It’s one of the biggest challenges and conundrums of my cooking, blogging, writing, and teaching life. Folks are so very interested in food, love to chat about it, are crazy about eating, and seem to know lots about ingredients and technique (Food Network and “Top Chef”, I guess). But somehow they often have an awesome amount of trouble getting into the kitchen and actually cooking. There are myriad reasons and I needn’t name them.
I never tire of the SILVER PALATE cookbook. In fact, I recently saw a perfect hardback copy at a used bookstore and snatched it up to put away for when my paperback copy -almost 30 years old-dies. Or for when one of my children or good friends loves something I’ve made and I want to hand them their own copy. My bent-paged, tattered covered, stained, smeared, and spilled-upon copy is one of the loves on my cookbook shelf. Within are notes, memories of special times, thoughts, re-writes (heavier salt back then and more ingredients available now), dreams, and just plain stuff that is still fun to look at and/or cook. Written back when women were just seriously beginning to need a reason to not cook (actually that’s when the shop hit it big in NY), it hit the market with a big keBANG and, I think, opened up a whole world to a whole lotta people. Funny, huh?
Think of it. My cookbookshelf before 1980. Julia. James. Betty Crocker. Joy. Galloping Gourmet. I think there were Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping books my mom threw in when I got married. I had a recipe box with 4×6 cards and I was a lot better off than many friends who had 3×5 cards. GOURMET. BON APPETIT. I had those. When I could afford them.
People cooked from newspapers and church cookbooks. A lot. More often, people cooked from scraps of paper quickly scribbled while you visited someone else and wanted a copy of a recipe they had made. Or, as with my Aunt Marie (Dad’s sister), you sat and wrote recipes while she talked. That’s how I got my grandma’s pound cake recipe. I never met my grandma; she died about 1938. Thank God for my Aunt Marie’s memory. Thank God for my mom’s memory because the imprints in my mind of watching her cook were of the times she cooked out of her head. Were there copy machines? Sure, but only in offices or libraries. And, if you did copy something onto that filmed sort of paper, what did you do with that piece of paper? If you were a very organized person or a secretary by profession, you might have punched them and put them in a 3-ring binder with your other typed recipes. Big if. I met one person like that in my life. And I cooked. People didn’t really have typewriters until (or if) they went to college, and those were wretched machines. If you wanted to type seriously you used the IBM at work after hours. If, by chance, you worked.
I thought I had truly made it to heaven food-wise when I made Sheila Lukins’ Cream of Asparagus Soup out of SILVER PALATE. One of the first times, it was the day before my daughter Sarah’s baptism (86) and I was cooking for a big celebration. My sister Helen, who flew in for the occasion, was serving as both sous chef and dish washer. Not for the first or last time. It wasn’t just a celebration of Sarah and her blessed baptism in Spokane, Washington, but it was also a celebration at having another live child. In 1978, God was good indeed and we had our first lovely boy, Sean. In 1979, I had had a miscarriage. In 1982, our daughter Elizabeth died—–SIDS–on July 20. In March of 1984, our son Ryan was stillborn. 9 pounds 2 ounces. Sarah, an adopted child, was one who might escape our run of horrific luck and live. Our families came. We cooked. We laughed. We bought a beautiful white dress and shoes. We celebrated. We went to church and laughed. Came home and ate. And what we ate was from the SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK! Cream of Asparagus Soup. Chicken Marabella. Things that later became very famous, indeed.
And Sarah lived.
Over the interim years, I’ve made that soup many times in many variations. I’ve switched the veg to broccoli and added parmesan. I’ve made it cold and I’ve made it hot. It’s been in paper bowls and china bowls. It’s been a starter and it’s been a main course. It’s been cooked for invalids and small children who don’t like vegetables, but who will eat this soup. This year, it’s in sweet, tiny cream soup bowls Dave bought me for our 36th wedding anniversary last week; he had to buy them used. (Below @ Margarita at Pine Creek dinner to celebrate!)
Our friends Susan and Charles came to dinner last weekend; I made nicoise. (Above at their son’s wedding-Charles is hidden)
Summer ‘cueing is one of Dave’s favorite things, I’d guess. Perhaps it’s one of mine, too. I escape some of the main dish cooking (I don’t know from grill-), though I have to come with menus. I’m sure some husbands will come up with words like,
“I would really like ________________for dinner,”
but not my husband. He exercises his right to choose in restaurants and not even always there. Often, I’ll be torn between one entree and another. To make sure I get to taste both, he’ll order one of them and let me order the other. I know. He’s quite a guy.
Eat this, not that.
Dave and His Ribs and Thighs serves 6-8 or 4 really hungry folks
2 racks of pork spareribs and 4 turkey thighs
Rub is Memphis Shake from Food Network Kitchens GET GRILLING–we doubled it
6 T brown sugar
4 T dried oregano
4T granulated garlic
2T ancho (we used chipotle) chili powder
4t kosher salt
2t celery salt
Leave rib racks whole and rub all ribs and turkey thighs well with rub. Refrigerate 2 hours.
Light grill and heat to medium-low (about 250 F). Lay out ribs , evenly spaced, and cover. Cook for about 1.5 hours hours, turning occasionally. Meantime, make sauce and French potato salad (below). Add thighs to grill and continue grillin for another 1.5 hours or so until thighs register 170 F on instant-read themometer. Apply sauce over ribs and thighs with a brush the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.
Sauce: (GET GRILLING, PAGE 218)
makes 2 quarts
4 T canola oil
12 cloves garlic, smashed
4T tomato paste
2T chili powder
2 T paprika (we used smoked)
2t crushed red pepper
1/2 t allspice -ground
Double pinch ground cloves
4 c ketchup
4 c water
1 c cider vinegar
1/2 c molasses
1/2 c brown sugar
2T kosher salt
2T soy sauce
1T plus 1t dried mustard (like Coleman’s
2t freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Heat oil in a large saucepan.Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, paprika, red pepper, allspice, cloves and cook for 3 min until paste is dark and thick. Add the ketchup, water, vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, soy, Worcestershire, mustard, black pepper, and bay leaf. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the flavors come together, about 30 min. Remove and discard bay leaves before using.
French Potato and Vegetable Salad with Mustard-Tarragon Dressing
1/2# (24 oz or 9-10 medium) red potatoes–cut larger ones into halves or fourths
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, sprig of tarragon (to flavor water)
1/2# fresh asparagus, chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-1″ pieces (could use yellow squash)
1/2 ea medium sweet yellow and red peppers (any color combination fine)
1 c broccoli florets, cut into 1/2″-1″ pieces
1/2 small red onion, chopped finely (4-5 tablespoons)
5 spring onions (white and green fine) sliced thinly
Dressing (see below–make while potatoes cook)
In a 4 or 6 qt small stockpot, place potatoes and just cover with water. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper and a sprig of tarragon (or 1/2 t dried). Bring to a boil, lower heat a bit to keep from boiling over, and cook for about 12-15 minutes, until almost, but not quite, tender. (Make dressing. and set aside.) Add asparagus, zucchini and broccoli for the last few minutes. When potatoes are done, pour all into a colander in the sink and immediately pour back into pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour 1/2-3/4 of the dressing over the hot vegetables. Add the chopped fresh sweet peppers, reserving 2T for garnish. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and garnish with the reserved chopped yellow and orange peppers and a sprig of tarragon. Serve warm, at room temp, or cold.
1 clove of garlic, crushed and minced or grated
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
3T white wine vinegar (I like Chardonnay, but any will do.)
9T extra-virgin olive oil (the best you have for this salad)
1/2 t kosher salt and 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
2 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1T chopped fresh tarragon (plus 2 extra sprigs, one for potato water and one for garnish) or 1 t dried
In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly add olive oil, whisking with all the time or after every addition. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce and tarragon. Whisk until well-emulsified. Store in a covered jar so you can shake the dressing right before each use.