Sautéed Swiss Chard

From Jane Brody’s Good Food Book

It was a cold, blustery March day, and there I was, alone in my kitchen with several bunches of rainbow Swiss chard. I kept staring at the swiss chard, hoping for some inspiration on what to do with it for that night’s dinner. Oil, garlic, tomatoes? That’s my usual. I learned that from my mother. When in doubt on how to cook any vegetable, saute some oil, garlic and tomatoes. You can’t miss with that, but I needed a change tonight. I needed some help from an old friend, so I searched my bookshelves and reached for Jane Brody’s Good Food Book. Nostalgia swept over me. On this cold wintry day, I felt comfort just holding this book and remembering how I once considered this the nutritional authority on how to feed my family. Jane Brody was a pioneer in nutrition, and it always gave me great pleasure to serve food from this book.

However, as I looked more closely at the cover, I was amazed to see that the sub-title to this book is “Living the High-Carbohydrate Way.” Boy have times changed! I’m not certain this would be a NYTimes bestseller right now when most diet gurus and nutritionists are touting low or no carbohydrate as the healthiest way to live. Perhaps even Jane has changed her thoughts on this. But I’m not here to debate this point. I’m here to share her delicious and healthy recipe for “sauteed Swiss chard.”

I thank Jane Brody for all the years she spent giving us advice on health, nutrition and wellness. She certainly made a difference in my life.

RECIPE: 3 to 4 servings

2 teaspoons oil ( I of course used olive oil)

1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup sliced leeks (white part) or one very small onion, thinly sliced

2/3 cups sliced celery

1 Tablespoon broth or water

4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss Chard ( I used rainbow Swiss chard because it looks so pretty)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Salt to taste.

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick), and add the garlic, leeks or onion and celery. Saute the vegetables, stirring them, for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth or water and the Swiss chard. Season the mixture with pepper and salt, stirring the ingredients to combine well. Cover the pan, and simmer the mixture, stirring it occasionally, over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the chard is wilted and tender.

Maccu

From The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

“Glorious” is the word for this cookbook.  These sumptuous soups and stews are seasonal, even though we tend to think of soups and stews as hearty, wintry meals.  In this cookbook, you will find a vast variety of seasonal ingredients that can be cooked together to make a delicious one-pot meal.  

My favorite soup so far (I haven’t tried them all yet……but I plan to) is “Maccu.”  This is also known as “Spring Cleaning Soup.”  Doesn’t sound appetizing?  Oh, just wait!  I literally dream about this soup.  Or is it a stew?  I’m not quite sure, but whatever you want to call it, one thing is for sure.   It’s delicious!  The flavor is quite unique, and so is the tradition that goes along with it.

Traditionally, “Maccu” is a Sicilian soup served on March 19 to celebrate The Feast of Saint Joseph.  It is also said that it’s just a good way for Sicilian housewives to empty their pantries of any dried legumes left over from the winter.  Thus, they call it “Spring Cleaning Soup.”  They were cleaning out their pantries.   I had no idea that dried beans had a shelf life, but now I know that they do.  I, too, have made this soup every March for the past few years to use up all the beans I bought during the pandemic.  I think I was preparing for a famine, not a pandemic!  I’m nearing the end of my supply of beans, but I’ll purchase whatever necessary to make this soup each year.  It’s sooo good! This is going to be a tradition in this household for sure.

I must agree with the author that the fava beans are a must in this recipe.  They need to be one of the beans included because they fall apart and melt, giving the soup a lush texture that will warm your tummy and soul on a cold day in March.   

RECIPE: serves 4 to 6 as main course or serves 8 as first course.

2 1/2 cups mixed dried beans including 1 cup dried fava beans and 1 1/2 cups other beans, such as chickpeas, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, soaked overnight in water to cover

1/2 cup green or yellow split peas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained

2 1/2 quarts ( 10 cups) water

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 bunch swiss chard , washed and leaves cut into strips and stems chopped (kale will also do fine)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher or sea salt

Generous pinch of red pepper flakes

Best quality extra virgin olive oil for serving

Drain the beans and make sure you remove the skins off the lava beans. Put the beans in a large Dutch oven or soup pot with a lid. Add the split peas, lentils and the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming any foam that forms on the surface with a skimmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are somewhat tender.

Add the celery, fennel, onion and chard and stir well to combine everything thoroughly. Pour in the 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and season with a little salt and hot red pepper flakes. Continue to simmer, partially covered, fo another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the legumes and the vegetables are very tender and the soup is very thick. Add more water if the soup seems too dense, but it should be nearly thick enough to hole a wooden spoon upright. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.

Ladle the soup in bowls and drizzle each serving with your best olive oil.

**NOTE: While the quantity of legumes is important ( total of 3 1/2 cups), use what you have on hand (clean out your pantry), EXCEPT please use 1 cup of fava beans. It really makes a difference.

Broccoli Pasta

From Old World Italian by Mimi Thorisson

I’m always thrilled to receive a cookbook (or any book for that matter) as a gift.  It’s a gesture of endearment to me, as it lets me know that I am truly understood by that person.  They “get me” and my love of food, cooking and of course, cookbooks.  

Recently, I was given the cookbook “Old World Italian” by Mimi Thorisson.  I didn’t know much about the cookbook author, but her story is one of those that you wish was yours.  After living in France and writing several cookbooks and conducting cooking workshops there, she and her husband and children decided to travel through Italy, eventually living there, in search of exquisite, authentic Italian recipes.   This book is the product of those travels.  

I honestly don’t know what I enjoyed more……the written story of this adventure or the recipes.  The book truly reads like a novel.  I couldn’t put it down.  Such a fantasy come true!  And the pictures will have your mouth watering in minutes.  There is no other way to describe this book other than “dreamy.”  

One of my favorite recipes from the book is “broccoli pasta.”  It’s different from the “pasta with broccoli” recipe I have in the archives.  While I absolutely adore that recipe, this one is just as delicious, but with a different texture and a rather different taste.  I have added it to my repertoire of healthy vegetarian meals.  I’d be surprised if you didn’t do the same.

I hope you enjoy!

RECIPE: SERVES 4 TO 6

1 large head of broccoli and stems (about 1 pound) cut into small florets and coarsely chopped stems

1 pound dried spaghetti (meaning from a box, not freshly made)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced ( I used 2 cloves…love that garlic!)

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream ( You can try a non dairy creamer. I bet it would be fine)

1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese. (You might want more for passing?)

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the water boiling to cook the pasta.
  2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Reserving 1 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, return to the empty pot and set aside.
  3. (While the pasta is cooking I did these next 3 steps). In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper. Pour the cream over the mixture. Cook for 15 seconds and remove from the heat.
  4. Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor and process until roughly creamy.
  5. Add the broccoli sauce and a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water to the pot of pasta and set the pot over medium high-high heat. Cook, tossing frequently, until the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minute( add more pasta water if needed). Season with salt and pepper and scatter the grated Parmesan on top. Serve immediately.

** NOTE: I made sure the broccoli sauce was ready before I drained the pasta so the pasta wouldn’t clump together in the pot. Also, I tossed the pasta after adding the cheese at the end, to mix it in so it would cling to each strand of spaghetti. Then I added a bit more, “scattered” on top and passed Parmesan cheese at the table.

Chili Con Carne

from Soup Suppers by Arthur Schwartz

One of my favorite “food personalities” is Arthur Schwartz, known to many as “The Food Maven.”  You need to be of a certain age to even know who I’m talking about as his career has spanned over 40 years.  I first became enamored with Arthur during his 12 years on WOR radio hosting the program “Food Talk.”  I listened to this every lunchtime, throughout the nineties, in my office, writing down recipes, NYC restaurants I wanted to try, and especially Italian food and travel information.  At the time, he had a cooking school in southern Italy and took groups there.  I thought about joining one of his excursions, but I have my husband to guide me around Italy.  

I bring up Arthur Schwartz because I love his cookbooks!  Naples at Table has Italian recipes just like my family’s recipes.  It’s amazing.  We use this cookbook for many of our traditional holiday foods.  New York City Food is a historical and delicious anthology of foods that have made New York City the food capital of the world.  The best apple cake recipe around can be found in his Jewish Home Cooking. I promise to share recipes from all of these books in due time.   I have loved cooking from these books.

For this post, I’m going to share from my most recently acquired Soup Suppers. I purchased it about a year ago when I heard Arthur talk about it on a podcast that I listen to.  Every Monday at 8:00AM he calls into a show on Robin Hood Radio, a station out of Sheffield, Massachusetts, and for one half hour, he talks about food and recipes. One day, he mentioned this book and his recipe for Chile con Carne.  What peeked my interest was the fact that he called it “Chili con Carne.”  This is how this dish was referred to many years ago before it became just “chile.”  But when he mentioned a boyhood memory of his dad eating this with crumbled saltines, I knew I had to get this book.  My memory of “Chili con Carne “ is my mom opening a can of “Hormel Chili con Carne” for my dad on Saturdays for his lunch.   I LOVED the smell…..and the taste!   My dad would crumble saltines on top, and I’d eagerly wait for him to share with me.  Over the years, I’ve tried many versions of chili, always hoping to replicate this chili of my childhood.  Most were delicious, but missed the mark somehow.   Now the search is over.  The taste and aroma of this chili brings me right back to a Saturday lunch with my dad.  I garnish it the way I would with any other chili, with avocados, cheddar cheese, sour cream, etc., but I do miss the saltines.  And of course, my dad.   

RECIPE: Serves 4 to 6

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

3 medium, onions, finely chopped

6 to 8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

2 pounds lean ground beef

2 (28 ounce) cans of plum tomatoes, with their juice, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, or to taste

3 Tablespoons chili powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

2 (16 ounce) cans of kidney beans, drained, not rinsed

FOR THE GARNISH:

Sour cream

Shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese

fresh cilantro, chopped

Diced avocado

Diced fresh chilies

lime wedges

  1. In a 5 to 6 quart pot, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onions until they brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the ground beef and, with a wooden spoon, break it up and turn constantly until it loses it’s raw color.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, chili powder, 1/4 tsp. of cayenne, oregano, and cumin. Stir well. Partially cover and let simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste and add more salt and cayenne if desired, remembering that the beans will tone it down.
  6. Add the canned beans, stir well, partially cover again, and adjust heat so chili simmers gently for another 10 minutes.
  7. Ladle into deep bowls and serve with side garnishes.

Pumpkin Soup with a Very Fine Pasta

The New Complete Book of Pasta by Maria Luisa Scott & Jack Denton Scott

Autumn is soup season.  I could eat if for breakfast, lunch and dinner at this time of year.  So when a friend told me I had to try this recipe, I was eager to oblige.  

However, when she told me the ingredients, and that it came from an Italian cookbook, I was skeptical.  Chicken, pureed pumpkin, cream, spinach, pasta……it didn’t sound very Italian to me, nor had I ever heard of an Italian soup like this.  But this is my friend who never disappoints when she tells me a recipe is good……not in over 35 years.  I asked for the recipe, and a picture of the cookbook that it came from, as I was curious. 

I was surprised to see that the recipe is called “Zuppa di Zucca e Pasta Fine Fine alla Modena.”   Wow!  It certainly seemed authentic.    Also, it was from The New Complete Book of Pasta.     While I still questioned the “Italian-ness” of this recipe, I remembered this cookbook from her kitchen back in the late 1980s.  While our sons would play ball for hours in her backyard, she and I would sit in her kitchen with a cup of tea talking, laughing, and dancing to Phil Collins, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and of course Bruce Springsteen.  Conversation usually made its way around to food.  What we were making for dinner usually came up before the afternoon ended.  Coming from an English background, I was intrigued by her recipes for Shepherd’s Pie, English Trifle, Bubble and Squeek and many more.  

She had many cookbooks, but this particular one always caught my attention.  I didn’t own many Italian cookbooks at this point in my life.  My Italian recipes were mostly handed down from family.  I was amazed at the hundreds of ways to make pasta.  I remember leafing through this book, my mouth watering.  I also had a bit of mistrust.  Could my non-Italian friend really know Italian food?  Were these recipes authentic?  Over the years, this book (and my friend) have proved me dead wrong.  Every recipe she ever gave to me from here was a winner, even if it was something unusual to me.  She also is one of the best Italian cooks I know.  I like to think that it was my influence, but I’m sure this cookbook has something to do with it.  

So I took a chance and gave it a try.  She’s right again!  This recipe is indeed wonderful.  

If you have leftover turkey this Thanksgiving, I suggest you use it here instead of the chicken.  

Buon Appetito! 

RECIPE: serves 6

5 Tablespoons butter

1 medium-size onion, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped ( I used 2 and minced)

1 celery stalk, scraped ( I did not) and coarsely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 bay leaf

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups cubed ( 1/2 inch) fresh pumpkin ( I used canned pureed)

1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream or substitute 1 cup half and half ( I’m sure you can use coconut milk and cream, but will definitely alter the taste…..but not in a bad way)

2 cups cubed chicken (she used rotisserie chicken….I boiled some boneless thighs)

1/2 tsp (or to taste) ground nutmeg…grate your own if possible

1 cup broken-up very fine pasta, such as capellini or Angel hair

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh spinach ( we both doubled this)

In a large pot, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion, garlic and celery and cook 2 minutes. Do not brown. Add the salt, pepper, bay leaf, broth, pumpkin and cook, partially covered, about 25 minutes, or until the pumpkin can be mashed ( if using fresh pumpkin). Discard the bay leaf. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. (If putting this in a regular blender, cool first).

Stir in the milk and cream, chicken and nutmeg. cook for 2 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute or until the pasta is just al dente. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the spinach and remaining butter and serve.

Leek and Potato Soup

Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

After posting a recipe from Stanley Tucci’s cookbook, my mind naturally went to Julia Child, where he played her husband in the 2009 film, “Julie and Julia.”  I love this movie for the cast, humor and plot.  Afterall, Julie is a blogger, who takes on the task of cooking Julia Child’s 524 recipes from “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” in 365 days.  

The movie, of course motivated me to buy the double volume set of this critically acclaimed cookbook.  I remember how enthusiastic I was to try some of these French classic dishes.  I had no intention of trying them all, as did Julie Powell, but I was eager to try to elevate my cooking skills.  I couldn’t stop staring at the beauty of the cookbook set.  It was placed in a prominent  place of honor on my bookshelf.  And there it sat for years.  I would occasionally open it; leaf through the hundreds of very complicated recipes; start to hyperventilate; and then close the book quickly and replace it on the shelf.  I’ve done this for 11 years!  Until now! 

But let me be honest.  I’ve been staring at this book for over 2 weeks and still had a very hard time deciding on a recipe.  Most of them still intimidate me.  It’s really not your average cookbook.  It is more of a textbook, teaching you about techniques, equipment, cuts of meat, and so much more.  It could have been called, ”Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About French Cooking, But Were Afraid to Ask.”     However, if you look long and hard enough, there are some simple recipes to be found.  Not every recipe is complex.  

So I decided on what Julia considers to be the most basic soup, Potage Parmentier (scary, right?), or also known as Leek and Potato Soup.  I chose this because not only is it simple, but she has so many variations of this soup, that once you master this basic recipe, you’ll have several other soup recipes to rely on and impress.

Now let me continue with my honesty and admit to you that several years ago I purchased the cookbook, “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom.”  This was the title of her PBS special by the same name.  I would say this cookbook is a mini-version  (cheat version, actually) of her masterpiece mentioned above.  She makes sure you realize that this contains a less complex version of several of her recipes.  It still offers a great deal of culinary education, but some simpler techniques are used.  However, I proudly stuck to the original recipe in Volume 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I didn’t even take a peek.  Honestly!

The soup was delicious, and I can see that by adding other vegetables, such as carrots or squash, you would have a very different tasting soup.  The addition of watercress as a garnish added a lovely, light crunch.  In its simplicity it is very elegant tasting.  Perhaps that’s because it came from this very elegant cookbook set.  

RECIPE: serves 6 to 8 people

1 lb peeled potatoes (3 to 4 cups), sliced or diced

1 lb thinly sliced leeks, including tender green ( 3 cups)

2 quarts water

1 TBSP salt

4 to 6 TB shipping cream or 2 to 3 TBSP softened butter

2 to 3 TBSP minced chives or parsley

I added watercress

  1. Simmer the vegetables, water and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  2. Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork or pass the soup through a food mill.
  3. Correct seasoning. Set aside until serving, then reheat to simmer.
  4. Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls.
  5. Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with herbs or watercress.

** Julia says that if you chill this soup, you have Vichyssoise. Very fancy!

** Silvia says to use an immersion blender to puree the soup, and so does Julia in the small “cheat book.” Next time I will do this for sure!!

Pasta with Mushrooms from “The Tucci Table”

Try as I might to refrain, I’m often tempted to purchase a new cookbook (or two) if I find myself intrigued by an author, or concept, or just about anything that will push me into the “I’ve got to have it” mode.  This time it was Stanley Tucci’s travel/culinary series on CNN, entitled “Searching for Italy,”  that persuaded me that I had to have a cookbook by Stanley Tucci!

 This show came at a much needed time last winter, when I was bored staying home  due to the pandemic and spent most of my time dreaming of the day when we’d be able to travel again to our much beloved Italy.  For one hour a week, Stanley Tucci transported us to Italy in all its beauty.   We could just about taste and smell the foods right through the TV.  The episode on the Amalfi Coast  actually brought tears to our eyes.   We’d eaten in most of the restaurants he visited during our many trips to this area of Italy.  And of course, the foods from this region are what I grew up eating.  Talk about lifting your spirits!  We’d record each episode and play it several times during the week, whenever we needed a pick me up.   Stanley Tucci saved me!!

I’m hoping he comes back for a second season, but in the meantime, I thought I’d enjoy perusing his cookbooks and finding some delicious new recipes.  I felt that I owed him something, after he brought me so much joy.   “The Tucci Cookbook” and “The Tucci Table”  are not new cookbooks.  They’ve been around for almost a decade.  I didn’t realize that he was such a cook.  I just thought he was an awesome actor.  There are wonderful recipes in both books.  I plan to make his famous “timpano,” from his movie “Big Night.”  This has so many steps and ingredients that it will have to wait until winter, as I’ll need at least two days to complete that feat! 

My recipe of choice for this post ……and it was a good one,  came from “The Tucci Table.”  It’s Pasta with Mushrooms, and it’s absolutely delicious.  It so earthy and full of flavor and texture.  This sauce would also be delicious on top of polenta. 

If you’re a Stanley Tucci fan, I think you’d enjoy his cookbooks, as cookbooks always give you some interesting insight into the author, their families, their lives.  If you’re a mushroom fan, this recipe is for you! 

Just as an aside, Stanley Tucci has a new book out entitled, “Taste: My Life Through Food.” I’ve read a few excerpts from this book, and I’m especially moved by learning that he had a malignant tumor at the base of his tongue several years ago and had severe radiation treatment that left him with ulcers in his mouth and no taste.  He says in this book that his greatest fear was losing his taste…..not death!  This started me thinking about how important taste is to me and perhaps I should think about it with more gratitude.  

And by the way, I have pre-ordered this book.  A memoir with recipes is my kind of heaven!!!  

Recipe: serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 1 cup warm water

4 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSp Butter

1 large onion fine chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 1/2 to 3 pounds brown mushrooms such a Baby Bella or Cremini…or any mixture

1 bouquets garni ( 1 sprig each of rosemary, sage and thyme)

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken or veal stock

Freshly ground back pepper

1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 pound dried pappardelle

1 TBSP chopped Italian parsley

  1. First soak the dried porcini in 1 cup of warm water for about 30 minutes. Then lift from the soaking water and squeeze out as much of the water as you can, saving all the liquid. Pour the soaking-liquid through a coffee filter into a bowl to remove any sediment. Finely chopped the porcini and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan, he 3 TBSP of the olive oil and 1 TBSP of butter over low heat. Add the onion, garlic and shallots and cook until softened but not brown. Raise the heat to medium. Add another TBSP of olive oil, all of the brown mushrooms, the chopped dried porcini and the bouquet garni. Cover and saute until the mushrooms have softened a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and let it cook for about 1 minute. Add the reserved porcini liquid, the chicken stock and a good pinch of black pepper. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the mushrooms are nice and soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and gently stir in the remaining TBSP of butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring 6 quarts of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pappardelle until al dent.
  4. Drain the pasta and toss it in the pan with the mushrooms. (You may have to divide the sauce and the pasta into two batches to do this). I didn’t. Turn off the heat, add one cup of the Parmigiano, and toss it through the pasta. to serve, transfer the pasta to a platter and top with the remaining Parmigiano and the parsley.

My First Cookbook…….(Hamburger Stroganoff)

In my last post we looked at my mother’s first cookbook, from 1959, and now we’ll jump forward to 1973 and look at some of the recipes that were popular then.  While I don’t plan on addressing my cookbooks chronologically in this journey back through my kitchen memories, the next cookbook I’ll share is my first cookbook  .…..if you don’t count the booklet that came with my “Easy Bake Kitchen” in the 1950s .   It is also from Betty Crocker, and entitled “ Betty Crocker’s Dinner For Two Cookbook.”   

This cookbook was first published in 1964, and by the early 70’s, it was close to being irrelevant.   We women of the 70s were not setting a candlelit dinner for our husbands, unless perhaps for a special occasion.  Not only are some of the recipes outdated, but also it’s approach to wives in the kitchen wouldn’t stand up now for most.  For me “Dinner for Two” meant quick weeknight meals, thrown together after work, and often watched in front of TV.   Even Betty’s section entitled “Hurry-Up Dinners”  still makes me laugh, right down to the homemade dessert.  When I received this cookbook at my bridal shower in 1973, I do remember feeling hopeful that I’d cook like this for my husband every night, but once reality set in, I realized this was a cookbook that I’d use for entertaining only.  

And use it I did!  Looking at the pictures now, fond memories come back.  I can remember what dish I made for which friends or family members.   Some recipes were a hit, and others not so much.  However, there was one that was a success every time.  Hamburger Stroganoff.  Yes, it was always met with rave reviews.  Actually, this recipe was very popular back then.   As you can see from the picture in the cookbook, it was often served in a sterling silver chafing dish on a buffet table.  I’m going to admit that once upon a time I too, owned ( and used) sterling silver chafing dishes.  This was a popular shower and/or wedding gift at this time.  The silver presentation certainly raised the bar for a glorified “Hamburger Helper” meal.  

(Just as an aside….Hamburger Helper, the boxed success from General Mills, didn’t come around until 1971). 

I hadn’t made this dish in at least 30 years, but I remember loving it.  The taste of it is still fresh in my mind.  I couldn’t wait to see how I would feel about something like this now.  I am happy to say, that it did not disappoint.  Surprise!  I loved it, and my “taste testers” finished every last morsel.  It definitely needs the buttered, sesame noodles, but the sterling silver chafing dish is not necessary.  The aroma brought me back to my first tiny kitchen in Philadelphia, and the many friends I loved and entertained there.  This cookbook and Hamburger Stroganoff made me very happy.  

Hamburger Stroganoff 4 servings

1/2 cup minced onion 1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced 1 can (10 &1/2 ounce) cream of chicken soup ( I used cream of mushroom).

1/4 cup butter 1 cup sour cream

1 lb. ground beef chopped parsley

2 TBSP flour

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

  1. Saute onion and garlic in butter over medium heat.
  2. Stir in the meat and brown.
  3. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper and mushrooms.
  4. Cook 5 minutes and then stir in the soup
  5. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in Sour Cream and heat through.
  7. Garnish with parsley

My Cookbook Memories

I’ve taken a break from blogging, but I have missed it.  I got caught up in the lethargy of the pandemic, and like many others I’ve spoken to about this, I just wasn’t interested in the things that usually I loved to do.  “Languishing” is the word I’ve heard many use to describe how they’ve been feeling throughout this life-changing situation.  It’s been hard to muster up enthusiasm, when the world is suffering. 

That’s all I’m going to say about that, as it’s best to concentrate on moving forward and enjoying life as best we can, without the “doom and gloom” scenario.  There’s plenty to be grateful for, and that’s what I I need in my life right now.  

Tops on my “gratitude list” is always family and friends.  This is my joy.  Hand and hand with this “joy” is the “joy of cooking,” at least for me.  There’s nothing I love more than to cook or bake for those I love.  I missed this during the days of lockdown.  My focus was on searching for food, ordering food, storing food…..there was no pleasure in it for me.  But lately I have felt the resurgence of the need to wallow through my many cookbooks and enjoy the happiness that a delicious meal can bring to those I love.  Once again, I’m eager to share these recipes with you.  There is a new charge of excitement in my soul.  I’m back!!!

Where do I start?  What should I make?  What should I share?  

As I sit in my kitchen and look at the hundreds of cookbooks I’ve collected (and loved) over the many decades of my life, I’m filled with pleasure and passion.  I’ve read each one like a novel, tearing through the pages to see what the next page holds.  The pages of many are stained and falling apart after many years of excessive use.  Even if I’ve made the dish 100 times, I always need to at least glance at the recipe one more time to assure myself that I haven’t left out any ingredient.

These cookbooks are like family and friendships to me.  They’ve been such a part of my life.  I turn to them over and over for help, information and comfort.   Like those I love, they are always there for me, ready to help….ready to bring happiness and satisfaction into my life.  Now it’s time for me to reciprocate and give them the attention they deserve.  

So I’ve set up a little challenge for myself.  I want to give each cookbook a showcase.  Every single cookbook, old or new, holds a memory for me.  When did I get it?  Who gave it to me?  Did I meet the author?  Did I buy it in some far away land?  At a famous restaurant?  Every book has a story.  Putting these stories together will certainly tell the story of my life, especially my life in the kitchen. 

 I hope you will enjoy this journey with me.  At the very least, you’ll come away with some fabulous recipes. 

Mom’s Betty Crocker Cookbook 1959

Probably  the first cookbook I ever laid eyes on was my mother’s “Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook.”  My mom wrote  her name in the book  along with “Christmas 1959.”  That would make me 8 years old.  Perhaps it was a gift.  Or perhaps she bought it for herself.  I imagine it was her first cookbook.  Most of her recipes were handed down from her mother, mother-in-law and sisters.  Most were committed to memory, but many were written on scraps of paper, as you have seen in previous posts.   Those are my most treasured, as I love looking at her handwriting and at the name of the person who gave her the recipe.  She always had their name in clear view, just in case she needed to make an emergency call with a question regarding the recipe.  

I can remember her using this cookbook, but only for the sweets….pies, cakes, puddings, etc.  Everything else is not something she would have served her family.  The stained pages indicate which recipes she did try.  She was a pie lover, and I can see the wear and tear on those pages.  Blueberry pie, apple, apple crumb, banana cream, lemon meringue…..and a large stretch for her was her much loved rhubarb pie.  (Italians didn’t know from rhubarb in the 1950s!).  

Leafing through this book has been a gift to my senses.  I can actually smell the pies baking in the oven and then placed to cool on our red Formica-topped kitchen table.  The aroma throughout the house made my stomach growl in anticipation.   Would this be an after school snack or would I have to wait for dinner for this scrumptious dessert?

Now that I’ve reconnected with this cookbook, I’ve decided to bake some pies.   I started with peach, as I have an abundance of peaches at this time of year.  It’s just delicious, and that is the recipe I’ll share……but I can assure you there will be more pies to come.  I may even try my hand at rhubarb pie!  If mom could do it, so can I!

Pesto Sauce all Trapanese

“How much pesto can you eat?”  is a question I always ask myself around this time of year.  By the time it’s nearing the end of August, I’ve had pasta with pesto sauce one too many times.  It’s time to freeze it, so I can enjoy it again during the winter months to perk my spirits.    Then I look at my garden, and see so much basil begging to be picked, that I start to feel a little guilty.  Recently, I was pinching away at the basil plants, and a recipe came to mind that wasn’t green.  I remembered seeing one of the TV chef personalities make a red pesto, using tomatoes and almonds.  I excitedly turned to my extensive cookbook collection in search of this pesto sauce that I’d never heard of before.  It had a strange name that was on the tip of my tongue, but who can remember much of anything these days!  Then, as if often does, it came to me! 

“Pesto alla Trapanese!” I found at least 5 recipes before I decided to stop looking and combine what I had found into my own recipe.  This is what I often do with pesto sauce just to keep it interesting and somewhat different each time.

I will share with you how I made this sauce, but feel free to change things. As I often say, you can’t go wrong with these ingredients.

RECIPE:

1 pound of spaghetti ( or any pasta hope you desire)

2 pints ripe tomatoes ( cherry or vine or Roma)

3 cups basil

1/2 to 2/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cups almonds

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving.

salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Toss the tomatoes with a little olive oil and salt.
  3. Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on what type of tomatoes you use. Let cool
  4. Meanwhile grind almonds and garlic in food processor.
  5. Add basil and grated cheese and pulse to a coarse paste.
  6. Add the cooled tomatoes and pulse until combined.
  7. While food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil.
  8. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, saving a cup of the pasta water.
  9. Toss pasta with the pesto sauce and grated cheese in a large serving bowl, using a little of the pasta water if it seems too dry.