Archive for the ‘Historical Figures and Events’ Category

The Feast of Love and Hope and Gratitude

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

turkey-card-web

This month Americans are observing many anniversaries. Today is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I long for its eloquence and brevity every time I write—and every time I listen to a political speech.

The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in a few days is dominating our television screens now almost as much as it did at the time of that president’s death.

Mulling over it repeatedly, we explore our history, our feelings about our leaders, and the difficulty of ever knowing precisely what happened in the past. (The assassination is an event that has been seen by millions of people and studied by thousands—and yet no one can be 100-percent sure exactly what happened on that day in Dallas.)

The anniversary that interests me most, however, is another Lincoln-related one. In November 1863, a week after writing and reciting the Gettysburg Address, our 16th president led Americans in celebrating our first national day of Thanksgiving.

States and communities had celebrated their own days of Thanksgiving for a couple of centuries by then. It was Lincoln who nationalized the holiday and identified it as the last Thursday in November. (It eventually became the fourth Thursday rather than the last.)

Sarah Josepha Hale

Sarah Josepha Hale

Writer/editor Sarah Josepha Hale had campaigned unsuccessfully by letter for such a day with previous presidents beginning with Zachary Taylor. It took Lincoln’s genius to identify Thanksgiving as a quintessentially American holiday—one that was particularly appropriate to a nation at war.

It is when we are feeling the most stress that we have the greatest need to be grateful. Lincoln realized that a nation at war needed to stop, take stock of its blessings, and express gratitude—perhaps even more than a nation at peace. Indeed, his original proclamation reminded Americans to be particularly mindful of those whose families had been disrupted and/or destroyed by the war.

This spirit lives on in the efforts of a variety of organizations to serve Thanksgiving meals (and bring Thanksgiving cheer) to veterans and their families. It also continues whenever those of us hosting Thanksgiving dinner invite friends, relatives, or strangers to join us for this annual feast of love and hope and gratitude.

card1web

You may see Lincoln’s original Thanksgiving proclamation at the National Archives website. And the White House website offers what it calls the “definitive” history of the practice of pardoning a turkey for Thanksgiving. I love the weird American-ness of this tradition; we pardon one turkey a year so that we can feel less guilty about eating millions of its cousins!

I’m not actually posting a Thanksgiving recipe this year—although I refer you to several of them I have posted over the years. Try the hush-puppy pudding … or cranberry upside-down cake … or even simple roasted Brussels sprouts.

Instead I offer this simple seasonal quiche. It uses a vegetable I always overbuy at this time of year, the sweet potato. (I received several with my farm share last week so I was forced to get creative.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all … and to your families. Don’t forget to open your homes and your hearts to strangers at this time of year.

SP Tartweb

Sweet Potato Tart

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, cut into small pieces and peeled if you want to peel it
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
salt to taste
3 large or 4 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh, chopped parsley to taste
four eggs
1/2 cup cream
a dash of Creole seasoning
ounces (more or less) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 8-inch pie shell

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour a tablespoon of oil into a bowl. Stir in salt to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon). Toss in the pieces of sweet potato.

Place the sweet-potato pieces on a cookie sheet or baking pan, and roast until they are lightly brown around the edges, stirring occasionally. This took me about 1-1/4 hours, but my oven runs cool so it may take you less time.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, splash oil onto a non-stick frying pan. Place the pan over medium-low heat. Toss in the onion slices.

Cook them slowly, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until they are reduced and softly caramelized. This may take an hour or more. Add a pinch of salt after the first 1/2 hour—and add a little more oil if you need it as you cook. When the onions are finished, stir in the parsley.

Both the onions and the sweet potatoes may be cooked the day before you want to serve your quiche; refrigerate the cooked vegetables until they are needed.

When you are ready to assemble your quiche whisk together the eggs, cream, and Creole seasoning in a bowl.

Place the pie shell in a pie pan. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the pie crust. Top the cheese with the onions and then the sweet potatoes; then pour on the cream/egg custard, and finish with the remaining cheese.

Place the tart (or quiche or whatever you want to call it!) on a rimmed cookie sheet to prevent spillage, and bake it for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden—but the sweet potatoes peeking out are not burning!

Serves 6.

assembling tartweb

The tart halfway through assembly

Celebrating the March on Washington

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Today in honor of the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary I cooked a couple of appropriate recipes on the television program “Mass Appeal.” I post the videos below.

You may see the full recipes elsewhere on this very blog. I originally made the black-eyed peas to remember the television program “Amos and Andy.”

And the pound cake, which may be made with blueberries as well as peaches, appears here.

Happy viewing!


A Christmas Carol and Christmas Gingerbread

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Like me, Charles Dickens liked to read aloud from his works. Unlike me, he got paid for it. (Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

 
My mother and I are staying with my brother and his family while waiting to move into our new winter apartment. (Warning: we will move in the next few days so this will probably be the week’s only blog post!)
 
A few nights ago I began reading A Christmas Carol to my nephew Michael at bedtime. To say that the ten-year-old boy is enjoying the story is an understatement. He is devouring it.
 
This short novel penned by Charles Dickens in 1843 is so familiar to me—as it is to much of the English-speaking world—that experiencing it as utterly new through Michael’s eyes and ears gives me special pleasure.
 
A Christmas Carol is the sort of text that scholar Tony Bennett (no, not THE Tony Bennett) describes as layered with encrustation.
 
In the essay in which he introduced this concept, Bennett talked about the ways in which the public perception of Ian Fleming’s James Bond has changed with each successive reinterpretation of the character—from the original books to Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.
 
Bennett likened the changes in our view of Bond to encrustation on a shell or a boat, explaining that re-visionings of a text attach themselves to and reshape the original so that we can no longer see it without them.
 
A Christmas Carol is one of the most encrusted texts around. Not only has it been adapted more or less as is into play and film form; its basic plot has also been used for numerous theatrical and television films (who could resist Bill Murray in Scrooged?) and holiday episodes of regular television programs.
 
Such familiar characters as Mr. Magoo, Yosemite Sam, and Oscar the Grouch have taken on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, whose “bah humbug” attitude toward Christmas and his fellow humans sets the plot of A Christmas Carol in motion. 

Each of these characters, like each of the actors who has played Scrooge (from Alastair Sim to Susan Lucci), has left his imprint on our mental picture of Scrooge.

 
The upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special, set to air on Christmas Day on BBC America, is also rumored to play with the story of Scrooge.
 
I can’t wait to watch it!
 
I have to admit that I take pleasure in Scrooge’s story pretty much every time I read or see it. In that sense it is well named. Like the carols we sing to celebrate this season, it resonates—even improves—each time we repeat its cadences.
 
And despite the tale’s sentimentality, it always behooves us to listen to and learn from A Christmas Carol’s message of charity, good will, and redemption.
 
Naturally, Michael and I have to nibble on something as we enjoy Dickens’s story of Scrooge, the Cratchits, and the ghostly visitors. (We’re willing to share both the story and the food with the rest of the family.)
 
I made gingerbread Sunday because I couldn’t think of anything more wholesome and Christmasy than this dense, lightly spiced treat. We ended up with two complementary aromas in the house—the warm gingerbread and the fresh new Christmas tree. Heaven!
 
My regular cakey gingerbread has been a bit dry lately so I played with the recipe here. You’ll find this version is quite moist, almost brownie like in spots. It has the traditional gingerbread flavor, however.
 
I should probably warn readers that my gingerbread (including this version) almost always sinks a bit in the middle, hence the use of the word “swamp” in the recipe title. Every bite is delicious, including bites from the swampy section. 

God bless us, every one.

 
Christmas Swamp Gingerbread
 
Ingredients:
 
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup sweet butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch-square pan.
 
In a bowl combine the flour and spices.
 
In another bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Stir in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
 
Bake until the cake tests done—from 30 to 45 minutes, in my experience. If it starts to look dried out before it is done, cover it with foil for that last few minutes. If your gingerbread collapses a bit in the middle, ignore it!
 
Serve with whipped cream or applesauce. 

Serves 8 to 12, depending on appetite.

 

And now … a small reminder to all holiday shoppers that copies of my Pudding Hollow Cookbook are available for you to give your friends and relatives! I ship priority mail within the continental U.S. so there’s still time for Christmas delivery. If you’d like a copy, please visit the Merry Lion Press web site.


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Una Voce Poco Fa: Turkey and Tetrazzini

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Luisa Tetrazini in Her Prime (Library of Congress)

 
This coming Sunday, December 5, is National Comfort Food Day. I’ve recently been using up some of our Thanksgiving-turkey leftovers in one of my favorite comfort foods, turkey tetrazzini.
 
Tetrazzini the dish (also made with chicken, salmon, tuna, and for all I know tofu) was named after Tetrazzini the singer.
 
Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940) was a coloratura soprano known as the Florentine Nightingale. She allegedly first took to the stage at the age of three in her native Italy. In her prime she was the toast of opera lovers in both Europe and the United States.
 
Although she was involved in a number of contractual lawsuits, La Tetrazzini was by all accounts a good natured woman.
 
Small of stature but by no means small of figure (calling her stout would be kind), she adored glamorous gowns, jewelry, and hats. 

(Library of Congress)

 
Like other many other sopranos (including me!), Luisa Tetrazzini had a weakness for comfort food. The precise provenance of the recipe named after her is in doubt; a number of different chefs and restaurants claimed to have invented it. It is clear, however, that it was created in Tetrazzini’s honor.
 
Whoever originated it, turkey tetrazzini is my second favorite thing to make out of leftover turkey. (First on the list comes the humble turkey sandwich.) The bell pepper in my version isn’t traditional, but I appreciate the note of color it adds to this otherwise pretty much white dish.
 
To hear Luisa Tetrazzini sing “Una Voce Poco Fa” (“A Voice Just Now”) from Rossini’s Barber of Seville click here. 

To taste the dish named after her, follow the instructions below.

 
Tinky’s Turkey Tetrazzini
 
Ingredients:
 
for the cream sauce:
 
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/4 cups robust turkey stock, warmed
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
Creole seasoning to taste (you may use just salt and pepper, but I like the zip of the seasoning)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus a bit more if you like)
1/4 cup dry sherry
a handful of parsley, chopped
 
for assembly:
 
1/2 pound thin spaghetti, cooked
butter as needed to sauté vegetables (try to keep this to a minimum)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 bell pepper (I used an orange one most recently), diced
a light sprinkling of salt and pepper
2 cups pieces of cooked turkey
1 recipe cream sauce plus a little more milk if needed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
a sprinkling of paprika
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
 
First, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.
 
Whisk in the turkey stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the milk and cream. Heat the mixture until it is warm; then remove it from the heat and stir in the seasoning, cheese, sherry, and chopped parsley. Set aside.
 
Next, create the casserole. Place the cooked spaghetti in a 2- to 3- quart casserole dish. Cover it with about half of the sauce.
 
Melt a small amount of butter in a frying pan and sauté the ‘rooms and bell-pepper pieces until they soften. (Add a little more butter if you absolutely have to.) Dust them with salt and pepper.
 
Place the turkey on top of the spaghetti in the dish. Cover it with the sautéed vegetables. Stir the mixture just a bit to make sure everything is moistened. Top the mixture with the remaining sauce.
 
If the tetrazzini looks a bit dry, add a bit more milk. Sprinkle the cheese on top of it, and throw on a little paprika for good measure. 

Cover the casserole dish and place it in the oven for 20 minutes; then uncover and cook until bubbly, about 10 minutes more. Serves 4.

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Emma DuPuy Reed’s Pickled Peaches

Friday, September 3rd, 2010
This photo and others come courtesy of Sue Haas.
 
Canning season is in full force—and as usual I am thinking about putting food up more than I’m doing it.
 
Thanks to Sue Haas of Seattle, however, I have made my first ever batch of pickled peaches. This lovely old fashioned recipe comes from Sue’s grandmother, Emma DuPuy Reed.
 
Miss Emma was born in 1871 and died in 1962 and was, according to Sue, “quite a lady.” Sue is working on a young-adult novel about her grandmother’s life. In the meantime, here are a few recollections she shared with me.
 
Emma Louisa DuPuy was born and grew up in a French Huguenot family in Philadelphia. Her father, Charles Meredith DuPuy, an engineer and inventor, was one of the founding members of the Huguenot Society of America. He also wrote a book about the DuPuy Family. She and her sisters were neighbors of and friends with Cecilia Beaux, the American Impressionist portrait painter, in West Philly. There are several portraits of DuPuy family members painted by C. Beaux. One is now at the Williams College Museum of Art…. 

Emma was a tall, dignified, beautiful lady with big blue eyes, a generous smile, and a wonderful sense of humor. She married William Ebenezer Reed, an engineer (from Manchester, VT), in 1902. Emma lived in a rent-controlled high-ceilinged, elegant apartment in Manhattan for over 50 years. Emma and “Eben” raised their five children there and Grandma gave birth to all of them at home. They had a maid and a cook and kept the traditions of Victorian table settings. I still remember dipping my fingers in thin, glass finger bowls placed on lace doilies–possibly necessary after eating sticky pickled peaches! 

      Emma DuPuy in 1901, a year before her marriage 
 
Emma loved peaches. Peach ice cream was her favorite. She made her pickled peaches in Blue Point, L. I., where she also made raspberry jelly. I remember catching soft-shelled crabs in Blue Point, too, and occasionally seeing them escape from their bucket and scramble around on the kitchen floor before being plopped into boiling water.
 
I remember, as a child, helping my mother, Mary, make pickled peaches…mostly I remember peeling them after they’d been dipped in boiling water. Sometimes my fingers would turn purple and I remember my mother telling me to use lemon juice to get rid of the stains. (I didn’t notice that happening when I made the pickled peaches this summer, though.)
 
This summer my own daughter, Alysa, wanted me to teach her how to can. So we canned raspberry jam. She was busy on the day I canned the pickled peaches but I’m passing the recipe on to her.
 
I remember, as a child, eating juicy, cinnamon-y pickled peaches with roast turkey on Thanksgiving at Grandma’s Manhattan apartment many years ago. And I can’t wait to serve them to my own grandchildren at our Thanksgiving table this year in Seattle.
 
Sue’s recollections of her grandmother struck me as perfect for a project called In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens. So did this recipe. I did get pretty sticky handling the peaches, but what sweet stickiness! I can hardly wait to eat them with a festive meal.
 
Sue suggests serving them with roast pork or ham as well as turkey. You may either take the cloves out of the peaches yourself before serving or let your guests remove their own. 

Now, if I only had a rent-controlled apartment in New York City………..

 
 
Ingredients:
 
8 pounds fresh peaches (about 16 medium peaches)
4 pounds sugar (about 9 cups)
1 pint white vinegar
whole cloves (6 per peach = 96 cloves)
4 sticks cinnamon
 
Equipment:
 
large canning pot with rack
large cooking pot for heating water to peel peaches
large cooking pot for syrup and peaches
cheesecloth (cut a piece about 8 x 12 inches)
string
teaspoon
4 to 5 sterilized pint canning jars, new lids, and screwbands (sterilize in dishwasher or in boiling water in large canning pot with rack)
 
Instructions:
 
Preparation of canning pot:
 
Fill large canning pot with enough water to cover the two quart-size canning jars. Bring water to boil and keep hot.
 
Peeling peaches in hot water & adding cloves:
 
Boil about 2 quarts of water in a big cooking pot. Remove from heat. Place peaches in hot water for about 1 minute, or long enough so that skins may be peeled off easily. Remove peaches from water and cool in colander. Peel peaches and discard peels. You may cut peaches into halves or leave them whole. I cut them in half, but it’s tricky to keep them intact. Whole peaches are easier. Insert 3 cloves into each peeled peach half. Set aside.
 
Cinnamon spice packet:
 
Make a spice packet with 4 sticks of cinnamon wrapped in a piece of cheesecloth. Tie a string to close the bag. Leave one end of string long enough to reach over the side of the pot to pull out when syrup has thickened. You may tie the long end of the string to a teaspoon to weigh it down so it won’t slip back into the pot.
 
Note from Tinky: I just made a little knot in the cheesecloth and removed the cinnamon with a slotted spoon later. I couldn’t find my string!
 
Syrup: 

Mix sugar and vinegar in a large cooking pot. Add the cinnamon packet to the pot. Heat on stove to boiling. Turn down and let simmer about 30 minutes until syrup turns golden and thickens.

 

Cooking the Peaches

 
Cook peaches in syrup:
 
Place peaches in the syrup and cook about 10 minutes on medium heat until soft. You may have to add the peaches in batches, depending on the size of the pot. When the peaches have finished cooking remove the cinnamon packet from the liquid. (You may save the cinnamon sticks and place one in each jar of pickled peaches if you like.)
 
Canning peaches:
 
Place peaches in the jars and pour syrup to about half an inch from the top of each jar. Seal with new canning lids and screw on screwbands. Place sealed jars on rack in hot water bath in large canning pot, making sure tops of jars are covered with water. Boil gently for about 10 minutes. Bubbles of air will come out of the jars.
 
Remove jars from water bath and let sit on a tray without moving them for about 24 hours. You’ll know jars are sealed if you hear the lids pop, and they are flat (not convex) when you press the tops with your finger. 

Makes 4 to 5 pints. You will have quite a bit of leftover syrup. You may use it to can more peaches, serve it as an appetizer over cream cheese, or make a cocktail with it. (Tinky here: I’m thinking maybe something with rum?)

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