Monday, August 27, 2007

Cool Cukes on a Hot Day

For a couple years, we lived in a house without air conditioning and we were constantly looking for ways to stay cool in the summer. We installed an attic fan, but mostly we opened and closed windows, turned fans off and on, didn't use the oven at all and barely used the stovetop. Instead, we often cooked on the grill or made salads or something else fast and cool, often with produce from the garden.

Moving into a condo meant we now have air conditioning and a CSA instead of a garden, but we still look for cool foods in the summer and I still keep oven use to a minimum. This Cucumber Salad recipe from Slenderella is a great side dish or can be made into a meal with tomatoes and fresh bread. It lasted a couple days in the refrigerator, but it did start to get a little watery.

You can see from the picture that the cucumbers I used aren't standard green cucumbers. They are yellow with pale green insides and lots of seeds, though I don't know the variety. They are a little sweeter than regular cucumbers and, since they were from Clagett Farm, they are organic and didn't require peeling because they had no wax on the outside.

Cucumber Salad
Adapted from "Slenderella"

4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peel if coated in wax)
3 Tbs cider vinegar
2 Tbs sour cream
1/4 yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs chopped dill

Soak cucumber in ice water for 30 minutes, and drain well. Mix together the vinegar, sour cream, yogurt, salt, and dill. Mix with the cucumbers and chill.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Testing, testing, is this thing on?

For the past couple years I have thought about starting a cooking blog but wasn't quite sure what to write about or if anyone would be interested in reading it (other than my mother--hi mom!). I spend a lot of time planning meals, reading cookbooks, cooking, browsing cooking sites and food blogs but haven't come across many that focus on classic cooking. There are some fun retro sites, including those listed in the sidebar, but I am really interested in making things that are classic and good and mostly made with whole foods.

I expect most of the people who look at this will be family and friends, but I also imagine there must be other people like me interested in the same kind of cooking. Since I'm new to this I'm not quite sure how to reach those people. So far, the best way I've found to connect to other people interested in cooking is to join the Foodie Blogroll. The "Leftover Queen" started the Foodie Blogroll as a way of connecting food blogs and bloggers. You can scroll through the sites, found in the sidebar or get more information here. I admit I haven't looked at all the sites listed yet, but I've already found some great ones including Cooking 4 The Week and Confections of a Foodie Bride.

Classic Dieting

Let's start with the title: slenderalla cook book. And the picture. Do you see that? The pink silhouette with a 12 inch waist? Is that what I should look like? Is that the pose I should strike after straightening the house and refreshing my make-up and fetching slippers and a scotch on the rocks for my husband when he returns from a long hard day at work? Does the 30 day 1200 calorie a day menu provide enough calories for me to pose and fetch and clean and freshen and straighten and pour? Or have I earned the extra calories in the 1500 calorie a day menu?

Surely this violates my own no-kitsch rule. I mean, really, it has a recipe for crab meat in aspic. Crab. Meat. In. Aspic. But beyond these recipes, beyond the pink silhouette, and a height/weight chart that measures women's height with 2 inch heels on, there are good recipes and surprisingly sound advice and observations.

Sounding like a modern writer, Waldo talks about "freak" diets, including "hard-boiled eggs and grapefruit, 3-day 'miracle' diets, 8-day 'health' diets, 10-day 'wonder' diets, and 18-day 'Hollywood' diets." She warns that these may lead to brief weight loss but may result in boredom and "ravenous hunger." As a woman opposed to ravenous hunger, Waldo had me hooked.

She warns of shifting social patterns with shorter work hours and more television. Emotional eating, the myth (for most people) of physiological reasons for being overweight, and calorie counts for popular foods are all included.

The recipes are well organized and include calorie counts (though the counts seem a little low in some cases and there is no other nutritional information), and there is a large section on desserts since deprivation of things you love isn't necessary for slenderella-wannabes. Chapters are pretty straightforward and include interesting topics such as "pickles and relishes" and "outdoor cookery." Non-kitsch recipes include cheese puffs, pepper caponatina, lentil soup, orange and onion salad, curried eggs, peach pie, and cheese cake.

My first edition Myra Waldo classic was snagged at Fenwick Books, a used bookstore in used in Leonardtown, Maryland. If you want your own copy you can find newer editions online, like the one here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Stuffed Zucchini

Despite a drought, the zucchini harvest has been plentiful. One day when global warming or terrorism or sheer stupidity kills us all, there will still be two living things: zucchini and cockroaches.

We belong to an amazing CSA called From the Ground Up located at Clagett Farm. It's a partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Capital Area Food Bank, so not only do they supply us with wonderful fresh vegetables, they do it in a socially and environmentally responsible way. This weeks harvest was large...zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, poblano peppers, tomatoes, lipstick peppers, garlic, and other vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

This is a simple, standard preparation for zucchini from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Laurel's Kitchen. When I became a vegetarian as a teenager in the late 80's this was the only approachable vegetarian cookbook in our library, which had a handful of old hippie cookbooks.

This recipe isn't quite as outstanding as the authors say it is, but it is good and simple. I adapted the recipe by substituting tomatoes for the celery mostly because I don't like celery, but also because tomatoes sounded right in this recipe and we had lots of nice ones from the CSA. I also added a little cheese on top because cheese makes everything better. Finally, I made this in the toaster oven because it is fairly warm outside and we aren't running the air conditioner.

Greek Stuffed Zucchini
Adapted from "Laurel's Kitchen Recipes"

10 6" zucchini
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1 cup boiling water 1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, anything that you have fresh)
1 cup bread crumbs
3 lemons
2 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the zucchini in half and hollow it out. Chop the insides to use later. Cook rice with water, onion, salt, pepper, and oil for 25 minutes. Add chopped zucchini and tomato and cook for 5 minutes.

Add herbs, bread crumbs, juice from 2 lemons, and slightly beaten egg whites. Fill the scooped out zucchini with the mixture. Arrange zucchini in a baking dish. Cover and bake for 40 minutes.

Beat the egg yolks and juice from one lemon. Add some of the juice from the baking dish slowly to the egg mixture. Pour this sauce over the zucchini. Grate a small amount of any hard cheese over the zucchini. Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Most Boring Picture Ever, but the Bread is Good

Perhaps I should have found something more colorful for my first post. Some berries, or tomatoes, or, if that's too crazy, maybe something with two shades of brown. Instead, it's this: brown bread, with a hint of sweetness and two types of whole grains.

“Cooking with Wholegrains,” a cookbook by Mildred Ellen Orton published in 1951, contains a brief history of whole grains by Vrest Orton. The Ortons operated a grain mill in Vermont, and Mr. Orton notes that prior to 1850 all cookbooks were whole grain cookbooks. The discussion of enriched flour, large companies, and human preference for food that isn’t good for them, is not out of place in 2007. The recipes encourage creativity and there are helpful notes throughout. I snagged my copy at a used bookstore; I don’t see many available online.

For our camping trip, I made a corn meal and whole wheat quick bread that (I’m hoping!) will hold up well in the August heat. It came together very quickly, especially since I ignored the suggestion to sift the dry ingredients into the wet. I know, I know, this can be an important step but I skip it whenever possible. As I am anxiously awaiting an order of non-aluminum baking powder, I substituted a mix of baking soda, arrowroot, and cream of tartar (found in this excellent cookbook), used melted butter instead of shortening, and used a 9x9 pan.

Early American Hot Bread
adapted from “Cooking with Wholegrains”

1 egg
1 cup milk
2 Tbs honey or maple syrup
2/3 cup corn meal
2 ½ tsp baking powder
3 Tbs melted shortening

Grease 8x8 pan and heat oven to 425F.

Beat egg until light; add milk and sweetener. Mix dry ingredients and sift into egg mixture. Add melted shortening. Mix together and pour into pan. Bake 20 minutes.

(The recipe also includes this note: “This hot bread is grand provender for growing kids to thrive on.”)