The Not So Easy Adventure of the Very Pale Petit Fours

It just came to my realization that we haven’t done many dessert style recipes here on the blog, even though our instagram feed is full of vintage sweet treats that we have baked over the past two years. Today we are remedying that with a three piece recipe adventure just in time for Easter. I call it an adventure because I’d never charted these waters before, the journey wasn’t quite what I anticipated and surprise situations popped up right and left.

It all began with a 1960’s recipe that my grandmother had clipped from some unknown source and tucked inside her recipe box. When she passed away at the marvelous age of 97, I inherited her box and carefully preserved all the recipes in her own handwriting, while also pulling out all the collected newspaper/magazine/packaging recipes that sounded interesting. While looking through these the other day this one caught my eye…

Easy petit fours! A fun colorful dessert for the Easter holiday. Perfect! I know I’ve eaten petit fours before – in France when I was young and most probably at a wedding or two since, but I don’t actually recall the details of those desserts except of course they were made of tidy little packages and came in an array of Easter egg colors.  My grandmother, Dorothy, never considered herself a confident cook (although everything she made was delicious) so the fact that this recipe was in her box and that it was labeled easy seemed the perfect foray into this age old French confection. With that in mind, I set off to make my very first batch.

You’ll notice in the recipe above that the first ingredient is sponge cake – so I first started there, making a sponge cake from a recipe in Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book circa 1950.

Next I went on to make the buttercream frosting from the 1960’s-era Easy Petit Four recipe, which with its five ingredients was super quick to whip up. So far so good!

The Easy Petits Four recipe used food coloring to make the pretty pastel shades of this elegant, lady-like dessert. But not really a fan of the ingredients used to make food coloring (a mixture of mostly artificial and synthetic materials) I opted to create my own dyes using natural fruit juices.  In my head pastel pink and orange seemed like a pretty arrangement so in the blender I finely chopped cherries for the pink and then manderin oranges for the orange and strained each into separate bowls using cheesecloth.  As a just-in-case, I also, at the last minute, chopped and strained a batch of blackberries and blueberries for a purple shade if one of the other two colors didn’t work out.

This was where things started to get a little tricky. When I divided the buttercream into four separate bowls, and added a few teaspoonfuls of natural juice dye as the Easy Petite Four recipe suggested, the buttercream barely changed color. I added more juice dye and the color brightened but then the buttercream became too liquidy.  So then I added more powdered sugar to bulk it back up again, which brought the buttercream color closer back to white again. You can see I had a situation on my hands. Setting these four batches of whites off to the side for a minute, I cut up the sponge cake into petite parcels and thought about some solutions to a bolder burst of color.

While I was cutting and the buttercream was resting, the colors in the bowl turned a little darker, so I trimmed up the little cakes into as even square shapes as possible (not the easiest of feats!)…

and set to work on frosting them to see what these buttercream versions would look like…

As you can see, there is slight (the slightest!) variation between all three frostings. Not exactly the dramatic shades I had in mind but at least they didn’t contain unnatural ingredients. By this point in the whole dessert endeavor I should have been ready to frost the rest of the batch, call this recipe done and serve them on a plate. The Easy Petit Four recipe suggested styling them with colored sugar or chocolate pieces or candied flowers.  But because my frosting was a little mild on the color spectrum, I opted for a different topper – a mixed berry reduction and fresh sprigs of mint which would lend a spirited dose of revelry to this celebration. To the stovetop I went…

The colorful mixed berry reduction (a combination of red grapes, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and raspberries) helped bring out the color in all the little petit fours and the flavors between fruit and cake were fresh and balanced. They definitely weren’t traditional but they were delicious. In the end these little bite-sized bundles turned out to be quite curious all on their own even though they didn’t wind up as originally intended.

Which goes to show you that you can still learn new things from old recipes! It also means the easiest route is not necessarily the most healthy route. And even though it took about a half day to work through the process of this vintage recipe, I came up with two other ideas in relation to other meals – one for an appetizer and one for an hors d’oeuvres (more on those latter this spring).

Like any travel adventure I started out on this journey thinking that I’d already know what my final destination would look like but somewhere along the way this kitchen trip side-stepped my plans and led me down another path from which I ended up returning wiser and more curious. Petits fours are part of French cuisine defined as small cakes baked in small ovens. Which means any cake-like dessert has a chance to be a petit four. What I thought of as a fairly traditional dessert with a singular style really has no boundaries – nut butter, chocolate, jam, fruit, honey, whip cream, herbs, vegetables all have the opportunity to be whirled up into a petite confection. So in this sense petite fours are very easy, very accommodating. The natural fruit dyes on the other hand are still a work-in-progress! If you have any recommendations or helpful hints, please share!

Below are the three recipes needed to make up the Vintage Kitchen’s version of a petit four. The 1960’s Easy Petit Four Recipe below has been adadpted to suit this new minty fruit-topped version. If you’d like to make the original mid-century version please consult the recipe photo near the top of the this post.

Betty Crocker’s Glorious Sponge Cake circa 1950

6 eggs

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour or 1 cup sifted cake flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 13″x 9″ inch pan.
  2. Separate the egg whites from eggs in two different bowls.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat the six yolks together until thick (at least 5 minutes).
  4. Beat in gradually the sugar, then the flour and then the water, lemon extract and lemon rind.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl combine the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar and beat until stiff.
  6. Gradually and gently cut and fold the egg yolk mixture into the beaten whites. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (depending on your oven this may take more or less time).
  7. When cake tests done, invert and let hang until cold.

Easy Petits Fours circa 1960’s

1 sponge cake

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 egg whites, unbeaten

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Few grains (one pinch) salt

Cut 24 petit fours from one sponge cake. Cream butter until light and fluffy; add egg whites, beat in. Add sugar and salt slowly while continuing to beat. Add vanilla. Divide frosting into 4 portions, leaving one white. With food coloring (or natural dye)  tint the other portions pink, green and yellow respectively. Hold top and bottom of each cake between thumb and finger. Frost sides. Place cake on flat-surface and frost the top. Decorate with your choice of embellishments.

Mixed Berry Reduction

8 oz. of assorted fresh berries (the smaller in size the better!)

2 teaspoons butter

1/8 cup cane sugar

1/8 cup water

Fresh mint for garnish (the smaller the leaves the better)

Pinch of salt

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water and berries and bring to a simmer.
  2. Add the butter, sugar and salt and toss to combine. Cover and reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally until some of the berries breakdown and form a thin sauce.
  3. Remove the lid and stir until almost all the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat, let cool completely before topping petit fours.
  4. Garnish with fresh mint.

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!

 

Oh My Cod: It’s Friday in the Vintage Kitchen!

Cod Cakes!

This week Ms. Jeannie was in the kitchen with two famous figures: Richard Nixon and James Beard. Richard assisted in the artwork (that’s his face on that vintage 1974 newspaper!) and James provided the recipe, which is a spin on an iconic food hailing from coastal Maryland.

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The beautiful view from Baltimore, Maryland!

In 1959 celebrated American chef James Beard published his second cookbook simply titled The James Beard Cookbook.

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The James Beard Cookbook 1959 edition

In 1970 he revised it and in 1980 he had intentions of revising it again. By this point in his career he was five decades into cooking, writing and teaching people about good food and how to prepare it. He had written 18 cookbooks and he had traveled the world in search of good taste. He also had twenty five years under his belt as a teacher in his brownstone cooking school in New York City.

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The Beard House … still enticing cooks world-wide!

But  for all the things he did have by this point in his illustrious career, there was one thing he was sorely missing. Enthusiasm. The energy to refine recipes that felt satisfying in 1959 felt forced by 1980.  As he was embarking on the third revision of his 21 year old cookbook, James was 77 years old and his palette had changed. The way he wanted to prepare food had changed. He was less interested in salt, kitchen gadgets, and formulaic steps. He was more interested in whimsicality, natural selection and on-the-spot innovation. From the 1930’s-1970’s James Beard taught America how to cook. By 1981, with the publication of The New James Beard, he gave America courage to cook for themselves.

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First edition of The New James Beard, 1981.

To play around with a semblance of recipes that could be altered to suit your taste, budget, time constraints and party plans was the essence of his new cookbook and his new approach to confident culinary creativity.

Which brings us to today’s recipe and that famous food hailing from Maryland – crab cakes. Only we are not making crab cakes exactly because James Beard gave us confidence to think outside the box (or the cake if you like a fun pun!). This week Ms. Jeannie is in the kitchen with Richard Nixon and James Beard making Cod Cakes – a simple easy to prepare dinner capitalizing on fresh flavors, inexpensive ingredients and easy preparation.

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This is a three step recipe broken down in order of the three P’s – potatoes, poaching, patty-ing for efficient preparation.  Intended to serve eight, you can easily cut the recipe in half at all steps if you are feeding less people or make the full recipe and freeze the leftover cakes for a future dinner. Let’s begin with the potatoes…

Step One: POTATOES

2 large potatoes (enough to make 2 cups of mashed potatoes)

3 tablespoons butter

water

Peel and cube potatoes. Place in medium size pot with enough water to cover and boil until potatoes are tender when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drain. Mix potatoes with butter in a medium size bowl with a hand mixer until fully mashed. Set aside.

Step Two: POACH

White Wine Court Bouillon

2 quarts water

2 cups dry white wine

1 onion stuck with two cloves

1 rib celery

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon salt

1 strip lemon peel

2 sprigs parsley

4 pounds cod filets, whole or chunked

Preheat oven to 170 degrees and place an empty covered dish in the oven to warm. Make sure the dish is large enough to hold all the fish you are preparing. Combine all ingredients (minus the fish) in a large saute pan, and bring to a boil before reducing the heat and simmering for 20 minutes. Add the fish and poach gently for 10 minutes for each measured inch of thickness. (So if your filet measures 2 inches at its thickest part, poach for 20 minutes, if it is 1 inch poach for 10, 3 inches for 30 etc.). Once the fish is cooked through, remove your covered casserole dish from the oven, place the fish inside, cover it and leave on top of the stove to keep warm while you prepare the next set of ingredients.

Step Three: Patty

Codfish Cakes

2 cups flaked poached codfish

2 cups mashed potato mixture

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons butter

Chopped parsley for garnish

Combine the codfish, potatoes, egg, egg yolk and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well and form into cakes about 3 inches across and 1 inch thick. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and saute the cakes until crispy brown on both sides. Add more butter if needed. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately on top of a bed of mixed lettuce or wilted spinach.

James Beard's Cod Cakes recipe from The New James Beard, 1981
James Beard’s Cod Cakes recipe from The New James Beard, 1981

In the spirit of creativity that this cookbook encourages, James also recommends mixing other ingredients into your cod cakes. If you like try mixing in fresh ginger, onions, bacon or salt pork. Swap the butter for olive oil if you are so inclined. Bake your cakes in the oven instead of on the stovetop. Go a more traditional route and serve your cod cakes with fresh lemon slices and homemade tarter sauce or on top of a bed of smashed peas or alongside a lemon, dill and onion salad. The sky is the limit with this recipe because that’s half the fun of cooking – inventing new twists as you go along:)

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According to former White House cooking staff, Richard Nixon’s favorite foods were fruit, cottage cheese with ketchup and a weekly splurge of meatloaf (half ground pork/half ground beef). There’s no mention that he was necessarily a huge fish fan, but Ms. Jeannie guesses that these cod cakes would A-Okay in his book, because he rarely refused any type of food. James would have given Richard a thumbs up on the ketchup and cottage cheese combo not because this necessarily sounds appetizing but because Richard himself thought it was, and really that’s all that matters when it comes to cooking. If James Beard taught us anything with The New James Beard cookbook, it was to please your palette first and then please your dinner companions next.

So mix things up, change your tactics, refine your techniques. Explore and experiment and have fun dear readers! The vintage kitchen awaits! If you need a little more inspiration to get you going, perk up your palette with this vintage kitchen items and see what possibilities await…

Clockwise left to right starting at the top:
Clockwise left to right starting at the top: Striped 1940’s mixing bowl1960’s Herb & Spice Cook Book, Vintage Red Floral Platter, Vintage White Serving Bowl, Vintage 1960s Caribbean Cookbook , Antique English Platter, Vintage 1970s Best Recipes Cook Book, Antique Porcelain Gravy Boat, 1930’s French Floral Platter

With love from Richard and James and Ms. Jeannie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

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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!

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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…

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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

Pota

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!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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In the Vintage Kitchen: How To Make Healthy Refried Beans From Scratch

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Happy New Year dear readers! Ms. Jeannie is sending you bucketfuls (it’s been raining a lot here) of good wishes, good fortune and good health for this new year.

This week we are back in the vintage kitchen with a healthy recipe that features a food staple held high in the luck department for January. Beans! They also made the news this past week as something we Americans should be eating more of (poor unfortunate sugar just got the worst rap) so we are conquering two bright and shiny wish you well tidings with one post here – good health and good luck.

If you are anything like Ms. Jeannie you might never have thought much about refried beans…how they are made, what exactly they are made with and how you might possibly make your own better version at home. In the store they come canned in two varieties, vegetarian and traditional and most contain hydrogenated oils and preservatives which are not the healthiest of options. But refried beans are great on tacos, burritos and nachos and are a great source of protein so Ms. Jeannie was excited to come across a from-scratch recipe in this vintage cookbook recently listed in her shop

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Best Recipes from the Cook Book Guild published in 1972

Published in 1972, The Best Recipes from the Cook Book Guild is actually a compilation book of hundreds of recipes from other note-worthy cookbooks published between the 1940’s and the 1960’s. Each recipe comes with source notes and sometimes a story about where the recipe came from and who made it originally, which of course opens the door to a myriad of culinary adventures to pursue.

 

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The refried bean recipe came from the 1967 edition of The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz (1915-2003), who was an award-winning  British food writer and the wife of Mexican diplomat Cesar Ortiz Tenoco.

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Through extensive travels in South America (and perhaps a few helpful lessons from Cesar’s family!) Elisabeth became an expert at preparing and instructing others on the art of Mexican cooking. The author of numerous international cookbooks, she is credited primarily with introducing Latin American cuisine to home cooks in both the U.S. and her native England during the 1960’s singing it’s flavor-packed praises in the forms of books and articles for Gourmet magazine and various food-related periodicals.  So what we have here dear readers is a fresh approach to an ethnic recipe from  a woman who learned her way through the culture. In Ms. Jeannie’s opinion, this is the best kind of cooking – learning through curiosity, love and experience .

Part One: Cooking the Beans
Part One: Cooking the Beans

Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos) serves 6

2 cups dried pinto, black or red kidney beans (Ms. Jeannie used black beans for her recipe)

cold water

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bay leaf

2 serrano chiles, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried chilis, crumbled (Ms. Jeannie used one teaspoon red pepper flakes since fresh chiles aren’t in season yet here in the South)

11 tablespoons lard or oil (Ms. Jeannie used olive oil)

salt

freshly ground pepper

1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped ( if tomatoes aren’t in season yet you can substitute 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained of juice)

  1. Wash the beans and place in a saucepan, without soaking, with enough cold water to cover, 1 of the chopped onions, 1 of the garlic cloves, the bay leaf and the chiles.
  2. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat; and simmer gently , adding more boiling water as it evaporates from the pan. {Note: Using black beans, this process took about one hour and 30 minutes with about a cup of additional boiling water added halfway through.}
  3. When the beans begin to wrinkle (or become sift as in the case of the black beans) add one tablespoon of lard or oil and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes over the same heat. Do not add anymore water.
  4. Heat the remaining lard or oil in a skillet, and saute the remaining onion and garlic until limp. Add the tomato and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and working in small batches add beans to the onion/garlic mixture mashing them together to form a paste. Repeat this step until all beans have mashed with the onion and garlic.
  6. Heat 2 tablespoons of lard or oil in a large skillet, add the beans in small batches and mash over low heat, forming a creamy heavy paste. Add two additional tablespoons of lard or oil intermittently throughout this process.
  7. Repeat step six again with the last 4 tablespoons of oil, once the beans have all been initially pureed. (This is the re-fried part in the name refried beans!) It should look like this when finished…
Homemade Refried Beans
Part Two: Mashing and Frying the Beans

This recipe is a great one because, once you understand the principles of refried beans  you can really change things up and add your own flair if you like. Spice it up, experiment with different herbs or chopped vegetables like leeks or scallions or different types of cheese.  If you like your refried beans a little bit more loose, you can add a little water to the pan after step 7 and mix it into the beans until you get the desired consistency. Likewise you can use the beans as part of lots of different dinner options from hors d’oeuvres to appetizers to main courses.

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Ms. Jeannie made chicken tostados with her refried beans.  Quick and easy, she prepared them with the same whimsical, spur-of-the-moment method she uses for making tacos.  This one featured layers of tostado with chicken breast, green olives, lettuce, onion, avocado, cheddar cheese, tomatoes and the warm refried beans.

There are so many beans left over, Ms. Jeannie’s already hatching new recipes in her head about how else she can use them in her cooking this week ahead.  It looks like luck will continue spilling forth across many days this week in the kitchen department. If you want to save your luck for another day store it in an air-tight container and freeze it for later use:)

To embark on more culinary adventures using The Best Recipes from The Cookbook Guild as your spring board, please visit here. And as always, you can access dozens of other delicious vintage recipes on Ms. Jeannie’s blog using this link.

Happy cooking dear readers!