Monthly Archives: June 2010

Retro Rice Pudding: What Would Jessie Dish? Week Seven

Is rice pudding part of the comfort-food craze?  I have not noticed rice pudding nearly as often on menus, in cookbooks, or in the blogosphere as bread pudding.  Perhaps it is the snob appeal of using brioche, quality challah, or other artisan breads  in bread pudding.  The rice pudding from my late grandmother’s recently discovered files, however, is a classic dish of comfort fare.

I distinctly remember my grandmother’s rice pudding, so I was looking forward to making this recipe.  Rice pudding is a dessert I enjoy and will make, depending on leftover rice, mood,  and other competing dessert priorities.

In 1931 Jessie (with my mother Nat) might have made rice pudding as a Depression-era dessert.

Last time I had made rice pudding, I followed Rick Bayless’s recipe for his Mexican version with cinnamon and lime, Arroz Con Leche, for my Olympic kick-off party (my theme was dishes from Olympic hosts of the past 50 years – Mexico had hosted the 1968 summer  Olympics, and I needed to do something with the four egg yolks leftover from my lemon meringue cookies – a nod to Grenoble, host of the 1968 Winter Olympics).  The Bayless recipe is worth a try for a softer, very cinnamony, lime-zesty pudding.

For the detailed recipe and a critique… Continue reading

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Salmon in a Soy-Maple-Ginger-Garlic Glaze: Tantalizing Molecular Destiny

Are you aware of the chemical aspects of the culinary world? I am not referring to the molecular gastronomy that is all is the rage, but rather the actual chemistry of cuisine.  Chemistry is essential to the molecular style of gastronomic palaces, such as Spain’s El Bulli, WD-50 in NYC, or Alinea in Chicago, but we can all benefit from learning which foods (and wines, too) pair well together, based on their chemical composition.

I was listening to a radio program on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for you non-Canucks out there), featuring a sommelier from Québec,  François Chartier.  M. Chartier has written a book called, Papilles et Molécules, which has come out now in English, Tastebuds and Molecules (http://www.francoischartier.ca/english).  The show was on molecular structures, which makes certain foods natural companions, based on their chemical composition.

As ginger is a must for this post, Jinja must check out a hebe in bloom on the deck.

One example M. Chartier gave was the pair of soy sauce and maple syrup.  As a Canadian, I hope you know that I mean only the pure stuff, and never would dare to consider the gloppy kind in a plastic squeeze bottle, such as the corn-syrup-artificially-flavoured-Mrs.-You-Probably-Know-Who brand.  Apparently,  maple and soy sauce are chemical cosmic twins!  Who knew?

The molecular twinning, of course, works for food with wine (mint and sauvignon blanc, for instance) as much as it does for expected food pairings (lamb and thyme) in addition to more unusual combinations  (raspberries are chemically counterparts of nori, or seaweed, which surprised me).  It is a fascinating chemical explanation why certain foods do go well together naturally, even those from places of origin, e.g., maple syrup tends to be from areas which did not traditionally grow soy beans and make soy sauce.  So the locavore argument does not get much of boost from this dish.

For the recipe… Continue reading

Hot Fudge Pie: What Would Jessie Dish? Week Six

What exactly is hot fudge pie? Before I baked this dish, I was not sure about this week’s recipe from my grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered files.

One thing for sure was that my grandmother liked hot fudge, chocolate, desserts, and sweets, in general.  I recall that she enjoyed a good hot fudge sundae, frequently with coffee ice cream, at the old-fashioned ice cream parlours, which were once common across Chicago.  She liked the Ting-a-Ling, very close to her last residence, a near-north-side condo.  I imagine Jessie visited many of the south side institutions, e.g., Cunis’s, Cunag’s, Gertie’s, or the original Dove Candies – which has become a superstar of the American-commercial-high-end-ice-cream-bar-and-chocolate scene.  When I visit Chicago, I do try to make it to Margie’s Candies, which still serves a traditional hot fudge sundae, featuring their home-made ice cream, in huge white plastic scallop-shell dishes.

In Key West, Florida in the 1950s, Jessie wrote about what happens from eating too much hot fudge pie and such (on the reverse of the above photo).

The hot fudge sauce at these ice cream parlours came in a small stainless steel pitcher (the size of a small creamer), always served very hot and separate from the sundae, with its whipped cream, chopped pecans or other nuts, and, of course, a cherry on top.  It was a revelation to see how a sundae-eater consumed the hot fudge sauce:

  • all in one pour on top of the sundae,
  • poured judiciously and intermittently as he or she ate the ice cream and whipped cream,
  • poured onto the spoon to coat ice cream, one bite at a time, or,
  • in the most audacious move of them all, drunk from the pitcher itself.

These techniques indicated one’s personality, we speculated.

Oh, right, this post is not about hot fudge sundaes. (I do promise to write-up a classic recipe from one of my cookbooks, Lost Desserts, by Gail Monaghan, which features a very special recipe for hot fudge sauce from a Los Angeles eatery, with the perfect viscosity and a truly profound chocolate-fudge flavour).  The hot fudge pie in question is a bit perplexing, as it is neither a pie nor a cake nor a brownie; it is in between a chocolate molten lava cake (the dessert of the 1990s), a self-saucing chocolate cake (very big in the 1970s), and a very moist brownie (timeless!).

For the hot fudge pie recipe… Continue reading

Trapanese Pesto Pasta

I believe I have not hidden my devotion to America’s Test Kitchen and their rigourous testing-tasting, tasting-testing, or whatever their process is for creating the best never-fail recipes.  ATK has never let me down.

When I came across ATK’s version of pesto, as served in Trapani, Sicily, it made me decide to make it right away.  I did not have such a sauce during a trip to Sicily, but all the foods were memorable in Sicily and the Aolian island of Lipari, including the blood oranges everywhere (the inspiration for my blood orange marmalade).  So the combination of ATK with Sicily seemed like a major convergence of culinary imperative.

Living on an island not even as large as Lipari (and, of course, nowhere as big as Sicily itself), there are certain ingredients not always available.  With the urgency of making this sauce, I could not find any decent cherry tomatoes, in mid-June, so I had to resort to an island act of forced creativity, substituting a tin of Italian cherry tomatoes in its place.  This is not as much a locavore’s meal as is possible, though one could argue that it is more authentic in its Italian origins (olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and the said tomatoes all hailed from Italy – OK, I used imported linguine, too…).

For the easy recipe…

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Chocolate Nut Revels – Rich yet Delicate Cookies: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 5

What exactly are these chocolate nut revels?  I was intrigued by this week’s installment of the lost recipes of my grandmother Jessie, especially as “revel” is not used often these days – much less as a noun than as a verb.

This particular recipe was an easy one to prepare, though it is another item I do not recall from among my grandmother’s repertoire.  However, the name made me wonder about some of the things in which Jessie used to revel.  In this first photo, from the 1950s, she is at a banquet, probably one which involved sports writers, promoters, agents, etc.  (She is third from right in the pearls, with my grandfather, Louis, next to her on the right.)  Jessie seems to be reveling in this event, having just finished her dessert:

One other thing Jessie reveled was spending time in the sun, particularly during the brutal Chicago winters.  Here she is in Miami, where my grandparents spent the winter from the 1940s through the 1960s (this picture is dated March 1965):

Another passion of Jessie’s was travel.  Below, she appears to revel in her proximity to one of the great pyramids in Egypt, in 1971:

Of course, as I mentioned in previous posts, Jessie reveled in baked goods and sweets, so it is no surprise that the Chocolate Nut Revels were among her index cards of recipes.  In preparing it, I followed the ingredients  precisely yet made a few modifications in technique, so I will only make a couple of notes in addition to the recipe at the end of this post.

For the chocolate nut revel recipe, Continue reading

Halibut in Lime, Ginger, and Cayenne Cream Sauce: Super-fast and satisfying dish – just for the halibut

As I mentioned before, I was rather odd as a child.  One example that comes to mind – with halibut as a punch line – was an overnight field trip to a wilderness campground around age 11.

I had taken karate before this trip, yet I stopped upon reaching the first belt (the yellow belt, which is a cowardly far cry from the ultimate:  the famous black sash).  However, I was happy with that rank and to have achieved one higher level; I really did not care for the martial arts.  So I continued to wear my karate get-up – replete with the yellow belt – whenever possible.

During this particular trip, the fizzy candy which explodes in one’s mouth called, “Pop Rocks”, were all the rage.  I had a variety of packets with me, which I shared with my friends.  (This is the first of two-sort-of-but-not-really-directly-food-related references in this flashback).  The karate outfit fortunately had pockets for hiding “Pop Rocks” and other candy.

After the dinner in the “mess hall”, which I definitely do not remember, we participated in skits.  I was in a skit with another boy and it was a joke, the punchline of which was “I did it just for the halibut!” (if you were not paying attention, that is the second of the two food references, one which is supposed to be a play on words, albeit it childish).  What I remember is that I did not deliver this line but had to fall down as if struck down  by the painful pun – which I did during rehearsal.

However, during the skit when I was outfitted in my karate robe with yellow belt, I fell and knocked over the other boy.  My pratfall was not the most graceful of stage falls, nor the most pleasant experience for my fellow actor, given that I was chubby at the time, as I had yet to start with my tennis fixation which began soon after this trip.

Quick and simple mise-en-place just for the halibut.

For the halibut recipe and more….

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Mystery Dough = Tender Jam-Filled Pastry-Pockets: What Would Jessie Dish? Wednesdays Week Four

What exactly is “mystery dough”?  I figured the recipe I had from my late grandmother Jessie’s files had just enough information to create something, armed with my years of amateur baking and cookbook reading.

This is all of Jessie's recipe for "mystery dough".

This pursuit of trying to figure out a cryptic recipe brought back a reference to “Biblical exegesis” in an undergraduate literature class years ago.  I wondered why the professor was referring to “ex of Jesus”, when that did not make any sense to me (as far as I knew, He did not have any “exes”).  Later, I discovered that the word meaning a critical interpretation, analysis, or explanation, especially of the Bible.  One must practice exegesis diligently in fleshing out a recipe, too!

A confident, stylish Jessie knows mystery dough's secrets (ca 1935).

So, like a Biblical scholar or literary critic, I had the barebones for resurrecting, or, I should say, recreating the recipe.  Armed with some vague memories of my grandmother’s baking preferences, I also recalled her liking the Czech pastry, kolachkes, as they were known in the western suburbs of Chicago.  The kolachkes (AKA, kolaches, which I have spotted in Vancouver) have a buttery-cream-cheese-based dough, so I wonder if this recipe was for that very rich pastry, often apricot-filled.

The mystery is over, with amazing results – and the recipe: Continue reading