26 June 2009

Rehydrating Mushrooms

I keep a jar of dehydrated mushrooms in the larder. I often need them for cooking, but living in the country, I don't always have they luxury of running to the store to pick up fresh mushrooms and often the selection is limited. Here's a tip for rehydrating mushrooms, or anything else you need to plump up. This is ideal to begin in the sink as there will probably be an initial overflow of water.

Get two similar containers that nest. I like to use those tall plastic containers soup is often packed in.
Take one container and add the dry mushrooms. Now insert the second container on top to establish a fill line which is just over the dried mushrooms.

Add water to about the same level as the dry mushrooms, at which point they will float to the top.
Take the second container and put it into the first, forcing the mushrooms under the water. (Here is where the you may have overflow.)

Fill the second container with water. The weight of the water hold the top container down, which in turn keeps the mushrooms submerged so they will rehydrate evenly.

In the end you have plump mushrooms with little hassle.

24 June 2009

The Rituals Of Dinner

It's Wednesday, and I am worried you simply haven't been minding your "P's" and "Q's" and since we don't want you get all barbarous on us, here's a tip from one of my favorite books, The Rituals of Dinner. If you thought dinner was just that meal you ate in the middle of the day (after 5 for you barbarians) or if for some unknown reason you never gave dinner a second thought, then Margaret Visser has a thing or two to tell you.
Visser is that rare combination of historian and entertainer. Reading her is like picking up a novel and savoring the story. She adores writing about dinner. Before this volume, she wrote the equally entertaining, Much Depends on Dinner.

Here is a tip for clearing the house after the party is over...

The most spectacular exit ritual to send those lingering guests home is from the United Arab Emirates. When women gather for a dinner party and the hostess decided that it is time for her guest to leave, she perfumes them, so that her guests return home with a different scent, her scent.

It should be reiterated here that this ritual is for a dinner party of women, lest some poor guy heads home smelling like Chanel No. 5 and gets clocked by a jealous wife. Also, bear in mind this is a rather elaborate ritual which bears no similarities to your last attempt to pass the make-up counter at Macy's and I am giving you the Cliff Notes version.

This is how it works. A woman brings out her perfume box. Incenses are lit and passed around once, allowing the scent to waft under the head scarf and impregnate the hair. It is passed a second time and placed under her robes so the scent permeates her body. The idea is when you arrive home and smell differently, and people ask why and then you tell them what a lovely time you had at your friends house.

This seems a bit time consuming if you want the girls to leave. The speedy solution is to grab your Calvin Klein's Eternity and pretend it's Macy's. They will leave in a flash.

P. S. for P's and Q's. There is much debate over this expression and why it means to mind your manners. The most logical comes from printer's type as the two letters can look indistinguishable one needed to mind them, lest you end up with puick qigs. There are more colorful explanations, but we will stick with this one, probably because I am dyslexic. I not only mind my P's and Q's but also my b's and d's.

23 June 2009

Haying The Fields

We have three large fields at Doe Run Farm that are hayed about twice a year.

I don't own a large tractor, so my neighbor Lynn and his wife Sandi do the work.

You need about four or five dry days in a row to start and finish the job. With the weather we have been having, it looked like it might never be that dry again. But the sun came out and the fields got cut.

They are quite beautiful when they are first cut.

21 June 2009

The New Hummingbird Feeder

For Christmas, Harry Lowe gave me a lovely glass hummingbird feeder.

We are both unusually fond of our hummingbirds. Unable to find a suitable feeder and with hummingbirds looming, last year I did the unthinkable. I bought a cheap plastic model to stave off their hunger. Clearly, Harry Lowe would rather they fly by than to indulged from my pedestrian feeder. Luckily for my fashionable hummingbirds, he replaced it with a substantially large, hand-blown feeder.

This season, I hadn't seen a single hummingbird and worried that, like Harry Lowe, they could simply not bring themselves to stop by if forced to partake from that styleless feeder. They returned this morning, looking for any port in the storm. One lone, hungry hummingbird was out search for the feeder. I quickly brewed some syrup and the new feeder was hung.

Not a moment too soon.

20 June 2009

Fleur Cowles

"I want Flair magazine to be considered my obit. And
that'swhat I want to be remembered by forever.
Nevermind any other thingI may have done.
It's Flair that really reflects me."

Fleur Cowles

Fleur Cowles' death was reported earlier this month. As she requested, she will be remembered for her magazine, Flair. Published for a mere 12 issues, from February 1950 to January 1951, Flair caused a sensation with its innovative coverage of décor, fashion, travel, and literature.

Fleur Cowles with Cecil Beaton

Cowles knew everyone. In her 1996 memoir She Made Friends and Kept Them there are over 1000 names in the index. That same year, HarperCollins published a few thousand copies of The Best of Flair. The print run sold out in a few weeks, even with the rather steep price tag of $250

Fleur Cowles with Kitty Carlisle Hart

While Flair is her most famous creation, Cowles was a prolific writer, producing 16 books. As a painter, she amassed more than 40 exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world.

Fleur Cowles was 101. Perhaps that longevity can be ascribed to her ever inquisitive mind as she once said, "I have an idea a minute."

Something to strive for!

19 June 2009

Famous Food Friday – The Duchess of Windsor

“I have been very happy to help carry some of the well-known
dishes of my native
land to other countries, and especially to have
served on my table
Southern dishes which appeal to the Duke.”

The Duchess of Windsor

Today is Wallis Warfield Simpson’s birthday. How lovely of her to have her birthday fall on a Friday so we could feature her cookbook. You probably didn’t know that The Duchess of Windsor, in addition to being the only woman to have a king abdicate for her, wrote a cookbook: Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor.

She had an ulterior motive – she was raising money for the British War Relief. As a favor, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the introduction where she noted:

“…the real improvements in American living and health has been the discarding of the elaborate and extravagant menus which marked our entertaining as recently as the General Grant period…This tendency toward more healthful simplicity and especially toward the more scientific preparations of food is, I believe, one of the outstanding contributions which the people of the United States have made toward modern eating habits.”

I find it hard to imagine The Duke and Duchess of Windsor prattling around their kitchen in the South of France; her making Cabbage and canned shrimp and the Duke drying the dishes! No doubt the “recipes” were handed off to their chef. Just to make sure the Duchess was no flash in the culinary pan, the Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune tested each recipe.

Poor Wallis, you make one little mistake like getting a King to give up his crown and no one trusts you! I am far more inclined to eat with the Duchess than the New York Herald Tribune.

For today’s royal, though not queenly, birthday celebration, I chose a favorite cake of The Duchess of Windsor. Is it lemon chiffon cake? Devil’s food cake? A light an airy coconut cake? A rich spicy pork cake?

Did you guess? Did you guess Pork Cake?

The Duchess of Windsor’s Pork Cake

1/2 pound fat salt pork, ground
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups raisins
1 cup currants, washed and dried
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Place pork in a mixing bowl and add boiling water. Add molasses, brown sugar, raisins and currants and cool. Mix and sift the flour, baking soda and spices together three times. Add to the molasses mixture and beat until smooth. Turn into long narrow bar pan (10 X 4 X 3 inches) and bake in a slow oven (325 F.) 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Rarely does one find a cake recipe that begins with the 1/2 pound of fat salt pork. Pork Cakes are a Southern invention – you know in the South, when it comes to pork we eat everything but the squeal! Who knew we had such fine ideas for porky desserts.

Pork Cake shows up in a few Southern cookbooks from the early 1900’s but doesn’t seem to have caught on or survived. Such a cake is not mentioned in Mrs. Dull’s Southern Cooking, considered to be one of the most comprehensive chronicles of Southern tradition. The recipe appears in Southern Living’s encyclopedic, Southern Heritage series culled from The Williamsburg Art of Cookery. In her introduction, The Duchess of Windsor says,

“Few housekeepers owned recipe books, the first American cookbook being printed at Williamsburg in 1742. Recipes, instead, were written by hand, and passed on, as treasured gifts…”

Since she was familiar with Helen Bullock’s Williamsburg recipes, one can speculate that her recipe for Pork Cake was adapted from that volume.

Next time you want to bake a cake for the family, don’t forget the pork! And if you bake it on June 19th, stick a candle in it...

Happy Birthday, Wallis!

Simultaneous post at Cookbook of the Day.

12 June 2009

Famous Food Friday - Alan King, Frank Sinatra

This Friday is a Famous Food "Twofer". Comedienne Alan King shares with us Frank Sinatra’s Spaghetti sauce recipe. The recipes appears in King's cookbook, Is Salami and Eggs Better Than Sex?, King's culinary memoir in which he drops more names than a 1960’s Entertainment Tonight tribute marathon.

Here are just a few:

Frank Sinatra
Henry Kissinger
John Steinbeck
John Huston
Orson Wells
Dudley Moore
Edward G. Robinson
Kennedy’s (no fist names just addresses -- Hyannis, McLean…)

He’s so busy name-dropping he needed some help with the recipes so he called in long time New York Times restaurant critic, Mimi Sheraton. It’s like Jim Carey writing a cookbook and Ruth Reichl doing the recipes.

There is a lot of smoking in the book and a lot of red meat. Throw in massive amounts of testosterone with a Rat Pack vibe and you’ve got it.

As for Sinatra the story goes like this. King and Sinatra had a discussion about the best way to make spaghetti sauce. Old Blue Eyes feels there is little compromise when it comes to his sauce. The discussion ended with Sinatra on his feet and screaming. No one messes with Sinatra’s sauce. The tomato sauce recipe was as closely guarded as the formula for Coca-Cola. Unfortunately for Sinatra, his vehement explanation of why his sauce was so good, led to a revelation of the recipe. Alan King not only wrote it down, he published it. Here it is:

Frank Sinatra’s Tomato Sauce

In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. In it sauté 1/4 onion slice vertically into thin crescent wedges and 4 whole peeled cloves of garlic.
Place the contents of one 1-pound 13-ounce can of Italian tomatoes in a blender with half of the packing liquid. Mix gently for less than a minute to break up the pieces. Slowly pour the tomatoes into the frying pan. Be very careful about spattering hot oil.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 teaspoon dried basil. Simmer gently, half covered, for 15 minutes.
Pour over 1 pound cooked, hot, well-drained spaghetti and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese can be passed separately.

Seems like a perfectly nice sauce though I would hardly come to blows with Sinatra over it.

As for the pressing question in the title, King says why choose: Have sex and follow it up with salami and eggs.

Sinatra says I've Got a Crush On You.

11 June 2009

Wet and Wild Cheerwine Rub

Wet and Wild Cheerwine Rubbed Chicken and Braised Lettuce

Southerners have a particular penchant for cooking with coke, the generic carbonated drink nomenclature used in the vast majority of the South. It's all coke. While my knowledge of this fact is anecdotal there is hard evidence presented in the Journal of English Linguistics #24, 1996. Luanne von Schneidemesser, PhD and senior editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English wrote of this linguistic anomaly in her article, Soda or Pop?. The following map illustrated her research.

In the United States, we (and by "we" I mean every man, woman and child) drink on average 43 gallons of various carbonated elixirs per year. In the South, a quart or two of that soft drink average makes its way into our cooking. Perhaps it is because we always have some coke left over after we mix the hard drinks. Whatever the reason, we love to soak ham in Coca-Cola and put root beer in cake.

Southerner's also have an abiding love of regional carbonated soft drinks. RC and Moon Pies comes to mind. A particular favorite of mine is Cheerwine. Since 1917, Cheerwine has been produced in North Carolina. Though it often pops up in other places, it is well worth a trip to North Carolina. They are also fond of barbecue in North Carolina. This recipes gives you the best of both.

Wet and Wild Cheerwine Rub

4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 cloves
1 cup Cheerwine
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a spice grinder or molcajete, grind the coriander, cumin, pepper, fennel, cloves until cracked.

Add the garlic to the spices and blend until coarsely chopped.

In a bowl add the seed and garlic mixture and stir in the brown sugar, Sriracha, olive oil and Cheerwine and blend to a thick paste.

Rub on your favorite barbecue item and let sit for at least an hour or, at best, overnight.

05 June 2009


We have been struggling with inclement weather.

A rain storm in West Virginia equals NO Power.

No Phone (damn new fangled phones need the base plugged in)

No Lights (no power)

No Water (pump is electric)

No TV (we were forced to read)

No Internet (Oh no, Auntie Em!)

Keep looking for our return... and send candles!

01 June 2009

Lemony Egg Pasta

Anne requested this recipe. I made it for her last year and she really loved it. I made it when Richard was here, last week, and he loved it. It is about as simple and easy as they come, but it is quite good. Here's how my recipe came about.

I saw a recipe in Food & Wine for Tandy Lemon-Egg Soup with Tiny Meatballs, a soup that was a variation on the Greek soup avgolemono. I made and it was quite good. The tiny meatballs were made with ground turkey. I made it once but thought I would make it again, though I never did, but I stuck the recipe in a drawer (as I am want to do: see my Cookbook of the Day entry on my lost carrot cake recipe.)

One day I had some ground turkey but I didn't want soup. I thought of this recipe and decide to adapt it to a pasta recipe. Well, my Lemony Egg Pasta with Turkey Meatballs was great. I made the pasta several times in the next few weeks, dumping the meatballs all together. Everyone who ate it loved it. The next month, similar recipes started showing up in every magazine from Domino to Cottage Living. (Both magazine subsequently folded but I have no reason to believe it was the pasta.)

This is painfully easy to make. This recipe works will with a fine spaghetti or with a wider linguine. Add a good bit of salt to the water as you want the pasta to be well seasoned. The butter coats the pasta making the eggs stick better. The heat of the pasta cooks the yolks, so do stir it as soon as you incorporate the yolks. I sprinkle the zest on at the end and finish off with pepper.

Lemony Egg Pasta

1 package of pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
1 stick butter, melted
2 egg yolks
2 lemons, zested then juiced
1/4 cup grated Pecorino or other hard cheese

Boil the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted water about 8 minutes.

Slightly beat the egg yolks and stir in the cheese and lemon juice.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooking water.

Add the butter and stir, coating the pasta.

Add the egg mixture and stir until fully coated.

Sprinkle with the zest.

This is great for your vegetarian buddies and a fine summery dish.
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