250 Cookbooks: The Vegetarian Cookbook

Cookbook #243: The Vegetarian Cookbook, Nicola Graimes, Hermes House, Anness Publishing Ltd, London, 2003.

The Vegetarian CookbookThe Vegetarian Cookbook is pleasantly laid out and illustrated, and Nicola Graimes is a personable author. I probably bought this book at a time when my daughter was vegetarian. I don’t think I’ve cooked many – if any – of the recipes in it! Why not? I really can’t tell you.

Nicola Graimes writes in the introduction:

“Vegetarianism is not purely about achieving and maintaining good health. A meat-free diet is enjoyable, delicious and varied. The choice of fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs, noodles, pasta, grains and cheeses is now more extensive than ever before, enabling cooks to experiment with different flavours, textures and colours, and vegetarian food has become a popular cuisine in its own right.”

And, dear spell checker, “flavours” and “colours” is correct in this Britain-published cookbook!

More from Graimes:

“Today, much of our food is processed and bears little resemblance to the original ingredients, so the recipes in this book specify fresh, unrefined foods whenever possible.”

If you have read any of this blog of mine, you will know that I am entirely in agreement with the above statement. So why haven’t I used this cookbook? Time to settle in and give The Vegetarian Cookbook a good reading. The first fifth of The Vegetarian Cookbook is an extensive guide to ingredients, from vegetables to spices and oils and pastas. Useful, but these days I usually rely on the internet instead.

The rest of the book is recipes, most with an international flair. “Soups” is the first recipe chapter, beginning with chilled soups. (I am not a fan of chilled soups.) I do like several of Graimes’ recipes for hot soups. I’d like to try North African Spiced Soup (potatoes, celery, tomatoes, chickpeas, and lots of spices) and Spiced Lentil Soup. Cream of Courgette Soup? A courgette is a zucchini, so it’s cream of zucchini soup. Garlic and Coriander Soup is an interesting concoction of cilantro (coriander), garlic, vegetable stock, bread, and poached eggs. Roasted Vegetable Soup sounds good too. First you roast butternut squash, carrots, parsnip, rutabaga, and leeks, then combine them with vegetable stock, cook, puree, and serve.

So. There are some interesting recipes in this book. Perhaps in 2003 I wasn’t quite as adventurous in my cooking? Not sure. I turn to the appetizers chapter. I like Asparagus in Egg and Lemon Sauce because the sauce would be lighter than traditional hollandaise sauce. To make Twice Baked Gruyere and Potato Souffles you smash cooked potatoes with egg yolks and gruyere cheese, fold in beaten egg whites mixed with gruyere cheese, and bake in ramekins. Corgette Fritters with Chili Jam are fried in a small amount of oil, and the chili jam is home made.

The Vegetarian Cookbook continues with chapters entitled Lunches and Suppers, Fresh and Healthy Dishes, Entertaining in Style, Side Dishes, Salads, and Breads and Savoury Bakes. I noted several recipes I’d like to try: Jamaican Black Bean Pot, Penne Rigate with Mixed Vegetable Sauce, Baked Cheese Polenta with Tomato Sauce (this recipe calls for the polenta “logs” sold in local stores), Pumpkin Gnocchi, Summer Herb Ricotta Flan (crust-less, high protein, low fat), Polenta Crepes, Avocado, Red Onion and Spinach Salad with Polenta Croutons, and Cheese and Courgette Cluster Bread. Champagne Risotto calls for over a cup of champagne! Graimes writes: “This may sound rather extravagant, but makes a beautifully flavoured risotto, perfect for that special celebratory dinner.”

I had fun looking up ingredients I didn’t know. “Puy” lentils are small green lentils with blue marbling. “Borlotti” beans” are oval with red streaks and can be substituted with red kidney beans. “Quorn” is a British meat substitute. “Con chiglie” is a type of pasta, sort of like small shell pasta. “Gem” squash looks like a plump zucchini. “Garganelli” is a penne-shaped pasta. “Kohlrabi” is a vegetable related to cabbage and I’m not sure I’ve seen it in local stores. “Rocket” salad is arugula salad. Some ingredients might be hard for me to find. For instance, one recipe calls for a mixture of both fresh and mature Pecorino cheese – only a store with an extensive cheese collection is likely to carry both. Pickled walnuts? I’ve never noticed these in any local stores. I don’t have a good source of wild or field mushrooms called for in a lot of recipes.

It’s largely Nicola Graimes‘ excitement about her recipes that makes the book enjoyable. A former editor of Vegetarian Living magazine, she has over 20 books to her credit, and is still writing. I might buy her book Superfood Energy Balls & Bites, since I often eat little bites of protein bars throughout a day of work-outs and other activities.

For this blog, I decide to make Walnut Bread, a whole wheat bread with lots of walnuts.

(This book is hard to open out flat enough to follow a recipe while cooking!)

I will make this bread in my breadmaker. For the “strong wholemeal (whole-wheat) bread flour”, I decide to use half whole wheat and half white whole wheat flours, both from King Arthur Flour. For the “unbleached strong white bread flour”, I will use King Arthur unbleached white bread flour, with a touch of vital wheat gluten too. I used turbinado sugar for the “light brown (molasses) sugar”. I made the dough in a single loaf pan rather than two small round loaves. My version of Graimes’ recipe is below.

Whole Wheat Bread with Walnuts
makes one 9×5-inch loaf

  • 1 cup milk (may need a little more, see below)
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 12 ounces whole wheat flour (I used a mixture of whole wheat and white whole wheat)
  • 4 ounces white bread flour (I put a couple tablespoons vital wheat gluten and then added white bread flour to 4 ounces total)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1/4 ounce)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Put all the ingredients except the walnuts in a breadmaker. Set to a dough cycle with a rising step. Watch as the kneading begins – my dough wasn’t forming a firm ball so I added a bit more milk.

When the breadmaker signals that it is done, take the dough out and roll it out. Sprinkle with the walnuts and press them firmly into the dough. Knead the dough several times to distribute walnuts. Then, form into a loaf and place in a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

Let rise until the bread tops the sides of the loaf pan. Bake at 425˚ for 35 minutes.

Walnut Bread LoafThis bread is excellent! I think I found the perfect combination of whole wheat flours to give it excellent flavor and still have good texture – sometimes whole wheat loaves turn out sort of like heavy rocks. The walnuts made me keep wanting to have another bite! Note that this is a good bread for people on a low-carb diet, because it is whole-grain and also has nuts.

I will definitely keep The Vegetarian Cookbook!

250 Cookbooks: My Party Book of Tested Chocolate Recipes

Cookbook #242: My Party Book of Tested Chocolate Recipes, General Foods Corp. – 4012, USA, 2nd Ptg., 1938.

1938. It’s amazing this vintage cookbook has lasted this long! One tear in the front cover is the only flaw. I open to the first page:

“Now what can I serve that everyone likes?” you ask yourself when you plan party refreshments. And if you decide on “something chocolate” you’re sure to be right. For Chocolate is America’s favorite flavor.

As a true American, I do love chocolate, and would love to try every recipe in this cookbook!

Here’s the rest of the first page:

inside cover“How to have success with chocolate” is the second page:

success with chocolate“For over150 years Baker’s has set the standards for fine chocolate”. Since this book was published in 1938, that  means Baker’s Chocolate was formed in 1788 or earlier. Let’s check. I pull up Wikipedia’s entry for Baker’s Chocolate. In 1764, John Hannon and Dr. James Baker of Massachusetts began a business importing cocoa beans from the West Indies. Dr. Baker took over the company in 1780, when Hannon did not return from a sailing trip. Baker renamed the company “Baker’s Chocolate”. So, the claim is correct. Chocolate itself was discovered in meso-America (Wikipedia’s History of Chocolate). The Americas had chocolate before Europe – sometimes I forget that!

The “How to have success with chocolate” page in My Party Book of Tested Chocolate Recipes also asserts “None of the valuable food elements are removed, nothing added.”. My current package of Baker’s baking chocolate lists “chocolate” as the sole ingredient. And today’s package has a nutrition label, so I can check the 1938 claim that it has valuable food elements:

From the above label, we can see that one-half an ounce  of baking chocolate has 90 calories, 78% from from fat, with a small amount of dietary fiber and 2 grams of protein. No vitamin A or C, no calcium, but some iron. Valuable food elements, yes, I guess. But nowadays – unlike 1938 – chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has been found to be chock-full of trace nutrients and antioxidants and more, as in this article on HealthLine.

I learn from a web search that baking chocolate (unsweetened chocolate or bitter chocolate) is cooled, hardened chocolate liquor, which is melted ground cocoa, and it contains between 50 and 58 percent cocoa butter. On the other hand, unsweetened cocoa powder has 46 grams of fat in one-half ounce, 50% from fat. It is made from roasted cocoa beans that are ground into a fine powder.

Baker’s unsweetened chocolate is no longer sold in a “blue and yellow package” but the “famous Chocolate Girl trademark” is still on it. Today the package is yellow, orange, and brown. I included this package in the photo I took of the recipe ingredients, below on this page.

Ironically, my package also indicates that Baker’s chocolate is now manufactured in Canada.

Just one more comment on the “How to have success with chocolate” page. Baking chocolate used to be sold in eight ounce packages, specifically, each package contained 8 individually wrapped squares of 1-ounce each. This is an important fact, since older recipes call for “1 square of baking chocolate”. Current packages are not individually wrapped, but I will remember that “1 square of baking chocolate” means “1 ounce”. (This fact is also on the currently-sold packages of Baker’s baking chocolate.)

Where did I get this cookbook? I think I got this from my mother’s collection, or perhaps it was my grandmothers. No recipes are marked. Today I find it available on several online used-book stores for about 3 dollars. And, full text is available on the Hathitrust website.

Here are some examples of recipes.

I decide to Chocolate Sundae Sauce for this blog.

This ought to be a good project for my 4 year old grandson to help me with. He loves mixing things! Plus it will be special to have homemade sundae sauce over ice cream for a simple dessert for all of us.

Chocolate Sundae Sauce
1 cup sauce

  • 2 1/2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • dash of salt

Put the chocolate and the water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and salt and boil 4 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Serve hot or cold over ice cream.

We get all the ingredients together:

ingredients for chocolate sauceHere’s my helper, doing the stirring chores!

Dzo stirring the chocolate sauceLater, after dinner, we enjoyed the sauce over vanilla ice cream and berries.

Chocolate Sauce over ice creamYum yum yum! It was pretty special to have our own homemade sauce.

This sauce will store – we had a little left over. The next day it was stirrable at room temperature, but pretty thick, and would not pour unless heated. Not a real problem, just heat in a microwave oven – a convenience that was not available in 1938.

Below are scans of the front cover, back cover, and the inside-back cover.

250 Cookbooks: Crock Pot Stoneware Slow Cooker

Cookbook #241: Crock-Pot® Stoneware Slow Cooker, Owner’s Guide, Rival, JCS/THG (The Holmes Group), 2006.

Crock-Pot Stoneware Slow Cooker cookbookThis is my current crock pot. It replaced a nearly-broken one in about 2006. This one has a removable stoneware crock that makes it easy to clean, a high-low setting, and a timer. This is my first crock pot with a timer, and I’d always get one like this from now on.

This is the last of my 11 crock pot cookbooks. Below is a list of those cookbooks and their publication dates, in the order that I covered them for this 250 Cookbooks blog. Crock pots are also called slow cookers, crockery cookers, or stoneware slow cookers. (I am reminded by Crock-Pot® Stoneware Slow Cooker that “Crock-Pot®” is a registered trademark.)

Crock-Pot® Stoneware Slow Cooker is a small booklet, 5×7-inches, 15 pages. Instructions and warranty take up 6 1/2 pages, and recipes 8 1/2 pages. I count 23 recipes. (Actually, there is another 15 pages, but those are upside down and in French.)

I am going to keep this cookbook, largely because it has “official” instructions and also warranty information. And also, the handful of recipes really look like they will “work”. If you read any of my other crock pot posts, you will know that I think crock pots turn good food into indiscernible mush with a bad recipe.

I find this in the question and answer section of the instructions:

QCan I cook a roast without adding water?
A Yes – if cooked on LOW. We recommend a small amount because the gravies are especially tasty. The more fat or “marbling” the meat has, the less liquid you need. The liquid is needed to properly soften and cook vegetables.

This hits home to me, because lately I have been slow-roasting beef roasts in the oven. I might try my crock pot next time.

The first recipe in Crock-Pot® Stoneware Slow Cooker is for Pot Roast of Beef. Someday I’d like to try this recipe and compare/contrast with the method I now use from Cook’s Illustrated (Cover and Bake).

The second recipe is for Beef Bourguignon, and that is what I’ll make for this blog. Another recipe I have my eye on is Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, something I’ve always wanted to make. I might also consult the recipes for meat loaf, pork chops and roast, whole chicken, Swiss steak, French onion soup, jambalaya, and game hens (roasted with no added water).

Here is the recipe for Beef Bourguignon:

My version is below. I added more stock and more wine, and found that these changes gave just the right amount and thickness of gravy at the end. I used double the amount of tomato paste. I did not add the 3 tablespoons butter plus 3 tablespoons flour at the very end to thicken the broth, but I suggest you do that if you want a really thick gravy.

Beef Bourguignon
serves 6-8, and freezes well

  • 6 strips of bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • beef rump, chuck, or cross-rib roast, around 3 pounds, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup (about) red wine; divided
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, or a few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf (I used a big fat one recently purchased at Savory Spice Shop in Boulder)
  • 1/2 pound tiny white onions (you could leave these out, but I like them; the ones I used were frozen)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain and set aside.

In a clean pan, use a little bit of the bacon grease to sauté the beef chunks. Do this in batches and at fairly high heat. (You can anso brown the beef in the pan used to cook the bacon.)

Place the browned beef chunks and the cooked bacon in the crock pot.

Add a bit of oil or bacon fat to the pan used to brown the beef, then add the carrot and onion and cook until brown. Add the 3 tablespoons flour and mix in as well as possible, then add the beef broth; mix well and add the vegetable-broth mixture to the crock pot.

Add about half the wine, the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and tiny white onions to the crock pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours (in my crock pot, the meat was tender at 8 hours). An hour before serving, sauté the mushrooms in the butter, and add them and some more red wine to the crock pot and continue slow-cooking. (Remove the bay leaf and any fresh thyme sprigs before serving.)

Serve!

Beef BourguignonThis was totally yummy. I loved the rich, dark broth-gravy. I am glad I didn’t add the flour/butter mixture at the end to thicken the gravy. It was rich and thick enough for me as it was – it was indeed “especially tasty”. I’m also glad I added more wine than called for in the recipe. I liked the sautéd mushrooms added for the last hour – their texture and flavor were not lost by 8 hours of cooking.

To serve, I cooked some potatoes, carrots, and peas and stirred them into our servings of bourguignon. I often like stew prepared with potatoes added later, because for the two of us, I usually cook a lot of stew-type meat at once and freeze some for another meal, and potatoes do not keep their texture after freezing. Also, this method opens up variations: you could serve the bourguignon over mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, gnocchi, polenta – you name it. Or keep it without added carbs for a nearly low-carb meal.

I get to enjoy this delicious bourguignon a few more times, and quickly, by thawing the portions I stowed away in my freezer. This recipe was a success!

250 Cookbooks: Nabisco’s Snack Book

Cookbook #240: Nabisco’s Snack Book, The Pillsbury Company, 1970.

Nabisco's Snack Cook Book cookbook“Dear Homemaker,
Snacking today certainly is a great pastime. With the leisure time we have, one really can relax and enjoy a tasty snack.”

So begins Nabisco’s Snack Book. It continues:

Note the author of the introduction – Mary Ellen Baker, Home Economist. “Baker”? Really?
Her signature is right there. Web searches pulled up nothing about her.

Like so many appetizer books of the sixtie and seventies, most recipes in Nabisco’s Snack Book call for cream cheese, sour cream, various cheeses, packaged meats, and condiments. And, in every recipe in this book, there is a Nabisco brand-name ingredient: Triangle Thins Crackers, Chippers Potato Crackers, Triscuit Wafers, Dromedary Pitted Dates, Flaked Coconut Snack Crackers, Sociables Crackers, Waverly Wafers, French Onion Crackers, Premium Saltine Crackers, Mister Salty Veri-Thin Pretzels, Snack Mate Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread, Whirligigs Caramels, Nabisco Rice Honeys – to name just a few!

Nabisco makes me feel so . . . American.

I find Nabisco’s Snack Book for sale online. On Amazon, today it goes for $3.50. But on this site, the asking price is $25! And to think, Nabisco’s Snack Book originally sold for 99 cents. I really don’t think this cookbook is vintage enough or has enough good recipes to be worth $25. But one reviewer on the referenced site loves this book – SHOUTS about it:

“Here for your delectation is the SPECTACULAR & RARE–NABISCO’S SNACK COOK BOOK by Mary Ellen Baker. TERRIFIC RECIPES for DELICIOUS SNACKS using NABISCO PRODUCTS!! PLUS—-there are L-O-A-D-S of gorgeous, mouth-watering FULL-COLOR photos!!

This book was my mother’s. She did not comment on any of the recipes, and it’s in very good condition. If I keep it, it will be for nostalgia: it is a classic style of 60s and 70s manufacturer’s cookbook. Or I’ll keep it because any item that can go from 99 cents to 25 dollars . . . might be a good investment!

Here is an example of recipes in this book. Note the Stuffed Grape Leaves – more exotic than I expected. Note that it calls for “75 Cheese-NIPS Crackers”. Can you see counting those out? Or even “18 Triangle Thins Crackers” in the Stuffed Pimiento Slimmers. Note too that the “Slimmers” recipe includes a calorie count. A handful of recipes throughout this book include this data for dieters.

Here are some more pages from this book.

Sweet Snacks include Coconut Orange Dreams (stacks of three vanilla wafers layered with frosting – count out those 54 Nilla Wafers!) and Apricot Coconut Pixies.

Below is “Shimmering Party Pate”, with a cream cheese-liver pate mixture embedded in jello:

Cheese Neapolitan, pictured below, has 3 layers. The bottom layer is cream cheese and Parmesan cheese colored with tomato paste, the middle layer cream cheese and ricotta cheese, and the top layer cream cheese and Bel Paese cheese covered with parsley.

And one more, Curried Chicken Tidbits.

I decide to make “Cuke ‘N Tuna Rounds” for this blog:

Mine will not be “round”, because I don’t have Ritz crackers in the house. Maybe Nabisco Triscuits? I have a box of those. (In the end, I leave out the crackers altogether.)

I would (if I had them) substitute fresh red bell peppers for the canned Dromedary Pimientos. I covered pimientos in my post on the Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 9. Here is a quote from me:

“Pimientos are red bell peppers. It is interesting that red bell peppers are actually green bell peppers that have reached a further state of maturity. The pimiento variety of bell peppers are heart-shaped and very sweet. You can find them canned in the markets, often in small glass jars. I usually substitute fresh red bell peppers for pimientos in recipes.”

In my opinion, red peppers have more flavor than expensive, hard to find canned pimientos.

Tuna these days comes in 4- to 5-ounce cans (at least that is what I had in my cupboard), so I down-sized this recipe.

Cuke ‘N Tuna Rounds

  • 1 5-ounce can tuna, drained
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely diced red pepper (I left this out)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • cucumber slices
  • crackers of your choice (I left these out)

Combine the tuna, cream cheese, mayonnaise, pickles, red pepper, and pepper. Chill. To serve, place a mound of tuna mixture on a cucumber slice. It would be good with crackers beneath the cucumbers too, but I left those out.

Tuna Rounds

We enjoyed these. In fact, it was our low-carb lunch on a picnic with our grandson to Meadow Park in Lyons. For us, it was “lunch” rather than a “snack”!

For now, I am keeping this cookbook. It’s fun to look through old recipes.

250 Cookbooks: Italian Regional Cooking

Cookbook #239: Italian Regional Cooking, Ada Boni, Bonanza Books, NY, 1969. Translated by Maria Langdale and Ursula Whyte.

Italian Regional Cooking cookbookIn my “250 Cookbooks” data base, I entered the publication date for this book as “1969?” Huh? Why the question mark. I went to the copyright page of Italian Regional Cooking and found “© MCMLXIX”. Oh, I see, and sure enough, when I read the whole field in my database, it reads “1969? MCMLXIX”. I had translated the Roman numeral to an Arabic numeral as “1969”, but didn’t check to see if I was correct. Turns out I was: search engines today quickly pulled up the conversion of MCMLXIX to 1969. Kids today no longer need to learn those rules in school, I guess.

Italian Regional Cooking was a gift to my husband and me on 5/25/77 from a couple-friend of ours. We were living in our trailer in Boulder at that time – opening this book brings back memories. But have I ever used this book? I don’t think so. It is a lovely book to page through, with full page glossy photos of regions in Italy. We have always loved Italian food, and I love to cook, so it was (in theory) a perfect gift.

I looked up Italian Regional Cooking online. It is still for sale as a used book; I do not see a newer edition. On thriftbooks.com, several people wrote reviews about this cookbook. I learn from them that this tome is considered a classic Italian cookbook, kept for years by families and cooks alike for its authentic Italian recipes. Readers of this book who had traveled to Italy write that it reflects accurately the cooking of the regions of Italy in the 1960s.

The “perfect gift” and a “classic” cookbook. So why haven’t I used Italian Regional Cooking a lot? Let’s see. I take Italian Regional Cooking and settle in a comfy chair and begin to read, to learn what book I hold in my hands, and to wonder why I have never embraced it as a favorite cookbook.

Each of the 14 chapters covers a different region of Italy, and the first region is “Piedmont”. Here are the first paragraphs in Italian Regional Cooking:

To me, this is an abrupt beginning. It had me looking on the previous page, to see if I missed something. And I looked for an introduction to this book, but, there is none.

I continue through the Piedmont region. The print at the beginning, informative part of the chapter is in a large font, accompanied by glossy pages of photos. Like this one:

I see what might have turned me off about this book: the dead rabbit staring at me from a stick placed above a plate of its cooked bunny friends. And the handsome dead birds on the table. Ironic, since the friends who gave us this book were vegetarians.

After these written and photographic descriptions of the Piedmont region are several pages of recipes. These are printed on rough, grey paper in a smaller font. Bolded recipe titles are in Italian, with the italicized English translation beneath. Here is an example. Recipes for gnocchi (two types, and made from scratch), rarebit (learned about in my Encyclopedia of Cooking), fondue, and polenta.

Here is another example of recipes in the Piedmont chapter. These ingredients aren’t as “Patty-friendly” as they are sweetbreads, oxtail, and frogs legs.

I come to the second chapter, on the region of Lombardy. This time, I look forward to the informative first pages:

“King’s soup”. Now I begin to appreciate that Ada Boni is starting each chapter with an interesting story. I look up the Certosa, the great Charterhouse of Pavia. The author is probably correct as to what has happened to the cottage near the Certosa, because the current website states that the Certosa “was once located on the border of a large hunting park belonging to the Visconti family of Milan, of which today only scattered parts remain.”

Saffron colors many of the dishes of the Lombardy region. When we traveled to Turkey, I bought some saffron at the Spice Bazaar. Saffron today is one of the world’s most expensive spices, at about $13 per gram (gold today is about $45 per gram). But in fourteenth-century Milan, saffron began as a simple paint pigment, not a “spice”. It was adopted as a culinary ingredient to color food a gold color:

I turn to the third chapter, the region of Veneto. Ida Boni tells the story of how corn came to Italy. Corn “caused a sensation” in the market of Rialto in the Veneto region: 

To this day, polenta, made from corn, is a popular dish in the region of Veneto. And polenta, as a grain or pre-cooked, is easily available in our local supermarkets. Even I have served it as part of an Italian meal. The recipes in the Veneto chapter include polenta recipes, recipes for noodles from scratch, and recipes that call for ham, duck, mutton, chicken, pork sausage, shellfish, beef, lamb, pigeon, rice, liver, tripe, cod, guinea fowl, turkey, snails, eel, and a variety of vegetables.

Pesto is the traditional sauce of Genoa, in the Liguria region.

Here is a recipe for pesto:

I find a recipe for zabaglione, mentioned in my Encyclopedia of Cookery Volume 12.

And so Ida Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking continues. I turn the pages and enjoy new stories, and more wonderful photos of the regions of Italy. It is a very good read.

The recipes? I can’t get the ingredients for a lot of them (even if I wanted too) and many require a lot of work (making your own pasta and gnocchi). I now have the time and ability to make my own pasta, so eventually I may try a few of the harder dishes.

 

I will definitely keep Italian Regional Cooking as a “classic” Italian cookbook. Back in 1977 when we received this cookbook, I would have only been looking for recipes for pasta and pizza, because that’s all I thought of when I thought of Italian cooking. But now I have traveled to Turkey, near Italy, and have savored the very fresh vegetables and seafood ubiquitous to that country. I have made my own pasta, and learned how to make a very good tomato sauce. I have cooked polenta, and used saffron. I understand and appreciate how Italian regions’ cooking depends on the very fresh game and fish surrounding them – what they ate was controlled by what they could harvest, not by a huge food industry. I can appreciate that this book reflects older Italian cooking, now often overtaken by convenience foods in the current busy cultures.

Note: I covered Italian Light Cooking a couple years ago. In it, the author states that “light” cooking is the more traditional Italian cooking, with less red meat and cheese. That is what this book is all about too.

For this blog, I will make Pallottoline in Brodo, or Sicilian Meat Ball Soup.

This is a simple soup, just meat balls and noodles in broth. The only herb is parsley. As I was preparing it, I had to keep my hand from grabbing my usual Italian spices, like oregano, basil, and thyme. I also had to stop from adding vegetables to this soup, like carrots, celery, and onions. The only change I made was to halve the recipe to serve only two people, but keep the amount of ground beef the same (1/2 pound). Oh – at the last minute I added about 3 tablespoons tomato sauce. I’ll leave that as optional.

Tagliatelle noodles are similar to fettuccine noodles; if possible, find flat noodles about .25 to .375-inches wide.

Sicilian Meat Ball Soup
serves 2

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons (freshly) grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for the top of the soup)
  • 2 tablespoons soft bread crumbs
  • chopped fresh parsley, about 2-3 sprigs
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups meat stock (I used a combination of beef and chicken stock)
  • (3 tablespoons tomato sauce; optional – this is largely for color)
  • 4 ounces ribbon-style noodles (see above)

Mix the meat, egg, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper in a bowl. (I used a mini food processor to make the bread crumbs and chop the parsley and garlic.) Knead until smooth, then break into pieces and roll into balls about the size of a hazelnut.

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the meatballs and cook about 5 minutes. Add the noodles and cook until the noodles are tender but still firm. Serve immediately with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Sicilian Meat Ball SoupThis was a very thick and very filling soup. It was good, but actually too much for the two of us. I might make it the same way again, or I’d use half the amount of meatballs and serve it as a first course. The flavor was good and I always like meat balls, so I wasn’t complaining!

250 Cookbooks: Silver Anniversary Bake-Off Cookbook

Cookbook #238: Silver Anniversary Bake-Off Cookbook, the Pillsbury Company, US, 1974.

Pillsbury Silver Anniversary Bake-Off cookbookThe Silver Anniversary Bake-Off Cookbook is one of the 22 cookbooks or cookbooklets on my shelves. The publication dates vary from 1959-2000, and most were my Mother’s. Some have good recipes, and some not-so-good recipes, but they reflect Americana of late twentieth century USA.

This booklet was my mother’s, and it is of the “not-so-good” recipe sort. Why? Because I can find only 4 recipes in 80 pages of recipes that do not call for pre-packaged convenience foods. What are these products? Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix, Refrigerated Quick Crescent Dinner Rolls, Coconut Pecan or Coconut Almond Frosting Mix, Hungry Jack Au Gratin or Scalloped Potatoes, Yellow or Fudge Cake Mix or (non-branded) custard or pudding and pie filling mix. I just don’t buy that type of packaged food. I like baking from scratch, and I like choosing my own type of flour and shortening/oils. I want very few foods in my diet that come in packages with long lists of chemical ingredients.

As I go through this booklet, I note that even my mother did not mark as tried a single recipe in this book!

Here are some typical examples of the recipes in this book:

What are the four recipes that do not call for packaged mixes? That short list follows:

  • Easy Peach Spice Cake made with AP flour, sugar, spices, grated orange peel, peach or apricot preserves (I could use my own jam!), orange juice, eggs, nuts, and a frosting of powdered sugar, preserves, and butter
  • Pocket-of-Chocolate Cake (bundt cake made with sweetened condensed milk, “creme” cheese, chocolate chips, nuts, AP flour, sugar, sour cream, rum, eggs)
  • Quick Apple Spice Bars made with brown sugar, eggs, 3 chopped fresh apples, AP flour, cinnamon, 1 cup cheddar cheese, nuts, and coconut
  • Fiesta Chicken Kiev (chicken breasts cooked in the microwave)

For this blog, I choose to bake “Quick Apple Spice Bars”. Note that they have apples and cheese in them –  classic combination for apple pie. I think these bars sound good, unusual, and close to being a “healthy” recipe. (They don’t even call for butter or a cooking oil.) A side benefit is that these spice bars would be a good way to use up fresh apples (maybe those partially chewed on by a certain grandson!).

The fresh apples, cheese, nuts, and coconut in this recipe are all on our approved list of foods. Note that there is no butter or shortening in the recipe. The sugar? A no-no for us. I’ll wait to make these until we have company.

Quick Apple Spice Bars

  • 1 cup brown sugar (reduce to 7/8 cup at high altitude, over 5200 feet, like me)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups peeled, finely chopped apples (about 3 medium)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/4 cup coconut

Combine the brown sugar and eggs, mix well. Stir in apples. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, add to the sugar and egg mixture and stir only until the ingredients are just mixed. Stir in the cheese, nuts, and coconut.

Bake in a greased and floured 13×9-inch pan. Bke at 375˚ for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

I’ll add a photo when I make these! Gotta wait for company.

250 Cookbooks: Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 12, Top-Z-Index

Cookbook #237: Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 12, Top-Z-Index, Woman’s Day, Fawcett Publications, NY, 1967.

Encyclopedia of Cookery Vol. 12 cookbookI am on the final 15 cookbooks in my “250 Cookbooks” database! It’s time to do the last Encyclopedia of Cookery in my collection. I open the volume and settle in to another discovery of unusual food items and historical trivia. As well as some useful recipes, of course. Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 12, Top-Z-Index covers “topping” to “zwieback”.

A very, very useful feature is in this volume: the complete recipe index for volumes 1 to 12.  This 96-page index takes up almost half the book. It is invaluable to search the entire set for foods and recipes. I feel lucky to have the entire, intact set.

What is a torte? It is a rich cake, made with eggs, sugar, jam, liqueur, (very little) flour, and nuts or dry bread crumbs. Often a luscious filling is spread between cake-like layers. Next are recipes for tortillas (I’ve run across a lot of tortilla recipes in my journey through this blog). Tortoni is an Italian dessert made from liquor- or sherry-flavored whipped cream combined with macaroon crumbs. The mixture is put into little paper cups, sprinkled with crumbs and almonds, and frozen. Yum. Trifle is another dessert; of English origin, it is made from jam-covered, spirit-soaked sponge cake, with a rich custard and whipped cream and fancy almonds and glacé fruit on top. It’s also known as a “tipsy cake”. I’d love these three desserts, as I wake to a Valentine’s Day morning with no hopes of anything but protein and vegetables for the day.

Tripe? I actually bought it once years ago. It’s the inner lining of the stomach of beef. I don’t like it. But I do like trout, especially the rainbow trout we get in Colorado, and especially if very fresh and wild-caught. (I am not a fisherwoman. Although there are photos of me when young with a fishing pole, happily catching fish in the High Sierras.)

Enjoy with me this entry from Lucy Kavaler on legends of the elusive truffle:

And now from truffles to the lowly can of tuna. I am not surprised to find a “Tuna Cook Book” in this 1960s cookbook. “Tonno con Piselli” is tuna with peas, yes, just canned tuna and peas. The “Tuna-Macaroni Bake” is like the tuna casseroles I remember; this one is topped with crushed potato chips. (I love potato chips on tuna sandwiches.)

Turkeys are native to America. I guess I knew this fact, but it’s not the first thing I think of when I think “turkey”. They were domesticated by native Americans. Here is Ben Franklin talking about bald eagles and turkeys:

The Turkey Cook Book might be useful because it has a lot of recipes for using leftover turkey. Next come turmeric, turnip, and turnovers. Oh, turtle soup! And if I want to know how to dress a live turtle:

Upside-down cakes include a recipe for blueberry upside-down cake, which I’d surely like to try. “Utensil” gives a check list of utensils needed in a well-equipped kitchen. Let’s see, I have beaters and mixers, a blender, cutting boards, bowls, deep fryer, egg poachedr, ice-cream freezer, pressure cooker, rolling pin, teapot, thermometers, toaster . . . looks like I am good to go. Vacherin is a “delicious creamy white dessert cheese” from Switzerland or France. Vanilla is from a plant related to orchids. (And boy, has vanilla gotten expensive lately! I just bought a small bottle yesterday for nineteen dollars!) I am not a fan of veal, but this Encyclopedia has a Veal Cook Book.

James Beard wrote the section on Vegetable Cookery. He and I are like-minded: don’t overcook vegetables. I’d like to try his recipe for Braised Leeks and one for Zucchini with Walnuts. Gratin of Greens is suitable for a no-carb diet, and Tangerine Swirls is an interesting take on sweet potatoes. I learn that Vichyssoise is a “very elegant cold leek and potato soup”. It has lots of cream in it and is served cold.

A “vinaigrette” need only be a mixture of oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, but can have herbs. While traveling in Paris and London, sometimes there was a bottle of oil and a bottle of vinegar at the table, meant for salads. If it’s not mixed, I guess it’s not a vinaigrette. (My vinaigrette recipe is here.) Vinegar itself has a long history, stretching back thousands of years. Yeast fell into fruit juice and it turned into wine, and bacteria fell into wine and turned it to vinegar. “Vin aigre” is French for “sour wine”. (As a chemist, I know vinegar as containing acetic acid and water.) Here’s a section from this book on vinegar:

Vitamin, vodka, vol-au-lent (a puff pastry formed into an enormous patty shell). I’d like to try the Old-Colony Gingerbread Waffles. “Water” has it’s own entry. Water chestnuts are a “fruit of a water plant”, common in Asia, shaped like a tree-chestnut, and crispy in texture. Watercress, watermelon, and welsh rabbit or rarebit (melted cheese on toast, often with beer or wine added to the rabbit).

“Western Cookery” begins with a long essay by Idwal Jones. She describes “western” as the cooking of California, Oregon, and Washington.

“There is a mystifying phenomenon in the order of courses in the West.” Namely, salads are served first. Yay for California for starting this trend! It’s the rule at my house, and I learned it from my college roommates.

In the 1960s, one could find frozen whale steaks in local specialty food stores, and I learn that 3 1/2 ounces raw whale has 156 calories. Apparently you could still find whale meat at online specialty shops in the 1960s (and maybe online today). Lots of fish begins with “wh” – white fish, whiting, and whitebait are examples. And of course two of my favorite things begin “wh” – wheat and whiskey. Wild rice is a native American grass that is not directly related to Asian rice.

The wine entry takes up many pages. I skip them. Maybe I’ll come back to them another time.

Worcestershire sauce contains garlic, soy, vinegar, anchovies, tamarinds, onions, shallots, molasses, sugar, salt, and spices. It originated in England. Wormwood flavors the “powerful spirit” absinthe. This book states that absinthe is illegal in the US (and I think it still is, although other countries allow its sale).

Yams are tubers grown mainly in the tropics. But what about those “yams” that I see in local stores? There are a few varieties of moist-fleshed yams grown our country. Mostly, though, we see sweet potatoes. “People often think that yams and sweet potatoes are the same thing, but although they resemble each other closely in taste, they belong to entirely different families of plants.” (I discuss yams at the end of another post.)

Lucy Kavaler wrote a long article on “yeast”, and Helen Evans Brown wrote “How to Cook Superbly: Yeast Rolls and Buns”. Yogurt is a “semisolid milk product that has been made acid by the addition of bacterial cultures”. Yorkshire pudding is a savory British dish made by baking a batter of egg, milk, and flour in beef drippings.

Zabaglione is an Italian dessert of eggs, sugar, and wine, and zeppole is an Italian doughnutlike pastry. (Yes, I guess doughnutlike is a word, according to Wiktionary.) Zucchini also comes from Italy.

And the last entry, on page 1962 of the entire Encyclopedia of Cooking volumes, is zwieback. These are “a sweet biscuit or rusk which is first baked and then sliced and toasted in the oven to make it into a kind of dry toast. The word comes from the German, and means “baked twice”.

I decide to make one of the “West Coast Salads” for this blog: California Parmesan-Walnut Salad.

I like this salad for several reasons. I love toasted walnuts in salads. I like Parmesan cheese too, especially when it is freshly grated from a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano. I like the fact that you make a special salad dressing, just enough for this salad. And, I like using “coarsely torn and loosely measured salad greens”. That’s my typical way of making salads! I am sure I used a lot more salad greens than one cup per person, though. I like my salads.

If you don’t keep small amounts of tomato juice in your pantry or refrigerator, you can use diluted tomato sauce. (I buy single serving cans of tomato juice because I often add just a bit to a sauce.) Or use V-8 juice. Or, use and entirely different salad dressing.

California Parmesan-Walnut Salad
serves 2-4

  • 1/4 cup salad oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion (you could use dried onion from a jar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, sugar, and dried basil
  • about 4 cups mixed salad greens (if you use large leaf lettuce, tear it into pieces)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts (toasted); whole-halves or coarsely broken
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To toast the walnuts, heat a pan on the stove top, then add the walnuts and stir and watch constantly until they begin to brown – watch them closely because they can burn quite quickly. Or, put them in a 450˚ oven for – again – just a few minutes, watching closely.

Mix the oil, tomato juice, lemon juice, onion, and seasonings in a bowl with a whisk or in a lidded jar.

Plate the greens, sprinkle with walnuts and cheese. Pour just enough of the salad dressing to coat the ingredients lightly. (Or, place the salad ingredients in a bowl, add dressing, and toss lightly.) Serve at once.

California Parmesah-Walnut Salad recipeThis is a great-tasting salad that I will make again. Refreshing, after my usual salads overladen with fresh cut vegetables. Entirely suitable for a special dinner! Note that I used walnut halves. Coarsely broken walnuts might give a slightly different taste to this salad.

I goofed and added 1 tablespoon of grated onion instead of 1 teaspoon. Next time, I’ll either finely chop just a teaspoon of fresh onion or shallot, or I’ll use a quarter teaspoon of dried onion powder or flakes.

And so I come to the end of my coverage of the set of Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking, begun with “abalone” on November 19, 2012 in the Encyclopedia of Cooking, Volume 1. Abalone to zwieback. A good journey.

250 Cookbooks: The Cook’s Book, K C Baking Powder

Cookbook #236: The Cook’s Book, K C Baking Powder, Jaques Manufacturing Co., Chicago, 1935.

The Cook's Book K C Baking Powder

“In the light of scientific knowledge, cakes are no longer considered too rich for daily consumption; in fact, cake is now known to be an exceedingly well balanced food product.” Here is the statement as printed:

Can I go back to 1935? I want my cake, and to have it good for me too!

The Cook’s Book, K C Baking Powder is from the “old books” section of my shelves. It is in perfect condition! And it is older than I am! It was either my mother’s or my grandmother’s cookbook. Stunning nostalgia:

This book is all about how to use baking powder in recipes for cakes, cookies, and breads. I talked about baking powder and how it works In my post on the 1917 Ryzon Baking Book. Ryzon was a brand of baking powder sold for a short period around 1917. According to the Clabber Girl website, “KC Baking Powder was originally manufactured by the Jacques Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois before the brand was purchased by the Clabber Girl Corporation in 1950.” Clabber Girl is the brand of baking powder I currently have in my kitchen.

In 1935, “wholesome foods” were important to the consumer:

How much did a can of K C baking powder cost?

Jaques Manufacturing Company was given the Distinguished Service Award.

Note the KC guarantee statement at the bottom of the page below, “An independent manufacturer. Not a member of any food combine.”

The recipes in The Cook’s Book are modern enough to follow in my own kitchen in 2018. A surprise (to me) is that they often include the ounces of ingredients as well as the volume. Sometimes they leave off the oven temperature and time or the exact size of pan, but I can live with that. Here are some recipe examples:

 

“K C Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings” is what I decide to make for this blog.

This is about the only recipe in this book that doesn’t have sugar in the dough/batter! I decide to try whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour. Other recipes in this book (but not this one) call for “entire wheat”. Entire wheat flour is wheat flour made from the whole grain, what we now know as “whole wheat flour”. Whole wheat flour has the same number of calories but a significantly lower glycemic index than white wheat flour. Briefly, the glycemic index of a food reflects how fast a carbohydrate breaks down into sugar in the body. Level sugar levels are (currently) the advice of nutritionists. Both white and whole wheat flours have the same number of calories, but the whole wheat flour has less of a tendency to cause blood sugar spikes. Sugar has the highest glycemic index of all. Since we are low-carb-ing and not no-carb-ing, we eat some bread, and whole wheat is our wheat flour of choice at the moment. I am (sadly) frowning on sugar, so I’ll use just a touch of sugar and a little no-calorie sweetener to make this qualify as a dessert. I’ll skip the suggested hard sauce made with butter and sugar.

How long and at what temperature should I bake these? The recipe doesn’t specify. Online, I found a similar recipe for apple dumplings, and they bake them at 400˚ for 50-60 minutes. I know my oven, and I think I’ll try 375˚ and check them starting at 40 minutes.

Note: I have a better recipe for Apple Dumplings, one from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I didn’t realize I’d made these before!

K C Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings
makes 2 dumplings

  • 1 cup flour (don’t use whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons shortening (vegetable shortening or butter)
  • about 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 apples, peeled and cored (I found my old apple-corer!)
  • cinnamon and sugar for the inside of the apples

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt; work in the shortening and mix to a dough with the milk. If necessary to make a soft dough that holds together, add more a bit more milk.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half to a square one-third inch thick. Put an apple on each square and fill the apples with cinnamon and sugar to taste. Draw the dough up to cover each apple and make it smooth.

Bake in a lightly butter pan at 375˚ for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Apple Dumplings

These tasted good, but only healthy-good. We split one dumpling for dessert, topped with cool whip, and ate every morsel. We were very hungry! I’d say, my way with whole wheat flour is just not as good as a white flour and apples full of butter and sugar with lots of hard sauce. If you are going to have dessert, have dessert. I would not make these apple dumplings this way again.

I suggest using white flour in this recipe, and putting more goodies in the apple cores, like butter and lots of sugar, and serving them with the hard sauce or rich ice cream. Desserts are, after all, meant to be overindulgence. In this I will have to disagree with The Cook’s Book. I have learned that I can’t eat cake made with flour, sugar, eggs, and butter every day or I will gain weight and the health care professionals will say that I am not healthy. Maybe in another 78 years (The Cook’s Book is 78 years old), it will be a different story for the human population.

The last page in The Cook’s Book. A chemistry lab!

250 Cookbooks: Best International Recipe

Cookbook #235: Best International Recipe, Cook’s Illustrated, a Best Recipe Classic, America’s Test Kitchen, Brookline, Massachusetts, 2007.

The Best International Recipes cookbook

Cook’s Illustrated is one of my favorite producers of cookbooks. It is relatively “modern”, one of the five newest books in my database. Another Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipe book that I have is Cover and Bake. I talked about the style of Cook’s Illustrated books in that post. Briefly, you don’t just get a recipe, you get a page of talk about how that recipe was developed – what they tried that did and did not work. Further information about ingredients and techniques is often presented in boxes or side notes. I find that a Cook’s Illustrated recipe might take a bit more concentration to follow than common recipes, but the recipes always work for me.

I know that it will be easy to find a recipe to cook from this book. In fact, when I open to the first chapter “Mexico”, I want to cook the very first recipe! It is “Melted Cheese with Poblano and Chorizo”, or Queso Fundido. This is a “table dip” meant to be scooped up with warm soft tortillas. Three printed columns discuss how they developed this recipe, and two boxes with “pantry spotlights” give information on Mexican cheeses and chorizo sausage. What does the test kitchen discuss in this article? How to get the proper “gooeyness” of an authentic queso fundido. In a specialty shop, they found the traditional Mexican cheese, queso asadero, but what is the American cook to do if he/she can’t find that cheese? They discovered that Monterey Jack cheese is the best substitute. Next, should the cheese be shredded or cubed? They tried freshly shredded, purchased shredded, and freshly cubed jack cheese. The purchased shredded was the least favorite, as it is sold coated with an anticaking agent and the cheese “seized up” almost instantly once out of the oven. Between the freshly shredded or cubed jack cheeses, the shredded one melted “far too quickly, so that by the time the last shreds had melted the rest of the cheese had overcooked”. Cubed cheese melted fine, and they noticed the importance of removing the cheese from the oven as soon as it was melted, “as soon as the last chunk had flattened”.

And so you see what Cook’s Illustrated and the American Test Kitchen is all about. I’d love to make Queso Fundido, but it’s on my no-no list of foods this January.

I continue leafing through Best International Recipe. Here are the countries/areas covered in this book, each in a separate chapter.

  • Mexico
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • British Isles and Ireland
  • Central Europe and Scandinavia
  • France
  • Spain and Portugal
  • Italy
  • Greece and Turkey
  • Russia and Eastern Europe
  • Africa and the Middle East
  • India
  • Southeast Asia
  • China
  • Japan and Korea

I noted quite a few recipes I’d like to try. Jamaican Jerk Chicken from Latin America and the Caribbean sounds like an adventure. If I ever want to make real Fish and Chips, I’d use the recipe in the “British Isles and Ireland” chapter. ” Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage from Central Europe and Scandinavia, Braised Leeks from France, Spanish Tortilla from Spain and Portugal, and Classic Bolognese Sauce from Italy all sound interesting to try. The “Italy” chapter is particularly long.

Hmmm. It dawns on me: this book is very scientific. Where are the discussions of how the author found a particular dish in an off-road little restaurant that it took days to get to? Who were the people who cooked for them? What were their traditions? What adventures did they have in discovering new foods? Where are the stories by writers like James Beard, M. F. K. Fisher, Emily Hahn, Joseph Wechsberg, Rafael Steinberg, and Nika Standen?

I continue through this “science” book (it’s a long, large tome!). I’d like to try Chicken in Walnut Sauce from Turkey and Green Beans with Cilantro Sauce from Russia. Ethiopian Flatbread uses “teff” flour, and I study different types of grains for my personal curiosity (and a future blog post). Tandoori Chicken from India is marinated in a wonderfully spiced yogurt sauce (and I might have made it before). Pad Thai from Southeast Asia and Spicy Sichuan Noodles with Ground Pork from China sound good. Ramen Soup! This college student mainstay is discussed at length in the chapter on Japan.

For this blog, I decide to make “Tortilla Soup”. It took me awhile to get out of the first chapter, “Mexico”! Over the years, I’ve saved several tortilla soup recipes, and have probably made some version once or twice. I’ve never had tortilla soup in a restaurant, so I don’t know what traditional tortilla soup tastes like. The recipe in The Best International Recipes is low-carb, and would be no-carb if I left out the tortilla strips. But no! We are past our two weeks of no-carbs, and I will enjoy this soup as it is intended to be made.

I pretty much followed the recipe, although I cut the ingredients in half. My chicken breast was huge, but I liked the amount of meat it yielded. It’s important to shred the chicken with a fork and not just cut it into pieces with a knife. I skipped the jalapeno and found the chipotle in adobo sauce to be quite sufficient for heat in this soup. We ate almost all the soup between the two of us, but we had nothing else for the meal – I did not use the soup as a first course. Note that this soup can be prepared a day or so ahead.

(I am not scanning in the recipe for copyright issues.)

Tortilla Soup
serves 2 as a main dish

soup

  • 1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast (the one I used weighed over a pound)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (I used my homemade broth)
  • 1/2 of a large onion, quartered and peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • cilantro, about 5 fresh sprigs (do not skip this fresh cilantro)
  • oregano, 1 fresh sprig or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tomato, cored and quartered
  • 1-2 teaspoons chipotle chile in adobo sauce (this comes in a can)
  • 4 corn tortillas

garnishes

  • 1 lime, cut into wedges (oops! I forgot to add this, but highly suggest the lime)
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, pitted and diced
  • 4 ounces cheese – Jack cheese (diced) or crumbled queso afiejdo (I used Panela cheese)
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • minced jalapeno chile (optional)
  • Mexican crema or sour cream (optional)

Put the chicken stock, chicken, one quarter onion, one clove garlic, cilantro, and oregano in a pot. Add salt if necessary. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for about 20 minutes, just until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken breast and set aside to cool. Pour the broth through a strainer, keeping the broth and discarding the strained-out solids. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, use a fork to shred it into bite-sized pieces. Set the broth and chicken aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the 4 tortillas into 1/2-inch strips. Put about 1 tablespoon oil in a sheet pan, then add the tortilla strips and spread them out. Bake, stirring occasionally (and checking often), until crisp and dark golden, 10-12 minutes. (I baked them for 14 minutes and forgot to stir and had to toss a batch that burned.)

Puree the tomatoes, the remaining onion quarter and the remaining clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon chipotle chile, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a sauce pan over high heat until shimmering. Add the pureed mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture ha darkened in color, about 10 minutes. (I did not cook it 10 minutes; next time I will choose a heavier pan for this step. But, the soup turned out fine anyway.)

Stir in the reserved, strained chicken broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes. The volume should be about 4 cups at this point; my volume was less so I added more chicken stock.

At this point, cool and refrigerate the soup for a day or two, if that is convenient for you. (I did!)

Taste the soup, and add more chipotle chile if you want (I didn’t – that stuff is hot!) Add the shredded chicken and heat about five minutes. Serve with the garnished.

Tortilla Soup

This was delicious! The shredded chicken was the best I’ve ever made (even before putting it back in the broth). I loved the tortilla strips in the soup. They were the perfect size, and kept a good texture or “bite”. I started with my own very good chicken stock, it’s a lot stronger in flavor than store bought kinds. I never measured it when I added it to the chicken, that’s why I have a note in the instructions to add a bit more at the end if necessary. You want the chicken covered with broth, and you want a lot of shredded chicken in the bowl.

I had both Jack cheese and a Mexican fresh, semi-crumbly cheese called Panela. The Jack cheese melts into the soup, but the Panela gets warm but stays in little flavorful chunks. Try either!

250 Cookbooks: Sunset Cook Book for Entertaining

 Cookbook #234: Sunset Cook Book for Entertaining, the Editors fo Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine, Lane Books, Menlo Park, California, 1971.

Sunset Cook Book for EntertainingEntertaining, not my forté! I’m a bit too much of an introvert so I’ve never practiced it a lot. Sort of shy. And don’t get me wrong, I love cooking for people, but when it comes to presentation, I am lacking in ability and (desire). When company comes over (usually family), I want something delicious to serve and I don’t want diners getting full on appetizers. Save room for dessert!

I always thought that Sunset Cook Book for Entertaining was all about “appetizers” and I have only rarely looked through it. I am not sure even where this book came from, and it has no markings in it as clues. I pick it up and wonder how in the world I am going to be able to cook something from this cookbook, since we are on our January low-carb eating plan.

The first chapter is, indeed, appetizers. But hmmm, I see some good ideas, and only a few bad ideas. Like, no cream cheese-sour cream dips! (bad idea). The good ideas: Marinated Mushrooms, Ginger-Minted Carrots, wine-poached scallops (Coquilles St. Jacques), Quiche Lorraine Appetizers, and Hawaiian Beef Sticks. Sunset Cook Book for Entertaining also suggests having “sit-down” appetizers, where guests sit down to a first course of these goodies. I can see making that a meal, like tapas.

Maybe this is not a cookbook to be recycled.

Next is Soups and Salads – the traditional beginning of a meal. The soup and salad recipes are all easy with a few interesting flavor twists. I like the Greens with Dilled Shrimp, largely, probably, because of our low-carbed-ness moment.

dilled shrimp and greens recipeDistinctive Entrees begins: “The entree is the most important part of a meal, and the deciding factor in all the other things you serve before, with, or after.” Let’s see what they have. Most of the recipes sound good, like Beef Burgundy, Veal Veronique, and Giant Beef-Lobster Kebabs. But what I like about this chapter’s recipes is that almost each one requires very little last minute prep from the cook: “The foremost consideration in the selection of these entrees has been whether they are practical for entertaining. Nearly all of these dishes may be made partially or entirely ahead; many may be frozen.” A few of the recipes  look very involved but I might find them fun: Danish Chicken and Meatblls au Gratin, for instance, calls for veal meatballs, chicken breasts, and sweetbreads, all cooked and assembled in a rich sauce ahead of time and simply heated briefly just before serving. “Pheasant-in-a-Bag” is an example of one of the more unusual dishes in this chapter. I note a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini, one I’ve come across several times in cookbooks of this era, and one that I have explored before (Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 11, All-Time Favorite Recipes, and All-Time Favorite Casserole Recipes). An easy last-minute dish is “Steak, Mushrooms, and Asparagus”, a dish I plan to make for us soon.

I find throughout the chapters a series of “helpful hints”. For instance, soup garnish ideas, folded napkins, flavored butter seasonings, coffees from around the world, cooking with wine, the art of the small dinner party, and a guide to serving cheeses.

Accompaniments and Side Dishes has recipes for cooked vegetables (Green Beans, Mediterranean Style), potatoes (Skillet Potatoes Anna, Pecan-Topped Sweet Potatoes), rice (Risotto), bulgur (Wheat Pilaf with Peas and Lemon), pasta (Parsley Spaghetti), and breads (Buttery Pan Rolls, Pine Nut Sticks, Honey-Pecan Cornbread Sticks, Cheesy Spoonbread).

Distinguished Desserts is next. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I find myself drooling over most of these recipes, but am holding back on cooking them because they are calorie-laden (and carb-laden!). These tempting recipes are for tortes and souffles, puddings and pies, sherberts and glacés (one with flaming strawberry sauce), and cakes and cookies. Most of the recipes in this chapter are a little different, a little fancier than my recipes for simple chocolate cakes and such. But none are for me today. I keep reading.

Hot and Cold Drinks recipes include hot drinks (Mexican chocolate, wassail bowl), cold drinks (citrus punch, yogurt coolers, fizzes) and alcoholic drinks (sangria, glögg, milk punch with brandy, Kahlua frost).

The final chapter is Special Meals for Special Occasions.This section combines new recipes and references to previous recipes for many dinner party menus. I’d say there are tons of ideas in this chapter for “hostesses” (including a good version of Beef Fondue). Different, unusual, and tasty ideas at that. I’d like to go to one of these dinner parties! But make them? Doubt I will.

I’ve scanned in several of the menus from this chapter. They show the breadth of menus and recipes included in this book.

page 66

page 71page 73page 76page 86

For this blog, I decide to make Steak, Mushrooms, and Asparagus from the Entrees chapter. This is a low-carb recipe, by the way! The suggested side dish carb, brown rice, is a good low-glycemic index grain choice, but I will use quinoa instead.

steak and asparagusI’ve adjusted the herbs and thickening agent (cornstarch) up a bit to our own tastes, and made twice the amount of sauce.

Steak, Mushrooms, and Asparagus
serves 2

  • 12 ounces flank steak (cut one flank steak into two pieces lengthwise, use one and reserve the other for another meal)
  • 1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup asparagus (about 1/2 pound) cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)

Cut the flank steak on the diagonal into 1/4-inch strips.

Place the mushrooms and asparagus in a frying pan. Add 3/4 cup water, bring to a boil, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the asparagus is barely tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid, and set aside.

Mix 1/2 cup water with the 1 tablespoon cornstarch, then add the wine, salt, thyme, tarragon, and garlic powder. Set aside.

Brown the meat quickly in very hot olive oil; reduce heat, return vegetables to pan, add the cornstarch mixture, and cook for about 1 minute longer, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened. Blend in some of the reserved vegetable liquid if you prefer a thinner sauce.

Steak, Mushroooms, and AsparagusI liked this a lot, but all I got was a “pretty good” from my hubby. He is used to this type of meal with a lot of soy sauce; I, on the other hand, appreciated the subtle red wine sauce. I am not an asparagus fan, but the asparagus I found at the store was very small and young, and cut into the small pieces, I found it to be quite good.

I also made the Dilled Shrimp with greens another day last week. It was good, but the shrimp I bought were not good – they were tiny and tough. I’m sure it would be excellent with good shrimp.

Dilled Shrimp and GreensI have decided to keep this cookbook. Online, I find that it is still for sale (used) for several dollars a copy. And I found one favorable review – so I know I am not alone in appreciating this book. I have always liked the type of Southwestern cuisine that Sunset magazine promotes. Another “found” cookbook, right on my shelves!