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.