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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Pistachio Day!!!

According to the Pistachio Fun Facts site, February 26th is recognized by pistachio lovers as World Pistachio Day... Who are we to argue? Oh, I know, as Marion would say, Pistachios are "dear." Now remember, Marion is going to be 91 years young in March so "dear" to her not only expresses a term of affection, it also means, expensive!

Perhaps the following recipe for Pistachio Cake will ease the pain of expense. It contains neither flour or butter. No, I haven't baked it, yet:)



Pistachio Cake
Slices of this unusual cake, which contains neither flour nor butter, are a beautiful green color.
1-1/2 cups pistachios
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
2 tbs. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan
3. Plunge the pistachios into a saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds.
4. Drain. Rub dry with a clean kitchen towel, then carefully peel off the inner skins.
5. Place pistachios and sugar in a food processor and chop finely
6. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the egg yolks, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
7. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Use a large rubber spatula to fold them into the batter.
8. Spoon the batter into prepared pan.
9. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
10. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen and remove pan sides and let the cake cool completely on a rack.
11. Makes 1 9-inch cake

Cakes; 1001 Classic Recipes from Around the World published by The Reader's Digest Association © 2003

Don't forget, tomorrow is National Kahlua Day. What's your Best Drink for Oscar Night? I may just need to try this recipe for Pistachio Cream made with Pistachio Liqueur? How cool is that!

Pistachio Cream
5 oz Vanilla Ice Cream
1 oz Brandy
1 oz Pistachio Liqueur

Or

Pistachio Coffee Liqueur Cocktail

Enjoy!

Resources
1. Pistachio Fun Facts
2. Pistachio Macaroons
3. Pistachio and Lemon Syrup Cake
4. Monin Classic Pistachio Syrup (This Pistachio Syrup seems to have good reviews)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Favorite of George Washington: The Salt Fish Dinner

When I discovered this article in the February 1936 issue of American Cookery magazine, I knew I just had to share it with you today in honor of George Washington's birthday. The article was written by Louisa Pryor Skilton.

That George Washington had a fondness for fish is well known. From his own estate bordering the Potomac he had an ample supply of spring shad, herring, bass, carp, and sturgeon. And that fish appeared often on the table of the Washington family is borne out by the fact that Benson J. Lossing, in his Mary and Martha Washington mentions a breakfast guest who later commented on the absence of broiled fish from the menu "as is the general custom."

Then George Washington came to New England, home of the salt fish dinner. As Commander of the Continental Army he lived in Cambridge where Harvard students were demanding salt fish in preference to fresh fish in the college dormitories! As President he made a triumphal visit to New Hampshire and was royally entertained in Portsmouth. In that most interesting chronicle of his visit, "George Washington in New Hampshire," the author, Judge Elwin L. Page, referring to a dinner in his house at Brewster's Tavern says, "One would like to know what was the table talk, but neither Washington nor any of his guests has left a trace of it. We may be reasonably certain, however, that an important part of the bill of fare was codfish, not prepared in the present day fashion but in the form then known as "dumb fish." The superior spring catch of fish was used for this dish. The fish were first salted and then dried, then kept alternately above and below ground until thoroughly mellowed. The resultant dumb fish, when boiled, was in color red and was served on Saturdays at the best tables in New England.

After these New England visits, Washington retained his fondness for this particular kind of dinner. His friends knew of it and Peter Leicester Ford in his True George Washington tells of the concern of Richard Varick who wrote to a friend requesting the loan of enough salt codfish to entertain Washington at dinner because his own supply had been delayed in arrival. When Washington himself entertained no less distinguished guest than Archibald Robertson, the Scotch artist who came to this country to present to him a box made of celebrated oak tree which sheltered Sir William Wallace after the battle of Falkirk, the dinner was served at three o'clock. "It being on Saturday, the first course was mostly eastern cod and fresh fish."

At this point Tobias Lear enters the story. He lived in Portsmouth and after he graduated from Harvard became private secretary to Washington. Among other duties he kept the household accounts, and recently when these were found in an old trunk inherited by Stephen Decatur, Jr., he published them as a part of the Private Affairs of George Washington. Here we read, Salt codfish was one of the staple articles of food of the age and was looked upon almost as a necessity. Washington was extremely fond of fish, and knowing this the New England members of Congress usually kept him supplied with cod. He regularly dined on Saturday on a salt fish dinner consisting of boiled beets, potatoes and onions mixed with the boiled fish and covered with pork scraps and egg sauce..."

So here you have the menu for the dinner peculiarly connected with Washington. If you are entertaining for Washington's Birthday, why not serve to your guests as nearly as you can reproduce it the favorite of Washington-the salt fish dinner. Ed Note: Colonel Brewster's Tavern burned down in 1813. It was replaced by the Treadwell Jenness House built in 1818.

"The Sacred Cod"

"We should regard it as somewhat strange if we should require a codfish aristocracy to keep us in order."

When there was no chance of procuring fresh meat or fish due to in-climate weather in New England, two time honored ways of curing food for preservation were followed. The first was dry-salting where the fish was buried in a bed of salt layer upon layer. The other method used was brine-curing in which the fish, or meat, was immersed in a strong solution of salt and water. By choosing raw salts from different sources assorted "effects" could be had. (ie, rock salt, sea salt)

Traditionally, salted fish was sun-dried on rocks or hung to dry. It may sound like an arduous task, however, once you get the hang of How to Salt Fish, you may be surprised to discover not only how rewarding it is but also how economical it is.

Once the fish is desalted and re-hydrated it is delicately plump and tender.

The salt fish is cut in serving pieces, freshened in cold water for two or three hours, then drained, covered with cold water and brought to a boil, then drained again. Fat salt pork is diced and fried until golden brown, but never the least bit burned. Small beets and potatoes are cooked until tender. White sauce called by most State-of-Mainers "butter gravy" is made, and cubed hard-cooked eggs are added to it. The salt fish, arranged on a platter with its blanket of egg sauce, is surrounded by the vegetables, and pork scraps act as a garnish. Usually there's a big plate of johnnycake, too, and steamed apple pudding with nutmeg sauce. It is always common procedure to cook enough fish and potatoes to have plenty left over for another meal. These are chopped lightly together and mixed with the cold egg sauce and pork scraps, then cooked in the spider until a golden-brown crust is formed. Served with pickled beets or cole slaw, hot biscuits, and warm apple pie, it's a meal good enough for anyone.

It might look something like this one as found in American Cooking: New England published in the Foods of World Series by Time-Life Books in 1970.

Cape Cod Boiled Dinner
2 pounds salt cod
3 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
6 thin 1-by-3-inch slices lean salt pork
3 hard cooked eggs, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices
6 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled
6 medium beets, boiled and peeled
12 small carrots, scraped and boiled
1 rutabaga peeled, quartered, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices and boiled.
Starting a day ahead, place the cod in a glass, enameled or stainless steel bowl, cover it with cold water and soak for at least 12 hours, changing the water 3 or 4 times. Drain the cod in a saucepan and add enough fresh water to cover it by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. (Taste the water. If it seems very salty, drain, cover the cod with fresh water, and bring to boil.) Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when prodded with a fork. Drain and cut the fish into 2-by-4 inch pieces. In a heavy 1-to-2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam begins to subside, stir in the flour and mustard and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and, stirring constantly with a whisk, cook over high heat until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens heavily. reduce the heat and simmer for about 3 minutes to remove the raw taste of flour. Then add the salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.

In a heavy 8-to-10 inch skillet, fry the salt pork over moderate heat, turning the slices frequently until the pork is crisp and brown on both sides. Transfer it to a paper towel to drain and discard the fat in the skillet. Mound the cod on a heated platter and pour the sauce over it. Place the hard-cooked egg slices on top of the fish, arrange the pork slices, potatoes, beets, carrots and rutabaga pieces around it and serve at once.

In late April or early May the melting snow and spring rains caused the rivers in Virginia to flow with fish. In the 18th century vast numbers of shad and herring would come up the Potomac from the ocean to spawn. During these runs, the river was so thick with fish, citizens could gather enough to last the rest of the year. After the customary dinner of fresh fish, they would get ready for the task of preserving. At George Washington's landing, fish was gathered and sent to the Salt House at Mount Vernon where it was cured "to feed family, guests, servants, and slaves throughout the year. Washington also shipped and sold it to markets along the east coast of America and in the West Indies."

from The Diaries of George Washington @ the Library of Congress


February 3, 1770:

"Agreed with Mr. Robt. Adam for the Fish catchd at the Fishing Landing...on the following terms--to wit He is obligd to take all I catch at that place provided the quantity does not exceed 500 Barls. And will take more than this qty. If he can get Cask to put them in. He is to take them as fast as they are catchd with out giving any interruption to my people; and is to have the use of the Fish House for his Salt, fish, &ca. taking care to have the House clear at least before the next Fishing Season. In consideration of which he is to pay me Ten pounds for the use of the House, give 3/ a thousd. for the Herring (Virg. Money) and 8/4 a hundred (Maryland Curry.) for the whitefish."

The History of Salt Fish began long before the colonists arrived. European fishermen were harvesting cod off the coast before Columbus. Dried salted cod and the dishes made from it are known by many different names. For example, it is known as bacalhau in Portugal where it is said there are more than 365 ways to serve it, one for every day of the year. Bacalao is the Spanish term for dried salt cod. As a child, baccalà, the Italian term for salted cod, was reserved for two special meals during the year, Good Friday and Christmas Eve. On rare occasions, my father would make his "famous" codfish balls for Friday night dinner when fish was still the obligatory dish to eat on Fridays in Catholic homes. However, Easter and Christmas was truly its time to shine.

I don't have my father's recipe for Codfish Balls but I did find one in The White House Cookbook published in 1887.

Codfish Balls
Take a pint bowl of codfish picked very fine, two pint bowls of whole raw peeled potatoes, sliced thickly; put them together in plenty of cold water and boil until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked; remove from the fire, and drain off all the water. Mash them with the potato masher, add a piece of butter the size of an egg, one well-beaten egg, and three spoonfuls of cream or rich milk. Flour your hands and make into balls or cakes. Put an ounce each of butter and lard into a frying pan; when hot, put in the balls and fry a nice brown. Do not freshen the fish before boiling with the potatoes. Many cooks fry them in a quantity of lard similar to boiled doughnuts.

A Massachusetts Fish Story:


Massachusetts affection for cod is such that a wooden replica of the fish is enshrined in the state legislature, and in the nineteenth century its economic importance was the source of status and fortunes for families who belonged to what was known as the "codfish aristocracy." In those days in every home there was a box containing hard, whitish slabs in the back pantry, and in many cracker-barrel stores a long, dried fillet of salt cod hung next to the rum barrel as a kind of free lunch to whet the thirst. Cod was considered a must for Saturday dinner for generations of seagoing New Englanders and was known as "Cape Cod Turkey" when it was cooked with pork scraps and served with an egg sauce, boiled potatoes, and boiled beets decorating each side of the platter. Another garnish for salt fish consisted of sliced parsnips, a much loved New England root, parboiled and sauteed in butter so slowly that all the butter is absorbed and the parsnips turn yellow slightly flecked with brown. American Food; The Gastronomic Story Evan Jones, p.71

Resources
1. Americana: the library of the late Benson J. Lossing, American historian (online)
2. George Washington in New Hampshire (available from the Portsmouth Marine Society)
3. George Washington's Walking Tour through Portsmouth
4. The True George Washington © 1896 By Paul Leicester Ford available @ google books
5. George Washington's Household in Philadelphia, 1790-1792
6. The Weekly Salt Fish Dinner in New-England. NYT July 16, 1869
7. Islands Of New England (1954) Hazel Young (available online @ The Universal Library Project)
8. George Washington and the Potomac River
Recipes
1. Salt Fish Recipes (all over the globe)
2. Salted Fish in the Mediterranean-Clifford A. Wright
3. How to Prep Salt Cod
4. Salt Cod Leghorn-Style
5. Baccala Meatballs: Polpette di Musillo-Mario Batali
6. Spanish Basque Salt Cod Casserole (Bacalao a la Vizcaina)
7. Portuguese Salt Cod Stew (Bacalhoada)
8. Fried Salt Cod with Garlic Sauce and Artichoke Soup
9. Plantains and Serenata de Bacalao (Saltcod Salad)
10. Thank God for Cod-The East Hampton Star
Further Reading
Pickled, Potted, and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World by Sue Shepard

Monday, February 21, 2011

Quick! It's Presidents' Day!

It's been quite a week here in Pennsylvania. Try as I may, I just haven't been able to visit as often as I would have liked. I did manage to prepare a post in honor of George Washington's birthday tomorrow which I think you will find "mighty tasty." In the mean time, things are getting back to normal and I hope to be catching up this week. For your pleasure on President's Day, I harvested this (old:) News from the Library of Congress, verbatim:)

News from the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Compiles Resource Guide on Presidential Food (January 7, 2009)

Americans have a huge appetite this month for anything about the presidency, and the Library of Congress has cooked up its own offering – a Science Reference Guide to materials on presidential food.

Alison Kelly, a reference librarian in the Science, Technology and Business Division (ST&B) at the Library of Congress, has compiled "Presidential Food: Selected Resource Guide" for reporters, culinary historians and the interested public to use during the inauguration and early days of the new presidency.

The eight-page guide provides reference to books, magazine articles and Internet resources chronicling the culinary history of the chief executive and his family both in and out of the White House.

While presidential food and entertaining at the White House are always of interest, Kelly has been fielding a growing number of queries relating to presidential cuisine. For instance, a recent query came from a man in Ireland who wanted a copy of the coffee pudding recipe that Mrs. Calvin Coolidge had served. The inquirer’s aged aunt had remembered the pudding from her days in Washington and he had wanted to serve it as a surprise.

A former curator of the White House was looking in vain for a recipe for a deviled-egg casserole. One was found, much to the curator’s surprise, in the James K. Polk cookbook.

The drawing of Jefferson’s "maccaroni machine" in the Library’s American Memory Collection is of perennial interest, as are his recipes for ice cream and macaroons. There are several books in the guide relating to Jefferson’s interest in culinary matters.

A number of the books and resources listed in the guide have been written by White House chefs or housekeepers, a steward of the presidential yacht and others associated with the presidents and first ladies, and include tidbits about menus, china, entertainment, weddings and holidays.

George Washington, for instance, ate codfish on Saturdays when he was the chief executive. Cook Henrietta Nesbitt knew how to stretch a dollar in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt kitchen. Turtle soup was an essential element of dining protocol in the late 19th century, as were elaborate banquets of many courses, according to Kelly and Constance Carter, head of the Science Reference Section in ST&B.

Few events, however, were as elegant as the state dinner Jacqueline Kennedy gave for the president of Pakistan on the lawn of Mt. Vernon. A flotilla of boats took the 132 guests down the Potomac so they would view Mt. Vernon as George Washington had. The evening included mint juleps – George Washington’s own recipe; a fife-and-drum corps; and a display of fireworks.

Lemon custard pie was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite desserts. He was also partial to scalloped oysters. John Adams lunched on oat cakes and lemonade, and Chester Arthur doted on mutton chops. According to Kelly, these recipes and many other presidential favorites can be found in titles listed in "Presidential Food: Selected Resource Guide."

Don't forget to drop by tomorrow for George Washington's favorite Saturday night Salt Fish Dinner!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cake of Kisses


Cake of Kisses

Ingredients:

8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
2 cups sugar
few drops red food coloring, if desired
3 cups whipping cream

1. Cover 2 cookie sheets with aluminum foil. On 1 sheet mark a 5-inch diamter circle and a 2-inch diameter circle. On the other sheet, mark a 4-inch diameter circle and a 3-inch diameter circle.

2. Beat 4 of the egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon of the cream of tartar in large mixer bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1 cup of the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until sugar dissolves. Beat in food coloring to tint meringue pink.

3. Place meringue in large pastry bag fitted with 1/4 inch plain tube. Pipe meringue in two layers over circles on cookie sheets (two-layered meringue circles should be about 3/4 inch thick.


4. Smooth meringue with spatula. Bake in preheated 250°F oven until crisp and dry but not brown, about 1-1/4 hours. (If cookie sheets are on 2 oven racks, exchange positions of sheets after 30 minutes) Cool slightly; remove meringues from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks to room temperature. Discard foil.

5. Cover cookie sheets with clean foil. Mark a 6-inch diameter circle on 1 sheet.

6. Beat remaining 4 egg whites and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar in a large bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until sugar dissolves.

7. Place meringue in pastry bag fitted with 3/4 inch plain tube; pipe meringue over circle on cookie sheet. Pipe 17 meringue kisses, each 1-1/2 inches in diameter, onto cookie sheet with meringue circle.

8. Using all meringue remaining in bag, pipe smaller kisses, each 1 inch in diameter, onto other cookie sheet.

9. Place both sheets in preheated 250°F oven, placing sheet with smaller kisses on lowest shelf. Bake until smaller kisses are crisp and dry., about 30 minutes. Remove smaller meringues from oven. Transfer remaining cookie sheet to lowest shelf; bake 30 to 45 minutes longer. Cool kisses on wire rack to room temperature. (Note: Meringue circles and kisses can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days before assembling cake, if desired.)

10. Beat cream in clean large mixer bowl at high speed until stiff peaks form. Place 6-inch meringue circle on serving plate, spread with 3/4 cup of the whipped cream. Top with 5-inch meringue; spread with 1/2 cup of the whipped cream. Top with 4-inch meringue, spread with 1/4 cup of the whipped cream. Top with 3-inch meringue, spread with 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream. Top with 2-inch meringue; spread with 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream.

11. Place remaining whipped cream in a clean pastry bag fitted with small star tube. Pipe circle of cream around outside of 6-inch meringue circle; arrange 16 of the 1-1/2 inch kisses around 6 inch circle by pressing bottoms of kisses gently into cream. Reserve remaining 1-1/2 inch kiss. Pipe another circle of whipped cream around 5-inch meringue; arrange 1-inch kisses around meringue. Continue procedure to cover all meringue circles with whipped cream and kisses; place reserved 1-1/2 inch kiss on top of cake. Pipe small stars of whipped cream between kisses. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 4 hours.
Dessert Cooking Class Cookbook © 1982.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Tabi, Noah, Grammy Loves You!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February is National Sweet Potato Month!

No, Spring hasn't sprung, yet. But, this delightful flower does have something in common with today's celebration. It is a member of the Morning-Glory Family. And, you know how I adore morning glories! Today, for National Sweet Potato Month, we are going to celebrate the fruit of the flower, the Ipomcea Batatas, the Sweet Potato.

The Sweet Potato is a perennial, with large, tuberous roots, and creeping stems; the leaves are variable in shape, being heart-shaped, with the lobes projecting, and it is not rare to find the leaves deeply lobed. The flower of the Sweet Potato is, in shape, like that of the common "Morning Glory," though not quite so spreading; it is of a purplish color in the throat, and white on the margin. The plant rarely produces flowers in the Northern States, but in the far South, where the season is longer, flowers and ripened seeds are not rare. The plant, as it runs along the ground, strikes root at every joint, or node; this peculiarity, while advantageous in the far South, where the season is long enough for such roots to grow to a useful size, are a disadvantage to the Northern cultivator, who lives where the season is barely long enough for the principal roots to mature. John Fitz Sweet Potato Culture

North Carolina is the largest producer of "Sweet Potatoes-The Vegetable with Super Food Powers" in the United States. Mississippi is next. Almost 90% of the Mississippi Sweet Potato crop is grown within a 40-mile radius of Vardaman, the proclaimed Sweet Potato Capital of the World. As a matter of fact, when I was checking to make sure that February was indeed Sweet Potato Month, the folks at the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council were kind enough to give me an immediate reply.

Louise,
I can confirm that February is indeed National Sweet Potato Month. Mississippi Sweet Potato Growers have a good supply of great tasting sweet potatoes this year. Availability should remain good until the new crop is harvested in September.  Movement has been strong. Processing potatoes are in great demand to fill the growing demand for sweet potato french fries. These are exciting times for sweet potatoes.
regards,
Benny Graves
Mississippi Sweet Potato Council

Louisiana, California, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia are all sweet potato producing states. And, according to Jocelyn @ the Sweet Bytes Blog, where you will delight in bushels of sweet potato recipes, Epicurious.com named 2011 as The Year of the Sweet Potato! Whew! That's a lotta tater goodness.

Although I knew sweet potatoes were not related in any way to what I call the plain ol' potato, I didn't know, there were two distinct types of sweet potatoes. Gee, I wonder if that explains the whole yam sweet potato debate?

There are two types of sweet potatoes, often described as "dry-fleshed" or "moist-fleshed." This refers to the mouth feel, not the actual moisture present in the root. Actually, soft versus firm fleshed types would be a more accurate description. "Moist-fleshed" types tend to convert more of their starch to sugars and dextrine during cooking, becoming softer and sweeter than the "dry-fleshed" types. The "moist-fleshed" types are often called "yams." However, the true yam, native to Africa, is an entirely different plant species.

It seems, the confusion between the term sweet potatoes and yams originated in Louisiana in the 1930s. In order to distinguish the orange fleshed moist type sweet potato from, the white-fleshed sweet potatoes grown in other parts of the country, Louisiana farmers adopted the term yam for sweet potatoes grown in their state. So you see, they are really both sweet potatoes and either term has come to be quite acceptable.

It's really a toss up when it comes to choosing the sweet potato's best virtue, Humility, Sustenance, or Delight.

Humility

Humble? Only on the outside. Packed within that unruly shaped tuber, is a powerhouse full of pride. Oh, you might not see it. Chances are, you have totally missed one of the most nutritious pleasures the sweet potato has to offer, the leaves. Yes, young, delicate sweet potato leaves are edible. Once thought not to have any economical value, researchers studied the concentration of lutein in sweet potato leaves and were pleasantly surprised to discover that sweet potato leaves rank second in lutien content after marigold flowers and "number one among edible vegetables!" So, not only are those greens a good source of A, C, Riboflavin and now Lutien, they taste good too. Seriously, you must check out this recipe at My Asian Kitchen to get my drift:)

Sustenance

Perhaps when it comes to versatility, the sweet potato along with pork can share the same plate. Fact is, anything you can do with a "good ol potato," you can do with a sweet potato, and then some. However, when it comes to sweet potatoes, you may just get more for your money, nutritionally anyway. Fact is, The Center for Public Interest ranks the sweet potato as one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. The American Diabetes Association list it as one of its top Super Foods. Sweet potatoes deserve our respect. There's a reason why strained sweet potatoes are one of the first foods babies are introduced to, they're easy to digest. Sweet potato juice concentrates are so rich in sugar they blend beautifully in an eye refreshing and healthy morning smoothie. (gotta get that carotene you know:)

It is a well documented fact that sweet potatoes nourished soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Perhaps you've heard of the "the sweet potato dinner picture." It's a work of art by South Carolina artist John Blake White, which hangs prominently in a third-floor corridor of the Senate wing of the Capitol. Some refer to it as General Marion's Sweet Potato Dinner. Legend has it that when the cunning and resourceful "Swamp Fox" (that was his nickname) established camp on Snow Island, South Carolina, he invited a British officer to dine with him. The dinner consisted of sweet potatoes cooked over a campfire. The British officer had never tasted sweet potatoes and was impressed with the modest meal.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
The British visitor was a young man who had never seen Marion...His astonishment, when they did meet, was, in all probability, not of a kind to lessen the partisan in his estimation. That a frame so slight, and seemingly so feeble, coupled with so much gentleness, and so little pretension, should provoke a respect so general, and fears, on one side, so impressive, was well calculated to compel inquiry as to the true sources of this influence.  Such an inquiry was in no way detrimental to a reputation founded, like Marion's, on the successful exercise of peculiar mental endowments.  The young officer, as soon as his business was dispatched, prepared to depart, but Marion gently detained him for dinner, which was in preparation. "The mild and dignified simplicity of Marion's manners had already produced their effects, and, to prolong so interesting an interview, the invitation was accepted. The entertainment was served up on pieces of bark, and consisted entirely of roasted potatoes, of which the general ate heartily, requesting his guest to profit by his example, repeating the old adage, that "hunger is the best sauce." "But surely, general," said the officer, "this cannot be your ordinary fare." "Indeed, sir, it is," he replied, "and we are fortunate on this occasion, entertaining company, to have more than our usual allowance." The story goes, that the young Briton was so greatly impressed with the occurrence, that, on his return to Georgetown, he retired from the service, declaring his conviction that men who could with such content endure the privations of such a life, were not to be subdued. (source)
Stuffed Sweet Potato Croquettes
"There are but few if any of our staple farm crops receiving more attention than the sweet potato, and indeed rightfully so -- the splendid service it rendered during the great World War in the saving of wheat flour, will not soon be forgotten. The 118 different and attractive products (to date) made from it, are sufficient to convince the most skeptical that we are just beginning to discover the real value and marvelous possibilities of this splendid vegetable. (source)

Delight!

Sheer delight! What else can be said about a vegetable so versatile that you can enjoy it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never experience the same taste twice? And Snack Time too!!! If you're lucky, you have a smidgen of leftovers in the fridge. Or better yet, you have some sweet potatoes stashed in the freezer. (yes they freeze well too!) Wha La! Sweet Potato Fries and your favorite sweet potato dip.

"Wash cured sweet potatoes and bake or boil until slightly soft. If boiled, drain immediately. Thoroughly cool the baked or boiled sweet potatoes. Wrap individually (skins left on) in freezer film or foil and place in plastic freezer bags. Seal, label and freeze. Most sweet potato dishes freeze well. Save time and energy by making a sweet potato dish to serve and one to store in the freezer."

Sweet Potatoes play nice with other ingredients. All kinds of seasonings jump at the chance to get into the game. Sliced, Diced and Baked, sizzle with pleasure at the thought they might be the "chosen one." And, Let's not leave out Microwave.

"Sweet potatoes can be cooked in a microwave oven to save time. Wash and pierce potatoes, then place them on a paper towel. The cooking time for 2 medium potatoes is on high for 5–9 minutes, and 4 potatoes, 10–13 minutes. Yellow and dark orange sweet potatoes can be used interchangeably in recipes. Try not to mix the two types in a single dish, because their different textures and cooking times may affect the outcome of the recipe. The yellow variety takes longer to cook than the orange and will be done at the upper range of cooking times."

Oh what fun it would be to serve up sweet potatoes, not only on the holidays, but at least once a month the entire year. (Sure once a week would be entertaining too:)

Sweet potatoes can also be eaten boiled, fried or roasted. When sliced, dried in the sun and ground, it makes a flour that remains in good condition for a long time. In Indonesia sweet potatoes are soaked in salt water for about an hour to inhibit microbial growth before drying. The flour is used as a dough conditioner in bread manufacturing and as a stabilizer in the ice-cream industry.

In Japan about 90 percent of the starch produced from sweet potato is used in the manufacture of starch syrup, glucose and isomerized glucose syrup, lactic acid beverages, distilled spirits, bread and other food manufacturing industries.

Now I've done it. I made myself so hungry for sweet potatoes while writing this post, look what I made for dinner. I call them Fruit Studded Sweet Potato Pancakes.

For dessert I think I'll "partake" in some of Grace's Sweet Potato Pie!

By chance if you have no fresh sweet potatoes in the house, you might give this Sweet Potato Praline Cheesecake a whirl. It uses Dunbar canned sweet potatoes and was harvested from a Dunbar Sweet Potato recipe booklet.

revised February, 2013

Resources
1. Sweet Potato Day is celebrated Feb. 22nd.
2. From Partisan Commander to Legend: Francis Marion
3. Sweet Potato Council of California
4. What's is the Difference Between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?
5. Identification of Sweet Potato Leaves as an excellent source of lutein (Khachatryan)
6. The Healing Power of Sweet Potatoes
7. Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Propagation
8. National Cook a Sweet Potato Day

Recipes
1. Sweet Potato & Apricot Rolls
2. Sweet Potato Falafel
3. Stir-fried Sweet Potato Leaves with Garlic
4. Sweet Potato-Feta Rounds
5. Sweet Potato Ravioli In Cheese Broth
6. Sweet Potato Biscuits
7. Buckwheat Sweet Potato Quick Bread (gluten free)
8. Sweet Potato Hash
9. Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Bread
10. Sweet Potato Pudding Cake
11. Sweet Potato & Cream Cheese Pie
12. Dulce de Batata--Sweet Potato Paste
13. Sweet Potato, Corn and Jalapeño Bisque
14. Scalloped Sweet Potatoes in Lemon-Ginger Cream Sauce

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's National Chocolate Fondue Day!!!

Well now that we have Super Bowl Weekend under our belts, I have only one question, which would you rather indulge in?
This:

Or...
This!


If you said the former rather than the latter, I apologize, I'm not posting about those today. I should. I would like to. But I'm not. Unlike Gail Borden who was much more focused about such things, I need chocolate NOW!!!
When Gail Borden, a surveyor and land agent at Galveston in the recently annexed state of Texas, heard of the starvation of the Donner Party and the hunger of the others who were trying to cross the continent, he was stirred to invent a way of making food more potable.The Americans, the Democratic Experience by Daniel Joseph Boorstin; available @ google books
Borden spent six years developing his product and eventually obtained U.S. Patent #7,066 on February 5, 1850. Gail Borden's patent was titled "Preparation of Portable Soup-Bread." In essence, it was a traveling meat biscuit packed with protein. Fortunately for me, and you, if you're just a tiny bit curious, Jana @ Time Travel Kitchen, a self professed Culinary Chronaviatrix, has plated Borden's Meat Biscuit in a most appetizing way. Quite honestly, I would not have done a better job. Not only just she include a condensed bit of history, she also includes her own adapted recipe. Whew! Thanks Jana:)

Consumers may have thought Gail Borden’s "meat biscuits" were disgusting, however, he hit the jack-pot with Borden’s Sweetened Condensed Milk which just happens to be included in today's Chocolate Fondue Recipe. (in this case, it doesn't have to be Borden's though:)
Mt. Gretna Chocolate Fondue
3-1/2 ounces Hershey's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
1-1/3 cups (14-ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup marshmallow creme
1 tbs. milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tbs. creamy peanut butter, optional (Sometimes, I use a few Reese's Peanut Butter Cups instead:)
Fondue Dipper (see below)
Combine baking chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy sauceppan or in the top of a double boiler. Stir constantly over low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Blend in marshmallow creme and milk. Just before serving, stir in vanilla and, if desired, peanut butter. Transfer to a fondue pot. Serve warm with a selection of Fondue Dippers. Makes about 2 cups.
Fondue Dippers
Nut halves
Marshmallows
Pieces of cakes, (angel food, sponge, or pound cake)
Ladyfingers
Fresh fruit (strawberries, pineapple chunks, mandarin orange segments, cherries, sliced apples, pears, peaches, or bananas.)
Before making fondue, select your choice of dippers. Fresh fruit should be well drained and brushed with lemon juice to prevent browning.
Hershey's Chocolate & Cocoa Cookbook © 1982
Easy Chocolate Bar Fondue
1 (1/2 pound) Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar
1/3 cup light cream or evaporated milk
Fondue Dippers (see below)
Break chocolate bar into pieces. Place chocolate in a fondue pot or in the top of a double boiler. Add light cream or evaporated milk. Stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Serve warm with a selection of Fondue Dippers. Makes about 1 cup.
Hershey's Chocolate & Cocoa Cookbook © 1982
Now you know, I can't just leave you with two recipes for Chocolate Fondue Day and not at least touch on the history of today's namesake day:)
Numerous websites date the "beginnings" of chocolate fondues to the 1970s. I, like Barry Popik, must question that legend. He quotes numerous resources dating chocolate fondues to the 1930s. Here's one:
1 April 1931, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, pg. 10, col. 4:
Chocolate fondue - Add 1-3 cup sugar and 2 squares chocolate, melted over hot water, just after the eggs yolks are added.
According to author Susan Fuller Slack in her book Fondues & Hot Pots "A savvy marketing ploy to promote swiss products in the United States was the impetus for creating chocolate fondue. It was first served on July 4, 1964 by Chef Konrad Egli at New York's defunct Chalet Swiss restaurant."

I've Fondued; Have you?

You may remember, I'm a dunker from way back. I mean really, who doesn't like to dunk?
Entertaining the "fondue way" is generally done in one of two ways. A Fondue Pot can be used as a utensil where a food item is cooked in a hot liquid, usually hot bubbling oil. When I was a young wife and mother during the seventies, fondue parties were usually done in this manner. Canasta night was Saturday night. We would gather the kiddies and meet at another couple's house. Sometimes there were four of us most of the time there were six. Before the "big game" we would gather around the table, color coordinated fondue forks in hand and dunk to our hearts' content. The table for a fondue party of the day might look something like this one found in Betty Crocker's Hostess Cookbook © 1970. Actually, this is the book I used at the time:)

Off hand, I can't remember a time in that era where we had a Chocolate Fondue party. Our men wouldn't have it. For them, Chocolate Fondue parties fit under the category of "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche." Hey, it was the seventies:) Don't worry, I made up for it when I got "liberated." Actually, as I write this, I realize, a post devoted to the art of fonduing is long overdue. Note to self: Do a Fondue post before National Cheese Fondue Day; April 11th so we can all celebrate National Fondue Month in November dipping to our hearts' content:)
In the mean time, "Betty" offers a Chocolate and White Fondue in her Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library. (© 1971) In case you've never seen one, the cards are housed in an avocado green plastic box that fits nicely on the kitchen counter, if you happen to have the color avocado as your kitchen color. I don't. I would have taken a picture of it but my camera is on the fritz. (I've been yearning to get another camera anyhoo:)


She also displays a selection of "Fondue Equipment You Should Have" which may explain why every new bride during the 70s got a Fondue Pot as a gift. (gee I wish I still had mine:(

There are 27 suggested fondue recipes in the collection. I'll share one more with you since I totally neglected to retrieve a Nutella Fondue for you today being it's World Nutella Day too. FYI, Mary @ One Perfect Bite made her own Home Made Hazelnut Spread. And, if you're really Nuts for Nutella, you must check out Reeni's round-up. Oh my heavens, you will be drooling for sure! I'm almost afraid to suggest this Fruit Fondue recipe.

Uh OH, you dug under the kitchen cabinets and there isn't a Fondue Pot to be had. Here's one suggestion:
In a pinch, a chafing dish warmed with a tealight candle makes a great substitute for an actual fondue pot. A slow cooker can also do double duty, or try a suitable cooking pot or casserole dish over a warming plate to keep the fondue dishes warm.
For a chocolate fondue, all you're really trying to do is keep the chocolate warm enough to stay melted. A hot plate would work, a double boiler would work with a stainless steel bowl on the top. Just be careful, it is cooking you know:) Bamboo skewers are a great substitutes for the forks. If you use your imagination, I'm sure you can dream up something:) Just Have FUN!!!
Resources
1. Cupcake Fondue
2. Fondue Party Basics
3. Fondue and Tabletop Cooking (I have this informative book somewhere around here:)
4. Pizza Fondue (last year's Super Bowl)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Quick Links: It's Ina Garten's Birthday! Let's Celebrate!!!

In case you've never noticed, I rarely, if ever, mention "Food TV" on this blog. The reason? I'm not a big fan of television in general and the only show I watch every now and again on The Food Network is Chopped.

Today, I make exception for the Barefoot Contessa; Ina Garten. That's right, one of the few TV chefs that I truly admire was born on February 2nd. (we don't really need to know what year now do we:)

I'm sure many of you have read her bio as she has a diverse collection of fans. However, my curiosity did get the best of me and I just had to dig just a little bit further. It's in my nature I suppose and, quite frankly, I just had to know what makes this "hostess with the mostess" tick:)

While promoting her book, Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? back in August of 2010, Vanity Fair writer, Nicole Berrie, reaped a few lesser known "truths" about this Brooklyn born East Hampton native. When asked whether she preferred a Sailboat or a yacht, her answer was, "Neither! I’m not interested in owning anything that needs to be swabbed down." I must agree:) Other interesting tidbits I discovered about the former budget analyst during the Ford and Carter administrations are neatly packed in this article I found here.

I think it's time for the recipes, don't you? As I was browsing through my Hospitality Search Engine in my feeble attempt not to duplicate any recipes to include for todays post, I realized I may have bitten off more than I could chew. Ina Garten's recipe are everywhere! Oh, before I forget, did you know Ina's unpretentious approach to graciousness is appreciated not only in the US but also in Australia, the UK, Poland and the Middle East? I sure didn't. Her Barefoot Contessa show is everywhere too! No wonder so many people pay homage to her well balanced approach to simplistic style and elegance.

I decided the most effective way to experience a cornucopia of tasty Ina Garten dishes was to harvest them from fans like you. So, I sent off a few quick emails the other night and requested permission to include some of your favorite Ina recipes in a round-up. Now mind you, this round-up was gathered at the last minute and I truly appreciate each and every one for their kind generosity. Thank you All!

Barbara @ Moveable Feasts has a load of excuses for offering these tantalizing Sticky Buns from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics. As if we really need an excuse:)

Chaya is a dedicated fan of Ina's. Not only does she share this dish for Asian Baked Salmon , @ her Sweet & Savory blog, she also has a host of Ina recipes @ her Comfy Cook blog. Seriously Chaya, where do you get the time for all that amazing cooking?

Ina Garten fell in love with French cooking while traveling through France with her husband Jeffrey. She taught herself culinary techniques with the help of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cookery while developing her love of French Cuisine. I can honestly say I would never have the patience or skill to assemble such a masterpiece as my Pennsylvania neighbor Gert has @ My Kitchen Snippets. Doesn't this French Apple Tart simply take your breath away?

This recipe for Ina's Baked Fontina Cheese, from How Easy is That? "screamed" to Kim @ My Kentucky Home and just needed to be shared. Kim, I can hear it from here and it's driving me wild! See what I mean!

When I feasted my eyes on The Food Librarian's adaptation of Ina Garten's Blueberry Crumb Cake, I scrambled around the kitchen trying to find the ingredients to bake one of my very own. You regular visitors know, I'm not much of a baker!!! Just look at this beauty of Mary's!!!

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula, don't you just want to dive in? Natashya @ Living In the Kitchen with Puppies has a way of just drawing you in to her delectable delights. And this tempting dish is no exception. Ready? Go!

Pam @ For the Love of Cooking instinctively knew something was missing from her usual recipe for Mexican Chicken Soup until she cooked up Ina's Mexican Chicken Soup recipe from the Barefoot Contessa at Home Cookbook. I must tell you, Pam knows these things. She has at least 96 Mexican recipes alone at her indescribably delicious blog and each and every one of them is more than tempting to this transplanted New Yorker who can't find decent Mexican food in rural Pennsylvania. I may just have to learn from Pam:)

I first "met" Rebecca @ From Argentina With Love while doing a post for United Nation's Day a while back. She won my "belly" with her desirous flan then and just plain tantalized me with her adaptation of Ina's Palmeritas this time. Oh goodness!

Now tell me, is there any one of you out there who isn't mesmerized by this comfy bowl of Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes from the gals @ The Sister's Cafe blog? As I listen to the hail tinkering on the stove chute, I wish I had a huge bowl, NOW!!! It really does look scrumptious doesn't it?

Tesia Love of FlavorDiva.com was more than generous in contributing her adaptation of Ina's Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits. I can't help thinking they would be simply perfect with those Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes right about now. I hear them calling to me. No, I'm not dreaming, I'm whole heartily wishing...Just look at those "babies" more Oh Goodness:)

Need more recipes? Okay so you may not need them because, unlike me, you have all of Ina Garten's books. (I only have the Barefoot Contessa at Home in my library.) However, just in case, here are just a few more:

Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake Janet's @ Dying for Chocolate

Ina Garten's Hashed Browns @ Serious Eats

Ina Garten’s Apple Turnovers @ Erin Cooks

Ina Garten's Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread @ Prudence Pennywise

Ina Garten's Mashed Potatoes @ Epicurious

Ina Garten's Brownie Pudding @ Nummy Kitchen

Pappa al Pomodoro @ You Little Tarte

A big hearty thank you to everyone for sharing Ina's birthday with me today. It was such fun visiting all of your blogs. I'll be sure to stop in to see what's cooking as soon as I get some sleep:) Louise