Sunday, March 31, 2013

"The Book of Soups" - Rosemary & Lentil Soup

Date I made this recipe:  March 25, 2013

The Book of Soups by Lorna Rhodes
Published by:  HP Books
ISBN:  0-89586-818-0
Recipe:  Rosemary & Lentil Soup – p. 52

When I was a smoker, I used to joke that if you want the bus to come, you just need to light up a cigarette and voila – bus!  With spring looking like it would never arrive, I did the same thing with soup:  make a pot of soup and voila – spring!

I made this soup just before the weather turned on us in a good way and temperatures started to spike upwards of 40 degrees again.  In a matter of a couple days, most of the snow had melted and most of the grass is now exposed waiting to green up.  It’s almost, but not quite, time to walk outside again (mud puddles discourage that activities) and life is good.  And so is this soup.

There are a few spring or summer soups in this book that I could have made; like Pistou (pesto and fresh vegetables), Summer Avocado Soup, Cream of Asparagus or even Gazpacho that I could have made but the problem is that even though temperatures are going up, spring vegetables are still a little hard to be found at this time of year.  And so we made the rosemary and lentil.

This soup requires overnight soaking of the lentils so be prepared to get that done, but once you start cooking it, it takes no time at all.  And it comes with little meatballs and who doesn’t like that.  My only complaint about this soup is that it says “serves 6” but that is only realistic if one is doing soup shots or feeding elves.  If you are using larger soup bowls like we did, I’d say you’re going to get 3 soup bowls and that is it.  Just so you know….

This book is also from my late friend, Carol “Tall” Voight’s, collection and I uncovered it by accident when showing some of my cookbooks to a friend who stopped over.  Since that day was rather chilly, I moved this to the front of the pack.  But that said, I want spring and really want summer and so I hope this is the last of the cold-weather food I’ll be preparing until fall arrives.

Rosemary & Lentil Soup – makes 6 servings
6 ozs. green lentils, soaked overnight
7-1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 medium-size potato, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
Large fresh rosemary sprig
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional fresh rosemary sprigs to garnish
Sausage dumplings
3 ozs. pork sausage
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon mixed herbs
½ small egg, beaten (break the egg into a measuring cup and pour out what you need)

Drain lentils and place in a large saucepan.  Add stock and slowly bring to a boil.  Skim off any scum which rises to surface and simmer 15 minutes.  Add potato, celery, garlic and large rosemary sprig.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer 30 minutes.  Remove rosemary sprig.  In a food processor fitted with a metal blade or a blender, process mixture to a puree.

Clean pan and return puree to pan.  Slowly reheat while preparing dumplings.  Combine all dumpling ingredients in a medium-size bowl. When soup simmers, drop spoonfuls of dumplings into soup, keeping them apart.  Cover and cook soup 15 minutes.  Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever" by Beatrice Ojakangas - Beer-Baked Irish Beef (for St. Patrick's Day and in memory of "Tall" Carol)

Date I made this recipe:  March 17, 2013 (St. Patrick’s Day and in memory of my friend, "Tall" Carol)                       

The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas
Published by:  Chronicle Books
ISBN:  978-0-8118-5624-9
Recipe:  Beer-Baked Irish Beef – p. 218

Damn, March is an awful month!  I know, I know—there’s St. Patrick’s Day and there’s the first day of spring and this year there’s also Easter for those of you who are into fun and frolic.  But it’s also a time of great loss for me:  5 years ago on March 2nd, my mom passed away; 2 years ago on March 9th, my dad passed away and a year ago on St. Patrick’s Day, my best friend, “Tall” Carol, passed away.  I’ve told my poor husband, whose birthday is on March 1st, that we might have to stick that date on the end of February just so that we can celebrate it with joy and laughter instead of sorrow and tears.

So it’s been some kind of year and as I am not Irish and neither was Tall, I was not in the mood to really do much for St. Patrick’s Day except, of course, cook (and to hide out in my house to avoid debached and drunken drivers).  And today’s cookbook and recipe come straight to you from Tall’s collection and what the heck, I even found a beer recipe for the occasion.  As she liked beer, I think she would have liked this recipe.

In the “what a difference a year makes” category last year’s temperatures were a ridiculous and unseasonably high 75 degrees.  A group of us – family and friends – sat out on her deck planning her memorial to be held a month later.  That day too, the day of her memorial, turned out to be very, very warm.  But alas, this year we are back to our usual modus operandi which is to say snow and more snow and cold.  Today’s “opening” temperature was 12 degrees.  Let me repeat that – 12.  Brrr.  And so desperate temperature times call for desperate measures and that meant casserole!

Now whereas I tend to dream all year of summer sandals and warm temperatures, Tall loved skiing and the snow and so she would have been all excited by St. Patrick’s Day evening’s 4-inch snowfall and would have thought the stew I made in her honor was most appropriate to the weather.  And the fact that it had beer in it and was an Irish stew would have been just the thing she would have made for St. Patrick’s Day. 

The other thing I know about my friend was that she loved slow-cooked, falling-apart-as-we-talk beef stews.  She always reminisced and raved about a couple of crock pot roasts that I made on cross-country ski trips which was nice, but really, the crock pot did all the work.  I even considered making this recipe in a crock pot just to see how it would work but in the end, I went with 4 hours of slow-roasting in a 275 degree oven and it was perfect.  And once the flavors had a chance to “set” in the refrigerator, it was outstanding.  Tall was all about leftovers and usually divided and froze leftovers into single-size servings for eating at a later date; in this household, we usually eat the leftovers until we are bored and/or they’re gone.

As mentioned earlier, this book came from Tall’s collection and I have to admit that I did not make the connection right away to the fact that local author, Beatrice Ojakangas, wrote this book.  Beatrice is considered an authority on Scandinavian cooking and is a member of the James Beard Hall of Fame which earns her a hale and hearty “Uff duh” from the peanut gallery.  I like that local tie-in as it just seems to bring everything full circle.  This book is loaded with other yummy recipes, and includes everything from dips to desserts so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a substitute should the beer-beef recipe not suit you (although how could it not???).

So here’s how this whole thing went down:  we used one bottle of Guinness for the recipe, Andy poured himself a glass as well, I had my usual Bombay Sapphire martini (up with olives – a drink that Tall also enjoyed along with a good beer), and we raised our glasses to Tall, who is always here in spirit.  And so before I go, let me leave you with an Irish poem that I think Tall, who loved her cat Purl, would have enjoyed:

The Mouse on the Barroom Floor
Some Guinness was spilled on the barroom floor
when the pub was shut for the night.
Out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse
and stood in the pale moonlight.
He lapped up the frothy brew from the floor,
then back on his haunches he sat.
And all night long you could hear him roar,
'Bring on the goddam cat!'

Beer-Baked Irish Beef – serves 6 to 8
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon pepper
2 ½ to 3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1- to 1 ½ -inch cubes
6 slices bacon, diced
4 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
4 large onions, cut into eights
2 cloves garlic, bruised and peeled
¼ cup minced fresh parsley, plus chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 bottle (12 ounces) Irish stout or dark beer
Hot boiled potatoes for serving

Preheat the oven to 275F. 

Combine the flour, salt, allspice, pepper, and beef cubes in a plastic bag.  Shake until all the meat is evenly coated with flour.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.

Add the floured pieces of meat, a few at a time, and quickly brown them on all sides.  Transfer to a deep 2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole with a cover.  Add the carrots, onions, garlic, minced parsley, rosemary, marjoram, and bay leaf to the meat.

Pour the beer into the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Pour over the meat in the casserole.

Cover and bake for 4 hours, or until the beef is very tender.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Sprinkle the dish with the chopped fresh parsley and cooked bacon.  Serve over hot boiled potatoes.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"The Quarter of Six Cookbook" (for Daylight Savings Time) - Ginzu Goulash (a/k/a American Chop Suey)

Date I made this recipe:  March 10, 2013 (Daylight Savings Time)

The Quarter Past Six Cookbook by Joanne Lamm
Published by:  Lamm-Morada Publishing Company
© 1982 – ISBN: 0-932128-03-3
Recipe:  Ginzu Goulash – p. 24

Like most Americans, I cannot fathom why on earth we switch to Daylight Savings time, especially since we lose an hour of sleep in the springtime, but it is so and no amount of endless chatting about it on the internet will make it otherwise.  Seriously, I have never seen so many articles on various media websites such as my local paper, CNN or even the HuffingtonPost discuss this topic.  Guess we must all be stuck in the winter doldrums with not much else going on.

Not that this shift to daylight savings time meant that we’d be getting more light in these parts because the view from my computer has looked the same all winter – gray and bleak.  The sun, when it appears to shine its light on us, is a rarity, almost making me question whether or not I am living in some alternate universe like The Twilight Zone.

At any rate, bleak weather aside, of course I had a “time” cookbook at my disposal and 24 pages in, I just had to – and I mean had to – make Ginzu Goulash to usher in Daylight Savings Time.  And I’m telling you right now, you will likely be underwhelmed, nay, even disappointed, for this is no culinary masterpiece but the name itself sold me and when I saw the ingredients for your basic American Chop Suey, there was no going back.

For those of you my age, not only will this recipe for chop suey – the American version – bring back all kinds of memories, but the recipe’s name – Ginzu – had me back in “Ron Popeil” land in about two seconds flat.

You all remember Ron, right?  Ron, the best hawker of cool crap you didn’t even know you needed, was famous for his 1970’s TV commercials in which he told you  “It slices, it dices, Just set it and forget it” and the always popular “But wait, there’s more,” encouraging you to stay tuned to see what extra items came with your product order.  Out of all the TV pitchmen at the time, Ron was the best and although he did not sell the infamous Ginsu knife, he invented, hawked and sold numerous other products under his company, Ronco.  (For all you New York City residents, every time I think of Ron I also think of Crazy Eddie - now THAT guy could sell electronics!)

So Ginzu (note the different spelling!) Goulash it was.  To make this, get out your can opener.  Be prepared for absolutely no flavor.  Serve it over rice because that’s what one does with bean sprouts, water chestnuts and mushrooms, and if you have a chance, get on YouTube to watch Ron’s hilarious commercials and take a trip down memory lane. (Right now I’m watching the commercial for Buttoneer – “a way to put buttons on, pleat drapes…” – hahahahahaha…..)

Ginzu Goulash – no serving size given – “Bring the mysterious East to your dinner table in the form of this sumptuous Chinese goulash.” (Ann’s Note: Chinese goulash???!)
1 pound hamburger meat
One 8-ounce can bean sprouts, drained
One 3-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
One 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
One 8-ounce can green beans, drained
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon onion salt (Ann’s Note:  you can also substitute garlic salt)
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Crumble and brown the hamburger in the skillet.  Drain grease.  Add all well-drained canned items plus onion salt and soy sauce.  Heat and serve.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"The 'I Love Garlic Cookbook" & "(Avon) The Active Woman's Cookbook" - Spiced Cheese Hamburgers and Deli Cole Slaw

Date I made these recipes:  March 9, 2013

The ‘I Love Garlic’ Cookbook by William I. Kaufman
Published by:  Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1967
Recipe:  Spiced Cheese Hamburgers – p. 83

(Avon’s) The Active Woman’s Cookbook by Avon Products, Inc.
Published by:  Ideals Publishing Corp. and Avon Products, Inc.
© 1980
Recipe:  Deli Cole Slaw – p. 15

Folks, today’s blog post is an example of the snowball effect where one idea leads to another that leads to another and so on and so on until before you know it, you have multiple dining themes going on.  Sadly, this is how my brain works these days which is to say in a permanent distracted state!

So let’s start with how and why I decided to make something from the garlic cookbook and how it snowballed from there.  For the past week or so, I felt like I was fighting a cold that would just not clear up (I now believe it was seasonal allergies) and after going to my front porch to pick up the mail, I spotted the garlic book on my bookshelf.  And this made me think of my dad, Mr. Wildlife Biologist, who constantly touted the amazing properties of garlic by saying “It’ll cure what ails you, including (intestinal) parasites.”

Now I imagine that many of you just had a nose-wrinkling experience on reading that in a food blog, but you have to understand how practical and just plain scientific my father was.  Although he could have, but did not, throw (scientific) Latin words around like candy in a parade, neither did he sugarcoat anything.  But let me also assure you that no child of Rose Marie Verme ever got within 10,000 miles of picking up an intestinal parasite except for the couple years my brother lived in Africa while in the Peace Corps.  That said, he was well-trained by both parents on how to conquer this beast and live to tell about it!

So anyway, I saw the garlic book and thought of dad and decided to try to kill off this “cold” (and/or critters) by making something from this book.  And then I remembered that today is the second anniversary of my dad’s passing and so what better way to pay homage than to make something from this book, specifically the burger recipe.

But I couldn’t just make something for dad without also honoring my mother who died five years ago on March 2nd.  (March is not a good month).  And just like that, I remembered my (Avon) The Active Woman’s Cookbook and right there, just a few pages in was a recipe my mom would have liked – Deli Cole Slaw – and that worked perfectly with “dad’s burgers.”  Although I didn’t start out to tie all these things together, I must say I am quite chuffed at how this all ended.

So first, let’s talk about the burgers.  Although my dad had quite the educated palate, he loved beef and the rarer, the better.  And he loved cheese and so I hit the jackpot with these blue-cheese stuffed “Spiced Cheese” burgers.  But rare beef (and by “rare” I mean “blue”) and my mother did not go together and so every time we had steak or burgers, the “battles” began and always ended the same:  my mother would “send” her burgers back to have my dad cook them longer and my dad would grumble that she was ruining the meat.  He, of course, saved his own piece for last, maybe broiling the top for 30 seconds, maybe not.  Nothing but nothing frustrated my father more than overcooked beef and going with him to a restaurant was always kind of a hoot:  “Are you sure you can cook it rare?  And I do mean rare because if you can’t do rare, then I don’t want it.”  And so many a server would go off and come back with what they or the chef thought was a rare piece of meat but not anywhere close to what my father had in mind and so there it was.  Being a good sport, he ate it anyway but then again, when you are raised during the Depression, you eat what’s in front of you, period.

The food battles though, did not stop with the beef and as the years went by, my dad often “accused” my mother of over-cooking the chicken which is to say drying it out because if my mom thought raw beef was bad, raw chicken was ten-times worse.  And I do have to agree with my mother on that point but there did come a time when she went a little too far and we ended up with a piece of chicken that just stuck in the throat it was so dry.  That said, nobody ever got sick in our house from parasites or other and that was because of my mother’s almost religious attention to cross-contamination details.  No cutting board was safe until my mother scrubbed the hell out of it with Comet and then washed it to death with dish soap and then rinsed it with scalding water.  My mother really should have been a rabbi ensuring that kosher kitchens were kept kosher but alas, her Catholicism got in the way of that endeavor.

Now I will tell you up front that my dad would not have been happy with the burgers we made in his honor but only because we cooked them a little longer than he would have to ensure that we got the cheese consistency that we wanted.  Sorry about that, dad.  And as to the garlic, the thing that surprised me most about this book was how little garlic was used in most of the recipes.  Many of the recipes called for just 1 clove of garlic which is fine except I was expecting at the bare minimum, a recipe for the now-famous chicken with 40 cloves of garlic recipe. Alas, I think most recipes had a three-clove maximum.  Do keep in mind though, that this book was written in 1967, well before we all got nutty in the kitchen with the 40-clove chicken recipes.

So that’s the saga of how I came to cook these burgers (“overcooked” or not, they were so good) for my dad.  Next up, I needed to find something for my mother and not only did I find just the right cookbook for her but the Deli Cole Slaw recipe was the perfect accompaniment to these burgers.  When we were growing up, my mother made cole slaw all the time but used Miracle Whip.  Yes, I know many you are shuddering as we speak but as I’ve said in this blog many times before, Miracle Whip was the thing to use in the 60’s and 70’s.  We were not mayonnaise people and even if we were, the fact that my mother discovered her family had high cholesterol meant that product would have been out on its ears in a heartbeat.  As it is, she likely would not have eaten “dad’s” blue cheese burger because cheese was evil.  (For the record, it is not but we’re talking about a woman who eventually eschewed all salad dressings in favor of cholesterol-free lemon wedges. Zzzzzzzzz…)

Given her cholesterol history and her German heritage, you would think that my mother would have made the classic deli oil and vinegar cole slaw like I’ve made today except you would be wrong.  I cannot recall a time – ever – when we ate this type of cole slaw and yet I prefer this recipe over anything with mayo or Miracle Whip.

If Miracle Whip was kind of a kitchen staple in the 60’s and 70’s so, kids, was the presence of the “Avon lady.”  I am willing to bet that most of us who grew up during these eras knew of at least one person who sold Avon products door to door.  My mother had several friends who were Avon ladies, and I tell you what, I could not wait for their visits.  They came to the door bearing this big black box full of little miniature products like mini lipsticks and little tubes of lotions to try out and oh my, did we try them out!  My home town had a few department stores but none of them carried makeup and so when the Avon lady came calling, that was it - that was your chance to get on the makeup bandwagon or suffer going without.  (By the way, remember the Avon commercials from the 70’s?   A woman rang the doorbell and the catchphrase was [Ding, Dong] “Avon calling!”)

Over the years, Avon got creative with products and so we had candles and jewelry and of course, the oh-so-famous “Skin So Soft” which my mother loved and which she bought by the boatloads, gifting relatives far and wide.  (It keeps away mosquitoes).  But I had no idea until just recently that Avon published a cookbook; don’t know how this escaped my attention but it did.  And I have to tell you that although I found this book at Arc’s Value Village Thrift Stores for all of $.99 and it was sold hermetically sealed in plastic, the book smells of…an Avon product.  I don’t know how they did that but I’ve had to air it out on my front porch.

So there we go – my mother was a fan of Avon and my mother was an “active woman” making this cookbook a good fit to honor her memory.  But I didn’t always see my mother as an active woman.  Mom was stay-at-home mom of two kids with (to me) so much time on her hands that for the life of me, I could not figure out why she was always so tired.  In fact, I was not alone in asking my mother “Just what did you do all day?” after coming home from school.  You can chalk that question up to the times as well:  the women’s movement picked up speed in the 70’s causing many a young girl like me to question just why a mom with kids in school with (according to us) nothing to do all day could be so tired.  We were silly and uninformed and let’s just leave it at that.

So let me fill you in - in addition to all the household chores my mother did, she was very active in our lives and so I submit to you just a small list of my mother’s activities:  She was a Brownie, Girl Scout and Cub Scout troop leader for many years.  She served two terms as president of the Women’s Hospital Auxiliary and many more years as a board member.  She was very active in St. Bridget’s Circle (part of St. Anthony’s Guild) at our local Catholic church and my dad used to tease her endlessly about all the work she and her buddies did getting ready for the annual church (“bizarre” as dad called it) bazaar.  She went door to door to collect money for every nonprofit on the planet and after being diagnosed with breast cancer, went all in to try to fundraise for that group; she also did one-on-one counseling with other breast cancer survivors.  This was all in addition to driving me and my brother to endless appointments and after-school activities.  And yet, sad to say, it took me years into adulthood before I appreciated that my mother was one “active” woman. 

And so—I married (pun intended) dad’s burgers with mom’s active woman cole slaw and all was well with the world.  Following in my mother’s footsteps, I prepped all the food but then had my husband, Andy, substitute for my dad in the kitchen to make the burgers.  It’s not that I couldn’t do it, I just chose, for one brief moment, to honor a very traditional married couple by taking on traditional kitchen roles.  I think my parents would have laughed although for sure dad would have said that the burgers were overcooked and mom would have said they were just perfect.  And they were a bit of both but we didn’t care.  Enjoy!

Spiced Cheese Hamburgers – Yield:  6 servings
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef (chuck)
¾ cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Roquefort cheese (crumbled or sliced)
6 hamburger buns

Combined first six ingredients.  Shape into 12 thin patties, 4 inches in diameter.  Place 1 ½ teaspoons crumbled (or sliced) Roquefort cheese in the center of six of the patties.  Cover with remaining patties, pressing edges together well to keep cheese in place. 

Brown on both sides in a hot, greased heavy skillet or over a slow-burning charcoal fire.  Serve between warm, split buttered hamburger buns.

Deli Cole Slaw – serves 8 to 10 (Ann’s Note:  I bought a 10-ounce bag of shredded cabbage and then adjusted the seasonings accordingly.  That yield should serve 4 people.)
3 pounds cabbage, shredded
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper chopped or sliced
1 cup vinegar
1 cup safflower oil (Ann’s Note:  you can substitute corn or canola oil)
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combined vinegar, oil, celery seed and salt; bring to a boil.  Stir in the sugar. (Ann’s Note:  the recipe doesn’t say but you should remove the mixture once it boils, then add the sugar and keep it off the stove – it’s done!).  Combined cabbage, onion and green pepper in a bowl.  Pour dressing over and refrigerate up to 3 weeks if necessary.  Serves 8 to 10.

Friday, March 1, 2013

"The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook" - Jambalaya

Date I made this recipe:  February 24, 2013 (Academy Award night)

The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook by Deidre Stanforth
Published by:  Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1967
Recipe:  Jambalaya (from Dunbar’s restaurant) – p. 171-172

My friend, David, recently went to New Orleans to present a paper at a conference.  When he mentioned this trip on Facebook, he was inundated with well-meaning individuals like me who couldn’t wait to offer up suggestions on where to eat and drink.  I think we scared the guy.

Sure, there are things to see and do in New Orleans but let’s get real here:  there’s eating and there’s drinking and there’s eating and drinking.  And that pretty much summarizes the New Orleans’ experience.  And okay, there’s music but usually there’s eating and/or drinking involved in listening to music.  And this is as it should be.

Although it has been a long time since I’ve visited, many New Orleans restaurants that I visited on my last trip (and first trip many moons ago) survived Hurricane Katrina and/or rehabbed to reopen years later.  I had to chuckle that one of my favorite restaurants on the last trip, Mother’s on Poydras, became an instant hit with celebrities like Beyonce and Martha Stewart during the 2013 Super Bowl played in New Orleans.  Good to know that Beyonce and Martha recognize that I know what’s going on when it comes to food.

This book is fun because it gives the history of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants as well as exterior and interior photos.  The next time I’m in New Orleans, I should bring the book with me to compare and contrast and to see what’s changed.  Luckily for you and me, while interiors may change, food in New Orleans does not and so the restaurant recipes listed in this cookbook are likely what I will get on my next visit:  cooking traditions are sacred in The Big Easy.

Restaurants featured in this book are:  Antoine’s; Arnaud’s; Brennan’s; Galatoire’s; Dunbar’s; Pontchartrain Hotel; Commander’s and Masson’s.  There’s also a photo of the gate outside Pat O’Brien’s and I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about Pat O’Briens, namely “Stay away from the Hurricane [drink]!”  I drink martinis and love scotch and brandy and whiskey and whatnot and so felt that I was prepared for another high-test drink but folks, I was wrong, wrong, oh-so-wrong!  A Hurricane is one of the drinks that I usually avoid for what should be obvious reasons – it contains several shots of booze (rum) and a fruity punch so of course it tastes way too good going down and it about knocked me on my ass!  So I was cheered to see that a friend of mine had about the same thing to say about a Mojito she just had in Miami.  I’m going to blame both our debacles on the fact that both drinks contain rum.  Bad rum, bad!!

Anyway, New Orleans is known for its oysters and there were plenty of recipes for oysters in the book but after an oyster incident this summer (that did not go well), I stuck with a favorite, Jambalaya.  Jambalaya combines shrimp, ham, rice, the “holy trinity” of onions, celery and peppers along with tomatoes and a few spices.  You can hardly go wrong with this recipe and I did not, in fact, go wrong and we were happy campers.  Because I was so behind on recognizing events like Mardi Gras, I made half of this recipe and then half of my Oscar night dinner’s pasta recipe on the same night and it was all good, plus we have delicious leftovers.

I have not had a chance to talk to David about his dining excursions in New Orleans except to warn him in advance not to take the easy way out and eat in his hotel.  So I hope he did as some of us suggested and just tiptoe into the cuisine by at least going to CafĂ© du Monde and Central Grocery for a few bits of glorious food.  For my money, if you only hit those two places, you will have experienced New Orleans; anything you do after that – food-wise – is just gravy.  (Yes, pun intended.)

Jambalaya – serves 8 (We made half)
2 onions, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 can tomatoes
½ can tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
2 pieces celery, chopped
¼ bell (green) pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
½ teaspoon thyme
3 cloves, chopped (Ann’s Note: you ever try to chop a whole clove?  This instruction puzzled.)
1 pound boiled ham, diced
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and boiled
3 cups cooked rice
Salt, pepper and cayenne

SautĂ© onions in butter 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add garlic, celery, bell pepper, parsley, thyme and closes.  Cook 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in ham and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in shrimp and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in rice, season to taste, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often.  Serves 8.

Author’s Note:  Jambalaya makes a good main dish for supper served with salad and corn bread.  It can also be served as a vegetable, decreasing the amount of ham and shrimp.  Although jambalaya is a leftover dish itself (its name is said to mean “clean up the kitchen” – and any odd bits of meat, chicken or seafood can be added), leftover jambalaya makes a good stuffing for peppers.