Adelaida from Mexico & Her Lasting Impact on America {Plus Two of Her Recipes!}

Adelaida Cuellar photographed in 1901 with three of her children. photo courtesy of D Magazine.

In 1892, two young lovers crossed the border from Mexico into the United States and got married in Texas. They spoke no English but were very fluent in the language of love. They were dreamers yearning for better opportunities then their home country could provide, and they were determined to work hard to create a beautiful life that would bring them all  they desired.

The newlywed years of Macurio and Adelaida Cuellar led them through a myriad of jobs on ranches around the Texas countryside. For five years they moved about before they settled down in Kaufman, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where Macurio started sharecropping and Adelaida started a family. As the seasons passed, their family grew, eventually producing twelve babies.

This is an unidentified farm photo from the Cuellar collection. It may have been the farm where Adelaida and Macurio raised their family. If not, it gives an interesting perspective on what farm life looks like in Texas during the time Adelaida and Macurio lived and worked there.  Image courtesy of the University of North Texas Digital library.

Ranch and farm work weren’t the most profitable of jobs, so Adelaida took a stall at the Kaufman County Fairgrounds in 1926 selling two things…  chili and tamales. It was her hope that her homemade recipes, so loved by her family, would bring in a little extra income to help support her children.  To her surprise, the food stand was an instant success.  The profits she made from her entrepreneurial endeavor were much larger than farm or ranch work earnings, so Adelaida kept at it, turning her stall into a tidy little family business.  Some of her children helped her cook while others formed a family band playing Mexican music to entertain the eaters.

During the 1920’s, Tex-Mex cuisine was a new style of cooking that combined traditional recipes from Mexico and Spain but with toned down spice factors which were more appealing to American palates. Adelaida’s chili and tamales debuted at just the right time – exotic enough for adventurous eaters and flavorful enough without being too spicy to dissuade repeat business. With every taste of tamale and every cup of chili, Adelaida’s reputation for preparing delicious Mexican food began growing.

Adelaida’s Cafe – simply called Cuellar Cafe – opened in  1928.  Image courtesy of the University of North Texas Digital library.

In her mid-fifties, Adelaida opened her own restaurant which did well until the Great Depression hit and she was forced to close due to the terrible economy.  Each of her grown boys inspired by their mother’s own entrepreneurial spirit opened their own independent Mexican restaurants in different cities throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana using the recipes that Adelaida made for them growing up.

Each of the sons, enamored with cooking just like their mom, quickly realized there was something missing from their independent ventures… family love and support. From the beginning, in the county fairground days, the Cuellar family was successful at the tamale and chili stand because they all worked together towards one common goal. But now the family was spread over many cities, and their restaurants couldn’t be as successful because they all weren’t working together.

This is one of the original porcelain neon signs from the first El Chico restaurant in Dallas. It’s now for sale on ebay here.

So in 1940, five of the brothers banded together to form one restaurant in Dallas, which they named El Chico. The entire family and extended family worked there together, each bringing their own unique talents.

Opening night of El Chico featured a Mariachi band to entertain the crowd. Image courtesy of the University of North Texas Digital library.

Everyone who worked at the restaurant was fluent in Adelaida’s style of perfection when it came to selecting quality ingredients and blending the spice mixtures in the correct way, so the food was authentic and consistent, which kept customers coming back. And the Cuellar family was proud of what they were accomplishing.  At the heart of their restaurant lay the heart of Adelaida and all that she stood for.  Her children wanted to extend that same level of love and devotion with all who dined at El Chico.

A popular dining place indeed! This photo was taken in 1945. Image courtesy of the University of North Texas Digital library.

Just like Adelaida’s chili and tamale stand, El Chico became phenomenally successful, making the Cuellar family and the El Chico brand one of the greatest American success stories. They went on to open more than 40 restaurants throughout the country, built a successful packaged food division for the retail market, and offered franchise opportunities for budding entrepreneurs. By the 1970s, they were the largest full-service Mexican food company in the world. They cooked for United States presidents at the White House, for princess Grace Kelly at her palace in Monaco and entertained movie stars like John Wayne in Dallas. The family stayed together through all these years and all this growth, never veering from what they knew – good food taught to them by Adelaida.

A Cuellar family portrait with Adelaida and Macurio in the front row center. Image courtesy of the University of North Texas Digital library.

Adelaida passed away in 1969 at the age of 97, not before experiencing the overwhelming success of her family and seeing how her humble tamale and chili stand at the Kaufman County fairgrounds grew into a multi-million dollar corporation over the course of forty years. The Cuellar children credit both their mom and their dad with teaching them about the value of working hard (and quickly) toward their goals and the importance of taking chances.

In 1970, El Chico published a small, spiral bound cookbook of some of the family recipes that they used in the restaurant, along with some others collected from their travels. Hailed as one of the most authentic Tex-Mex cookbooks ever published, it’s now a hard-to-find treasure.  It is in fact, so special and represents such an importantand  integral part of the ethnic American food landscape, that it’s held in special collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. We are also very pleased to offer a copy in the kitchen shop. 

Since Cinco de Mayo is coming up this Saturday, on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, we thought it would fun to highlight two vintage recipes from the El Chico cookbook to ring in the festivities. A general crowdpleaser with a ton of creative toppings, these recipes are fun party foods so whether you are celebrating Mexico or Kentucky, or both this weekend, there will be something edible for everyone.

On the menu it’s El Chico’s Homemade Beef Burritos & Ranchera Sauce. Both are really easy to make. You’ll have the whole thing whipped up in under 30 minutes. Each recipe features fresh ingredients with generous amounts of spices, so you can skip buying the taco seasoning packages and the taco sauce at the grocery store. There’s plenty of flavor between the two recipes.  In addition to ground beef, you could also incorporate ground pork, turkey or chicken if you wanted to offer multiple variations.

What’s especially great about the Carne Mexicano recipe is that it includes vinegar which gives it a little bit of tang and de-greases the pan all at once so you don’t need a thickening agent like cornstarch or flour which is included in most commercial taco seasoning packets. As with many vintage recipes, we cut down the salt by 2/3rds, so we recommend starting with our measurement first and adding more to taste if you feel it needs it.

Carne Mexicano for Burritos

2 lbs. ground beef (we used grass-fed beef)

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt (we used only 2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup vinegar

1/4 cup chopped onion

In a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat brown the beef and onions until cooked through. Add the spices and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Add the vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Remove from heat and serve immediately or store mixture in a covered dish and keep warm until ready to serve.

El Chico’s Ranchero Sauce (A La Caballero)

2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped hot green peppers (we used serrano peppers)

2 tablespoons shortening (we used olive oil)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute the onions and peppers in shortening (or olive oil). When the onions are translucent add the tomatoes and simmer over a low fire for five minutes.  Serve it immediately or at room temperature.

Obviously, the hotter your peppers, the spicer your sauce is going to be. This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of sauce so if you are cooking for a crowd you might want to double or triple the recipe. We used serrano peppers which were quite hot so a little bit spooned on top of your Carne Mexicano goes a long way!

There are so many topping options when it comes to burritos, so your creativity can really shine here based on your preferences.  El Chico suggested that their burritos include only cheese, refried beans, Carne Mexicana and the Ranchero Sauce. But we added a bunch of our favorite toppings too which included sour cream, spring lettuce, red onion, mango, tomato, cilantro, avocado and lime juice.  Other possibilities re guacamole, green olives, rice, etc etc. The sky is the limit. Can your burrito ever really have too much stuff?

Coming up tomorrow on the blog, we’ll be sharing our picks for the Kentucky Derby winner as well as our table decorations for the Derby Party with tie together both the Mexican theme and the horse theme. If you are planning a party for either event, we’d love to hear how you are celebrating.

In the meantime, cheers to Adelaida and the Cuellar family for sharing their long-time favorite family recipes with all of us. We will definitely be sending a toast their way on Saturday!

Explore more information about the El Chico cookbook here. And learn more about the restaurant chain, still in operation, here. 

Gender Discrimination in the 1940’s: Why a Correspondent Turned From War to Cookbooks

Betty Wason (1912-2001)

In Sweden, in 1939, as Nazi troops began their invasion of Norway, a young American journalist staying in Stockholm began delivering eyewitness accounts of the historic event.  She was 28 years old and the only correspondent in that section of the world broadcasting live stories for CBS Radio. Her name was Betty Wason and her vantage point was intimate. Her reports were well-written, authentic and timely in the transmission of details. She was brave, dedicated and determined, eventually getting close to Nazi troops in Norway in order to tell the stories of wounded British soldiers and all that they had seen.  She was a woman alone in a war zone, a thoughtful writer in a chaotic environment and a new traveler out discovering foreign lands. But for all the things Betty was, there was one thing she wasn’t. She was not a man.

And that affected everything.

Gender discrimination runs rampant in every field throughout history, except maybe one…. radio news broadcasting in the 1930s and the 1940s. Mainly because there wasn’t any argument against the discrimination. Things were simply done and not done and there were rules to abide by.  One of those rules concerned women. Women  simply did not, were not, allowed to read the news over the air.  It was firmly believed that the feminine register could not convey the seriousness and importance of hard-hitting news stories. Instead, women’s voices were relegated only to entertainment-type shows… cooking lessons, homemaking stories, commercial ads and literature readings. Anything more serious or historically significant was left up to men to communicate on-air.  This proved a problem, for our gal Betty.

Growing up in Indiana in the 1920’s, Betty was a creative spirit from the start with interests in music, art and fashion design. After graduating from Perdue University with a degree in home economics in the early 1930’s, Betty bounced around a few jobs in her home state before realizing she wanted a more exotic life than Indiana could provide.  As a young woman full of vivaciousness and adventure and a desire to see the world, Betty went to New York and settled into a two-year job working at McCall’s magazine. But even in the exciting city of New York, her wanderlust could not be quelled. Europe was calling and Betty wanted to travel.

Vintage 1930’s travel posters to Czechoslovakia show the beauty and attraction of foreign travel. This was one of the countries Betty would visit and report from.

Not having the financial means to live abroad without working, Betty contacted TransRadio Press who was willing to pay young journalists overseas for eyewitness stories concerning World War II. A brief stint in Europe trying to make a go of it as a correspondent didn’t yield enough money for Betty to live on,  so she came back to New York only to try again less than a year later. On her second go-around though, she worked with CBS who was desperate to get any and all international news they could get their hands on in regards to the war. That’s when Betty headed to Sweden, just before Hitler arrived in Norway.

Betty’s contact at  CBS was Paul White who was in charge of news broadcasting.

There were many male war correspondents living and working overseas at this time, but they were mainly focused on print pieces suitable for newspapers and magazine readers. Radio was becoming more and more popular in terms of delivering news, but the seasoned overseas reporters, so focused on their writing, were out of the loop on the fact that radio news was rising in popularity. There was a niche market blooming in quick, short news briefs for ears instead of eyes and Betty saw an opportunity to be a part of it.

A 1940’s radio

Since Betty was the only correspondent in the Scandinavian region, she was recording and filing her own reports for CBS and being paid on a weekly basis.  But quickly, CBS determined that Betty’s voice was a problem (too light, too feminine, too high in pitch).  It was believed, even in times of war, especially in times of war, that radio listeners didn’t want to hear a delicate voice reporting on death and destruction. Her reporting content was strong though, so CBS said that she had to find a male counterpart to step-in as the voice in front of her work.

Betty was upset that she couldn’t speak the words that she was writing, but she wanted to keep her job, so she trained Winston Burdett, an American newly arrived in Stockholm, in the art of journalism for a radio audience, and he read her reports for her. Incidentally, she trained Burdett so well that she wound up working herself right out of Sweden. Burdett was after all a man and now (thanks to Betty) a good broadcaster.

Winston went on to have a lengthy career as a broadcast journalist at CBS. In 1955, he admitted to being a communist spy during the 1930s and 1940s when Betty worked with him.

Trying to find another unique vantage point like she had in Stockholm, Betty went to the Balkan Islands, and to Turkey before settling in Greece where she again sent reports home to CBS. Again, CBS said she needed a male counterpart to vocally relay her stories. And again Betty complied, this time working with a male Embassy secretary, who, at least, introduced himself on-air as “Phil Brown speaking for Betty Wason.”

Betty Wason in Greece. She made her own uniform to appear more professional since there was no dress code for correspondents. Photo courtesy of Hard News: Women in Broadcast Journalism.

As the Nazis occupied Greece, Betty’s bravery was called upon again as she reported eyewitness occurrences on a regular basis through her Embassy mouthpiece. While there, she endured house arrest under Nazi supervision for two months before the regime flew her and several other journalists to Europe for questioning. Concerned that Betty might be a spy, the Nazis detained her for an additional week by herself before eventually allowing her to fly back home to the US, where she was greeted with fanfare for having endured captivity and detainment.

Invigorated by the attention she received upon returning home and by the contributions she had made to broadcast journalism overseas, Betty naturally went to the CBS offices in New York to inquire after more work or a new assignment. Shockingly, executives at CBS refused to acknowledge that she played any significant part in the broadcasting realm overseas and denounced her requests for more story assignments. In an instant, Betty was dismissed like she had never been a part of the reporting team in the first place. Immediately, her work was marginalized even though CBS had been using her content repeatedly throughout the war, finding it valuable enough at the time to pay her for it. But upon Betty’s return, none of that seemed to matter. Had Betty been a man she would have been offered a position like Winston Burdett or handed a new assignment and sent to another corner of the globe. She would have been encouraged and supported by her colleagues and eventually been able to dispel the ridiculous notion that women couldn’t vocally report the news. But that didn’t happen.

After being turned away by CBS, Betty left New York and went on to Washinton DC, where she joined forces with other women in broadcasting, collaborating on various news shows and continuing on with her writing.  Those few years of dangerous foreign reporting and her budding career of broadcast journalism didn’t turn out the way Betty expected, but ultimately, good things came out of this redirection in her life.  Her ability to believe in her own talents and to creatively work around roadblocks with persistence and perseverance led her to a fulfilling career as a writer, on her own terms.

A sampling of Betty’s cookbooks published from the 1950’s-1980’s

Inspired by her travels and her curiosity to learn more about local cultures and customs, Betty was devoted to exploring the history and the food scene in all the countries she visited, each eventually yielding their own distinct cookbook. Through her explorations in The Art of Spanish Cooking, The Art of German Cooking… of Vegetable Cooking… of Mediterranean Cooking…  Betty wanted readers to experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of her favorite places.  That genuine, awestruck wonder led to over 20 beautifully written books that pull readers (and home cooks!) in from page one…

How I wish I were about to fly to Greece again, to relive once more that special thrill of seeing from the sky the ragged ochre shoreline with its-jewel-like border of turqouise merging into the royal blue of the Aegean…(from the introduction of her Greek cookbook)

In the Vintage Kitchen, we were introduced to Betty through her Greek cookbook simply titled Betty Wason’s Greek Cookbook, a stained and splattered edition worthy of it’s adventurous war correspondent author.

 

If a cookbook could ever be a travel guide, it would be Betty’s style of approaching food. Not only does she include authentic recipes, but she writes about them with the eye of a curious tourist learning a country in detail.  In her Greek Cookbook, published in 1969, in addition to 200 recipes, she also included a state-by-state reference guide on where to buy authentic Greek ingredients in the US, a glossary of Greek terms and special tips and tricks to make sure that the cooking experience remained as easily replicated as possible.

Yesterday, it was Betty’s birthday and today it is International Women’s Day. We couldn’t think of a better post to publish than this one on the forgotten lady of broadcast journalism and now the remembered author of important vintage cookbooks.  In celebration, we made her recipe for Spanakopeta from her Greek cookbook. With spinach now coming into season,  it is an ideal dish for Spring and a guaranteed crowd pleaser for upcoming holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day. If you have never had Spanakopeta before, it is similar to quiche…. a mixture of cheese and spinach and herbs stuffed between two layers of phyllo dough.

Betty Wason’s recipe for Spanakopeta, A Greek version of Spinach Pie

It’s light in texture and constitution so it can be enjoyed as a side dish or a small dinner or a brunch accompaniment. Betty suggested that it could be served hot or at room temperature, which makes picnic basketing an option too.  It reheats well and can sit in the fridge for a few days without getting soggy so if you are a make-ahead meal planner this recipe will be effortlessly easy and valuable.

Betty Wason’s SPANAKOPETA

Serves 6

12 phyllo pastry sheets

2 pounds fresh or frozen spinach (we used fresh)

1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Salt to taste (optional)

2 eggs

1/2 lb. Gruyere-type cheese, feta cheese or dry pot cheese (* see notes)

1/2 cup melted butter or olive oil (we combined 1/4 cup of each)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If frozen spinach is used, cook as directed on package and drain well. If fresh spinach is used, wash and clean the leaves to remove any traces of dirt and pat dry. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Do not add any butter, oil or water to the pan. Working in batches, add as many large handfuls of spinach as will fit reasonably in the pan and toss with a wooden spoon until all spinach is wilted (about 2-3 minutes per batch). You may have to do this step in several batches depending on the size of your pan. Spread each cooked batch of spinach out on a cookie sheet to cool.

Once all the spinach is cooked, it will look like this…

At this point, you’ll need to wring as much water out of the spinach as possible. The easiest way to do this is to grab clumps in your hand and wring them out forming tightly packed meatball-like shapes. The drier the spinach the better so wring as much water out as you can.

Next, on a cutting board roughly chop each of the spinach balls. Mix in the dill, parsley, and salt to taste and toss until combined. I found there to be enough natural salt in the spinach and the cheese, so we didn’t add any extra salt to this dish at all, but season it to your preference.

Add one egg to the spinach and herbs and toss to combine. Grate the cheese. We can only find Gruyere at our grocery store occasionally, so I used Danish Fontina which is similar. Other options are Jarlsberg, Swiss or Feta.

Add the second egg to the grated cheese and mix to combine.

Butter a square 9×9 baking dish and place 6 sheets of phyllo pastry in the bottom. Brush each sheet with the olive oil and/or butter. Then add the spinach, and top with the cheese.

Cover with six more sheets of phyllo, each brushed in butter/olive oil. Don’t forget to brush the top layer.

Ready for the oven!

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until pastry is golden. Remove from the oven, let cool until the dish can be handled,

then turn out upside down on a baking sheet and return it to the oven so that the undercrust can become crisp and golden (about 15-20 minutes).

Back into the oven!

Remove from the oven, flip back over and cut into squares. Serve while hot or wait for it to cool to room temperature. We served our spanakopeta with a glass of sauvignon blanc and a simple side salad tossed in olive oil and lemon juice. Other additional sides that would be lovely with this include hard-boiled eggs, olives, mixed nuts,  prosciutto, or roasted sweet potatoes.

Light, airy and full of subtle flavors that are a little bit nutty (the cheese), a little bit zesty (the herbs) and a little bit earthy (the spinach), Betty’s spanakopeta is packed full of good, healthy nutrients, providing a simple introduction to the lovely world of Greek food.

It’s a good-for-your-spirit food mirroring Betty’s healthy outlook on life. She cast aside all the bitterness and resentment that could have filled her up in the post-CBS days and instead stuffed her life full of light, bright joy that enriched her spirit and fed her soul. Cheers and happy birthday to Betty for continuing to inspire women around the world with your writing.

Interested in learning more about Betty and her Greek recipes? Find her cookbook in the Vintage Kitchen shop here.

Three Recipes, Three Kitchens, Six Cooks – It’s The Wiggly, Jiggly Vintage Gelatin Cooking Challenge

It’s either fondly loved or fearsomely loathed. It’s a hodgepodge of color and creativity. It’s wiggly and jiggly. It’s sweet or savory, saucy or solid. And depending on how you prepare it, it’s silky and smooth or chunky and lumpy.

Today in the Vintage Kitchen we are talking about gelatin. That powdered concoction of collagen that originated in the boiled hooves of calves back in the 1700’s and now can be found in slim paper envelopes, dry and granular, in grocery stores around the world.

Vintage Jell-O ad

Food suspended in a translucent, quivery clump doesn’t necessarily sound or look appealing to our modern selves but there was a time in history when this type of dish was considered the essence of elegance. For centuries, gelatin has been used in cooking but in the 1930’s aspics, mousses and molded gelatin salads began to rise in mass popularity among both the upper class and the lower class for two entirely different reasons. Affluent, upper-class society enjoyed such dishes for their delicate and artistic composition while lower working classes, struggling to get through the Great Depression, valued gelatin as an inexpensive source of protein that came with an added bonus of being able to disguise and transform leftovers.

1933 Jell-O Cookbook

Here in the Vintage Kitchen, we are not big on wasting food nor on cooking up unappealing vintage recipes for the sake of mocking their unpleasant attributes. For decades throughout the 20th century people of all ages, income levels, races and genders ate and adored gelatin recipes, so it is in that vein, that we set out to explore these beloved concoctions to see how they might stack up in today’s foodie-conscious culture. Will our modern palates love them just as much as they did decades ago? Or have we become more finicky in the way we approach, prepare and taste our contemporary everyday fare?

In this post, we are diving head first into three vintage gelatin recipes steeped in the culture of mid-century America. Gelatin may have seen its rise to fame in the 1930’s, but its absolute height of popularity came in the 1950’s where two of our recipes originate.  In that decade, more women worked outside the home than ever before making time a newly juggled commodity. Gelatin-based salads, desserts, and main entrees were quick to prepare, could be made well in advance of the dinner hour and retained their shape and consistency for days in the refrigerator. This was the perfect meal-planning solution for busy women acting as wife, mother, career professional and caretaker all in one. Companies like Kraft Food (makers of Jell-O) responded to the demands of mid-century women by continuously creating and rolling out a plethora of newly invented flavored gelatins during the 1950’s that, in-turn, spawned thousands of unique recipes ranging from sweet to savory. It was a heady decade full of potential and possibilities for both gelatin companies and creative home cooks!

Vintage Jell-O Ad

By the 1960’s, the novelty of putting odds and ends into a gelatin mold had worn slightly.  Gelatin aficionados were getting a little bit more sophisticated in their creations as well as their flavor pairings. They weren’t as apt to throw-in the leftovers, or disguise a boring vegetable but instead were creating recipes that were more about flavor than thrift. Food pairings were suggested, wines were recommended and serving situations thoughtfully addressed.

Tomato aspic filled with potato salad and served alongside corn bread muffins circa 1961
It is these two interesting decades in food culture that became the foundation for our very first experimental food challenge featuring four blog readers (plus two from the Vintage Kitchen), three states (representing the East and West Coasts) and three mid-century gelatin recipes.

Our goal for this challenge was to fully embrace the experience of making and tasting these past populars.  Would we discover that they were difficult, time-consuming and confusing?  Or would they be effortless, creative and full of flavor? Each team received the same recipes with the same ingredient list, but each team could choose whatever food brands they wanted and whatever specific types of ingredient they wanted. For example – one recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese, which left it open to interpretation as to what type of cheese.  Finished product presentation was also left up to each team, even though some recipes offered serving suggestions or style notes.

MEET THE COOKBOOKS…

MEET THE VINTAGE RECIPES…

– Jellied Cheese Ring Salad (from the Silver Jubilee Super Market Cook Book, 1955)
Molded Cucumber Mousse (from The Blender Cookbook, 1961)

Spanish Cream (from the Silver Jubilee Super Market Cook Book, 1955)

MEET THE TEAMS…
 

The only requirements for this project were that each team take one photo of the ingredients they used in each recipe and one photo of their finished product. They also answered a set of questions about the experience, since working with gelatin in this format was something rather new for everyone involved. The teams did not communicate with each other at all during the process of making each recipe, nor had any collaborative influence over food styling or interview interpretation, which made for an interesting variety of visual appearance when it came to the finished products. Let’s look!

RECIPE No. 1: MOLDED CUCUMBER MOUSSE (from The Blender Cookbook, 1962)

 

Harpie & Manny, RetroRevivalists from New Jersey,  made their Cucumber Mousse using bottled lemon juice and dried parsley and decorated it in a ring of cucumbers with sliced tomatoes.

Here in the Vintage Kitchen, we used fresh lemons and Mediterranean sea salt along with parsley and organic cucumbers from the farmers market. We added our own bit of color by styling it with purple cabbage and fresh parsley. Just like Harpie & Manny we also used cucumber slices in the finished presentation.

Note how Harpie & Manny’s cucumber mousse has a lovely even consistency throughout. Our mousse in the Vintage Kitchen, had a two-toned effect with a bright green gelatin ring at the top. Not sure, why this happened but it did give our mousse an extra dose of wiggle.

Overall this recipe was very interesting. It was light, airy and creamy.  Harpie thought it was a breeze to whip up in the blender but found the ingredient interpretation a bit tricky when it came to the onions. “The directions are challenging to interpret: should we add a slice of a medium onion, or slices of a medium onion? I settled for something in the middle.”

In the Vintage Kitchen we struggled with this same issue, was it one thinly sliced medium onion or one thin slice of a medium sized onion? For the VK version we finely sliced a whole medium onion, but after tasting the finished product, would definitely cut way back on the onion to about one slice. All that onion led to a strong taste which wasn’t terrible just tangy! Having said that, if you are a fan of cold cucumber soup then you would love this recipe. It’s refreshing and summery and pretty in color. The original recipe suggested pairing it with cold poached salmon or trout, which would be really good. It would also be delicious served on of top of smoked salmon and crackers or smashed with avocado on multigrain bread with lemon and fresh herbs. Both Harpie and Manny and the Vintage Kitchen would make this mousse again, experimenting next time with a bit less onion. Harpie thought it made an excellent alternative to lettuce leaf salad.

RECIPE No. 2: JELLIED CHEESE RING SALAD (from the Silver Jubilee Super Market Cook Book, 1955 edition)

 For this recipe, you’ll note that the cheese was left up to interpretation. Marianne and Olivia,  a mother/daughter duo from Redmond, WA used honeyed goat cheese and topped their ring with orchard peaches, prosciutto, and fresh basil.  Very creative!
 

In the Vintage Kitchen, we made our ring salad with Havarti Dill cheese, organic farm eggs and milk and smoked paprika. We also chose not to ring this one since we initially thought about cubing it and serving it on top of crackers. We decorated it with a simple sprig of rosemary and served it on an age appropriate plate made by Garden City Pottery in San Jose, California in 1951.

We loved how Marianne and Olivia added a bevy of extra flavors to their cheese ring, which really opens up the possibilities of offering a sweet or savory appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. In the Vintage Kitchen, we hemmed and hawed over various cheese possibilities (blue, cheddar, gouda, cream cheese, brie, camembert, parm etc etc etc) for this recipe for an entire day before deciding on Havarti dill. There was a lot to consider here as far as color, texture, and taste, and while we had big hopes for it, the jellied cheese turned out to be pretty uninteresting in the flavor department. The Vintage Kitchen version had the consistency of a slightly damp sponge and had absolutely no smell. The combo of the smoked paprika and the dill made it taste sweaty like room-temperature buttermilk or old socks. Definitely not quite what we were expecting!

Marianne and Olivia said their version featuring goat cheese made the ring somewhat grainy, so that wasn’t ideal either.  While they didn’t hate it they wouldn’t rush to make it again. Perhaps it’s easier and more delicious to just eat a piece of cheese, in this case, instead of ringing it in jelly! But here in the Vintage Kitchen, we love a good challenge. We haven’t quite given up on this guy yet. The right cheese and the right mix of spices might yield something magical, so we are going to continue working on this just to see if we can come up with something palatable for football snacking season.

RECIPE No. 3: SPANISH CREAM (from the Silver Jubilee Super Market Cook Book, 1955)

Creativity really ruled the roost with this recipe  Harpie and Manny added an elegant drizzle of chocolate sauce and fresh strawberries to theirs.

Marianne and Olivia topped theirs with a dollop of homemade blackberry jam and served it on a gorgeous antique plate.
 

Here in the Vintage Kitchen, we topped our Spanish Cream with the last of this season’s sweet Ranier cherries. We served it on a vintage JAJ Floral Pyrex plate that was made in England in the 1960’s and dusted each piece with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Each team agreed that the Spanish Cream was by far their most favorite recipe of the three and definitely one to be made again and again. Harpie loved that it was sweet but not too sweet in taste, silky smooth in texture and refreshingly cool in the heat of summer.

Marianne liked the fact that this recipe was made up of a few simple ingredients that turned into an eye-catching, delicious treat. “I think jellied foods first appealed to people because they were pretty and a bit of a novelty. Take the Spanish Cream for example. All you need is milk and a few eggs to make a really special looking dessert. Top it with some fresh berries or jam and you have an elegant dish from ingredients most would have on hand.”

Here in the Vintage Kitchen, we loved that the consistency of the Spanish Cream was light and airy, making it a great dessert choice following a heavier meal. In taste we found it to be most similar to flan or rice pudding but not as dense in texture. Marianne likened it to a cold marshmallow or even a tapioca pudding.  Because of its simple combination of basic ingredients, there is lots of available room to add your own creativity by adding extra flavor enhancers and playing around with the styling, which makes this dessert completely customizable to each cook’s preference.  Next time Marianne and Olivia make it,  they will be experimenting with a coffee version. Harpie and Manny will throw in an extra dose of vanilla and top it with maraschino cherries. And next time we make it in the Vintage Kitchen,  we will be experimenting with a local honey and Greek yogurt version.

So enjoying two out of three of these vintage recipes wasn’t so bad! Each of us embarked on this challenge with our own pre-conceived notions about jellied foods. Harpie and Manny weren’t sure that a gelatin dish could taste good if it was anything other than sweet. “Could savory jello recipes be tasty? Or are we too ingrained in that jello is supposed to be sweet and fruity? Coming from the 1990’s baby background that the Retro Revival staff was born in, jello desserts were only fruit flavored. Anything that wasn’t fitting of that description was considered unpalatable. Once we tried the cucumber mousse (which was the first recipe we made), our feelings immediately changed. Unlike what we expected – suspended savories in a flavorless blob – we got a light and tasteful alternative to boring green salads.”

Marianne addressed the preconceptions about the congealed consistency factor.  “I think many people are afraid of gelatin or they don’t realize that it can be used to create something of a creamy texture. The expectation is that it will create something solid and jiggly. But it has so many uses beyond fruit gelatin desserts. Initially, by participating in this challenge, I was interested to see what kinds of textures would be achieved. Would jellied cheese be better than it sounds? Would I find the next “wow” dish to bring or serve at my next dinner party?”

Here in the Vintage Kitchen we were excited too at the possibility of discovering something new in these old recipes. We were curious to find the attraction of this type of cooking and to understand why people would prepare and eat jellied foods. We went into this project thinking that vintage gelatin dishes were going to be primarily a flavorless mix of strange ingredients.  We were pretty certain that our modern palate, so trained on enjoying and seeking out fresh whole foods, would reject the idea of tucking into a quivery conglomeration of cold cut-ups.

 Surprisingly though, after completing the challenge, we were all pleasantly enlightened.  Gelatin was no longer the oft-putting substance we once thought it was and it taught each of us a new way to look at how it ties together the consistency of food in a variety of formats. It was also really fun to work with. Each recipe was quick to make and exciting to style. Like blank canvases, gelatin offers an artistic form of expression combining simple, tactile arrangements of food, texture and color. As you can see from our above photographs each team presented their finished dishes in entirely different ways. Other than decorating a cake there are not that many types of food that yield such widely diverse creativity in the presentation department.

 

Marianne brought up a good point about the availability (or in this case the non-availability of ingredients back in the 20th century that aided the aspect of artistic merit. “Vintage cooks used everyday ingredients to make something special. Today we are so accustomed to getting exotic ingredients from all around the globe. Vintage cooks didn’t have that option. So, for special occasions, they used what they had and elevated them to a new level with gelatin. Appearance must have been very important. By today’s standards, the original recipes aren’t what most people think of as visually appealing but you have to admit they are all kind of show stoppers.”

Would we rush out and buy boxes and boxes of gelatin tomorrow and eat it every day from here on out? Probably not. But we wouldn’t run away from it now either. In this cooking experiment, we discovered a valuable place for the humble gelatin recipe. The powder package still holds up (no pun intended!) carrying with it the same essence of possibility and potential that it had in the 1950’s and the 1930’s and the centuries before.

Harpie and Manny thought we were still a few years away from seeing a gelatin resurgence in popular American cooking. Marianne and Olivia thought that with a good marketing campaign and better names for dishes (for example, Honeyed Goat Cheese Mousse with Yakima Peaches, Sliced Prosciutto and Basil instead of Jellied Cheese Ring Salad) that people would be more willing to experiment with and accept a jellied food dish. Here in the Vintage Kitchen, we think this is the perfect time to see gelatin rise in popularity again. Watch any episode of Chef’s Table…

and you’ll see professional cook’s experimenting with all sorts of materials to elevate their food to a new level of sensory experience. Gelatin has all the attributes of attaining something truly marvelous with a modern approach. We may not be as apt to enjoy Jellied Eggs with Prunes or Olive-Studded Ham Loaf but we don’t HAVE to eat those combos anymore either. As Marianne said we have the world at our finger tips so the set of ingredients for our next jellied dish is limited only by our imagination. And that, dear readers, is the true novelty of a good gelatin.

Cheers to our brave and industrious kitchen experimenters Harpie & Manny and Marianne & Olivia, for joining us on this fun-filled cooking challenge through the wiggly world of gelatin. Keep up with Harpie and Manny on their Retro Revival blog here.  Find both of the vintage cookbooks (plus many more unique mid-century ones!) in the shop here.

A Special Note on the featured cookbooks in this post: The Blender Cookbook (1962) features over 275 pages of vintage recipes intended entirely for creation in the blender. You will never believe the wide range of inventive and innovative recipes that these two Paris trained Gourmet magazine food editors turned authors came up with for all meals of the day! The Silver Jubilee Super Market Cook Book (1955) celebrates the 25th anniversary of the opening of America’s first supermarket. We previously featured this cookbook in a post about supermarket founder Michael J. Cullen, which you’ll find here.

New England Style: Three Vintage Bread Recipes You’ll FALL in Love With

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Now that Autumn is here and the temperatures are cooling and the holidays are coming in close, there is nothing that trumpets the start of the cozy Fall season more than baking homemade bread. This week in the vintage kitchen we are exploring three different types of bread – one quick bread, one muffin recipe and one sandwich bread, all tackled the old-fashioned way. Meaning without a bread machine or any fancy paddling mixers.

Inspiration begins back in the late 1960’s when food writer and cookbook author June Platt was living here…

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in the picturesque seaside town of Little Compton, Rhode Island. Tasked with writing a reigional cookbook made up wholly of New England fare, June compiled a list of over 250 recipes that represented the belly and bounty of diverse Northern appetites.

Her recipes were published in 1971 under the title June Platt’s New England Cook Book…

June Platt's New England Cook Book

and contained recipes both historic and modern for all meals of the day including cocktail hour, appetizers, party fare, preserves, homemade wine and the infamous bread featured here in this post. Let’s look at what’s in the oven…

BREAD No. 1

If you are anything like Ms. Jeannie, you find sandwich bread making a bit of a challenge. Usually when Ms. Jeannie attempts such creations her bread comes out weighing 18 pounds and has both the texture and composition of packed clay. Right when the oven door opens and the weighty wonder gets hoisted onto the cooling rack, she knows instantly  that she’ll need not a bread knife but a handsaw to cut into such a terrible beauty of an endeavor.

But things have changed dear readers. Ms. Jeannie can no longer say that baking is dreadful and that light, fluffy sandwich bread eludes her. Thanks to June Platt she has found her perfect sandwich bread. Easy to make, simple to bake.  Success at last! Although it is is yeast bread and therefore takes some hours to fully prepare from start to slice, it is WELL worth it and very simple. You’ll never want to eat any other bread again.

Brown Bread

Like New Englanders themselves, this bread is humble, hardy and versatile. According to June Platt, legend has it that this recipe stemmed from a farmer who was so fed up with his wife’s terrible cooking that he took to the kitchen himself keen on preparing something (anything!) edible. As  Louisa May Alcott (a fellow New Englander) said necessity is the mother of all invention, and so Farmer made his bread and named it after his wife Ana and her (damnable) cooking talents…

Anadama Bread

(makes 2 loaves)

1/2 cup white stone ground cornmeal

2 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 rounded teaspoon salt

1 yeast cake dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water

4 cups flour* (see note)

  1. Stir cornmeal very slowly into boiling water, using a wooden spoon.
  2. When thoroughly mixed add the butter, molasses and salt. Try to work out any lumps by flattening them out with the back of the wooden spoon against the side of the bowl or pan.
  3. Cool to lukewarm.
  4. Add the yeast dissolved in the warm water.
  5. Add the flour, one cup at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon, to make smooth dough.
  6. Place on a lightly floured board or canvas and knead well.
  7. Place dough in a well-buttered bowl and cover with a cloth wrung out in hot water.
  8. Allow to rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until more than double its original bulk (or for about 2.5 hours).
  9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees , and butter two 9″inch bread pans.
  10. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board again, knead lightly and shape into two loaves.
  11. Place dough in the buttered pans , cover with a towel wrung out in hot water , and allow to rise again until doubled in bulk (about one hour).
  12. Place the loaves in the pre-heated oven and bake until they are a deep golden brown (about 45-50 minutes).
  13. Place on a wire rake to cool before removing loaves from pans.

This a fun recipe to work on while you have a whole home day planned. Because it does take some time you may want to double up on the recipe and make four loaves of bread so you can stick some in the freezer for later use.

*Ms. Jeannie followed this recipe and the steps exactly with the exception of the flour. She used 2 cups all purpose flour and two cups of cake flour which is little bit lighter in texture.  This combo may have aided in a slightly fluffier loaf.

Moist, flavorful, easily sliced (no handsaw required!) this sandwich bread is perfect for everyday use in the versatile sandwich department. Hopefully it will become a household staple in your kitchen, like it now is in the land of Ms. Jeannie.

*** Update 10/26/2016***

Another batch of bread was made this time using all-purpose flour (in place of cake flour) and olive oil (in place of butter) and it came out equally as wonderful and delicious. The all-purpose flour makes it the tiniest tiny bit more dense but other than that there are no noticeable differences in either taste or texture, which leads Ms. Jeannie to believe that this just might be the most versatile and easily experimental bread recipe ever. Next time, she’ll try it with a sprinkling of nuts, seeds and/or whole grains to see what happens. Stay tuned on that front or experiment yourself and let Ms. Jeannie know how it all turned out in the comments section below.

BREAD No. 2

Fruit and nut breads are always an instant favorite and an easy go-to for busy morning breakfasts. Ms. Jeannie never passes on homemade banana or berry breads and likes to experiment herself with different flavor combos when it comes to quick breads.  Since we are in the middle of nut season, June Platt’s vintage recipe for Cranberry-Orange-Walnut Bread sounded wonderfully delicious and in-season. Only there was one slight problem. Cranberries.

Ms. Jeannie scoured high and low, store to market to store again. There were no cranberries to be had anywhere in her fair city, fresh frozen or otherwise. A bit too early for Thanksgiving relish season, perhaps, New Englanders must have made this bread in the colder mornings of November instead of October.  Out of season, but not out of spirit Ms. Jeannie substituted. And then substituted again. Dried sour cherries replaced fresh cranberries and almonds replaced walnuts.

Cherries seemed fitting on the historic side – George Washington was a fan after all. On the flavor side they are sweet yet tart like a cranberry and the dried version seemed like the next best thing. Just be sure when preparing this recipe you look for pitted sour cherries. Ms. Jeannie found her cherries at the international market inside her local farmers market and they were not pitted. That added a sticky extra 30 minutes in the prep department.

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Sour Cherry – Orange – Almond Bread

(makes 1 loaf)

2 cups sifted flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg ( well beaten)

Juice of 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)

Freshly grated rind of 1 orange (about 1 heaping teaspoon)

1/4 cup cold water

1 cup granulated cane sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped

1/2 cup whole almonds,  roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ inch bread pan.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten egg, orange juice, grated rind, water and sugar.
  4. Add the sifted ingredients and stir just long enough to mix. Stir in the melted butter. Fold in the sour cherries and almonds.
  5. Spoon mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour (or until inserted toothpick comes out clean). Oven temperatures really vary the timing on this one so keep your eye on it.
  6. Let cool on wire rack.

Because the almonds add a little hearty protein and the cherries mingle tartly with the sweet orange and cane sugars this bread is almost like a soft protein bar. Two slices are very satisfying especially when served warm with a little butter. A lovely alternative to oatmeal on those frosty winter mornings and a great bread for holiday house guests with its fast, festive and easy to freeze attitude, this bread will make holiday entertaining a breeze in the brunch/breakfast department.

Cherry orange almond bread

Bread No. 3

Our final bread comes to us by way of Vermont. June Platt had a special soft spot for the state and especially loved the maple syrup that sweetened all matter of meals in Fall and Winter. Her recipe for Vermont Johnnycake Muffins is ideally suited as a companion for a warm bowl of chili with its dense composition and hint of maple sweetness. Essentially it is a cornbread muffin with a cute name. But as Ms. Jeannie knows living in the South there are two VERY different camps on the subject of cornbread. Northerners like their cornbread sweet, Southerners like their cornbread sour (or non-sweetened if you will). Ms. Jeannie prefers hers a a little on the sweet side but not so sugary that it tastes like cake. This Johnnycake is a hospitable meet-you-in-the-middle between North and South. A cornbread for everyone.

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Vermont Johnnycake Muffins

(makes 8 muffins)

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 eggs, well beaten

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup maple syrup

6 tablespoons melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together , add the cornmeal and sift again.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and add to the dry ingredients, stirring only enough to dampen all the flour.
  4. Pour into well-buttered muffin tins and bake in a hot oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

June suggests serving these handsome guys with Maple cream or Maple Butter. Ms. Jeannie suggests a little bit of jalapeno jelly, a dollop of goat cheese and a drizzle of honey.  Like the other breads above, these muffins freeze well and can fill up a hearty appetite in a half second. Its just the kind of fortitude you need when shoveling snow or battling that freezing wind rolling in off the coast.

Vermont Johnnycake Muffins

Released to great critical acclaim, all the recipes in this cook book re-introduced regional delights that were overlooked and underrated in mid-20th century America.  June helped bring them out of hiding 45 years ago and in turn four decades later, Ms. Jeannie is shining a spotlight on them again today. So whether you are looking for something new to bake-up this season or you are like Ms. Jeannie just trying to bolster up your bread baking abilities look no further than New England dear readers!

To explore more vintage recipes from June Platt’s New England cookbook, including the wonderfully named Beach-Plum Jelly, Rinktum Ditty, Cranberry Troll Cream, Red Flannel Hash and the classics-  Lobster Rolls, New England Clam Chowder, Boston Baked Beans, etc etc etc… visit this link here.

Cheers and happy baking from June, Jeannie and all of New England!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

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…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.

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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!

 

Indonesian Inspiration: It’s Summer in the Vintage Kitchen!

Roedjack Manis

This week in the vintage kitchen we are traveling culinary style to the exotic locale of Indonesia with a flavorful summer salad recipe that capitalizes on the best of fresh garden vegetables. The recipe, Roedjak Manis, hails from the vintage 1967 cookbook A World of Nuts by Morton Gill Clark...

A World of Nuts Cookbook by Morton Gill Clark

and features one of the South’s most prolific crops – the peanut. Poor peanuts have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to all the nut allergy problems, but if you don’t suffer from any such malady than this recipe might just become your most favorite salad of the season.

As colorful as Indonesia’s  floating marketplace in Lok Baintan Kalimantan…

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this coleslaw like salad is bursting with a bright bouquet of garden goodness that not only makes it delicious in the flavor department but also pretty on the plate.

Roedjack Manis

And unlike some international recipes, if your garden isn’t yielding this type of produce just yet, no worries, you can find all these ingredients easily at the farmers market or the grocery.

Before we dive into the recipe, let’s look at the place where our salad hails from…

indonesia_collage

Home to over 6,000 islands, Indonesia is an epicenter of culture and cuisine combining Chinese, Indian, European and Middle Eastern nationalities. This unique blend of heritage paired with it’s lush tropical environment provide the platform for some of the most flavorful cuisine in the world. 

Morton Gill Clark, traveled around the world gathering inspiration for his nut cookbook, picking up recipes that not only were not only indigenous of the places he visited but also easily adaptable for American cooks and kitchens. As a mid-century food journalist for Gourmet Magazine and Vogue, he had a refined palette for good, clean food that was easy to prepare and interesting to play around with. His recipe for Roedjak Manis is a shining example of both. Loaded with vitamins, nutrients and healthy fats, it offers a variety of serving options – a side salad, an appetizer, a snack, a unique hors d’ouevre – it is literally a feast for your imagination and for your belly.

If your summer scrapbook doesn’t include a trip to the idyllic islands of Indonesia, don’t fret, your senses will transport you on a trip of a lifetime with this culinary kitchen adventure. Are you ready dear readers? Let’s go!

Roedjak Manis (serves 4-6)

2 sweet red peppers or 8 mini bell peppers in assorted colors, seeded

1 cup peanuts

1 tblsp. brown sugar

1 tsp anchovy paste

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 1/4 cups finely shredded green cabbage

1 cup finely shredded lettuce (spring salad mix, romaine, etc)

1 cup thinly sliced bamboo shoots

1/4 cup slivered scallions

1/3 cup whole toasted peanuts

1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

A quick note on ingredients: Ms. Jeannie purchased a bag of dry roasted, salted peanuts in the shell, which she then de-shelled for this recipe. If you don’t have this extra few minutes you can use a jar of already shelled peanuts. Bamboo shoots come in cans packed with water and can be found in the Asian section of the grocery.   

Roughly chop the peppers. Combine peppers and peanuts in a blender and pulse until they form a creamy paste similar to hummus. Depending on the water content of your peppers you might need to add a few squeezes of lemon juice to get the appropriate consistency. After a few minutes in the blender, peanuts and peppers should look like this…

Roedjack Manis

Next, add the sugar, anchovy paste and lemon juice to the pepper mixture and blend until combined. Set aside.

Thinly slice the cabbage, lettuce and bamboo shoots and toss together in a large mixing bowl.

Roedjack Manis

Then add the pepper mixture, whole peanuts and scallions with the lettuce and toss. It’s easiest to use your hands for this process since the pepper mixture is thick.

Roedjack Manis

Once all the ingredients are combined, set salad aside while you chop the egg and slice the cucumber. You can serve these last two ingredients either on top of the salad or on the side depending on your preference. Ms. Jeannie served her egg/cucumber on the side and put the salad in a big bowl, family-style so her dinner mates could serve themselves.

Roedjack Manis

Because this salad is packed with peanut protein, you could make this a meat-free meal or it would also be delicious with simple sautéed or poached chicken breasts, carrot chips or steamed rice. Like the summer season itself, it is easy breezy in the adaptability department and transports well as a picnic component.

Find more nut-based recipes in Morton’s cookbook here.  And find more around-the-world inspiration in the vintage kitchen with these previous cooking related posts.

Cheers and happy cooking!

 

In the Vintage Kitchen: Eggplant Pizza

Eggplant Pizza

Pizza has been a favorite in the U.S. since the early 1900’s with the first of its kind debuting in New York City in 1905. Popular right from the start, pizza wars started popping up all over the city, then the region then the country as Italian immigrants spread across America with their claims of making the best pizza in town.

G. Lombardi's the trendsetter on the american (pizza) frontier.
G. Lombardi’s on Spring Street in New York City was the trendsetter on the American (pizza) frontier.

And while bravado and traditional recipes may have fueled the pizza craze initially, creativity, with its variations on a theme, has kept it going ever since.

Strolling through 19th century pizza signs
A walk through 20th century pizza signs…

By the 1960’s American home chefs were experimenting with the complimentary trifecta of tomato sauce, bread and cheese in new and spectacular ways.  By thinking beyond the boundaries of size, shape and similarity, pizza was elevated to a nouveau cuisine that could incorporate a host of  ingredients from the humble to the exotic appealing to palates both simple and sophisticated.

One such experimenter determined to add a new twist to the traditional pizza pie was food editor, critic and chef Craig Claiborne.

craigclaiborne2

In his 1963 Herb and Spice Cookbook, he capitalized on the subtle yet dynamic flavor pairings of basil, oregano and garlic and came up with a dough-less version of eggplant pizza.

An Herb And Spice Cookbook by Craig Claiborne

Craig was no slouch in the cooking department. He knew his way around a home kitchen just as much as he did a commercial kitchen and he knew what and how people liked to eat. As the The New York Times food and restaurant critic for 29 years from 1957-1986, he pretty much pioneered food journalism in the Unites States at a time in the mid-1950’s when such editorial posts were primarily held by women for the female homemaker audience. But Craig was different, he was interested in casting wider nets, reaching more diverse audiences and bridging a relationship between restaurants, patrons and cultures.

craigclaiborne1

The author of over twenty cookbooks throughout his career, Craig’s Herb and Spice Cook Book is marvelous in both content and presentation. Organized alphabetically by spice or herb name it is a great reference cookbook when you have ten pounds of basil ready to harvest in your garden or you are craving a specific spice like curry or cinnamon… or marjoram!

marjoram

The eggplant pizza recipe fell under the oregano section which included recipes for Eggplant Antipasto, Chicken Napolitana, Herb-Broiled Swordfish and Creole Cabbage among four others. Excited by the possibility of giving her indoor oregano plant a hair-cut, Ms. Jeannie was happy to try this new version of pizza which turned out to be really delicious.

pizza1

It is a fun recipe for a few different reasons: 1} you make a quick version of homemade tomato sauce that takes little time and tastes great; 2} the “pizzas” can range in a variety of customizable sizes depending on the girth of your eggplant… if you have a skinnier eggplant you could serve those as appetizers or hors d’ouevres  for a party (maybe this weekend’s Super Bowl?!) or if you have a more rubenesque eggplant that would be a perfect size for dinner entrees; and 3} the breadcrumbs add a fabulous bit of crunch to the whole package just like a traditional pizza dough would.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe…Ms. Jeannie hopes you love this magical version of pizza just as much as the tradtional.

Eggplant Pizza (serves 6)

2 tablespoons cooking oil (Ms. Jeannie used olive oil)

1 small clove of garlic, minced

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

4 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon oregano

3/4 teaspoon basil leaves

3/4 teaspoon sugar

2 3/4 teaspoons salt* (Ms. Jeannie thinks this might be a typo as it seems like a lot of salt for this size recipe so please use caution and your own sensibilities with this ingredient. And remember you an always add more salt but never take it away.  Ms.Jeannie used about 1 teaspoon total but you might adjust that according to your taste).

1 medium eggplant

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 cup bread crumbs (Ms. Jeannie used plain panko-style bread crumbs)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesean cheese

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

flour for dredging

Oil for frying (Ms. Jeannie used olive oil)

Toppings of your choice: whatever  you normally like on a pizza ie: mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, olives, etc.

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a one quart saucepan. Add the garlic, onion and green pepper. Cook, stirring, three minutes or until the onions and green pepper are limp.

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2. Add the tomato paste and water. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, over low heat until very thick, about ten minutes Add the oregano, basil, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt* before the end of cooking time. *Salt to taste here. If you think the sauce needs more add a little bit, just keep in mind you’ll be adding salty parmesean cheese and possibly salty toppings later).

3. Remove sauce from heat and set aside while preparing the eggplant.

4. Wash, peel and cut eggplant into cross-wise slices one half inch thick.

5. Beat the egg with the milk and set aside. Mix bread crumbs with the remaining cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper.

6. Dip the eggplant slices in the flour, then in the beaten egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.

7. Saute the eggplant in the hot oil until golden, turning to brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all eggplants are cooked.

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8. Place the cooked eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and spread them with the cooked tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese and your desired toppings . Place under a broiler until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

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Ms. Jeannie kept her pizzas simple and just topped them with mozzarella, capers, basil and garlic but other ideas include prosciutto, pineapple, mushrooms, pepperoni, olives, figs, etc. So many possibilities!

Happy experimenting dear readers! With love from Ms. Jeannie and Craig Claiborne

You can find Craig Claiborne’s Herb and Spice Cook Book here and a host of other vintage recipes Ms. Jeannie has blogged about previously here.

Want to know what it is like to run a real-life modern day pizza kitchen? Check out the recently published book Delancey by Molly Wizenberg – it is completely entertaining. And if you are not craving pizza by the end of all this, you are extraordinary:)

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