Tag Archives: classic

Real Home-Made Italian Beef Sandwiches: The Chicago Classic in Your Kitchen

I did not like eating meat as a child. So it was not hard for me to become vegetarian on my own at age 11 (nobody in my immediate family did so with me).  There were several reasons for this odd childhood decision in the 1970s.   

My mother did not like to cook, and she would admit that her skills were uninspired in this area, particularly with over-cooked meats.  While we ate meals out or had take-out frequently, I never cared for most meat in restaurants.

I also was a big animal-lover, with cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils, and fish in our household.  Thus, I did not care for the idea of eating animals, when I was young.  I read extensively about animal rights (for example, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation), the horrors of the meat-packing industry (e.g., Upton Sinclair’s classic, The Jungle) and some of the more  kooky 1960s health food manifestos.

George indicates Italian beef to be chop-licking good.

For about 10 years, I ate no red meat or chicken.  During some of that time, I did not touch seafood, either.  However, I suddenly reverted to omnivorous ways at a dinner party while at the University of Chicago, where the hostess did not know I was vegetarian.  She served a wonderful medium-rare steak.  I decided it would have been rude to declare my vegetarianism and thought I would give it a try. My clean plate indicated a hasty farewell to my strict vegetarianism.  Today, however, I eat relatively little red meat or even chicken and try to be sure it is ethically raised, organic, free-range, or, at least, happy.

This is all a round-about way of explaining that, while I grew up near one of the very best purveyors of Italian beef sandwiches in suburban Chicago, I think I never ate one until I was an adult.  When I discovered this classic sandwich, I became a devoted admirer of this Chicago classic.  I have tried examples, which are supposed to be the best – all over  ”Chicagoland”.   

The Italian beef sandwich is one of two Chicago originals, specialties in the culinary world and best eaten there – the deep-dish Chicago-style pizza being the other.  In the nearly 20 years I have been away from Chicago, I make a point of having Italian beef on each trip back.  

For the Italian beef’s origins, review, food holidays – and the recipe… Continue reading

My Grandmother’s Swiss Roll – A Scrumptious and Retro Dessert: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 19

“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye” – why are these lyrics,  foreshadowing the Von Trapp family’s clever escape into Switzerland from Austria – stuck in my head?  It is due to my grandmother Jessie’s retro Swiss roll, the last of the 19 recipes of hers I discovered earlier this year.

While I vaguely recall a jelly roll – or Swiss roll – my grandmother had made, I associate this more with the commercial, sometimes chocolate-covered, individual “pastries”, filled with all sorts of artificial ingredients.  This recipe has just five staple ingredients (one being the jam for filling), so it really does not have much in common with those preservative-laden “treats”.

Being in a Swiss state of mind, I was pleased to have found photos Jessie took while in the Swiss Alps:

Jessie's husband, Louie, (my grandfather) in Switzerland, mid-1950s.

 

 

Jessie's daughter, Natalie (my mother) met her parents in the Alps for a visit.

 

Perhaps Jessie did not take these, but it is odd that she is not in either of them – or any others – and she liked to pose for photos.  My mother was working as a civilian employee of the US army near Stuttgart in the mid-1950s.  On one of their trips to Europe, my grandmother and grandfather decided to check up on my mother, meeting in Switzerland (my grandmother refused to set foot in Germany or Austria after World War II – my last two posts will give you a clue).

However, there is a photo of Jessie dancing in Florida in the 1950s, which I thought went well with this post:

 

Was Jessie (in white jacket) doing her own Swiss rock-and-roll here?

 

While this recipe is simple, with few ingredients, it does require attention and meticulousness in preparing the pan and rolling up the cake.  Jessie was very particular and specific about what she liked, so that fits with this recipe well.

It reminds me of a lunch she and I had, right around 1970, not too long after my grandfather had died.  We were at a restaurant near the University of Chicago’s Law School, and it was summer.  My grandmother ordered iced tea.  When it arrived, she sent it back because there wasn’t enough ice:  “You call this iced tea?  It’s barely got any ice!”  Then she sent it back, as there was too much ice:  “What do you expect me to do?  Remove these ice cubes myself?  Why bother going out to eat?” she said to the patient waiter.  Finally, the third time, she said, “Where’s the lemon?  I can’t have iced tea without lemon!”  The frustrated waiter complied, and Jessie had her tea exactly the way she liked it.

For a description of Jessie’s Swiss roll – and the recipe….

Continue reading

My Grandmother’s Yorkshire Pudding: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 17

When is a pudding a pancake and a pancake a pudding?  Let’s just put on our thinking caps to find out.

Among my grandmother Jessie’s lost recipes file, there was a recipe for Yorkshire pudding.  This is one of the few recipes of Jessie’s, which I distinctly remember.  My grandmother typically served this with prime rib or another beefy roast, in the classic English tradition, accompanied by overcooked mushy peas.  I recall slightly sweet and buttery brown-sugar-glazed carrots on the side, too.

The reverse of the recipe card is quite funny.  Jessie was on the board, I believe, of the Chicago affiliate of the National Council of Jewish Women, an organization which obviously encouraged its members to put on their thinking caps and hats, as the rather oblique invitation from the 1960s seemed to indicate: ”think” is repeatedly superimposed over a variety of stylized – and stylish – hats.

Jessie probably is thinking happily, content in the sun on holiday, in the 1950s.

While I was unable to locate any photos of Jessie on her travel in England, I did find her with a variety of hats and caps, always thinking.

Perhaps Jessie was thinking how elegantly dressed she and Louie are here.

We do not have to guess what Jessie is thinking here in Florida in the late 1940s....

...this is what she wrote on the back of the photo above!

This recipe was timely, as we are in the midst of planning an upcoming trip to England and Scotland, which includes Yorkshire, so I have been putting on my thinking cap about this holiday.  What is also amusing is that a “pudding”, in England, of course, is a generic term for something sweet, as in a dessert.

For the result and the Yorkshire pudding recipe….

Continue reading

Brown Sugar Cookies – Speedy, Simple, & Superb: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 16

The easiest recipes are often the best.  This four-ingredient recipe, from my grandmother’s recipe files, which I recently discovered, is quick, straightforward, traditional,and toothsome.


I am a big fan of brown sugar, especially dark or demerara, so I was glad to have found this recipe, among my grandmother’s hand-written and typed cards.  While it is not the brown-sugar-beurre-noisette cookie which ranks among my very favourite cookie recipes, this version is much faster and a classic shortbread or sablé.  I remember well my grandmother’s tubular aluminum cookie press, which made fancy beribboned butter cookies.  I can picture only the plain melt-in-your-mouth white butter cookies, which Jessie often adorned with glacé cherries.

In thinking about brown sugar, I thought about “Bubbling Brown Sugar” and jazz, which Jessie liked.  This led me to think I might find a picture of my grandmother Jessie at the Stork Club in New York City (I remember she had matchbooks from there but no such luck in the photo realm).  At various nightclubs, Jessie liked the many-layered and coloured liqueur drink, the “pousse-café” (she unfortunately pronounced this confection-concoction as “pussy café” – I kid you not…) , with layers of brandy, green chartreuse, white crème de cacao, crème de cassis, yellow chartreuse, and grenadine, as Wikipedia describes one variant, though there were many other versions.  This depends on the specific density of each liqueur to float on top of the previous one.  It was all the rage in the early 20th century.

Jessie and Louie - cocktails at a race track press club, 1950s

For the description of the cookie and the recipe …

Continue reading

Classic Basil Pesto: A Sauce for Summer’s End

What cookbook would you take to the hypothetical desert island?  I would have to lug my tome, New Best Recipes, from America’s Test Kitchen.  I consult this indispensable volume more than any other of my hundreds of cookbooks.  In fact, I just did their zucchini bread recipe in my last post.  Their pesto recipe is simply outstanding.

(To my consistent readers, I decided to put Wednesday’s What Would Jessie Dish? on hiatus until after summer, ongoing renovations at the moment, and a trip with my mother to Maine  for the upcoming week. The remaining recipes were all very autumnal, and I thought it best to wait and highlight seasonal summer dishes.  Sorry, but it will return in just a few weeks!)

ATK is so thorough and creative in testing the many permutations, techniques, and varieties of ingredients to create the ultimate recipes.  Sometimes they are a bit fussy, but this is based on their experimentation to produce the best taste, texture, and finished product.  One thing I do find is that their recipes tend towards the less hot (spicy) side, so I often will up the heat or add a bit, when I feel like it.

I had made a few recipes for pesto before trying ATK’s, and this one really is best.  Toasting garlic and nuts adds a bit of time, but it is worth it to highlight the flavours, creating depth, subtlety, and nuttiness – what more can you ask for in life?

On our island, we have a garlic growing cooperative, and I was able to participate in a couple of sessions (prepping, cultivation, planting, weeding, harvesting), which gave me 40 bulbs of organic Russian hard-neck porcelain garlic – if you really want to know the variety.  It was an interesting experience, and I now have quite a bit of garlic for the upcoming colder months.

The basil we have been growing on the deck (it is not deer-proof, though it is supposed to be) has been doing well the past few years, with our southern exposure.  Around this time of year, I have plenty of basil – and combined with a bounty of garlic – making pesto for the winter is a good idea.  So I tripled the ingredients, and the three batches went along much more quickly than doing each one separately, of course.

For more on storing the classic basil pesto and the recipe… Continue reading