July 14, 2015
I've been reading through the July issues in the box of old magazines that arrived yesterday, a bit surprised by the lack of strict seasonality. July 1971, for instance, has an insane recipe from the Troisgros brothers for a Gratin Forezien containing a pound of potatoes and more than two cups of cream. That issue also has ham with port and mushroom sauce, a cranberry soup (cranberries in July?) and a lamb and cabbage casserole. (There is also, I must admit, a long and splendid James Beard article simply entitled "Fruits.")
July 1978, however, is so extremely seasonal it was difficult to choose a single recipe. So I'm offering a few of the interesting (given the date) recipes from the centerfold picnic. Hummus. Ceviche. And this rather mad stuffed celery.
Here's that celery:
And for good measure, here's the magazine's recipe for scallop seviche. What intrigues me is the inclusion of fresh coriander – cilantro – in a 1978 recipe. It was, for the time, an extremely arcane ingredient. I'd never even seen fresh cilantro until I moved to California in 1973, and I'd bet that most people on the east coast had never even heard of it.
July 13, 2015
A carton has just arrived on my doorstep. When I opened it I discovered that the wonderful people at Mclean & Eakin, a truly great bookstore in Petoskey, Michigan, had sent me armfuls of old Gourmet Magazines. I can hardly think of a better way to spend the morning.
I started with this issue, from July of 1958. There are some fantastic articles in here, including a memoir by Lillian Langseth-Christensen (one of our best writers on Viennese food), and a lobster primer by Louis Diat, Gourmet's resident chef (in a previous life he was the creator of Vichysoisse).
There are also a few risible moments in the issue. A reader writes to beg for a recipe for garlic soup, which he enjoyed in Madrid and the editors respond by telling him to brown 4 cloves of garlic in olive oil, add 2 quarts of hot stock and boil for 5 minutes. He is then to add 6 slices of toasted bread until it is soaked. Then – this is the good part – he is meant to remove the garlic. After that he divides the broth-soaked toast between 6 bowls and tops each with a poached egg. In the fifties Americans were very, very afraid of garlic.
More to my liking is this very lovely recipe for cold watercress soup. Perfect for this sultry summer day. (I'm planning to use small onions – we're experiencing a moment of serious onion inflation – and put it all into the food processor instead of a sieve. Times change. )
Just for fun, I'm throwing in the back cover. Miss Rheingold was a great New York fixture; when I was small the candidates' photos were posted in the subway, and we all got to vote. It was, for me, one of the highlights of riding the IRT.
July 8, 2015
Someone recently asked me to list favorite cookbooks, and this is the first one that came to mind.
Edouard de Pomiane was a scientist, a writer and one of the world's greatest demystifiers of the cooking process. He was also, at least judging from his writing and radio programs, a fascinating man with a wicked sense of humor. I'm sorry so few of his books have been translated into English.
Cooking in Ten Minutes is pretty much the opposite of its American counterpart, The I Hate to Cook Book. Pomiane shows you how to make good food from fresh ingredients in very little time with a minimum of fuss. Among his more useful ideas is the notion of boiling potatoes when you have the time to do it and leaving them in the refrigerator. When hunger hits he has a number of suggestions for fast recipes that use them.
Reading Pomiane is always a joy. I recently came upon this little gem, which I plan to serve tonight for dinner.
De Pomiane’s Tomates a la Creme
Take 6 tomatoes. Cut them in halves. Melt a lump of butter in a frying pan, put in the tomatoes, cut side down, and puncture the tops with a sharp knife. Let them cook for 5 minutes.
Turn them over, and sprinkle with salt and cook for ten more minutes. Turn them again so that the juice spread through the pan. Turn the tomatoes cut side up again.
Add 3 ounces of heavy cream. Mix it with the juices. As soon as it bubbles, slip the tomatoes and the sauce into a hot dish. Serve very hot.
If you're interested in de Pomiane, you'll also want to know about this book, Cooking with Pomiane, with its great introduction by Elizabeth David.
July 6, 2015
If there's a cheese that's easier to love than aged Gouda, I have yet to encounter it. It has such a sweet seductive flavor and soft fudgy texture that it practically purrs. This L'Amuse Signature Gouda is hand-aged by affineur Betty Koster in her cheese shop in Santpoort-Noord.
Think butterscotch, think caramel, think irresistible. It has a resonant flavor that goes on and on, echoing long after the cheese itself has vanished. I have never met anyone who didn't like it.
Incidentally, if you were in Holland you'd pronounce this cheese HOWda.
July 2, 2015
These days when I ask Michael what he wants for dinner he's most likely to say "that Chinese pasta please."
I'm always happy to oblige. This is just about the easiest meal I make – and if you're the sort of person who finds yourself ordering in from Chinese restaurants, you should become acquainted. The ingredients are easy to keep on hand, and if you've got some pork in the freezer, you can have dinner on the table long before the delivery man would ring the bell. Ten minutes at most.
Here's the recipe:
Spicy Pork Chinese Noodles
Cook a half pound of Chinese noodles (in a pinch use dried egg noodles or spaghetti) until al dente, drain, toss with a bit of peanut oil and set aside.
Mince fresh, peeled ginger until you have a couple of tablespoons (it should be about a 2 inch long piece).
Chop 2 scallions.
Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar into 2 1/2 tablespoons of Chinese hot bean paste with garlic. Michael doesn't like food very spicy, so I substitute a tablespoon of plain bean paste for some of the hotter stuff. Set aside.
Heat a wok until a drop of water skitters across the surface. Add a tablespoon of oil, toss in the ginger and stir fry for about half a minute, until the fragrance is hovering over the wok.
Add a half pound of ground pork and stir fry until all traces of pink have disappeared. Add the bean sauce mixture and a splash of water; cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
Stir in the scallions and noodles, and quickly toss. Add a drop of sesame oil and turn out onto a platter.
I've had this strange craving for squid lately, so when I saw some in the market yesterday, I pounced upon it. At home I made this easy pasta, adapted from Bruce Cost's Big Bowl cookbook. Together, the two noodle dishes made an extremely satisfying meal.
Noodles with Squid and Black Beans
1/2 pound squid
1/2 pound Chinese noodles
3 tablespoons chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
4 tablespoons shredded ginger
4 sliced scallions
1 jalapeno, shredded
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons fermented soy beans (Chinese salted black beans)
2 tablespoons dry sherry
splash sesame oil
Separate the squid into tentacles and bodies, and cut the bodies into 1 inch rings. Toss them into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, then rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, rinse again and set aside.
Cook the Chinese noodles for about 3 minutes. (Again, if you can't find Chinese noodles, plain spaghetti or egg noodles can step in.) Drain, refresh with cold water, then toss them with a teaspoon of oil and set aside.
Mix chicken stock, salt, sugar, oyster sauce and light soy. Set aside.
Heat a wok or heavy saute pan. Slick with oil. Add the ginger, scallions, chile pepper, garlic and black beans. Stir until fragrant. Add the liquid mixture and cook for a minute. Toss in noodles and toss for another minute or two. Add the squid and the sherry, toss again, splash in the sesame oil and serve.