Saturday, October 1, 2011

Charles B. Knox Accepts Blame for Gelatin Desserts

Originally published August 20, 1984

Charles B. Knox, a salesman from Johnston, NY, watched his wife make a calf’s foot jelly and remembered hearing about a powdered gelatin which would make her job easier. Knox packaged the powder in easy to use form and, at his wife’s suggestion, had salesmen go from door to door to demonstrate how easily the gelatin sheets and powders could be dissolved in water to make aspics, molds and desserts.

Peter Cooper, the inventor of the “Tom Thumb” locomotive, had invented a mixture of powdered gelatin, sugar and artificial fruit flavors in the 1840’s, but it was not until Jell-o came along half a century later that people were ready for such a short-cut dessert, or that advertising and merchandising - and the icebox - existed to exploit their use. The growth of mechanical home refrigeration a few decades later elevated gelatin desserts into the staple category in American diets.

Applesauce-Raspberry Salad Mold Recipe

This beauty can be served to 12 people in place of a salad.

2 cups applesauce
1 large (6 oz.) pkg. raspberry gelatin
14 oz. lemon-lime carbonated beverage
1 large can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

V.S.P. Heat applesauce and add gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Cool to lukewarm. Stir in carbonated beverage. Drain pineapple and add along with pecans to gelatin mixture. Pour into mold and chill. Serve on lettuce.

Bing Cherry Salad Mold Recipe

This colorful molded salad will easily serve 12 people.

3 cans (16 oz.) Bing cherries
3 (3 oz.) pkgs. black cherry gelatin
2-1/4 cups hot water
1-1/2 cups dry sherry
2-1/4 cups cherry syrup
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1-1/2 cups thinly sliced almonds, crumbled

V.S.P. Drain cherries, reserving 2-1/4 cups syrup. Dissolve gelatin in hot water. Add sherry and cherry syrup. Chill until slightly thickened. Add cherries, sour cream and almonds. Pour into a large mold and chill. Unmold on a bed of lettuce and serve.

Cucumber-Lime Salad Mold Recipe

This is just crammed with healthy stuff and will serve six.

1 (3 oz.) pkg. lime gelatin
1 cup hot water
1 cup chopped celery
1 cucumber, partially peeled, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup cottage cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 T. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

V.S.P. Dissolve gelatin in hot water. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well blended. Pour into small greased mold. Chill and serve.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cranberry-Raspberry Salad Mold Recipe

This is usually popular with the grown-ups. Make this one a day or two in advance. We make it in a disposable angel food cake pan. Serves 12.

1 large (6 oz.) pkg. raspberry gelatin
1 small (3 oz.) pkg. lemon gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen raspberries
1 pint cranberry orange relish
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple

V.S.P. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add frozen raspberries and stir until melted. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into pan or mold. Chill until firm. Serve.

Orange Sherbet Salad Mold Recipe

This is very light, refreshing, delicious and easy to make. Serves ten.

1 (6 oz.) pkg. orange gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 quart orange sherbet
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained

V.S.P. Dissolve gelatin in water. Add orange juice; beat in sherbet with wire whisk. Refrigerate until partially set. Pour over oranges arranged in bottom of 6 cup mold. Chill until firm. Serve on lettuce.

Tomato-Lemon Aspic Recipe

This is a wonderful addition to any menu. Serves six.

1 (6 oz.) pkg. lemon gelatin
2-1/2 cups hot water
2 (8-oz.) cans tomato sauce
1-1/2 T. vinegar
1/2 t. salt
Dash of pepper

V.S.P. Dissolve gelatin in hot water. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Pour into mold and refrigerate until set. Serve.

Eggs in Aspic Recipe

This is a very French recipe in which the cook gets a chance to demonstrate his artistic talent. Serves six.

3 hard cooked eggs, cut in half
3 thin slices baked ham
3 scallion green tops

For the aspic-
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup tomato juice
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 t. sugar
1 egg white
1 egg shell, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. cognac

Step 1. Combine in a saucepan all the aspic ingredients except the cognac. Heat slowly, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Remove pan from heat and add cognac.

Step 2. Line a strainer with a piece of tightly woven cloth, like a tea towel, that has been rinsed in cold water and wrung out. Strain the aspic and chill it slightly, but go on to the next step while the aspic is still liquid.

Step 3. Pour a thin layer of aspic into 6 egg molds, custard dishes or cups of a muffin tin. Chill 10 minutes.

Step 4. Dip the green part of the scallions, cut into appropriate lengths, in the aspic and place two leaves in the bottom of each mold in a “V” shape.

Step 5. Place an egg half in each mold, cut side up, and top with an oval of ham. Fill the mold with aspic and chill until ready to serve.

Step 6. The leftover aspic should be poured into a small flat pan and chilled. It can then be cut into shapes with a small cookie cutter and used to garnish the eggs when they are unfolded. Note: if the aspic begins to set before you’ve finished pouring it into the molds, it can be reheated slightly and chilled briefly before you use it. Serve cold.

Almond Float Recipe

This is a refreshing dessert from Shanghai, China. It is especially pleasing in the summertime. In China, desserts are only served at very special dinners. You may wish to add strawberries, mandarin oranges or fruit salad to the syrup. Serves four or five.

Float ingredients:
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water
1 T. almond extract

V.S.P. for float: Heat milk to just below boiling. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add gelatin and stir until completely combined. Stir in almond extract. Pour into an 8”x8” pan and cover. Refrigerate about four hours or until solid. Serve with syrup given below.

Syrup ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups warm water
1 t. almond extract

V.S.P. for syrup: Dissolve sugar in water. Cool slightly in refrigerator. Add almond extract. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

To serve: Cut gelatin into small squares and float in syrup. Serve in individual rice bowls and garnish with strawberries, mandarin oranges or fruit salad.

Strawberry Bavarian Recipe

If there are some strawberries available this is a great way to use them. Serves eight.

1 quart strawberries, hulled
1 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 T. boiling water
1 T. lemon juice
2-1/2 cups cream, whipped

Step 1. Crush the berries and add the sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Step 2. Soak the gelatin in 3 tablespoons cold water until soft. Dissolve it in the boiling water. Stir the gelatin into the strawberries. Add the lemon juice.

Step 3. Chill the mixture and, when it is about to set, fold in 2 cups whipped cream.

Step 4. Pour the mixture into a cold wet 2 quart mold. Chill until it is firm. Unmold, garnish with remaining whipped cream and strawberries. Serve.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Passion for Peaches

Originally published August 16, 1984

There was a time when we were children. It was called summer and the best part of summer was when the Kitchen Mouse was employed as “delivery boy” and “general taster” at our local Jewish green grocer on the west side of New York City.

Mr. Panzer, the green grocer, explained to the Kitchen Mouse that his system of cost-accounting allowed for about 25 percent of the product to be eaten by the employees.

As most items made their appearances at the green grocer’s bins it was very easy to keep within the 25 percent pilferage allowed by Mr. Panzer, however my craving for peaches usually was enough to send profits spiraling downward. My annual act of larceny sealed my love of peaches forever. Perhaps it is because the best ones I’ve ever eaten were hijacked that I’ve always considered peaches just a bit sinful. More likely, it’s the fact that my conscience tells me anything so incredibly delicious must be immoral.

The Chinese, who have cultivated peaches for over 4,000 years, also considered the peach slightly suspect. They associated peach blossoms with promiscuity and never planted peach trees near a lady’s bedroom window.

From China the peach tree spread westward along the caravan routes through the Mediterranean and then into Europe. The Greeks and Romans prized the golden fruit as a rare and expensive delicacy. The peach arrived in America with the Spanish explorers and has been a summertime treat here ever since then.

Many varieties are now grown commercially, but the two general categories are freestone, which has a juicy flesh, and the firmer clingstone. The story of the first modern freestone peach variety began in 1857, when buddings from a China clingstone peach were sent to a Georgia family named Rumph. The buds were planted and flourished. One day Mrs. Rumph dropped a few of the peach pits into her sewing basket. Years later, when her grandson, Samuel Rumph, wanted to expand his orchard, she remembered the old clingstone seeds and found them in her basket, resting comfortably among the needles and socks that needed darning. Samuel planted them near his own peach trees, which were probably an early Crawford variety, and, thanks to the hardworking bees in the neighborhood, cross-pollination took place, producing a brand new freestone fruit that he promptly named after his wife, Elberta.

The simplest way to eat a peach is to wash it off and bite into it. Eighteenth century poet James Thomson had even more straight forward technique. He never bothered to pick the fruit. He’d keep an eye on the tree in his garden and when a peach seemed destined to explode of its own ripe juiciness, he would stroll into the garden and stand beneath the peach with his hands in his pockets. Moving only his mouth, he would reach up and take one perfect bite from the sunny side. The rest he left for the birds.

Ginger Peach Tart Recipe

In this recipe, the pungent spiciness of crystallized ginger points up the succulence of fresh peaches and cream cheese. Serves eight.

Tart shell:
1 cup flour
2 T. flour
1/8 t. salt
6 T. cold butter, cut into bits
1 egg yolk
1 T. cold water

3 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 t. vanilla
3 or 4 ripe peaches, peeled
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese
2 T. sugar
1-1/2 T. peach syrup (from poaching peaches)
2 T. finely minced crystallized ginger

1/4 cup apple jelly

V.S.P. for tart shell: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together flour, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry blender until the consistency of coarse meal. Add egg yolk and water and mix until dough forms a ball. Roll out pastry to fit 9-inch tart shell. Gently press into pan. If pastry tears, lightly smooth together; patches will not be noticeable once shell is baked. Chill 10 minutes. Prick sides and bottoms of pastry thoroughly with a fork. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

V.S.P. for filling: combine water, sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until syrupy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add peaches and reduce heat to low. Poach gently, turning occasionally, until tender. Allow to cool in syrup, then slice and drain thoroughly on paper towels.

Beat cream cheese with sugar and peach syrup until smooth. Mix in 1 tablespoon ginger. Spread cheese mixture over bottom of tart shell and arrange peach slices in attractive design on top.

For glaze: In a small saucepan, melt jelly and brush over peaches to glaze. Sprinkle with remaining ginger. Chill well before serving.

Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce Recipe

This lovely old favorite helps the Kitchen Mouse recall afternoons spent in grandmother’s kitchen. Except that here the pastry chef has updated the recipe by adding maple flavored sauce. Serves eight.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. grated nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into bits
5 to 6 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches
Juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon
2 T. maple syrup
Maple cream sauce

Step 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter with fork or pastry blender until mixture is consistency of coarse meal.

Step 2. Place peaches in 8-inch square baking dish. Gently mix in lemon juice, rind and maple syrup. Top with crumb mixture. Cover lightly with foil and bake about 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake 30 minutes longer, or until top is crisp and browned. Serve warm with Maple Cream Sauce.

Maple Cream Sauce Recipe

Simple. Decadent.

1-1/2 cups whipping cream
5 T. maple syrup
3 T. light corn syrup

V.S.P. Combine all ingredients in heavy saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and reduced by about one-third, approximately 20 minutes. Chill.

Peach and Walnut Pie Recipe

Crunchy walnut pie, heady with peach brandy or bourbon, is crowned with sliced peaches just before serving. Serves eight.

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell, chilled
1 egg white, lightly beaten
4 eggs
1 cup dark corn syrup
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 T. butter, melted
2 T. peach brandy or bourbon
1/8 t. salt
1-1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 fresh peaches
2 T. sugar
1 T. fresh lemon juice
Whipped cream or ice cream

Step 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush inside of pie shell with egg white. Combine eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, brandy and salt in large bowl and beat well. Stir in walnuts. Pour mixture into prepared pie shell. Bake 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 325 degrees and bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes, or until set. Cool.

Step 2. Peel and slice peaches and gently mix with 2 tablespoons sugar and lemon juice. Refrigerate. Just before serving, arrange peach slices on pie and top with dollops of whipped cream or small scoops of ice cream. Serve with pride.

Old-Fashioned Peach Pie Recipe

Made with plenty of fresh peaches, this pie will become the family’s favorite. Serves eight.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2/3 cup shortening
4-1/2 to 5-1/2 T. cold water
5 to 6 large fresh peaches (5 generous cups, sliced)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. grated nutmeg
3 T. butter, cut into bits

Step 1. Combine flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture is consistency of coarse meal. Add water, a little at a time, stirring until dough holds together and can be formed into a ball.

Step 2. Divide dough in half. Roll one half into a round 2 inches larger than an inverted 9-inch pie pan. Place in pan. This is a rich crust and may crack a bit; simply patch together.

Step 3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel peaches and slice into large bowl. Add lemon juice and toss gently. Add sugar, 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well. Turn into pastry and dot with butter.

Step 4. Roll out remaining dough. Moisten rim of bottom crust with water and put top crust in place. Trim overhanging pastry within one inch of edge, and fold and roll top edge under bottom edge, pressing together to seal. Cut a few slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Cover edge of pastry with strip of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, removing foil strip during last 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, September 19, 2011

American Cuisine Reflects Our History

Originally published August 9 & 13, 1984

Among primitive peoples it would seem that cooking has been the woman’s job; but as soon as people became civilized and began to think of what they ate as a gift from the gods for which they should be grateful, a religious element entered into the preparation of food which then seems to have become the duty of men. Men have always sought to make the exercise of religion an all-male affair, and in the olden days especially, women were kept on the periphery of all such activities, except for fertility rites and minor roles as soothsayers and voices for oracles. And so it seems to have been with cooking, certainly where the preparation of the “burned offerings” were concerned - those token sacrifices which purported to give the gods their “share” of the food, but which were mere whiffs of glorious smells, while their priests and the people ate the food.

In the days of Homer, even kings were not above cooking their own meals, and, judging by the pictures of cooking scenes and the models found in the tombs, Egyptian cooks were all men, as were Greek and Roman cooks.

Early American housewives, like their European contemporaries, were feeding families while their husbands were occupied with hunting for game or coaxing crops from the virgin soil.

After the War of Independence, the city lady of the eastern seaboard had her servants, her table silver, her coffee, white bread, imported cheese, salads and white loaf sugar. She would have been quite at home in one of the capitals of Europe.

On a prosperous eastern farm, the housewife lived almost as comfortably as her sister in the city, though her daily tasks were more demanding. The household had to be supervised, as had food and accommodations for the farmhands. There were dairying, pickling and preserving to be seen to. The smokehouse had to be hung with meat and game for the winter; the root cellar to be filled with bins of potatoes, dried corn, beans and squash, as well as barrels full of apples.

The poorer farm wife further inland lived close to American beginnings. She seasoned her stews as often with maple syrup as with salt, sweetened her pies with molasses, cooked cornmeal mush more often than bread, broiled fresh meat or fish only when her man had a good day’s hunting. If the soil was poor, the family pulled up stakes and moved on in search of better. Good housewives learned to make butter on the march “by dashing of the wagon, and so nicely to calculate the working of barm (leavening) in the jolting heats that, as soon after the halt as an oven can be dug in the hillside and heated, their well-kneaded loaf was ready for baking.” But most women stocked up on dried corn, johnny cakes, pocket soup and preserved meats for their journeys into the unknown.

As new settlers arrived in America from various countries, they introduced their own traditional dishes, judiciously adapted when necessary to suit the ingredients available. The English brought apple pie. The French introduced chowder (the fish kettle). The Dutch brought cookies (koekjes), cole slaw (cabbage salad) and waffles. In the end, the American cuisine became a mirror of history, the names of its dishes reflecting a medley of peoples, religions, wars, geographical locations, even occupations. There were Shaker Loaf, burgoo, Maryland chicken, snickerdoodles, spoon bread, cowpoke beans, hush puppies, jambalaya, pandowdy, Boston baked beans, Philadelphia pepper pot, Moravian sugar cake, Swedish meatballs, whaler’s toddy…

Burgoo - Traditional Southern Stew Recipe

Burgoo is the celebrated stew which helped to make Kentucky famous. It is served on Derby Day, at political rallies, tobacco auctions and other outdoor events. It is a great dish to have whenever you expect 20 to 25 people. All through the South any available game would be added to this recipe. A squirrel, a rabbit and it was a good omen to have a minister (whose salary must have been paid) wave a rabbit’s foot over the steaming cauldron. This burgoo is very similar to Brunswick stew, another southern favorite.

1 to 2 lbs. each of pork (shank or shoulder), beef and lamb
4 lbs. stewing chicken
6 quarts water
3 T. salt
1 bay leaf
1 lb. potatoes (3 to 4 medium)
1 lb. onions (3 to 4 medium)
3 or 4 carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1 large green pepper, cut in slivers
1 (16 oz.) can tomato puree
1 (28 oz.) can tomatoes
2 small dried hot chili peppers
1 (16 oz.) can whole kernel corn
2 cups sliced fresh okra or a 10 oz. pkg. frozen okra
2 cups fresh, frozen or canned lima beans
1-1/2 cups chopped cabbage
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. A-1 sauce
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
Additional salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Step 1. Combine meat, chicken and water in a very large stock pot or soup kettle. Season with salt and bay leaf. Season until the meat is tender and falls from the bones. Remove and discard skin and bones, cutting meat into bite-sized pieces. Skim off the fat, chill the stock and remove all hardened fat.

Step 2. Return meat and chicken to the stock. Peel potatoes and onions, scrape the carrots and dice the vegetables. Add to the stew along with the celery, green pepper, tomato puree, tomatoes, hot peppers, corn, okra, lima beans and cabbage. Simmer slowly until stew is thick and vegetables are done, 2 to 3 hours. Burgoo should be thick but still soupy.

Step 3. Season with Worcestershire and A-1 sauces, cayenne and additional salt if needed. Just before serving, sprinkle stew with parsley. Serve in soup bowls.

Moravian Sugar Cake Recipe

Winston-Salem N.C. was founded in 1766 by the Moravians, a pious Germanic people who funneled down the Appalachian valleys from Bethlehem, PA into the rolling Piedmont of North Carolina. The first Moravians arrived in November of 1753 and took refuge in an abandoned log cabin on 98,985 acre site sold to the brethren by Lord Granville of England. Immediately they set about building their town, which they called Bethabara, meaning “house of passage”, for they intended this site to be a temporary one. Within three years, Bethabara had become a bustling community, looked upon by the Indians as a place “where there are good people and much bread.”

Moravian sugar cake is a light, spongy, yeast-raised coffee cake with puddles of melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on top. This recipe makes two 13x9x2 loaves.

2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-1/2 cups water
6 T. butter
6 T. lard (hog lard, not shortening)
1 scant cup sugar
2 eggs
2 t. salt
2 pkgs. active dry yeast softened in 1/4 cup warm water
5-1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 cup butter, more or less
1/4 cup light brown sugar, not packed
Ground cinnamon
1/4 cup heavy cream, more or less

Step 1. Boil the potatoes in the water in a covered saucepan about 15 minutes until very tender. Drain off cooking water and reserve. Mash potatoes until light and fluffy but add no seasoning. Measure out 1 cup and set aside; when measuring the mashed potatoes, just spoon them lightly into the measuring cup - do not pack down.

Step 2. Cream the butter, lard and sugar until very light, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in the mashed potatoes and, when creamy, mix in 1 cup of the reserved potato cooking water and the salt. Test the temperature of the mixture - it should be warm but not too hot. If too hot, allow to cool a bit, then mix in the softened yeast.

Step 3. Stir in the flour, about 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When all the flour has been mixed in and you have a nice soft dough, cover with a dry cloth, set in a warm spot 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Step 4. Punch dough down in the bowl and beat a minute or so to reduce the volume. Divide dough in half and pat out in two well-buttered 13x9x2-inch loaf pans. The dough will be springy and you will have to persist, with well-buttered hands, to flatten the dough over the bottoms of the pans. Cover each with a dry cloth, set in a warm spot away from drafts, and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Step 5. When the dough is puffy and light and has risen to within about a half inch of the tops of the pans, punch holes down in the dough with your thumb, index and third fingers bunched up. Its best to do this in an orderly pattern, making five evenly spaced rows, three holes each, across the 9-inch side of the dough. Cut the butter into little chips about the size of kidney beans and drop one into each hole. Scatter brown sugar lightly across the top of each loaf, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Finally, drizzle cream over the top of each loaf. Bake loaves in a preheated 400 degree oven about 20 to 25 minutes until richly browned. Remove to wire racks and let cool about 5 minutes. To serve, cut into large squares and put out lots of sweet butter for spreading.

Dodge City Bean Soup Recipe

It was once the wildest, wickedest city in the west. And who, thanks to television’s “Gunsmoke”, has not heard of Dodge City, Kansas, of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Belle Starr, Doc Holliday? Dodge City today is no longer the wildest, wickedest stop on the western cattle trail. Dried beans have always been used to stretch meat. now comes this old Dodge City recipe in which the beans themselves are stretched with stale bread crumbs. This, surely, is the ultimate lesson in economy, for each hearty bowl of soup costs about ten cents (in 1984). It is an utterly unpretentious soup - no herbs or spices to season, but its richness of flavor will surprise you. Serve eight.

1 small soup bone, about 1-1/2 lbs. - pork, beef, ham or lamb
2 quarts cold water
1 cup dried navy beans
2 cups boiling water
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium-sized white turnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced
2-1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1-1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and sliced very thin

Step 1. Boil the soup bone in the 2 quarts of water in a large, heavy soup kettle about 2 hours, until the meat falls from the bone. Clean meat from bone; return meat to soup and discard bone.

Step 2. While the soup bone boils, soak the dried beans in the 2 cups boiling water, in a small covered saucepan. Add beans and their soak water to the soup kettle, cover and simmer one hour. Add potatoes, turnips, parsnips, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and the pepper. Cover and simmer about 1-1/2 hours, uncover and simmer a 1/2 hour longer. Taste for salt and add more salt if needed. Stir in the bread crumbs and top each portion, if you like, with a slice or two of onion. Serve hot.

Corn Chowder Recipe

Corn chowder is so much an American favorite today we tend to forget that it  originally was a Native-American recipe. What happened with corn chowder, as with such other native recipes as succotash, Brunswick stew, burgoo and “Boston” baked beans, is that early colonists, and later pioneer families moving west with the wagon trains, took the native foods and added their own touches. Indian corn chowder, for example, was simply parched corn stewed in water with perhaps a dab of boar grease and, when available, a handful of wild onions. Frontier women of the plains who had milk cows and hogs began preparing the chowder with top milk and salt pork. And thus emerged the corn chowder we relish today. Serves six.

8 medium-sized ears sweet corn, husked
1/4 lb. salt pork, cut in fine dice
2 medium-sized onions, peeled and chopped
2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. paprika
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk
2 cups light cream

V.S.P. Cut the kernels of corn from the cobs cream-style (to do so, make a deep cut down the center of each row of kernels with a sharp knife, then, using a knife, scrape the corn pulp and milk into a large bowl). Fry the salt pork in a large, heavy skillet until most of the drippings have cooked out and only the brown crispy bits remain: lift the salt pork from the skillet with a slotted spoon to paper toweling to drain. Pour all but 3 tablespoons of the drippings from the skillet: add the onions and potatoes and sauté slowly until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add sugar, paprika, salt, pepper and water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add corn, milk, cream and browned salt pork, adjust heat so mixture bubbles gently, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Ladle into soup plates and serve with crackers.

Hootsla - Omelet Recipe

This rich and filling main dish frugally uses up stale bread but does not stint on butter. It was popular among the Germans and Scandinavians who made their way to Nebraska during the mid and late nineteenth century to coax a living from the land. Not unlike the Pennsylvania-Dutch egg bread, it is nothing more than butter-browned bread cubes in a softly set omelet. Serves six.

2/3 cup butter
10 slices stale white bread, with crusts, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
4 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

V.S.P. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, but do not let it brown. Add the bread cubes, turn heat up slightly, and fry, tossing gently with a spoon, about 5 to 8 minutes until delicately browned. Quickly beat the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper until frothy. Pour into skillet, tilting so that the eggs run underneath the bread cubes and to the edges of the skillet. Reduce heat to moderate and cook eggs, without stirring, 5 to 8 minutes until browned on the bottom and softly set on top. Spoon onto heated plates and serve at once.

The Amana Colonies

Originally published August 13, 1984

The people of the Amanas, rebels from the ritual worship and intellectual theology of the Lutheran Church in eighteenth century Germany, settled first around Buffalo, NY. But they soon needed more room, and so in 1854 they looked westward. Here, along the Iowa River, they found the rich soil, the timber, the sandstone, limestone and brick clay necessary for building a new community. The first village, Amana, was laid out in 1855. Subsequently, six more were built in the medieval manner, with houses clustered together and enveloped by farmland.

These were a farming people, growing the wheat that they baked into breads, in hickory-stacked ovens, raising hogs that would be turned into sausages and fine smoky hams, growing fruits and vegetables and herbs.

Breslauer Steaks with Mushroom Gravy Recipe

Veal and pork patties seasoned with onion and nutmeg are still a favorite dish for the Amanas. Serves six when accompanied by mushroom gravy.

1 lb. ground veal
1 lb. ground pork
3 T. minced chives
1/3 cup finely minced onion
1 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
2 T. butter

Gravy ingredients:
3 T. meat drippings
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
3 T. flour
1-1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup light cream
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

V.S.P. for steaks - Mix together the ground veal and pork, chives, onions, salt, pepper and nutmeg; shape into 6 large, flat patties. Brown on both sides in butter in a very large, heavy skillet; remove to a platter and keep warm.

V.S.P. for gravy - Pour all but 3 tablespoons meat drippings from the skillet; sauté mushrooms in drippings until they are nicely browned and begin to release their juices. Blend in flour, then add chicken broth and cream and cook, stirring, until thickened. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Return patties to skillet, pushing down under gravy, cover and simmer slowly 15 to 20 minutes until “well done” in the center. Serve.

Gelbe Riebau - Carrot Recipe

Amana colony cooks are more imaginative than most about preparing vegetables because they team them in unusual ways - these boiled carrots, for example, are served in creamy mashed potato sauce. This serves four or five.

1/2 cup minced onion
2 T. lard or bacon drippings
8 medium-sized carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
1-1/4 cups water
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
Pinch of pepper

V.S.P. In a large, heavy saucepan, sauté the onion in the lard or bacon drippings 3 to 4 minutes until soft and golden. Add carrots, potatoes and water; bring to a boil, cover and cook 20 to 25 minutes until carrots and potatoes are tender. Fish out potatoes with a slotted spoon and mash well; return to pan and mix along with sugar, salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, about 5 minutes longer, just until mashed potato sauce thickens up slightly. Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chocolate Beyond the Candy Bar

Originally published August 6, 1984

Cortez discovered cocoa and chocolate in Mexico in 1519, where it was used as a beverage by the Aztecs; later, it was drunk by the Spanish ladies of the New World, who, passionately fond of chocolate, were not satisfied with taking it several times a day - they even brought it into church. This indulgence often brought them the censure of their bishops, who, however, at last shut their eyes to it.

Chocolate was introduced into Spain about the seventeenth century and subsequently taken to France, then to England. “The devil has erected a new university”, stated Roger North, in criticizing and English public house of the day - not because of a new-fangled drink known as chocolate, but because of the spirits which lost ground.

Chocolate is manufactured from the husked, dried, ground and fermented seeds of a tree indigenous to South America, which are roasted and made into a paste, then compressed into cakes by moderate pressure. To increase the flavor and nutrient power of the cakes more or less sugar (but at least 50% for sweet chocolate) is added, and various flavoring extracts are blended with the paste before compressing it.

The value of chocolate as a concentrated food is in part derived from the sugar which is added, but it is in itself very nutritious. Like cocoa, if pure and carefully prepared, its ingredients are easily digested and absorbed. It is also mildly stimulating and exhilarating to the nervous system when the nervous system is exhausted through overwork or worry.

Brazilian Chocolate Recipe

This is usually served at The Waldorf-Astoria. We like it in our house and Mrs. Mouse never charges anything extra for the service. Serves four.

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, grated
1 cup strong coffee
3 cups scalded milk
3 T. sugar, more or less to taste
Whipped cream for garnish

V.S.P. Add grated chocolate to coffee in top of a double boiler; place directly over low heat and stir until thoroughly blended; stir in sugar and a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Let boil 3 or 4 minutes, removing pan as mixture rises. Place over boiling water; add scalded milk, stirring constantly. Remove  from hot water; beat until light and frothy, pour into cups and top with a tuft of whipped cream. Serve at once.

Brauner Kirschkuchen - German Chocolate Cherry Cake Recipe

A quintessentially German cake that will always please your guests. Serves eight.

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
2 whole eggs
2-1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/4 cup fine cracker crumbs
3/4 cup grated raw (unblanched) almonds
1 T. sugar
1/2 lb. fresh cherries
Confectioner’s sugar

Step 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs, beating well between additions. Add grated chocolate, cracker crumbs and almonds and mix lightly.

Step 2. Beat egg whites with 1 tablespoon sugar, until they stand in stiff, glossy peaks. Fold into first mixture, gently, but thoroughly, using a rubber spatula. Butter, then flour a layer cake pan, tapping out excess flour. Pour batter into pan and top with cherries - they should be whole, uncut and unstoned, but if that seems too much to bother to eat, pit them.

Step 3. Bake 40 minutes. When cake is cold, slip it out of the pan and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Schokoladen Kartoffeltorte - German Chocolate Potato Torte Recipe

Another great German recipe which French chefs enjoy serving. Potatoes in a dessert? You bet! Serves eight.

3 to 4 medium potatoes - you need 1-3/4 cups when cooked and riced
4 eggs, separated
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 t. baking powder
2 cups sifted flour
1 cup ground, raw almonds
3/4 cup butter
1-2/3 cup sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1 T. sugar

Step 1. If possible, boil and peel potatoes a day ahead of time so they can dry out a little. If not, be sure they are thoroughly cold before you rice them or they will stick together and be difficult to blend evenly into batter. Puree potatoes through a food mill, sieve or ricer. Measure out 1-3/4 cup and set aside.

Step 2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate eggs so whites will not be too cold when you beat them. Melt chocolate over hot water. Add baking powder to flour and sift again, together, onto a sheet of paper.

Step 3. Add nuts to flour and gently toss together with a fork until thoroughly blended. Cream butter with 1-2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and, when blended, beat in melted chocolate, potatoes and vanilla. Whip egg whites and as they begin to stiffen, beat in 1 tablespoon sugar; continue beating until whites stand in stiff, glossy peaks. Beat 2 or 3 tablespoons of beaten egg whites into chocolate batter to lighten it. Turn egg whites into a wide, roomy bowl, if not already in one. Turn chocolate batter onto egg whites and sprinkle with flour-nut mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold ingredients together gently but thoroughly. There should be no traces of egg whites or flour showing.

Step 4. Bake in two unbuttered 9-inch layer cake pans or in an 8-inch spring form. Cool in pan, invert onto rack until completely cold. If you have used a spring form, cut cake into two layers. Layers may be filled with whipped cream, jam or butter cream.

Mole Poblano de Guajalote Recipe

Most famous of the molés is this one from Puebla. It intrigues the uninitiated with its imaginative sauce of chocolate and spices for turkey. Molé actually refers to a sauce cooked with chili peppers; the molé made with peanut butter is another version. Serves eight to ten.

A 4 to 5 lb. turkey breast
1 t. salt
2 T. vegetable oil
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 canned green chili peppers, rinsed, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/3 cup raisins
1 6-inch tortilla, cut up
2 T. sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. crushed anise seed
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground coriander seed
Dash of black pepper
1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
Toasted sesame seeds

Step 1. In a large Dutch oven, combine turkey breast, the one teaspoon of salt, and enough water (about 10 cups) to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Drain, reserving 1-1/2 cups broth. Cool turkey slightly. Pat dry with paper toweling. In Dutch oven, brown turkey breast in hot oil. Drain off fat.

Step 2. To prepare molé poblano, in blender container combine reserved broth, tomato, onion, chili peppers, almonds, raisins, tortilla, sesame seeds, garlic, red pepper, the 1/4 teaspoon salt, anise seed, cloves, cinnamon, coriander seed, and pepper. Cover and blend until nearly smooth. Stir in melted chocolate. Pour sauce over turkey breast in Dutch oven. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until heated through.

To serve, slice turkey breast; arrange on platter, spooning sauce atop. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Benefits of Fresh Fruit Discovered by Sailors of Past

Originally published August 2, 1984

Many years passed before scurvy was recognized as being related to diet, and it was then blamed not on too little fresh food, but on too much salt food. Western medical men knew by about 1600 A.D. that green herbs or citrus fruits could affect a swift cure. The Chinese as far back as the fifth century had made it a custom to carry fresh ginger growing in pots on board their vessels, and by the fourteenth century - entirely from experience - had arrived at some general understanding of the role certain types of food could play in preventing or curing such deficiency diseases as beriberi. The Dutch, closely involved with the Chinese-influenced areas of southeast Asia, may have learned there of the importance of greenstuffs and citrus fruits in a sea diet and have passed the message on to Europe. When the English East India Company dispatched its first ships to the east in 1601, a chronicler recorded that the little fleet hove to off the southern tip of Madagascar and gathered “oranges and lemons of which we made a good store of water (juice), which is the best remedy against scurvy.”

But the official mind could see no way of growing sufficient green herbs on board heavily manned ships to protect the crews against scurvy, and citrus fruit was much too expensive for economy-conscious owners or government administrators. For two hundred years physicians and captains neglected the only known remedies for scurvy while they attempted to find others which would be cheaper and more convenient. They knew what worked but not why it worked, and so all their many and varied experiments proved valueless. Finally, it was accepted that the juice of citrus fruits was the only medicine which could conquer a disease that was killing more seamen than enemy action.

At the end of the eighteenth century, the British Admiralty decreed that a fixed amount of lemon juice should be issued daily to sailors in the British Navy after their fifth or sixth week afloat. The mortality rate in the navy declined with startling suddenness.

The citrus juice was usually mixed with the rum ration, whose issue was the highlight of the sailor’s day. Since 1740 rum had rarely been dispensed neat. (During WWII, The Grenadier Guards were still being issued rum whenever we were in action against the enemy.) In 1795 the Royal Navy began to issue lime juice but it was soon realized that limes were less effective than lemons for controlling scurvy. This association with limes is the origin of the derogatory term “limey”.

Lemon Curd Recipe

This is a very old English recipe used for a spread on toast and a filling for tarts. My mother used it as a filling in layer cakes. Makes about three cups.

4 large juicy lemons
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 egg yolks, well beaten

V.S.P. Scrub the lemons, grate the rind, cut in halves and squeeze out the juice. Pour the juice into the top of a double boiler, add sugar, butter and grated rind. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour this mixture over the egg yolks, stirring all the while to prevent curdling. Return the mixture to the pan and continue cooking over gentle heat until the mixture thickens. Put into sterilized jars and seal at once. Cool before serving.

Arroz Doce - Lemon Rice Pudding Recipe

This is a lemon rice pudding from Portugal. All the ingredients are readily available, will serve six to eight, it is very inexpensive and everyone will enjoy it.

3/4 cup medium or short-grain rice
5 cups milk
1-1/2 T. grated lemon rind
3 T. butter
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 t. ground cinnamon

Step 1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil and gradually add the rice. Cook, stirring, two minutes then remove from heat and drain the rice in a colander or sieve.

Step 2. Combine 2-1/2 cups milk, the lemon rind and butter in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the rice, stirring. Cook over very low heat, stirring frequently. After 30 minutes or when the rice absorbs all the milk, stir in the remaining milk and continue cooking until the rice is soft and the mixture looks like a thick, creamy sauce.

Step 3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and lemon colored. Add the lemon juice. Fold the egg mixture into the rice and set over low heat, stirring constantly for 4 or 5 minutes, spoon the rice into a serving dish, allow to cool. Dust with ground cinnamon and serve.

Old-Fashioned Lemon Creams Recipe

In the parts of the country where milk and cream were plentiful in the nineteenth century, the desserts took on a lavishness which is far removed from today’s dependence on cream substitutes and desserts in low calories. Modern housewives prepare a lemon cream that has little resemblance to this delicious recipe.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 t. salt
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1/2 pint cream, whipped

V.S.P. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water to soften. Place over hot water and stir until dissolved. Cool slightly. Beat egg yolks until thick, add sugar and beat until the mixture falls from the spoon in a ribbon. Simmer over hot, not boiling, water until the mixture clings to the spoon, stirring constantly. Add the gelatin, lemon rind and juice. Cool, stirring occasionally, but do not allow to thicken too much. Fold in the egg whites and the whipped cream. Pile high in a dessert dish. Refrigerate until serving time.

North African Lemon Dressing Recipe

Serve with fruit salads and cottage cheese, or with a salad made by alternating slices of tomatoes, sweet onions, cucumbers and sweet pepper rings. Makes about one cup.

Grated rind of 2 lemons
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 t. salt
1/8 t. red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 to 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. paprika

V.S.P. Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate and shake well before using.

Lemon Preserves Recipe

This is an old fashioned American favorite for use as a preserve. See the USDA’s guidelines for home canning.

4 large lemons
1 large orange
Water as needed
Sugar as needed

Step 1. Remove the peel from the lemons and orange. Cut the peel into paper-thin julienne strips and combine with the sliced or chopped fruit. Discard seeds.

Step 2. Add one cup water for each cup pulp and peel. Let stand overnight.

Step 3. Boil the mixture until the peel is tender. Cool.

Step 4. Add one cup sugar for each cup of fruit and juice. Cook until the syrup gives a jelly test - two drops form on the edge of a metal spoon and drop off simultaneously. Stir occasionally. Pour into hot sterilized half-pint jars. Seal at once. Store for later use.

Lebanese Bean Salad Recipe

Made with our locally grown navy beans and some fresh mint from your garden. Serves six.

2-1/2 cups cooked dried navy beans
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 T. chopped fresh mint or 2 t. dried mint
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

Step 1. Place beans, parsley, onion, mint, tomato and cucumber in serving bowl.

Step 2. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and beat well with a fork until creamy. Pour dressing over vegetables and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Mix again just before serving.

Greek Chicken Recipe

This is a classic Greek recipe as it is applied to chicken. Serves four.

2-1/2 to 3 lb. frying chicken, cut up in serving pieces
2 T. butter or margarine
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 (16 oz.) can Italian plum tomatoes
1 t. cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon

Step 1. Dry the chicken pieces thoroughly with paper towels.

Step 2. In a large frying pan, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and brown quickly on both sides until golden. Add salt and pepper.

Step 3. Add tomatoes, cinnamon and lemon juice, cover and simmer over low heat about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve over rice or pasta.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gourmet Travels in the Kitchen

Originally published July 30, 1984

Monotony needs no longer harass the gourmet. He may choose not only the foods of his own country but those of the entire world in these United States of America. In fact, he is missing a great deal if he permits himself to be limited by geographical considerations that no longer really exist. Perhaps the true gourmet  or gourmand may see in international cookery in America a sure step to permanent understanding among all nations and a way to eventual lasting peace. It is unnecessary, though, to set forth any such remote defense of the gourmet, for his is the joyous appreciation of one of the most essential phases of our existence.

The true gourmet considers a good, even a simple, dinner as a period of relaxation. It is the culminating point in the events of the day, for, in good company, one may pass in review a new play, motion picture, a new book or musical composition; he may discuss new ideas or turn with pleasure to the old - in short, all that is merry - while savoring dishes which delight the appetite. But as soon as a dinner turns to gluttony, greediness or debauchery, it loses its good name and its advantages, and falls into the hands of moralists - or doctors.

The ultimate purpose of good cooking is to contribute to the preservation of man by the means of good, healthy and agreeable nourishment. In the exercise of this virtue, cooking embraces all aspects of human life, from cradle to grave, and sustains a long list of human activities: Agriculture, which produces; Commerce, which trades; Chemistry, which analyzes; Industry, which prepares; Medicine, which studies and examines; Political economy, which furnishes resources; and general satisfaction, which is attained by a judicious combination of all of these.

Cooking for others is both the most primitive and the most sophisticated of man’s endeavors, for in satisfying the primal urge of hunger, we fulfill the ancient and universal traditions of love and hospitality.

Why not invite a few friends or relatives to an interesting dinner next week? Here are several dishes they could enjoy.

Soup Avgolemono Recipe

This lemon soup is a favorite in Greece. Serves eight.

6 cups chicken stock
2 T. chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup orzo or rice
2 eggs
Juice of 1 large lemon

Step 1. In a large pot, heat the chicken stock; add dill and simmer gently 30 minutes.

Step 2. Add orzo or rice and cook 15 to 20 minutes more or until orzo or rice is just tender.

Step 3. Just before serving, beat eggs with lemon juice in a small bowl. Add about 1/2 cup of the hot soup slowly in a small stream to the egg mixture, stirring constantly to prevent eggs from curdling.

Step 4. Return egg mixture to soup pot, stirring all the while. Bring to a simmer, but do not boil. Serve.

Old-Fashioned Cucumber Salad Recipe

This is a favored way to serve cucumbers in Northern Europe. Serves four.

4 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1-1/2 T. salt
1/2 cup vinegar
3 T. sugar
Pinch of white pepper
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

Step 1. Peel and thinly slice the cucumbers. Place in a glass or ceramic bowl, add salt and mix well. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

Step 2. Rinse cucumber slices thoroughly in cold water and drain well.

Step 3. Mix vinegar, sugar and pepper. Pour over cucumbers and onion slices and chill for several hours. Serve.

Grandma’s Pot Roast Recipe

This is a Russian-Jewish recipe which will be enjoyed by all your guests. Serves eight.

4 to 5 lb. boneless beef round roast
3 T. rendered chicken fat
1 T. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. paprika
3 large yellow onions, sliced
Water or beef stock

Step 1. Pat meat dry with paper towels. In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat chicken fat over moderate to high heat until sizzling. Add beef and brown well on all sides, sprinkling each side as it is seared with salt, pepper and paprika.

Step 2. When meat done browning, turn heat to low, add sliced onions, cover and cook2 to 3 hours. Enough liquid will be produced by the meat and onions for most of the cooking period; eventually, however, you will need to add a little additional water or stock to complete the cooking.

Step 3. Cook until meat falls apart in an unlovely-looking but delicious mess. Serve with potatoes.

Ukrainian Braised Pork Recipe

Pork is always delicious and this Ukrainian recipe is another favorite whenever it is served. Serves four to six.

2 to 2-1/2 lbs. boneless pork loin
2 T. butter or margarine
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1 T. caraway seeds
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup sour cream

Step 1. Remove all excess fat from pork. In heavy pot or Dutch oven,  heat butter over medium heat until foaming. Add pork and brown on all sides. Add salt and pepper.

Step 2. To pot, add onions, caraway seeds and stock; cover, reduce heat and simmer gently 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until meat is fork tender. Remove meat to plate and cool slightly. Cut in slices.

Step 3. Turn heat up under sauce and boil rapidly until reduced to about 2/3 cup. Return sliced meat to pot and simmer about 10 minutes.

Step 4. Just before serving, remove meat from pot with slotted spoon and place in serving dish. Add sour cream to sauce in pot and whisk thoroughly. Reheat sauce, but do not boil. Pour sauce over meat and serve with potatoes or noodles.

Stir-Fried Zucchini Recipe

Zucchini is a vegetable that lends itself very well to the stir-fry technique because its texture is naturally crisp and tender. This method heats and flavors the zucchini without affecting the texture. Serves four.

4 small to medium zucchini
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1/8 t. black pepper

V.S.P. Wash zucchini. Cut off ends and slice about 1/8-inch thick. In a large frying pan, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil just until tender. Turn up heat to medium-high, add zucchini slices, and stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper and serve.

Indian Pudding Recipe

If there is one true Native American flavor, it is that of cornmeal and molasses, which the earliest settlers developed from the natural foodstuffs long used by the Indians, and which is characterized in such other American classics as corn cakes and anadama bread. This recipe is for a rather firm pudding with a decided butterscotch flavor. Serve six to eight.

4 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3 T. butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. vanilla extract
3 eggs
Heavy cream, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Step 1. In the top of a double boiler, scald milk. Add cornmeal gradually, stirring constantly. Place over, not in, boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Step 2. In a small saucepan cream together butter and brown sugar, then add molasses, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, stirring, just until blended. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Step 3. Beat eggs into cornmeal mixture one at a time. Add molasses mixture and mix thoroughly.

Step 4. Pour mixture into buttered 2-quart baking dish. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven 1-1/2 hours or until firm and lightly browned. Serve with cream, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Loaf of Bread and the Hungarian Connection

Originally published July 26, 1984

Brown bread, served hot and steaming with baked beans is typically New England. Germans and Austrians specialize in black bread, rye breads or bread flavored with caraway seeds and poppy seeds. The Scandinavians also have a large array of dark breads, crisp breads, etc., and the Turks produce a soft brown aromatic bread that must be eaten fresh. Cornbread, still a southern specialty, long dominated American bread boxes because wheat was a luxury.

Wheat bread began its march to leadership when an American, Oliver Evans, pioneered in grinding flour with “bolting” (sifting) devices instead of with ancient millstones. Evans’ water-driven flour mill, the country’s first “automated” factory, was established in 1787. The Evans process was covered by federal patents after 1790 and by 1837, 1,200 automatic mills, using Evans’ patent or infringing on it, were producing some two million barrels of flour a year in states west of the Alleghenies.

While corn, rye and whole wheat doughs will rise only slightly, white bread made of bolted flour can be light and airy, if somewhat deficient in B vitamins and fiber. The Hungarian Count Steven Szechenyi produced such a fine, aristocratic white flour in the 1870’s  that it captured a wide market, and in 1879 the governor of Minnesota had Hungarian engineers come to Minneapolis to put up rolling mills on which Messrs. Crosby and Washburn established the General Mills Company.

Some Americans survived nicely on cornbread, or on sourdough bread, now associated with the prospectors of California, Alaska and the Yukon. Made of fermented dough, sourdough bread actually goes back to 4000 B.C. and may be the oldest of breads. Columbus had a sourdough started aboard ship when he reached the New World. The gold seekers carried starters (self-perpetuating yeast mixtures combining flour, sugar and water) in starter pots strapped to their backs; they were prepared to make bread anywhere they stopped to make a claim. When they pulled up stakes and moved on, the sourdough starters and starter pots moved on with them.

Here are some breads that you will find are fun to make and which everyone will enjoy.

Irish Oatmeal Bread Recipe

This smells great while cooking and tastes even better. Makes two loaves, serve it with unsalted butter. Store extra loaf wrapped in aluminum foil and reheat in oven.

3 cups sifted flour
1-1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1-1/2 T. baking powder
1 T. salt
1/2 cup honey
1-1/2 cups milk
1 T. melted butter
1 egg, beaten

V.S.P. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sifted flour, rolled oats, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, add mix honey, milk and butter with the beaten egg. Pour egg mixture into oat mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Mixture will be lumpy. Spread into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake one hour. Turn out of pans onto a wire rack. Brush with more melted butter while warm. Serve.

Zucchini Bread Recipe

When your neighbor begins to offer zucchini from his garden this is the best way to use them. Makes two loaves and these can be easily frozen for later use.

3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 T. vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
1 T. cinnamon
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini, loosely packed
1 cup chopped nuts

V.S.P. In a bowl, beat eggs until fluffy. Beat in sugar, oil and vanilla until it is thick and lemon colored. Add remaining ingredients, mix well and pour into two loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Invert on wire racks and let cool completely. Serve.

Beer Twists Recipe

These rolls are from Brazil and everyone will enjoy these when you sprinkle them with powdered sugar just as you take them from the oven. Serve with coffee or tea.

2 cups flour
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, unsoftened
1 T. sugar
8 oz. beer

The night before you plan to serve:
Step 1. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender. Add sugar and beer and mix well.

Step 2. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board and knead until it is no longer sticky. Cover the dough and refrigerate it overnight.

To bake the twists:
Step 3. Tear off chunks of dough the size of a large walnut. Roll each piece between your palms into a 2-inch cylinder. Twist each cylinder two or three times and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Step 4. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Psome - Greek "City Bread” Recipe

This Psome is translated as Greek city bread and usually is not eaten by Greek village people. This makes two loaves.

2 pkgs. dry active yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
3 T. sugar
1 T. salt
1/4 cup melted butter
6 cups sifted flour
2 T. cream
2 T. sesame seeds

Step 1. Sprinkle the yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in the lukewarm water. Cover and let stand for 7 to 8 minutes until the mixture is bubbly.

Step 2. Stir the remaining sugar, salt, butter and egg together.

Step 3. Scald the milk. When it is lukewarm, add it and the yeast mixture to the egg mixture. Add the flour and stir well.

Step 4. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes.

Step 5. Butter the inside of a large bowl and turn the dough ball in the bowl, rotating it so all sides are lightly oiled. Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place until double in bulk, about 2 hours.

Step 6. Punch the dough down with your fist. Turn the dough out on a floured board again and knead for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Step 7. Divide the dough into two pieces and place each into a well-greased 9-inch cake pan or place both loaves on a greased cookie sheet.

Step 8. Brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Step 9. Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place until the dough doubles again - about 1 hour.

Step 10. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Serve.

Brethren Cheddar Bread Recipe

This bread is from the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts. During the Civil War the Shakers built their communities in New England. These good people shunned all embellishment, produced their own furniture and practiced complete celibacy (very few of us are left). This makes four loaves.

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
3 t. baking powder
1-1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 cups coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 T. minced fresh dill or 1 t. dried dill weed
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups milk

V.S.P. Sift together in a large bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly - about the texture of uncooked oatmeal. Stir in the shredded cheese and the dill.

Combine the eggs and milk, then add to the dry ingredients all at once, stirring just enough to moisten the dry ingredients uniformly. Divide batter among four very well greased loaf pans and bake in a 400 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when thumped. Cool loaves upright on wire racks for 10 minutes, then invert and remove from pans. Slice fairly thick and serve.

These loaves freeze well. Simply wrap snuggly in aluminum foil and place in freezer. Bring to room temperature before slicing.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pork - The Choice for Year-Round Treats

Originally published July 23, 1984

Since earliest times, hunting the vicious wild boar with hounds and spears, has been a prestigious sport for kings and noblemen. In ancient Rome ostentatious hosts vied with each other in their manner of serving this celebrated beast. Guests at the dinner table of Servillus Rullus (291 B.C.) were once presented with a large roasted boar which was skillfully carved open to reveal a second entire animal, which in turn opened to a third: delicacies diminishing in size continued to be unsheathed until at last a dainty little figpecker (small bird) terminated the series of strange meats. A Macedonian named Caranus gave each of his 20 wedding guests one entire roasted boar as well as a silver platter on which the guest’s slave might bear the memento home. The first doggy bag perhaps.

Because the fiercest and largest boars are the greatest challenge to the hunter but are the oldest and toughest to eat, only the giant head of the conquered adversary was served as a special treat. The head was singed, scraped and completely boned. The ears were removed for separate cooking. The diced tongue and a few fleshy pieces from just under the skin were added to a stuffing made of chicken, lean ham, mushroom, nuts and other delicacies.

The boar skin was then reshaped around this stuffing, wrapped in a cloth, and simmered for several hours in a jellied stock. When cooled, it was glazed and duly appointed with ears, tusks and false eyes and occasionally a flower over one ear. This prized trophy was traditional as a first course at Christmas or for a state occasion.

In England, King Henry II served a boar’s head to his son on the occasion of the young prince’s coronation in 1170. The boar’s head celebration became an annual event long ago at Queen’s College, Oxford, when a student who was reading Aristotle in the nearby forest of Shotover was attacked by an open-mouthed wild boar. The resourceful scholar jammed the text down the throat of his assailant, choked the brute, and delivered the animal’s head to the chief steward who prepared it for Christmas dinner.

Pork deserves to be considered elegant party fare, worthy of the finest menu when it is served to your most favored guests. Here are a few of our favorite pork recipes - The Kitchen Mouse will furnish the recipes and you only have to muster a few guests and a reason for a celebration.

Australian Pork Chops Recipe

Serve over rice with a side of vegetables to four people.

4 large pork chops
2 large onions, sliced
3 T. butter or margarine
1/2 t. brown sugar
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. flour
12 oz. ginger ale
Salt and pepper

V.S.P. Sauté onions with half the butter until golden brown; remove and place in a casserole. Brown chops well on both sides in remaining butter, then place chops on top of onions in casserole. Scatter brown sugar on top of chops. Mix tomato paste and flour together and add the ginger ale; pour this over the chops and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until chops are tender. Serve.

Kolozsvari Kaposzta - Pork Goulash Recipe

This Hungarian pork goulash recipe is a must whenever we discuss pork. This will easily serve six, but the Kitchen Mouse suggests that you use only real dairy sour cream for this recipe.

2-1/2 lbs. boned shoulder of pork
2 large onions, chopped fine
3 T. oil
2 T. paprika
1/3 cup boiling water
2 cups sauerkraut
1-1/2 cups sour cream
Additional sour cream for garnish

V.S.P. Cut the meat into 2-inch cubes. Sauté the onions in the oil until they are yellow. Add the paprika and salt to taste, mix well, then stir in the meat and cook for 10 minutes. Add the boiling water, cover tightly, and cook over low heat  until the meat is tender, about 1-1/2 hours. Cover the sauerkraut with warm water and drain well; this is important, as the dish must have a delicate flavor. Add the kraut to meat and cook for 10 minutes, then add the sour cream and cook one minute longer. Serve.

Roast Loin of Pork with Nut Butter Recipe

This is a favored way of serving fresh pork in Great Britain. Serve six or seven.

6 or 8 rib roast of pork
1/2 cup peanut butter
6 or 8 slices of onion
Salt and pepper
1 cup hot milk
1 T. cornstarch
12 to 16 small white onions

Step 1. The end opposite from the tenderloin is the juiciest cut. Have the butcher saw through the bone of each rib for easier carving.

Step 2. Spread the peanut butter on the meat side of the ribs and sprinkle very lightly with flour. Cover with the onion slices and fasten with toothpicks. Add salt and pepper. Place the roast in a pan, rib side down, and roast in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, uncovered, then baste with a little of the hot milk.  Cover and roast at 300 degrees for 1-1/4 hours, or 25 minutes per pound.

Step 3. An hour before the roast is done, boil up the small white onions for 3 minutes, drain and place around the roast. Remove the toothpicks.

Step 4. Blend the cornstarch with the remaining milk. When the meat is done, lift it to a hot platter and surround it with the onions. Put the milk into the roasting pan and cook until it has thickened. Thin with a little more hot milk if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Pork Chops Italian Style Recipe

If you enjoy sweet Italian sausage, you will enjoy chops prepared this way. Serves six.

6 1-inch thick chops from loin or boned shoulder
Pork fat or vegetable oil
2 T. brown sugar
Salt and pepper
2 t. thyme
1-1/2 cups small noodle shells

Sauce ingredients:
1 cup tomato puree
1 small can tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 t. fennel seed
Chopped parsley for garnish

V.S.P. Glaze the chops in a large skillet with the fat or oil and the brown sugar. Salt and pepper them and sprinkle with thyme. Put chops in a casserole and add the uncooked noodles around them. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes, then pour it over the chops. Cover and bake 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions Recipe

This recipe is probably of German origin, but it is well suited to the tastes of most nationalities. Serves six.

6 1-inch thick chops from loin or boned shoulder
Pork fat or oil
3 T. honey
Salt and pepper
6 tart apples
6 red sweet onions
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup dry white wine
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 cup buttered crumbs

V.S.P. Glaze the chops in fat or oil and the honey. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and tarragon. Peel the apples and onions and cut them in very thin slices. Mix them and put half in the bottom of a casserole, lay the glazed chops on next, and cover with the rest of the apples and onions. In a small saucepan, boil up the sugar, wine and cinnamon and pour over the top. Cover and bake for one hour at 300 degrees. Sprinkle the top with buttered crumbs and let the casserole stand in the oven uncovered for five minutes. Serve.

Chinese Roast Pork Recipe

Here is a traditional Chinese flavor principle exemplified in a traditional dish. This roast may be served as an appetizer, as a main course, or mixed with other foods and stir-fried in the Chinese manner. Serves three or four.

3 T. soy sauce
3 T. dry sherry
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. honey
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 t. finely minced ginger root
1 to 1-1/2 lbs. boneless lean pork loin, excess fat removed

Step 1. Combine soy sauce, sherry, hoisin sauce, honey, garlic and ginger, mix thoroughly and pour over pork. Marinate pork, refrigerated, for 2 hours, turning pork frequently inn marinade.

Step 2. Roast pork on a rack over a pan of hot water in a preheated 350 degree oven 50 minutes. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into thin slices and serve with duck sauce, if desired.

Chinese Duck Sauce Recipe

It is possible to buy perfectly acceptable bottled duck sauce, also known sometimes as plum sauce, however homemade is just wonderful. We have found many ways to use it, not just for Chinese food.

Enough plums, peaches and apricots to make 5 cups when pared, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar

Step 1. Boil a pot of water; drop each piece of fruit into the boiling water for one minute and remove. Slip off skins. Chop fruit into small pieces, discarding pits.

Step 2. Combine vinegar and sugar. Place fruit in a large stainless steel pot and add vinegar-sugar mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve cold.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Kitchen Mouse’s Spanish Menu - Wine & Desserts

Originally published July 19, 1984

The Wines of Spain
From the earliest time of which we have any record, Spain has been one of the largest wine-producing countries of the Mediterranean. It is probable that wine was introduced into the country by the Phoenicians between 1000 and 600 B.C. In antiquity, as today, these wines have always been famous for their excellent quality and wide variety. The soil and climatic conditions of the different regions of Spain produce grapes of such varying characteristics that it is difficult to establish a too rigid classification, because wines are the combined results of soil, climate and vine. Spanish wines are mainly known by their geographical names according to the region where they were produced. The finest ones are further distinguished by the producer’s name which is also printed on the bottle.

Iced Sangria Recipe

This iced wine drink is a popular summer beverage in most Spanish-speaking countries. There are many variations of this recipe - try this one the first time, then you can change it to suit your own taste. It is traditional to serve in the pitcher for stirring before pouring. (Sangaree, a summer drink popular in the southern U.S., is derived from Sangria.)

1 orange
1 lemon
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 t. orange bitters
1 bottle (four-fifths quart) semi-dry red wine

Step 1. Slice the orange and lemon into round, paper-thin slices.

Step 2. Put the fruit and the remaining ingredients in a pitcher large enough to allow room for the addition of ice cubes.

Step 3. Mix thoroughly, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, add ice cubes.

Basic Flan Recipe

Popular Spanish flan is, in its simplest form, nothing more than a custard cream, the main difference being that it is cooked in a pan previously lined with caramelized sugar syrup. Serves six. This is a very basic recipe, adaptable to many variations. You can flavor it with coffee, orange, lemon or anything you might prefer.

6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 t. vanilla
4 T. sugar
2 T. water

Step 1. Beat the egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar together thoroughly. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix well and pass the mixture through a fine strainer. In a tin flan mold, place 4 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Boil the syrup until it becomes well-browned. Watch it carefully - it turns rapidly from light brown to burned brown: don’t let it get too dark.

Step 2. While the syrup is still hot, swirl the pan carefully to distribute the syrup evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan, forming a thin, solid crust as it cools.

Step 3. In the pan thus prepared, pour the egg/milk/sugar mixture. Cover and cook by the double-boiler method - setting the mold in a pan of water - for 45 to 60 minutes.

Step 4. Finish by baking uncovered for about 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven, without removing it from the pan of water. When its crown is golden-brown, test it by sticking a needle in it. When the needle comes out completely dry, remove it from the oven and let it cool before trying to get it out of the mold.

Step 5. To remove from the mold, hold it over the fire a few seconds, then turn it over.

The same procedure applies for smaller individual molds but of course they require less cooking time.

Melocotones Borrachos - Brandied Peaches & Cream Recipe

This translates as drunken peaches and makes a lovely dessert. At this time of year we prefer to use fresh ripe peaches. Serves six.

1 small sponge cake
1 can (16 oz.) peaches - or equivalent fresh ripe peaches
3 eggs, beaten
2 T. cornstarch
3 T. apricot jam
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup milk
5 oz. sugar
A few drops vanilla extract
3 T. water

Step 1. Lay sponge cake on a china plate and sprinkle with the brandy. Lay sliced peaches on top of the cake.

Step 2. In a saucepan, mix the milk with the peach syrup, add 3 eggs and 3 oz. of sugar. Blend the cornstarch with a little of the syrup, making a  smooth paste. Slowly add to the saucepan, stirring constantly, until very smooth. Cook over low heat, bringing to a boil for only one minute. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and pour over sponge cake.

Step 3. In a small saucepan, put 3 tablespoons water, apricot jam and 2 oz. sugar. Cook over low heat one minute and pour over cream. Chill in refrigerator and serve very cold.

Suspiros de Monja - Fried Puffs Recipe

“Sigh of a Nun” - These are small dessert fried cakes or doughnuts which are usually served hot and accompanied by coffee. Serves six.

1/2 lb. flour
2 T. butter
1 cup milk
6 eggs
Pinch of salt
Grated rind of a lemon
Oil for deep frying

Step 1. Heat the milk with the lemon rind, butter, salt and sugar. When it begins to boil, add the flour, stirring all the time until it becomes a thick paste. Remove from heat and let it cool a bit. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Step 2. In a skillet heat the oil; put in little pieces of dough, about the size of a walnut; do not touch them, as they will, by themselves, open, turn and puff up. Drain and serve hot, sprinkled with sugar or hot syrup.

Pastel Gitano - Gypsy Tart Recipe

Centuries ago, gypsies wandered from Castile into southern Spain, and the Grenada Mountains. Soon the mountains were echoing the sweet music of the guitars and the wild, foot-stomping and handclapping of the gypsy girls. It was the festive swirling of of their skirts that inspired this popular confection found in all their festivities. This pastel Gitano is a delicate shell of flavored meringue filled with fresh fruits and cherries imitating polka dots and ruffled with a meringue border. This will make a beautiful centerpiece for any occasion. Serves eight.

Meringue Shell
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/4 t. salt
1 T. vanilla, or coffee, strong and very cold
1 cup sugar

V.S.P. combine the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Beat egg whites until soft moist peaks form. Gradually add sugar a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flavoring and continue beating until very stiff. Spread half of meringue around sides and rim of plate making a decorative edge using a spatula or pastry tube. Bake 1 hour in a 275 degree oven or until crisp to the touch. Cool well before filling.

2 bananas, sliced
1 cup seedless grapes
2 T. lemon juice
2 oranges, sliced
20 pitted cherries

V.S.P. Combine bananas with grapes and lemon juice. Arrange with orange slices and cherries in meringue shell. Garnish with additional cherries, melon balls or any other fruit you care to use.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
2 T. butter
2 T. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt

V.S.P. Combine sugar, flour, milk, egg yolks and butter. Cook over hot water four minutes, stirring constantly. Cool, stir in vanilla. Serve with Pastel Gitano.

The Kitchen Mouse on Nutrition

Originally published July 16, 1984

Many of The Kitchen Mouse’s friends have repeatedly asked that a column be written about nutrition and perhaps a few secret recipes “which are sure to satisfy hunger without adding additional tonnage.”

We Americans are now so concerned about our health that our foods are advertised at least as much for their nutritional  values as for their qualities of taste and pleasure. Much of our nutrition consciousness has developed in the past 40 years.

People who never knew a calorie from a vitamin, if indeed they had ever heard those words, learned in the mess halls of World War II - or from young men returned from military service - that there is more to eating than corn pone, fried pork and hot biscuits.

Millions of Americans in the 1940’s shifted from fats and carbohydrates to foods with higher protein content. More grown men drank milk and orange juice and ate leafy green vegetables, even if they did go on eating creamed chipped beef on toast, a dish well remembered by servicemen for its earthy nickname.

This awareness of good nutrition has been a useful thing for the country. But America’s interest in the health aspects of food has had its less fortunate side.

The country has often been swept by the campaigns of food faddists. We have no monopoly on such faddists. In their own ways, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Zoroaster (Persian religious leader 600 A.D.), Siddhartha Gautama (who became Buddha) and Moses all promulgated extreme views about food and nutrition.

One of the earliest and most persistent food mystiques has been vegetarianism, which can be based on the sort of sensibilities that prevent Hindus from killing any living thing or from attitudes about health.

Hindus are vegetarians, due to the principle of non-violence of Hinduism, as applied to animals and the belief meat is harmful to the mind. Trappist monks are vegetarians too, and so are various occult groups, and small Protestant sects, some of whose members operate a large U.S. corporation active in producing meat-substitutes.

The poet Shelley published a treatise in 1813 which claimed the human digestive system was suited only to plant foods. Shelley’s thesis was taken quite seriously by George Bernard Shaw, who gave up eating meat when he was 35. Some of Shaw’s statements suggest, however, that he was more motivated by conscience than science. “A man of my spiritual intensity,” said Shaw, “does not eat corpses.”

Another long-lived vegetarian, 82 when he dies in 1910, was Leo Tolstoy. The Russian novelist and social critic proclaimed a new religion when he was 48: it rejected sexuality, war, violence, alcohol, smoking and the eating of animal flesh.

Some vegetarians insist on eating raw vegetables, not cooked ones. Some call themselves “fruitarians” and eat only fruit. More permissive are the lacto-vegetarians who include milk, eggs and cheese in their diets, but other vegetarians say these are forms of meat and will not touch them.

Sensitivities aside, there are no convincing nutritional justifications for vegetarianism. Some vegetarians have, it is true, lived to ripe old ages, but so have many meat eaters; more than one food fad, in fact, has recommended eating great quantities of meat. A 1948 book by Daniel C. Munro, “You Can Live Longer Than You Think,” claimed that Methuselah lived 969 years because he ate mostly meat. And then there was Dr. J.H. Salisbury, who sometime about the turn of the (twentieth) century recommended ground steak three times a day for a whole list of ailments.

One of America’s first homegrown food faddists, and we in America have had our share, was the Rev. Sylvester W. Graham, whose name survives in graham flour and the graham cracker.

Graham, a former Presbyterian preacher, was a temperance lecturer, vegetarian, dietetic “expert” and a self-styled doctor of medicine. Born in West Suffield, Connecticut in 1794, he launched an attack in his mid-30’s on meats and fats (which he said heated people’s tempers and led them to sexual excesses). Condiments like mustard, catsup and pepper, he charged, could cause insanity.

Mostly, he propagandized for a diet of eating bread made from coarse unsifted flour and eaten slightly stale. The important thing was to keep the bran in the bread. Graham declared war on white bread, which had long been a symbol of good living and of western civilization. He had no knowledge of the vitamins and minerals in the bran, but like so many of his successors he was obsessed with bowel regularity.

Graham’s philosophies of nutrition led, by way of the Adventist Church (whose spiritual leader, Mother Ellen Harmon White, promised God-given health and happiness to all who shunned tobacco, salt, spices and spirits, drank only water and ate two meatless meals a day) to the whole modern breakfast food industry.

Mother White founded the Western Health Reform Institute at Battle Creek in 1866. Some years later, Dr. John Harvey Kellog was hired to manage the institute, whose name he changed to the Battle Creek Sanitarium, or the San, as it was called.

Patients at the San ate a lot of bran in the Graham tradition. If they had high blood pressure, they were fed nothing but grapes - up to 14 pounds a day. If thin, they were fed 26 times a day and forced to remain motionless lest they waste calories; they were not even allowed to brush their teeth.

Dietary apostles have appeared on the American scene regularly ever since. No doubt some have made valid contributions, if only by spurring scientists to find some solid refutations to their claims.

In the Kitchen Mouse’s house we do not follow a formal diet, however we do have some house rules which we find helpful in the continuing battle of the bulge.

1. Save desserts for special visit from royalty, heads-of-state or grandchildren.

2. Limit your use of salt.

3. Serve fresh green vegetables every day.

4. Limit the size of all portions.

5. Begin lunch and supper with a fresh green salad.

6. Broil instead of frying.

7. Drink plenty of water.

8. Drink only low calorie whiskey.

9. Never skip a meal.

10. When you feel the need to snack, enjoy fresh fruit or celery.

11. Think of some good reasons for inviting company for dinner, as an excuse for planning a nice dessert.

The Kitchen Mouse regrets to announce that he has no secret recipe which will result in a loss of pounds. He has lost 30 pounds, and the doctor has recommended losing 20 more, by following the house rules outlined above.

Today’s recipe:
Russian Salad

Russian Salad Recipe

This French recipe is based on a Russian recipe. Serve it with some lettuce to six or seven people.

1 lb. new potatoes, cooked and diced
1/2 lb. string beans, cooked and sliced
4 to 6 carrots, cooked and sliced
1/4 cup dried beans, cooked
1 cup peas, cooked
2 T. wine vinegar
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. capers
1 T. chopped pickles
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
2 or 3 hard-cooked eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise

V.S.P. Combine vegetables, reserving a few of each for garnish. Moisten with wine vinegar and oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss and chill.

Add capers, chopped pickles and parsley, chopped egg whites and enough mayonnaise to bind mixture loosely. Toss ingredients and mound in salad bowl. Decorate top and sides with remaining mayonnaise and assorted vegetables. Sprinkle sieved egg yolks over top. Serve cold on bed of fresh lettuce.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Honey - Food of the Gods

Originally published July 12, 1984

Romans and Greeks referred to honey as “food fit for the Gods.”

The Old Testament describes the ideal living place as one “flowing with milk and honey.”

It is thought that the first honeybees were probably native to southern Asia. They were introduced into New England sometime between 1638 and 1640 (the Indians called the honeybee “the white man’s fly”). Swarms of honeybees escaped and established hives in the wilderness. Along with ordinary wild bees which were native to this continent but produced no honey.

The color of honey will vary according to its botanical source. Different plants give honey their own particular flavors, and names, as the bees use the nectar from those plants to make their syrupy contribution to man’s diet.

While American honeybees use as their raw material mostly the nectar of clover and alfalfa, the bees of other countries have varied tastes. So do their honeys.

Bavarian pine-blossom honey is thick and strong. Norwegian honey is a sparkling variety full of tiny bubbles. Acacia honey from Hungary is often regarded as the world’s finest, but it has many rivals for that honor. France’s rosemary is also thought of as one of the finest. Julius Caesar thought that the rosemary honey from Narbonue was the best and he mentioned it in his dispatches from Gaul. However the wild thyme honey from Mount Hymettus was reportedly favored by the gods on Mount Olympus.

There is lotus honey from India and eucalyptus honey from Australia. There are black honeys from Brazil, snow-white honeys from Siberia, dogwood honeys from Chile. There is black locus honey from Italy, lolitza honey from Mexico, coffee-tree honey from Guatemala, Buckwheat Abbey moorland heather honey from England, Scotland, Holland and Norway.

Some unusual American honeys are orange-blossom from Florida, raspberry and strang buckwheat from New Jersey, chewy dandelion from Colorado, and tupelo from the swamps of Florida  just to name a few.

When we were all children (although we were not all children at the same point in history) we were probably spoon-fed some honey and lemon juice upon the first indication that a cold was in the offing. Just a simple cough or sneeze and Mom was Johnny-on-the-spot with a tablespoon of honey.

It was Mom’s custom to keep a large five- or ten-pound jar of honey in the pantry for use in cooking many of the family favorites. We used it on toast or bread (yesterday’s fast food), as a sweetener with our morning ration of oatmeal (which was a must on cold mornings), as a basting sauce for ham or pork and it was often an ingredient in desserts.