Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

The missing indexes—Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

Whoever decided that cookbooks don’t need indexes was never stuck hungry at one o’clock in the morning with nothing but a pepper, a tomato, and a couple of cloves of garlic.

St. Mary’s Altar Society Cookbooks—Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

Update 2: The index is now available on Amazon, and it looks great.

Update: I’ve added an index by book, in case you only have one or two of the books.

I’ve been toying with making an index for a few of my index-less or basically index-less cookbooks for a while. Last week I decided these church spirals would be a good choice to try it out and see how much work it is, and whether it’s useful. One of them has no index, and the other two have indexes that are in page order rather than alphabetical.

St. Mary’s Missing Index (PDF File, 1.7 MB)

I came up with a system that helps me type recipe titles, pages, chapters, and authors quickly, but while the system for putting the index together is automated, the actual typing of recipe titles and author names was me, by hand. With thanks to Mrs. Bischoff. Her typing class was probably the most useful class I took in high school. The ability to type without looking at the keyboard—or even the screen—has been extraordinarily useful as a programmer.

I’ve tried to fix any obvious typos of mine, but scanning through pages and pages of names tends to dull the senses, and spellcheck doesn’t work well on names. If you see anything I ought to fix, let me know in the feedback, or in the comments of the social media site where you saw me post this link.

There are of course also typos that were in the original. I can, for example, make simple changes to people’s names that don’t harm the ability to find the recipe on the page. If it turns out that Delores Dougan and Dolores Dougan are the same person, I can change the incorrect spelling for the correct one in the source file.

As an aside, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to put something like this together in the day before personal computers were easy to use. I used a combination of Perl, Python, and Nisus’s macro language to put this index together. The latest of these books were published three years before the first Macintosh came out!

This project is completely unofficial and independent of the Altar Society; I did it for myself, and am making it public in case others have use for it too. The index includes only three cookbooks; I’m not aware that the St. Mary’s Altar Society in our area did any others, and in any case these are the only ones I have.

America’s Bicentennial Cookbook1976

Commemorating 25 Years of St. Michael’s School, Brunswick1981

Hesperia Community Kitchens Presents1981
Lemon icebox pie for Pi Day—Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

I was in Chattanooga last year and happened upon a little place called Zarzour’s. Their dessert special for the day was lemon icebox pie. I haven’t had icebox pie for decades; it was even better than I remembered it, so of course I searched out a good recipe once I returned home.

I found a great one in Betty Crocker’s New Dinner for Two Cook Book. This is a really nice general-purpose cookbook designed literally for the life of the reader.

If you are a bride, a business girl, career wife, or a mother whose children are away from home—this book is for you.

The final chapter highlights how long people were expected to maintain a library. They could expect to use this cookbook both at the beginning of their family and for cooking for two after “your family is grown and has gone away” and “you face the task of learning again to cook for two.”

The first recipe I made from it is a salisbury steak recipe much like mom used to make. It’s a great book for cooking for one, as well, and focuses not just on small meals but on dishes that can be saved for later, such as… frozen lemon pie.

Sealing the bread slice guide—Wednesday, January 29th, 2020
Side view of bread slice guide

The original, without mineral oil.

My scrap wood bread slicing guide had only one problem: I didn’t know how to protect it or stain it. In the comments, Charles the Simple suggested:

…common mineral oil will seal your slicer. Available at any drug store, just wipe on when necessary.

I got some cheap mineral oil from Walmart—their store brand—and wiped it on several times over several days letting it soak into the wood after each application. The wood, as you can see in the photos, looks nicer now than in the original. In fact, the after-photo doesn’t do it justice. It looks a lot nicer than it used to; I am not a professional photographer (as any reader of this blog is painfully aware) and cannot get the photo to look like the real thing.

I wiped it on by pouring a little oil on the wood, and then spreading it using a paper towel; when done, I used another paper towel to wipe away any obvious excess. Even after wiping the excess away, the wood does make the wood feel oily until it soaks in. It takes a day or two after each application for the wood to start feeling normal again. I did not use the guide for slicing until then, because I didn’t want any bread to soak up mineral oil. While drug-store mineral oil is labeled as safe to eat, it’s usually found in the laxative section. I enjoy whole-grain breads but I don’t need to enhance that aspect of it.

While the main purpose of the mineral oil is sealing the wood— protecting the wood against humidity in the air and from any water in the breads I slice on it—it also highlights the wood grain. It resembles a very light stain. Every once in a while I put more on—just as I would with a wooden breadboard or rolling pin—and every time I do it gets better looking. So if beauty is truth, then this is a necessary step in making a bread slice guide.

Roast beef for National Sandwich Day—Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Sunday is National Sandwich Day. So far I’ve been focusing on breads for National Sandwich Day, but what’s a sandwich without something to go between? A good sliceable roast beef is high sandwich cuisine, and I’ve recently discovered a great, simple recipe for it using what is (for now, anyway) a reasonably priced cut, sirloin tip.

This recipe is attributed to Mrs. M. H. Webber of Seabrook, Texas, in the Holiday volume of the Southern Living Cookbook Library. It is a very simple recipe and produces great results. The first time I made it, I overcooked the roast and it was still amazing.

After an hour and a half I check the temperature, and as long as it’s 160° in the center, it’s done.

Roast beef is a hearty flavor, and can handle a hearty bread. In this case, I’m using a seeded rye from the fourth volume of Donna Rathmell German’s Bread Machine cookbook series. If you don’t have it, any rye will do; the seeds are anise and fennel in addition to the caraway that is probably already in your rye recipe.

They say in the Mediterranean that the best accompaniment to a meal is the wine that was grown near to the ingredients. As you can see in the photo, the perfect accompaniment to this sandwich is cheap Texas beer. Happy eating!

Brandywine beef

The first time I made this, I overcooked it to about 190 degrees. It was still amazing. There’s a lot to be said for recipes that are difficult to screw up.

Roast Beef Sandwich

Mustard, tomato, jalapeño, red onion, roast beef, red bell pepper, cheddar cheese on seeded rye.

Dominion Electric Corporation Wafflemaker Manual—Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

I have never been a fan of single-purpose kitchen tools. They take up space and are only used on that rare occasion when their purpose comes into play. Waffle irons are no different. If I want a waffle, I figured, I could just go out and have someone else make me one. Why would I want to use space in my kitchen for an appliance I’m literally only going to use when I want to make waffles?

Then I saw this beautiful old waffle-maker at the local antique mall, for $5, marked “works” and I couldn’t resist. It makes small waffles—about 4 ½ by 5 ¼ inches, just right for a moderate breakfast—and two at a time. It’s the perfect waffle maker.

There was only one problem: each side uses its own plug, and the waffle maker only came with one cord with one plug. This meant only making one waffle at a time. So I started haunting eBay for an extra cord.1 I discovered that there are a lot of these waffle makers out there, and sellers have a very inflated sense of what they’re worth. They usually list for far more than $5 (especially with shipping added in) and they literally never sell.

As I started to use the waffle maker, I discovered another problem. It seems like a simple thing to use a waffle maker, but in practice it isn’t. Do I need to grease the iron? That seemed to make more of a mess than people would be willing to put up with. The gauge on the top of the irons goes from low, to bake, to hot. Which do I wait for when making waffles? It seems like I’d want it to be hot, but then what is bake for?

At which point I noticed something else about the Dominion waffle irons on eBay. None of them come with manuals or instructions. A detailed search of the Internet and there are no reproductions of the manual either.

The only Dominion waffle maker I’ve ever seen bid on, I bid on. Because it came with the manual (and it was only about $20 with shipping). Even then, with photos of the manual, doing a search on the title of the manual still comes up with nothing. Since it’s a short manual, and it has very useful information, I figured I’d reproduce it. The full title is Directions for Operating Waffle Iron and Tested Recipes (PDF File, 81.2 KB).

Perfect lemon pie for Pi Day—Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
Whole perfect lemon pie

Meringue is perfect for pi day because it’s all about the volume.

Tomorrow is Pi Day, and to celebrate, you should have erudite circular discussions of mathematical philosophy, over a sector of pie. I’m generally partial to fruit pies or nut pies, but every once in a while I have a craving for a good lemon meringue.

Until recently, custards have always bedeviled me. I never seem to cook them long enough, no matter how long I wait. Because of my impatience, the custard ends up too runny or burnt. I’ve been doing a lot better lately, and mainly because of the incredible Southern Living Cookbook Library series. The Holiday volume has an amazing almond-silk pie, for example. The Food & Wine series has also been helpful—you can see the edge of their annual collection in the previous post but I’ll have more about that later.

So when I saw that this lemon meringue pie from the Fondue and Buffet volume of the series was labeled Perfect Lemon Meringue, it was impossible to pass up even if the name does seem guaranteed to disappoint. What in this world is perfect? This pie comes close. It is in fact very easy. And it is easily the best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever made. It manages to make the dangerous part of lemon pie, the filling, easier, at least for me.

National Sandwich Day: Do-it-yourself bread slice guide—Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Owning a bread machine means slicing my own bread. There’s a reason “best thing since sliced bread” became a popular saying. It’s very hard to get evenly sliced bread the same width at the top as the bottom. This is especially true for people who can’t draw a straight line to save their life—like me.

There are a lot of bread slicing guides available on Amazon and other places, and the reviews for all of them seem to be all over the map. It occurred to me that making one by hand shouldn’t be too hard, and I could do it with scrap wood left over from making bookshelves.

Mine consists of five parts—five pieces of wood, plus, of course, however many nails you feel necessary. I measured the width of a loaf from my bread machine, and that became the width of the inner part of the slicing guide. Since the scrap wood was ¾-inch thick and the slicing guide has two walls, the width of the base was the width of a loaf of bread plus twice that, that is, plus 1 ½ inches.1

The space for the guide is the width of my electric carving knife blade. The two sets of walls are that distance from each other. Something you can’t easily see in the photos is that I’ve also sliced a guide partly through the base, about an eighth of an inch deep and the same width as the blade. This allows the knife to go below the bottom of the bread without wearing itself out on the wooden base. I did this by raising the blade on the table saw only about an eighth of an inch, and cutting a groove through the base that way.2

I have neither dyed nor lacquered the wood, because I haven’t found a wood dye or lacquer that I trust to be food-safe. Or which a clumsy woodworker (me) isn’t likely to screw up. The general advice for staining wood to be used on food is to use stain and then seal it to keep the non-food-safe stain out. But that doesn't seem to me to work when you’re using a blade that is going to cut through the lacquer. In this case, it seems to me that an electric carving knife is likely to break through any lacquer or laminate.

The wood needs to be cut into five parts. I used scrap leftover from 7 ¼-inch wide boards.

  • (1) base: 6 ¼ inches wide by 16 inches long with a groove at 10 inches.
  • (2) loaf-side walls: 6 inches long by 7 ¼ inches tall.
  • (2) slice-side walls: 3 ½ inches long by 7 ¼ inches tall.

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