November 29, 2010

In a Poetic Vein

Today's inspiration is the poet Maya Angelou, who also happens to be a cookbook writer (who knew?).  A recipe from her second cookbook, Great Food All Day Long (Random House, 2010) was featured in this week's Parade magazine, but what caught my attention was this quote: "Kidneys have wonderful flavor, and yet few Americans eat them. First remove the veins and fat and soak in salt water. Veins will take all the joy out of a meal." [my emphasis] True, so true, Maya. Yet even the fabled Culinary Arts Institute has omitted this crucial step.  Thus, prepare today's recipe at your own risk.  It is destined to be a joyless meal.


3 lamb or pork kidneys
1 sprig parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon drippings
1 cup water or consomme
1 teaspoon vinegar

Wash kidneys, slice very thin and season with salt and pepper. Cook with herbs in drippings until tender. Add water and vinegar, heat to boiling and serve at once.  Serves 3

250 Ways to Prepare Meat, Culinary Arts Institute, 1940

Perhaps the boiling water that you will down along with your serving of kidney will distract you from the sad vision of veins on your plate.  Then again, it may just double your reasons to think this a joyless meal!

November 17, 2010

The Surprise Inside

Before microwave ovens entered the typical American kitchen, how could the harried housewife get dinner on the table in 45 minutes? "It's possible!", says the Better Homes and Gardens Meals in Minutes cookbook, adding, "The family will think you're a wonder." With chapters headed "Main dishes like magic", "Skip-a-step salads","Dandy do-little desserts" (my favorite) and "Bigtime broiler meals", this cookbook offers plenty of options for quick meals, accompanied by luridly colored photos of the final product.  I'm especially taken with their desire to avoid showing a brand preference by disguising their ingredients in plain brown wrappers (well, actually plain yellow, pink and green wrappers):

Note the can of soup labeled as FROZEN SHRIMP SOUP.  Is it frozen, or is it canned? Make up your minds, people!

Today's selection comes from the "Broiler recipe roundup".  Aren't you tempted by a dinner with the enticing name "Surprise Logs"? Me neither - which is why this dish makes it into the  frightening food category. The intro tells us "Inside each, a row of olives.  Next time, the surprise can be a dill pickle stick -".  It sounds like the start of a game - "Name that Surprise"! Next time, the surprise can be - a row of lima beans.  Next time, the surprise can be - pickled beets.  Next time, the surprise can be - I could go on and on! But you, dear reader, are no doubt waiting with bated breath for the recipe, so I will stop dallying with fun fillings and get on with it.


1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup corn flake crumbs
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoons chopped ripe olives
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon snipped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
20 pitted ripe olives
5 coney buns, toasted [and of course the recipe leaves you with 3 lonely hot dog buns]

Combine first nine ingredients; shape in 5 logs to fit coney buns. Press a row of olives into center of each log, molding meat around olives. Broil 3 inches from heat, turning occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes or until done. Serve in coney buns. Makes 5 servings [duh!]

Better Homes and Gardens Meals in Minutes, Meredith Corporation, 1963

November 12, 2010

The Frugal Feast

Today's recipe comes from  - who else - our friends at the Culinary Institute.  In 1940, the country had yet to recover from the Great Depression and times were tough - so what to do when pesky relatives or other unwelcome guests continued to invite themselves to your table?  Stuffed Crown Roast is the answer!  "It can't be", you think, "Crown Roast is much too expensive." Well, if you are referring to Crown Roast of Beef, why yes it is.  But the editors of 250 Ways to Prepare Meat have a clever alternative:
"A crown roast of wieners is an ideal solution for guest problems when the budget is low." 

Serving hot dogs and sauerkraut is a reasonable choice when you have many mouths to feed and money is tight.  But trying to make it look like a Crown Roast? That has a certain whiff of self-delusion.  Really, do you think anyone will be fooled?  You can use a string to sew through hotdogs and make them stand on their own, stuff the middle with sauerkraut and say you are serving a Crown Roast, but WHY? (Yes, that is the technique. "Using large needle and string sew through all the frankfurters 1/2" from the top, and again 1/2 " from the bottom" - tie the ends together, and voila!).
Hmmmm... are you sure those are frankfurters?

November 4, 2010

Squirrel - The Other White Meat

Norman Squirrel first appeared two summers ago, just as the first crop of fresh peaches appeared on the trees that my husband had planted that spring.  While Casey watched patiently for the peaches to ripen, Norman apparently decided that you can't judge ripeness by looks alone.  Every day we would find more peaches on the ground, a few little rodent bites nibbled from each one, as if they had been tasted and found wanting. As time went on, the number of ripening peaches on the tree got smaller and smaller, and more and more peaches hit the ground.  There were still some good looking peaches, though, ripening under Casey's watchful gaze.  Then one day, there were none.

Clearly Norman was to blame.  It seemed unlikely that one squirrel had managed that much destruction in one night - he must have had a party and brought all his little peach-eating rodent friends over to finish off the job he had started.  Of course, once you start talking about a squirrel having a party, your discussion veers quickly right past silly and into ridiculous.  By the end of our dinner-time chat that night, Norman was the star of a new children's book, "Party On, Norman Squirrel!" Casey found it much less amusing than the rest of us.

Flash forward a year.  For the second year, we put up a nice canopy with screened sides on our back deck, and enjoyed bug-free dining - until Norman struck again.  He had decided that netting makes great dental floss.  Big ugly holes had been chewed in each corner of the netting, and even into some of the canvas.  Now I was beginning to appreciate Casey's increasing desire to "get that squirrel". 

This year, we had a very busy summer, much of it spent away from home.  Casey put the roof up over the canopy frame, but we never did get around to hanging the new netting.  "Well, at least Norman won't be eating it this year." Wrong! He must have really like that netting - this year he climbed to the top and chewed up the netting between the little cupola and the rest of the canopy.  Enough is enough, Norman! Someone might just use you and a few of your partners-in-crime to make a stew. 

In case anyone is inspired, here's a recipe:


Clean 3 squirrels, cut lengthwise into halves, simmer in boiling salted water with one pound of carrots until tender. [Note that the recipe doesn't mention whether this will be a matter of minutes, hours, or days!] Blend 6 tablespoons each melted fat and flour, add 2-3/4 cups of strained squirrel stock [not available commercially], 1 teaspoon minced onion, 1 bay leaf and salt.  Cook until thickened and serve over squirrel for 6.

250 Ways to Prepare Meat, Culinary Arts Institute, 1940

November 1, 2010

Friday's Frightening Photo was.....

Grilled apricots in a marmalade glaze.

I Left My Heart.....Simmering in a Saucepan

What I especially like about this recipe:
* They suggest packing it for lunch.  Picture the comments in the cafeteria when this comes out of the brown bag!
* The handy progression of heart sizes - one for every appetite.  And who doesn't have an appetite for heart once in a while? Okay, who does have an appetite for heart, ever? Looks like this poll is a handy win for the heart-haters.

Set out a saucepot with a tight-fitting cover.  Cut arteries, viens and any hard parts [unspecified! Maybe from animals with high cholesterol] from

1 small beef heart, or
2 veal hearts, or
3 pork hearts, or
4 lamb hearts

Wash in warm water. Drain hearts on absorbent paper. Put heart in the kettle. Add water to cover, and
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. celery salt
3/4 tsp. margoram
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. MSG

Simmer covered 2-1/2 hours, or until tender.  (Add 1 to 1-1/2 hours for beef heart.)
Drain and chill in refrigerator.  Slice and wrap for lunch or use in sandwiches.

The Lunchbox Cookbook, Culinary Arts Institute, 1954