all of the package of cream cheese, because I wanted it clam-ier. I had a bottle of clam broth, and I compared it to the clam juice from the can – the clam juice from the can had a lot more flavor. It was salty, though, so I tasted the dip and decided not to add more salt. I have to admit that I didn’t really measure the lemon juice or Worcestershire sauce, I just guessed at the amounts, tasted the dip and added a bit more of each.

A rich, classic clam dip to enjoy!

250 Cookbooks: The Chinese Cookbook

Cookbook #223: The Chinese Cookbook, Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and New York, 1972.

The Chinese CookbookThe Chinese Cookbook is one of my favorite cookbooks. I always keep it in my kitchen for ready reference!

I turn first to Craig Claiborne’s introduction. He writes “I was trained in depth in French cookery in a Swiss hotel school, and it appealed to me from the beginning as a form of cookery that could be, let us say, wholly embraced . . . it seems so logical.” But Chinese cookery? He writes:

page xivClaiborne goes on to talk about his fourteen year stint as the food news editor and restaurant critic for the New York Times, saying “I was tired. I neeeded rest and a respite from cooking. And then I met Virginia Lee.”

Virginia Lee was a renowned Chinese cook who came to the US in 1967. Claiborne interviewed her for an article, and ended up applying for her cooking class. She only taught ten students at a time! But she accepted Claiborne, and eventually they wrote this cookbook together.

I want to share another excerpt from the introduction, because it says so much about Chinese cooking.

page xviiI learned how to make most of my current repertoire of Chinese dishes from The Chinese Cookbook. The recipes are easy to follow, even though the ingredient lists might look daunting with exotic ingredients. For instance, Hot and Sour Soup:

Hot and Sour SoupHot and Sour SoupI’ve made this Hot and Sour Soup many times. Dried black mushrooms, tree ear mushrooms, and dried tiger lily stems! Ages ago, I had to go all the way to Denver to a Chinese market to find all of these ingredients. Nowadays I go to the Asian Seafood Market in Boulder. Sometimes I leave out these exotic ingredients, if I have none on hand, or I use fresh shitakes and skip the tree ear and black mushrooms tiger lilies. Not as much fun, but still a good soup.

Claiborne mentioned Fried Jao-Tze in the introduction (excerpt at the top of this page). Jao-tze (or pot stickers) are little round wonton-type skins, filled with pork and shrimp and vegetables, that are first fried to get the bottoms brown, and then doused with a bit of water and covered and steamed until done. They are served with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, sugar, and hot oil. Years ago, before I had ever heard of Jao-Tze from other than his cookbook, one adventurous day I decided to try these. And they were amazing! It was only later that I saw Jao-Tze pot stickers appearing at restaurants, at University event buffets, and even in the frozen food section of markets. I have made Claiborne and Lee’s recipe at home many, many times and they are much better than any I have had out.

Another dumpling I learned about in this cookbook are “Shiu May”. I use square wonton skins, fill with shrimp and pork and vegetables, then steam them. The Chinese Cookbook’s Kung Pao Chicken is extremely tasty and extremely easy. It calls for raw, shelled fresh unsalted peanuts, and I find them at the Asian Seafood Market. It also calls for bean sauce, hoi sin sauce, and chili paste – these ingredients are usually in supermarkets, and they have a long shelf life once opened, kind of like ketchup. If you put enough dried hot peppers in it, your Kung Pao Chicken will please a guest who really likes hot food.

I did a google search to see what others thought of The Chinese Cookbook. A couple bloggers (Undercover Caterer and Collectible Cooking) raved about “The Best Fried Rice”, so I looked it up in my copy of the book. “This fried rice is a bit of a masterpiece” state Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee. Whoa. I am going to have to try this masterpiece soon.

A couple other recipes I’d like to try are “Beef with Oyster Sauce” and “Beef with Peas and Peanuts”.

Note: I covered another Chinese cookbook that I like in this blog: The Cooking of China, by Emily Hahn and the Editors of Time-Life Books. I put lots of photos of ingredients and one photo of my bamboo steamer in that post.

For this blog, I’ll make the Sesame Seed Pork Chops.

Sesame Seed Pork Chops recipeSesame Seed Pork Chops recipeI made these pretty much as per the above recipe, except I left out the monosodium glutamate, and I halved the recipe for two people, but did not halve the amount of egg white/cornstarch mixture. I used bone-in pork sirloin chops, but actually, next time I’d prefer to use boneless pork sirloin.

Sesame Seed Pork Chops
serves 2 as a main entre

  • 2 pork chops, bone-in or boneless (about 12 ounces if boneless)
  • 1 green onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or shao hsing wine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup sesame seeds (about)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Pound the pork chops lightly, then make cross hatches on both sides, using a sharp knife and cutting down to about 1/8 inch deep. Set aside.

Place the green onion, ginger, and water in a blender (I used a mini-processor). Blend well. Pour through a strainer into a bowl; discard the pulp. Add the sherry or shao hsing wine, sugar, soy sauce, and salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the prepared pork chops in a flat dish or bowl. Marinate at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Combine the egg white with the cornstarch and beat well to blend. Add a bit of sugar (about 1/4 teaspoon) and a little salt.

Put the sesame seeds into a flat dish. Pour oil into a skillet to cover the bottom by about 1/4 inch, then heat, but do not let it get “piping hot or the seeds will spatter and burn”.

Drain the marinade off the porkchops. Put them in the egg white mixture to coat both sides, then dip them in the sesame seeds to coat both sides generously. Put the coated chops in the heated skillet and cook 5-7 minutes (or until golden brown) on one side, then turn and cook 5-7 minutes on the other side. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chops.

Serve immediately.

These turned out well. I especially liked taking the green onion-ginger mixture out of the blender – it was green and smelled wonderfully of ginger. The sesame seed layer on the pork chops tended to lift off when cutting them, but it was delicious. I think that boneless pork chops would work better, because they would cut easier into pieces, although the bone-in ones were particularly juicy.

Here are my cooked sesame seed pork chops:

Sesame Seed Pork ChopsTo serve, I sliced the cooked chops into large chunks. It was messy because I had to avoid the bone. But, the pork was very, very juicy and flavorful. I served with fried rice and snow peas and fresh shitakis.

Delicious!

Sesame Seed Pork Chops plated

250 Cookbooks: Weight Watchers Quick and Easy Menu Cookbook

Cookbook #222: Weight Watchers Quick and Easy Menu Cookbook, Weight Watchers International, Nal Penguin, Inc., NY, 198.

Weight Watchers Quick and Easy CookbookThis is the second Weight Watchers book that I have covered in this blog, the other was Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook. In general, I like Weight Watchers. My best word is “sensible” for the eating plans. Weight Watchers’ plans of the 1980s espoused foods from the entire food pyramid, and taught dieters to watch their portions, learn the foods that have the most calories, and learn the foods that have the most nutrients. They help dieters learn how to eat and enjoy a balanced diet – a “normal” diet, not a “fad” diet – and this knowledge should help them beyond the initial strict dieting phase.

I found Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook a bit “weird” – read my post to find out why.

This Weight Watchers cookbook looks more promising. I immediately find a couple recipes I could cook for this blog. It is nicely laid out, with each page being a meal plan for one day (breakfast, lunch dinner, snacks) tucked in a column to the left, and a full recipe for one of those meal plan items on the right. As I scan the recipes, I realize that ingredients are pretty much what I already have in my pantry, so no special trips to the market to find an odd ingredient are needed. Below is a recipe I tried. It illustrated how the book is laid out.

Pork Fajita Pitas recipe

I like the large variety of fresh vegetables in the recipes. The chapters are organized by month of the year, so that you are able to use the fresh foods most abundant at the moment in the market. There are several full page color photos scattered throughout the book. And I like the way each recipe lists calories and exchanges (bread, milk, vegetable, protein, fat), kind of like the diabetic diet book I covered, The Calculating Cook.

One of the recipes I like is the “Swiss Chard Gnocchi”. It is reminescent of the dumplings of my recent blog post, the Cooking of Germany, but the Weight Watchers version incorporates a fresh vegetable (swiss chard) for a less-calorie higher-nutrient version of a dumpling. “Greek Vegetarian Pitas” include cucumber, bell pepper, fresh parsley, garbanzo beans, tahini, yogurt, mint, and feta cheese. Several recipes include kale and fennel. Muffins have raisins and freshly grated carrot. “Capered Turkey Amandine” calls for almonds, capers, and parsley. I’d like to try the “Apple Crisp with Graham Crackers”, since I am always looking for low calorie desserts, and I have lots of graham crackers at the moment, and have never thought of putting graham crackers on an apple crisp.

I like this too: almost all the main dish recipes are written for two people. So convenient for this retired couple.

I do note that most recipes lower the calorie content not only by portion size, but by including less fat. For instance, when I compare my own muffin recipe with the muffin recipes in Weight Watchers Quick and Easy Menu Cookbook, I find mine have more fat and less sugar for the same total calorie amount. This is so very common in the low-fat diet trend of the late twentieth century. (The Big Fat Surprise kind of turned my own ideas about fats entirely around.)

I marked one recipe as tried, the “Pork Fajita Pitas”.

I like this cook book well enough to keep it. For this blog, I’ll make the “Chicken ‘n’ Noodles Amandine”.

Chicken Noodles Amandine recipe

As I look over the recipe ingredients, I recall this about Weight Watcher recipes: they can be a bit nutty about the amounts of each ingredient. Of course, they are listing nutrient values per recipe, so that will only work if the cook carefully measures everything. For example, the directions say to “divide a tablespoon of margarine”, using 1 teaspoon for toasting the almonds and two teaspoons for frying the chicken. “1/4 ounce” of almonds is about a tablespoon (I weighed them and then volume-measured them).”1/2 teaspoon flour” is not going to thicken the sauce, in my opinion, and 1/2 teaspoon of flour only has 5 calories. So I’ll splurge and use a tablespoon, for a huge 37 calories. “1/2 packet” of instant chicken broth and seasoning mix? I don’t have that, so I’ll just use salt and pepper. I am to use “1 cup of cooked noodles”. (Who likes to measure cooked noodles anyway?) That is not very helpful, what I need to know is how many dry noodles to cook. From references, I find that:

  • 1 cup of cooked noodles has 210 calories
  • 1 ounce of dry pasta has 100 calories

Thus, I would weigh out 2 ounces of dry noodles for about 200 calories. I know how much pasta we like: in general, I weigh out 3-4 ounces of dry pastas like spaghetti and penne for the two of us.

I used one big boneless chicken breast, about 12 ounces, and cut it in two horizontally, and pounded it a tiny bit to flatten it. Two people can be a guy and a girl, so sometimes portion sizes have to be nudged.

Below is my version of the recipe. It may have more calories than the printed version.

Chicken Noodles Amandine
serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
  • boneless chicken breast, 8-12 ounces (use 2 chicken cutlets, or slice a whole boneless chicken breast into two pieces)
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup diagonally sliced green onions (I used green onions and some leek too)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (or more, if you want; I actually used half yogurt and half sour cream)
  • salt and pepper
  • cooked noodles (cook 3 ounces dry pasta)

Toast the almonds in a dry, non-stick pan until golden. Set aside.

Saute the chicken breasts in a skillet in a bit of hot olive oil. When both sides of the chicken are browned (about 3 minutes per side), remove them from the skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet, melt the tablespoon of butter. Saute the mushrooms and green onions until tender-crisp, then sprinkle the flour over them and stir. Gradually stir in the water (or stock). Stir in the sour cream and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to low, and add back the chicken. Simmer about 5-10 minutes, until all is hot. Serve over noodles and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Here are the chicken breasts in the pan, ready to be served:

cooking the chickenAnd our plated meal:

Chicken Noodles Amandine

These were tasty and very easy to make. The sauce was a bit thin for our tastes; next time I would add more than a tablespoon of flour. But all-in-all, a success!

250 Cookbooks: Cooking of Germany

Cookbook #221: Cooking of Germany, Nika Standen Hazelton and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, NY, 1969. Foods of the World series; revised 1973, reprinted 1974.

Cooking of Germany cookbookThis is the fifth and last book that I own in the Foods of the World series. Once again, I look forward to discovering another interesting author as I open Cooking of Germany, just as I discovered M. F. K. Fisher in the Cooking of Provinvial France, Emily Hahn in the Cooking of China, Joseph Wechsberg in Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, and Rafael Steinberg in the Cooking of Japan.

Nika Standen Hazelton is the author, and who is she? Let’s see what I can find. She was born in 1908, in Rome; her father was a German diplomat. She studied at the London School of Economics and began a career as a European journalist at the young age of 22, in 1930. In 1940, she emigrated to the US with her husband.

In the States, she started writing cookbooks. Her obituary states she authored 30 cookbooks, and also “was a frequent contributer to the major food magazines and for several decades wrote a column about food, wine and travel for The National Review“.  Her writing style wove memoirs into her recipes, and several of her books remain cookbook standards. Her attitude towards cooking is described as “no-nonsense”. “Searching for Nika Hazelton, the no-nonsense cook” is a delightful 2011 blog entry by Sandra Lee. I chuckled several times at Sandra’s descriptions of this apparently full-of-attitude author.

So I am a bit abashed that I was ignorant of Nika Hazelton’s writing. She belongs among the other important woman authors of food articles and books in the twentieth century, alongside M. F. K. Fisher and Emily Hahn. (And why did I not read and appreciate these female authors of the Foods of the World series when I first received the books in the mail? I have no good answer.)

Nika Hazelton begins the introduction with “when I began to think about this book, I was puzzled . . . should the book be aboutt he cooking of present-day Germany? Should it be about the cooking I grew up with between World Wars I and II? . . . each approach could be illuminating, and each had its drawbacks.” Here is the paragraph that follows these thoughts – note her philosophical tone:

page 6

Her musings continue. “Why write about a bygone age? The Germany of those days is gone forever – and good riddance to it.”

This paragraph describes her decision for the book’s focus:page 6page 7

And:

“As in any cookbook, some readers will miss their own favorites, or question ingredients or techniques that went into making a typical dish. I can only remind them that no book is all-inclusive, and that most traditional dishes of any country come in almost as many versions as there are cooks. This is an asset rather than a fault, for it gives room for pleasant speculation on the whys and wherefores of a dish – pleasant speculation, because food and cooking are pleasant and comforting in themselves.”

“Food and cooking are pleasant and comforting in themselves.” A woman after my own heart.

The introduction is followed by the first chapter: “Surprises of the German Table”. Nika Hazelton writes that the tourist (of the late 1960s) might expect to find a Germany filled with the music of Bach and Beethoven, castles perched high above the Rhine, and Hansel-and-Gretel towns nestled in dark forests. Meals would be a long succession of sausages and sauerkraut followed by sauerbraten and dumplings served with great steins of beer “hoisted by hefty maidens”. But in reality, the tourist would fly in jets over the Rhine castles, and “The Gretels are miniskirted, the Hansels long-haired, and they sway to rock ‘n’ roll in the automobile-choked streets of their age-old towns.” Those automobiles would be Volkswagens. The tourist would find all the expected dishes, but they will be different in flavor and in an incredible variety of forms. And food is sold in “supermoden supermarkets”, offering foods “premixed, freeze-dried, precooked, and, of course, temptingly packaged for impulse buying, along with fresh foods from the world over.”

Here she describes why she thinks Americans are so comfortable with German food:

Cooking of GermanyThis book has wonderful full-page photographs. The photographer was German-born Ralph Crane, who worked for the NY Times as well as Time-Life books. Here is an example of the full-page photos in this book:

Cooking of Germany

The second chapter is “How to Eat Five meals a Day”. I turn to a photo of a man in suit and tie, his wife in dark sweater and trousers. They sit at a table, under an elegant chandelier, complete with candles, flowers, and fancy dishware. She is feeding a bite of her food to the family dachshund. The photo caption tells us they are “dining informally at home”. Oh yes. Informal. (You should see my informal.)

The five-meals-a-day chapter exemplifies Nika Hazelton’s character as she describes not only the food, but the people and the traditions of German cooking. She takes us through a day in the life of a German in the mid-twentieth century, weaving the hours with people coming together and enjoying food, and compares the experiences of Germans today with those of yesteryears.

This paragraph exemplifies the chapter’s tone:

Cooking of Germany

She mentions the grape harvest:

“Incidentally, for those who think that grape harvesting is romantic, with maidens in dirndls wearing Bacchic wreaths in their hair, I have news. Grape pickers wear jeans, sweaters and high rubber boots. The pretty dresses and stupendous beehive hairdos come later, at the Winzerfeste, or local vintners’ fêtes, where the merriment is astonishing indeed.”

At the end of the second (and each) chapter are recipes. Katerfisch, or “Fish for a Hangover” with tomato sauce and pickles, and Röllmopse, or “Rollmops”, are herring rolls filled with onion and pickle, “prized as a pick-me-up on a morning after”. Ah, those Germans.

Chapter 3 is “The Pleasures of Eating Out”. Here is an example:

Cooking of Germany

Chapter 4 is “Old and New Ways of Party Giving”. Again, an example:

Cooking of GermanyCooking of Germany

Nika Hazelton ties her own past with her own present:

Cooking of GermanyThe flavor and of the Cooking of Germany continues to the end of the book. The next chapters are “A Cooking History 2,000 Years Old”, “The Northern Style: Cold-Climate Cuisine”, “The Central Style: Rich and Filling”, “The Southern Style: A lighter Touch”, “Baking Raised to a Fine Art”, and “Festive Revelry and Nostalgic Holidays”. Here are a few thoughts about these chapters.

  • There is a great photo of a potato on page 134. I learn that potatoes are a new world vegetable, and of all the Europeans, Germans were the last import them. Today, potatoes are called “The King” of German vegetables and are used for Schnaps (an alcoholic beverage), dessert dumplings, hot potato salad, potato pancakes, potato soup, and potato dumplings, among other dishes.
  • One of my favorite pages is the photo on page 154 of 26 different kinds of German wursts (sausages). “Everybody rejoices when November kills its pig” is the title of a photo caption.
  • I enjoy the “Baking Raised to a Fine Art” chapter. Wonderful photos of German yeast breads. Photos of desserts, fancy and rich, like the gingerbread house on the cover of the book.

Cooking of GermanyCooking of Germany

Need to mention

I find the recipe instructions in the hard cover and in the accompanying spiral bound booklet very well written. The “late Michael Field suprervised the adapting and writing of recipes for this book. One of America’s foremost food experts and culinary teachers, he wrote many articles for leading magazines.”

Another of the team that put together the Cooking of Germany is the consultant:

Cooking of Germany

As you can see, the consultant was Irma Rhode. Born in 1900, she earned PhD in chemistry. I can imagine that she was the only female in her classes. Heck, I was one of the few women taking chemistry in the 1960s!

Rouladen for dinner

Time to get cooking! I pick up the spiral-bound book of recipes that accompanies the hardcover. I decide to make Rouladen for this blog. These are beef rolls, and the recipe suggests to serve them with spatzle (see scan below)). I’ve made Rouladen before but wow, how long ago was that! We both remember this dish but can’t remember the last time I made it and I can’t figure out why I haven’t made it since.

Rouladen recipeAs suggested in the recipe, I’ll serve it with a little Red Cabbage with Apples.

red cabbage recipe

The rouladen recipe also suggests dumplings or spätzle, but I am going to cheat and use convenient potato dumplings, or gnocchi, sold these days in America as a shelf-stable pasta product. Below is the Cooking of Germany recipe for spätzle. You can see I used this recipe booklet, by the sticky pages at spätzle. I love spätzle! But they take a bit of time to make. (Someday I’ll make them again!)

dumplings pages

I modified the rouladen recipe a bit: I increased the onions, leeks, and parsnip in the cooking liquid, and I added some pepper. I made the sauce a bit differently, as described in my version of the recipe, below.

Braised Stuffed Beef Rolls (Rouladen)
serves 2

  • 1 pound thin sirloin (or top round) steak (my local market sells thin sirloin as “petite sirloin”)
  • 2 teaspoons mustard (I used a brown mustard with seeds, but any type would work)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 slices bacon, each about 8 inches long
  • 1 whole dill pickle, cut lengthwise into halves
  • 1 tablespoon lard (or use butter)
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced leeks, white part only
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsnip (optional; or substitute a carrot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 big sprig of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Pound the steak until it is 1/4 inch thick. (I put it in a ziplock bag and pounded with a mallet.) If you are using a single piece of round steak or sirloin steak, cut it into two rectangular pieces about 4 inches wide and 8 inches long after pounding. I found that the petite sirloin steaks worked perfectly, as they were sold already the perfect size for this dish.

Spread each rectangle with a teaspoon of mustard, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of onions (save the remaining onions for later). Place a piece of bacon lengthwise down the center. Lay a dill pickle half across the narrow end of each piece and beginning at the pickle end, roll the meat around it, jelly-roll fashion, into a cylinder. Tie the rolls at each end with kitchen cord.

BeefRolls layoutBeefRolls rolledChoose a deep skillet with a heavy lid. I used my old cast-iron stewing pot; a LeCreuset or any heavy cooking pan or pot or skillet would work. Heat the skillet over moderate heat; add the lard (or butter) and heat until it begins to splutter. Add the beef rolls, and brown them on all sides, regulating the heat so they color quickly and evenly without burning. Transfer the rolls to a plate and set aside.

Add the celery, leeks, parsnip, remaining onion, and salt and pepper to the skillet and cook and stir a minute or two to soften the vegetables. Add the water and bring it to a boil, stirring and scraping in any brown particles clinging to the bottom and sides of the pan. Add the parsley. Turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Monitor the pot for awhile: you want a gentle simmer. Let it simmer for an hour or so, turning the rolls once or twice.

Remove the rolls from the pot and cover with foil to keep them from drying out while you make the sauce.

Let the sauce cool awhile in the pot, then scoop the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon. Pour the liquid into a gravy separator. Alternatively, if your gravy separator has a strainer-type top, pour the entire contents of the pot through the strainer into the separator. You want these cooked vegetables! Save them!

When the fat has separated from the water layer, pour the water layer into a blender or food processor, or better yet, into the cylindric container that comes with an immersion blender. Add the saved cooked veggies to the liquid, and blend or process or use an immersion blender to homogenize the mixture.

Meanwhile, melt the tablespoon of butter in the skillet until it is foaming, then slowly add the 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly. When all the flour is incorporated, stir a minute or two more, but do not let it burn. Then, slowly and with constant stirring, add the blended broth-vegetable mixture. When it is nicely thickened and bubbly, add the beef rolls, cover the pot, and heat 5-10 minutes to get the rolls to serving temperature.

BeefRolls platedThese were delicious! The gravy was amazing, thick and full of flavor. The pickle inside was fun. These remind us of one of our favorite meals, called “little piggies” by my husband’s family. It’s still about his favorite meal  – strips of bacon on strips of round steak, rolled and secured with a toothpick, cooked in a skillet and served over mashed potatoes with gravy. I like the rouladen as made above with tender sirloin steak, because there is less fuss in preparation, and the de-fatted gravy isn’t greasy.

250 Cookbooks: Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes

Cookbook #220: Original SchlemmerTopf® Recipes, Scheurich, circa 2009.

Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes cookbookA “Schlemmertopf” is a covered clay baking pot. I wrote a lot of material on clay pots in Römertopf Cooking is Fun, and more in Original Schlemmertopf Recipes, so I won’t repeat that information here.

Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes is the instruction and recipe booklet that came with my current SchlemmerTopf. I bought this clay pot in 2009 (plus or minus a year or two) to bake no-knead breads. The back cover of Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes states that Reston Lloyd Ltd. is the exclusive US and Canada distributor for SchlemmerTopf. They suggest: “Visit our Web Site: www.restonlloyd.com” – so I did, and found that currently Reston Lloyd  offers only the Romertopf® brand of covered clay baking pots.

The bottom section of my SchlemmerTopf® is glazed; the top section is not. This makes it a lot easier to clean than the first clay pot I had. The unglazed top section needs to be soaked in water for about 10 minutes before use. After filling the bottom of the pot with recipe ingredients, the top is added, and the SchlemmerTopf® is put in a cold oven. Only then is the oven turned on, usually to a high temperature, like 425-475˚.

And yes, my last two experiences with clay pot recipes for this blog were very successful! I need to remember to use this pot more often, and no only for baking bread!

Here is the instruction page:

schlemmertopf instructionsAnd Six Golden Rules:

6 golden rulesThe first 23 pages of this booklet is written in English, then (as far as I can tell) the same instructions and recipes are written in Spanish and then in French. Example recipes are stuffed flank steak, beef stew, meat loaf, beef cabbage rolls, roast beef, chicken shanghai (I made this for another blog entry), chicken paprika, turkey curry, roast game hens, roast duck, and roast salmon. I find these recipes are helpful because they illustrate how to bake a variety of foods in the SchlemmerTopf. But, they are not very inspiring.

Hmmm, shall I keep this small booklet? For a while. But I know I could live without it.

For this blog I decide to make the Roast Beef. Largely because I have a small roast in the freezer!

Roast Beef recipeMy roast is only about a pound and a half, so I will cut the recipe in half. Note how the recipe (above) does not state what cut of beef to use, nor does it tell me if the potatoes, carrots, and onions are to be peeled or chopped. It does direct the cook to cut the celery in “2-inch pieces”. I decided to peel and cut in half the potatoes, carrrots, and onions.

SchlemmerTopf® Roast Beef
serves 2, with leftovers for sandwiches

  • beef roast, about 2 pounds (I used a bottom round roast)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 onions, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 stalk of celery cut in 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf

Soak the lid of the SchlemmerTopf® in cold water for at least 10 minutes.

Season the roast with salt and pepper and place in the base of the SchlemmerTopf®. Add the vegetables around the roast, then put the parsley and bay leaf on top.

Cover the SchlemmerTopf®.

Place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 425˚ and bake for 2 hours. Feel free to open the lid and check for doneness at any time, it won’t affect the baking.

Here is the beef and vegetables, ready to go in the oven.

clay pot roast

And here is the finished roast.

clay pot roastThis was good. The potatoes were nicely browned and not mushy inside. I liked the onions too – browned and soft and perfect. I wasn’t able to make a gravy, so I served it with ketchup. (I liked the Römertopf Pot Roast that I made when I covered Römertopf Cooking is Fun. For that pot roast, I used a cross rib roast, lots more seasonings, and was able to make a gravy.)

The leftover beef from this Beef Roast recipe was great the next day, sliced thin in sandwiches. So I’d say the recipe was a success!

250 Cookbooks: McCall’s Cook Book

Cookbook #219: McCall’s Cook Book, by the Food Editors of McCall’s, McCall Corporation and Random House Inc., 8th printing, NY, 1963.

McCalls Cook BookThis treasure is my mother’s copy of my book of the same name, as covered in my 2016 blog post. The cover on her book is yellow, and mine green. She took better care of her copy – didn’t have to tape the back binding together.

Inside the front cover, she scotch-taped several bits of useful information. One is a newspaper clipping from a Q/A article on can sizes. In the early twentieth century, cans were sold by sizes “No. 2, No. 10, No. 203” etc. Her clipping translates those values into weight and volume values. (Of course, nowadays we just google for an answer.) She also clipped  a table of weights and measures for fruits and nuts, and a table of food volumes before and after cooking. And tucked in with these tables is a “how much equals how much?” for fruits and vegetables.

Yup, she used this cookbook as a reference. I remember that she always put the exact amount of each ingredient called for in a recipe. If she had a couple tablespoons from a can of olives left over after measuring, those olives did not go into the bowl.

Mother inscribed these words on the page opposite the title page:

McCalls inscription

I page through the book looking for more of her notes. I come to the Quick Breads chapter, which begins:

“It’s hard to buy these sweet breads, so if you want to serve them, you’ll have to make them. Use them when you entertain, particularly at afternoon teas or luncheons when a fruit salad is the main course.”

Today we can buy quick breads in coffee shops and markets. Like banana bread. Mother marked “Banana Bread” in her edition of McCalls Cook Book.

banana nut bread and date nut breadI have about 3 or 4 banana bread recipes – I rotate through different versions, but most of my recipes call for vegetable oil – this one uses butter or margarine instead. Might be interesting to try. Seems I often have ripe bananas to use up!

The next recipe she marked is for “Perfect Muffins”. I like the introduction to muffns: “These are absurdly easy to make. What is known as the ‘muffin method’ – that is, adding all the liquid ingredients to all the dry – is often used for other quick breads and for simple cakes, as well.” Perfect Muffins is a basic recipe that can be modified – eight different suggestions are listed on the following pages. I like the way she circled “11” on the number of muffins to make; she also changed the baking time and temperature.

Perfect Muffins recipe

I continue paging through. My goodness, her book is in such better condition than mine! She put a red check but no comments next to a recipe for sour cream in pancakes – I’d like sour cream in pancakes too. The recipe pages for “McCalls Basic White Bread”, a yeast bread, look well used. She thought the Honey-Whole-Wheat Bread was delicious. Mother must have made homemade pizza, although I never remember her cooking it. She liked the McCalls recipe for homemade crust. Plus, she tucked several magazine-clipped recipes for pizza sauce inside the book. These sauce recipes are similar to the ones I found on SeriousEats a few weeks ago.

She thought the Old-Fashioned Applesauce Cake was “delicious”. I’ve used this recipe too; I sometimes made this cake into cupcakes, too. In fact, I think I’ll make it again soon, it is a very good cake. Especially with icing! Peanut Butter Pinwheels sound really, really good (she marked them “delicious”). I never remember having one of these cookies: a peanut butter dough rolled out, spread with chocolate, rolled into a log, sliced into cookies.

PeanutButterPinwheelsOn the recipe Chili Con Carne in Red Wine, she commented it was “Pretty good, kinda runny”. I think she served it with the suggested Polenta Squares, a recipe later in the book, because she commented at the polenta squares “Good – I like it”. This makes me chuckle. I too like tomato-based sauces over polenta. I just discovered home-cooked polenta a few years ago. My dining partner sort of likes it, and I can imagine my father felt the same way. So her “Good – I like it” is a sort of rebellion. (I had no idea she ever tried a polenta dish.) She liked the deep fried Corn Fritters, but thought the Chili Con Carne only “fair”.

Now we get to desserts. Looks like she tried the Chocolate Roll with Mocha Filling. Not enough filling, she wrote, and suggested to double the recipe. She thought the French Apple Cobbler “delicious!”.

In the Eggs, Omelets and Souffles chapter, she tried the Scrambled Eggs a la Suisse and thought them “pretty good – but not great”. This is a brunch egg dish. I had another surprise when I found that she made and liked the cheese souffle. Just like pizza, I never remember her making souffles. Eggs Benedict get a “delicious”.

Pickled beets get a “delicious”, and Rolled, Stuffed Flank Steak gets a “delicious!” written in red and underlined. She made some changes in the Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe.

The Pies and Small Pastries chapter comes next. Why it is not with the “Dessert” chapter reminds me that this cookbook has an odd organization (I noted this when I covered my own copy). She tried the Fresh Apricot Pie and has notes on the number and size of apricots she used, plus a note that she cut them in quarters instead of slicing.

In Salads and Salad Dressings, she liked the Raw-Spinach Salad. In the Sandwich and Sandwich Filling chapter, she thought the Hot Crabmeat-Salad Sandwiches “just so-so”. In Sauces and Gravies, she marked “Mock Hollandaise Sauce” as “very good”. This sauce is used for Eggs Benedict in an earlier chapter. In Vegetables and Potatoes, Eggplant-and-Tomato Casserole is marked “very good” and “Paul likes”. She liked Amelia’s Potato Pancakes and Honey-Spice Acorn Squash. And in the Leftoverschapter, Pork Chop Suey is marked “Very good”, and she adds “Serve with dry Chinese noodles”.

This brings me to the end of the book, and all of the recipes she marked. I certainly enjoyed going through this cookbook of hers. Brought back lots of memories.

And now, what to make for this blog? I decide on the “Perfect Muffins” (a scan of the recipe is above). I make a lot of muffins, but don’t pay exact attention to the proportions of flour, sugar, liquid, and shortening. Perfect Muffins gives just that: correct proportions. You could use this recipe to make any flavor of muffin – though I doubt it will work when large amounts of wet fruits (like bananas or apples) or vegetables (like carrots or sweet potatoes) are added. But if you want to add dried blueberries, or maraschino cherries, or nuts or spices, or some other interesting ingredient that catches your eye, Perfect Muffins is a great start. I consider it part of my ever-growing knowledge of muffin making.

I choose the variation of Perfect Muffins that adds raisins and oranges. I made them just like the recipe, except I took Mother’s advice and used her altered baking temperature and time.

Perfect Muffins with Raisins and Orange
makes 11

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and raisins in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine the milk, vegetable oil, egg, and orange peel; whisk to combine.

“Make a well” in center of flour mixure (I rarely “make a well”, but this is the way the traditional directions for combining wet and dry ingredients read). Pour in milk mixture all at once, stir quickly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix! Batter will be lumpy.

Fill muffin cups just slightly more than half full.

Bake at 375˚ for 20 minutes, or until they test done with a toothpick.

Basic Muffins with Raisins and OrangeThese muffins are cake-like, or cupcake-like. The muffins I make are usually packed with bananas or apples or carrots, or whole grains, so to us, they tasted “less-healthy-than-usual”. Although, after my first bite of one of these muffins, I just wanted . . .  more!

250 Cookbooks: Pastries and Desserts

Cookbook #218: Pastries and Desserts, California Home Economics Association, Press of Clyde Browne, Los Angeles, Cal., 1921.

Pastries and Desserts cookbookThis might have belonged to my maternal grandmother. There is very little handwriting in it, but what there is looks like hers. Or it might have come from Ruth Vandenhoudt, since it is from the same cookbook series as Salads, Vegetables and the Market Basket. There are a few food and age stains, but it is actually in pretty good condition for being 96 years old! I have two copies, and one is missing the cover.

I like the design of the cover and the introductory pages. Here is a scan of the cover, since it gives more detail than my photo:

Pastries and Desserts

The title page:

PastDesstitlepage

This page is opposite the title page (above) and lists books in the series. I like this: “Price: Fifty Cents. Postage: Four Cents.”

PastDessopptitlepageThe entire content has a pleasing typeface and layout, no typos, is well-organized with cross-references, and has a very useful index at the end. The content is by the California Home Economics Association, Southern Section, but who is responsible for the printing of this 1921 cookbook? I find “Press of Clyde Browne” and “Cover Design by Stanley Edwards” on the back cover:

pressofClydeBrownClyde Browne, was a self-identified printer, according to a 2014 article in KCETLink. From the KCETLink web site: “. . . Southern California bohemians, whose ideals and aesthetics were inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, valuing craftsmanship, beauty, nature, and community. Settling along the Arroyo Seco, between Pasadena and Highland Park, these inhabitants created what Kevin Starr calls the ‘Arroyoan ideal: the spiritualization of daily life through an aestheticism tied to crafts and local materials,’ that is ‘expressed primarily through the home.'” Clyde Browne also has a Wikipedia entry.

Sounds like Clyde was a Bohemian, a beatnik, a hippie, a New Age person. Someone who would be right at home in Boulder, Colorado.

I continue paging through Pastries and Desserts. Here is the foreword:

PastriesDessertsforewordThis foreword tells us that the California Home Economics Association promoted these recipe booklets as “useful gifts for many occasions”. Furthermore, it tells us about the role of women in society in the early twentieth century: “The desserts have been classified in such a way that she who hopes to plan her meals wisely will find the dessert problem a little easier”. (Dessert problem, right.)

The first recipe in the booklet is for pie crust, below. These directions represent the style of writing throughout the booklet. I’ll let you read it and judge for yourself. (This is from the era before mixers, food processors, or even pastry cutters.) Note the directions for oven temperatures: “bake in a very hot oven for about 3 minutes, and then lower the heat decidedly”. Here is how to intrepret older oven temperature descriptions to degrees Fahrenheit.

pastrypastryNote that besides the instruction “hot oven for 3 minutes”, no time is given for baking the crust. This is true throughout this 1921 cookbook. The baking recipes just say “cook until done”. Some of the recipes for steamed puddings have a designated cooking time, but the desserts cooked on the stove top do not.

Pie recipes include: lemon chiffon, berry, southern tomato, rhubarb, raisin, custard, mock mincemeat, cottage cheese, banana cream, and more. Tarts can be adapted from any of the pie recipes.

Puddings are thickened with cornstarch, tapioca, and flour. Cereal desserts are made from rice, cornmeal, bread and cracker crumbs. There are custards, fruits (raw and stewed and baked), and rose apples using red clove candies. Fruits include cranberries, oranges, apples, bananas, berries, grapes, figs, melons, pineapple, peaches, prunes. Gelatine desserts are based on plain gelatin (not jello). Baked puddings include dumplings, cobblers, and roly poly. Steamed puddings include carrot, cherry cup, chocolate, fruit, gingerbread, Hazzard Delicious (butter, sugar, nuts, flour, baking powder, milk, eggs), persimmon, plum, and suet. There are rosettes, timbales and fritters. Frozen desserts include fruit ices: ice cream from milk, cream, sugar and eggs, simply frozen, not churned, with variations including chocolate, orange, pinneapple, caramel, coffee, fig, tutti frutti, grape nut, maple, peppermint, and ginger. Mousses (a standard recipe with suggestions for flavoring) and parfaits (frozen desserts made with eggs, syrup) are included. The last section is sauces for puddings (cooked without eggs, cooked with eggs, uncooked with eggs), and sauces for ice cream.

Very few recipes in this booklet include chocolate!

I decide to make Tapioca Cream for this blog. Our grandson will join us for dinner and I think this is a fairly nutritous dessert because it includes milk and eggs, is relatively low in sugar, and has no added fat.

Tapioca is a starch made from cassava root. In the US, it is mainly used as a thickener, but in triopical areas of Africa and Asia, cassava is a staple food. Cassava is low in nutrition: it has no protein or fiber, is low in calories (important in areas of the world where food energy is a plus), and has insignificant amounts of viatmins and minerals. In the US, tapioca is sold as “minute tapioca” (and has been sold that way since at least 1921). I’ve also tried pearl tapioca – big round lumps of tapioca.

Here is the Tapioca Cream recipe from page 26:

Tapioca Cream recipe

As you see, the mixing and cooking instructions are not given in the Tapioca Cream recipe. It says: “mix same as for cornstarch pudding”. Those instructions are six pages previous – page 19:

tapioca pudding instructions

I learned that you do not have to scald milk from my book Kitchen Science. Therefore, I will simply mix together the tapioca, sugar, salt, and milk. Shall I use a double boilier to heat this mixture? I suspect that in 1921, you needed to cook in a double boiler to control the stove top temperature – note that the recipe says “remove from fire”. “Fire” sounds harder to control than today’s stove top burners! So I won’t use that step, but simply cook it in a saucepan on the stove top. Also, I will beat the egg whites with 3 tablespoons sugar, according to the instructions on my current package of minute tapioca. The modern recipe calls for 2 tablespoons less sugar and leaves out the nuts.

Tapioca Cream Pudding
serves 3-6

  • 1/4 cup minute tapioca
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • dash of salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the tapioca, sugar, and salt in a cool pan, then add the milk and egg yolk. Let stand 5 minutes.

Heat the mixture to a full boil on medium heat, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Let stand 20 minutes to cool.

Beat the egg white on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg white mixture into the tapioca-milk mixture. Fold in the vanilla.

You can divide the pudding into single servings or not; you can serve warm or chilled.

tapioca puddingI made only three custard cups, and it served three people! It was so good – I hadn’t made it in years and it’s a comfort food to me. I put some sliced strawberries on top and served it with cookies. My grandson liked to dip those cookies in the pudding!

Note: I used 3 tablespoons tapioca, as it stated on the package. But I would have liked it a little thicker, so I’d suggest the 4 tablespoons tapioca as written in Pastries and Desserts.

oven temperatures

Aside

Many older cookbooks refer to oven temperatures as very slow, slow, moderte, hot, very hot, and extremely hot. In my Encyclopedia of Cooking, Volume 11, I found this handy table that translates these terms into degrees fahrenheit.

oven temperatures