Saturday, November 15, 2008

Depression Cooking

Time is flying and Baby Classic Cook is due on Tuesday. I have been doing a lot of cooking some from new cookbooks, some from old, but I just haven't gotten around to posting anything for awhile.

If the baby isn't here in the next couple days I will probably post a new recipe. Until then, I am really digging this series of videos about depression era cooking. Check it out!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vintage Vegan Lunchbox: Back to School!

School starts today! The smell of pencils and protractors is in the air! Unlike most years, I did not buy new school supplies or new school clothes, unless my maternity wardrobe counts. Still, back to school is as exciting as ever. This year I have a dual role, as a student (though I'm not taking any classes, just a few very stressful days of exams and--fingers crossed--the beginning of the dissertation process) and as a teacher at a nearby university where I will be adjunct faculty.

Most days packing lunch means throwing together some fruit and granola bars, leftovers, or a peanut butter and pickle sandwich (by the way, I eat pb and pickle even when I'm not pregnant, I grew up eating it, and all you doubters should try it husband was initially disgusted at the idea and not only does he eat them now, but has elevated the sandwich to a new level by grilling them). But today, a most stressful day when I should spend all my extra time studying for my exams and making final preparations for my class, I am cooking a vintage vegan lunch thanks to an inspiring contest on one of my favorite sites, Vegan Lunch Box.

For my entry, I have chosen a few recipes from different cookbooks including from my most used vintage book, my great-grandmother's Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and from a book never seen here before, The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook. The Vegetable book was published the year I was born, 1974, so it doesn't really qualify as classic, does it? But still, for the sake of this post we will pretend that 1974 was a long time ago.

SANDWICH: There sandwich is cucumber and margarine on wheat bread, picked from a list of suggested fillings from the Boston cookbook. I guess sandwiches are fun treats because the sandwich chapter of the book is towards the end smack dab between the chapter on cakes and the chapter on confections. The book has neat ideas for checkerboard sandwiches using different kinds of breads, but we are boring and only have wheat, and ideas about how to shape sandwiches including an elaborately rolled "calla lily" sandwich. Alas, I jammed mine into a container.

BEANS: The beans are Mexican Red Beans from the Vegetable cookbook. They aren't fancy, and could probably be spiced up a bit. Still, they are easy and that fit the bill for today. The original recipe calls for dried red or pink beans but for some reason I didn't have any in my dried bean drawer. Of my choices--garbanzo, black, mixed, and pigeon peas--I went with the pigeon peas. They cook faster and are bland enough to take on the seasoning.

CAKE: Isn't this what lunch is really about? The dessert? Back to the Boston cookbook for this recipe. This is essentially a vegan recipe with only minor adaptations, including margarine for butter, and soymilk for buttermilk.

FRUIT: No recipe for this, this is as classic as it comes.

THE LUNCHBOX: This is a vintage brunch bag that I have used a lot, torn zipper and all. It has a sweet little matching insulated container which is great for soup, but not so much for drinks; I usually just tote along my Sigg bottle pretty much wherever I go anyway. The containers are a bit of a hodge podge.

Mexican Red Beans
Adapted from The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook, 1974. As mentioned above, I subbed pigeon peas for the red or pink beans with nice results. You can definitely add more seasoning, I added cumin, but do not add salt until you are finished cooking the beans or they will stay firm. Since I started these early in the morning and I had to get out the door I did not try simmering them all day, but I think that would make them nice and mushy if that's what you are looking for. One more thing, you will not see a scanned cover of this book because this is what it looks like: green. No writing. No awesome 70's drawings. Just a plain green cover.

1 pound dried red or pink beans
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups canned tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs imitation bacon bits

Sort, wash and bring beans to boil in just enough water to cover. When they come to a boil, drain and cover again with cold water. Bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, cover kettle and simmer. The beans can simmer slowly all day, if enough water is added to prevent them from getting dry.

Eggless Chocolate Cake
Adapted from the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, 1948. Because this recipe is already eggless, the only changes I made to the original recipe was to use margarine instead of butter and soymilk instead of buttermilk. Another change I made to the recipe was to add black cocoa for part of the cocoa. I bought this awhile ago to make Fauxstess Cupcakes from Vegan with a Vengeance and it has become my secret ingredient for any chocolate cake, cookie, or brownie I make. I bought mine from King Arthur Flour. This recipe comes together pretty easily, and I especially like that the margarine (or butter) is melted because that means I don't have to remember to get it out of the fridge to soften, or cream it, or any other special steps. Just mix everything together and bake!

1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup soymilk
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 9x9 pan. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir in soymilk, melted margarine, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Peach Muffins: A Snapshot of Excess

"Nature's candy in my hand or can or a pie
Millions of peaches, peaches for me
Millions of peaches, peaches for free"

Peaches, by The Presidents of the United States of America

Peaches slipped from our hands into an overflowing half bushel box at The Homestead Farm and it didn't really feel like millions of peaches. The air was surprisingly humidity free, the sky was clear, as we walked through yellow and white peach orchards with a couple friends of ours talking about local food and less noble things, and eating and picking peaches. But come this morning, when faced with dozens and dozens of peaches (not to mention the many pounds of blackberries we picked, and the 8 pounds of tomatoes, 5 pounds of zucchini, 4 pounds of cucumbers, and assorted other produce from our CSA) it sure felt like millions of peaches.

I wasn't quite sure of my plan of attack, having some vague idea that peaches could be frozen and I could bake with some and we would certainly just eat some of them. There are directions for freezing peaches online and it is surprisingly easy. Still, after hours of boiling, skinning, chopping, coating in lemon juice, and mixing with syrup it didn't feel so easy. And my kitchen was covered with peach bits and skins and juice, like a peach volcano had exploded from the sink.

After getting a few pounds of tomatoes, blackberries, and half a bushel of peaches in the freezer, I still had 20 or so peaches staring at me. And while it was satisfying to see the produce in the freezer and dream of the cold winter day when we will have a taste of summer on our plates, it was impossible for me to leave the kitchen without having made something to eat. Enter super simple peach muffins from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Peach Muffins
These muffins are from the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and are a variation on the basic muffin recipe. The recipe calls for pastry flour, but I substituted whole wheat pastry flour (also called graham flour) since that is what I had on hand. Instead of melted butter, I used canola oil and used soymilk instead of milk. I am the substitution queen and while that may sound like cheating since I am not following the original recipe, I believe it is in the spirit of early cooks who were more likely to use what was on hand than chasing down ingredients. The range of recommended sugar depends on what you are adding to it; I used about 1/4 cup of sugar with good results.

2 cups pastry flour
3 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs to 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
4 Tbs melted butter
1 egg
1 cup peeled and chopped peaches

Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tin (12 regular or 24 small). Mix and sift dry ingredients together. Beat together milk, butter, and egg. Mix wet ingredients into dry until just moist. Gently mix in peaches. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Different Kind of Classic Cooking: A Bun in the Oven

I wasn't sure when--or if--to share this here because this blog is about cooking from old cookbooks not my personal story. Still, I decided I owed my readers an explanation of why I have not always been diligent about keeping up with posting here.

The picture above was made using the oldest recipe in the book.

And, yes, I never imagined I would be barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen, but that is precisely what I am most days. I am spending the summer working part-time from home, studying for comprehensive exams, and growing a baby.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Everthing Old is New Again

Since moving into a small condo I have discovered the thing I miss the most about our old house: the garden. In it we had strawberries, rhubarb, horseradish, cucumbers, zucchini, many varieties of sweet and hot peppers and tomatoes, eggplant, lots of different herbs, and whatever else caught our attention at the nursery. Neighbors were encouraged to pick strawberries and vegetables from our garden when we realized we couldn't eat all that we planted. Some food was composted, but most went directly onto our plates or those of our co-workers and neighbors.

We didn't grow the variety of things we could find in the supermarket or even the variety of vegetables we get in our share at the CSA, like beets, greens, asparagus, and potatoes. We sometimes tired of the produce from our garden, the glut of zucchini, the strawberries that we sometimes let rot until only the birds would eat them. But mostly we enjoyed it, building menus around whatever was in season. I never ate raw tomatoes until my husband planted tomato plants in the backyard of the first apartment we ever rented together. That summer not only did I start eating tomatoes, we had tomato sandwiches many nights in a row for weeks on end and never got tired of them.

In this day of war and rising food (and everything else) costs, I have been reading some about victory gardens. During World War II, people were encouraged to grow their own gardens and not waste food. Today, it seems the messages we receive from society, both government and private industry, is that we need to support businesses and the economy more, not less, and the idea of victory gardening is anathema to that. And food waste is rampant in homes, colleges, and restaurants. But I don't know that the spirit of victory gardening was ever new or has ever disappeared: I see it in the "good life" of the Nearing's, and the communes of the hippies, and in the simple living movement.

Even if you can't grow vegetables because you have a shady balcony, like us, or just don't have time or energy to grow your own garden I think we can still live the spirit of the victory garden. Eat locally. Eat seasonally. Don't waste food.

There are many resources out there to get us started on all of this, and I think this video is an inspiring place to start (and it mentions victory gardens!). Also check out the 100 Mile Diet, Local Harvest, and the Wasted Food blog.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Worth the Wait: Easy Rhubarb Pie with Flaky Crust

Yes, it has been about two months since I posted anything and, wow, time flies. There are a few reasons for this but I don't know that it really matters. What is more important is that I am back to cooking, back to searching old cookbooks for recipes cooked by our grandmothers and great-grandmothers (let's face it, it probably wasn't our grandfathers doing the cooking).

We start with an ingredient that is in season right now in many parts of the country. But this rhubarb isn't just any rhubarb it is fresh from my aunt's backyard, picked while we were visiting family in Wisconsin. Yeah, folks, Wisconsin isn't just brats and cheese though we had our fill of those, too. (I digress: we attended the World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison and to my delight they had Boca Brats!). My husband spotted it from across the yard and said, over his shoulder as he started running towards it, "Is that rhubarb?" Sure enough, there was a giant ripe for the pickin' rhubarb plant in the corner of the yard. He hacked off a number of stalks, wrapped it in foil, and placed it in a cooler for the 16 hour drive back home. He planned to make his not quite famous rhubarb bread, but I got to it first.

If you aren't familiar with rhubarb, there is something you really ought to know about it: this stuff is tart. When I mention cooking rhubarb to people it is almost inevitably followed by, "Yeah, you have to mix it with strawberries and lots of sugar." It seems our ancestors weren't so quick to get rid of the tartness as most recipes I found did not mix rhubarb with any sweet fruit, though they do call for sugar. I figured, in this day of super sour candy we can surely handle a little tart fresh rhubarb, right?

This pie is actually made from two different recipes, one for the crust from the Rumford Complete Cookbook and one for the filling from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. The crust is flaky and tasty, though in my impatience I didn't roll it thin enough. The filling is tart and sturdy, with only four ingredients. This pie comes together really quickly and the results are pretty darn good. My husband thought is was good, too, but shook his head and said, "It's no Mennonite pie." He was right, of course, but I think he wasn't thinking of just the pie but of our day spent lollygagging around the Dane County Farmers Market, sitting on the grass eating bread, cheese curds, and rhubarb pie. It really doesn't get better than that.

Rhubarb Pie
The crust recipe is from the Rumford Complete Cookbook, Revised, 1940, and the filling is from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1948. The crust calls for "1 1/3 cups lard, or other shortening." Instead of lard, I used 1 cup of Spectrum organic trans fat free shortening and 1/3 cup butter. Also, because my husband loved the Mennonite pie with the crumbled topping so much, and because I was too lazy to roll out more dough to make a lattice pattern on top, I mixed a little bit of the pastry crust with a little bit of sugar and crumbled it over the top. The filling recipes notes "many prefer to scald rhubarb before using," so I scalded about half of it and the rest I left raw. This made the filling a little less tart, and also seemed to be a nice mix of very soft, gel-like pieces of rhubarb and firmer pieces.

Flaky Pastry
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups shortening, see note above
ice-cold water

Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. Blend the shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until well mixed (shortening will be pea size or smaller). Add water, about a tablespoon at a time, to form a dough, cutting the pastry the whole time.

Roll dough onto a floured board. Roll only lengthwise. Fold dough evenly into three layers (lengthwise, like a trifolded piece of paper). Turn it half around and repeat. Do this at least three times to make the pastry flaky. If possible, chill the pastry before baking.

Rhubarb Filling
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped in 1/2 pieces before measuring
7/8 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbs flour

Heat oven to 375. Scald rhubarb if desired (see note above). Mix sugar, flour, and egg into rhubarb. Pile high in the middle of the prepared crust, and cover with a top layer of pastry, latticed pastry, or crumbles (see note above). Bake for about 50 minutes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Housekeeping: Classic v. Modern

I have long promised a ramble about the toilet section of the awesome cookbook by Maud C. Cooke called Three Meals a Day: Cooking, Table, Toilet, Health (1890's). Alas, the toilet section will sit unread because today it is time for spring cleaning.

Past the standard pudding and bread and preserve recipes, nestled between recipes for invalid cooking and advice for table etiquette, we find a chapter on housekeeping. Here we learn how to scald the brooms ("by dipping for a minute or two in boiling soap-suds"), why we should keep "wings of fowls" (of course! they can be used to dust furniture and clean the hearth), how to remove tar (butter or lard) and how to wash "fancy hose" (salt and water, and lots of running them through a wringer). Pressed in between the pages is a tiny piece of newspaper, about 3/4" by 1 1/2" that recommends making fabric resistant to fire by "soaking the material in a solution of five parts of boric acid, six parts of borax and 100 parts of water." Wow! Look kids, you can make your own stunt clothes and go running through fires!

Much of the advice is useful today, especially for those of us who try to minimize the use of chemicals in our cleaning. Maud tells us how to use borax and baking soda for cleaning, something I do on a regular basis. The advice for how to clean a closet includes considering all your clothing and distributing what you don't want "to the needs of others." And, of course, sort odds and ends into sacks or boxes just like "every thrifty housewife."

Now, for the modern version of housekeeping, check out the Kitchen Cure at Apartment Therapy. Hundreds of people have signed up for the Cure so we can share horrible before pictures of our kitchens and following weekly commandments on how to clean it up. First up, we got rid of old condiments and this week we chuck processed foods (but I'm totally keeping our Girl Scout cookies). I'll periodically update my pictures and a new, gloriously clean kitchen will appear. You can check out the before pictures here.

Floor Wax
From Three Meals a Day: Cooking, Table, Toilet, Health (1890's).

1 pint turpentine
1/4 pound beeswax

Combine and melt over a slow fire, no blaze because the mixture is explosive.* Apply to the floor with a piece of flannel. Polish and shine with more flannel.

*maybe the borax fireproofing solution would be helpful here?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Frugal Graham Flour Muffins

You aren't going to believe this recipe. Water, sweetener, and flour. That's it.

Now, admittedly, I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I don't have iron gem pans like those found here so I just used regular muffin pans. I'm sure I didn't get the crisp outside that I could have otherwise. And because there is no temperature recommendation in the cookbook I basically made that up. Oh, and there is no time recommendation so I made that up, too.

Do you see where this is heading? The only reason you need this so-called recipe is to free yourself from needing a recipe at all. Forget what you have learned about needing a delicate balance of salt and baking soda and flour and liquid, just try whatever you have on hand. At least, that is the spirit of this cookbook and thrifty, creative cooks of yore.

There is a trade-off, of course. Be warned: these gems are heavy and have a dense crumb. But the graham flour has a nice flavor, and they pair nicely with sweet and savory. Trying spreading them with butter and preserves or crumble over soup.

Hygienic Graham Gems
Adapted from Three Meals a Day: Cooking, Table, Toilet, Health circa 1890. This recipe calls for graham flour which I happen to have because I am singlehandedly trying to keep King Arthur Flour in business. If you don't have graham flour, try substituting just about any whole grain flour. The recipe specifically recommends against using salt.

1 pint tepid water
1 Tbs molasses
Graham flour (whole wheat pastry flour)

Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 12 cup muffin tin. Add enough flour to the water and molasses to make a thick batter. Bake for 15 minutes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

When Life Gives You Onions, Make Onion Soup

A bag of (Sale! Super low price!) organic onions have been sitting in my cabinet begging to be used before they go bad. This onion soup from one of my favorite diet books, Slenderella, turned out to be perfect for a day like this. What is a day like this? One in which my husband is home sick. One in which there is a nice snow on the ground, but icy weather is threatening to keep me homebound even longer with aforementioned sick husband.

This soup really could not be easier. Slice some onions. Brown some onions. Add some stock. Easy peasy. I do recommend using a mandolin (or a food processor if you are fancy), to slice the onions because it makes the job faster and the thin, uniform onions cook evenly and are nicer in a soup than thick onions that slide off a spoon. I left off the cheese and made it a complete meal by serving it with a spinach-roasted pepper tart I made with Trader Joe's awesome transfat free puff pastry.

Onion Soup
Adapted from Slenderella Cookbook, 1957. The recipe calls for beef stock; I used a vegetarian beef broth powder that I bought last summer from Butterfly Herbs a neat little store in Missoula, Montana. The recipe is so basic that it seems to be begging for modifications, maybe wine or a little thyme, but it really is just fine as is.

2 Tbs butter or margarine
4 cups thinly sliced onion
2 Tbs flour
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 cups beef-flavored stock
6 Tbs grated Sap Sago cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Saute the onions over low heat until brown. Sprinkle with the flour and pepper, stirring until brown. Gradually add the stock, stirring constantly to the boiling point. Cover and cook over low heat 45 minutes. Add salt as necessary. Serve with grated cheese.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

This is a bit of two decades: Rogers, Astaire, and the Beatles.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Easy Oatmeal Cookies

Alternate titles for this post:

Oatmeal Cookies Now
Just a Few Oatmeal Cookies
I Want an Easy, Small Batch of Oatmeal Cookies Now

Get it? This is a quick and easy recipe and it makes a nice small batch of cookies perfect for after dinner or when someone stops by unexpectedly. You probably have everything you need to make these and they make a good base for additions like nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, or currants.

This recipe for Oatmeal Crisps comes from the Rumford Complete Cookbook, Revised, 1940. This cookbook belonged to my husband's grandmother and it was given to me rather unceremoniously by my mother-in-law. During our holiday visit she pointed to it on the kitchen island and said, "Do you want that? It was my mom's."

I was very lucky to have met my husband's grandmother and I loved her brutal honesty: she adored my husband but wasn't afraid to point out--over and over and over--how big his head was when he was a little boy. She was charming and sharp, and I have great memories of her on a long car trip buying surfer sunglasses at a gas station and wearing them all the way home.

This cookbook is really straightforward with standard recipes for the kinds of food that can be cooked day to day. This cookie recipe is the simplest recipe I've ever seen without fancy ingredients like fancy shmancy vanilla extract or spices or anything. It's fat and flour and oatmeal and a couple other things to hold it all together. You can fiddle with the recipe a bit depending on what you have around or what you like, but I think this is evidence that you can strip away all but the essential ingredients and turn out a fine dessert.

Oatmeal Crisps

Adapted from the Rumford Complete Cookbook, Revised, 1940. I added cinnamon and used about half whole wheat flour and half all purpose flour. The cookies I made are not crispy at all so either I didn't cook them long enough or they just soaked up the moisture from all the rain we're getting. The recipe calls for a little milk if needed and I did end up adding about a tablespoon or so to hold the dough together. I can't emphasize enough that you need to use aluminum free baking powder like this one because with the 2 tsps in this cookie it may not taste right with standard baking powder.

3/4 cup flour
1/3 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 small egg
A little milk, if needed

Heat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in the butter; the batter may be a little crumbly like biscuit dough. Add the sugar and oatmeal. Mix in the egg and a little milk, if necessary to hold the dough together. Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

O Canada!

Now I am not one to quibble with our friends to the north but tell me does cheese fondue, curried rice, enchiladas, ravioli, and German dark rye bread sound particularly Canadian? I don't think so either. The New Purity Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking even contains three--three!--recipes for the all-American apple pie. This book is another gift from my brother, and I wonder if he was more intrigued with the word "purity" in the title than the Canadian in it. Before your mind starts wandering people, know that Purity refers to a brand of flour.

Here in DC winter is in full swing (er, mostly, we have some weird warm days) and I tend to focus my cooking on soups, stews, roasted root vegetables and other seasonal recipes. In our household, sweet potatoes are not limited to a Thanksgiving side dish and we eat them once a week or so, normally combining them with black beans and salsa or cut up and baked as "fries." Mashed sweet potatoes do make me think of the holidays but don't write this recipe off just because you are so. Glad. The. Holidays. Are. Over. These are slightly sweet, a little tangy, and just right on a cold day.

Tangy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from The New Purity Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking, 1975. The recipe calls for canned sweet potatoes, but if you just can't stomach them (as I can't) three smallish boiled sweet potatoes seemed to work just fine.

1 (19 oz) can sweet potatoes, drained
2 Tbs orange marmalade
1 Tbs soft butter or margarine
Pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a small casserole dish. Beat all ingredients together and pour into dish. Bake for about 15 or 20 minutes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

This Ain't No Store Bought Pudding

The most surprising thing about old cookbooks is not the recipes that would be out of place in most homes in 2008 e.g., veal jelly or tomato aspic, but that familiar sounding recipes might not taste familiar. Today we have an example of just that: tapioca pudding that probably isn't quite what you grew up with.

But if you are willing to set aside your expectations and appreciate this for what it is, I think you'll like it. The pudding is golden and has a distinct egg flavor. It is less creamy than what I am used to and gets quite firm when cool, so much so that it could be sliced and served with fruit. The pudding has a nice spicy flavor from the cinnamon and nutmeg.

The recipe comes from Just How: A Key to the Cook-books, 1906, by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney, a Christmas gift from my husband. Whitney sets out to explain how you cook, not just give you recipes and wish you the best on how to make them. She says if you have the "constitutional aptitude" you can learn from "any old woman" and she says: "I propose to be that old woman, and to let you see, over my shoulder, how I do a few things." Throughout the book there are rules on cooking temperatures, mixing orders and other basic skills. Rule 2 is, "Look to fire and oven before getting ready to bake. The fire should be clear and solid at the bottom, and through the middle, with a replenishment of fuel already kindling at the top..." Oh my. Thank you for my gas stove.

On to the tapioca. Because Whitney doesn't believe in lists of ingredients she provides them in a very roundabout way, which I will simplify below, but the joy of these cook books is to read the original so here is some of it:

"Soak a cupful of tapioca, well washed in a pint of milk. Prepare it early in the forenoon, and let it remain as long as time will allow...have ready a cup of sugar, half a cup of solid butter, a teaspoonful of cinnamon mixed with half a teaspoonful of mace or nutmeg; or instead of spice, the grated rind of a lemon...put all into a tin inner boiler set in hot water. Boil, stirring well and often..."

The description takes a full page. And there are no pictures. And no oven temperatures.

Tapioca Pudding
Adapted from Just How: A Key to the Cookbooks, 1906. I used soymilk in place of regular, half the amount of sugar (because the soymilk has added sugar) and half the amount of butter. Pearl tapioca from an ethnic grocery store tends to be cheaper than the kind I find in the regular grocery store.

2 pints milk, divided
1 cup tapioca
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg or mace
4 eggs, separated

Soak the tapioca in 1 pint milk for 6 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish. Add the other pint of milk to the tapioca. In a double boiler, stirring often bring to a boil until the tapioca is swelled and takes up most of the pot. Remove from heat and add the butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Separate the eggs. Stir the yolks into the tapioca mixture. Beat the egg whites until fluffy, and mix gently into the tapioca mixture. Pour into casserole dish. Bake about 45 minutes until light brown on the top.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Resolution #1: Lose Weight, 60's Style

This recipe for mushroom puree, for which there will be no picture because all the pictures turned out looking incredibly gross, will put you on the path to weight loss. It comes from Jean Nidetch's Weight Watchers Cook Book, 1966, which tells us that Weight Watchers was started by "six fat women." This book was a Christmas gift from my brother, but I'm sure he wasn't hinting at anything and really just wanted me to enjoy the lovely line drawings and helpful advice about which "festive dishes" will be loved by my "bridge ladies" (cheese aspic-shrimp patio platter, in case you are wondering).

We find in the "Unlimited Vegetables" chapter that mushrooms are (1) unlimited and (2) just like roast peanuts (see picture above). That is evidence that this book is not entirely reliable. Still, I bravely boiled some mushrooms with water and a little seasoning and declared it good. Actually, better than good because I can see using this as a base for a lot of different soups and spreads. Nidetch suggests adding tomato, spinach or skim milk for a soup, but I added a little vegetable broth, garlic and peas and served it with homemade rye bread.

Did you read that? Mushroom puree with peas? Sounds good, right? It was. But the pictures. Oh, my. Imagine brown liquid with some chunky brown pieces with bright little round things floating in it. The pictures were not pretty at all, but trust me, it's good. Just eat it by candlelight.

Mushroom Puree
Adapted from the Weight Watchers Cook Book, 1966. This recipe is pretty flexible and I think you can add just about any seasonings to it depending on what you like and how you'll use it. I happen to have dehydrated onion flakes (an impulse buy at Penzey's,) but fresh sauteed onions would be good if you're willing to lose a little of that 60's flavor.

1 pound mushrooms
1 Tbs caraway seeds
3 Tbs dehydrated onion flakes
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp grated pepper

Coarsely chop the mushrooms. In a heavy pot, combine mushrooms with one quart of water, caraway seeds, and onions. Let cook over moderate heat for one hour. Check occasionally and add water if necessary. Turn off the heat, place in refrigerator, and let flavors blend for a couple hours or overnight.

Put the stock back on to cook some more and add the chives, salt and pepper. Put everything in blender, or using an immersion blender, and blend until you have a puree. Use as a base for soup or spreads.