Tag Archives: Old-Fashioned Cuisine

MandelBread or Mandelbrot-Delectable By Any Name: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 12

I have absolutely no recollection of this recipe from my childhood. As part of my grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered files, “mandlebread” is a fantastic recipe.   Either I had never eaten this cookie or simply cannot remember it.  For a child, perhaps it is too hard as cookies go? Mandlebrot does not go as well with milk, say, rather than with tea – ugh for most kids – or coffee – double ugh.  It is also devoid of chocolate, so I might not have cared for them, obliterating the memories of one try from my mind.

The recipe is very specific with its directions and was a breeze to follow –  with one odd exception: “nuts”. “Mandel” is “almond”, so I suspect Jessie just knew to use them – rather than other favourites of hers, such as pecans or walnuts. A mandelbrot, or, mandelbrodt, is an middle-European counterpart to biscotti, made typically with almonds (“mandel”, in both German and Yiddish, “brot” meaning “bread”).  Mandelbrot has made a bit of a comeback in cookie-dom, along with the resurgence in world-wide coffee-culture (in this iteration, think Starbucks and free WiFi as opposed to Le Procope in Paris and “philosophers cafes”).

Around age 70, Jessie enjoyed the Mayan ruins in Mexico.

What I found amusing about this recipe is that I could not find a photo which somehow would correspond. So I chose one of my grandmother at the ruins of Uxmal on a winter getaway to Mexico around 1974. Jessie visited Israel right after Egypt a few years before her trip to Mexico (and I have used the one photo I have from that tour already) but never went to middle-European destinations (e.g., Austria, Hungary, or Germany, where mandelbrot once reigned supreme), so the Mayan setting will have to do!

Mandelbrot with flowers from our gardens (courtesy of CJM Floral Engineering, Inc.)

For the cookie’s character and the recipe…

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Cheese Pancakes – Delicate, Distinct, and Chewy: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 11

Who thinks much about cottage cheese these days?  I know that I do not.

This week’s recipe, from my grandmother Jessie’s recently rediscovered recipe files, features cottage cheese as the star ingredient.

Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, cottage cheese was a “diet food”, often combined with iceberg lettuce and flavourless tomato wedges as a standard main course salad in American restaurants.  I think gloppy Thousand Island dressing would have been the most popular accompaniment, hardly a low-calorie option. Another purported health food was a leaf of iceberg on a plate, supporting a perfect pineapple ring (canned), on which sat a neat ice cream scoop of cottage cheese, topped with a maraschino cherry.  Richard Nixon, President of the US until his resignation in disgrace in 1973, stated that he enjoyed ketchup and cottage cheese together – which seems more like a gore-ish prop for a horror film, rather than a favoured food combination.

Always fashionable, Jessie is hip (circa 1970) even while visiting at a state park - with my father, youngest cousin, yours truly (as a hippy), and my brother.

Around 1970, Jessie was recently widowed, and she seemed to enjoy shocking people a bit.  My uncle (Jessie’s son) had given the recording of the Broadway musical Two Gentleman of Verona to my youngest cousin, who was a teen at that time, shocking my  grandmother because of its strong language.  To prove that she was “with it” or just that she could shock our family even better, Jessie gave me the album from the Broadway musical  Hair,  lyrics of which I still can recall almost verbatim.  I cannot remember if I asked for it (it was my first record album, when they were long-playing black discs, with nothing compact about them).  The language, however, was a bit much for a child of seven or eight – even I have to admit.

More than Hair – with all its revivals – cottage cheese just is off the radar these days.  Perhaps ricotta and artisan curd cheese have eclipsed cottage cheese in the realm of culinary trends:  category curds and whey.

Jessie, however, always seemed to have cottage cheese in her fridge.  Perhaps it was for  salads or to make this cottage cheese pancake.  After making this dish, I finally remembered having these pancakes at her place, when I stayed over for the weekend.

The pancake is almost like a mélange of a Swedish pancake or a French crepe with a more fashionable lemon-ricotta pancake.  (I have recipes from different versions at one west coast and one east coast B & B at which I have stayed – perhaps these are future blog fodder?)

For the pancake analysis – and the recipe…

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Apricot Strudel-Rugelach – A Rich Old-World Treat: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 10

On Jessie's wedding china, the apricot strudel awaits....

I had some trepidation about the “strudel” part of this week’s recipe.  When I found my grandmother Jessie’s lost files, I noticed the “apricot strudel” recipe but did not pay close attention, which turned out to be par for the course for me with this recipe.

The rolling of this strudel into a log is very easy.

The reason for my fear-of-strudel dates back to a cruise we had taken a few years back with my mother, from San Francisco to various Pacific ports in Mexico.  On this sailing, an Austrian chef demonstrated making apple strudel.  A traditional strudel includes stretching, more stretching, and, when you think you have stretched the dough enough, stretching yet again.  So I thought I would have to do all this stretching and was a bit worried about this technique.

However, this recipe has no stretching.   The dough is very easy to make.  This pastry is more akin to a rugelach than a strudel, as the dough for the former usually features either sour cream (as does this) or cream cheese in addition to nuts and cinnamon in the filling.  Rugelach often has raisins, but I used dried apricots in this version.  Either way Jessie’s apricot strudel is very mittel-European and very Old World in its sour-cream-butter dough, with an apricot-nut-coconut filling.

I vaguely remember Jessie making a cookie similar to this.  Perhaps I do not recall it very well, given that it is not a terribly sweet cookie – and without chocolate.  Hence,  I would not have been too interested in it as child.  Though Jessie loved eating traditional flaky apple strudel, she also liked rugelach.  For Sacher torte or other rich desserts, Jessie always liked her café mit schlag (coffee with whipped cream), as she called it, to ensure the most extravagant dessert experience possible.

In 1923, Jessie is very stylish in an Old-World way, while on honeymoon at a resort in French Lick, Indiana.

My challenge with this recipe was that Jessie called for “Ma Brown apricot jam”.  I do not know if this exists any more, but I prefer to use my own preserves, whenever possible, regardless.  I had only one small jar of apricot butter left from the small batch I made last year, but this amount would not have sufficed.

For more on the strudel development and the recipe…

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What Would Jessie Dish? A New Wednesday Feature: Introduction to the Project and the German Pancake

My grandmother is just 16, at her high school graduation in 1920.

She could dish it up, but can I make it?

In helping my mother get ready to move into an assisted living apartment recently, I came across my mother’s copy of The Joy of Cooking.  She no longer wanted it, had not used it in many years, and said I should take it.  However, it was not it until I had returned home, when I discovered that the book had a 5” x  7” Manilla envelope containing a number of recipes from my late grandmother, Jessie.  She died nearly 20 years ago.  I cannot imagine that anyone knew whatever happened to these recipes.  So I was excited to have stumbled on this treasure trove.

There were nearly 20 recipes, half typed on 3″ x 5″ cards, with the others were written in her careful handwriting on various pieces of scrap paper (“Waste not, want not!” Jessie would implore, having lived through the Great Depression).  Most of the recipes are for baked goods (hooray!), and I do remember having eaten most of these dishes.  There are a few I am sure she did not make for me, so re-creating other recipes my grandmother made intrigues me as well.

I decided that it would be a fun feature on IslandEAT to prepare each and every one of the recipes, expanding or clarifying the directions, and assessing the results.   Many are in the short-hand of an experienced baker – and cook – who knew her technique well, so the steps are implicit – that is fine if you know the technique, of course, and, fortunately, I have developed a sense for baking over the years and am familiar with many similar recipes.

However, some recipes, especially the handwritten ones,  are completely vague and lacking directions – and even titles.   I will have to experiment to see if I can re-create what I think she had intended. What they all have in common is a no-nonsense, non-fussy simple approach with relatively few ingredients.  The recipes are primarily American or, in a few cases, European.  Some are still current and even in vogue, while others do seem rather vintage, e.g., “apricot mold”, which uses apricot jello and evaporated milk — not the kind of thing I generally make, but I am ready to try it.

From now until I have prepared all 18, I will feature a Wednesday recipe from the past, with a scan of the original recipe (and sometimes, the odd bits I have found on the reverse side), aiming to do this every week until the end of summer.  I expect to include some recollections of her, as she was a bit of a character, with a very good sense of humour, unusual turns of phrases, and quite the sharp tongue; Jessie was not afraid to ask – or ask repeatedly – for what she wanted or to let people know exactly what she thought.  I hope this summer project helps IslandEAT’s readers get a glimpse into her personality.

For more on the German Pancake and the What Would Jessie Dish? Recipe Roster

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