- The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking—Tuesday, December 27th, 2016
The cover of The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking has radishes, sugar-covered filled donuts, what look like cinnamon rolls, green beans with, I think, ham, and some sort of a corn stew.
The author’s photo on the back has Edna Eby Heller wearing very familiar glasses: I remember them from the high school photos on the walls of my mom’s high school, from the year my mom graduated.
This looks, in other words, to be a very good old-school Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook. Lots of good thick vegetable soups, cream of vegetable soups, pea soup, and so on. And recipes with amazing names like hog maw, scrapple, hex waffles, and snavely sticks. And also recipes with names like schmierkase, boova shenkel, kasha kucha, and gschmelzte nudle.
Probably my favorite recipe in here is the cinnamon drop, which is very easy to make. It’s basically a very simple cake sprinkled with brown sugar and butter so that, when cooked, the middle “drops”, making a sweet, chewy, semi-crunchy cake.
I’d like to try the rhubarb upside-down cake. It sounds like it’s going to be caramelized rhubarb with cake on top, like a pineapple upside-down cake but better! Unfortunately I can’t find rhubarb around here. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in stores; growing up in Michigan, it was always traded by housewives, who grew it around the house.
I’m still looking forward to potato soup, peas and dumplings onion pie… and Montgomery pie, which is “a lemon-flavored molasses custard with a cake-like top”.
I can’t say whether the recipes are authentic or not, but they are certainly good. If you’re looking to add a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook, I’d take a look at The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking.
- Tomato-cucumber sandwich on sweet bread—Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
This sandwich works best with a bread made from sweet dough, a yeasted white flour loaf made with eggs and extra sugar. I like to use a Syrian-style anise bread with mahleb, but any sandwich bread will do, especially breads like the Portuguese sweet bread from the The Bread Machine Cookbook.
Don’t skimp on the butter, do skimp on the salt, since you’re putting it on twice, and raise a toast (pun intended) to National Sandwich Day!
You’ll most likely have slices left over from the tomato and cucumber, so put them on the side with salt or salt and pepper, as you prefer. Drink with iced tea or some other not-particularly-sweet beverage, and relax.
I’ve been fascinated by cucumber sandwiches ever since reading The Importance of Being Earnest, and while this is nothing like that, I did have the urge to make a cucumber-focused sandwich after having some left over from a Lebanese garlic-tomato-cucumber salad. This is pretty much that salad (minus the lemon and olive oil, plus butter) on toast.
- In a Persian Kitchen—Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
- Hot yogurt soup, from page 38
- Eggplant sauce with chicken, from page 90
- Yogurt & curry sauce chicken, from page 101
- Spinach orange sauce chicken, from page 104
And I haven’t even tried all the recipes that I want to try. This is the cookbook that convinced me not to remove the skin from eggplant.
There’s an amazing-looking squash stew with nutmeg and beef, a peach stew with paprika and chicken that looks like the food of the gods, and many, many more. There are a lot of lemons, limes, and other fruit, and a lot of wonderful spices.
Maideh Mazda was initially raised Persian in Baku, Azerbaijan, back when it was part of the Soviet Union, and returned to Persia when she was still a child. She talks a little about her experiences, but not much; most of the book is filled with wonderful recipes. There are appetizers, soups, stuffed vegetables and fruits, pilafs, sauces for pilafs, egg casseroles, specifically meat dishes, desserts, and salads.
The sauces are basically stews, and have so far been uniformly amazing. Most of the recipes contain beef, lamb, or chicken; the “meat and fowl” section focuses on kababs and meatball-like recipes.
You can pretty much open the book at random and find something enticing and amazing. I just tried it and found a stuffed apple; the apples are stuffed with yellow split peas, ground beef, cinnamon, and so forth. This is one of my favorite cookbooks and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
- Popular Greek Recipes—Tuesday, April 19th, 2016
From the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society of Charleston, South Carolina, this comb-bound cookbook of Popular Greek Recipes is worth taking a look at even if you normally skip such organizational or regional collections. According to the copyright page, they first published this collection in 1957, it was revised in 1965, and my copy is from the sixth printing in 1970.
I picked my copy up last year at Half Price Books’s annual sale—the same one where I picked up the O’Donnell Angel Food Cookbook and I’ve been slowly going through it. My first attempt was Skordalia, a potato-garlic sauce. I made the mistake beating it with a food processor instead of an electric mixer as the recipe calls for, and ended up with potato goo. Until then, I didn’t know you could overblend potatoes!
After leaving enough time to forget what potato goo tasted like, I tried again, and it’s a great mix. Technically, it’s a sauce, but it’s very good on its own, and even fried into potato patties.
My real favorite recipe from this collection, however, is the rice pudding. This is a creamy, easy-to-make pudding that I’m already getting hungry for just writing about it. It requires standing over the stove for about fifteen minutes, but the result is worth it and I haven’t managed to screw it up yet. I have long been a fan of rice pudding, but my own attempts have been either grainy or runny. This version “cheats” with corn starch, but the result is very much like the rice pudding I used to pick up at Trader Joe’s.
There are also, of course, various stuffed vegetables such as stuffed grape leaves or cabbage, rice dishes such as lamb pilaf, filo candies such as baklava, seragli, and cigaretta. And there is a special section for Greek Lenten foods, which are interesting because the Greek Orthodox Lenten fast is stricter than the Catholic fast I’m used to: some days mean no fish as well as no meat, for example. But,
For occasions other than Lent, most of these foods may be prepared with butter and served with roasts and chops.
There are lots of meat dishes, such as an interesting pot roast where the sauce is used with spaghetti; as a fan of feta cheese, I’m looking forward to trying Chicken with feta stuffing. Many of the stews require “cooking slowly” for one to three hours—they would be perfect for a crockpot.
I keep this cookbook on the short shelf where it’s easy to reach. If you like Greek food, you should definitely take a look.
- Bread machine ka’ick—Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
On our bread machine, I use the medium-size loaf setting (2 lbs), the light crust setting, and the sweet bread setting.
- The Art of Syrian Cookery—Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
This 1962 book is subtitled “A Culinary Trip to the Land of Bible History—Syria and Lebanon”. The author, Helen Corey, is a member of the Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Church in the United States. The cookbook contains a letter of recommendation from then-Archbishop Antony Bashir of Brooklyn. The recipes are from Corey’s mother, who came from Syria and ended up in Ohio. As such, they are relatively easy to find ingredients for.
There are a lot of good recipes for eggplant in here, and that’s initially the reason I bought it. It’s hard to have enough eggplant options. Some of them are easy to make. The first recipe I made from this book was an eggplant stew with just eggplant, onion, tomato, and chicken. The recipe calls for lamb, but even with the chicken substitution it was very good. I also used the crockpot to start this recipe before going to Mass—it was a great crockpot recipe.
There are a lot of lamb recipes here, and a lot of yogurt recipes. One of my bookmarked recipes is an interesting batinjan infasakh eggplant with yogurt recipe that is basically just eggplant, olive oil, yogurt, and garlic. The khyar mi laban that I’ve reproduced here is another one I’m looking forward to.
The hardest ingredient for me to find has been crushed black cherry pit, or mahleb. You may find it spelled in various ways, such as mahlab, which is how I found it at the local Indo-Pack “Supermarket”. It seems a bit rare—I had to ask about it; the clerk initially didn’t think they had any (or even know what it was) but he found it in both powdered and seed form behind the counter.1
If you don’t find it right away, keep looking. It turns the Ka’ick into an amazing and unique bread. Note that I think there’s a typo in the recipe, however, as when I first made it it was mostly mush. It calls for one quart of milk; I suspect that it really needs one cup of milk.2 There’s a black-and-white photo of what the bread is supposed to look like, and I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible for that recipe to produce that bread. But once fixed, this is an amazing sandwich bread as well as flat bread.
- Lebanese Cuisine—Tuesday, February 16th, 2016
Ever since I discovered the amazing Zankou Chicken in Los Angeles, I’ve been on the lookout for a good Lebanese or Armenian cookbook1. When I ran across Lebanese Cuisine at Twice-Sold Tales and saw how much eggplant and garlic it uses, it was a no-brainer to pick it up. It’s always hard to tell how good a spiral-bound cookbook is going to be, but it seemed hard to go wrong with these recipes. They seemed simple enough and different enough to make the cookbook worth it.
After using several of the recipes, I’m very glad I bought it.
So far I’ve found two new favorites in it: a garlic sauce that rivals Zankou Chicken’s, and a simple tomato salad that also inspires my new favorite sandwich. Slatat al-Banadura is nothing more than tomato salad, but the combination of ingredients—garlic, lemon juice, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, olive oil—is the best simple salad I’ve ever made. And the Tum biz-Zayt, a garlic sauce with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt is probably going to end up being the most common sauce I’ll be using on steak, chicken, and pork. It’s a snap to make. And I have a suspicion that if I switched out half of the olive oil for chicken fat, I’d have Zankou Chicken’s garlic spread.
There’s an interesting idea for “tabbuli” that uses cinnamon, a potato-ground lamb casserole that also uses pepper, cinnamon, and allspice, and some very nice zucchini dishes. There are also several desserts, from cookies to crescents, that use mahlab, a Middle-Eastern spice I’ve only recently discovered from The Art of Syrian Cookery.
I’m probably going to skip the brain and lamb tongue, but Lebanese Cuisine is filled with some great ideas for eggplant, garbanzo beans, lentils, and lamb. I expect to be using this cookbook a lot, and it’s going to be a long time before I run through all of the recipes I want to try. It’s one of the rare cookbooks where I don’t even bother to bookmark the recipes that interest me, because they all interest me.
- Southern Living Cookbook for Two—Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
I’m not sure, but I think I see far more cookbooks for one than for two, whether it’s for the college student or the apartment-dweller, or bachelor. The only other cookbook for two I can think of off-hand is the lost-in-its-era Saucepans and the Single Girl, which is not really focused on cooking for two but on cooking for one: the date a woman wishes to turn into a husband. That there should also be enough food for the woman is mostly afterthought.
In Southern Living’s Cookbook for Two, Audrey P. Stehle makes a genuinely good stab at rewriting good recipes from their normal four to six or six to eight into recipes that work well for a couple, without leftovers. I’d say that the book was ahead of its time, but it’s probably destined forever to be a book in search of a market. The mass of couples today don’t seem to be saving until they’re no longer a couple, but use their excess income to eat out, not cook. And this is a real cookbook: you still need a full kitchen to use it, with a full complement of cooking equipment: a double boiler, a roasting pan, pastry pans, muffin pans, hand blender, and so on.
Converting good recipes into recipes for two that don’t involve leftovers or splitting ingredients such as eggs in half is hard work, but when it works it’s pretty impressive. Earlier this week I made some Greek avgolemono soup. It wasn’t bad; it could have been better, but that would have meant putting chicken into it as well, and that would have meant using more ingredients—such as chicken—that would have meant some leftovers.
And in its defense, I both enjoyed it and it was by far the easiest avgolemono soup recipe I’ve ever seen.
On Sunday I made some Italian custard with fruit. Making custard to put over fruit for two people means using all of two egg yolks. Using a handheld blender on two egg yolks in a double boiler is very much scraping the bottom of the pan! Perhaps this is why the recipe goes heavy on the Grand Marnier. But it turned out great, especially since I flipped ahead in the book and used the two egg whites to make some meringue in the toaster oven. The meringue was meant for coconut meringue pie, but laying it half on top of the fruit custard worked very well.