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Kitchen Library #2: Booklets and Bookmarks

open card catalog drawerBuying an old cookbook – one that has been used – usually means you are buying an altered book. Marginalia, mini-reviews (“good!” or “Do not make again” or “Dad’s favorite,”) and extra recipes scribbled on the endpapers, are common. It is easy to spot the well-loved recipes because those pages bear stains and splashes, along with penciled-in modified quantities and cooking times.

The best extras flutter from the pages when you shake a new-old cookbook. Recipe booklets, newspaper tear-outs, shopping lists, and recipe cards are frequent fellow travelers in an old well-loved cookbook sent on to the book sale.

I’m guilty of marking my place with the same kinds of ephemera. Someday I suppose someone will find the Guinness Pork Chop recipe I printed off a website in 1997 and stashed in a cookbook. (I really did find this in my “American Woman” cookbook while I was gathering items for this post. I remember searching my recipe box over and over years ago for that damn paper and finally giving up and copying it onto a card from the website.)

One of my favorite serendipitous finds is the Heinz Soup Cookery booklet. I have never made a thing out of it I just love the illustrations. Look how happy the cover chef is with all her soup cans! Dinner in a snap! This 45-page booklet is from around 1955. I know this because Michigan State University has a fantastic collection of these little company-sponsored recipe booklets. I was able to find a number of mine right on their site. It’s a fascinating collection and most of the full booklets are digitized.

Little Cookbooks: The Alan and Shirley Brocker Sliker Culinary Collection at MSU Libraries

This “Soup Cookery” book covers all aspects of meal planning from appetizer to salad to bread to dessert – for instance, the Coral Spice Cake made with – you guessed it – tomato soup. Do you prefer candy to cake? Spice drops can also be made with tomato soup.

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The Menu: “Archetype” by MD Waters and Chicken Marengo

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We have accumulated various things over the course of our marriage. Among those bits and pieces of years gone by is a stack of Look magazines. Something about the ads appealed to us and we would spend evenings flipping through the issues pointing out great mid-century furniture, technicolor bright food spreads, and other delights. One night husband showed me an article from the September 9, 1969, issue about the Napoleonic origins of a dish called Chicken Marengo. He asked me to make this odd combination of chicken, crawfish, brandy, and fried eggs and it has been a favorite ever since (with a few minor changes.)

The first thing I changed is the crawfish. I have an uneasy relationship with exoskeletal seafood – I like it until I think about it – so I downsized to peeled and deveined shrimp. I also left out the breadcrumbs called for in the Look magazine recipe because … well, I think  I was out of breadcrumbs at the time. And speaking of bread you will want plenty on hand to soak up the intense garlicky sauce this makes!

Archetype by M.D. WatersWhile dinner cooks let me tell you about a book I recently finished, “Archetype” by MD Waters  (and thank you NetGalley and Penguin First Flights for the opportunity to read an advance copy.) Our protagonist Emma wakes in a hospital with no memory. A man named Declan tells her she is his wife, and that she has had a terrible accident. But she dreams another woman’s life, and she hears another woman’s voice – and that voice tells her she may not be getting the whole truth.

This book is a thriller, a dystopia, and a mystery. It is fast-paced, compulsive reading that kept me up far too late on too many work nights. Fans of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “Before I Go to Sleep” by SJ Watson, and “The Stepford Wives”  by Ira Levin might consider picking up “Archetype.” My only complaint is the book occasionally reads like a classic romance novel.  I have nothing against romance, I’m just not fond of capital-R romance novels. That said, it isn’t overbearing, and if you like romance novels then that is one more thing for you to like about this book. I give it four whisks (out of five, of course.)

“Archetype” is part one of a two-part series with the second part, “Prototype,” due out in July 2014.

Now, let’s eat!

Chicken Marengo (serves four)

One chicken, cut up (or whatever combination of bone-in chicken pieces pleases you)
2 TB olive oil
1.25 tsp. salt
2 TB sliced garlic
6-8 large raw shrimp (peeled or unpeeled)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup brandy
1 tsp dried thyme
1 egg per person

In a deep, wide saute pan brown the chicken in olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle with salt. Add the garlic and saute one to two minutes. Add the brandy. Lay the shrimp on top of the chicken pieces. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the heat so your brandy doesn’t evaporate completely.

Add the thyme and the tomatoes, pushing them under the chicken pieces. Cover the pan and cook an additional 15 minutes. Again, keep an eye on the heat. You want the sauce to thicken but not cook dry. Check the chicken for doneness – cook an additional five to 10 minutes if needed.

In a separate pan gently fry the eggs to desired doneness and serve over the chicken. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Breakfast Picnics

Happy happy first day of autumn! It felt like it would never come. It is hot where I live most of the time. Humid and hot. In fact, I didn’t expect the first day of fall to feel much different from the last 90 days of summer. So imagine my happiness when I woke to a cool breezy morning. I opened all the windows wide and waited for everyone to wake.

I do not deal with heat well. I act like a big baby all summer long, moaning and complaining and acting like I can expect something different from the weather in the southern U.S.  I diligently tend my garden until about July when I can no longer stand it and I hunker down behind closed shutters in a kind of reverse hibernation. I plot out all the soups I will make when the mercury drops. I send others out to harvest for me. The outdoors is neglected until the temperature returns to something habitable.

But I have a child and children need to be out of doors and I feel terrible about not wanting to do things outside in summer. Certainly my husband does plenty with him outside but I was starting to feel left out.

So I came up with the Breakfast Picnic.

I am an early riser and my son has always been an early riser, too. So on the first Sunday of summer break I filled a thermos with orange juice and heated two breakfast burritos I had made on my last freezer cooking day. I woke my son, we quick threw on some clothes, told dad we were leaving and were off to the park at 7:30 a.m.

It was the nicest morning.

It was quiet and not too warm. Only a few joggers were in the park. It felt like a secret. The best part? Talking with my son – he talked at length about school and ideas for new lego sets, and how he will decorate his mansion when he grows up (bowling alley and arcade, in case you were wondering) and on and on and on. He ran around on the playground for a little bit after we ate and then we headed home where dad was just getting up. It was only an hour, but it was the best hour.

The next Sunday when I went in to wake him he was already ready to go. This time we got bagels at a drive through. Another week was blueberry muffins, then breakfast sandwiches, then a donut run and so on until it was time to go back to school. We didn’t make it every single weekend, but we got most of them. We changed up our parks, too.

The first weekend after school started I was happily surprised when he asked what we were taking for our breakfast picnic.

Today, in honor of the first day of fall we took Pumpkin Oat Muffins. It is a recipe I got a few years ago from a magazine and tweaked. I usually write down from where I get a recipe but I didn’t on this one. I tried a search for the recipe but nothing turned up quite like mine, so I’m sorry I can’t tell you where it originated. I do, however, hope you enjoy them.

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Pumpkin Oat Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
3.4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat over to 400.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Blend together the wet ingredients with a fork in a medium bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once and combine until just moistened – do not overmix. Grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin tin and fill each well with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack for five minutes. Pop the muffins out and continue to cool on the wire rack. Enjoy!

Hatch Chile Time! (Plus an Appetizer)

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The Hatch chiles have arrived at my grocery store! And just in time because I recently finished last year’s chiles. Aren’t they gorgeous? I love this time of year when they pull out the big rotary roaster and I can buy containers of the lovely chiles (mild, of course – I admit I am a wimp when it comes to heat.) I know it would be just as easy to roast them myself but It’s enough work scraping out the seeds and removing the skin, I don’t mind being able to skip a step.

Here is a simple and favorite appetizer my mother used to make that uses green chiles. I am sorry I don’t know from where she got it – it has been part of the family repertoire since the 1970s. I hope you enjoy it!

Cheese Pie

1 egg
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup 2% milk, divided
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1 cup grated muenster cheese
1/4 cup chopped green chiles

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the egg, flour, 1/2 cup of milk, and salt and pepper until smooth. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and beat with a wooden spoon until combined. Beat in 1/2 cup of the cheese. Stir in chiles. Pour into a well-greased eight- or nine-inch glass pie plate. Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake five more minutes. The pie will not rise to fill the plate so do not be concerned. Let it cool to room temperature, then slice into triangles and serve.