Posts Tagged ‘Jan Hallett Weisblat’

Taffy’s Succotash

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Taffy last year with the faithful Truffle (also a big fan of succotash!)

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. Jan Hallett Weisblat (a.k.a. Taffy) would have turned 94 this September 26. So naturally I’m thinking about her. And it’s only a small step from thinking about her to cooking her favorite dishes. Both the thoughts and the food make me smile.

Each year that I can remember she kept her eyes open in August and September for what she called “pink beans.” They are also known as cranberry beans; when I purchased them recently at Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield, Massachusetts, they were labeled simply “shell beans.”

These fresh beans are encased in pink-and-white-mottled skins. When removed from their shells the beans themselves are also white with pink flecks, although they trade those colors for a less exciting uniform beige when cooked.

Whenever my mother saw them, she would buy them, take them home, and make succotash. I have a feeling the beans were grown on her grandparents’ farm when she was growing up because they represented home to her. Now they speak of home to me as well.

I made pink-bean succotash a couple of weeks ago in Taffy’s memory. She never actually measured the beans or the corn or the cream so the quantities below are approximate. If you want to dress up your succotash, add a little sautéed onion, some herbs, and/or a little bacon garnish. My mother never did so the recipe below is rather plain.

Its flavor is far from plain, however. The beans have a subtle but unmistakable nutty taste. When you throw in the corn and the cream (or half and half) and grind a small hill of pepper on top you end up with a dish fit for a queen.

The succotash embodies my mother’s ability to take joy in simple, everyday pleasures. If I can be half as joyful in my lifetime, I will count myself lucky.

Succotash à la Taffy

Ingredients:

2 cups shelled cranberry beans
2 cups water, plus more water as needed
salt to taste
the cooked kernels from 3 ears of corn
cream or half and half as needed (between 1/2 cup and 1 cup)
lots of freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

Pick over the beans, removing any that have turned brown.

In a medium saucepan bring the cranberry beans, water, and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy. This will take between 15 and 45 minutes, depending on the age of the beans. (The younger they are, the less time it will take.)

Stir the beans from time to time while they simmer, and be sure to add more water if you need to. At the end of the simmering process the beans should still have a little—but not a lot of—liquid in their pan. Do not drain off this liquid.

Stir in corn and cream or half and half to taste. The beans should be in a gentle liquid bath but shouldn’t be drowning. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until everything is heated through.

Grind pepper over the succotash and serve it. Serves 6 to 8 hearty eaters.

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Messy But Good Birthday Cake

Monday, September 28th, 2009

apple chocolate cake web

 
I may have mentioned before that presentation is NOT my forte.
 
Most of the things I make taste pretty good. Quite a few look … well, I guess the polite way to put it would be “homemade.”
 
The cake I baked for my mother’s birthday on Saturday was a case in point.
 
First I made a teensy (okay, a big) error in not making sure the pan was balanced in the oven. It tipped a bit as the cake baked, rendering the whole creation a little lopsided and not incidentally spilling batter onto the floor of the oven. My dog Truffle was NOT happy when the smoke alarm went off!
 
Next, I rushed through icing the thing. As a result, my lopsided cake was messier than ever.
 
Luckily, I had some gel and sprinkle to cover up at least some of the mess. Even more luckily, the birthday girl and her guests were nice enough not to mention the way the cake looked. And of course it did taste fantastic–moist from the apples yet very cakelike.
 
I thought of taking a photo of Jan on her 91st birthday. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t enter my mind until nine o’clock that night. She had gone to bed at 8:30. This doesn’t mean she didn’t have a great birthday–only that she is indeed 91.
 
I do have pictures of her 90th birthday party on the blog post for THAT event.
 
Meanwhile, here’s the recipe. Do watch your placement of the pan in the oven. (To be extra sure, put a cookie sheet under it!)
 

Apple Chocolate Cake
 
If you want to increase the apple presence in this recipe, use the powdered buttermilk manufactured by SACO, available in many grocery stores. Add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk powder to the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; then stir in 1/2 cup sweet cider when the recipe calls for the liquid buttermilk.
 
Ingredients:
 
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated apple (about 2 medium apples)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the vanilla. Next, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, blending well after each addition. Stir in the apple.
 
Pour the batter into a greased, 10-inch bundt pan. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for ten minutes; then remove it from the pan, and let it cool completely before frosting with cream-cheese frosting. Topping the whole with seasonal sprinkles and/or candy corn is a plus. Makes 12 servings.
 
piece of apple cake web