Vintage Jello

May 31, 2016


It’s impossible to look through this 1977 Jello cookbook (from the General Mills folks), and not feel transported to a different time. A time when someone might spell your name in frosted alphabet cereal letters….IMG_5550

A time when fruits often hung suspended in sparkling red gelée…


A time when someone thought encasing a banana in jello and putting it on a stick was a really nifty trick.IMG_5549

This book reminded me of Pat Oleszko’s contribution to an even earlier cookbook, my own Mmmmm (published in 1972). With the aim of serving her hospital-bound dad something completely without texture, we made several different kinds of jello, cut them into little 2-inch squares, and piled them into a wobbly haystack. This was followed by… really?… shredded wheat jello. IMG_5671


A Great Raspberry Tart

May 30, 2016


It’s a strange season here in the Hudson Valley.  Feels like high summer – almost 100 degrees yesterday – but the gardens are still in their infancy.  Two weeks ago we had sleet. Wandering the farmers’ markets is discouraging; what you want is corn, tomatoes and berries, but what you find is kale, arugula, a few salad greens. And, if you’re lucky, the last local asparagus. Peas? They’re long-gone.

I won’t give in to imported corn or tomatoes.  But I did want to bake a pie.  And so yes, I bought California raspberries. And made this truly lovely tart.

It’s no more than naked berries sandwiched between a crust and a crumble, so the flavor of the fruit, intensified by the oven’s heat, comes shining through.

The picture at the top is the tart, just before it went into the oven.  I forgot to take a picture when I took it out, but here’s the single remaining slice.  It will be breakfast.


Raspberry Streusel Tart


Make a single crust pie dough; lately I’ve been using all butter, and replacing half of the ice water with vodka.  But use any recipe you like, roll it out into a 10-inch tart shell with removable bottom, and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put a baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven (to catch spills and leaking butter).

Make the streusel topping by melting a stick of butter and stirring in 3/4 cup of sugar, a splash of vanilla, a pinch of salt and a cup of flour.  It should be thick.

Put six cups of raspberries (4 packages) into your tart shell.  Crumble the streusel over the top, distributing it evenly, and put the tart onto the baking sheet in the hot oven.  After ten minutes turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes or so, until the top is a lovely golden brown.

Cool on a rack for 20 minutes before removing the side of the pan, then cool completely before serving.



Memorial Day Special: Last Repasts

May 29, 2016

IMG_5556I’ve been asked what my last meal would be at least a thousand times, so the idea no longer seems all that fresh to me.  But when my old friend Owen Spann first came up with the idea, it struck me as another brilliant way he’d invented to find out who people really were.

Owen was a genius at making people reveal themselves.  His radio show, on KGO in San Francisco, made him a beloved figure; he was one of the pioneers of sane talk radio. I got to know him when I was a restaurant critic for New West Magazine; he asked me to become a regular on his show and taught me almost everything I know about that particular medium.

There are dozens of books like this one now, but it’s still fun to see what people came up with when pressed for an immediate answer. (I wish I remembered what I said when Owen asked me. Sadly, I don’t.) Julia wanted seafood platters and rare wines. And Yehudi Menuhi thought a glass of goat’s milk in a cave was the perfect way to take off for eternity.

In any case, Memorial Day’s about remembering.  And I am very happy to be reminded of Owen.






Another Great Coffee Cake: Rhubarb Edition

May 28, 2016

IMG_8206“Want some rhubarb?”

When my friend Emily asked that question I was not expecting the massive stalks of rhubarb that showed up on my doorstep. 

I made rhubarb sauce, which I’ve been stirring into yogurt for breakfast every morning.  I made more and froze it.  Still the pile of rhubarb persisted.

So I decided to make a Rhubarb Coffee Cake.  (I used what I had on hand; you could substitute buttermilk or use all-yogurt instead of half milk, but this is what I found in my refrigerator. You could also use less rhubarb, although that would probably mean less time in the oven.)

The cake turned out to be so tender, so moist, so sweet/salty delicious that I’m about to call Emily and ask if she’s got any more rhubarb.

Rhubarb Crumb Coffee Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8 inch square baking pan.

Let a half stick of butter get soft, then stir in a cup of sugar and an egg.  Add a good splash of vanilla, and if you’re feeling so inclined, a grating of lemon rind.

Chop enough rhubarb to make 2 1/2 cups.

Mix a teaspoon of baking powder, a half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda into 2 cups of flour.

Stir a quarter cup of milk into a quarter cup of full-fat yogurt.

Gently mix the dry ingredients and the yogurt mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, alternating, just until it is smooth. Stir in the rhubarb.  Don’t worry: the batter will be stiff but it’s supposed to be.

Make a crumb topping by melting a half stick of butter, then stirring in a half cup of sugar,  a half cup of flour and a really healthy pinch of salt.  (The salty crumb topping is part of what makes this cake so appealing.) 

Spoon the batter into the greased baking pan and top with the crumble mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack.

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Greenwich Village, 1968

May 27, 2016

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Just came upon this Greenwich Village Cookbook sitting on my bookshelf, and started flipping through the pages, dreaming of all the restaurants I went to as a child.

I was startled to find so many esoteric recipes: almost every trendy modern food was on somebody’s menu, and while the pesto might contain cream cheese (at Fellin), the restaurant also proudly served rabbit.  The eel in the unadon at Shoei was frozen, but what other restaurant was serving eel in 1968?  And the basic recipe section at the end includes tahini, pita, tortillas, green noodles, crepes and – remarkably, I think – the recipe for home-made filo dough below. 

The glossary describes ackee, brocolli di rape, tamalina, ugli fruit, rice sticks, tree ears and tiger lily flowers. To my amazement the shopping index tells you where to buy them all.

On this summery hot day I’m offering up two of the dishes I loved best as a child. When we went out to eat I begged my parents to take me to Sevilla for green clams, or Steak Casino where I gobbled up the clams casino.  Even today, when either dish appears on a menu I find them impossible to resist.

One small note: If you’re making the first recipe, it’s definitely worth purging the soft shell (steamer) clams before using them.  This is how you do that.

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And now that filo recipe…. Note the warning at the end!


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