Monday, January 18, 2010

"Atlanta Cooks for Company" - Green Rice

Date I made this recipe: January 17, 2010

Atlanta Cooks for Company by The Junior Associates of The Atlanta Music Club (spiral-bound)
Published by: Conger Printing Company
© 1968
Recipe: Green Rice – submitted by Mrs. Harry G. Haisten, Jr. – p. 229

Tomorrow the nation observes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and since he was born in Atlanta, GA, I searched through my cookbooks to find some from that area. Of the two I found, one is going to be a challenge for me – it’s a reprint of recipes from the Atlanta Exposition held in 1895. The recipes give no oven temperatures, no cooking time and rather interesting ingredient measurements: “lump of butter the size of an egg.” And so I passed on making something from that book for the time being and went with the cookbook written in 1968. Nineteen sixty eight I can do, 1895 not so much!

But even though I got myself into the modern age, finding something that seemed to fit what MLK would have eaten was another story. Not that I want to speculate, but music associations of any type seem to be mighty white and pretty monied and that didn’t fit the profile of MLK at all, at all, at all.

So I was getting rather discouraged when I spied this recipe for Green Rice and determined that this one would fit the bill. Rice and cotton were huge money-makers for the South, especially during the Civil War (or “that unpleasantness” as some Southerners say), and some friends who are from the south mentioned that rice is still pretty much a staple of every meal so perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr. ate a lot of rice as well.

And so green rice it was. This recipe is easy and tasty and healthy (if you leave out the cheese). I was going to pare it with some chicken breasts but alas, it was only after I came home from the grocery store that I discovered that I had used up my chicken breasts a few weeks ago and that nothing currently in the freezer (such as Trader Joe’s froze appetizers) would work very well so we went totally vegetarian and it was fine.

Back to Martin Luther King, Jr…had he lived he would be 81 years old and one just has to wonder what he would have thought of life today with a black president in office and many blacks in leadership positions throughout the south. I was only 9 years old when he (and later Bobby Kennedy) were killed and the images of that awful day in Memphis still come back to haunt me. And so as per usual, I turned to the thing that brings me the most comfort – cooking…and food - and for one brief moment life was good again.

Green Rice – yield: 6 servings (Note: the owner of this cookbook liked this dish a lot because she wrote “Very Good” in the margin. I like that about a cookbook!)
2 ½ cups rice, cooked
¾ cup milk
3 tablespoons cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup parsley, minced
¾ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs, well-beaten
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ teaspoons onion, grated
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease casserole or ring mould. Cook and drain frozen spinach. Blend together all ingredients. Turn into greased casserole or ring mould. Bake at 325 degrees for forty-five minutes.

Note: I used a microplane grater for the onion and it worked out much better than using a regular grater although be warned that it does make your onion somewhat watery.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Are You Hungry Tonight? - Elvis' Favorite Recipes" - Mississippi Barbecued Pork

Date I made this recipe: January 10, 2010

Are You Hungry Tonight? – Elvis’ Favorite Recipes by Brenda Arlene Butler
Published by: Metro Books
ISBN: 978-0-7607-6302-5
Recipe: Mississippi Barbecued Pork – p. 28

Well who knew? Friday, January 8th, would have been Elvis’ 75th birthday. That just doesn’t seem right, does it? How on earth could the man who stared in Viva Las Vegas and Blue Hawaii, not to mention Jailhouse Rock, have left us so soon? It ain’t right.

So confession time—years ago my husband and I stopped at Graceland after a tour of the south and I was honestly disappointed that not one single person threw themselves on the grave sobbing “Oh Elvis, Elvis.” Not a one. Sheesh-where was the love, people? I mean, the man was the King (in the same way that Bruce Springsteen is The Boss and Frank Sinatra was Chairman of the Board—what is it with singers, anyway?) Show some respect already!

And I also have to confess to you is that there was something about that tacky 70’s decorating at Graceland that I found oddly comforting. I mean, what’s not to like about lemon yellow, black and mirrors (gotta have the mirrors!). All I’m saying is that I took pictures.

My favorite Elvis moment, however, did not come from touring Graceland but rather Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi. Because it was there, people, that one could by a small sliver of clothing worn by The King. After cracking up laughing, I bought one small sliver of one of Elvis’ clothing to give to a friend of mine who likes to sew. Feel the love and pass it on, I say!

By the way, years and years ago, this same friend and I went to Hawaii on vacation, staying with her aunt and uncle who lived on the island of Oahu. And somewhere on that island (if memory serves, it was in the International Village in Waikiki Beach), was a huge display of Elvis memorabilia (including what I call The Vel-vi Elvi – a velvet rendition of Elvis (in better days, of course). Naturally, I had to document that display as well and now that I made a recipe from this book, will have to dig out my photo albums and find said proof of the exhibit’s existence as sadly, it wasn’t there when I went back in 2004. (For those of you who don’t know, Elvis was extremely popular in Hawaii—extremely).

And so it goes. It would have been interesting to see a 75 year-old Elvis parading around in those jump suits that he wore (yikes!) but alas, it was not meant to be. So I’ll console myself with this Memphis Barbecue recipe, his old movies, and a rousing rendition of some of my favorite Elvis songs.

By the way folks, this recipe made for some damned fine barbecue. Damned fine!

Mississippi Barbecued Pork – serves 6
2 ½ pounds butt pork roast
1 teaspoon corn oil
1 4-ounce can tomato sauce (Note: Is there such a thing? The smallest I found was an 8-ounce can.)
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon celery seeds
½ teaspoon chili powder
Dash red pepper sauce

Randomly pierce the surface of the roast with a sharp knife. In a Dutch oven, over high heat, brown the roast on all sides in the corn oil. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour the mixture over the roast and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, basting frequently for 2 hours, or until pork is fork tender. Let the roast stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"What Can I Bring" & "The Cornbread Book" - Ozark Cornbread and Slow Cooker Chicken and Dressing

Date I made these recipes: December 31, 2009

What Can I Bring? Cookbook by Anne Byrn (a/k/a The Cake Mix Doctor)
Published by: Workman Publishing
ISBN: 13: 978-0-7611-4392-5
Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken and Dressing p. 172-173

The Cornbread Book – a love story with recipes by Jeremy Jackson
Published by: William Morrow
ISBN: 0-06-009679-9
Recipe: Ozark Cornbread – p. 36

Well, folks, my family came in to town to help ring in 2010 and amid all the celebration, I managed to cook up a storm.

On Tuesday when everyone arrived, I made spaghetti and meatballs using my family’s sauce and meatball recipe as well as Italian Wedding Soup, made from a recipe I saved from a Good Housekeeping magazine from the early 1990’s. (Dang, that soup is good). But seeing as how the recipes aren’t in cookbooks, I will not post them on my blog (and you can beg and beg all you want but nobody is getting my Aunt Rose’s sauce and meatball recipes - nobody.)

As to New Year’s Eve, I was planning to do a basic pot roast in a crock pot and then a turkey breast with stuffing but seeing as how I had so much leftover chicken from the Italian Wedding Soup recipe, I changed it up and went with a slow-cooker chicken and dressing recipe instead. Both were made in a crock pot which allowed us to spend most of the day tooling about town just enjoying being together. (I think the first lines of this recipe says it all – “Don’t you just love the slow cooker? It truly is the busy cook’s best friend.”)

Since the dressing recipe called for cornbread, I pulled out The Cornbread Book and looked for a recipe that did not include sugar; it’s not the sugar is a no-no, it’s just that I believe cornbread used in a stuffing shouldn’t contain the sweet stuff. The recipe for Ozark Cornbread turned out to be perfect. (By the way, the author of this cookbook was all of 27 when he wrote it – sheesh.).

As to the chicken and dressing recipe itself, once again, my own failure to read the serving size (8 to 10—there were 5 of us) resulted in an overabundance of dressing but I wrapped up leftovers for my sister-in-law to take to her brother and sister-in-law, reducing our quantity to something more reasonable.

And of course, what all-American meal would be complete without a viewing of the very Italian-American movie, Big Night? (It’s a family favorite). So we stuffed ourselves at the dinner table, drooled over all the wonderful dishes in the movie, poured the champagne, rang in the New Year and everybody but my husband and I went back to the hotel…only to return what seemed like mere hours later to go to breakfast! (Can we say "doggie bag?")

Ozark Cornbread – makes 9 pieces (Note: if you are going to make the entire chicken and dressing recipe, then make 1 and ½ the cornbread recipe) (I’ll list them conversions below)
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup canola oil (or 1 ½ tablespoons per pan plus 1/3 cup oil)
1 2/3 cups cornmeal (preferably whole-grain) (or 2 ½ cups cornmeal)
1 tablespoon baking powder (or 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder)
1 teaspoon salt (or 1 ½ teaspoons salt)
1 cup milk (or 1 ½ cups milk)
1 large egg (or 2 eggs)

Preheat your oven to 400F. Put the canola oil in an 8x8 or 9x9-inch baking pan and put the pan in the oven to heat.

Stir together the cornmeal, baking powder, sand salt. Add the milk, egg and the ¼ cup oil and stir until just combined. There should still be small lumps in the batter.

Remove the hot pan from the oven, pour the batter into it, then shake it carefully to spread the batter into the corners. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes or until firm and just beginning to brown.

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Dressing –serves 8 to 10
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 pound; from 1 rotisserie chicken)
6 cups coarsely crumbled corn bread (I put the corn bread in my Cuisinart)
8 slices firm white bread, torn into pieces
2 cans (about 14 ounces each) chicken broth
2 cans (10 ¾ ounces each) cream of chicken soup
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium-size onion)
3 ribs celery, chopped (about ¾ cup)
4 larges eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil spray, for misting the cooker
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

Place the chicken, corn bread, white bread, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, onion, celery, eggs, sage, pepper and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine well.

Mist a 5-quart round slow cooker with vegetable oil spray and add the chicken mixture to the cooker. Dot the top with the butter. Cover the cooker and cook until eggs are done, 3 to 4 hours on high heat or 7 hours on low hit. Stir the chicken before serving.

The author notes that if you want to double this recipe, you will need to use another crock pot as it’s not possible to make a double batch in one pot.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Kennedy Center Performing Artists Cookbook" - Chocolate Poppy Seed Torte

Date I made this recipe: December 30, 2009

Kennedy Center Performing Artists Cookbook – a Collection of favorite recipes from artists who have appeared at the Center, edited by Ann Terry Pincus
Published by: John F. Kennedy for the Performing Art
© 1973
Recipe: Chocolate Poppy Seed Torte - p. 145

“If I knew you were ‘coming, I’d’ve baked a cake…”

Actually, I did know that my family was coming to visit and so I did bake a cake to honor them as well as the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors recipients who were being recognized with a TV awards show later that evening. And naturally, the recipe came from my Kennedy Center Performing Artists Cookbook because I’m telling you I pretty much have a cookbook for every occasion.

This year marks the 32nd year of the Kennedy Center Honors and I have pretty much been along for the ride since the beginning; perhaps a few years were missed in the days before I had a VCR but not too many.

Now geek artist wanna be that I am there have been few years where I haven’t known the vast majority of honorees and this year, I came oh-so-close as four out of five were familiar to me. In addition to opera singer Grace Bumbry who I did not know (but whose dress I really loved), there was jazz master Dave Brubeck, funny man Mel Brooks, actor Robert DeNiro and singer Bruce (“Bruuuuuuuce”) Springsteen. Wow—quite the impressive line up of talent.

For those of you not familiar with the Kennedy Center Honors (named after the late president John F. Kennedy), one star or significant member of that artist’s community comes out and does a video montage introduction to the honoree’s works. After that, several more tributes are paid as other stars perform that star’s works. It’s oftentimes as much fun to see who will perform the tribute as it is to see the honoree’s works.

When it came time honor Dave Brubeck, I just had to smile when a jazz band, including some of his own sons, played Dave’s most famous arrangements because a few years back, my community band played those same pieces – Take Five, Blue Rondo a la Turk and Unsquare Dance. Now, not to disparage fellow band mates, but out of all the instruments in the band, the oboe and the French horn just do not fit in a jazz ensemble nor do they swing. (Not that the rest of us can find a jazz beat, either). And so the pieces we played were okay not great and were torturous to play—5/4 beats, offbeats – oy! (Onetwothree, one two, onetwothree, one two) And yet we soldiered through. And this is why Dave Brubeck was the one honored instead of us!

As to Mel Brooks, the guy is just flat out funny. One of my favorite movies is Young Frankenstein and to this day, I can quote half the lines from it, especially Madeline Kahn’s who played Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancĂ©. I am also fond of singing “High Annnnnnxiety,” the theme song from the movie by the same name, High Anxiety, as well as breaking into the song “The Inquisition” from his movie, History of the World, Part I. Like the Kennedy Honors, there’s something in Mel’s movies to appeal to everyone.

Speaking of broad appeal, wrapping up the ceremony was a tribute to The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Now at the risk of being walloped with the internet version of a rotten tomato, I have to tell you that Bruce is not one of my favorites. Sure, some of his songs are a blast, particularly Pink Cadillac and Born in the USA but honestly, the guy mumbles and I could not tell you what he was singing at any particular time. But he’s The Boss and so there it is.

As to a recipe to honor the occasion, I had already decided on the main courses for Tuesday night’s dinner and so decided to bake a cake. It was a lovely cake and it was submitted by an opera singer, Arlene Saunders who sadly was also unknown to me, and the making of this cake was hilarious.

Let’s start with the instructions. I’m about halfway through making this sucker when I realized that no where in the recipe did it give a cooking time. Just like Santa, I made a list and checked it twice and…nope. So I decided that 350 was the average cooking temperature for most things and so I went with that. But honestly, editors, did it never occur to you that this was important? Tsk, tsk!

The other near calamity was the frosting and again, I say unto you that a few more instructions might have helped. The recipe said “Beat and frost the cake” when it should have said “Beat and pour over (not spread) the cake immediately, and I mean immediately.” In the seconds or so that elapsed after starting to frost one side of the cake, the frosting started to harden and I kid you not, by the time we got the cake completely iced, we went from “On Golden Pond” smoothness to Rocky Mountain fudge peaks.

Now my sister-in-law helped me try to rectify this little problem, alas to no avail. First we tried dipping the spatula in hot water but that didn’t work. Next I decided to try microwaving it for a few seconds to melt the frosting, also to no avail. Nancy then suggested that I try to put powdered sugar on top to disguise the mess but wouldn’t you know I had just used up all my powdered sugar for another recipe. Needless to say, we ended up laughing our butts of, doing imitations of Julia Child saying “Save the frosting! You must save the frosting!”

Seeing as how we were unable to save the frosting we did the next best thing – we served the cake, poured everyone some more wine and called it a day. (I highly recommend this method.)

Chocolate Poppy Seed Torte – makes one nine-inch layer cake
Torte Recipe
¼ cup butter or margarine
½ cup sugar
6 eggs, separated
½ cup fine bread crumbs
¼ pound semi-sweet chocolate, melted (you can use chocolate morsels if you like)
½ cup ground poppy seeds (I used my coffee grinder to grind them)
½ cup strawberry or apricot jam
Frosting Recipe
8 one-ounce squares semi-sweet chocolate
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Since the instructions as published are confusing, I’m rewriting them below. (I also beat the egg whites first, then cleaned the mixing bowl then beat the egg yolks then cleaned the mixing bowl again and beat the butter and sugar. How you do it is up to you but in the end, everything gets mixed together.)

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat egg whites until stuff but not dry then fold in poppy seeds. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored, then beat butter mixture and the crumbs into the egg yolks. Fold the chocolate into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Line two nine-inch greased layer pans with wax paper then spread batter into the pans evenly. Bake in oven for thirty minutes [at 350 degrees]. Turn out cake and remove paper at once. Spread the jam in the middle and then prepare the frosting.

Combine the semi-sweet squares, sugar and water and cook to soft ball stage (234 to 236 degrees) (and believe me, this took some doing) then remove from the heat and add the butter.

Beat and frost the cake in a burning hurry and I do mean burning hurry! (For those of you familiar with the sport of curling, you will want to do the culinary version of “sweep, sweep, sweep” at warp speed or you’ll end up with a big rock candy mountain!)