Ramp It Up

May 7, 2017

It’s ramp season – and it won’t last long.  Looking for new ways to use the pungent leaves – I’m kind of tired of the ubiquitous ramp pesto – I went to one of my favorite old cookbooks.

Published in 1984 in fairly funky black and white, this is an American classic, filled with real recipes by real people. They offer a number of ways to use ramps.

If you’re planning on foraging for ramps, read this first:


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Cook Spaghetti Three Hours…

May 5, 2017

Like Lizzie Black Kander’s Settlement Cookbook before it, the Neighborhood Cookbook, first published in 1912 in Portland, Oregon was intended to raise money for a Jewish Women’s center that offered lifestyle classes to the poor – cooking, sewing, even laundering. These centers were essentially finishing schools for immigrants, pushing an agenda of assimilation and civilized economic independence. But unlike the Settlement Cookbook, the Neighborhood Cookbook features all kinds of Jewish-ish delicacies, and embraces an almost slapstick enthusiasm for the nearly forgotten timbale (essentially ground meat or vegetables turned into large muffin tins.) There are 14 kinds represented. For that sensibility alone it’s fun to read. 

I liked seeing these matzoh recipes, one of which is basically gussied up matzoh brei. It’s also fun to reflect on a time when shredded wheat with milk got it’s own special recipe: 

A small sample of timbale recipes: 

Three whole recipes for goulash:

This zany thing defies introduction: If you feel sorry for that poor pasta, include these asparagus, string beans and all other veggies in your sympathies:

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My Dinner at Fish and Game

May 3, 2017

Let me start by saying I’ve rarely had better cured pork than the soft, sweet American version of prosciutto they’re making at Fish and Game in Hudson.  Air and salt cured for two years, it has that beautiful frill of ivory fat that melts seductively as your mouth closes around it. Once its vanished you’re left with the complexity of the meat itself, the intense flavor resonating long after it’s gone. Don’t miss it.

There are lots of other lovely dishes on the current menu – it changes regularly – like this brilliant take on asparagus, which is topped with a wonderful mush of sea urchin, lime and garlic.  You’ll never want to eat asparagus any other way.

I was impressed with the restaurant’s version of scallop crudo. Scallops are the sea’s mildest creatures, but these soft raw slices are topped with XO sauce, which changes their nature into something both funky and intriguing.

Grilled soft shell crab arrived on a little pillow of smoked eggplant that. The texture coaxed out the soft succulence of the meat just as the smoke and chili oil underscored its flavor.

These floppy noodles ( made from locally grown rice), were topped with a robust  fish ragout laced with turmeric. Impressive.

I’ve always admired what Zac Pelaccio was attempting at this beautiful restaurant: he’s been relentless about sourcing local ingredients, going so far as to make his own fish and Worcestershire sauces.  But now that he’s allowed more of the Southeast Asian flavors he did so well at Fatty Crab (and at his barebones Back Bar up the street) to influence the kitchen, the menu has become even more exciting.

Restaurants in this part of the Hudson Valley are constantly improving and there are many excellent new ones to explore. But as they increasingly follow the farm to table mantra a kind of dull sameness has crept onto the menus. It’s safer that way – something to please everyone.  Meanwhile Fish and Game follows nobody’s lead and blazes its own trail.  I didn’t love every dish I tried, but there wasn’t one I didn’t admire and dinner left me with a deep desire to return.

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Have You Met Rum Tum Ditty?

May 2, 2017

This is George Rector, scion of one of New York’s most famous restaurants of the nineteenth century.  Strikes me as a true bon vivant.

I found his 1939 cookbook sitting on my shelf, and spent a very happy time leafing through the pages.

Some of the recipes are priceless.  Who, for example, could possibly resist something called Rum Tum Ditty?

I like Rector’s way around an omelet:

And this old Rector recipe is very refreshing (and very seasonal):

And finally, an interesting salad dressing.  Chopped watercress leaves?

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Another Blast from the Past

April 30, 2017

I came upon this ad in a collection of old recipes I found in this scrapbook:

It was filled with pages like this:

Among other things, there were entire pages of recipes for Boston Baked Beans.  Recipes for rationing. Lots of cakes and breads.

And that ad above  from the December 1946 issue of Farm Journal.  Now, at least, we know where the term “douche bag” comes from.

And just because I want to leave you with happier thoughts, I also found this little gem:

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