In the Vintage Kitchen: Sage Smothered Chicken with Polenta

An Herb and Spice Cookbook

This week in the vintage kitchen we are celebrating the wonders of the summer herb garden with a vintage recipe that has absolutely antique roots.

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you’ll recognize the name and face of the recipe writer…


…celebrated New York Times food critic and cook Craig Claiborne. Back in February Ms. Jeannie shared his recipe for Eggplant Pizza from his 1963 Herb and Spice Cook Book – a complete gem of a compendium organized by herb and spice for quick reference.  In that post, oregano was the featured herb and Ms. Jeannie gave all the credit to Craig for his imaginative and most delicious creation.

Eggplant Pizza! Find the recipe here.

But while Craig was the chef in the kitchen, the writer of the words and the name attached to the dust jacket, there was another face behind the flavor of the book – a muse of intellectual imagination that inspired Craig and enhanced his cook book.

Hilda Layel (1880-1957)
Hilda Leyel (1880-1957)

Her name was Hilda Leyel and she was the woman behind the crusade to bring back the herb.

For centuries herb gardening has been considered a feminine endeavor and a maternal skill –  a salve for the sick, a staple for the diet and a component in clean living. But with the introduction of doctors and hospitals and modern medicine, and the dawn of the industrial revolution, herbs and herb gardening fell out of fashion by the early part of the 20th century. Then Hilda came along.

A life long lover of gardens, a student of medicine, and an appreciator of fine food, good wine and natural living Hilda published several books on the importance of herbs, opened Culpepers, the first herbal-only shop in England (which offered herbal remedies, food, makeup and holistic products) and founded the still-going strong  Herb Society all within a decade between the 1920’s and 1930’s.  The efforts of this one woman single-handedly revitalized the popularity of herbs in gardening, cooking and personal product choices for not only the citizens of England but also of the world at large.

Three of Hilda's cookbooks.
Three of Hilda’s cookbooks.

It was Hilda’s passion, promotion and sheer love that inspired Craig with his Herb and Spice cookbook. Her detailed research and botanical understanding of each of the 54 herbs and spices featured in his cookbook tell of the history, symbolism and importance of each plant. Which makes the two of them a great team. She tells why herbs are important and he shows how they taste great.

It is wonderful to see that Hilda’s efforts had numerous and lasting effects decades after her death in 1957.  To honor Hilda’s magnificent determination, it is only fitting to feature a recipe from the sage section of the Herb and Spice Cook Book which comes from the botanical name salvio, meaning to “save” since Hilda in her own way saved the herbs from obscurity. Cheers to Hilda!

This week we are making Sage Smothered Chicken with Polenta, which is on the heavier side of summer cooking but features so many garden ingredients that its hard to resist. If you want to make a lighter (aka cooler) dinner during this hot season, just omit the polenta and serve the chicken alongside a fresh garden salad. It’s delicious either way!


Sage Chicken with Polenta

(serves 4-6)

1 4lb. chicken cut into serving pieces

Salt and freshly ground Pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (canned if your garden tomatoes aren’t ready yet!)

1 six-ounce can tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon ground sage

A small bunch of fresh sage leaves (for garnish)

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup yellow or white corn meal

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with one teaspoon salt and one quarter teaspoon black pepper. Heat the oil and brown the chicken, onion and garlic lightly. Add the tomatoes, paste, sage and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon pepper or more to taste).


Cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 50 minutes or so. While chicken is cooking prepare the polenta by bringing two and a half cups water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl mix the cornmeal with one and a half cups water until combined. Add cornmeal mixture to the boiling water and stir until pot comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes.

Place the polenta on a large platter. Arrange the chicken on top and spoon the sauce over it. Garnish the platter with fresh sage leaves for presentation. Serve hot.


You will most likely have extra sauce left over with this recipe, which you can freeze for later use as a homemade tomato sauce for pasta or pizza. Delicious and helpful! A big cheers to Hilda for inspiring Craig who then inspired Ms. Jeannie.

Find the Herb and Spice cookbook for sale in Ms. Jeannie’s book shop here. 

Happy cooking dear readers!


Tahiti Bound: An Exotic Adventure in the Vintage Kitchen!

Vintage Tahiti travel poster.

This week in the vintage kitchen we are going on an exotic adventure to the beautiful beachy, balmy enclave of Papeete in the French Polynesian island of Tahiti. The weather in Ms. Jeannie’s world as of recent has been crazy. She’s seen it all – frost, snow, heat, humidity, rain, strong winds, fog, sleet, hail and tornado warnings all just within the past 14 days. And while the air and temperatures of the past few weeks have been very unsettled,  Ms. Jeannie is excited because all of this wacky end of winter weather means that sunny Spring will be here very very soon!

While she waits for Mother Nature to get her schedule sorted out, Ms. Jeannie has been day dreaming of tropical island breezes thanks to the help of Mr. Victor Bergeron and his 1968 Pacific Island Cookbook. 


If you are unfamiliar with Victor’s full name, you might know him by his more casual moniker, Trader Vic, the king of 20th century hospitality. A world-wide traveler and an enigmatic restaurateur Victor founded the world’s first highly successful string of polynesian themed restaurants.

Victor Bergeron (1903-1984) the founder of Trader Vic’s restaurant chain.

First opened in the 1950’s in California, the still growing Trader Vic’s restaurant brand was a re-invention of Bergeron’s first attempt in the food industry with his humble lodge-style eatery and bar called Hinky Dink’s which he opened in 1934.

Victor smiles for a photoshoot in a 1951 issue of Holiday magazine.
Victor smiles for a photoshoot in a 1951 issue of Holiday magazine.

Learning the ropes in the food industry taught him a lot those first twenty years, so by the time Trader Vic’s (the restaurant) launched, Victor was a skilled businessman with a big flair for entertaining and fine tuned instincts as to what people wanted in a dining experience. As a lover of Cantonese style cooking, Bergeron married exceptional story telling, authentic exotic antique decorations and traditional South Seas recipes with a festive dining atmosphere to create a unique brand of restaurant chemistry that appealed to the adventure seeker and jet-setter of mid-century America. It was the rise of all things terrifically tiki!

Victor Bergeron mixing it up!

Victor’s travel experiences are all colorfully detailed in his cookbook making it a sort of fun travel journal and kitchen cooking primer in one. And then there are the drinks!  In addition to cooking Victor was also a mixologist creating a slew of enticing cocktails, like the first Mai Tai, which launched a wave of tropical drink requests for bartenders from then on out. Escapism never tasted so sweet!


Which gets us back to Ms. Jeannie’s island getaway in the kitchen this February day. With 30 degree temperatures chilling the air outside, Ms. Jeannie cracked open coconuts, peeled ginger, poured a rum cocktail and got down to cooking all the while pretending she was beach-side in Papeete where the view looks like this…

Vintage Tahitian postcard of Papeete.

Cheers to Victor! It’s Pote on the menu tonight served alongside steamed rice and chicken sauced with coconut ginger.

Pota with Chicken and Ginger
Pota with Chicken and Ginger


4 tablespoons diced salt pork

1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken

5 cups coarsely chopped Bok Choy

4 tablespoons chopped green onions (scallions)

1/2 cup chicken stock

Salt & Pepper to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 tablespoons coconut milk

2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water

  1. Saute salt pork until brown in large skillet. Add chicken, chard and green onion.
  2. Stir in chicken stock, seasonings and lemon juice. Simmer until chard is tender.
  3. Add coconut milk  bring to a boil but just barely. Thicken with cornstarch, stirring constantly, adding just enough to thicken the mixture.
  4. Serve immediately or keep warm over low heat until chicken and rice are ready.

Chicken with Ginger

1 whole chicken, 5 lbs

1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 piece fresh ginger-root (about the length of your thumb finger), grated

1/4 cup coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut chicken in pieces. Do not remove the skin.
  3. Place chicken, flour and salt and paper in a paper bag and shake until all chicken pieces are well-coated.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pan on the stovetop and then saute the chicken, turning only once, until thoroughly cooked on each side (internal temperature should be 180).
  5. Remove chicken from heat and place in oven proof dish.
  6. In a separate bowl mix together coconut milk and ginger. Pour over chicken and place dish in the oven for 5 minutes until the coconut sauce melts.

Serve alongside Pota and steamed rice and a fun fruity cocktail! Perhaps a homemade Mai Tai or two in Victor’s honor. He’d be as pleased as (rum) punch!

A Tahitian Dinner: Pote and Chicken with GInger
A Tahitian Dinner: Pote and Chicken with Ginger

This is a surefire recipe to chase away those end of winter blues. Satisfying for the spirit and for the belly! Find more Trader Vic recipes here. And more tropical cookbooks here. Manuia!


Israel, India and the International Dinner Night – A Vintage Rosh Hashana Recipe

Authentic India-based Chicken Curry circa 1964
Authentic India-based Chicken Curry circa 1964

Happy New Year dear readers! This coming Sunday marks the two day festival of Rosh Hashana, which celebrates the creation of Adam and Eve and mankind’s role in the world.  Although Ms. Jeannie, herself is not Jewish, she thought it would be fun to mark the day with an international dinner night featuring a holiday approved (and kosher certified!) meal which brings together the unique and diverse flavors of the Holy Land.

Many cultural influences make up the demographic food map of Israel, including Indian, Greek, Arabic, Italian and French offering unexpected and interesting food combinations and flavor pairings. In this vintage Isreali cookbook, published in 1964…

The Israeli Cook Book by Molly Lyons Bar-David
The Israeli Cook Book by Molly Lyons Bar-David

author and culinary advisor to El-Al Airlines, Molly Lyons Bar-David compiled hundreds of authentic, local recipes from over 70 regions within the country. Many of the recipes had been passed down from generations bringing with them their own unique stories, folklore and legends which Molly also shares in the cookbook.

An alley in the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. Photo via pinterest.
An alley in the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. Photo via pinterest.

Her intention for this culinary project was to serve true Israeli food on board mid-century El-Al airlines flights as a gateway experience for incoming passengers.

Vintage 1960s El-Al airlines travel poster. Via pinterest
Vintage 1960s El-Al airlines travel poster. Via pinterest

But as Molly got deeper and deeper into the collection process, interviewing literally hundreds of locals, she learned that the diverse food scene was just as dynamic and layered as the centuries old history and faith long associated with Israel.

Cochin, India. Photo via pinterest
Cochin, India. Photo via pinterest

To honor the historical holiday, Ms. Jeannie chose an ancient chicken curry recipe that stems from the spice markets of Cochin, India as brought by the “Cochin Jews”  who were believed to have emigrated from Palestine after the second destruction of the Temple.

A Jewish family from Cochin , India circa 1880. Photo via pinterest.
A Jewish family from Cochin , India circa 1880. Photo via pinterest.

Molly writes in her introduction to the recipe…

“Although their culture, (including a caste system) and even their skin coloring has become indistinguishable from that of their Hindu neighbors, they never forsook their Jewish heritage. Their food, chiefly rice and curries, is like that of the Indians, except that they strictly maintain the kosher laws.” 

Ms. Jeannie is a big fan of curry, and has made countless variations taken from recipe books, magazine articles, online sources and foodie recommendations, but this by far was the best (THE BEST!) curry recipe she has found to date. Full of flavor both subtle and bright, it makes a ton and keeps getting better day after day in the leftover department.

It is simple and easy to make and contains basic ingredients that are easy to gather. So if you are looking for a bit of the edible exotic to ring in the New Year or celebrate the history of a culture other than your own this is a fabulously delicious recipe! You can also omit the chicken and make it strictly a vegetable curry if you prefer. Ms. Jeannie served it on top of a bed of Jasmine rice with a side of warm Naan bread.

Cochin Curry
Cochin Curry

Chicken Curry (serves 4)

1 2lb chicken, cut in parts (do not de-bone)

5 tablespoons olive oil

3.5 cups water

5 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, mashed

4 large tomatoes, chopped (or one large can of diced tomatoes)

1 cup celery, chopped

2 apples, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon (or more!) curry powder (as a big fan, Ms. Jeannie used 2.5 tablespoons!)

1.5 tablespoons flour

3 cups coconut milk

2 tablespoons grated coconut (optional)

1.5 teaspoons salt

cayenne pepper (to taste)


  1. Fry the chicken in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until lightly browned on all sides (about 10-12 minutes total or 5 minutes on each side). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the water to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes on medium low heat. c4
  3.  In a new large pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and add all the chopped vegetables and spices (onions, garlic, tomatoes, celery, apples, sugar, ginger and curry powder). Mix to combine.  Sprinkle on the flour.  Mix well again and then add the coconut milk and seasonings, and simmer. Once the chicken is ready, transfer all pieces to the curried vegetables and cook 10-20 minutes more.
  4. Serve hot with rice and Naan bread if you like.* (Ms. Jeannie loves the Naan bread made by Stonefire Flatbreads which is available in most grocery stores in the fresh bakery section.)

Enjoy dear readers! If you’d like to learn about more authentic recipes from the Israeli Cook Book, the Jewish holidays they correspond with and the history behind them, please visit Ms. Jeannie’s shop here. And if you are celebrating the holiday this weekend, Happy Happy New Year:)

Authentic India-based Chicken Curry circa 1964
Authentic Indian Chicken Curry circa 1964 as prepared from The Israeli Cook Book by Molly Lyons Bar-David

Tuesday In the Kitchen – The Art of Greek Cookery

Opa! It's international dinner night!
Opa! It’s international dinner night!

Today, dear readers, we are going on a wonderful culinary adventure that is taking us from Greece to Long Island, New York  to Ms. Jeannie’s kitchen in Georgia.  The subject of our adventure is a recipe from this Greek cookbook Ms. Jeannie has for sale in her Etsy shop

The Art of Greek Cookery circa 1963
The Art of Greek Cookery circa 1963

The recipes in The Art of Greek Cookery were compiled in 1958, by 16 first generation Greek women who lived in Hempstead, New York and were part of the congregation of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church.

St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church, Hempstead, NYPhoto courtesy of
St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church, Hempstead, NYPhoto courtesy of

The Church, which was formed in 1944, needed to expand as their congregation grew, so the ladies of the Church formed a recipe committee, which was a segment of the church’s social organization, the Mr. & Mrs. Club (so cute!). The intention of the recipe committee was to gather traditional recipes from their homeland into a book for American cooks and then to sell the books as a fundraiser for the new building construction. In true Julia Child spirit,  these ladies got to work gathering, testing and and adapting hundreds of recipes that were representatives of their Greek culture.  This is a picture of some of the original members of the recipe club…

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

After two and half years of laboring,  they published a simple spiral bound cookbook entitled, The Grecian Gourmet, which turned out to be a runaway success. Both the The New York Times and the New York Tribune published articles about the women and their book project, which caught the attention of people all across the country and book orders poured in.

The recipe committee was humbled and amazed that their little cookbook had become such a sensation.

“It was a book that had immense appeal for all food conscious people. For gourmets and experimental cooks of all kinds; for tourists who upon returning from Greece, wished to duplicate  in their own kitchens some of the interesting and exciting dishes they had tasted in Greece on the Grecian islands. It was a work of love and a great pleasure for all of us.” – Theodora Lourekas, Chairmen of the Recipe Committee, 1963.

The cookbook also caught the attention of New York publishing giant Doubleday and Company, who wanted to republish it under their “Art of ” cookbook series. And so the Art of Greek Cookery was born in 1963.


Containing a wealth of recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts, the cookbook also contains information on Greek wines, traditional feast days, customs, traditions, suggested menus and a lovely forward by the then pastor, Father George Papadeas. To say that he was not only proud but impressed by the hard work and determination of these women was an understatement.  Just by reading the forward, preface and introduction of this cookbook you can tell that so much love and good cheer was behind this project.

100% of the proceeds from the book sales went into the church construction fund, which provided them with more than enough money to undertake the expansion.  Both the Church and the recipe club are still going strong today!

So in true spirit, Ms. Jeannie embarked on a new cooking challenge and made one of the recipes from the book. Ideally, she would have liked to have chosen a lamb recipe, since that is so traditional, but Ms. Jeannie feels bad for the little lambs and doesn’t know of a local, ethically sourced lamb company, so she chose a chicken dish instead. It had five ingredients and was ready within an hour. And it was DELICIOUS (with a big capital D!). Here’s the recipe…

All the ingredients you will need!
The ingredients!

Chicken with Scallions (also known as Kotopoulo me Kremidakia Freska)

3-4 lb. organic chicken, cut into 6 pieces

5 tablespoons butter

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 cup hot water

6 bunches organic scallions, rinsed and ends trimmed

3 organic eggs

1 lemon, juice of

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. In a Dutch oven (or you can use a large soup pot) melt the butter, add the chicken pieces and brown until golden on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. *Add hot water and scallions. Cover and cook over low-heat for one hour.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Incorporate lemon juice slowly into egg mixture while constantly stirring to prevent curdling. Add some broth from the pan (about 1/2 cup), again constantly stirring to prevent curdling. Stir actively for about a minute.

Remove chicken from pan and place on a plate. Add the egg mixture to the pan broth and stir constantly for another minute to avoid curdling. Add the chicken back into the pot to soak up the sauce. The heat under the pan must be on low and the sauce must not be allowed to boil. Let the chicken rest in the sauce fora few minutes before removing from heat and serving.

* Special note – Ms. Jeannie doesn’t have a Dutch oven so she used a large soup pot. After she browned the chicken and before she added the water and scallions, she de-glazed the pan with 1/4 cup of white wine just because her pot tends to burn easily. If you are using a Dutch oven you might not need to add that step at all.

.. cook2

Once Ms. Jeannie placed the chicken and sauce in a serving dish she sprinkled it with some chives from her garden. This of course is optional. She served the chicken with a simple homegrown tomato basil salad which was marinated in olive oil and garlic for an hour, a crusty baguette and a glass of sauvignon blanc. Enjoying an authentic Greek dinner outside on the patio with Mr. Jeannie Ology made Ms. Jeannie feel like she was on a little vacation!


It is armchair traveling at its best and most delicious! Cheers or Opa (as they like to say in Greece)!