Archive for the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

Ain’t Dat Sumpthin’!

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Spencer Williams Jr. as Andy Brown (Courtesy of Time/Life)

 

Thanks to Netflix I have recently been watching the television version of the classic radio program Amos ‘n’ Andy. This TV series lasted from 1951 to 1953 and stirred up considerable controversy.

 
It continues to raise questions about how African Americans (or indeed any ethnic group) should be portrayed on television.
 
Amos ‘n’ Andy had debuted on radio in 1928. The show was actually a remake of a program called Sam ‘n’ Henry, which went on the air in 1926.
 
Both radio shows were the brainchildren of Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, white men who had met in 1920 while working for a traveling minstrel show.
 
Sam and Henry were working-class black men who, like many African Americans of the era, moved from the rural South to a northern city (in this case Chicago) to look for work.
 
When they were revamped as Amos and Andy for a rival station (the program quickly achieved network status), the protagonists had similar characters and backgrounds.
 
Amos Jones was hardworking and sincere. Andy Brown was good natured but lazy and easily led astray by a con artist or a beautiful woman. Neither was overly smart. The program regularly featured such mangled verbal expressions as “I’se regusted” and “Ain’t dat sumpthin’.”
 
In the late 1920s Amos ‘n’ Andy became hugely popular. It started out as a nightly ten-minute program performed Gosden and Correll alone. Other actors were added as the years went by. By the 1940s, the program ran once a week for half an hour and followed a typical situation-comedy format.
 
In addition to the title characters regulars included George Stevens, the Kingfish of Amos and Andy’s lodge, the Mystic Knights of the Sea; Kingfish’s shrewish wife Sapphire and Sapphire’s Mama; and a shady lawyer named Algonquin J. Calhoun.
 
Several characters were portrayed by black actors, although Correll continued to voice the part of Andy, and Gosden played both Amos and Kingfish.

When the program moved to CBS television in 1951 black actors were hired for all the major roles. Those roles continued to conform to a large extent to the characters created by Gosden and Correll.

This signed postcard of Gosden and Correll was recently for sale on ebay.

 
Andy had not changed greatly over the years, but Amos had become a wise, steady family man; he therefore narrated the television programs but didn’t participate much in the comedy. Center stage was enjoyed by the wily Kingfish.
 
Almost immediately the program attracted criticism. The NAACP in particular saw it as demeaning to African Americans and tried to organize a boycott.
 
The boycott didn’t succeed. Melvin Patrick Ely noted in his 1991 book The Adventures of Amos ‘n’ Andy: A Social History of an American Phenomenon (from which I gleaned much of the information in this essay) that many black Americans either enjoyed the program or deemed a comedy show the least of their worries in a still largely segregated society.
 
Nevertheless, the series remained a thorn in the side of CBS and was canceled at the end of its second season, although it lingered in syndication. The controversy made the networks reluctant to feature an all-black cast for years to come.
 
As I watched several episodes of the program recently I was pleasantly surprised.
 
Some of the storylines get a little tedious. One wonders how Andy can fall for Kingfish’s schemes week after week. Generally, however, the plots are clever and the acting first rate. 
 

Tim Moore as Kingfish (Courtesy of Time/Life)

 
The first thing that struck me about the series was how colorblind it appeared to my 21st-century eye. Amos, Andy, and their friends lived in an almost all-black community (supposedly Harlem) where race was never mentioned.
 
Andy and Kingfish drew criticism, perhaps justly, for perpetuating the image of the unemployed African American, and Lawyer Calhoun came in for particular scorn as just about the only black attorney visible on television.
 
Scores of bit players belied stereotypes, however, by speaking in standard English and giving Americans their first televised view of African Americans who weren’t servants or Pullman porters.
 
Amos, Andy, and Kingfish encountered professionals in all walks of life—realtors, police officers, storekeepers, and bankers—who just happened to be black.
 
I don’t know what I expected from the show. It was not this sense of being comfortable in one’s own ethnicity.
 
My favorite episode so far, “The Happy Stevens,” focuses on two of the strongest actors of the ensemble, rich-voiced Tim Moore as Kingfish and the graceful yet strong Ernestine Wade as his wife Sapphire.
 
The two are addicted to a radio program in which a white husband and wife engage in highfalutin “chit chat” about elegant doings in New York society. When Kingfish and Sapphire quarrel, they go to the radio studio to ask the couple’s advice—only to find that their idols are even more quarrelsome than they.
 
The Happy Harringtons get into such a knock-down-drag-out fight, in fact, that Kingfish and Sapphire are conscripted to do that morning’s radio program in their stead.
 
It’s a perfect domestic situation-comedy plot, cleverly written and acted. And it has very little to do with race.
 
I don’t want to dismiss the criticism of Amos ‘n’ Andy or to discount the NAACP’s position. It’s very possible that I didn’t see the racist stereotypes in the program because I wasn’t brought up on those stereotypes.
 
Other writers have traced the resemblance between characters in Amos ‘n’ Andy and standard figures in the minstrel tradition.
 
It’s hard not to note that Freeman Gosden’s first theatrical engagement was at a fundraiser for the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
 
And certainly Gosden’s reference in the clip below to Spencer Williams, who played Andy, as a “boy” sticks in one’s craw.
YouTube Preview Image
 
And yet ….
 
Henry Louis Gates Jr. may have best summed up the mixed message of Amos ‘n’ Andy in a 1989 New York Times essay.
 
“The performance of those great black actors … transformed racist stereotypes into authentic black humor,” Gates wrote. “The dilemma of ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy,’ however, was that these were the only images of blacks that Americans could see on TV.”
 

 
 
My dish today was inspired by a two-part episode of Amos ‘n’ Andy called “Getting Mama Married,” in which Sapphire’s Mama moves in with the her daughter and Kingfish. One of the ways in which the two women make Kingfish miserable is by criticizing his manners as he tries to pass peas at the dinner table.
 
The peas in question look much more substantial than standard green peas so I am inferring that Sapphire made a pot of black-eyed peas. Here is a recipe she might have used.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
a small amount of extra virgin olive oil or bacon fat for sautéing
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 10-to-14 ounce can tomatoes with green chiles
2 ham hocks or 1 good-sized pig’s knuckle
extra smoked sausage, chopped and lightly sautéed (optional)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chili powder
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
 
Instructions:
 
Wash and sort the peas, and soak them in cold water. Ideally, they should soak overnight, but if a couple of hours will do if you’re in a rush! Drain them when they have finished soaking.
 
In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat the oil or bacon fat, and use it to sauté the onion, garlic, and celery over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, pork, stock, water, and seasonings.
 
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to make sure it is well blended. Skim off as much of the bean scum as you can.
 
Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the mixture for at 1 to 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the peas are tender. (The best way to determine this is to taste them!)
 
Remove the ham hock or knuckle. Tear its meat into shreds and add the meat to the pot of peas, discarding the fat and bone.
 
Serve with rice. This is best served the day after it is made. Serves 8 to 10 generously.
 

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Irish Beef Stew

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Irish beef stew web

 
Top o’ the mornin’!
 
I know I published a recipe for beef stew EXTREMELY RECENTLY. We’ve been enjoying (if that’s the word) stew weather in the northeast a lot lately, however, so I’m posting another beef concoction for Saint Patrick’s Day.
 
The Irish stout in the recipe lends the dish a smoothness and a sweetness that suit this sentimental holiday.
 
My mother and I ate the stew three times for supper. We then chopped the beef and vegetables a bit more finely, added some beef stock and canned tomatoes, and enjoyed vegetable beef soup for a couple of additional meals.
 
As you smell the stew simmering on your stove you’ll find yourself singing “Danny Boy” (or maybe “Tinky Girl”).
 
Be sure to buy a little extra stout to sip on the side.
 
Next year, I hope to brine my own brisket for corned beef and cabbage. In the meantime, I highly recommend this recipe from the talented Michael Ruhlman.
 
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you all………
 
Tinkygreenweb
 
Ingredients:
 
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 pounds stew beef, cut into small pieces and dried with paper towels
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup Irish stout
4 cups beef stock
several sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 generous teaspoon dried)
several sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 generous teaspoon dried)
salt and pepper to taste
6 carrots, cut into chunks
1 pound fingerling potatoes plus a few more for good luck
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
chopped parsley as desired for garnish
 
Instructions:
 
In a Dutch oven warm a small amount of oil. Throw in the bay leaves and let them flavor the oil for a moment or two. Add the pieces of beef and cook them, stirring frequently, until they brown.
 
Remove and reserve the beef and bay leaves, and sauté the onion and garlic pieces for a few minutes. Toss the flour onto them and cook for another minute or two. Add the stout a bit at a time to absorb any gunk on the bottom of the pan; then stir in the stock, herbs, salt, and pepper.
 
Add the meat and vegetables and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the stew over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Your pot should be ALMOST covered. (If it looks as though it is losing too much of the liquid, cover it.)
 
If you would like your gravy a little thicker, just before serving take a bit of juice out of the pot and whisk in the cornstarch. Return the cornstarch mixture to the pot, bring the stew back to a boil, and boil for at least a minute. Sprinkle the parsley over the stew, and dish it up.
 
Serves 4 to 6.
 
stwecooksweb

 

 

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Cannellini Bean and Tomato Soup

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

 soupinbowlweb

 
Denise DiPaolo always wanted to run a business of her own that combined food and people. She waited a number of years and worked her way through a variety of jobs (including stints as a community organizer and an educator) before she finally opened the doors of the Ristorante DiPaolo in Turner’s Falls, Massachusetts.
 
Asked why she finally decided on an Italian restaurant, she said, “It represents who I am … It’s family. It’s the passion, the comfort, the drama, the challenge, and the fun all wrapped in one!”
 
The restaurant opened in March 2006 as a partnership between Denise and Chef Hilton Dottin.
 
Born in the Dominican Republic, Hilton went to restaurant school in New York and became an American citizen. He and Denise planned a menu that would draw on all regions of Italy, spiced up a little by Hilton Dottin’s Caribbean roots. Within a year the restaurant became a destination for food lovers in western Massachusetts.
 
On a fall afternoon I joined Hilton in the restaurant’s compact but well laid out kitchen to watch him prepare one of his specialties, cannellini bean soup. The soup as he prepares it takes a while to make, but it’s a substantial dish that warms the kitchen and creates mouth-watering odors.
 
On the day on which I visited, the chef happened to have a small winter squash on hand so he cooked its pulp in the bean water and pulverized it in a blender with a little broth after it softened, adding it eventually to the final product. He also added a few extra pieces of Prosciutto and uncooked bacon to the pancetta in the recipe for extra flavor.
 
He explained that he often varies a recipe, which he views as a guide. “When I follow a recipe in a book, I usually make it the way the book says, and then I add to it the next time,” he noted.
 
Watching Hilton chop, stir, and taste was inspiring. He stressed getting the freshest ingredients possible and looking for organic produce whenever possible.
 
Nevertheless, he admitted that economy and availability of foods force him to be practical in his shopping. If dried cannellini beans for this soup are hard to find, for example, he suggested substituting white navy beans.
 
Hilton didn’t need much help from me in the kitchen. I skinned a few tomatoes for him, but he managed to peel more than 20 in the time it took me to do three. I received some of the rewards of participation in the cooking process, however.
 
When I got home, my family told me that the soup “perfume” I had acquired in the kitchen of the restaurant was tantalizing—a mixture of garlic, vegetables, pancetta, and love. I also left with a little care package of the soup, which was everything soup should be. It tasted warm and hearty, complex yet perfectly blended. Best of all, Hilton shared his recipe with me.
 
We’re not in fall anymore, of course, so when I made it recently I used canned tomatoes. (Sorry, Hilton!) I also used canned beans because we had them in the house. I’m giving you the recipe as I prepared it because it was quick (no soaking of beans overnight) and ALMOST as tasty as the original version. If you want that one, do visit the Ristorante DiPaolo.
 
Buon appetito!
Hilton Dottin and Denise DiPaolo (Courtesy of the Ristorante DiPaolo)

Hilton Dottin and Denise DiPaolo (Courtesy of the Ristorante DiPaolo)

 
Cannellini Bean and Tomato Soup
 
Ingredients:
 
2 cups canned tomatoes, drained but with the liquid reserved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus a little more for drizzling over the tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 can (14.5 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
5 cups chicken stock
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil, and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper. Roast them until they smell good—about 20 minutes.
 
In a 4-quart Dutch oven sauté the pancetta in the olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir constantly.
 
Add the cumin, oregano, onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Sauté until the onion pieces become translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
 
Add the roasted tomatoes and continue to sauté for 3 more minutes.
 
Add the beans and the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil. When it boils reduce the heat, cover the soup ALMOST completely, and simmer it for 20 minutes.
 
Serves 6.
 
soupinpotweb

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Hamentaschen Drawing

Monday, February 8th, 2010
(Courtesy of Kosher.com)

(Courtesy of Kosher.com)

 
Purim is almost upon us, and the nice folks at Kosher.com have offered to send a tin of gourmet Hamentaschen to one of my blog readers or Twitter followers.
 
I highly recommend the holiday of Purim to those of you who are unfamiliar with it. It may well be the most joyous holiday in the Jewish calendar.
 
It celebrates one of the relatively few heroines in the Bible—Queen Esther of Persia. Here’s a brief rundown of her story:
 
A young Jewish girl in the fourth century B.C.E., Esther won a beauty pageant held by King Ahasuerus (a.k.a. Xerxes), who was looking for a new wife. He had executed the previous one in a fit of pique. He replaced her with Esther.
 
Esther’s cousin and former guardian, Mordecai, warned her not to reveal to the king that she was Jewish. Living in exile in Persia, the Jews were often subjected to anti-Semitism.
 
The king’s evil counselor, Haman, took offense when Mordecai refused to bow down to him and arranged to have all the Jews in the country killed. Esther went to the king and revealed her identity. This act took great courage, given the fate of her predecessor. Esther pulled it off, however.
 
In the end, the horrible Haman was hanged at the gallows he had erected for Mordecai. Esther and the Jewish people were given permission to defend themselves against their enemies. Jews in Persia held a HUGE party to celebrate their brave, beautiful queen and their enhanced status.
 
To commemorate Esther’s resourcefulness Jewish people party on Purim. It’s a time for dressing up in costumes and playing pranks. It’s also a time for giving to the needy and for exchanging gifts of food. And it’s a time for getting drunk—or at least for seeing the world from a new, youthful perspective. 
 
"Esther" by John Everett Millais (Courtesy of the Tate Online)

"Esther" by John Everett Millais (Courtesy of the Tate Online)

Hamentaschen are a sweet Purim treat. I’ve loved them all my life. They rank somewhere between a cookie and a small cake in bakeries. They are triangular (some say to mimic the shape of nasty Haman’s tricorn hat). And they’re enhanced with poppy seed or fruit filling.

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, Hamentaschen are occasionally filled with and/or covered with chocolate in our chocoholic culture!
 
I’ll be posting a traditional Hamentaschen recipe soon. Meanwhile, I encourage you to enter the drawing from Kosher.com. Here’s what you have to do:
 
Leave a comment on this blog or post a tweet from now through this coming Friday, February 12. I’ll cut off entries at midnight EST.
 
The comment or tweet should contain two pieces of information.
 
First, it should tell me what YOUR favorite food holiday—religious or non-religious—is.
 
Second, it should provide a link to the Kosher.com web site. Find something on the site that intrigues you—a recipe, a product (they have tasty foods available year round, not just for Purim!), a piece of information about a Jewish holiday.
 
If you choose to tweet rather than post a comment here, please send a tweet to me (remember, my Twitter name is LaTinque) so I won’t miss your contribution!
 
Next Monday, February 15, I will randomly select a winner from the comments and tweets. Kosher.com will send that lucky person the tin of Hamentaschen. It should arrive in plenty of time to help you usher in Purim on February 28.
 
As they said of Levy’s rye bread, you don’t have to be Jewish to love Hamentaschen!
 
While you’re thinking about your comment and/or tweet, you might like to try this recipe from Kosher.com’s Chef Jamie Geller.
 
Jamie has provided several recipes that enable readers to consume alcohol during Purim without getting drunk. She calls them her “saucy” selections. This soup will enable you to celebrate this holiday without going overboard.
 
I look forward to reading your comments……
Jamie's Soup (Courtesy of Kosher.com)

Jamie's Soup (Courtesy of Kosher.com)

 
 
Kosher Italian Bean Soup
(Courtesy of Kosher.com and Jamie Geller)
 
Ingredients:
 
1 medium onion, quartered
6 cups water
3 cups Imagine Organic No-Chicken (or Vegetable) Broth
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
10 baby carrots
10 baby zucchini
1 frozen crushed garlic cube
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
 
Instructions:
 
Place all ingredients in a 6-quart stockpot. Cover and bring to a boil.
 
Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook it uncovered for 18 to 20 minutes.
 
Ladle into bowls and serve. Serves 8. 
 
Jamie Geller (Courtesy of Kosher.com)

Jamie Geller (Courtesy of Kosher.com)

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January Tomato Soup

Sunday, January 31st, 2010
My neighbor Jim enjoyed the January Tomato Soup.

My neighbor Jim enjoyed his January Tomato Soup.

 
National Soup Month is about to end—so here’s a quick soup recipe to warm your house and your body.
 
Like the Campbell company, I have always considered tomato soup one of the mainstays of an American larder.
 
camp
 
The first known published recipe for tomato soup appeared in The Appledore Cook Book, an 1872 work by Maria Parloa (1843-1909).
 
An early supporter of home economics, Parloa lectured at the Boston Cooking School and ran versions of her own academy, Miss Parloa’s School of Cookery, in both Boston and New York.
 
She wrote regularly for the Ladies’ Home Journal. She also served as a spokeswoman for the Baker Chocolate Company and contributed to its recipe books.
 
bakchobook2
 
The charming blog Maria Parloa describes Parloa’s teaching, which she called late in her life “a magnificent work for any young woman to take up.”
 
The Appledore Cook Book was Parloa’s first book and stemmed from her work as a pastry cook on the Appledore Island summer resort in Maine. Most sources I have found on the internet call her soup a “tomato chowder.”
 
I called the public library in Bethel, Connecticut, for more information. Parloa spent the last few years of her life in Bethel and left money to establish a library there. According to the library web site the town proudly houses copies of her works in its local-history collection.
 
I asked one of the reference librarians to read me the recipe for tomato chowder. I was told that Parloa’s creation was not in fact a “tomato chowder” but rather a “tomato soup.” (So much for research on the internet!) The librarian read it to me:
 
Tomato Soup
 
Peel and slice tomatoes enough to fill a two-quart basin; put them into the soup-kettle with six quarts of water and two pounds of beef; boil three hours; season with pepper, salt, and a spoonful of butter. Strain, and serve with toasted bread.
 
I may try this recipe in the summer when I have fresh tomatoes (although two quarts of tomatoes would be A LOT of tomatoes!). Meanwhile, I recently made a much quicker soup taking advantage of canned tomatoes.
 
Here is that simple recipe. It makes a versatile soup; if you have other veggies and/or herbs in the house, throw them in. Next time I’m trying a few carrots plus some cilantro for garnish.
 
Tinky's tomato soupeb
 
January Tomato Soup
 
Ingredients:
 
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups canned tomatoes
2 cups salsa (the ingredients and heat are your choice)
2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water (or 4 cups vegetable stock)
a splash or two of cream, milk, and/or half and half (optional)
grated cheese (optional)
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the onion, pepper, celery, tomatoes, salsa, and stock (or water or whatever) in a Dutch oven.
 
Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it, reduce the heat, and simmer for half an hour. Allow the soup to cool for a few minutes; then puree it in batches in a blender. Add a little cream and/or cheese at the table if you like. Serves 4 to 6.
 
(Courtesy of the blog "Maria Parloa")

(Courtesy of the blog "Maria Parloa")

 

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