27 February 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Kathryn Tucker Windham

If you were a child in Alabama, you know Kathryn Tucker Windham. She is a quintessential storyteller who made ghost stories a way of life. It all started in 1966 when a "friendly" ghost named "Jeffery " took up residence in the Windham house. When a group of kids came over and tried to "contact" Jeffery with a Ouija board, they succeeded and Jeffery was photographed. Jeffery became a kind of spirit world collaborator as Mrs. Windham collected stories that became 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. My favorite is the Red Lady of Huntingdon College. Kathryn Tucker Windham began collecting ghost stories and other tall tales from around the South. Now 90, she is still in demand as a storyteller. She founded the Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival, held each year in Selma, Alabama.

What people may not know is Kathryn Tucker Windham's first book was a cookbook. Later she published a second cookbook, Southern Cooking To Remember. In November, I was in a large, well stocked grocery store and found a lovely bag of sunchokes, which I thought was funny since they looked like Jerusalem artichokes to me. Actually, Jerusalem Artichokes are not from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes. They are indeed, sunchokes, tubers from a sunflower like plant. When an early explorer to America sent the tubers back to an Italian friend, he dubbed them, "girasole articicco," quite literally, "sunflower artichoke" or sunchoke. The Italian pronunciation was corrupted and "Jerusalem artichoke" stuck. What do you do with them, my friend asked and Kathryn Tucker Windham knew the answer. Most Southern larders have at least one jar of Jerusalem artichokes pickled in some way.

Jerusalem Artichoke Relish

2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes
4 yellow onions
3 red peppers
1 cup salt
1 quart cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon celery seed

Use a stiff brush to scrub artichokes well. chop coarsely. Chop onions and peppers coarsely. Put chopped vegetables and salt in a large bowl and cover with cold water. put in the refrigerator overnight. being sure to cover it tightly. Next day, pour off the water and place vegetables in a large kettle. Add other ingredients and cook over moderate heat, stirring , until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture boils. Reduce the hear and simmer for half an hour or until relish is thick. Stir right often during the simmering. ladle into sterilized pint or half-pint jars and seal. This makes four pints.

Grab yourself a sous chef, spectral or not, and make a batch of this relish. And afterwards, I'll tell you the story of the Red Lady...

25 February 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

It's just never too early to become a great hostess, just ask Florence Hamsher (but ask her politely!). Party Cues For Teens according to the subtitle is "a complete guide for the junior hostess."

It turns out that no matter how young you are, nor how skilled you might be at hosting a party, you will always find a "Party Nuisance." Interestingly enough, even in 1957, the party nuisances tended to be sexual predators trying to get some. As Mrs. Hamsher tells us:

"Into the life of every hostess there sometimes creeps a guest she fervently wishes had stayed at home, or at least had been brought up with better manners."
You know the one... raised by wolves. How will you know...
"The Party Wolf is easy to spot."
But not as easy as Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf. Here are the signs...
"He either roams about the room looking for likely prey, or heads straight for the prettiest girl, and while her escort smolders, proceeds to reel out the line he feels sure will hook his victim."
In 1957 her escort might "smolder" but in 2009 he is likely to pull out a Mac-10, making Mr. Party Wolf the victim. What to do...
"If one of your guest turns out to be a party Wolf, you can put an end to his maneuvers by singling him out for special attention, or asking him to do something for you. You might ask him to show you the new dance step that has become his speciality."
Or, if there is no Mac-10, you could take him upstairs and show him your speciality. In other words....

"Try to keep him so busy he doesn't have time to monopolize the attentions of someone else's girl."
Or, you could feed him. Here's a nifty snack recipe for the junior hostess and a fitting recipe for that Party Wolf.

Teaser Dip

Combine 1/2 cup finely chopped bologna, 2 tablespoons chopped pimientos, 3/4 cup chopped ripe olives, and 3 tablespoons chopped pickles. Add a drop or two of Tabasco sauce and enough mayonnaise to moisten for dunking consistency.
Seriously, one couldn't make this up! So run right out a grab a copy of Party Cues For Teens, if not for the entertaining tips, at least for the recipes! Teaser Dip anyone?

20 February 2009

Lucinda's Seven Seed Mix

Here's another spice mix I keep on hand. It provides a complex flavor profile for simple dishes, like potatoes. It is a Seven Seed Mix and here is the recipe:

EQUAL parts of the following SEEDS:

Yellow Mustard
Black Mustard

My favorite combo is Seven Seed mix and harissa. Harissa has quite a kick to it. Like hot sauce, it can vary in temperature from one brand to another. If you have never used it before -- be fore warned! I like to use it with potatoes because the plain starch of the potato takes care of a lot of the heat.
Here's the recipes.

Seven Seed Harissa Potatoes

6-7 potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch thick

2 tablespoon Seven Seed mix, toasted in a dry skillet

1 tablespoon harissa paste

1/3 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, sprinkle the sliced potatoes with the toasted Seven Seed mix.

Add the harissa and oil and mix till coated.

Layer in a baking dish

Cook at 350 for about an hour

This is an interesting side for a roasted chicken. If you don't have harissa, sprinkle on a tablespoon of a smoky paprika or red pepper. If you don't want to wash an extra bowl, just mix it together in the Baking dish.

Try these Seven Seed Harissa Muffins for a spicy and complex corn bread.

Seven Seed Harissa Corn Muffins

1 cup self-rising corn meal
1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1 tablespoon Seven Seed mix, toasted in a dry skillet

1 tablespoon harissa

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix the corn meal, milk, egg, and harissa together in a small bowl.

Fold in the toasted Seven Seed mix.

Generously oil a muffin tin (preferably cast iron) with the vegetable oil and place it in a 400 oven.

Let the muffin tin sit in the hot oven for about 5 min.

Carefully remove the tin and fill the compartments with the muffin mixture, about 3/4 full

Bake for 20 minutes, until the tops are browned. It makes about 12 muffins.
Give this Seven Seed Mix a try!

17 February 2009

Beet Cake with Dried Cherries

For Valentine's Day, I made a beet cake studded with dried cherries. I had a bag of Cherry Medley from King Arthur Flour in Vermont and a can of beets and this cake seemed a natural.

I cheated on the recipe and used the canned beets, though freshly roasted beets are much preferred. A 15 ounce can of beets is just enough. Drain the beets and blitz them in a Cuisinart to get a nice consistency as beets can be a bit hard. Don't worry too much if your can of beet mash comes in a little over or under a cup, it should be just fine.

Beet Cake with Dried Cherries

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed beet
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup dried cherries, dredged boldly

Whisk the flour, sugar, spice, soda and salt together to blend.

Mix the beets, eggs, oil, and milk.

Add the beet mixture to the dry ingredients and blend well.

Fold in the dredged fruit.

Pour into prepared Lucinda’s Wooden Cake Box.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

This sweet and tender cake proved to be a hit for Valentine's Day.

Beets make a great ingredient in these rich, moist cakes, like carrot or zucchini. You may not think of it but parsnips and summer squash can also work. Don't be afraid to experiment with this type of "tea cake."

13 February 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Irene Ryan

Julia, Nigella, Martha, Emeril, hell no! If you ask me, the greatest television cook to ever set a pot on the stove is none other than Granny Clampett.

Granny was an organic, locavore, nose-to-tail, slow food advocate before anyone ever intellectualized such culinary ideas. Long before Paul Prudhomme, Granny was cooking crawdads. Long before Martha was stuffing steamed peas with chevre, Granny was making goat cheese. Long before Alice Waters, Granny was serving organic vegetables from her kitchen garden.

The great actress, Irene Ryan, will forever be seared into the minds of the viewing public as, Granny. Capitalizing on her fame as the Clampett Family's resident cook, Ryan published a cookbook aptly named: Granny's Hillbilly Cookbook.

One of Granny’s specialities was roast possum. I know that smug, self-righteous, I’m to cool to ever even think of such a thing reaction! Trust me, that is same reaction you had the first time someone suggested you eat crawfish, or pig’s ears or corn foam! The day Thomas Keller slaps a possum on the menu, you’ll be the first one at the table and I’ll be there to remind you that Granny cooked it first.

Here is her recipe:

Roast Possum

Possum is easy to catch. Hit ‘em with a rock or a stick when they’s up a tree and you can have ‘em in your sack afore they knows it. The yellow-bellied goomers is too scared to fight back, and they play dead jest long enough to grab ‘em.

Boil up half a peck ‘o water or more, dependin’ on the size o’ your possum. Dunk the critter in boilin’ water an’ right away pull off his hair n’ scrape ‘em clean. Don’t forgit to cut off his feet, his head n’ his tail! Clean out his innards. Put the possum in a hefty jug o’ cold salty water and let ‘em soak overnight. Change his water the next day and start boilin’ him ‘til his skin lets a fork pop through it easy like. They ain’t no time for cooking possum ‘cause some is tougher than others. When the feller is jest right, dry him off and put ‘em in a bakin’ pan with a bit o’ pot likker (juice left over after cooking greens or other vegetables) ‘n some seasoned salt over his belly. When he is brown ‘n toasty, he is ready for slicin’ and servin’. Back home we fattens possum with ‘simmons (persimmons), and most often we eats him with yams.

Granny’s right, possums are easy to catch, but bear in mind they are scavengers. Once you catch a possum, it is best to grain feed him or fatten him with ‘simmons for about 4 weeks. They paunch the same as most small game, but they do have scent glands, so be careful.

And now for that all important question....What wine do you serve with possum?

I suggest a crisp Pouilly-Fuissé. After all, it is the other white meat.

11 February 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

I am sure that when you reached the ripe old age of 15, you were concerned with your complexion and how many "friends" you had amassed on Facebook. Not to make you feel shallow, but by the time George Washington (yes, the "Father" of our country) had reached 15 he had compiled his epic work, Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation.*

Washington enumerated such rules as: Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty. Washington and I share a unique love of spelling! Or a love of unique spelling?

But what, pray tell, did Washington mean? While these rules might have been spot on in the 1700, a new day has come. Thankfully for us, we have a new interpreter of the Rules of Civility, one James Henry.

The very mannerly Mr. Henry has take a long look at George Washington’s Rules of Civility and updated it for the modern reader. If you don't understand "submitting your judgement", James Henry translates it for you in his book, Mind Your Manners George Washington's Rules of Civility.

George Washington says:
When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.

James Henry says:
Fishing for one's privates should rarely be done in public.

Of course, now it makes perfect sense. Have you recently encountered someone you know indelicately "fishing"? Do not despair, Mr. Henry has just what you need, an anonymous email to the guilty party! It's so easy. Simply log on to Mr. Henry's site, Rule of Civility, then click on the little postcard. Here you can find the appropriate offense and anonymously notify the offender with a simple click. Which is much less messy than say -- a duel.

What to do with the colossal oaf in your life? Despair not! Mr. Henry will send out an anonymous copy of his book, filled with everything one needs to be a mannerly soul in this modern world. Have him send you one, too, it's great fun and you might learn a thing or two.

*Truth be told, there were many such books floating around in the 1700's and Washington kinda cribbed some his rules. In fact the rather elegantly named Moncure Conway did quite a bit of research as to where Washington actually "procured" his rules. If the OCD kicks in check out, George Washington's Rules of Civility: Traced to their Sources and Restored. And, thank your lucky stars that Moncure Conway wasn't your English teacher.

06 February 2009

Chocolate Honey Barbeque Fritos® Pie

Craving a SALTY/SWEET treat! Don't be alarmed. I know you are skeptical, but trust me, this is a quick and tasty addition to your culinary library.

For Christmas, I gave people bags of chocolate drizzled Fritos. The best are the Honey Barbecue Twists, drizzled with a bit of dark chocolate. They are better than crack! And legal!! This recipe grew out of that treat.

Give it a try. Here's what you need:

Chocolate Honey Barbeque Fritos Pie

1 bag Honey Barbeque Fritos Twists, about 10 ounces
3 tablespoons butter, melted
10 ounces dark chocolate
1/3 cup cream
1 tablespoon vanilla

Crush the Fritos® in a food processor then add the melted butter.

Line an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. the paper makes it easier to remove from the pan.

Pour the Fritos® mixture into the pan and form a crust. Keep the edges thin as it is quite crumby.

Put the crust into the freezer and leave for 1 hour.

Break up the chocolate, add the cream and vanilla and melt in a double boiler or in a bowl over water. Be careful not to let the water splatter into the chocolate.

When the chocolate is fully melted, remove the crust from the freezer and pour in the chocolate.

Smooth the chocolate and sprinkle with a few crushed Fritos® or with some cocoa.

Refrigerate for at least one hour.

The pie is very rich, so serve sparingly. You might want to serve it and then discuss the ingredients with your guests. Enjoy

04 February 2009

Triple Ginger Cake

This is a rich and sophisticated cake filled with three different and distinct ginger flavors.

This cake is spiced with ground ginger and incorporates a grated ginger into the batter. Finally, the cake in studded with chopped, candied ginger, giving it a chewy texture. In this cake, it is important to chop the candied ginger into uniform pieces as the weight of the ginger often causes it to sink. I like to chop them roughly the size of a peanut. The ginger needs to be dredged boldly. As with other cakes cooked slow and long, you want to keep the fruit suspended in the batter. Coat the pieces of ginger with as much extra flour as needed to leave them dry, but remember not to incorporate additional loose flour into the recipe. One trip to keep the ginger from collecting on the bottom of the cake is to add half the batter before folding in the crystallized ginger. Fold the ginger into the remaining batter and add.

Triple Ginger Cake

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 cup grated ginger root
3/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped and boldly dredged

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ground ginger into a large bowl.

With your fingers, work the butter into flour mixture until you have a coarse crumb.

Add the eggs, one at a time and stir till incorporated

Add vanilla, milk, grated ginger and stir.

Fold in the dredged crystallized ginger.

Pour the batter into a lined wood cake box.

Bake at 300 degrees for 90 minutes.

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