When Rich Men Cook

August 23, 2016


This is among the stranger tomes in my collection, but given the current political climate, it just caught my eye.

It was published in 1968, and the author had a notion that captains of industry made excellent cooks.  He collected their recipes and arranged them into rather fascinating meals.

I found the Mexican recipes especially interesting. In the introduction he notes that the rich were flying off to Mexico instead of  Monte Carlo, and returning with recipes like these….

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It’s a fascinating tome, with the strangest mix of recipes I’ve ever encountered. What other book, I wonder, would offer three different recipes for shad roe?  (Not one of them, incidentally, involves bacon or a simple saute.)  NExt spring, when the shad are running again, I’ll post all three of them.

In the meantime, here’s a little bit of nostalgia.  This was, I think, my mother’s favorite party dessert.

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Plum Perfection

August 22, 2016


Prune plums are not my favorite fruit; they’re dull eaten out of hand.  And their appearance in the market means that summer is coming to an end.

Bake them into this torte, however, and they come into their own.  Because they’re firm, rather than juicy, they maintain their integrity, becoming soft little pillows of sweetness surrounded by cake. I don’t know a better coffee cake.

Plum Torte

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

zest of one lemon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

12 large or 20 small prune plums, pits removed, halved the long way

4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

Heat an oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a 9” round cake pan.  (If you don’t have a commercial pan with high sides, best to use a larger pan, or a springform pan.) Butter the bottom and sides of the pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment paper and dust the whole pan with flour.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly combine after each addition. If the batter appears curdled, do not worry, it is because the eggs may be cooler than the rest of the mixture, and the butter hardened when the eggs were added. The batter will become smooth with the addition of the flour..

Beat in the the buttermilk or yogurt and add the vanilla and lemon zest, medium speed

Whisk together the flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt, and add to the butter mixture until just combined.

Separate the halved plums into two equal piles.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and level the top with a small offset spatula.

Place the plums, cut side down on the batter, and sprinkle with the two tablespoons brown sugar.

Spoon the rest of the mixture over the plums, and place the rest of the plums on top cut side up. Sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden.

Cool the cake on a rack for 5 minutes. The cake will pull away from the sides of the pan.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake. Invert onto a plate, peel away the paper, and invert again onto a serving plate.

Best served warm with billows of whipped cream – but delicious at any temperature.

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It’s Rat Season

August 21, 2016

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This is from the June 1979 issue of Gourmet Magazine, and I can’t help wondering why they were running hte article in June.  Now when the peppers, squashes, onions and tomatoes are all hanging heavy is the ratatouille season.

The author offers two recipes. The first is from Jacques Medecin,who was then Mayor of Nice. Although Medecin wrote a well-regarded book on cuisine, you might want to think twice before using a recipe from this unsavory character. A racist friend of Le Pen, (and incidentally Minister of Tourism under Jacques Chirac), he was convicted on charges of corruption in the eighties and fled to Uruguay to escape prosecution.  He was extradited to serve time, eventually returning to Uruguay where he died.

The second recipe is from quite a different person.  Canadian sculptor, James Ritchie, had, at that point in his life, been living in the hills above Vence for 17 years, where he seems to have spent much of his life.

Take your pick.

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Do You Glove-Bone?

August 20, 2016

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In the Gourmet test kitchens there was always a lot of talk about “glove-boning,” a method of removing the bones from a chicken without breaking the skin.  Let me hasten to admit I’ve never tried it.  But I’m extremely impressed by those who have mastered the technique.

Should you care to try your hand, here, from the October 1980 issue of Gourmet, are pretty clear instructions.  Along with a recipe for using your now boneless bird.

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The recipe on the cover?  It’s a Salade Exotique from Brooklyn’s River Cafe, a mixture of melons, snow peas, strawberries and ham in a strawberry vinaigrette.




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The Way To a Man’s Heart (circa 1901)

August 19, 2016


Although it’s almost forgotten now, this was one of the best selling cookbooks of the 20th century. It had some pretty notable fans: James Beard among them, who supposedly once said, “If I consult a cookbook at all, it is likely to be by one of these sensible flat-heeled authors like the famous Mrs. Kander.”

The Settlement House, a Milwaukee community center founded in the early 20th century was created to help newly-immigrated Russian Jewish women acclimatize to American norms of domesticity.  There were showers, sewing lessons, deportment lessons, and even cooking classes – most taught by an upper-middle-class German Jew, Lizzie Black Kander. Faced with the task of sustaining operations, Kander came up with the notion of  a simple cookbook to sell to the larger Milwaukee community. That “simple” cookbook -the entire first edition of 1000 copies cost 18 dollars  to print in 1901- went on to see over 20 editions.

Notably absent from the first edition? Jewish foods of any variety. Kander’s goal, after all, was to Americanize poor immigrants; the German Jews who arrived first looked down on the Russian Jews, and did not want to be embarrassed by them. (They actually feared that they’d set off a wave of antisemitism.) The early editions contained no Kosher recipes, although they did include recipes for Christmas and Easter feasts. Over time, the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage became an equal goal: in my edition, from 1938, I found these curious matzo recipes.






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