Friday, September 28, 2007

Mayonnaise, Part Two

Just one more thing about the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book and I promise to find something new to talk about. I feel compelled to mention, after my failure with mayonnaise making, that in the preface to this book there is a list of fifty basic recipes intended "FOR STUDENTS AND BEGINNERS" (uppercase original). Three guesses what the number 22 recipe is. What? What's that? Hard boiled eggs? Biscuits? Chocolate chip cookies? No, no, and no.


Right before number 23, green salad. One apparently must learn how to drizzle oil precisely into eggs before learning how to you know, chop lettuce and add cucumbers and tomatoes to it.

2 for 1

Is it any surprise? It shouldn't be. Clearly smitten with my great grandmother's cookbook I couldn't help but make not one but two recipes from it. Neither is particularly difficult or unusual. These are the kind of recipes that you make once and then you its yours. Some busy night you are standing, hands on hips, still in work clothes, looking around the pantry and contemplating ordering Thai again, when, aha! Potatoes! Mushrooms! Green beans! And of course, you always have a bottle of wine open or one just begging to be opened (right? tell me I'm right).

The potatoes would probably look nicer under finely chopped vegetables, but the flavor is a nice basic background for just about anything you can think of. If you feel the need to have a significant source of protein with every meal, some variety of white bean would be nice, maybe just added to the beans and mushrooms at the last minute and warmed. Finally, the adapted recipe below reduces the amount of butter and adds olive oil and significantly reduces the amount of liquid called for in the original recipe which was 2/3 cup (water, stock, or wine). I was afraid it would make the mushrooms too mushy but if you plan to use them as a spread on toast or with pasta it might be just fine.

Mashed-Potato Baskets
Adapted from "The Boston Cooking School Cook Book," 1948.

3 cups hot mashed potatoes
3 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg, divided
milk to moisten

Add butter, salt, whole egg and one egg yolk to potatoes. Mash well and mix in enough milk to moisten. Shape into small baskets with pastry bag and tube. Brush with egg white and cook for about 20 minutes in a 350. Broil until brown on top. Fill with vegetable or any creamed dish.

Sauteed Mushrooms and Green Beans
Adapted from "The Boston Cooking School Cook Book," 1948.

1 pound mushrooms
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
Flour for dredging
2 cups green beans
1/2 tsp salt
paprika (something like this, not just something red and flavorless)
1/4 cup dry red wine, water, broth, or cream

Clean and slice mushrooms. Melt butter in heavy pan, add olive oil followed by mushrooms, salt, and a sprinkling of paprika. Dredge with flour. Add green beans and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine or other liquid and cook for a couple minutes more. Serve alone, over potatoes or rice.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Sliced muenster cheese (which I thought was called monster cheese) and tomato aspic are the foods I associate with eating at my great grandmother's house. These foods reflect a child's memory of food and not what I imagine her approach to cooking would have been, given her incredible creativity and ability outside of the kitchen to use scraps of this and that to make something usable or decorative. Whether she was braiding discarded pantyhose, er, nylons, into welcome mats or making belt buckles and egg cartons into Christmas decorations, she always seemed to be making something out of nothing. To this day, if I see something particularly creative--not a necklace made from a craft kit available at a store--I think, "Hmmm, Grandma Reardon would have made that. Better."

When my parents handed me a heavy, rectangular, wrapped item for my birthday I could have guessed (or hoped!) that it was a vintage cookbook. But I did not expect this, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1948, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, which belonged to my great grandmother. It has a couple bookmarks, really scraps of paper torn from magazines, and little scribbled notes from her. It's hard to believe this was hers and now it's mine.

In some ways, this book has demystified her approach to things which always seemed so her. Intellectually, I know that a lot of people who were born around the time she was used things to their fullest. Wrapping a sandwich in the waxed bag from a box of cereal, or saving scraps of paper for some potential future use is not as unique to my great grandmother as I'd like to think. This cookbook is evidence of an approach to cooking that seems more flexible than a lot of books being written now.

For example, in the chapter on Gingerbread and Doughnuts (yes! a chapter on gingerbread and doughnuts!), the introduction suggests that if the recipe uses 1 1/2 cups of flour the pan should be "about 7x7" and a range of cooking times are given for a "moderately slow oven." Many chapters start with a basic recipe, and underneath list a number of variations or suggestions. It seems more likely that a person cooking from this book, rather than a more prescriptive one, would read through the variations and say, "Hmm, I don't have X but I can try Y." That's not to say people aren't creative now, it just seems that Fannie Farmer set an expectation of creativity for cooks using this book.

Browsing through the 38 chapters, including "griddlecakes and waffles," "soup garnishes," and "jams, marmalades, and conserves," I am overwhelmed by the number of new recipes I have to try. Yes, as a vegetarian, there is an entire middle section of the book I can ignore--from plucking chickens to boiling terrapins--but if I only cooked from this book I would still have enough to fill this blog, and our plates, for years. This isn't the last you've heard about this book, and I hope I can capture some of the creativity infused in the book and in my memories of my great grandmother.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Swirly Sweets

After my utter failure with a recipe from the "Kitchen Tested Recipes" cookbook, maybe I shouldn't have tried again so soon, but I did. I chose the easiest recipe I could find and one that I was pretty sure didn't actually require a Mixmaster. Since there are "[n]o hot, perspiring days in the kitchen, once you have MIXMASTER," I decided to wait until a nice, cool day because I didn't want to risk it.

These party cookies could not be easier, unless you bought those slice and bake rolls of who-knows-what available in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. There is no cooking time included in the original recipe, so I included an estimate of what worked in my oven. The rolling is a little tricky since the dough is a little sticky, and I ended up placing it between two sheets of waxed paper and that worked fine. Parchment paper or plastic wrap would probably work, too. I'm sure yours will be much lovelier than mine, but I wasn't feeling particularly patient and layered the dough in three layers, flattened it, and then rolled it creating a bit of a mess. The recipe below contains the correct instructions to flatten it and roll it like a jelly roll.

And in case you're wondering, there is not really anything redeeming in these cookies. There is lots of butter, refined sugar, and white flour. They are buttery, but not too rich or sweet and taste surprisingly good with a glass of dry red wine.

Party Cookies
Adapted from "Kitchen Tested Recipes" (1933).

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3 Tbs milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Scant cup of chocolate chips or food coloring

Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in egg. Alternately add 1 Tbs of milk and 1/2 flour (three times) to the butter mixture, scraping the sides as you mix. Divide the dough into two parts. To one half of the dough, add melted chocolate or a few drops of food coloring and mix well.

On waxed paper, roll out one section of the dough about 1/4 thick. Evenly spread the other half of the dough (with chocolate or food coloring) on top of the original dough. Cover with another piece of waxed paper and roll until thin. Roll up (jelly roll like) and place in refrigerator until firm.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 9-11 minutes.

The King of Food Mixers, and a Failure

The cookbooklet "Kitchen Tested Recipes" from Sunbeam Mixmaster, the King of Food Mixers (1933) has recipes ranging from mashed potatoes to meatless stew. In between every recipe and on full page ads, the Mixmasters let you in on little secrets: no static in the radio while MIXMASTER runs...MIXMASTER attachments are not is impossible to injure yourself with a MIXMASTER food chopper and meat grinder attachment...

There are lots of promising, basic recipes in this book, like popovers, biscuits, angel food cake, orange marmalade, and waffles. Some sound a little unusual, like stuffed peppers that list prunes as an ingredient, spinach loaf, and corn fondu (sic), but even those have potential. The print is tiny so they could fit many recipes, and snippets of wisdom, and supportive letters, into just 40 pages.

The dozens of letters alone are worth the price of the cookbooklet. This kitchen appliance is "indispensable," "perfect," "the pride of my kitchen," and "the finest gift my husband ever gave to me." My favorite is a letter from Mrs. B.E.S from Ithaca, NY who is quoted as simply saying, " the joy of my life!" Sigh.

Now, don't try to print the coupon on the right and use it for your own MIXMASTER attachment because it expired August 30, 1933. Even if you could use it, how would you decide which attachment to get? The mayonnaise oil dropper? The slicer and shredder? The potato peeler? The coffee grinder? The can opener? The knife sharpener? The silver polisher? The grapefruit reamer? The choices are almost endless! (After reading the next paragraph, I'm sure you'll be able to guess which one I would choose).

Rather than attempt one of the standard recipes, I decided to try to make mayonnaise. Now, of course, I don't have the Mixmaster mayonnaise oil dropper attachment (as a matter of fact, I don't have a stand mixer at all; someday, someday). Pressing ahead, I dripped, dripped, dripped oil into a raw egg and just couldn't get it to emulsify. Making mayonnaise is apparently a tough process and after two ruined batches and wasted oil and eggs, I gave up. I don't think that speaks to the quality of the recipe at all, but to the technique of the cook. I think my mother will be glad to hear this recipe didn't work, because she would not sleep for days if she knew her daughter was eating something with raw egg in it. But I am going to try it again someday...salmonella here I come!

Monday, September 10, 2007


This is an apple slump to wake me up from my blogging slump. I have good excuses: we installed bamboo floors in our condo; school started; and my crankiest cat, Lily, is on two medications and is wearing an Elizabethan collar and she is not happy. Because we continue to have large summer harvests from our CSA I have been doing a lot of cooking, but it has been more my go-to recipes than classic cooking.

But with an overabundance of apples in my kitchen this recipe for "apple slump" from 1964's The Bisquick Cookbook. This dessert is in the "Real Old Fashioned Favorites" section, and is an alternative version of their "apple pan dowdy." In addition to using up apples, it gave me the chance to use one of the kitchen tools that we rarely get to use: the apple peeler/corer/slicer. During a Pampered Chef party my husband got to demo this and thought it was the coolest kitchen gadget ever and the only one worth buying, never mind that it has somewhat limited utility to him it was a must have. He has used it a few times, always for the same recipe, but mostly it sits in the back of a cabinet. Because we have limited cabinet space in our tiny kitchen this seems like something I may give away, but it takes up little space and really does the job of peeling, coring and slicing apples (and potatoes) like nothing else can.

Now, you may ask yourself what role Bisquick has in a kitchen where whole foods are the center of most recipes. Regular Bisquick contains partially hydrogenated oil, and both regular and the "Heart Smart" versions contain bleached flour. I have tried the "Heart Smart" version and it is easy and convenient but decide some time ago to just make my own when I need it. For this apple slump recipe, I just made a quick batch using this recipe. I used a mix of regular and white whole wheat flour although I think straight whole wheat may have worked just fine. I'll try that next time.

The recipe in the book is pretty easy but I did make a couple small changes, like sprinkling the slump with cinnamon sugar, and decreasing the original amount of sugar given (mostly because I was using sweet apples, but I probably would have decreased it anyway). I also used soy creamer instead of cream and it worked fine.

Apple Slump
Adapted from "The Bisquick Cookbook," 1964.

6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
a little extra sugar and cinnamon mixed together

Shortcake dough:
2 cups Bisquick, or substitute
3/4 cup cream
2 Tbs sugar

Heat oven to 400. Place sliced apples into a greased 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Make shortcake dough by stirring together Bisquick, cream, and sugar. Knead 8-10 times. Flatten the dough and lay it over the apples. Prick the dough a few times to allow steam to escape. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes.

(Interesting note from the book: "Louisa May Alcott's house was named for the original of this famous old dessert, 'Apple Slump,'--really an upside-down dowdy.")